Our Cook the Books Club selection this time brings us to Ireland (Irlanda), yet the flavors are those of Iran (whose cuisine we savored also in a recent edition1). The novel Pomegranate Soup, by Marsha Mehran2 (zuppa di melograno), follows the adventures of the three Aminpour sisters, who escape from political turmoil in their native country to the UK and ultimately settle in the small Irish town of Ballinacroagh, where they open a small café serving dishes from their home country.
The novel's cast includes the sisters' landlady, the town's priest, a young man with a passion for astronomy and other colorful characters. The author expertly weaves past events into the present narrative, so that as the story progresses we learn what pushed the sisters to run away from their home.
Marjan, the eldest Aminpour sister, is the main force behind Babylon Café: she watches as many locals come to appreciate the dishes she creates, their appealing aromas and comforting flavors. The book mentions many dishes and includes a recipe at the end of each chapter. I was particularly intrigued by the description of "a good apple khoresh, a stew made from tart apples, chicken and split peas" (page 60 of the hardback edition), but while I was searching for a recipe for that, I read about Kuku Sabzi, a kind of herb frittata traditionally prepared for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year that is celebrated on the spring equinox. I am a lover of greens, so I decided to try this recipe. I read a number of renditions3 and below is a description of what I made.
In terms of greens, I went with what I found fresh at the farmers' market, namely spinach (spinaci) and dill (aneto). Parsley, thyme and lovage (prezzemolo, timo e levistico) come from my garden. The idea is that you can use greens and herbs you like and have available. A different combination means a different flavor, so this is a recipe that can be repeated without becoming boring.
When I tasted the first bite of my rendition, my first reaction was: why have I not tried making this before?
Print-friendly version of briciole's recipe for Persian herb and greens frittata (Kuku Sabzi)
- 4 1/2 ounces / 130 g leek, white and light green portion, clean weight (set aside the dark green portion to make broth or stock)
- 4 tablespoons / 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 bunches / 14 ounces / 400 g fresh spinach
- 2 cups of finely chopped fresh herbs: in my case mostly dill (thick stems removed), some sprigs of parsley, leaves of a handful of fresh thyme sprigs and 2 sprigs of lovage
- 5 large eggs from pastured poultry
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Cut the leek in half lengthwise and slice into 1/8 inch / 3 mm half-moons. Rinse well in a colander, then place in a bowl and fill it with cold water. With your hands, swirl the leek pieces to clean them well, then scoop them out of the water with a sieve or slotted spoon and drain them in a colander.
Warm up a 10-inch / 25 cm skillet over medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the olive oil. Add the leeks, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Cover the skillet and cook on low heat until the leeks are soft (12-15 minutes), stirring every now and then, making sure nothing burns. Transfer the leeks to a plate and clean the skillet.
Wash the spinach carefully and drain. Discard the roots and thicker stems and chop the rest finely. This is a bit tedious but it makes cooking easier, because the amount of eggs is small with respect to the amount of greens.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, the salt, pepper, and turmeric. Add the cooked leeks, the chopped spinach and herbs and mix everything well. A silicone spatula works well for this step, which requires patience.
Heat the broiler: if your oven allows it, use the low setting; otherwise, move the oven rack down one level.
Heat again the skillet and pour into it the remaining 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the olive oil, the swirl to coat. Empty the bowl into the skillet and use the spatula to spread the mixture evenly across. Cover the skillet and cook the frittata on low heat until the bottom is just set: check it after 8 minutes and estimate the remaining cooking time.
Uncover the skillet and broil, watching carefully, until the top is set, 1-2 minutes. Let the frittata cool slightly, then slide it onto a platter and serve.
The intense green of this dish nicely points at the coming spring season. The flavor is a treat for lovers of greens.
1 My recent post featuring another Persian-inspired recipe: eggplant and yellow split pea stew
2 The book introduction on the author's website
3 Some recipes: on Bon Appetit (with useful video), the Kitchn, the Splendid Table
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
frittata persiana di verdure ed erbe
or launch the frittata persiana di verdure ed erbe audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]
This is my contribution to the current selection of our Cook the Books hosted by me, Simona of briciole. (You can find the guidelines for participating in the event on this page.)
This is also my second contribution to the 38th edition of Novel Food, the literary/culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and I started 12 years ago and that I continue to host.
