Nargessi Esfanaj (Persian Spinach and Eggs)

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Since my son started crawling  a few months ago my culinary world has been turned upside down! Not content to sit still for more than 5 minutes, my son requires that I spend most of my day on my hands and knees chasing after him.  I find myself either cooking or prepping during his afternoon nap or making super speedy dinners during the very short time he will  bounce contentedly in his exersaucer.

It is for this reason that a recipe like Nargessi Esfanaj is a godsend! This dish takes little prep work and can be made in no time flat. And the icing on the cake is that it’s extremely healthy providing you with a mega dose of leafy greens and protein.

Delicate poached eggs on a bed of sauteed spinach, garlic and golden onions, Nargessi gets it’s name from the Narcissus flower (known in Farsi as Nargess). The Narcissus flower is white with a yellow centre which is the egg and the spinach is likened to the grassy meadow where the flowers bloom. Poetic huh?

Nargessi Esfanaj
(serves 2-4)

canola or olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
10 ounces baby spinach, washed and dried
4 large eggs
salt and pepper

In a large (preferably non-stick) frying pan heat 3 tbsp of canola or olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for 8 minutes. Then add the minced garlic. and saute for another 2-3 minutes or until the onions are lightly golden. Add the turmeric and saute for another minute.

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Add another tbsp of olive oil and half the spinach to the pan and when it starts to wilt add the other half of the spinach. Saute for about five minutes or until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Season with about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

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Spread the spinach mixture evenly in the pan and crack four eggs on top. Cover the pan (if you do not have a lid, you can cover with foil)  Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the whites are just set (or to your own liking). Season with more salt and pepper to your own taste.

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Serve with toasted bread, pita or barbarry. You can also serve this with steamed rice. Enjoy!

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Kuku-e Kadoo (Persian Zucchini “Omelette”)

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Over the past couple months I have discovered the wonders of the humble zucchini. I must say that it was a very under-used vegetable in my cooking repertoire. Not so any more! With a zucchini-heavy presence at the farmers market lately, I have made zucchini pancakes, zucchini fritters, zucchini muffins, chocolate zucchini bread and now zucchini Kuku!

For those of you who are not familiar with Kuku, it is the Persian answer to Italian Frittata and the French Omelette. One big difference is that the egg is the star of omelettes and frittatas, but in Kuku the egg is more of a binder to the lovely filling.  There are many different types of Kuku and probably the most famous is Kuku Sabzi – a fried herb and egg mixture – which is an essential part of the Persian New Year feast.

Delicious and very easy to prepare, Kuku Kadoo is a savoury combination of sweet caramelized onions, garlic, grated zucchini, eggs and fragrant dill and spices. Kuku’s can be fried in a pan or can be baked in the oven. In this recipe I have baked them in muffin tins……who doesn’t love cute individual portions?  I love these mini-kukus especially for kids and with school just around the corner, they make the perfect lunch box addition.

Kuku-e Kadoo
(12-15 mini kukus)

4 medium zucchini grated
canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
5 large eggs
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chopped dill (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the grated zucchini (you may grate with a box grater or in a food processor) in a colander over the sink. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Then squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the zucchini. You can use your hands or cover with paper towel and press down so the liquid is drained through the colander.

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In a large frying pan, heat two tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes until slightly golden. Add the turmeric and cook for another minute.

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Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly for about 10 minutes.

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In a bowl beat the eggs with saffron water, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Slowly add the flour and baking powder, beating very well. Add the zucchini/onion mixture and (the dill if you are using it) to the eggs.

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Put one teaspoon of canola oil in each muffin tin (the muffin tin needs to be non-stick, if it is not  I suggest using muffin liners). Swirl around to coat. Fill the muffin tin 3/4 full with the mixture.

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Bake for 30 minutes or until the eggs are set.  Let cool slightly and gently remove from the tins using a spatula.

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Enjoy!

Adasi (Persian Style Lentils)

I began my love affair with lentils a few years ago. We had always been friends but in the past few years my love for these legumes has blossomed.  Lentils are versatile, delicious and extremely nutritious. They are an excellent source of vegetarian protein, fibre, iron, vitamin B and folate. They are low in dietary fat and extremely economical. They are a staple for many vegetarians, as well as omnivores like me that try to adhere to “Meatless Mondays”.

I get a lot of requests for vegetarian/vegan recipes and Adasi is one of my favourite Persian meatless dishes. Lentils with caramelized onions and fragrant spices that can be served hot or cold, as a side dish, a dip, a main dish served with rice or (as my mom grew up with) a delicious breakfast dish.

For those of you unfamiliar with Golpar (Angelica powder) it comes from the seeds of a wild plant that grows in the mountains of Iran. Golpar is very aromatic and is found in a variety of Persian dishes. It is often used with legumes because it reduces the digestive gas that is often associated with eating beans and legumes.

Adasi
(Serves 4)

3 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 tsp golpar (ground angelica powder)*
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan heat the canola oil over medium heat. Fry the onions, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and garlic and fry for another minute.

Add the lentils and vegetable broth to the pot. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Turn down to low, cover and let simmer (stirring occasionally) for about 1 hour or until the lentils are very soft. If it gets too dry, add some extra water.

The consistency should be thicker than a soup but not too dry. Add the golpar, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

*Can be found at Iranian supermarkets and specialty stores.

Persian Breakfast Omelette

I was very blessed growing up. Not only was my mother a terrific cook but my father was also a culinary genius. Although he did not cook very often, when he did it was always something truly delicious. Since Father’s Day was this past Sunday, I thought that there was no better time to feature one of my favourite dishes that my father prepares – his renowned breakfast omelette with golden fried onions, tomatoes and aromatic spices.

One of the things I miss most about living at my parents house is this Persian omelette. My father would often make this on weekend mornings and I have to admit that no matter how many times I try to re-create it, it will never be as delicious as my fathers.

In this following recipe I have beaten the eggs but you can also just crack the eggs straight in the pan (as my father normally does) and cook the eggs intact.

Persian Breakfast Omelette
(Serves 2)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 small tomatoes (or one large), diced
3/4 tsp turmeric
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tsp hot water

Heat oil over medium-high heat (closer to medium than high) in a non-stick frying pan. When hot, add onions and fry (stirring occasionally) for about  8-10 minutes or until soft, golden and starting to brown. If they start to brown too quickly turn down the heat slightly. Add the turmeric and fry for another 30 seconds.

Add the diced tomatoes and fry for about five minutes or until the tomatoes have softened.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and pour eggs over tomato and onion mixture in frying pan. Stir slightly once with a wooden spoon so the egg mixes with the tomato and onion. Cover, turn heat down to medium-low and let  cook for about 5-10 minutes until eggs are just set.

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Crack the eggs right into the pan over the onion and tomato mixture and cook the eggs till whites are cooked and yolks are cooked to your desired doneness.

Pour the saffron water over the omelette. Serve with toasted bread, pita or barbarry bread. Enjoy!