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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Green eggs and wham: The fresh herb kuku

By Bonnie S. Benwick
kuku_opt.jpg Fresh herb kuku. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

Like its omelet-frittata cousins, the Iranian egg dish called kuku can be prepared and served lots of ways, including a simple yogurt variation that ran as a Dinner in Minutes a few years back: hot or cold, side dish or main dish or snack.

Recipe Included

The one you see above is the edible artwork of Najmieh Batmanglij, who's featured in Food on Wednesday. There wasn't enough room or time to adequately explain all the foods for Persian new year, or Nowruz, that she wanted to highlight for Post readers, but this one is too good not to share. So we're doing that here.

This green kuku has an improbable amount of herbs, plus spices, onion and tender walnuts; consider the eggs as binder. And what a great counterpoint to top the thing with glazed barberries, which are chewy and tart. They need a little prep, which is explained in the recipe that follows. You'll find them at Mediterranean markets and will want to keep a stash in the pantry at all times.

A friendly warning: "Fresh herb kuku" is the answer I'll be giving during upcoming rounds of Free Range chats, whenever readers want suggestions for something vegetarian, for brunch or lunch or a party snack that packs well and can be made in advance. The nutritionals aren't exemplary; you could make this with olive oil, but a neutrally flavored oil doesn't interfere with that lovely green taste. Just cut it into smaller wedges.

Fresh Herb Kuku
4 to 6 servings

It can be done in the oven as well, but here we've included stovetop directions.

Tart, red barberries are sold fresh in Iran and are most commonly used for juice made by street vendors. But you'll find only dried ones in the States, in Mediterranean markets. Look for dried berries that are a vivid red; darker berries might be old.

Dried barberries need to be purged of sand; discard their stems and place the berries in a colander, then lower the colander into a saucepan of cool water and let them soak for 15 minutes. Rinse the berries in the colander under cold running water, then spread on a baking sheet to drain. Pat dry with paper towels before using.

Grape molasses is available at Mediterranean markets, as are the dried rose petals used in the Persian spice blend.

MAKE AHEAD: The kuku can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. You'll have Persian spice blend left over; add to rice dishes and stews.

Adapted from “Food of Life: 25th Anniversary Edition,” by Najmieh Batmanglij (Mage, 2011).

For the garnish
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup barberries, picked over and thoroughly rinsed (see headnote)
1 teaspoon grape molasses or sugar (see headnote)
Plain, thick yogurt, for serving (optional)

For the kuku
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons Persian spice blend (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (white and light-green parts)
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek (may substitute 1 cup fresh fenugreek; available at Mediterranean stores)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon flour

For the garnish: Heat the oil in a medium, ovenproof skillet over low heat. Add the barberries and grape molasses or sugar; stir-fry for 1 minute to coat the barberries and soften them a bit. Transfer to a small bowl.

For the kuku: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until it has softened and begun to turn golden. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the baking powder, Persian spice blend, salt, pepper and turmeric. Use a fork to whisk, then add the garlic, lettuce, scallions, parsley, cilantro, dill, dried fenugreek, walnuts, flour and the cooked onion. Use a spatula to gently fold the mixture; do not overmix.

Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in the egg-herb mixture; cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the kuku is just set.

Position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.
Transfer the kuku to the top oven rack; cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly crisped and golden on the top. Transfer to a heatproof surface; let rest for 5 minutes.

Use a rounded knife to loosen the edges of the kuku; carefully slide onto a platter.

Garnish with the glazed barberries.

Cut into wedges; serve warm, with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

NOTE: To make the spice blend, combine 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ground cardamom and 1 tablespoons of ground cumin in a small container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep at a cool room temperature for up to 3 months.

By Bonnie S. Benwick  | March 1, 2011; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Recipes  | Tags:  Bonnie S. Benwick, recipes  
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