Spring, a time of renewal and rebirth, is upon us! As someone who dreads the colder months like an impending death sentence, the arrival of spring feels like getting a new lease on life. We’ve been pardoned for our crimes, free to go back out and commit fresh offenses against the world. Nothing too severe now; I’m just talking about reinterpreting traditional dishes in unconventional and sometimes controversial ways. In lieu of traveling to get the full experience while still craving a taste of different cultures, that’s always my MO.
For as long as I’ve known about the celebration of Nowruz, I’ve always wanted a slice of the festivities for myself. The Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year, begins today to mark the spring equinox. For some, that means spring cleaning, shopping, or visiting with friends, but for most, it means eating, drinking, and dancing, just as any good holiday should entail. Combining all of these inclinations, you’ll find incredibly creative dishes that are also excellent for clearing out the fridge of any bits and bobs leftover. I suppose the results are so good, they might make you want to dance, too.
Top of mind for me is kuku sabzi, frequently described as a Persian frittata, though I find that a bit misleading. It’s more about the herbs and greens than the eggs, bound together with just enough filler to create a cohesive savory cake. I recall seeing a vendor at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers market selling them in the early dawn hours, pomegranate arils sparkling on top like cut gems. Oh how they would tease me, beckoning in shades of dark emerald green, yet impossibly tangled up in that eggy base. I vowed to make my own, remembering that pledge every year as spring rolled around, and being too busy to make good on the promise.
I’m no less busy these days but I do have a better approach to time management. When something is important, we seem to find a way to make time, no matter what. I think it’s important to honor this Iranian tradition with my own eggless spin, if only to finally be able to enjoy it myself.
Kuku sabzi can be slightly sweet, pockmarked with chopped dates, barberries, or pomegranate arils with a hint of aromatic rose petals, or savory, leaning more heavily into bold spices, or a combination of the two. Terminally indecisive, I thought that mixture seemed like a fair compromise to try all the best, most intriguing additions at once.
Though it seems like a ton of greenery on paper, just trust me: You need to add them all. Granted, it doesn’t have to be this precise formula, since it’s excellent for cleaning out all the scraps you might find languishing in the vegetable crisper. Mix and match, make it your own, and dance a little jig when it’s all done.