While in school, I spent time distracting myself from homework and test prep by experimenting with food. I’d take a staple dish like pasta, salad, or omelettes and throw in whatever we had in the fridge. I was simultaneously reducing waste and providing nourishment without realizing it. Also, it usually turned out great! The kitchen was my playground. It was where I felt the most secure and the most creative. I took risks that I had only ever taken on stage till then. I made mistakes and never really copied a recipe twice. I rarely ever took measurements or followed someone else’s recipe perfectly. I eyeballed everything and just had “a feeling” when I knew it was right.
It wasn’t until I did a bit soul searching and had a few long talks with my Dad that everything made sense. My Dad grew up in Iran and immigrated here in the late 60’s. His mother, my nurturing Grandma Ghodsieh, followed suit and lived in our house up until I was about 7 years old. She would spend all day preparing traditional Persian dishes that you couldn’t find in restaurants. She spoke very little English, so her way of communicating to my brother and I was through our tummies. She would give us spoonfuls of her yummy creations throughout the day and dance with us when she’d pop popcorn on the stove. Her ingenuity would shine when she would take leftovers of my mom’s American cooking and create something completely new and interesting out of it. Something you can’t find in a recipe book. She would never completely repeat herself and she made it completely her own. I recently learned that this is not unusual among Persian cooking. Due to the lack of resources and refrigeration, Iranians had to improvise most of their meals so their ingredients would not go bad. No one ever wrote down recipes. They shared ideas with one another and passed them down from generation to generation.
Having been exposed to this approach to food as a youngster, I unknowingly adopted a knack for improvising my dishes. I also now understand why I wanted to pull my hair out whenever my Dad would try to teach me how to make Persian rice with Tadig (crispy rice). There is no “right way” to do it. My theory is that he doesn’t even really get it. He has literally burnt it before and was like “It’s supposed to be like that!” Uh-huh.
This “throw everything together” philosophy is the heart and soul of this dish. This was my absolute favorite of hers. The smell, flavor, and texture is so distinct. Your house will never have smelt like this before! – Don’t worry, it will go away be the end of the evening.
The dish has a few staples, but the rest is up to the cook and what needs to be eaten before it spoils. Your spinach is starting to wilt? Throw it into Kuku Sabzi. Bought too many potatoes at the market? Make KuKu Sabzi. Extra cilantro and basil? Mix it into Kuku Sabzi. You really can’t go wrong here.
KuKu Sabzi – or Kookoo is a traditional Persian dish served at special occasions, Norooz (Persian New Year), and just for fun. Think of a a frittata filled with finely chopped herbs and vegetables. Or a quiche without a crust . . . or cheese. – But seriously add cheese if that’s your thing. It will be amazing!
This is kind of intense, but oh-so-worth-it! Here we go:
You are gonna need some greens and herbs! You can freely use any combination of fresh green herbs. Don’t like cilantro? Don’t use it! Use basil or parsley instead. The possibilities are endless!
Here is a list of great options:
I used Mint, flat-leaf Parsley, Basil, and Green Onion. – I know green onion is not technically an herb, but I used the green stalks as an herb here. You can substitute yellow or white onion here just perfectly!
You will also need a good amount of green vegetables to give your KuKu that signature dark emerald color. I used Romain Lettuce, but spinach, arugula, and kale work great here as well. P.S. if you do choose to use lettuce, don’t use ice berg lettuce! It won’t work! – Face palm.
Potato is also a great addition. I used red potatoes, but you can safely use white, brown, russet, or fingerling potatoes. – I have not tried it with purple or sweet potatoes, but I bet it would be good!
Go ahead and finely chop your herbs and green veggies. I shredded my romaine lettuce (as if I was putting it in a taco).
Put your chopped herbs into a large mixing bowl and add your potato. Make sure to shred your potato, so that it cooks all the way through. You can use a cheese grater!
Add freshly minced Garlic for a yummy, fragrant touch.
Finally, throw in your seasonings. I used Turmeric, Salt and Pepper. Again, the possibilities are endless here! You could toss in any dried herbs such as oregano, basil, parsley, tarragon, etc. as well.
Mix all the ingredients you have so far.
Whisk/beat your eggs – as if you were preparing scrambled eggs.
Add them to your mixture of herbs, greens, potato, and seasonings.
Mix it all together so that everything is uniformly coated with the egg.
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil) over medium heat in a large skillet or pan.
Pour mixture into skillet or pan (you should hear a sizzle!).
Once the edges start to bubble, add anything you’d like on top. – This is totally optional! I added some chopped Dill for presentation.
The edges are free to get brown and crispy, so don’t worry! A little crunch was always how Grandma Ghodsieh made it! Once it seems that it is 3/4 of the way done cooking, cover your skillet/pan with a lid to finish cooking the top of your kuku. You could alternatively pop the pan into the oven (assuming it is oven safe!) and broil it to finish cooking and give it a crunchy top layer.
Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
My family always had them cut into wedges, almost like a slice of quiche, but feel free to cut them into bars or any shape you’d like.
Scoop out of the pan with a spatula and serve with pickles, walnuts, radish, goat cheese, feta, and/or plain greek yogurt.
Traditional Persian vegetarian dish that is easily manipulated to fit whatever is in your fridge or flavor profile.
- 1 C Parsley - chopped
- 1/2 C Mint - chopped
- 1/2 C Basil - chopped
- 1 C or 8 stalks Green Onion - chopped
- 2 C Romaine Lettuce - Thinly sliced/shredded
- 1 C Potato - shredded/grated
- 3 cloves Garlic - minced
- 1 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 7 Eggs
- 2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 C Dill - chopped (optional)
- Step 1 Put all ingredients except for the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly – as if tossing a salad.
- Step 2 In a separate mixing bowl beat/whisk the eggs.
- Step 3 Pour egg mixture into the large mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until the vegetables are well coated with the eggs.
- Step 4 Heat extra virgin olive oil in a skillet/pan over medium heat.
- Step 5 Pour green egg mixture into the hot pan and cook until 3/4 of the way done (edges will be bubbling). (Optional: sprinkle chopped dill on top)
- Step 6 Cover with lid and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until top is no longer liquid.
- Step 7 Remove from heat and let cool (about 3 to 10 minutes). Cut into wedges and serve with pickles, radish, and walnuts.