Kuku Bademjan – Eggplant frittata with barberries

Here is another dish in the Kuku series. But this Kuku is quite special, as it highlights a vegetable that has been called the potato of Iran: none other than eggplant. Eggplant is such a unique vegetable, and – as my beloved cooking teacher would say – eggplant is a prima donna ingredient, and I could not agree more!

Eggplant tends to bring out strong opinions in people, whether you love to love them or love to….not love them! As a child, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat this vegetable. When you grow up in a culture that celebrates eggplants the way ours does, you have to get creative and find a way to eat around the eggplants in stews or Kuku that mom would make.

Many people have an issue with the texture, and then there are the flavor and the taste. Some believe that eggplants are so bitter that you have to resort to all kinds of previous treatments. And, if I may be so bold as to say, many don’t know how to cook this vegetable until you accept and accommodate its prima donna qualities!

Eggplants need special attention and focus: they need to be at the front and center of the stage, and to be cooked all on their own. In other words, don’t cook the eggplant in the same pan with carrots or potatoes or broccoli or any other vegetable. Eggplants need to be blended and mixed into the dish after they’ve been cooked on their own: that is really the only way to treat them to ensure good texture and flavor.

Also, eggplants are not diet food! They are cooked to perfection only with an amount of oil that will have some people rolling their eyes! So, when I crave this vegetable and cook it appropriately, I have to accept that I will be skipping ice cream or baklava after my eggplant dish!

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Kuku Bademjan

Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef
Eggplant frittata with carmelized onions and barberries
5 from 17 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Iranian, Persian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Asian eggplants (or 2 Italian eggplants), peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 12 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 3 tablespoons barberries, optional
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400º F.
  • In a large bowl, combine 10 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the eggplants and toss to make sure the eggplants are coated with a layer of salt and oil.
  • Place the eggplants single-layered on a baking sheet and roast for a total of 30 -35 minutes, carefully turning them over halfway. Once golden brown and softened, remove from the oven and set aside.
  • In a small frying pan, saute the onions with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes before adding the garlic. Continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, the remainder of the salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, and barberries, and mix using a whisk.
  • Add the roasted eggplants and the onions to the egg mixture and gently toss.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 375º F.
  • Rub a 9-inch pie dish or similar oven-proof baking dish with butter and pour in the egg and eggplant mixture.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on your baking dish’s size and whether the mixture is spread out in a single layer or stacked.
  • Once baked, kuku should have risen and turned into a golden brown color.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside for about 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and carefully invert the dish onto a platter.
  • Serve kuku with flatbreads, fresh herbs, and yogurt.

Notes

Alternatively, you can saute the eggplants over a medium flame in a frying pan on the stovetop. This method will require more oil.
Traditionally, this dish is prepared by only using eggplants and without the onions and barberries.   Sometimes a small amount of chopped walnuts or a sprinkling of dried mint is added to the egg mixture.
Though I typically cook my Kuku in the oven, it is more traditional to cook them with oil in a frying pan with a lid.  See below:
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a frying pan, layer the roasted eggplants, and pour the beaten egg mixture over the eggplants.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes on medium-low heat.  Flip, add another couple of tablespoons of oil and cook on the other side uncovered for about 10 minutes.  You may want to cut the Kuku pieces into quarters to make them easier to flip. 
 
Keyword barberry, eggplant, eggs, kuku, vegetarian, whole30
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