Make Persian kuku sabzi for #QuarantineCooking
A couple of years ago, my friends and I showed up for a weekend-long campout near Santa Cruz, Calif. and quickly realized none of us had brought any food. Genius.
Soon we found ourselves staring into the deli case of a Persian restaurant and grocer called Rose Market. That’s when I saw something I had never seen – dark green wedges of something frittata-looking, with a healthy shine of olive oil. I knew I had to try it.
Rose Market’s kuku sabzi was dark and crusty on the outside. Its deep green, soft herbal interior was studded with barberries and walnuts. It felt healthy, in a nourishing but not vegetarians-only-eat-leaves-and-hemp-seeds kind of way.
Kuku sabzi has since become my go-to for Shabbat dinner. It’s easy to scale up to feed a crowd, can be made ahead of time, has a beautiful and dramatic presentation, and is vegetarian/flexitarian friendly. It’s also a very forgiving recipe: You can use whatever leafy greens and herbs are seasonably available or leftover in your fridge.
1 bunch chard or kale, stems sliced thin and separated from leaves or 4 c spinach or arugula
1 onion or 2 leeks (white part only), chopped fine
2 bunches parsley
2 bunches cilantro, 1 T reserved
1 bunch mint, 1 T reserved
1 bunch dill
6 green onions
3/4 c toasted walnuts
1/3 c barberries, currants, or dried unsweetened cherries
1 lemon or lime
6 – 8 eggs
Yogurt sauce (optional):
1 c Greek yogurt
Lime / lemon juice from soaking currants
Reserved mint & cilantro (1 T each)
Coat 9-11” cast iron skillet / oven safe pan with 2 T olive oil, making sure to get the corners and sides. Preheat the oven to 375F.
If not using barberries, start by soaking your currants or dried cherries. Put them in a small bowl and cover with fresh lemon or lime juice. Sauté chard / kale stems and onion with a generous pinch of salt in olive oil until very soft and golden. Add a splash of water or the wine you’re sipping on if the pan gets dry and onions start to stick to the bottom.
If using chard – heat enough olive oil in a large pan to coat bottom and add half the chard leaves and some salt. Sauté a few minutes, until just cooked. Repeat with second half of chard leaves. Set aside in a colander to cool and drain. You can prepare herbs (below) while chard drains. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop fine. Move to a large bowl.
If using kale – bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt generously so that it tastes like the sea. Dump the kale into the pot, cook for seven minutes. After seven minutes, transfer to a bowl of cold water. Set kale aside in a colander to drain. You can prepare herbs (below) while kale drains. Then squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop fine. Move to a large bowl.
Very finely chop herbs and green onions. Use a food processor here if you have one, blitzing herbs in a couple separate batches. You can also use a blender here. If your blender makes it tough to modulate between finely minced and pureed, just use the blender for half the herbs, and hand-chop the other half. Add herbs to the bowl with other ingredients.
Add walnuts, barberries/currants (reserve soaking liquid), and spices. Crack six eggs into the bowl to start. Stir, and keep adding eggs until the herbs are just thoroughly coated in egg. You are going for more of an herb pie than a frittata. Taste to make sure it’s salty enough. You can taste a bit of the raw kuku or cook a small bit in a hot pan to taste-test. This is essentially a pie – you won’t be able to stir, taste, adjust seasoning as you go. You want to be happy with your seasoning right from the start.
Heat your pan over medium-high. Once hot, add the egg mixture, smoothing to the edges of the pan without stirring, and let cook for five minutes. Then move to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until just set in the middle.
While the kuku cooks, make a yogurt sauce. Stir the lemon or lime soaking juice into a bowl with the Greek yogurt and reserved mint and cilantro. Salt to taste.
After 20 minutes, check the kuku sabzi, It shouldn’t look runny when you poke it with a fork. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving. I invert it out of the pan onto a cutting board, then invert it again on a serving plate. Traditional kuku sabzi seems to be fried on both sides, so it may be more authentic-looking to serve bottom-side-up. Serve with Greek yogurt.
Lesley Thayer cooks in Seattle. Find her on Instagram @sugartits.kitchen.