Kookoo Sabzi II – Persian Herb Kookoo (an encore presentation)
One of the earliest posts on Fig & Quince was a recipe for kookoo Sabzi, a very popular type of Persian kookoo that is enjoyed year round and is also among the traditional foods served during Norooz — the Persian New Year’s 2 weeks long celebration — because it is green and thus symbolizes growth, renewal and spring.
What exactly is a kookoo? As I wrote earlier, I like to imagine kookoo as the precocious love child of a quiche and a soufflé. The Zelig of egg dishes: because it bears a semblance of resemblance to a frittata, fritter, omelette or even a pancake!
But ultimately and in a nutshell, kookoo refers to a genre of Persian food made with whipped eggs which then are folded in with various ingredients. In Iranian cuisine, we have garlic kookoo, eggplant kookoo (one of my favorites – yum), green bean kookoo, potato kookoo (delicious with candied turnips), meat kookoo, cauliflower kookoo, and a bunch more besides. Variations abound! Kookoos can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, or a light meal. Since they travel well, most versions of kookoo are also quite popular as picnic fare.
A good kookoo sabzi is a thing of beauty: fluffy, fragrant, hearty yet light, filled with nutrition, and absolutely delicious! The contrasting play of the tangy berberries and crunchy earthy walnuts in a bite of fluffy herb-infused kookoo sabzi, when partaken with yogurt and some bread, is poised to delight even a persnickety palette. [Fun Fact: Kookoo sabzi was one of dishes served at the 2012 White House Passover dinner.]
Recently I had occasion to avail myself of the goodness of this lovely kookoo and it occurred to me to repeat the recipe for those of you who may have missed it earlier – because it’s just too good a recipe to miss tasting and having in your repertoire, and because as Doctor Seuss said: “If you never did eat kookoo you should. These kookoo things are fun and fun is good.”
Let’s not just sing Kookoo sabzi’s praise – let’s get cooking and make some!
- 2 cups (washed, trimmed, dried, chopped) parsley
- 1 cup (washed, trimmed, dried, chopped) cilantro (aka coriander leaves)
- 1 cup (washed, trimmed, dried, chopped) finely chopped chives (or scallions)
- 2 leaves of crispy lettuce chopped (optional: lightens up the batter’s color)
- 1 teaspoon dried mint + 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried fenugreek for mint/tarragon)
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon baking powder – allow it to soak in a bit of water so that it bubbles
- 5 eggs – left to reach room temperature
- 1 tablespoon (soaked for 5 minutes, rinsed, and dried) barberries plus extra for optional garnish
- 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped plus some extra for optional garnish
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet heat on high flame. Prior to the oil getting hot, add the chopped fresh herbs. (Parsley, cilantro, chives and lettuce.) Stirring constantly, sautee for a few minutes (approximately 5 minutes) until the herb mixture reduces in bulk and takes on a soft and pliant texture. Let cool completely. (This step is called “taft dadan eh sabzi” in Farsi and the goal is to rid the herbs of any excess moisture to prevent a soggy kookoo and get a fluffy and thick one instead.)
- In a big bowl crack the eggs. Add flour, salt and pepper. Beat lightly with a fork. Add chopped sauteed fresh herbs, dried mint & dried tarragon (or dried fenugreek), dried dill, chopped walnuts, barberries, baking powder, turmeric, and the sauteed herbs. Mix well.
- Heat at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet (you can use the same one you used earlier to cook the herbs – just wipe it with a paper towel to remove any residues.) Once the oil is sufficiently hot (test: when a dollop of the mixture puffs up when dropped into the pot) pour in the entire mixture into the pot, lightly press the batter with a spatula or spoon to even the surface, and cook, covered (ideally with a glass lid so you can see the batter) lower the heat and for 10-12 minutes on medium low heat until the bottom of the batter coagulates and is set. Using the edge of a spatula, cut kookoo into 4 wedges and flip each wedge over to cook the other side. (Add a couple more tablespoons of oil at this point if necessary.) Continue to cook – uncovered this time – on medium heat for approximately 5-7 more minutes until the batter is evenly cooked throughout. Place on a serving platter, garnish with sauteed barberries and walnuts, and serve. We also used some spring onions as decorative and edible garnish. [ Alternative method: Instead of frying the batter on the stove top, you can bake it in the oven. To do so: preheat the oven to 350 °F, pour the kookoo batter into an oiled heatproof dish, and bake uncovered for 20- 25 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the kookoo to loosen and invert onto a serving dish. Cut into wedges or squares, garnish, and serve.]
- For the garnish: heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet over a medium flame, add sugar (optional, skip it if you like tangy flavor like we do) and 1 tablespoon of barberries, and stir well for just under and no longer than a minute. Sprinkle barberries over the kookoo when it’s ready to serve.
Note re chopping herbs:
For best results and to prevent a soggy kookoo, allow herbs to dry completely after being washed and rinsed. Once herbs are absolutely dry, chop on a wooden board with a sharp knife.
kookoo sabzi is good either hot or cold, and makes for a tasty lunch or dinner, either as a light entree. or a side dish, or an appetizer. It is customary to serve kookoo sabzi with yogurt and bread and sabzi khordan (platter of fresh herbs.)
“Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.” Dr. Seuss
Make it, enjoy it, and noosheh jan, we say!