FTC disclosure: I have received the table linen free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
frittata, spinach, dill, parsley, thyme, lovage, eggs, Persian cuisine
What a lovely dish. The colors, the flavors all sound very appealing. I've always been intrigued by Persian cooking but have never quite gotten around to looking into it. This might be the place to start...
Posted by: Frank Fariello | March 15, 2020 at 11:09 AM
I loved this dish, Frank: such a nice surprise. Thanks to our club's selections I am getting a taste of Persian cuisine and I plan to read more, including checking out the cookbook mentioned in this article
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 20, 2020 at 09:25 PM
Love the colors. I like that you can use whatever herbs you have available. Thanks for hosting, Simona!
Posted by: Debra Eliotseats | March 21, 2020 at 12:31 PM
How beautiful! I really like how green the frittata is!
We read about kukus in Naomi Duguid's wonderful cookbook, "Taste of Persia" as well as in Naz Deravian's equally wonderful cookbook, "Bottom of the Pot". I'm so glad that you made one to demonstrate that it really is good. We'll definitely have to try this once we can access decent eggs again. (Our local Farmers' Market is currently shut down because of COVID-19.)
Many thanks for hosting, Simona. Stay safe and well. Happy hand-washing.
Posted by: Elizabeth | March 21, 2020 at 01:28 PM
I do too, Debra. We can use some bright color these days. You are welcome :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 21, 2020 at 10:00 PM
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for the cookbook suggestions. This will definitely become a classic in my kitchen. I hope your local farmers' market reopens again. Our is still open and I am so thankful! They implemented physical distance and so far it's worked well. Stay safe you too :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 24, 2020 at 12:39 PM
I enjoyed the vivacious color of this dish as photographed by you and the great explanations. As always a great read! Cathy
Posted by: Delaware Girl Eats | March 25, 2020 at 04:07 AM
Thank you, Cathy. Glad you enjoyed the post :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 25, 2020 at 11:57 AM
This is one of my favorite Persian dishes. And you have just reminded me how much I want to make it! Thanks for hosting.
Posted by: Camilla M. Mann | April 01, 2020 at 02:27 PM
I enjoyed the novel. Thanks for choosing it. I can see why this is traditional for the spring festival....it screams of freshness and springtime.
Posted by: Wendy Klik | April 01, 2020 at 04:02 PM
I love your herb chopper!! This does look delicious.
Posted by: Marg | April 02, 2020 at 02:41 AM
I was admiring that herb chopper too! Your version of the kuku looks so vibrant, and tastes equally so I'm sure. We're happy to have plenty of fresh eggs, thanks to our garden helper who brings them for me.
Posted by: Claudia | April 02, 2020 at 10:37 AM
I am not surprised, Cam: it is so good! You are welcome :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 02, 2020 at 09:32 PM
I am glad you did, Wendy. It is definitely a dish for when fresh herbs and greens are available :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 02, 2020 at 09:36 PM
It's fun to use, Marg. And yes, kuku sabzi is worth the time chopping requires :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 02, 2020 at 09:37 PM
I have had it for several years, Claudia, and don't remember where I got it. My mother had it and I talked about hers in this post: https://www.pulcetta.com/2010/07/mezzaluna.html I am aware that in some places eggs are hard to find: I am glad you have a trusted supplier. We also have local sources, for which I am grateful, as we are big consumers of eggs :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 02, 2020 at 09:41 PM
I very much enjoyed your post. Love that her. Chopper and now I have to have one. Beautiful dish! Thank you for hosting and picking such a fun book.
Posted by: Tina Culbertson | April 03, 2020 at 05:35 AM
Glad you enjoyed the book and the post, Tina. The chopper is quite useful, besides being pretty. I hope you find one :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 04, 2020 at 06:36 PM
Should I imagine that this is a bitter greens kind of dish? In any case it looks perfect for brunch.
Posted by: Delaware Girl Eats | April 12, 2020 at 10:43 AM
Should I imagine this is a bitter greens dish? I liked the book too
Posted by: Delaware Girl Eats | April 12, 2020 at 10:44 AM
I've always made it with mostly spinach, as in the recipe, then a medley of herbs, mostly from my garden. When I used a lot of dill, the overall flavor was sweeter; when I used more lovage, it was a bit more astringent, so the result depends on what you use. I have also added nasturtium leaves and decorated the surface with some nasturtium flowers: it looked pretty. And yes, it is perfect for a brunch.
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 12, 2020 at 04:19 PM