kookoo {vegetarian herb omelette or frittata}

kookoo

we’ve been enjoying kookoo (i know, bit of a funny name) or the persian version of  a frittata-omelette-quiche in my family ever since I can remember. when i say we, i have to admit that for years I only observed it being made (there are all kinds of variations of kookoo) and eaten by others. starting off in life as a bit of a picky eater, i eventually learned to appreciate a good kookoo (among other things) as i discovered what (real  food) eating was all about. i can still see my grandma’s skillful hands meticulously chopping the herbs, then ever so care carefully pouring the green “batter” in to the pan. herb (green) kookoo is best in the spring when all the fresh herbs it calls for are in  abundance. as i prepare my shopping list for our upcoming (persian) new year’s celebration (no rouz -spring equinox), it becomes clear that herb kookoo contains a  perfectly healthy and good for you combination of ingredients-a rarity for such deliciousness! it is a great vegetarian option, and can be served warm as a side (such as during no rouz where it is served alongside the traditional herbed rice & fish dish, sabzi polo mahi), or as an appetizer (at room temperature) served with yogurt and flat bread. i left this beautiful one whole, and served it sliced like a pie with a yogurt-cucumber-dill sauce.  it was a big hit.

 

kookoo recipe: 

finely clean and chop (herbs should be chopped finely so that they can mix well with the other ingredients) one large organic bunch (1 cup chopped) each of: 

– cilantro, flat leaf parsley, and spinach (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 cup each chopped)

– 2 bunches sliced green onions or chives.

     combine the herbs in a bowl with:

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3-4 organic eggs
  • 2-3 tbs flour  
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • a touch of cinnamon-about 1 tsp (if you like it)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tbs barberries (optional)

1. heat 2-3 tbs vegetable oil in a deep skillet, then carefully pour in the egg mixture and pat it down tightly with a spatula and allow  it cook on one side on med/low heat for about 20-25 minutes (with the lid on).
2. carefully flip the kookoo with the help of a round platter (this can be tricky, but is doable-trust me), and cook the other side for another 20-25. flip the kookoo (it should be crisp on the outside) out on to a platter, and let it sit a few minutes prior to serving. you can also cut the kookoo  in to small sized squares and serve as an appetizer with a side of yogurt. 

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ghormeh sabzi ~ persian fresh herb stew with dry omani lemons

ghormeh sabzi black eyed peas

reposting in honor of #internationalghormehsabziday 11/28/15…better get cooking!

cooking ghormeh sabzi: to celebrate our beloved grandma, my sister and i did the one thing we knew would most closely connect us to her in our sadness. we cooked. we cooked all day. we prepared many of the favorite dishes she had so lovingly made for us over the years. we stood side by side and quietly chatted while we chopped, sliced, fried, and simmered our stews. as the familiar aromas surrounded us, we remembered, and we felt the connection-to her, and to the past that is so much a part of the present and the people we have become today. the way we live, love, and feed our families. there was sadness, for sure, but there was also an incredible sense of hope and responsibility towards the next generation and the huge legacy we have to live up to. at the end of the day, we gathered with our loved ones around the table,  said our prayers, and enjoyed the foods we only know how to cook because she taught us so well. we laughed and cried, but mostly we felt enormous gratitude for having been so lucky as to call her our mommoni (grandma) for so many years.ghormeh sabzi recipe

ghormeh sabzi is my favorite persian stew by far, and i requested it pretty much every time mommon asked me what i wanted to eat. since i didn’t like stew meat, she would make tiny little peppered meatballs (with grated onions) and add them to the stew for me. to this day ghormeh (deep fried meat they preserved in oil for the winter months) sabzi (greens-or fresh herbs) does not hit the spot without the little delicious meatballs. mommon also went against general consensus and used black eyed peas instead of the typical kidney beans in her stew. obviously, i do the same thing-in this case, i forgot to take pictures after the beans were added (it was quite an emotionally difficult day), but you can use your imagination*. this is a stew that requires a good bit of time and patience to prepare, and even more time to cook (slow simmer) for the flavors to really build up to where you want them. please don’t let the time factor make you to miss out on trying it. it is worth every millisecond that you spend and more. promise. noosh-e-jan!

