Photos by Zachary Cross
Herbs are something that we usually think of as enhancing a dish, and are often used with a light hand. What happens when they are a larger part of a recipe? It makes for a lot of flavor!
Once upon a time, when magazines were at their heyday, there were many to choose from if you wanted to try new recipes. Martha Stewart is still around with Living, Cooking Light (that staple of 90s fat free cooking), and the classic women’s magazines are also available. But now the internet is the star for recipes. Pinterest is the place to go for recipes of all kinds, from the most sugary, food color-laden dessert, to Paleo, to vegan, to Thanksgiving dinner. Just about anything you can think of. I find all sorts of new recipes there, and though, just like when I clipped magazine pages, I pin more than I use (though without cluttering my house!). I do use plenty of those recipes and find new favorites as well as enjoy simply experimenting.
Somehow, even with all those online recipes, I had never heard of Persian herb omelets. Kuku is a Persian egg dish that is something like a frittata or thick omelet. Kuku sabzi (sabzi is herb in Farsi) is a kuku flavored with herbs. Not delicately sprinkled on top or measured by the tablespoon, this recipe has herbs by the cup - five cups of them! And this is for only six eggs.
I came across this recipe in Milk Street Magazine. A new venture by the co-founder of America’s Test Kitchen, the magazine says, “we’ll explore a lively new kind of cooking that‘s both simpler and smarter, and it’s guaranteed to make you a better cook.” I’ve enjoyed Cook’s Illustrated in the past so, despite already having plenty of recipes on Pinterest, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s been fun reading about various cooks, foods, and new recipes.
As it turns out, Martha’s made kuku, and recipes abound on Pinterest. But it took a different medium to bring it to my attention.
Like many other types of foods, kuku, even specifically kuku sabzi, has many variations. Some have onions or leeks; others leave them out. The number of eggs and amounts and kinds of herbs change. Walnuts and barberries (often replaced by dried cranberries) make it especially Persian. Eggs are an essential, though I’ve seen some vegan versions that challenge that idea. This is a gluten-free and dairy-free dish, though again some rogues add unnecessary ingredients such as flour or butter.
I checked out a few recipes online, but in the end I decided to stick with the Milk Street recipe. I made sure to ask a farmer ahead of time for the herbs, and I suggest you do, too. Five cups is a lot! Also, this recipe calls for cilantro which varies widely in availability. It bolts in the heat so it may be available one week but not the next.
If you can’t get the cilantro or one of the other herbs, feel free to substitute to taste and availability. Mint and chives are two other common herbs in kuku sabzi. Chives sometimes take the place of the onion, too, or sometimes are in addition to it.
Like a frittata, kuku can be cooked on the stove, in the oven, or both. This recipe is just in the oven which is pretty simple. Lining the pan with parchment ensures that the eggs make it out of the pan. The olive oil is supposed to help it crisp up but mine did not do that. It was good anyway and I will perhaps I will bake it a little longer next time to see if that makes a difference.
Cut your kuku in slices, as you would a frittata or pie, to serve. Or try in small squares, as Martha did for a buffet meal.
Whole milk, Greek-style plain yogurt is a traditional topping or side. I found that straining my regular yogurt through a coffee filter during the time I was making supper to be long enough to make it nice and thick.
Top with more cranberries, and/or walnuts as a garnish. Enjoy!
From: Milk Street Magazine, March-April 2017
Start to finish: 1 hour
(20 minutes active) | Servings: 6
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf spinach
2 cups lightly packed cilantro stems and tender leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
6 scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 large eggs
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
⅓ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (optional)
Plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt, to serve (optional)
Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the the upper-middle position. Trace the bottom of an 8-inch square or 9-inch-round cake pan on kitchen parchment, then cut inside the line to create a piece to fit inside the pan. Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil, turing the parchment to coat both sides.
In a food processor, combine the parsley, cilantro, dill, scallions, and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Process until finely ground. In a large bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and pepper. Add 2 of the eggs and whisk until blended. Add the remaining 4 eggs and whisk until just combined. Fold in the herb-scallion mixture and the walnuts and cranberries, if using. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the center is firm, 20 to 25 minutes.
Let the kuku cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then invert onto a plate and remove the parchment. Re-invert onto a cutting board or serving platter. Cut into wedges or squares and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature with a dollop of yogurt, if desired. The kuku can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, tightly wrapped.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
Happy Easter! One classic Easter decoration is eggs, usually dyed pastel or bright colors. All you need for beautiful eggs can be found at the market and you can use common household items.
With the return of warm weather and longer days, eggs are abundant at market right now. Although many of the eggs at market are brown, there are also white, blue, and green. And those colors have more variations and shades, including spots and combinations of brown and green.
A common way to do Easter eggs is to hard boil them, but blowing them gives you the opportunity to use the insides for scrambled eggs or baking and the outsides for decorating. If you’ve never blown eggs before, the basic idea is to make a small hole on each end of the egg, insert something inside to break up the yolk, blow the contents into a bowl, rinse, and let dry. You can make the hole with a pin, thin nail, or tiny drill bit. Stir up the yolk with the nail or a large, unbent paper clip. Although blowing the egg out with your mouth works there are other ways to do it. There are tools made for blowing eggs, or you can use an empty medicine syringe or nasal aspirator.
The simplest way, and my favorite, to decorate with eggs is to display them in their natural colors, no extra work needed! If you’ve kept your holes small they are not terribly noticeable. You can cover over the holes with matching paper, or use the holes to thread string or ribbon through to hang your eggs. If an egg cracks, you can use it as a scenery egg or a pot for a tiny plant. Still using the natural colors, or after you’ve dyed them, crushed eggs can be used as tiles for a mosaic egg.
If you’d like to decorate your eggs, the quickest way is to use a permanent marker or other pens to achieve anything from simple or whimsical decorations to complicated, Psansky-like designs. Use white gel or paint pen on brown or blue eggs, black on white, or combinations of colors. Your designs can be freeform or you can find tips for more complicated designs here.
Although tutorials for naturally dyed eggs, accompanied by beautiful photos (here is another), abound on the internet, I was somewhat disappointed in the results. I did see photos that matched my results, though, so at least I’m not alone! It is fun, though, to try out natural dyes and see what colors come from each plant - not always what you’d think. Many natural dyes can come from market produce, including leftovers and what we usually consider waste.
When choosing a dye material, think about what stains your hands, cutting board, and or countertops. Beets are an obvious first choice! They make a nice pink. However, I found the color faded when it dried. Carrot tops make a soft yellow. Yellow onion skins make a nice yellow when dipped briefly and make a darker orange when soaked for a while. Red cabbage makes blue, from pale to dark, depending on the color of the egg you start with and how long you dip it. If you froze or canned blueberries last summer they make a purple-ish color.
Colors I did not try but have seen online include carrots, spinach, and coffee. One color not available at market but one you might have in your home is red wine. I mention it because it was a fun one and a surprise. The color came out purple-ish brown but when it was dry it was sparkly, as if it were glittered.
All these colors are created by boiling the plant material with water - use about equal parts plant material and water. Strain and add one tablespoon vinegar per cup of dye. The internet, depending on the source, says to cool the dye or use it hot. The only dye I noticed a major difference with was onion skin: the hot dye made a nice yellow quickly but did not seem to cold. Certainly be careful if you use the dyes hot!
Have fun with the eggs you pick up at market this week!
Photos by Zachary Cross
Now that the weather is consistently warm, chard is in abundance at market. It’s so versatile and so pretty. Use the leaves in this recipe that’s appropriate for breakfast or supper
One night I needed a quick and easy meal (as I often do!) and opted for what I consider an all-in-one: Potato-Kale Hash Browns. It has eggs, potatoes, and chard - that covers all the food groups, right? I still think in food groups, no pyramid, steps, or plate for me. I did serve other foods that night, various leftovers that rounded out the meal.
Although recipes often call for specific greens, as long as you understand the differences among the various greens, they can be used interchangeably in recipes, sometimes with little tweaks. I find most kale recipes do not call for cooking the kale enough and lend themselves well to chard or spinach instead. This is one such recipe. Though they have very different tastes, both chard and spinach cook in a similar time frame. In this recipe the greens are sliced into ribbons and then combined with eggs, onions, and cheese, then quickly cooked. Substitute the greens you prefer or have on hand.
The first time I made this dish I used frozen hash browns to follow the recipe. Shredding fresh potatoes in the food processor is just as quick, especially considering the time it takes to let the frozen ones thaw a bit. Just be sure to squeeze them out in a towel. Or use leftover baked potatoes (note that I have not tried this but plan to in the future). Next, chop an onion (shallots are even better); slice some of the chard into ribbons; and mix with all the other ingredients except the oil. Cook in a skillet or griddle in a little of your choice of fat. I thought these were good cooked with a mix of palm oil and butter.
For supper these would be good with a soup, especially a pretty sweet potato or carrot one, such as last week’s recipe or this one.
Adapted from Potato Kale Hash Browns
20-24 oz potatoes (enough for 16 oz shredded and squeezed dry)
1-2 cups chard (or spinach) leaves cut in thin strips
4-5 eggs (depending on size)
¼ cup or more finely chopped onion (shallots, leeks, etc.)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste (taste it!)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fat for cooking (olive or palm oil, butter, whatever you like)
1. Combine all ingredients except oil(s) in a bowl. (The original author says you can cover and refrigerate up to 12 hours before cooking, perhaps for breakfast)
2. Heat a little oil in your skillet or griddle - I used medium heat, enough to cook quickly and brown well, but not too quickly. Stir whenever the mixture separates. Scoop about 1/4 cup and mound onto your pan, then flatten to make a cake. Cook until brown on one side, flip and cook until brown on the other (to your taste). Repeat with the remaining potato/kale mix.
This served five people with a few sides, there would probably have been leftovers had I provided more sides.
Printable recipe here