Kuku Sabzi fritatta

This Persian egg-and-herb fritatta is more herb than egg.  Fresh greens and eggs celebrate springtime and fertility.

Kuku Sabzi (Kuku meaning omelet, and Sabzi meaning herbs) is a Persian casserole, traditionally made for Nowruz, Persian New Year.  This year, Nowruz was in March.  I daresay weather in Iran is warmer than here.  In our neck of the woods, it’s May when my herbs are happy.  This is perfect to make now!

Liz Rueven of the wonderful KosherLikeMe.com credits this variation of the recipe to Chef Susan Barocas who wrote: “A friend brought a version of this dish to my home for Passover Seder, and I fell in love with it, eventually creating my own version. Because it freezes so well, I often keep some in my freezer for last-minute meals…. To me, it’s as delicious as it is healthy. As with many Persian recipes, walnuts are used for flavor and texture, helping to ‘thicken’ the casserole. As for the greens, you can add or subtract or substitute greens as you wish, still totaling about 8-9 cups. You can also play with the spices. I’ve seen versions with cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg, and some with just salt & pepper.”

Our kitchen played with this for me, and came up with a slightly different version.  They added a few extra eggs, and 3 Tbsp of matzo meal to firm up the dish.  I stuck with six eggs, and cut out the matzo for a softer, greener dish.  Instead of spinach, I used watercress, mesclun, and more herbs.  You might want to add a bunch of cilantro.  [editor’s note: this is also a wonderful time of year to use fresh, finely minced ramps in in place of some of the leeks].  Just remember to use no less than a total of 8 cups of greens!

Makes 12 squares in a 9×9 pan, or 12 slices from a 12” round pan    Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 large bunch parsley 6 eggs, beaten
1 large bunch dill 4 C packed spinach or other soft green
4 C thinly sliced leeks, scallions, and/or chives 2 C romaine lettuce or other non-iceberg lettuce
1/3 C ground walnuts or other nuts 3 Tbs good oil or ghee
½ tsp fenugreek powder  ½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp good salt

Optional garnishes: walnut halves, Greek yogurt, dried barberries

Chef Susan says, “Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop off the thick stems of the parsley and dill. Wash, [dry] and finely chop each vegetable separately by hand, or quickly pulse in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. [Debra: I used the food processor, which made this much easier.]  As they are done, put the chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine salt, pepper, all the spices and walnuts, mix well to combine. Add the beaten eggs and mix very well. Add egg mixture to vegetable-herb mixture and mix until completely blended.”

Following along with Chef Susan, I heated 2 Tbsp oil (you could use ghee or coconut oil) in a pan for a few moments in the hot oven.  When I made this the second time, I used my Staub 4 quart (12” round) universal pan because it’s enameled cast iron, which crisps the outside of this omelet and transfers heat so well.  And I like the look of Kuku Sabzi cut into pie-like wedges.  Feel free to use a cast iron skillet, if that’s what you have at home.

“Working quickly, pour the vegetables into the very hot pan, pat smooth the top and lightly brush the top with the remaining tablespoon of oil [or ghee]. Bake for about 45 minutes… Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting into pieces the desired size.”

Tips from Chef Susan:

“Kuku sabzi can be the center of a vegetarian meal, a side dish or cut small for appetizers. It’s even good for breakfast. Serve warm or room temperature with sliced radishes and yogurt, either plain or mixed with grated cucumber and some finely chopped mint. A traditional way to eat this kuku is wrapped in flatbread with radishes, yogurt and more fresh herbs. The casserole freezes well, whole or cut into smaller pieces. Defrost before reheating for 15-30 minutes in a 350-degree oven, keeping it covered until the last 5 minutes.”

Now check out Liz Rueven’s website KosherLikeMe.com.  Her website is for everyone who loves food, mostly organic, seasonal and local.  Liz says, “My readers are what I call LIKE-MINDED eaters. They are not all kosher, not all vegetarian, not one type. We are mostly a community of flexitarians who want to eat thoughtfully prepared, properly grown and ethically sourced, delicious food.”