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Entries in herbs (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.



Universal cooling - Cucumber Yogurt Dip 


 It is still warm in Seattle. The last few days have made all the grumbling about Junuary worth it. The garden is flourishing along with its weeds.  Dahlias are finally blooming and I even spied a red tomato.  We still have a long way to go if we plan on feeding ourselves from our garden bounty. If we planned on living on a lettuce, sorrel, raspberry diet, we would be golden.

Soon we'll have summer squash coming out of our ears and probably left on your front stoop. I wish I could say the same out some of the other trailing viney things I like to grow. I love cucumbers and I am in awe of anyone who can grow them successfully. Mine are always bitter and tough if I even get any to grow. I am grateful that our markets are full of them in July and August.

Iranians love cucumbers and often eat them like fruit. The Iranian cucumbers are picked fairly small, have a thin skin and are not bitter like some of the other commercially grown varieties. They are really eating out of hand cucumbers, with salt and a little pepper. I love them in salads.

Iranians are also nuts for salads.  Who can blame them in the heat of the Iranian/California summer - a quick salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers tossed with some lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper is pretty refreshing and pairs with many different protein sources.

I am a big fan of the Persian side salad - Mosteh-khiar (yoghurt and cucumber) which I have seen served as a dip with bread, a salad and in some homes, thinned as a soup.  It is similar to the tzakiki served by the Greeks or Raita served in Indian restaurants.  Makes sense doesn't it? Same lovely hot and sunny climate, well seasoned food and decent flat breads and a mild cucumber sauce as a foil.

It is also super simple to make and tastes even better the following day.

Mosteh-Khiar- Cucumber and Yogurt dip for a warm day

Note: My mom used to make this with Mountain High Yogurt, and only Mountain High. She's now making it with Sadaf yogurt, but I like conventional Greek yogurt, because I love the thickness. I love this with or without garlic. TH is not a garlic fan, so I sometimes leave it out. No one seems to mind. If you can't find Persian cucumbers, use pickling cucumbers, they seem to work. If those aren't available, use the English cucumber, but remember to deseed them.

Serves 12 as a hors d'oeuvres/dip
Six as a side salad
Eight for soup

1 32 oz. container plain greek or thick style yogurt (2% is great, but use what you have on hand)
1 lb Persian or Armenian cucumbers, thin skinned small cucumbers, peeled and chopped finely (I find my cucumbers at Trader Joes), but your greenmarket or farmer's market might have them
2 t dried dill or 2 T fresh dill, chopped
1 T chopped garlic chives or 1/2 clove garlic chopped fine
1 t dried mint or 1 T fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup currants (optional)

In a large bowl, mix yogurt, cucumbers, herbs and walnuts and currants and stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you plan to serve as a soup, thin with water or buttermilk to a consistency you desire.  Refrigerate until time to serve. Garnish with leftover mint.

For a dip, serve with pita triangles and crudite.


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.