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Author Notes: Kookoo is a genre of Persian food made with whipped eggs mixed in with various types of vegetables and fresh and dried herbs -and sometimes with chicken or meat or even fish (kind of like a crab cake)- and cooked either on the stove or in the oven.
Variations abound! We have garlic, eggplant(one of my favorites), green bean, potato, meat, and cauliflower kookoo, and a bunch more besides.
Of all these, kookoo 'yeh sabzi (fresh herb kookoo) is one of the most popular iterations:a year-round staple menu item that is also made specially for Norooz (the Persian New Year) because it is green and thus symbolizes growth and spring.
A good kookoo sabzi is a thing of beauty: fluffy, fragrant, hearty yet light, filled with nutrition, and absolutely delicious! The contrasting play of the tangy berberries and crunchy earthy walnuts in a bite of fluffy herb-infused kookoo sabzi, partaken with yogurt and some bread, is poised to delight even a persnickety palette.
[Note: This kookoo travels well and thus is a favorite picnic item.]
—Fig and Quince
Makes 4-8 wedges
- 1 bunch each of: cilantro, parsley, chives (or substitute scallions)
- 3-4 stems of fresh dill
- 3-4 leaves of pale-green crispy lettuce (makes the kookoo lighter in color and is optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek seeds (or substitute tarragon)
- 1 pinch dried mint
- 1/2 cup walnuts - save a few for garnish and coarsely chop the rest
- 3 tablespoons barberries (1 tablespoon for the garnish, the rest for the batter)
- 5 eggs (room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (soak in a bit of water so that it bubbles)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoons sugar (for the garnish - optional)
- Soak parsley, cilantro, dill, chives (or scallion) in cold water for up to 30 minutes to loosen grime and dirt; drain and rinse a few times. Dry completely (but completely, otherwise chopping up the herbs will be a pain) and trim stems and ends.
- Soak barberries in cold water for 10-15 minutes and rinse several times (a tea filter would do nicely as a colander ) to clean. Drain, dry, and set aside for now.
- Chop the parsley, dill, cilantro, chives (or scallion) and the lettuce leaves as finely as possible. (Note: So that the flavor of one herb doesn’t dominate the others, the rule of thumb is to use the same chopped amount of each herb. It also helps to chop all herbs to the same degree of fineness so that the batter cooks evenly.)
- Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet (or use a large pot instead that you can use later to also cook the kookoo batter) on high flame. Straightaway, without waiting for the oil to get hot, add the chopped fresh herbs, and stirring constantly, cook for around 5 minutes until the herb mixture reduces in size and is soft and pliant. (The objective of this step is to rid the herbs of excess moisture so as to avoid ending up with a soggy kookoo and to get a fluffy and thick one instead.) Let herb mixture aside for now and allow to cool completely.
- Crack eggs in a big bowl and whip lightly with a fork, then add the: dried mint, dried fenugreek, chopped walnuts, 2 tablespoons of barberries, flour, baking powder, turmeric, and the sauteed herbs. Mix well with the fork.
- In a big pot, heat at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot enough that a test-droplet of the batter puffs up when dropped into the pot, pour in the entire batter. Lightly press batter with a spatula or spoon to make the surface even. Cook, covered (ideally with a glass lid so you can see the batter,) for 10-12 minutes on medium heat until the bottom of the batter coagulates and is set. Using the edge of a spatula, cut kookoo into 4 (or more) wedges and flip each wedge over to cook the other side. Continue to cook – uncovered this time – on medium heat for approximately 5-7 more minutes until the batter is evenly cooked throughout. (Add a couple more tablespoons of oil at this point if necessary.) You're done. Garnish and serve hot.
- For the barberrie garnish: heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet on medium flame till hot, add 1 tablespoon of barberries and 1/2-1 tablespoon of sugar (sugar is optional, skip it if you like a dominant tangy flavor like we do.) Stir well for just under a minute. (Absolutely no longer than a minute.) Garnish kookoo with a sprinkling of barberries when ready to serve.
- Place kookoo wedges on a serving platter, garnish with a sprinkling of sauteed barberries and some walnuts, and serve with bread. Don't forget the yogurt! The combo of this kookoo with yogurt is seriously stunning.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Cheap Feast