Kuku is a Persian dish similar to an Italian frittata or Spanish tortilla, but less eggy with more of everything else. This way, the kuku tastes more of all the good stuff and egg becomes merely a binder. There are two most common variations, one with chopped fresh herbs, called kuku sabzi, and another with grated potato, called kuku sibzamini. The greatness of kuku is justified by many reasons. For starters, it’s simple. We all are likely to have eggs sitting in the fridge, and with potatoes in the pantry, or with already portioned chopped herbs bagged in every Persian’s freezer, it’s the perfect solution to a last minute meal. And then, it is just as good leftover, and can be enjoyed as a side or sandwiched, hot or cold. So, with warm weather teasing it’s way towards us, kuku is great for picnics. No wonder it’s a favorite among 13 Bedar-goers, the 13th day following the vernal equinox and Persian New Year, where everyone heads out of their homes and spends the day amongst the trees, the sand, or the mountains. It’s bad luck not to. Niloufar tells the tale.
This kuku is made with beautiful smoky eggplant, which we previously charred directly on hot charcoal the last time we had the grill out, and stored it portioned in the freezer. You can of course substitute oven roasted or stovetop grilled, but the smoke makes an irreplaceable difference. So, next time you get the grill out, or are headed to a barbecue, stock up on eggplants and once the burgers are all in their designated buns, place the eggplants directly on the hot wood charcoal, turning them every once in a while, until it’s black and soft. Once it’s cool to the touch, peel the skin off and portion it for the freezer.
2 cups mashed smoked eggplant
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters
1/4 cup nira chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons concentrated tomato paste
1 tablespoon saffron water
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
light olive oil
Heat a skillet over medium heat with a small drizzle of olive oil and the garlic. Add eggplant, turmeric, and tomato paste. Stir, adding salt and pepper generously. Remove from heat. This whole process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, just enough to cook out the tomato paste and turmeric. Make sure to go easy on the oil, because you don’t want to add any excess grease to your mixture.
In a bowl, beat eggs well until smooth. Incorporate all remaining ingredients really well. Go ahead and add the eggplant and whisk until you have a very blended and even mixture.
Lightly grease a medium pan, getting a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom and edges. Put over low heat. Pour in your kuku mixture, cover and let cook gently until set. Season.
Using a spatula, cut into wedges, and flip each wedge, one by one, to allow the other side to brown as well.
Serve with yogurt and flatbread, or sandwich it with fermented pickles and a handful of fresh herbs inside pita or between slices of your favorite crusty bread.