Eggplant Kuku (Kuku-ye bademjan)

Iranians are specially fond of kuku, a type of omelet similar to the Italian frittata and the Arab eggah. It is filled with vegetables and herbs. A good kuku is thick and rather fluffy.

Although nowadays this dish is usually prepared in the oven, traditionally it was cooked in a large, covered skillet that was set on hot coals. Coals were placed on the cover as well.

Kukus are served as appetizers or side dishes or as main dishes with yogurt or salad and bread. They may be eaten hot or cold and they keep well in the refrigerator for two to three days.

Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, or 9 Japanese eggplants (about 2 pounds)
3/4 cup olive oil or butter
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 eggs
4 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. To remove bitterness from the eggplants, peel them and cut each into 5 lengthwise slices. Soak in a large bowl of water with 2 tablespoons salt. Let stand for 20 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.

2. In a skillet, brown eggplants on both sides in 1/4 cup oil. Remove from skillet, cool, and mash with a fork. (You may also broil eggplants in the oven. Broil for 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown, brushing oil on both sides.)

3. In the same skillet, lightly brown onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons oil and add to mashed eggplant.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F.

5. 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 beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly and mash. Adjust seasoning to taste.

6. Pour 1/4 cup of the oil into an 8-inch 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 the remaining oil over the egg mixture. Put the dish back in the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes longer, until golden brown.

7. Serve kuku in the baking dish or unmold it by loosening the edge with knife and inverting it onto a serving platter. Nush-e Jan!

Note: Kuku can also be cooked on top of the stove. Heat 1/4 cup of oil or butter in a skillet, pour in the egg mixture, then cook, covered, over low heat until it has set, about 25-30 minutes. Cook the second side by cutting into wedges and turning them over one by one; add the rest of the oil, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until golden brown.

Recipe excerpted from New Food of Life: Ancient Persian & Modern Iranian Cooking & Ceremonies or Silk Road Cooking: a Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij