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The Art of Persian Brunch—and the Spinach Eggs That Tie It All Together

Saucepan with singed fried eggs and spinach on table surrounded by lots of bowls of food including orange cantaloupe slices, green olives, bright pink radishes and walnuts
Jenny Huang

Fridays in Iran are like Sundays in the U.S. It’s the last day of the week, when family and loved ones gather around a meal together, whether it’s a picnic, a road trip, or just at home. I was raised in an Iranian family that valued food and time spent around the table eating in each other’s company. There’s nothing better.

Needless to say, I love having people over for any meal. My baba always says that sharing multiplies whatever you have—and he couldn’t be more right.

One of my favorite things about Fridays growing up were the brunches we used to have. Well, at that time we wouldn’t have called it “brunch” because the term wasn’t a thing in Iran when I was a kid. It was a large Persian breakfast with an assortment of items served around 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. or so, and after that everyone was too full to ask for lunch. So the spirit of brunch was there.

Baba would wake up early in the morning and go to our favorite bakery to get some fresh sangak, barbari, or lavash. My maman would start making nargesi, a Persian spinach and egg dish that looks like shakshuka (but it’s green). I’ve always loved the runny egg yolks and fresh spinach in nargesi, but my favorite part was when Maman would be generous with the onion and garlic. Unlike many kids, I grew up adoring the smell of onion and garlic wafting through the house.

Once I could smell the onions, I knew it was time for me to run to the kitchen and help prepare the rest of the brunch feast:

First, different flavors of homemade jam. My maman’s sour cherry jam is one of the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, and her fig jam is something I can’t live without as well.

There would be olives on the table, which we’d usually buy from the northern towns of Iran where the locals sell shiny green and black jewels bursting with sweet, briny flavor.

As for vegetables and fruit, we’d always have cucumbers, tomatoes, cold melons, and watermelon. My baba would knock on the watermelon to make sure it was perfectly ripe.

There’d be Persian cheese served with butter and walnuts.

Sometimes we’d also have cream that my baba would buy from a dairy shop. This cream came from farms in northwest Iran, and I’ll never, ever forget how velvety and luscious it was.

And of course, the freshly brewed Persian tea. The one item a Persian brunch can’t be without. Hot, freshly brewed tea is always on the table, even if it’s 100 degrees outside.

Once the table was set with all the fixings, Baba would arrive with fresh, warm bread. We’d all sit around the table and start eating. Sometimes we’d have family over and that would transform our brunch into a truly memorable gathering.

Persian brunch is always a winner. It’s full of fresh and delicious items which go very well together and make a wonderful feast meant to be shared with family, friends, and loved ones—which is really what food is all about.

Persian Spinach & Eggs (Nargesi)

Serves 4

• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 cup red onion, sliced
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 5 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
• 4 eggs
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (more if needed)

See the full recipe on Food52.

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