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Entries in dinner (3)


Four alliums and a zucchini frittata - kuku kadu 


In front of

Our squash are starting to go gang busters.  We have planted a bunch of different varieties this year and I am excited to try them all out.  We have tried to pick varieties that have smaller compact forms that should hopefully be easier to pick. How I wish squash leaves were transparent, so I wouldn't miss the one that got away.  You know that one.


There are an infinite number of ways to use summer squash. I am a big fan of tossing julienned squash with lemon, olive oil and herbs and calling it salad.  I love a good chocolate and zucchini cake and some traditionalists actually eat it steamed with a bit of butter.  Suffice it to say, by August 15th, we'll have found a few new recipes to file under "summer squash glut".

One recipe that I am sure we'll try is zucchini frittata.  I do love a good frittata - farm eggs, sautéd veggies and just the right amount of cheese to hold it all together. Frittatas are great for brunch and cold. They work well in the summer when you can't think of what to cook, easy peasy on the stove top or in the oven.

Persians are master frittata makers, but we call them kukus. My favorites are the sabzi kuku and the potato kuku.  The zucchini kuku is a new one for me. I figured I would try it with some of the squash we had laying about.  The original recipe called for a lot of butter and onions, one thing I was trying to avoid and the other I just didn't have on hand.  I made a few changes to the recipes I had researched and I think I came up with a pretty good rendition.

I ended up using four different kinds of alliums in my recipe. In part because I had one onion in the house, but plenty of shallots, garlic and chives on hand and was not up for a grocery store encounter.  If I had leeks, I would have used them too.  The goal of this recipe is to cook the onions and zucchini together until they are a lovely melty mess.  Then the mixture is mashed up using a fork or potato masher, cooked a bit longer to draw out the liquid, cooled and mixed with egg and seasonings before baking.  I really encourage you to not skip the second cooking or you will have a soggy kuku, which is not very appealing. 

The resulting kuku should be browned along the edges, have a little lift from the leavening and taste of lovely mixture of squash and alliums with a hint of herbs you might want to throw in.  It will be great hot out of the oven or served at room temperature with a salad and a nice loaf of bread. 


Zucchini Frittata - Kuku Kadu 
Makes one 9" pie plate kuku that serves 6 as a side dish

Note: I use the term summer squash and zucchini interchangeably, as in my opinion, they are pretty much the same thing in terms of use in the kitchen.

1 lb summer squash, washed, sliced thinly
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3-4 eggs (depending on the size)
2 large shallots, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 TB butter
2 T flour, I used rice flour
1 T fresh chives, minced
1 T fresh mint, chopped
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter pie plate.  Place 4 T of butter in frying pan, add onions, shallots, garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add squash to mixture and continue to sauté until soft. This should take about 15 minutes under medium to high heat.  When softened, remove from heat and use potato masher or fork to mash mixture. It should resemble guacamole.  It should be pretty wet at this point.  Return to medium heat for 5 minutes to evaporate off some of the liquid. Remove from heat again, let cool and mix in flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and mint. Let cool.

In a separate bowl, whip eggs until well mixed.  Add zucchini mixture to egg mixture and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pie place.  Bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, place dollops of remaining butter onto top of  kuku.  Cook for another 15 minutes, until browned and knife placed in middle comes clean.

Remove from oven, let cool and slice into wedges to serve.



Coming out of the cold of May - Shepherd's Pie with Horseradish Mash

solomon and grandma color

Solly and Grandma draw in hopes of better weather.

It’s May 3 in Seattle.  My lilacs are finally blooming, the late tulips have a few days left and the lawn needs a mow. It is also the same May, the time that the weather rears its temperamental head in ugly way – all those apple blossoms you are coveting – whooshed away by the stiff breezes, driving around wearing a skort bare legged and flip flops with the heater blasting on my feet.  Seattle, after all is the home of the four season cashmere sweater. 

Many blogs and instagram feeds are full of lovely spring treats – baby peas, rhubarb, spring chickens with poached asparagus and tiny little salad greens.  That is all lovely and so luscious and cold. Brr.   This kind of weather calls for a hearty dish that sticks to our freezing ribs and maybe uses up the last of the root vegetables that are moldering in the back of the refrigerator crisper.   The first thing that comes to mind when I look up at the dark, damp and grey of a Seattle afternoon is a Shepherd’s pie.  My friend Paola, makes a proper British Shepherd’s Pie with lamb and all that, I tend to stray to the American version, fashioned after Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes delicious beef filled one.  In making mine, I tried to use what I had on hand, which were a few wizened turnips, rutabagas and carrots that I was excited about in January, but not so much in April.  Root vegetables make the winter to spring transition in Seattle interminable.



