How One Iranian-American Celebrates The Noruz Holiday In Denver

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<p>(Courtesy&nbsp;Newsha Makooi)</p>
<p>The Haft Seen table at the Colorado Children&#039;s Noruz Foundation 2016 celebration.</p>
Photo: Noruz Haft Seen table
The Haft Seen table at the Colorado Children's Noruz Foundation 2016 celebration.

War and political upheaval forced Ramina Kashani's family to flee Iran in the early 1980s when she was just 14. Her family relocated to Colorado.

Homesickness hit hard the first time Kashani celebrated Noruz, the Persian New Year, on American soil. More than 4,700 Coloradans identity as as Iranian or Iranian-American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Many different faiths celebrate the 13-day holiday, which began last week.

Kashani is the executive director and co-founder of the Colorado Children's Noruz Foundation, a nonreligious, nonpolitical organization in Denver. She shared some of her favorite memories from celebrating Noruz in Tehran with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Noruz recipe:

Reprinted from FOOD OF LIFE: ANCIENT PERSIAN AND MODERN COOKING CEREMONIES by Najmieh Batmanglij with permission of Mage Publishers. Copyright (c) Najmieh Batmanglij 2011.

Rice Cookies

Makes 36 pieces
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes of resting time
Cooking time: 15–20 minutes

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rose water
1/2 tsp. lime juice

4 egg yolks, at room temperature
syrup (made in step 1)
1 cup canola oil or clarified butter
2 tsp. cardamom powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 cups rice flour

2 tbsp. poppy seeds
2 tbsp. dried rose petals, crushed
2 tbsp. ground raw pistachios.

1. Prepare the syrup by combining sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir well until the sugar dissolves completely. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes (be careful not to overboil), remove from heat, add rose water and lime juice, and set aside to cool. It should be at room temperature and not too thick.

2. In a warm mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until creamy. Add the cooled syrup from step 1 and whisk for 1 minute. Set aside.

3. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, cardamom, salt, and rice flour until you have a creamy batter.

4. Add egg yolk mixture to the rice flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in until you have a soft, snow-white dough. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

5. Place the oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line several baking sheets with baking mats.

6. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop up a walnut-sized amount of dough. Place it on the baking mat. Flatten slightly using an offset spatula. Repeat, leaving 2 1/2 inches between each cookie. With a fork or the open end of a thimble, draw geometric patterns on the cookies and sprinkle with poppy seeds, rose petals, and pistachios.

7. Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the cookies should be white when they are done.

8. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool. These cookies crumble very easily; remove them carefully from the baking mat using an offset spatula.

9. Arrange the cookies in a pyramid on a footed cake dish. If you are not using them immediately, store in a airtight glass container. Nush-e Jan!