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Persian Spinach and Pine Nut Kuku

By: 
Tina Wasserman

This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.

Kuku might sound like a silly name, but it is a delicious omelet-like pancake made in Iran. Before 1935, Iran was called Persia, and Jewish people have lived in Persia for almost twenty-five hundred years! When King Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, thousands of Jews were exiled to Babylonia, which at that time included the lands of Persia. The story of Purim takes place in Persia, in the city of Shushan.

Kuku are light and fluffy and often contain vegetables and green herbs. Here are two recipes, one using cauliflower and this one with spinach. This recipe for kuku combines some of the foods that the Moors brought from Persia and the Middle East and introduced to Jewish people living in Spain. When, in 1492, the Jews were no longer allowed to live in Spain, they brought their love of spinach, raisins, and pine nuts with them to Italy. Persians introduced the Moors to spinach, and cauliflower was introduced to Persian cuisine from neighboring Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). After the Moors conquered Spain, they introduced the vegetables to the Jews, and along with raisins, they were favored by the Spanish Moors and Jews for centuries. Although the Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492, their cooking traditions continued. So whenever you see a recipe that combines raisins with spinach or cauliflower, you can tell that it is a dish with Jewish connections!

Najmieh Batmanglij is my (and most Americans’) go-to authority on Persian cuisine. Her recipes inspired me to create the following.

Kuku can be served hot out of the oven, at room temperature, or cold. This is a perfect recipe to make with children because it can be served whenever you have time to eat it as a snack or rewarmed as a light lunch or brunch dish.

Ingredients: 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup raisins
½ cup finely chopped chives or the green part of scallions
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
10 grindings of black pepper or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon Persian advieh, baharat, or cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
5 eggs
2 tablespoons matzah meal
Directions: 
  1. Add all of the oil to the pan and coat well. The excess oil will help cook the kuku.
  2. Place the defrosted chopped spinach in a colander. Take small handfuls of the spinach and squeeze very hard until almost all of the moisture has drained. Place the spinach in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the spinach, and mix with a fork until the mixture is well combined.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the kuku begins to brown.
  5. Remove from the oven, cool, and cut into 1-inch squares.

Kitchen Conversations

Create your own kuku. What vegetable or vegetables would you like to use? What spices would make it taste good?

Tina's Tidbits: 

  • This is a good recipe to introduce cooking at the stove because the mixture won’t spatter and scare a young child.
  • It is very important that the child be standing on a stable surface—chairs are not appropriate!
  • Make sure that the stove is at least at midriff height. Faces should be far away from cooking utensils.
  • Hot casseroles should be removed from the oven by an adult or a supervised child over the age of ten.
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