March 20 is the vernal equinox, which marks not only the start of spring, but also Noruz, the Persian New Year. For my family and other Iranians, this is the high holiday season — like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all rolled into one. And much like these Western occasions, the Noruz celebration is not complete without food.
The traditional Noruz spread includes foods that represent springtime, renewal, and good luck. The table usually holds an assortment of fresh vegetables, a symbol of rebirth and a nod to the bounty of the coming growing season, as well as a collection of pickled vegetables, preserved the previous year. Fresh fish, usually salmon, is considered a symbol of life. And egg dishes, such as the fresh herb frittata known as kuku sabzi, symbolize fertility.
Kuku, as a general term, is essentially a savory pancake or frittata, and can be made with a variety of vegetables, such as potato or eggplant. But kuku sabzi, made with fresh greens such as parsley, cilantro, dill, green onions, and spinach, is by far my favorite kind.
While it’s traditional to eat this dish on Noruz, it’s a great recipe to keep on hand all spring and summer while the herbs are fresh and available locally.
Kuku Sabzi — Fresh Herb Frittata
It’s worth noting that this “recipe” is an approximation of ingredients and measurements that I once squeezed out of my mom. She’s one of those women who cooks by feel, not by measuring spoon, and I’m certain that the formula varies each time she makes it, depending on what proportion of fresh veggies she’s able to find. What never wavers is how delicious this is, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments based on availability of ingredients or personal preference.
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- About 6 cups of fresh greens (parsley, cilantro, dill, green onions, spinach)
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2–3 tbs. chopped walnuts (optional)
- 2–3 tbs. dried barberries (rinsed, soaked, and drained) (optional)
- Cooking oil
1. Thoroughly wash and finely chop your vegetables.
2. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, salt, pepper, turmeric, and baking powder. Add the chopped vegetables (and walnuts and barberries, if using), and combine.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet. When the pan is heated, pour in your mixture until it is about a 1/2-inch thick. (NOTE: I find that it is easier to flip and the resultant pancake/frittata is extra crispy if it is on the thin side. If you like a fluffier/thicker frittata, pour in more of the egg mixture and bake it off in the oven — see note below — to cook through.)
4. Cook on the stovetop over medium-low heat until the egg mixture begins to set and pull away from the sides of the pan, about 15 minutes. Once the mixture is firm, cut it into quarters and flip all four pieces so they cook through.
NOTE: If you want to bake your kuku instead of making it on the stovetop, just pour the egg and herb mixture into a greased baking dish and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. You can also start it on the stove and finish cooking in the oven, like a traditional frittata.
5. Serve hot or cold, as a side dish or the main meal. If you eat dairy, kuku sabzi is awesome with feta cheese.