Thursday, February 07, 2013

Going Clubbing

Saffron Supper Club Dinner #1, Miami Beach Botanical Garden

I've decided to go behind the line.
To go from someone who usually only consumes and observes to one who provides and executes.
To go in the kitchen.
And so far it's been exhausting. And exhilarating. Fun. And tough. Confusing. And clarifying.
Suffice to say: I'm learning a lot.

Pots of Tahdig, the crispy inverted rice.

It all starts with Saffron Supper Club. It's hard to categorize this endeavor because it's still developing. It's a roving pop-up dinner club exploring the food and culture of the Middle East. Which means we're flexible. We may show up at an idyllic garden and throw a banquet. Which is what we did for our first dinner. Or we'll materialize at a neo-Jewish diner and transform the space into a bohemian hideaway of dill-flecked rice. Which is what we're doing for our second dinner. We may focus on Persian, which we've been doing since our inception. Or we'll explore the food of Morocco. Tunisia. Lebanon. Maybe you'll catch us on a rooftop in the middle of the city. Or on the beach with Bedouin tables and cushions.
Won't you come on the adventure with us?
Khoresht Bademjan - Eggplant and beef stew (dried limes, yellow split peas).
All photos courtesy of Justin Namon

Why I'm Cuckoo for Kuku Sabzi

In Najmieh Batmanglij's book A Taste of Persia, she explains that kuku is
a baked omelet somewhat similar to an Italian frittata or an Arab eggah; it is thick and rather fluffy, and stuffed with herbs, vegetables, or meat. It may be eaten hot or cold — it keeps well in the refrigerator for two or three days — as an appetizer, side dish, or light main dish with yogurt or salad and bread. Kukus are traditionally made on the stovetop, but my oven version is much simpler. A fresh herb kuku such as this one is a traditional New Year's dish in Iran. The green herbs symbolize rebirth, and the eggs, fertility and happiness for the year to come. 
An apt summation. I love kuku because it's less eggy than a frittata, not as rich as a souffle and way more dense than a quiche could ever be. The recipe is deceptively simple, though in prepping for this dish my mother consulted with a few Persian friends who added extra steps like chopping and pre-sauteing the greens, whisking the eggs in separate bowls, etc.
But really it's the kind of unfussy dish that doesn't require all that much prep -- chop fluffy piles of greens like parsley, cilantro, spinach, scallions or chives. Whisk in about six or seven eggs. Dashes of tumeric, salt and pepper. Brown in a skillet. The end result: deliciously herby, not-too-crusty wedges that will make all other egg-based wedges feel meek in comparison. There's a bit of texture there -- lots of leafy presence and just the hint of creaminess from the eggs. For our Saffron Supper Club Dinner #2 we're kicking off the meal with this and pairing it with a salmon pastrami and yogurt sauce.