Kookoo-ye Marchoobeh - Persian-Style Asparagus Frittata with Fresh Herbs, Walnuts and Barberries


کوکوی مارچوبه (Asparagus kookoo) recipe came about as a result of a recent trip to my local vegetable market where I noticed bundles of fresh green asparagus neatly tied and arranged on the shelves. I enjoy the taste of fresh asparagus either steamed or grilled plain with just a little bit of coarse salt. However, as I reached to pick a bundle up, it dawned on me that I had never cooked a Persian-style asparagus meal and among seemingly endless options I have decided to make a new version of kookoo/kuku incorporating asparagus.


Growing up in Iran, I remember hearing my mother talk about marchoobeh (asparagus) but I don't remember eating or even seeing any asparagus back then. Perhaps asparagus wasn't very popular or vastly cultivated and therefore it was not available among the wide range of vegetables then.


To enjoy the in-season asparagus I have combined fresh herbs, chopped walnuts and barberries with eggs and I'm very happy with the results. For this recipe, I have added a touch of cayenne and cumin to bring just the right amount of flavor to the egg and asparagus combination. I must point out though that the traditional kookoo/kuku sabzi, like most dishes in the Persian cuisine, is not spicy at all.  I also did not chop the vegetables as finely as I normally would for the traditional kookoo. For those unable to find barberries you can substitute it with dried cranberries instead.


Kookoo-ye Marchoobeh - Asparagus Frittata

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

1 pound fresh asparagus (about 20 medium sized stalks), ends snapped and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 large eggs
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh scallion (green parts only)
A few sprigs fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried barberries (can be found in most Persian grocery stores), picked over and rinsed well
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of cayenne pepper (or to taste) *optional
A generous pinch of cumin *optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil (extra virgin) or vegetable oil

Method:
  1. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the asparagus pieces lightly for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the asparagus.
  2. In the meantime, combine the chopped herbs, walnuts, barberries and the spices together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs until yolks and whites are completely blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour the egg over the herbs and walnut mixture in the large bowl and blend well.
  5. Add the egg and herb mixture over the sauteed asparagus in the skillet. With a spatula flatten the surface of the kookoo. As eggs start to set take the spatula and run it around the edges and make four large wedges or eight small ones in the skillet. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes on medium-low heat.
To serve, cut the kookoo into small wedges and place onto a platter. May be served hot or at room temperature with yogurt, salad shirazi, torshi and bread.


Enjoy!

Gozlemeh - Fried Eggs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce - Iranian Style


گزلمه (gozlemeh/gozleme) is a regional dish of استان آذربایجان غربی (West Azerbaijan province) served throughout the capital city of ارومیه (Orumieyeh/Urmia). Gozlemeh is just a perfect recipe for a spring brunch or a light summer lunch. I came across this simple and healthy recipe long ago while going through an old Iranian cooking manual. However, I was a bit hesitant about making a dish I had never had before and had never even heard of. In Iran, each region has its own unique food that the people from other provinces may not be familiar with. Finally, a few days ago I decided to give this recipe a try for the first time. I ended up making it again the next day and it tasted even better. As I prepared this warm and creamy yogurt dish topped with exquisite fried eggs and a touch of turmeric (my fave spice) and served it over toasted flat bread, it made me feel as though I had traveled to Western Azerbaijan and was eating a delicious gozlemeh in someone's home in Orumieyeh!



When making a new recipe I am most comfortable if I at least had a chance to taste it once before to know exactly what the meal should taste like and what flavors to expect. However, that doesn't stop me from trying out new recipes. Occasionally, my daughters bring different recipes home that they would like to try and we make it together. Now that they know how to cook for themselves, I get to be the taste tester and I watch them hone their cooking skills. That's how I learned to cook at a young age by watching my mother cook and also by helping out in the kitchen too. One time, when I was eleven years old my mother told me to take the raw chicken out of the fridge and cook it for lunch as she was heading out the door in a hurry and did not leave any instructions. It is challenging moments such as this that propels one to figure things out on one's own and learn things faster. Cooking, like most things in life, takes practice before you feel confident that you can create a delicious healthy meal with whatever you have in your pantry/refrigerator with or without a recipe.


My advice to novice cooks is to familiarize yourselves with the ingredients that you are going to use, learn about different methods of cooking, always go for fresh and good quality ingredients if available, read the recipe a few times before starting to cook and have all the necessary kitchen tools and gadgets ready to go. And if you are like me, cleaning and washing as you cook, place a mat between the sink and the counter or wear a pair of non-skid shoes! Put your apron on, take charge and make the recipe your own by substituting what you don't have and adjusting the amount of sugar, fat and the level of spiciness to your liking and your dietary restrictions while staying true to the recipe.


I have made some changes to the original recipe. I also added a pinch of turmeric to the oil in the skillet before frying two of the eggs (a personal preference). This recipe doesn't take long to make. You may want to set the table and have the drinks, bread and condiments ready before you start cooking.

Ingredients:
Serves 2

4 large eggs (preferably organic)
1 1/2 cups strained yogurt
1 large garlic clove
Salt
Pepper, freshly ground
A pinch of turmeric *optional
Butter or vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
Water
2 lavash bread, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Place the garlic clove with a pinch of salt in the mortar and pestle and finely crush.
  2. Add a tablespoon of water to the strained yogurt, stir well to loosen it up a little.
  3. Add the crushed garlic to the yogurt. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat a a tablespoon of butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic yogurt mixture, heat thoroughly for a few minutes, remove from heat before it starts to boil.  
  5. Spread the yogurt mixture generously on each of the toasted flat-breads separately.
  6. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil or butter in a frying pan, add a pinch of turmeric, swirl around the pan a couple of times. Add the eggs to the hot frying pan, cook until the white is set, season with salt and pepper to taste. Use a spatula to remove the eggs from the pan. 
  7. Place them on the bread with the yogurt mixture and serve warm.
Enjoy!