A crispy rice and salmon salad recipe just right for spring

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Early next week, Iranians and those of Iranian descent — like me — will gather in the celebration of the Persian New Year, Nowruz. Held every spring, it’s an ancient festival with roots in Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s first monotheistic religions, believed to have originated in Persia some 2,500 years ago. Of course, modern Iran is under (corrupt, abusive, sexist) Islamic rule, so this Zoroastrian holiday is today more of a cultural festival that, at least in my mind, revolves around food and feasting.

Tender green herbs, beans, fish, rice, eggs and sweets feature heavily on the Nowruz table. As I’ve written before, ash reshteh, a thick soup with herbs and beans, is traditionally served on the eve of Nowruz, as is fish, a symbol of life. There might also be kashk-o bademjan, a rich eggplant dip, deep-green kuku sabzi, herbed rice, crunchy tahdig and baklava. This year, I wanted to create a new recipe for Nowruz, one that honors tradition but doesn’t take hours to make. This salad, full of crispy rice, meaty salmon and greens, dressed with a saffron-honey dressing, fits the bill.

You’ll start by crisping the skin of 2 or 3 salmon fillets. I like to lightly season the salmon and then place it skin side down in a cold, nonstick pan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and let the fish heat gradually. This helps prevent it from buckling as it crisps and browns. Once that’s done — the salmon won’t be cooked through just yet — use tongs to transfer it to a plate, leaving any residual oil from the fish in the pan.

Add a little olive oil to the pan, along with some leftover rice. Use a silicone spatula to press the rice into an even layer that covers the bottom of the pan, letting it mix with the oil as you go. Place the partially cooked salmon skin side up on top of the rice layer and let the whole thing cook for about 15 minutes. The rice will start to turn golden, and the fish will finish cooking in the steam rising off the pan. (If you like your salmon medium-rare or medium, pull it off the rice after 5 to 10 minutes.)

While that’s happening, make the dressing: Put a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add a tablespoon of boiling water — this will “bloom” the saffron, awakening its fragrance and flavors. Whisk in a little vinegar and honey, followed by a thin stream of olive oil to form a vinaigrette. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.

When the salmon and rice are ready, break them into big chunks and layer them on a platter with lots of greens and thinly sliced ​​radishes. Drizzle the dressing over everything, and garnish the salad with plenty of fresh herbs. It wouldn’t be a meal fit for Nowruz without them.

Get the recipe: Crispy Rice Salad With Salmon and Saffron-Honey Vinaigrette

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