Kookoo Sabzi – Persian Fresh Herb Frittata
By Elena Epstein
The kitchen of my childhood was filled with fragrances of dill, mint, fenugreek and tarragon. Long after immigrating from Iran to L.A., my mom, aunts and cousins continued to scour the Persian market and the farmer’s market for the freshest herbs, gathering bunches in the kitchen to wash, chop and have ready for our favorite stews, rice dishes or to simply enjoy alongside feta cheese and walnuts for a quick snack or appetizer.
The essence of Persian cooking is in many ways the delicate combination of just the right herbs. These handful of herbs (sabzi) make up the staple of Persian cooking: dill, mint, Italian parsley, cilantro, chives, tarragon and fenugreek. The taste and indelible aroma of these herbs is a celebration of nature – harmony and renewal woven together – which is why Nowruz, a two-week celebration of Persian New Year, always begins on the first day of spring— a season of new beginnings.
One of my favorite herb-filled dishes is Kookoo Sabzi, and I turned to one of my favorite cookbook authors and L.A. moms, Naz Deravian, who shared this wonderful recipe from her book “Bottom of the Pot” (Flatiron Books).
The bunches upon bunches of green herbs that take over our kitchen table on a regular basis are mixed here with a few eggs and spices for a fragrant, fresh and vibrant Kookoo Sabzi. Use this recipe as a guide for all the greens and spices that can be thrown in.
This kookoo is prepared traditionally on the stovetop, which is the best way to brown the outside, but you can also place the pan or an oven-safe dish in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes until set and broil for a couple of minutes to brown the top. If you prep the greens ahead of time, like the night before, then you can whip up a batch quickly and without much fuss.
You can serve Kookoo Sabzi any which way you like. Serve warm or at room temperature for a light lunch or dinner alongside some plain rice and yogurt, wrap in a piece of lavash or sangak bread with some sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and a few nuts, cut in smaller bite-size pieces for an appetizer spread, or serve with all the sides for brunch.
Kookoo Sabzi – Persian Fresh Herb Frittata
Serves 6 to 8
1 bunch parsley, tough stems trimmed
1 bunch cilantro, tough stems trimmed
1 large bunch dill, tough stems trimmed
1 bunch swiss chard or 1 bunch spinach, stems removed
1 bunch green onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
1/3 cup barberries, picked through, soaked for 10 minutes and drained, or 1/3 cup dried cranberries, or a combination thereof
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek, or a few fresh leaves, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, or 1 sprig fresh tarragon, leaves chopped (optional)
1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground Damask rose petals
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
6 to 8 large eggs, as needed
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
Working in batches, finely pulse the greens in a food processor until finely chopped but not mushy. Alternately, use a sharp knife and large cutting board. Set the greens in a large bowl. Finely chop the green onion. You can do this in the food processor but take care: green onion quickly turns mushy. Add the green onion and the rest of the ingredients except for the eggs and the oil to the green herbs and give a stir to combine. Add 6 eggs and mix well to combine. The batter should have the consistency of thick yogurt or soft-serve ice cream. If it doesn’t, add more eggs one at a time and combine.
In a large (10-inch or 12-inch) nonstick frying pan with a lid, heat 1/3 cup olive oil over medium heat, add the batter and spread evenly. Cook the kookoo until the oil starts to bubble along the sides, about 3 minutes. Cover and cook until the kookoo starts to set, and the bottom is browned, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cut the kookoo evenly into 4 large pieces. Using a wide spatula, flip each piece over one at a time. You can also set a dish beside you, take one piece of kookoo out to make room, flip the other pieces and place the other piece back in. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil in between all the cuts, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Cut the kookoo into desired pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.
To bake the kookoo in the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350. Place oven rack in the center. Pour 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a 9×13-inch oven safe dish. Swirl the oil around to cover and up the sides. Heat the oil in the oven for 1 minute. Pour the batter in and spread evenly. Bake until just set, about 30 minutes. Cut into thirds and drizzle the remaining oil in between the cuts. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.