persian date frittata

Persian date frittata

I first heard about Persian date frittatas from my Iranian-Assyrian friend Valia. You know how you can usually tell what something would taste like from a description? This was not one of those times. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the combination of flavors and textures, until I finally tried making it one day, and the clouds parted as soon as I took my first bite.

I’ve cooked this dish a lot over the last couple years, and now I have my preferred way of making it, with a handful of chives, a little pinch of cinnamon, and a few crumbles of feta for good measure. The way I assemble it is perhaps just a skosh fussy (although it’s still relatively simple—way easier than buttermilk pancakes, for example), but you could totally go a different route and scramble everything together like an omelette. Yasmin Khan has such a recipe, which looks incredible.

I just love the way it looks with the concentric circles of dates popping out against the bright yellow eggs. I like to sear the dates in the pan on just one side, so that their exposed tops have a chance to caramelize a little under the broiler while the eggs finish baking. It makes for a gorgeous centerpiece at any brunch table, and it’s easy to pull off with minimal effort.

Persian date frittata
Persian date frittata
Persian date frittata
Persian date frittata

Also, this week and next, I’m excited to be sharing some of my favorite Persian and Persian-inspired recipes. While my family is from Iraq and Syria, many other Assyrians are from Iran, so I try to include Persian recipes on Cardamom and Tea as often as I can. But while there’s a lot of common ground and mutual influence among all our cuisines (and so much multi-cultural complexity within!), Persian food is really quite distinct from Iraqi food (which is also very different from Levantine food, and so on).

So when I include Persian food on the blog, it’s always with a little bit more inhibition, because my only connection to it is through my Iranian friends, extended family, and readers, and not really through first-hand experience. While I’ve probably eaten and cooked a lot more Persian food than the average non-Persian, I’m certainly not an expert, and I hope I’m doing this dish justice. In any case, I guarantee that it’s one of the most lovely breakfasts around. Thanks again to Valia for introducing me to it.

Persian date frittata
Persian date frittata
Persian date frittata
Persian date frittata

persian date frittata

serves 4
total time: 10 minutes
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try my
kuku sabzi-inspired frittata for another Persian frittata.

  • 1 tablespoon butter (Or, better—clarified butter. You can also substitute 1/2 tablespoon olive oil)

  • 14 small or 6 large dates, split lengthwise and pitted

  • 5 large eggs, beaten

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

  • 3 tablespoons crumbled feta

  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

  • a pinch of cinnamon

  • suggestion: serve alongside some peppery greens, like watercress or arugula

  1. Pre-heat your broiler.*

  2. Heat a 10-inch broiler-safe seasoned cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.

  3. Melt the butter, swirl to coat, and place the dates in the pan cut-side down. Let them cook for about 2 minutes without flipping them, until they slightly caramelize and soften.

  4. Remove the dates from the pan, leaving the butter behind.

  5. Add the eggs to the hot butter and scramble them for only about 1 minute. Salt them to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon).

  6. After 1 minute, while they're still very runny, turn off the heat and place the dates on top of the eggs in a pretty pattern cut-side down. Gently press the dates into the eggs so that they stay in place.

  7. Move the pan to the broiler. Cook, checking every minute or more (it takes 3 minutes to cook through with my broiler, but it varies a lot from oven to oven).

  8. Once it has cooked through, garnish with feta, chives, and cinnamon, and serve (optionally with some watercress or arugula on the side).

* If you don’t have an oven, you can make this on a stovetop instead. Cook the dates for about 2 minutes on each side (instead of just 1 side). Proceed with the recipe as usual, until right after you arrange the dates on the surface. Cover the pan with a lid and continue cooking for a couple more minutes, just until the top sets from the steam.

Persian date frittata

baked butter beans with nestled feta

baked butter beans with nestled feta

This January, I’ve been atoning for all the sweets I posted in December. Not that I’ve done anything quite as drastic as giving up dessert in real life, but I thought a few healthy savories would break up the monotony of endless cakes and baklawa. I mean, I am about to gear up for Valentine’s Day, and will for sure be sharing yet another baklawa recipe soon, but in the meantime, let’s talk about beans.