* i have since added the photo above with the beans…

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kələm yerkökü Āsh: a hearty and healthy winter soup with cabbage and carrots

persian cabbage soup or aashthere’s nothing like a steaming hot bowl of thick and hearty آش‎ on a cold winter day.  Āsh (persian: آش‎) is a whole meal in itself that satisfies way beyond a simple bowl of soup. this thick cabbage soup known in our family as the kalam yerkoku (cabbage and carrots in azerbaijani) was (yet another) specialty of my grandma’s and always a favorite of mine (although i never ate the carrots). looking back, i feel like my mommonee always had a bowl of warmth waiting for us when we came in from playing in her enormous backyard. when it snowed, she covered us up so much we could barely walk before sending (or rolling) us out with loads of supplies to make snowmen-carrots, beans, buttons, twigs, old scarves and hats…and while we played with our noses running and our cheecks glowing from the cold, her pot simmered softly in the kitchen creating a most delicious aroma  welcoming us back home. before we knew it we were quickly unbundled and thawing out with a bowl of deliciousness that smelled like heaven (this one was often loaded with aromatic tarragon). oh how i long for those days-which is why i so often cook these thick soups that help tie me back to her, and the safety, love, and pure familial comfort they represent.

ingredients and preparation for 6-8 servings of cabbage, barley, and carrot Āsh:

persian cabbage aash

 

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (for piaz dagh)
  • 2-3 tsp turmeric
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2-3 cups organic spinach (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups chopped organic cilantro
  • 1 cup organic chopped parsley
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 cups cabbage, cut up in chunks
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled, cut in half, then in 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (i’ve been using avocado oil)
  • a nice bunch of fresh tarragon leaves (or 2-3 tbs dry)
  • 2 tbs dry mint
  • 5-6 cups good (preferably home made) chicken or beef broth
  • 1/2-1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (or more) kashk (or liquid whey)-can be substituted with sour cream
  1. presoak the garbanzo beans (6-8 hours ahead) and cook until tender, set aside (or you can use canned).
  2. in a dutch oven, brown the onions in about 1/2 of the vegetable oil with 1 tsp turmeric (see directions for making piaz dagh), remove 1/4 of the onions with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-set aside for garnish. add barley to the remaining onions with about 5 cups of broth, sea salt & pepper, 1 tsp turmeric, and several (another 5-6) cups of water. bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. add carrots, parsley, cilantro, scallions, and spinach, and cook for another 30 minutes. add cooked garbanzo beans and cabbage, making sure to adjust water if necessary (this is supposed to be a rather thick soup). taste and adjust seasoning. cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (careful it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot). add the fresh tarragon leaves (if using dry, add with cabbage) and liquid whey, stirring enough for it to fully incorporate. simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
  4. heat remaining oil to a small saucepan, then add minced garlic and fry just long enough until golden (be careful not to burn it). remove from heat, then add dry mint (crushing it between your fingers). combine well, and allow the mixture to sit for at least a few minutes before using. Stir 1/2 of mixture into the aash.
  5. serve topped with a few drops of the remaining garlic/mint oil, some fried onions (set aside from before), and a few drops of additional whey as garnish.
  6. this is when we say: noosh-e-jan!     see garnishes below on another favorite aash, aash-e-reshteh (persian noodle soup)

garnishes for persian aash

 

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did you say veg·e·tar·i·an? a simple {green} dinner for a gathering of friends: curried vegetable rice & fire roasted eggplant salad

peppers stuffed with mozzarella

recipe at the bottom of this post

recently i found myself planning yet another vegetarian menu for a small gathering of friends. in an effort not to be predictably boring (falling back on the usual options), i decided against the mushroom ragout, quinoa lentil salad, orzo with roasted vegetables and pesto, couscous with grilled vegetables, or the very delicious vegetarian lasagna and instead opted for a very spicy curried vegetable

liquid amber in san diego

the famous liquid amber tree outside my house

steamed rice (much like my spicy shrimp rice sans shrimp), a delicious grilled eggplant and tomato salad (russian style according to my dad who’s recipe it is), small marinated yellow peppers stuffed with mozzarella, and a huge bib & blue salad with lots of fresh dill. dessert was chewy crunchy meringue topped with whipped crème fraîche & lots of pomegranate seeds. as usual, by the time dessert rolled around (and i’d consumed a glass of vino or two), i forgot to take pictures of the dessert. yet again. next time. as i write this i’m sitting by my window looking out at the liquid amber tree (only tree in this area that actually loses its leaves, i think)-it is quite a sight to see! a few old brownish leaves desperately clinging on to dear life among the oh-so beautiful fresh bright green leaves just coming in-and all i can think of is yipeeeee!!! spring is coming! a fresh start. a new beginning. admittedly, we’re very lucky weather-wise in California-so no complaining on that front! having said that, the coming of spring still means that longer days are just around the corner. we are happily springing forward, and for that, i am grateful on this beautiful day.

