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Maheen's Persian Herbed Omelette

Maheen's Persian Herbed Omelette

Shared by Ayala Hodak
Recipe Roots: Tehran, Iran > Holon, Israel > Tenafly, New Jersey

Our recipes are a map of where we have been and who we have cooked with. That’s true for Maheen Saadia who started her life in Tehran and now lives in Holon, a city near Tel Aviv. In the 1940’s in Tehran, Maheen learned to cook by her mother’s side. But their time cooking together was interrupted when Maheen was in her early teens and made Aliyah with two of her siblings, leaving her parents behind.

Representatives of Aliyat Hanoar, who recruited young Jews to move to Israel, told Maheen: “Israel’s a wonderful place,” her daughter Ayala Hodak, the co-owner of New York Israeli restaurant Taboon, explains. But, “Israel was a new country. It was nothing like she expected,” she adds. It was less developed, still forming itself. Maheen and her siblings were taken to Kibbutz Naan in the center of the country and had their names changed to sound Israeli—Maheen became Yafa. And, she was given a job, working in the communal dining hall.

When she was around 18, Ayala believes, she left the kibbutz and moved to Tel Aviv where she met her future husband Uri, another Persian immigrant, whose name had been changed—from Rohola to Uri. It was his mother, Dalia who would help Yafa learn to cook for her family. “I think that my mother remembered a lot of her cooking from her mother,” Ayala says. Recipes in Yafa’s home became a blend of the influences of the two matriarchs.

For holidays Ayala remembers her mother preparing traditional Persian recipes like the herbed stew ghormeh sabzi. And, at times of mourning, on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, she prepares kuku sabzi, a Persian omelette filled with fresh green herbs. “I don’t know if it’s a tradition in every home,” Ayaya explains. But for her mother. “It’s part of the blessing, all of the herbs come from the ground.”

The recipe has passed down to Ayala, who is thankful that she doesn’t have memorial days to observe in her home. Instead, she follows another lead from her mother, making it for shavuot alongside Masso-Cheiar, a Persian cold yogurt and cucumber soup with fresh mint. Other times, she simply makes it for big breakfasts. It is one of those dishes that is delicious at all hours and in all seasons.

Kuku Sabzi (Persian Herb Omelette)

Photo by Jake Cohen

Photo by Jake Cohen

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 25 minutes

4 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
½ bunch parsley (1 cup leaves and tender stems), washed, dried and chopped
½ bunch cilantro (1 cup leaves and tender stems), washed, dried and chopped
½ bunch dill (1 cup leaves and tender stems), washed, dried and chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs until smooth, then mix in the remaining ingredients.
2. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Pour mixture into pan and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the omelette begins to set and the bottom is lightly golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Flip the omelette using a spatula or slide it onto a plate to invert back into the pan and cook until set, 2 to 3 minutes more.
3. Transfer to a platter, slice and serve.

Masso-Cheiar (Persian cold yogurt and cucumber soup)

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 15 minutes

2 cups kefir yogurt
2 tablespoons full fat greek yogurt
4 persian cucumbers, cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the kefir, greek yogurt, cucumbers, mint, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Serve chilled.

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