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
download a
PDF to print

  • 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

persian love pop tarts

Persian love pop tarts

Persian love cake is the most charming almond rose cake, with cardamom, citrus, and sometimes saffron. Last year, I fell for Yasmin Khan’s, which is flavored with lemon zest, cardamom, and rosewater, and topped with a lemon glaze and edible petals and pistachios.

It’s a perfect occasion cake, but I recently wanted to make a shareable version, so I took inspiration from its flavors and ingredients, and made one of my childhood favorites: the pop tart! I guess I could’ve made these in the shape of half-moons or circles, and then called them hand pies instead, but I’m a sucker for childhood nostalgia this time of year. Whatever you want to call them, they’re delicious, and perfect for sharing with all your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

The filling is made with strawberry rose jam, and the crust is a lemon and cardamom-scented almond meal pie dough. The almond meal soaks for a few minutes in one beaten egg, which hydrates it and makes it less gritty, just like in a perfect Persian love cake. And it’s topped just like Yasmin’s love cake, with a lemon rosewater glaze, ground pistachios, and rose petals.

Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts

A couple practical notes on the recipe, before I leave you to it:

the big question: should you cut before or after filling them?

Most pop tart recipes have you cut little rectangles out, and then fill and paste them together, but I prefer filling them in one big sheet and then cutting them apart, kind of like ravioli. This gives them a much neater look, because the halves are cut together instead of fitting together later.

I’ve included instructions in the recipe, but it’s a little more technically difficult than making them individually, so if you’re not used to working with pastry, you could just make them individually instead, and they’ll still turn out wonderfully.

how to crimp them

The crimping style I chose reminds me of Rabel Betshmuel’s series of Assyrian patterns, but you can totally crimp them however you’d like. But if you want to recreate this look, here’s how: after sealing the edges with a little bit of water, take a fork and press it into the four corners on a diagonal. Then go back and crimp the sides, without overlapping with the corners too much (just a little).

making these pop tarts gluten free

This recipe can be easily made to be gluten free. I tinkered with it, replacing all purpose flour with a gluten free one-to-one flour, but if you go this route, it’s important to add just a little less butter and a little tiny bit more water to the dough. Gluten free flours (even all purpose ones) are a bit more crumbly than wheat flour, and this adjustment gives the dough a better texture.

If you go gluten free, the dough will be a bit harder to work with, and they might turn out just a little more rustic, but that’s okay. There’s something very wabi-sabi about homemade pop tarts anyway, and no one wants to feel like they came from a foil packet in a cardboard box.

decorating with (or without) rose petals

You can find edible rose petals online, and you can find them in tea shops, spice shops, and other specialty stores. But if you can’t get your hands on rose petals, these are also super pretty with just pistachios. If you want to incorporate some pink without petals, you can mix a teeny tiny bit of pink food coloring with the glaze, and then sprinkle it with the pistachios. They look really lovely against a very light pastel shade.

Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts

persian love pop tarts

yield: 8 pop tarts
active time: 40 minutes
total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
download a
PDF to print

  • 1 large egg (55g)

  • 1/2 cup almond meal (60g) *

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (200g) **

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick cold butter (113g), cut into 8 pieces

  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 2 tablespoons sugar (25g)

  • 2 tablespoons cold water (or more, if needed)

  • 1/2 cup strawberry preserves (160g)

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons rosewater (divided in half) ***

  • 1 cup powdered sugar (110g)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • edible rose petals ****

  • finely chopped green pistachios

  1. Combine the egg with the almond meal, and let it soak for about 10 minutes while you prep everything.

  2. Place the flour, salt, butter, cardamom, lemon zest, and sugar in a food processor with the blade attachment. Process until the butter is evenly distributed and there are a few tic-tac sized lumps left.

  3. Add the egg/almond meal mixture, and pulse a few times to distribute.

  4. Slowly drizzle in the cold water with the machine running, just until the dough starts to clump together. Squeeze some dough together in your hand to see if it will hold together. If it is still dry and crumbly, drizzle in a little more water at a time until it’s pie dough consistency.

  5. Divide in half, and shape each half into a flat square. Cover each with plastic, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

  6. While the dough is chilling, combine the strawberry preserves with between 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of rosewater.

  7. Once the dough is chilled, flour a work surface and roll the squares into 2 rectangles (about 9x12 inches, a little less than 1/8-inch thick). Use your rolling pin (gently roll it up onto the rolling pin) to carefully transfer one of the rectangles to a parchment-lined sheet pan.

  8. Use a knife to score the surface of the dough without cutting all the way through: First, trace a border to block off the rough edges, outlining one big rectangle. Next, trace a grid to outline 8 smaller rectangles. Here’s a visual for how to score and fill the first sheet.

  9. In the center of each little traced rectangle, spoon about 1 tablespoon of strawberry-rosewater preserves. Spread the preserves out a little, leaving plenty of room for a border. Wet your finger and dab the borders to make sure the top will seal well.

  10. Carefully place the second rolled out rectangle over the first, and try to make sure there aren’t trapped air bubbles, and that you don’t squish down the preserves. Press down around the edges of each rectangle.

  11. Cut away the rough edges to give yourself a neat rectangle. Using the humps as guides, cut the dough into 8 equal rectangles. Separate them so they’re about an inch apart on the sheet pan. Crimp the edges with a fork.

  12. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C). While you’re waiting on it, chill the pop tarts in the refrigerator (this helps them hold their shape). Once the oven is heated, bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

  13. Let them cool on the parchment, and make the glaze while you’re waiting. Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rosewater (again to taste, and use a little extra lemon juice or water if you only use 1/2 teaspoon). Mix until totally smooth. Feel free to thin with a couple drops of lemon juice, or thicken it with a couple spoonfuls of icing sugar.

  14. Spoon some glaze over each pop tart, topping them with rose petals and pistachios as you go. It will take a couple hours to fully set and harden, and then they can be stored together and stacked, or served right away.

* You can make your own almond meal if you have blanched almonds. Simply grind them in a food processor until they are finely ground (but stop processing before they start clumping together and turn into almond butter).
** See the note above the recipe if you want to make this gluten free.
*** I’ve made a few different batches for friends, and everyone seems to prefer a different amount of rosewater. E.g., I prefer them will the full amount, and my husband prefers them with the smaller amount. It’s up to your taste, and also the strength of your bottle of rosewater. Taste and adjust as you go.
**** See the note above the recipe about decorating these without rose petals.

Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts