Lynne Christy Anderson, author of Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens, shares the story behind a recipe for kou kou sabzi, a Persian dish with eggs, spinach, saffron, and garden herbs.
I cut back my herbs yesterday, something I usually do about this time every summer, before the flower buds begin to form and the leaves, to toughen so that I’ll have another harvest later in the season. Gathering an armful of freshly cut stalks, each with its own particular heady aroma—cilantro, chives, parsley, oregano, and dill, I immediately thought of Yasie.
Several years ago I spent an afternoon in her kitchen where she and her mother, Touba, prepared kou kou sabzi for me. Similar to an omelet, this Persian specialty is made with an assortment of fresh herbs, spinach, and a pinch each of saffron and cinnamon. In their house filled with the beautiful prints, hand-made musical instruments, and colorful rugs they brought here with them, Yasie and Touba enchanted me with stories of life in Iran, where they lived for many years.
When we sat down to eat, the kou kou sabzi was like nothing I’d ever tasted: subtle, delicate, and divine, with the combination of herbs and the unexpected addition of saffron. Yasie told me she sees food as “the great ice breaker,” something with the ability to draw people into a new culture when they might not be so inclined. For me, the kou kou sabzi certainly did the trick: I found myself wanting to know more about her homeland, its people, culture, and, of course, the food.
Want a taste of another world? Try this wonderful dish, perfect now that everything is in season.
KOU KOU SABZI (Green Herb Omelet)
Serves 2 or 3 for dinner or 4 to 6 as appetizers
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup dill, finely chopped
1 cup chives or scallions, including green tops, finely chopped
1/2 cup spinach leaves, washed and finely chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron liquid (see recipe below)
1/4 cup dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
In a bowl, combine the fresh herbs and spinach. In another bowl, mix the eggs, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, turmeric, fenugreek (optional), saffron liquid, salt, and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the herbs and combine.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Spread the oil around the pan to coat the bottom and sides. Pour the herb mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly with a spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the egg is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
To serve, carefully invert onto a serving platter. Cut into wedges. Can be served hot or room temperature.
1 teaspoon saffron
2 ½ tablespoons hot water
Break up the saffron threads with your fingers. Add water and stir. (This will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.)
Lynne Christy Anderson is the author of Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens. Visit her website at www.lynnechristyanderson.com.