Wizened veggies from the crisper.

Shepherd’s pie is pretty basic, take some sort of minced meat product, slightly season it, add whatever root vegetable you have on hand, mix it together and top with a potato crust.  Bake and serve.  It freezes beautifully and tastes better the following day.  It is a leftover I actually look forward to eating.  It can be fancied up with cheese or more spice, but I like it left a little plain.  I have substituted turkey meat for the beef, but it is not as flavorful. I suppose if you loved ground lamb, then a mix of beef and lamb would be even tastier.  The potato crust is where you can get really crazy – add cheese, garlic, jalapenos (I hear Paola shuddering), herbs or just keep it simple. The key is to make sure the crust gets a little crispy and the mixture h piping hot all the way through.



 The mince and the ridges.

As I finish writing this up, the rain is drumming against our windows. Ernest refuses to go out and I can’t blame him. It is better to dream about a sunnier tomorrow.

Shepherd’s Pie with Horse radish Mashed Potato Crust (adapted from Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes Shepherd’s Pie)

Makes one pie, feeds 6 with no leftovers

Meat filling

1 ½  lb. ground beef (I used 15% fat)
1 medium onion, chopped – yielding 1 cup
3 carrots (more if you don’t have other root vegetables), chopped
1 medium turnip, chopped
1 medium rutabaga, chopped
1 parsnip (if you have it), chopped
1 c frozen peas
½ cup water or stock
2 T butter or fat of choice for sautéing the vegetable mixture
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t fines herbes or some sort of herb mix containing (savory, thyme, marjoram)
½ t salt or more to taste
Pepper to taste

Mashed potato crust:

1 ½ lbs of Yukon gold or new potatoes, washed and halved or cubed depending on size
1/3 cup Greek yoghurt, sour cream or what you wish as creamy liquid
1 T creamed horseradish, or less if it’s hot
1 T butter

Under medium heat, melt butter in generously sized sauté pan.  Add onions and cook for five minutes, or until they soften. Add carrots and other root vegetables and sauté for another 10 minutes to soften. Mix in fines herbes or herb mix to the vegetables.    In a separate pan, boil chopped potatoes until fork tender (15 minutes). Remove from heat, drain and set aside.  Crumble beef into the vegetable mixture, cover pan and cook until meat is no longer pink (approximately another seven minutes), add water moisten the mixture if it is dry.  Remove from heat, add peas and Worcestershire sauce and season to taste.  
Note: Add peas late, because you want them to stay nice and green. I can’t cotton to grey peas in this dish. They will cook when the rest of the dish is assembled and baked. Ditto for the vegetables, you don’t want to over cook them because they will be mushy. 4 out of 5 Shepherds prefer their vegetables to be cooked just right.

Coarsely mash potatoes you have set aside with a potato masher (you may actually have one in the back of your utensil drawer) or a fork.  Add yoghurt, butter and creamed horseradish and mash some more (you may still want some chunky bits in your potatoes). Season the mashed potatoes to taste with salt and pepper.

In a  buttered or oiled  2.5 quart baking dish (I used a something like this), pour in the beef and vegetable mixture.  Top with mashed potatoes mixture spreading as best as you can to the edges.  Elise suggests making pretty wavy patterns that ensure more browned and crispy bits and I second that.  Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes until hot and burbly and the top starts to get golden brown, but does not burn.

In our household, we would pair this with a green salad and a side of cottage cheese.  Yup, cottage cheese and it is delicious, just ask TH.


Spring filled frittata - Kuku Sabzi for a new year


 A heart of barberries for you and yours.

Persian New Year continues for another few days, at least it does somewhere other than our house. I took down our Haft-sin yesterday. Other than a little garbanzo filled ajil and some gorgeous bouquets of flowers, it just looks like a typical March around here- sunny one moment and stormy the next. The dog is confused and I’m just trying to keep things together.

