Tomorrow is the Persian New Year, Norouz (which also happens to be the first day of spring), so it's the perfect time for a traditional Persian recipe. Instead of one of the labor-intensive--albeit delicious--main dishes, this sweet and simple rice pudding (aka Sholeh Zard) recipe is perfect for springtime. There are several variations of this recipe (varying amounts of rice and water and toppings). I suggest picking up a copy of New Food of Life for some great Persian recipes, including one for Sholeh Zard.
2/3 cup Basmati rice
2 cups water
3-4 tablespoons butter
1-1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons rosewater (you can add up to 1/2 cup, depending on your taste)
large pinch saffron
silvered almonds (optional)
crushed pistashios, unsalted (optional)
Rinse the rice and place in medium-sized pot. Add water and butter and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally so that the rice does not stay whole. Smash with the back of a fork if necessary, and add more water if needed.Once the rice is cooked, add sugar (taste as you add the sugar in stages so it is not too sweet). Cook some more until sugar melts and the rice pudding thickens. Stir in rosewater. Add the crushed saffron to the pudding. (You may rub the saffron mixed with a tablespoon of sugar with the back of a spoon so it is crushed well.) Add a handful of slivered almonds. Simmer for a while. Note: you may adjust the pudding by adding water or boiling on higher heat if necessary to acquire the desired thickness.Put the pudding in serving dishes and decorate with cinnamon, pistashios, and almonds to create an interesting pattern on it. If desired, cut a stencil from paper to print a pattern on its surface. Can be served warm or chilled.