Kuku Sabzi (Kookoo), Persian Herb Frittata. Kuku is the common name for a group of popular Persian food that are usually vegetarian, though a few kuku’s have meat in the recipe. Sabzi means herbs in Farsi, namely chives (tareh), cilantro (geshneez) and dill (shevid) are used in this kuku. Besides herbs, barberries (zereshk) and walnuts (gerdoo) are also used in this delicious Persian favorite. To describe kuku to someone who has never tried it, I would say it is similar to frittata. Well maybe that and quiche; but the latter usually has a crust and heavy cream. So I will stick with frittata. But frittata is basically an open-faced omelette that is made by frying vegetables with or without meat in the skillet and then adding beaten eggs and cooking it. On the other hand, the ingredients for kuku are usually prepared separately and then mixed with beaten eggs in a bowl and added to the skillet at the same time.
There are some similarities between kuku and frittata. For one thing, egg is used as the binding agent for all the different ingredients in both of them. They are normally disk shaped and are cut into wedges. Come to think of it, I have seen kuku baked in a square pan but never seen a square frittata. The other difference between the two dishes is the ratio of eggs to other ingredients, which is higher in frittata. Also there is usually some cheese that is melted on top of the frittata, and to this day I have not seen anyone add cheese to kuku. So if you want to know how similar or different the two are, you will really have to make this kuku recipe and then let me know what you think.
There are many recipes for Kuku Sabzi that use different combination of fresh herbs. I prefer to use garlic chives or scallions combined with cilantro and dill.
Add the herbs to a large bowl. Add eggs and the rest of the ingredients except for walnuts and optional zereshk in a separate medium bowl and whisk until well blended.
Add the egg mixture to the herbs and stir to combine
Then fold in the walnuts and zereshk.
Heat the oil in a nonstick 10-inch skillet, add Kuku Sabzi batter and gently press with the back of a spoon.
Press the walnut halves into the Kuku Sabzi batter, cover the skillet and cook
Until the top is looking like this and the sides are sizzling.
Remove the skillet from heat, cover it with a larger plate
Invert the kuku onto the plate
So one side is nice and golden brown
Now gently slide the Kuku Sabzi back in the skillet, cover and cook until the other side browns.
Serve Kuku Sabzi with toasted flat bread and a side of Salad Shirazi or Sabzi Khordan.
- 4 cups sliced garlic chives (nira or tareh), or green parts of scallions
- ¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- 6 large eggs
- 2 TBSP Greek yogurt
- 1 TBSP flour
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp rice spice
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
- ¾ cup walnut halves
- 2 TBSP zereshk (barberries) optional
- 3 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 TBSP unsalted butter
- Optional garnish: 6 walnut halves
- Pick through the garlic chives or scallions (green parts only) and use a sharp knife to slice them into ¼ inch pieces. Add the chives to a large bowl and fill with cold water. Change the water several times to make sure it is free of any dirt. Let the chives drain in a colander completely. Spread them on top of a large kitchen towel and air dry for 4-5 hours on the countertop. This will dry most of the moisture from washing. Do not skip this step. The drier the chives are before you cook them, the firmer texture the kuku will have. This step could be done a day in advance and once you can’t see any moisture on the chives, store them in a covered bowl or plastic bag in the refrigerator and use them the next day.
- Pick through and wash the cilantro and dill, and let them drain in a colander. Roughly chop them and add them to a large bowl. Add the prepared chives to the bowl.
- Toast the walnuts whole in a small skillet over low heat for 10 minutes, until it has a nutty aroma. Cool completely before coarsely chopping them. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl add the eggs, yogurt, flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Whisk for several minutes until uniformly blended.
- Add the egg mixture to the herbs. Use a wooden spoon to mix until all the herbs are well coated. Add walnuts and optional zereshk, stir to combine.
- In a nonstick 10-inch skillet heat the vegetable oil and butter over medium heat. The oil should be very hot but not smoking. Add the herb and egg mixture. Use a spatula to smooth the top and press down gently.
- Press down slightly the optional 6 walnut halves on the top with equal distance from each other. Cover the skillet and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for about 20 minutes. The top will look cooked and will be firm to touch and the edges will be sizzling. Remove from the heat.
- Remove the cover and place a 12-inch platter upside down over the skillet. Using two potholders carefully turn both the platter and the skillet together and invert the kuku onto the platter. The browned side will be up now.
- Reduce heat to low and slide kuku back into the same skillet with the cooked side up.
- Cover and continue cooking over low heat for another 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
- Invert the kuku onto the serving platter and use a sharp knife to cut it into 6 equal wedges. Serve with toasted flat bread and a side of Salad Shirazi.
Garlic chives (tareh in Persian cuisine, Nira with slightly narrower leaves, in Asian cuisine), has narrow leaves and is very closely related to the leek family. If unable to find this herb in the regular supermarkets you may substitute the green parts of the scallions instead and cut them into ¼-inch slices. The other option is to use leeks and cut them into ⅛-inch slices. Use only light-green and tender green parts of the leeks.
Rice Spice is a blend of cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg and optional dried rose petals.