sabzi khordan with baked feta

sabzi khordan with baked feta

When we were in grad school in the Garden State, we lived in an apartment in Central Jersey with a decently sized back yard and easy access to community gardens, but for some reason, I decided to wait until moving to Hong Kong to take up gardening on our two-by-six-foot little balcony. I’d love to have a grape vine someday, and maybe some tomatoes, but until then, I’m really happy with the big potted herb planters I’ve got going. Or, I should say, the potted herbs I was growing, until flying back to the US to visit family and leaving little scraggly mint/parsley/basil stubs behind. The week before leaving, I went a little crazy trying to use them up. I dried some mint, put fresh basil in everything, made lots of mint tea, and made an absurd amount of dolma. At the end of the week, I still had a lot of mint and basil, so I did the best thing I could think to do: sabzi khordan! I’ll take any excuse to eat herbs by the fistful.

sabzi khordan with baked feta
sabzi khordan with baked feta

Sabzi khordan, a Persian classic, is simply a big plate of herbs and crunchy, fresh ingredients, which you can serve with feta and flatbread. It’s easy, stunning, and delicious all at the same time, and I’ve recently been throwing it on top of a big sheet pan of baked feta for a fun change of pace.

I don’t super reliably share Persian recipes on here, because it wasn’t the primary food I grew up with at home, and my mind usually goes to Iraqi and Syrian food first. And since many Assyrians are from Iran, this year I’ve been trying to include more Persian recipes. I’ve been off to an okay start, with my favorite date frittata, and Persian love cake-inspired pop tarts. And now I’m so excited to be sharing this one, because it’s one of my family’s favorites. It actually reminds me of the way my grandmother describes the masgouf restaurants in Baghdad. They’d bring the fish out with lots of herbs, scallions, and radishes, and you’d pile as much as you want on top of the grilled fish, squeeze it with some lemon juice, and dig in. In either case, the lesson is the same: eat herbs in heaps and piles, not in sprinkles.

sabzi khordan with baked feta
sabzi khordan with baked feta

sabzi khordan with baked feta

serves about 10 as an appetizer
active time: 10 minutes
total time: 20 minutes
feta roasting technique inspired by
Amanda Hesser at Food52
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PDF to print
for a vegan version, see my
whole roasted cauliflower

  • 12 oz piece of feta (340g)

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (300g)

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons apricot preserves or honey

  • 1 bunch bunch basil, leaves only

  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and small stems only

  • 1 bunch watercress

  • 1 small bunch whole chives

  • 1 small handful mint leaves

  • 3 or 4 radishes, sliced

  • flatbread for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).

  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Blot the feta dry, and place in the center of the sheet pan. Coat the feta with a little olive oil. Coat the tomato halves in a little more oil, and place them around the feta, cut-side-up.

  3. Bake the feta and tomatoes for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the feta softens and starts to melt slightly. Remove from the oven and set it to broil. Brush the feta with the honey or apricot preserves (warm the preserves in the microwave for a few seconds if they aren’t thin enough to brush), and place under the broiler for a couple more minutes to brown the top (keep a very close eye on it—it may only take 1-2 minutes, depending on your oven).

  4. Remove from the oven once it’s warmed through and brown on top. Let it sit at room temperature until the pan is no longer extremely hot, but while the feta is still warm (about 3 minutes). Top the pan with the basil, cilantro, watercress, chives, mint, and radishes. Lightly drizzle the herbs with olive oil. Serve immediately with flatbread, and encourage guests to eat a big heaping pile of herbs with every little bite of feta and tomato.

Note on cook time: I’ve made this with a few different broilers, and they all work very differently. If your broiler is weak and you leave it in longer to compensate, it will become crumbly, and if you broil it less, it will be gooey and spreadable. Either way is delicious, just different. If your broiler runs cold, you might need to bake it longer to get enough caramelization, or you can pull it out before it caramelizes if you don’t want it to get crumbly. Use your discretion, and don’t sweat it too much. But don’t broil it longer than 5 minutes, even if it’s not caramelizing, or it will dry out too much.

Note on herbs: Feel free to substitute your favorite leafy herbs, like dill, fennel fronds, fenugreek leaves, parsley, scallions, or tarragon.

sabzi khordan with baked feta

see more:

sheet pan ras al asfour

sheet pan ras al asfour

My great grandfather, baba Paulos, always said that hot drinks cool you down. He was known to sip scalding hot chai outside in the middle of summer. And apparently, science agrees. But I’ve always been more of a cool drinks in summer/hot drinks in winter kind of person, despite this inherited familial wisdom. And as it starts to heat up in Hong Kong (hello, perpetual nose sunburn! Even with all the SPF50 in the world...), I usually start moving away from stews and toward sheet pan dinners this time of year. As it starts to warm up wherever in the world you are, I highly recommend taking your favorite soups and stews, throwing all the ingredients on a sheet pan, coating everything in a combination of seasonings and oil, and roasting until cooked through and nicely caramelized.

Today I’m sharing a sheet pan version of my family’s ras al asfour (which literally means “birds’ heads,” but just serves as a description of the teeny tiny meatballs). All the flavors and features of the original stew are present here (most prominently: tomato, potato, tiny little meat balls, tangy pomegranate molasses, and baharat), but in a much less stick-to-your-bones mid-winter kind of way. Or if you’re like my great grandfather, stew season is just starting up, and you might want to give the original a try instead. In any case, stews are appropriate year-round in my book, so you can’t really go wrong, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter, this is the ras al asfour for you.

sheet pan ras al asfour
sheet pan ras al asfour

sheet pan ras al asfour

yield: 4 servings
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 50 minutes
download a
PDF to print

the meatballs

  • 3/4 pound (340g) ground beef

  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (14g)

  • 1/2 of 1 jalapeño, seeds and pith removed, finely minced (15g)

  • 1/3 cup finely minced parsley leaves (25g)

  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion (35g)

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press (5g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3.5g) (or to taste)

  • 1 teaspoon baharat (2g)

  1. Combine the ground beef, pomegranate molasses, jalapeño, parsley, red onion, garlic, salt, and baharat. Stop mixing once it's well-combined.

  2. Shape into about 50 very small meatballs, about 1 heaping teaspoon (not tablespoon) each. To shape, squeeze one in the palm of your hand, and then use both of your palms to gently roll the ball around to smooth it out.

everything else

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (14g)

  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (7g)

  • 2 teaspoons baharat (4g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3.5g) (or to taste)

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped in half (300g)

  • 1/2 of 1 small red onion, sliced (55g)

  • 2 cups 1/2-inch-diced potatoes (240g)

  • the above meatballs (raw)

  • (optional) rice or bread for serving

  • (optional) greens for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C).

  2. Stir together the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, baharat, and salt.

  3. Combine the tomatoes, red onion, and potatoes, and pour the olive oil mixture over the veggies. Toss everything together to coat evenly. Add the meatballs, and then very gently fold everything together to coat the meatballs.

  4. Spread everything out on a sheet pan into 1 even layer. If any of the meatballs have fallen apart, nudge them back together. Bake for about 20 minutes, just until the potatoes and meatballs are cooked through, and the whole thing is caramelized (if it’s caramelizing too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the last few minutes). Serve over rice or alongside bread, and optionally also with greens.

sheet pan ras al asfour
sheet pan ras al asfour