Spring Greens Pie (kuku)
Saturday, May 2, 2015
One of the first signs of spring is the abundance of greens that show up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores. In today’s video on how to make a greens kukuI take advantage of the copious selections and demonstrate a kuku, a Persian frittata which resembles a crustless quiche. While it’s baking, the pie forms a bottom crust as well as a top crust. The result is a luscious spring greens pie.
The selection of greens that I show in the video includes chicory, which adds a delightful bitterness, as well as arugula and watercress, which lend a bright peppery bite. The more exotic additions include two that are just starting to show up at the farmer’s market: Claytonia, a delicate mild-flavored green; and sorrel, a delightfully lemony herb with a bright tart liveliness. Since this kuku lends itself to countless variations, you can also make it with the other spring greens you find or fancy, and mix in some fresh leafy herbs: Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and chervil are all excellent choices.
Begin by wilting the greens. A drop of water in the skillet gets the leaves off to a good start. Start with the amount that will fit in the pan, and add more as the greens start to cook. Add handfuls to the skillet, and use a tongs to turn the uncooked leaves to the bottom of the skillet. The heat of the pan and the cooked greens help cook the raw ones quickly. You’ll want about 4 cups of cooked greens and mixed herbs total; to end up with this amount, begin with 2 to 3 large bunches—about 3 to 4 pounds before cooking. No need to wilt the fresh herbs; simply chop them. When the greens are sufficiently wilted, transfer to a strainer set over a bowl, and allow to cool and drain. Press the greens against the strainer to remove any excess liquid. Transfer to a cutting board, chop into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.
While the greens are cooling, warm enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium skillet over medium heat, and add a heaping cup or so sliced onions. Sauté for a few minutes, toss in a few cloves minced garlic, and cook until the onions are caramelized.
Dollop a tablespoon butter (or coconut or olive oil) onto a 9-inch pie plate, and set the plate in a 350 degree oven to warm in the pan for a few minutes as you mix the ingredients for your pie together.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 eggs. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, a tablespoon flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Since you’re using such a small amount of flour, even unbleached white flour is okay—so long as you don’t have gluten intolerance. The flour in combination with the baking powder lends an extra lift to the pie, making it especially airy.
Stir in the chopped greens, the fresh herbs, the onions and the garlic. In the kuku in the video, I add also a cup of crumbled sheep’s milk feta as well as a cup of sheep’s milk gruyere. That touch of flavorful cheese imparts rich flavor, but the kuku is already certainly scrumptious when made without the dairy. Stir in a generous dusting of black pepper, and mix everything well. You’ll notice that the eggs bind the greens together inconspicuously and disappear into the batter.
By this time, the butter will have melted and the pan will be hot. Remove it from the oven and swirl the butter around so that it coats the pan evenly. Pat the filling into the pie plate, and return to the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, until you see some browning around the sides. Dollop another tablespoon of fat on top—the heat of the oven will spread it—and return the kuku to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until it develops a gorgeous deep golden top crust.
This pie stays fresh for days in the refrigerator. You can just cut yourself a piece and heat up what you want to eat, or reheat the whole pan. The one-dish meal can be served any time of the day for a light meal or snack. In Judeo/Christian traditions, eggs are a symbol of rebirth and are featured on spring religious holidays. It feels appropriate to celebrate this long-awaited season with this delicious greens and eggs medley.
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