Among the many gifts my husband gave me when we were first married was a stack of 20 cookbooks. All were from different cuisines: Afghani, Persian, Moroccan, Turkish, Caribbean, Japanese, Chinese, South American, Cajun, Somali… well, you get the picture. I’m still trying to figure out what the take-away message is. He claims I’m the MacGyver of cooking. He thinks that if I were given a ruler, a tape measurer, and a pencil, I could create a four-course meal. I wish that were true.
I love cookbooks; one or two would have been nice. But 20, I hope he wasn’t making a comment on my cooking ability… I’m not sure if he gave me them for my enjoyment or his.
I have slowly been working my way through them. I feel privileged to discover, explore, and experience new cultures through their food. I love discovering new spices, new techniques, and exotic ingredients. Each time I do, I feel as though I have found a precious gem and I can’t believe I have lived so long without its beauty. I love the way the books look on the shelf. I love the smells permeating my kitchen and wafting through the halls. I love knowing my neighbors are probably jealous.
Most of the time, I create my own recipes or adapt recipes from other chefs to fit my cooking style. But sometimes, I need the security that comes from a recipe. It feels safe and comfortable to cook “alongside” an accomplished chef. I admit to knowing nothing of Persian cooking; there is no reason for me to bumble through it on my own. Enter Najmieh Batmanglij’s Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen.
Flipping through the cookbook it is easy to see that I am in the hands of a master. I wrote to the publisher to see if I could share my favorite recipes of hers with you. They graciously granted me permission. This recipe takes almost 2 hours start to finish (most of that will be cooking time) so plan well; it’s worth it. Fair warning, I don’t recommend inviting guests over the night you cook this because you’ll want to eat it all by yourself.
To remove the bitterness from the eggplants, peel them and cut each into 5 lengthwise slices. Soak in a large bowl of water with 2 tbsp salt for 20 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water and pat dry. Brush all sides of the eggplant with egg white.
In a non-stick skillet, brown eggplant on both sides in 1 tbsp oil. Remove from the skillet, cool, and mash with a fork.
In the same skillet, lightly brown onion and garlic in 1 tbsp oil over medium heat for 20 minutes; add to mashed eggplant.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Break eggs into a bowl. Add parsley, saffron water, lime juice, baking powder, flour, salt, and pepper. Beat thoroughly with a fork. Add the eggplant mixture to the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Pour 1 tbsp oil into an 8-inch non-stick ovenproof baking dish and place it in the oven. Heat the oil; pour in the egg mixture and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove the dish and gently pour 1 tbsp oil over the egg mixture. Put the dish back in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes longer, until golden brown.
Serve Kuku in the baking dish or unmold it by loosening the edge with knife and inverting it onto a serving platter.