We hosted a few friends for Persian New Year dinner last Friday. The menu was simple – as Persian New Year is a traditional meal with green rice with herbs, salmon with two different rubs and the herbed frittata, kuku sabzi, served with more herbs and feta cheese and bread.  I added a carrot cardamom salad for color and a little variation from the endless onslaught of herbs that marks No Ruz dinner.

I am not adverse to the herbiness of No Ruz, in fact, I like it.  It is that idea that we will base a whole meal around an amazing array of greenery that is not easily procured in Seattle at this time of year.  I long for the dill, fresh parsley, chives and cilantro you can find in the California farmer’s markets.  It is a classic mismatch hypothesis – need for green stuff locally and lack of green stuff locally makes for frustrated shoppers.   Luckily, my mother was able to find fresh dill and other things to make dinner happen.

I would like to share with you a recipe for Kuku Sabzi, or the herbed frittata that my friend’s swoon over and I believe I have finally conquered.  The Kuku (frittata) can be made with a variety of vegetables, a little bit of meat, egg, spices and flour to bind it together. The egg is much less pronounced in the Persian kuku than in the Italian frittata, which is a boon if you have egg adverse folks in your midst. The kuku sabzi is really about bringing together a lot of the tastes of spring in one dish.  It is grassy, fresh, herby and oniony without being overpowering.  My mom’s recipe has changed a little bit from the time she first shared it with me and I honestly think it tastes better than ever.  The recipe does call for a few unusual ingredients that you may or may not be able to procure locally. One thing is the advieh, which is spice mix that consists cardamom, cloves, ginger, rose petals, cinnamon and cumin along with other things. I think quatres epices would work fine or you can skip it entirely and it would still be tasty. Barberries (zereshk) are the other thing that makes this dish a knock out. The other component is barberries which are both beautifully red and zingy and tart where you expect them to be sweet.  Others have suggested using dried cranberries as a substitute or if you have fresh cranberries languishing in your  freezer, thaw and use those. If you do this make sure you chop them and soak them in water to take out some of the sugar.  I just checked and both are available on Amazon or at the Sadaf site (purveyors of many Middle Eastern spices). The newest addition is the salad greens, my mom is convinced that they make a world of difference, lightening up the dish just a tad without affecting the flavor. I have to agree.


The secret ingredients are not so secret anymore.

The best thing about kuku is that it is delicious served hot or cold.  I like it the next day for breakfast.


The final product.

Kuku Sabzi –serves 8

The substitutions I called for should work just fine. It is a dish that is very forgiving, and begs for variations. If you have garlic scapes around, they should be fun to add. I literally added all the leftover herbs from Friday's dinner - tarragon, basil, mint to the mix and it tasted great.

2 ½  cups leeks, the green part (washed, chopped and cleaned)
1 cup cilantro (cleaned and stems removed)
1 ½ cups parsley (cleaned and stems removed)
½ cup chives or garlic chives (cleaned)
½ cup mixed herbs (really what you have lying about – I used fresh mint, dill, basil)
1 cup mixed salad greens (mesclun or lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces)
5-6 eggs (large)
¼ cup zereshk (if not available, use ¼ cup  chopped dried cranberries or ½ cup fresh chopped cranberries)
½ cup walnuts (chopped) – optional
2 T butter (softened)
1 T flour (I used rice flour)
½  t baking soda
1 t salt
Pepper to taste
½ t advieh or some sort of quatres epices

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a 8x8” dish or a small casserole (1.5 quart) baker. Place zereshk in boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes, drain off water and set zereshk aside. Put leeks in food processor and process until chopped, add parsley, cilantro, chives and mixed herbs until chopped fine.  Remove from processor bowl and place in 3 quart bowl.  Add 1 cup mixed greens, plumped up zereshk and walnuts and mix with hands to combine. Put flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and advieh into bowl and mix well.   

In a separate bowl, beat five eggs until blended. Add egg mixture to herbs and mix to combine. The mixture should not be too wet nor dry , if it seems too dry, beat another egg and add it to the herb mixture.  Turn mixture into greased casserole or dish and dot with remaining butter. Place in preheated oven and check after 20 minutes.  The kuku should spring back when done, you want it to be cooked thoroughly, but not over cooked.  Remove from heat, let cool and then cut into squares to serve.

Enjoy a few squares of Spring on me.