for spicy persian style spiced vegetable steamed rice (4-6 good portions)spicy persian saffron rice

  • 2-3 cups basmati rice, rinsed in water several times until the water runs clear
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (or 3-4 roma tomatoes), finely cubed
  • 1 medium onion, finely cubed (or 2-3 leeks)
  • 1 cup peas (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup mushrooms cut in small cubes
  • 1 cup red bell pepper cut in small cubes
  • 1 cup eggplant (or zucchini) cut in small cubes
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup vegetable oil (avocado)
  • 3-4 tsp of my grandma’s spice mixture: equal parts cinnamon, toasted cumin seeds, rose petals (gol-e-sorkh)
  • 1-2 tsp finely ground saffron
  • cayenne pepper (to taste for spiciness) or a jalapeño pepper, very finely chopped (remember the curry powder is typically spicy)
  • 3-4 tsp good curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric

    tah-deeg!

    tah-deeg!

  1. in a deep (non-stick) pot, bring salted water to a boil, then add the cleaned rice and boil (rolling boil) for about 7-9 minutes until the rice looks just tender. drain the rice in a mesh colander, then run cold water over it and allow it to drain.
  2. heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil in a skillet, then add onions and fry for 2-3 minutes on high heat. add the other vegetables (except tomatoes), curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste and stir fry on high heat until vegetable are browned and softened (about 5-8 minutes or so). taste and adjust seasoning. set aside.
  3. add 2 tbs vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp ground saffron, and 2 tbs water to bottom of the pot and heat them together briefly (1-2 minutes on high). remove from heat. start with a few large spoonfuls of rice at the bottom, followed by a thin layering of the vegetables (carefully mix it up a little with a spatula), a  layering of freshly cubed tomatoes, and a sprinkle of spice mixture. keep building a pyramid with your ingredient in the same order (fire roasted eggplant saladwider at the bottom and rounder at the top) until you have used up all the ingredients.
  4. poke 2-3 holes into the rice pyramid you have created with the handle of the spatula. sprinkle the remaining saffron over the very top of the rice dome evenly. pour 2-3 tbs of vegetable oil (or melted butter) over the rice evenly (using a squirt bottle or slotted spoon helps). pour about 3-4 tbs of water into the holes you’ve created. close the lid tightly over a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. put the pot on the stove on high heat for about 5-7 minutes (this will help with the tah-deeg or crispy rice at the bottom). do not move away from the stove! after about 7 minutes, reduce the heat to med/low and allow the rice to steam for about 45 minutes to an hour. The rice and crispy delightful tag-deeg bottom are ready to be served!

fire roasted eggplant & tomato salad for 4-6:

rosemary crostini

  • 6-7 medium to large talian eggplants
  • 3 large rip tomatoes (or 4-5 roma tomatoes)
  • 1 small shallot, very finely minced (or 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced)
  • 1-2 tbs sherry vinegar (or red wine)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional to taste)
  • 3-4 tbs good quality extra virgin olive oil
  1. put the eggplants and tomatoes directly on the grill (can be done inside on a gas burner) and allow them to roast  while occasionally turning when necessary until the skins are almost burned and flaky but the insides are soft and cooked through. set aside and allow them to cool off.
  2. carefully remove the roasted eggplant and tomatoes from the outer skins and add to a bowl (mush the eggplants and tomatoes up with a fork creating a smooth consistency) with very finely minced shallots (1-2 tsp), olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and vinegar. taste and adjust seasoning. (add a touch of fresh lemon juice if you’d like it to taste more citrusy).
  3. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. drizzle with olive oil. serve with oven roasted homemade rosemary crostini : thinly sliced baguette, olive oil, sea salt, chopped fresh rosemary, good parmesan cheese-in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on them).

mozzarella stuffed small yellow peppers:

  • about 12 marinated yellow (or red) small peppers (buy them at the store usually near the olives)
  • 12 small fresh mozzarella balls (or cut a larger one to small bites)
  • a small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest

combine parsley, garlic, sea salt & pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil in a bowl. add mozzarella cheese, allow it to marinate for at least 1 hour, and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. stuff the drained peppers carefully with the marinated cheese balls just before serving.

 

 

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