Or, more specifically, let’s talk about baked butter beans! (Also known as gigandes/gigantes plaki in Greek and fasolia/fasouliyeh in Arabic and Assyrian. Oddly, they contain no butter whatsoever). This baked bean dish spans the eastern and western Mediterranean, and I have my own particular way of making it, which involves taking one or two liberties.

baked butter beans with nestled feta
baked butter beans with nestled feta

If you’re always in a hurry, don’t fret—I use canned butter beans instead of soaking and par-cooking dried ones. They don’t continue to soften once they bake with the tomato sauce, and so I’ve always had good luck using canned. Just make sure you look for a brand that doesn’t overcook them to begin with (you know how some brands are just absolute mush, and perfect for things like hummus? Avoid those!).

If you can’t find canned butter beans, this recipe is also a wonderful way to cook cannellinis. If you’re starting from dried beans, it’s very important to soak them in lightly salted water overnight, and then cook them all the way through (stopping before they get mushy) before adding them to the tomatoes. Even though they bake for twenty-five more minutes, there is not enough moisture in the dish to cook them the rest of the way if they start out too al dente.

Feta isn’t a necessary ingredient for delicious baked butter beans, but it’s one of my favorite things to add. Instead of crumbling and sprinkling the feta, I like to cut it into big chunks and nestle them in with the beans, and then sprinkle a little on top. The process feels a bit like planting seeds or tulip bulbs. You just push the feta down, and then nudge the beans back over the tops. In the oven, the feta softens and melts a little with the tomato, turning into delightfully spreadable pockets of cheese.

This dish is wonderful served on thin slices of rye toast, but it’s also lovely served simply with basmati rice. Feel free to adjust the flavorings and seasonings to your preference. It’s easy to veganize it by leaving out the feta, but I suspect it would also be delicious with some tofu cubes nested in with the beans (although I haven’t yet tried it this way myself).

baked butter beans with nestled feta
baked butter beans with nestled feta

baked butter beans with nestled feta

serves 6 as a main, or more as a side
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
download a
PDF to print

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 onion (150-175g), chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic (8g), crushed through a press

  • 2 carrots (140g), medium diced

  • Salt

  • 1 teaspoon (1g) dried oregano

  • 2 teaspoons (2g) dried thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon (0.5g) crushed red pepper (or more to taste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon (1g) black pepper

  • 2 14-ounce cans (2 400g cans) diced tomato

  • 1 teaspoon (3g) sugar

  • 3 14-ounce cans (3 400g cans) of butter beans, strained and rinsed

  • 1/4 cup (12g) minced fresh dill fronds *

  • 3/4 cup (40g) minced fresh parsley leaves (reserve some for garnish)

  • 200 grams feta, cut into about 10 large cubes

  1. Heat a large oven-proof 10 to 12” steep-sided skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the olive oil, followed by the onion, garlic, carrots, and about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions and carrots soften quite a bit (reduce to low if they start to caramelize).

  2. Add the oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, black pepper, diced tomatoes, and sugar, and bring up to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes, just until it forms a very thick sauce.

  3. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C) convection while the sauce is simmering.

  4. Taste the sauce once it’s done. Adjust the seasoning, stir in the butter beans, and remove from heat. Add most of the dill and parsley (reserve a couple pinches for garnish). Distribute all but 1 of the feta cubes evenly over the surface of the beans. Gently push down the feta cubes so that they nestle among the beans. Gently nudge some of the beans back over feta cubes to make sure they’re not showing (it’s like planting tulip bulbs). Crumble the remaining feta on top, and bake for about 25 minutes, just until the exposed feta browns, and the whole thing is heated through. Garnish with the reserved parsley, and serve.

* Feel free to use a much smaller amount of dried dill (but make sure to use fresh parsley).

To make ahead: 1 or 2 days ahead of time, make the sauce, wash and mince the herbs (dry them very well first), and cut the feta into cubes. You can even strain and rinse the beans and leave them in the fridge, if you'd like to. Once you're ready to bake, heat the sauce back up in the pan you're going to bake it in (you might need to add 1-2 tablespoons of water). Once it's warmed through, add the butter beans, dill, and parsley, stir together, and nestle in the feta cubes. Bake and garnish as usual.

baked butter beans with nestled feta