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

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za'atar breakfast skillet

za'atar skillet

It’s so hard to know what kind of recipe to post the week after Christmas. With New Year’s resolutions around the corner, no one really wants to bake, but it’s not time for penitential eating quite yet. And after all the feasting and entertaining, everyone’s a little cooked out too. So I thought I’d post a recipe for something easy, practical, and delicious: a za’atar skillet with wilted spinach and fried eggs. It’s nothing fancy, just a simple breakfast made with simple ingredients. It’s the kind of thing you’d find in your favorite diner—a bed of perfectly crispy potatoes, topped with a few of your favorite veggies, and sunny-side-up eggs (but here, I’ve added za’atar and a yogurt tahini sauce, because I couldn’t resist).

While one-pan-wonders are indeed wonderful, I like to use two pans for this, to make sure the spinach doesn’t make the potatoes soggy. But you can use the same pan you used to cook the eggs, which saves on cleanup. If you prefer scrambled, poached, or over-easy, feel free to go with your egg of choice. And if you feel like it, you can even crack them right on top of the potatoes, and throw them under the broiler for a few minutes. If you don’t feel like spinach, most other veggies work wonderfully here—try kale, blistered cherry tomatoes, or zucchini. This recipe is very adaptable, and the basic concept (which you should always remember) is tried and true: dusting za’atar on potatoes will never lead you wrong.

za'atar skillet
za'atar skillet

za’atar breakfast skillet

yield: 4 servings
total time: 25 minutes
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PDF to print

  • neutral oil with a high smoke point (e.g., olive oil, but not extra virgin)

  • 1 pound potatoes, small-diced

  • Salt

  • 2 tablespoons green za'atar

  • 2 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons tahini

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon water

  • 3 to 4 eggs

  • 6 ounces spinach leaves

  • 1 scallion, greens chopped

  1. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons oil in a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium or medium-high heat, until the oil is hot enough that a potato sizzles when it touches it.

  2. Add the potatoes, along with 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste). Spread them out evenly over the bottom of the skillet, and let them sit for a couple minutes before stirring them. Stir every couple minutes for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown and cooked through. Once they're done, remove from heat and stir in the za'atar.

  3. While you wait on the potatoes, whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, water, and a pinch of salt, until it's totally smooth.

  4. Also while you wait, fry your eggs however you like. Here's how I do it: Heat a small skillet over high heat for at least 3 minutes, until it’s very hot. Add about 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, swirl it around, and immediately crack an egg wherever the oil is pooling. Be very careful—it will splatter violently. While the egg is cooking, season it with some salt and (carefully!) baste it by spooning hot oil onto the whites to help them cook faster. The egg is done once the whites are set and brown on the bottom and around the edges (just about 2 minutes). Remove to a plate and repeat if you’re making multiple servings (replace some of the oil as you go) (eggs inspired by Smitten Kitchen).

  5. Once the eggs are done, remove them to a plate, pour off the old oil, replace with a teaspoon of new oil, and add the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt. Keep over high heat to wilt the spinach (stir it constantly for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it's bright green and wilted). Most of the liquid should cook off, but if the spinach looks watery after 3 minutes, wring it out with the back of a spoon and strain away the liquid.

  6. Combine the spinach with the potatoes, stir everything together, top with the yogurt sauce, crispy eggs, green onions, and a little extra za'atar, and serve.

za'atar skillet