Showing posts with label Dairy-Free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dairy-Free. Show all posts

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Baked Apricots with Honey and Orange Blossom Water, and a Language Lesson.

Aywa, aywa, fil mishmish, I would hear the adults say, with a grin and a shrug, when discussing a time frame for when the city would fix the road, when the plumber would fix the toilet, when peace would come to Jerusalem.  

Yes, yes, in the apricot?  I could translate the phrase literally.  I knew what the word mishmish meant: apricots.  It was an Arabic word that my English tongue found playful and satisfying to say. What do apricots have to do with the road?  With the toilet?  With the peace process?  I never knew, and I never asked, because really, how many times a week, a day, an hour, can you ask your mother, but what do you mean? before you both grow weary of the question.

Growing up in my half-Arab half-American home meant living on the shore of understanding, but never venturing into deep waters.  My Arabic was spotty.  I could understand words, phrases, simple sentences.  My exposure to the language began in earnest when I was nine, when we moved to the West Bank.  Even though Arabic was my mother's mother tongue, she did not pass it on to me, and our years in and out of America, in France, where I became fluent in French, and then in Cario, where I become fluent in a British accent (from British schools!), meant that I was nine before I had a serious encounter with my mother's mother tongue.  

I learned Arabic by listening to my mother speak on the phone, or to the taxi driver, to my aunt and cousins.  I learned it by sitting through family dinners that I could not fully understand, by listening to song lyrics that I couldn't follow, by listening to living room small talk, over pistachios and mint tea.  

My mother usually spoke to my sister and to me in English, or in partial English, enough so that we understood.  We were used to sentences that began in one language and ended in another, and when my grandmother lived with us, we became used to the musical layering of English into Arabic, switching halfway, switching with each breath.  

But there were some things that eluded translation:  insults, proverbs, food.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sticky Pomegranate Drumsticks + Tahini-Lemon Brussels Sprouts

Yesterday's flavors, today's food.

That has been on my mind the last few months, as I've been pondering what to do next on this blog. Since I don't always have the time to cook traditional recipes, but my kitchen is always stocked with the basics of a Middle Eastern pantry, when it's time to cook dinner, I often find myself staring at cuts of meat, and a whole lot of blank slate.

That's when I throw open my pantry and reach for The Secret Weapon of Arabic Meat Dishes:  pomegranate molasses. And when I need to add more flavor to a roasted vegetable, I reach for one of the basic Arabic sauces - tahini and lemon.

It's really funny, if you think about it, because Arabs are dead against mixing sweet and savory, and yet, they use pomegranate molasses, a syrup made of cooked down pomegranate juice (recipe here). My mother tells of her tongue's culture shock when she first came to American and was served chicken cooked with pineapple, pork cooked with apples, lamb served with mint jelly.  Sweet, fruity with meat?  It just didn't make sense to her palate.

And yet:  pomegranate molasses. This remarkable tart-sweet syrup is a miracle worker in the meat department. Arabic cooks drizzle in a little into their meat stuffing, or over roasts or chickens.   Pomegranate has that tart acidity that the Arabic palate enjoys, and only a very slight sweetness, so I imagine that is what they enjoy.  In this recipe, though, I play up the pomegranate's slight sweetness, and bath the chicken in pomegranate molasses, to create a barbecue-like flavor that my more Western tongue enjoys.

(This marinade also makes a divine glaze for a pork roast.)

I paired this dish with a side of roast Brussels sprouts, a vegetable that my children enjoy immensely, and that I love, even though I never had it when I was growing up in the Middle East.  To make it feel a little more at home next to the tray of chicken, I added the tahini-lemon sauce, and a sprinkle of pine nuts on the sprouts.  And just like that, I think we have a new family favorite way to eat our Brussels sprouts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bone Broth: My Two Secrets for Making Beautiful, Abundant and Affordable Bone Broth

So, in my last post, I confessed my bone broth craze.

I've put into baby's cups.  I make soups and stews with my homemade broths all winter long.  I cook it into my rices and my noodles, I cook it into rice porridge.  Bone broth is a staple in my kitchen.

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving is around the corner and everyone is  comparing notes on their turkeys, whether they are going to deep fry or roast them, and whether they are buying frozen or fresh, local or organic.  Whatever you choose to buy, I'm begging you:


Don't throw away those bones.

Nothing breaks my heart like the sight of bones in the trash.  It makes me cringe to think of all of the beautiful soups and broths that could. have. been. 

So, today, I'm going to give you a step-by-step plan so simple that it will take just a few minutes, and you will be rewarded with days of delicious brothy soups in December.  So do yourself a favor and put aside that turkey frame, and after the festivities have died down, and everyone has recovered from their pie-and-turkey coma, come back here and follow my steps to making easy and delicious bone broth.

Over the years of making broth, I have been able to save time and money using two simple broth "secrets." I have shared these tips with many of my friends and even my mother! Here is how I streamline this practice in my kitchen so that I have a steady and simple way to keep an abundant supply of beautiful bone broth.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lamb Kefta Meatballs in Tahini Gravy

If you are looking for a rich, savory, satisfying meal, I have one for you today. Spiced lamb meatballs, browned up in a skillet, and then served with a simple tahini and lemon gravy, has all of the classic flavors of the Levant, and all of the comfort of a traditional meatball. Just as in other cuisines, the same seasoned ground meats can become meatloaf or meatballs, kefta can become a kefta meatloaf, when spread flat in a pan to bake, or kefta kebabs, when formed into ovals and grilling over charcoal, or meatballs. In Palestine, butchers often grind orders of beef and lamb together, to save the cooks one step. That's because there is something magical about combining a little lamb with your beef. The flavor deepens, becomes richer and a little more savory. These little lamb meatballs, stuffed with parsley, onion, allspice and cinnamon, will perfume the entire neighborhood as you are frying them up, so be careful: if your neighbor smells it, she will knock on your door!  You might want to have some toothpicks handy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Red Lentil Soup with Sourdough Sumac Croutons

This ancient soup is the stuff of stories.

Maybe you've heard this one before:

A long time ago, a woman carries two babies inside of her belly.  They wrestle in her womb, each longing to be first-born, until her labor pains come and one baby boy emerges, ruddy-fleshed and with a full head of hair.  The second is longer, leaner, and grasping the heel of his now older brother.

The ruddy one becomes tall and strong.  He hunts for game, bringing home limp animals slung over his shoulder, ready for the fire.  The ankle-grasper stays by the fire, seasoning and stirring pots of stew.

"Quick, let me have some of that red stew!  I am famished," said the ruddy one, throwing down his burden, and thrusting a bowl towards his brother.

"First, sell me your birthright," said the second-born, with a little laugh, stirring the pot.

"Look, I am about to die.  What good is a birthright to me?"

And so the ankle-grasper poured his ruddy brother a bowl of this ruddy lentil stew.  He gave him some bread.  And the older brother ate and drank, and then got up and left.

A humble, simple pot of soup sits in the middle of this ancient, Middle Eastern story of two brothers, Esau and Jacob.  This isn't fancy food.  This isn't feast food.  It isn't the wild game, dripping with fat, roasting over the fire, that the older brother brought home.  This is just simple, every-day fare, the kind you eat for lunch most days, the kind that you find waiting for you when you get home.

And yet, it is delicious.  If you have never cooked with red lentils before, they are a little revelation.  Bright red in the bag, they look like little chips of a legume, but when cooked down, they yellow, soften and melt into the soup.  Smooth and creamy, when this soup cools a little, it sets up into a thick and stodgy stew.  Yes, I said it:  stodgy.  Palestinians like to keep this soup very simple:  a little onion or garlic, maybe, a few spices from the cupboard, lemon squeezed on top.  It is a humble, everyday sort of soup, but it sings until you scrape down the bottom of your bowl.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chicken, Sumac and Onion Flatbread, or Musakhan

I have been sitting on this recipe for a little while.  I wanted to get it just right.

After all, musakhan is as important to Palestinians as deep-dish pizza is to Chicagoans.  A girl has to tread lightly here.  I have to hit all the right notes:  the soft, pillowy bread doused in broth, and then broiled crisp, the tangy sumac-spiced sauteed onions, toasted pine nuts and roast chicken, with just a drizzle of peppery olive oil to finish.

Musakhan is one of those traditional recipes that has breathed with the generations of Arabs who have birthed, lived and died in Palestine. It is one of our signature dish - the wild sumac, the pine nuts, the olives from our groves - and born from our ancient clay taboon ovens. These communal ovens served as a gathering spot for villagers, where families brought their trays of rolled out loaves of bread, proofed and puffy and ready for the oven. Taboon ovens are made of clay, and filled with hot stones, and then placed over a fire. Taboon bread, unlike regular pocket Arabic bread, is baked directly on the hot, smooth, rounded rocks, giving the bread its characteristic puff and char.

Palestinian village taboon oven.  Photo taken 1898-1914, by the American Colony, Jerusalem.

The word musakhan (or msakhan)  means heated up. All of the ingredients are precooked, assembled on taboon bread, and then reheated. Similar to other flatbreads, such as our za'atar breads (mana'eesh) or spiced meat pies (sfiha), these dishes were economical and practical since they used the dough from the villager's daily baked bread and turned the dough into a  meal.  In this case, the bread was soaked in broth, topped with sauteed onion, chicken and nuts, and then returned to the oven to finish.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Middle Eastern Lemon Herb Potato Salad

Many years ago, I had a summer job in a grocery store deli in the rural Wisconsin. It wasn't a glamorous job. I rode my bike to the grocery store, pulled on my hair net (ugh), and disappeared into the kitchen. When I wasn't on frying chicken duty, I was on potato salad duty. On those days, I would spend the day making my actual body weight in potato salad. I washed and peeled buckets of potatoes, added in another bucket of preboiled eggs, glopped in giant vats of mayonnaise. Of course, I wasn't allowed to veer from the given recipe. I remember bending over the massive tub of potato salad, mixing and mixing the potato salad by hand, because there was just too much to mix with a spoon. I was literally up to my elbows in mayonnaise. At least it's moisturizing, I told myself.

Customers said that the potato salad was really good. Maybe it was. I, for one, could never bring myself to taste it.

But this potato salad is something else entirely. If you are used to the thick, creamy, heavy potato salad, this one is a revelation:  this is bright, lemony, herbaceous, and instantly addictive. I have always known that potatoes need fat - think baked potatoes and sour cream, or mashed potatoes with butter - to balance the flavor and your blood sugar. My most recent revelation is that to make potatoes really sing, you need to add an acid - think of the British and their malt vinegar potato fries. In Middle Eastern cuisine, that acid is usually lemon. Here, in this classic Arabic dish, the lemons make the potatoes sing, and when you throw in the trifecta of fresh herbs - mint, parsley and scallions - oh, and a tiny hint of crushed garlic - the salad just about gets up and does the dabkeh!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Baked Kibbeh, or Kibbeh bi Saniyeh

In the Middle East, meat is sacred food, feasting food, celebratory food.  And while every day dishes are often vegetarian or feature vegetables, when it is time to celebrate, it is time to slaughter the fattened lamb.

So get ready:  we're serving meat today.  And by that I mean that meat stuffed with more meat.

On the outside, a glorious, buttery, crispy crust, laced with the savoriness of rich meat. Inside, sweetly spiced ground meats, tender onion.  A few stray buttery pine nuts tumble out.  This platter, cut deftly in the traditional diamond pattern, is enough to make any meat-lover swoon.  It isn't a party until a platter of kibbeh shows up at the door.

I imagine that without refrigeration, and in the hot, arid climate of Palestine, my grandparents and great-grandparents ate their meat quickly.   When it was time to slaughter the fattened calf, lamb or goat, everyone was invited to the feast, the dishes were served quickly, and any leftovers were eaten at the very next meal.

Kibbeh, (also kibbe, kubbeh, kubbi), is the steak tartare of the Arab world.  Immediately after the animal was slaughtered, my ancestors prepared this dish with choice cuts of fresh, extra-lean meat. The meat was minced finely, and beaten with burghol and spices, drizzled with fruity green olive oil and dressed with herbs, and served as a luxuriant raw appetizer.   If this seems strange, remember that most every traditional culture has a raw animal protein delicacy, from steak tartare to sushi, carpaccio to ceviche.

Today, while raw kibbeh (or kibbeh nayyeh) remains the darling of the Arab world (and I'm sorry, but for a good giggle, you just have to watch this ode to kibbeh nayyeh) it is most often cooked, formed into patties or a torpedo-shaped ball, stuffed with the meat filling, and then deep fried.   Fried kibbeh's less fussy sister is kibbeh bi saniyeh, or baked kibbeh.  It is just as tasty, but faster to pull together and perfect for feeding a crowd. Today, I'll show you how to make this baked version.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Turkish Onion Salad + Shortcut Grilled Lamb Kefta Burgers

Turkish onion salad - or Arabic salsa, as my mother likes to describe it to foreigners - is an easy way to bring a sense of adventure to your mezze spread. Mildly piquant with the bite of onion, this smokey-sweet salsa has tomato, honey and cumin, but you can spice it up with other add-ins, like parsley and a kick of hot pepper. There is really no wrong way to eat this simple onion salad.  Drop a spoonful onto a platter of hummus.  Top your chicken kebabs or lamb burgers with a spoonful.  Scoop some up in a loaf of Arabic bread.  Spread a little on a slice of grilled bread.  Or, if you're really crazy (like me), mix it right into your ground lamb patties destined for the grill.  I promise, you won't regret it.

So . . . I'm basically eating onion, I asked my mother, when I watched her make this dish for the first time. We were in her glossily tiled kitchen in Bethlehem, and I watched her mince the onion finely, and then salt it, and drain away the liquid in a sieve.  Yes, she laughed, this is just onion.  But here is the secret.  You have to salt the onion and drain away the onion juice, so that it becomes mild instead of scaring away the neighbors.  Still, she said.  You don't eat much.

Onions occupy a comedic role in the mind of the Arab.  Though we love to eat them and fry them up for many of our dishes, they don't have much, well, honor.  Meats, nuts, spices--these are the jewels of the kitchen. The lowly onion, or bussul, which my mother and father always pronounced in an exaggerated, throaty manner, is the butt of jokes and insult.  Take, for example, this colorful little Arabic insult, which my mother translated for me a few months ago:  Why don't you take your idea and go plant some onion with it?

Maybe it has more acridity in the Arabic?

So, yes, we insult with onions, and also save with onions.  There is a lovely story from the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising, of a Palestinian woman who tossed onions down from her window whenever the Israeli army tear-gassed her street, so that demonstrators could use onions to counteract the effect of the tear gas. As the story goes, several people escaped the tear gas only to be hit by onions.

If you can't cry anymore, you might as well laugh, they say.

And so, we laugh, especially when we eat bussul salad.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sesame-Honey Fudge with Pistachio, or Halaweh


Halaweh, (also called halawa, halwa, halva)  is a dense, sweet, nutty-tasting confection, made with many variations throughout the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and  eastern Europe. It is a fudge made with tahini, or sesame paste, mixed with sugar that has been boiled to the hard-rock stage, and then formed into a block. You can find a number of flavors of halaweh in Middle Eastern grocers, including plain, chocolate or pistachio.

I am so excited to share with you a five-minute, five-ingredient, raw and wholesome version of this treat!  This recipe is sugar-free, and  allergy sensitive, without gluten, dairy, eggs, (and can be prepared without nuts). 

To read more and find the recipe, click over to my post on the blog MidEATS


Friday, March 28, 2014

Rice Tabbouleh {Gluten-Free}

Fresh and verdant, light and lemony, there is so much to love about tabbouleh, the classic Middle Eastern salad.  And as much as I enjoy the well-known parsley and bulgur version, today I am sharing a recipe for a rice-based tabbouleh, which is just as lovely as the original, but even easier and gluten-free!

Today, I am blogging over at the beautiful Middle Eastern food blog, MidEats.  To find my recipe for rice tabbouleh, click here!


Related Posts:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Leftover Saver: Curried Lemon Chicken Pieces

There are two kinds of people: those who love and those who hate leftovers.

My mother insisted on cooking huge batches of food, so we ate leftovers regularly.  But we didn't have a microwave.  Everything had to be reheated on the stove-top.  Ever tried to reheat roasted chicken pieces on a stove top?  It can be a bit challenging.  The chicken can come out very dry and tasteless. And since we did not grow up in the land of boneless skinless chicken breasts, all of our chicken was cooked on the bone, usually roasted.  Then the next day, my mother would pick the bones clean, save the bones for stock, and fry up the meat a second time, seasoning it generously with her stash of Middle Eastern curry powder and finish it with a splash of lemon juice.

So I grew up to love leftover chicken.  I think I may even love this more than the original meal of roast chicken.  I just can't stop picking at the bowl of juicy, caramelized chicken pieces, flavored with the sweet and mildly spicy curry powder.  The final squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the whole dish, balancing out the flavors of the curry.

If you have leftover chicken, this whole dish will take you five minutes, start to finish.  If you don't have any leftover chicken, I do like to use boneless chicken thighs here for a very quick dish.  For a fabulous sandwich, serve this tucked into a loaf of pita bread.  Otherwise, serve it next to rice, a plate of green beans - really, whatever you have in your kitchen.  It is as forgiving as it is delicious.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Savory Palestinian Cauliflower Pancakes

Any day that my Palestinian mother fried up a batch of these garlic and onion-scented cauliflower pancakes was a good day for me.  Served with a pile of Arabic bread, some fresh cut vegetables and olives, these savory omelette-like pancakes, full of softly-cooked cauliflower and fried in pungent olive oil, are enough to make you a believer in cauliflower.  Unless, that is, you already are.  In that case, ahlan wa-sahlan.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Palestinian-Style Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, or Malfouf

Sometimes a little time produces a lot of joy. 

For us, this is a dish of joy.  Palestinians are known for their love of stuffing things with rice and meat, and if you are ever so fortunate to find yourself in a Palestinian's home, chances are good that you will be invited to share a meal like this. Garlicky and lemony, these tender rolls of cabbage filled with spiced meat and rice play a special role in the cast of dinner dishes that rotate through the Palestinian kitchen.

Behind us are the days of cousa mahshi, or stuffed summer squash; now, the cabbage beckons.  I had one last beautiful one from our final delivery of our CSA, and I considered its destiny.  It took some time for me to build up the gumption to create this meal, but once I did, I discovered that while this stuffed dish takes time, it is actually less fussy and easier than most of the other stuffed dishes. Malfouf, (or malfoof), is the Arabic word for cabbage, and this dish is so ubiquitous that if you way you are having cabbage for dinner, everyone will understand that you are referring to this dish.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Welcoming Autumn: Hummus with Spiced Lamb, or Hummus bi Laham

The leaves are piling in drifts around my house, forming crunchy alleys for my children to march through. 

It is time to pull blankets more snugly around our shoulders, to wrap our fingers around warm cups of tea, to dip our bread into something a little warmer, a little more substantial.

Here is a way to "spice up" your hummus:  serve it topped with warm, spiced minced lamb and toasted pine nuts. Add a pile of hot Arabic bread and some fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and you have a hearty spread, guaranteed to satisfy and delight.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Middle Eastern Spiced Meat Pies, or Sfiha

These Middle Eastern savory meat pies, topped with toasted pine nuts, are a traditional Arabic dish, popular throughout the Levant  (and also in parts of South America, where there is a significant expat Arabic community).  They are small, hand-held "pizzas," made with ground lamb or beef, seasoned with lemony sumac and allspice.  Tahini, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice add a complex flavor and a creamy texture to the meat, and for the more adventurous, a little zing of hot peppers finishes the effect.  Dip the warm pies into plain, sour yogurt, if you want to eat them like an Arab. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baked Apples with Spiced Date-Nut Filling {Fruit-Sweetened, GF, DF}

Fall brings apples:  hot mulled apple cider, apple dumplings from market stands in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, cinnamon-scented applesauce.
But my heart is set on plump apples, stuffed with sticky-sweet caramel-like dates, crispy walnuts, cinnamon and spicy black cardamom, then baked until tender, and topped with cream.
This extremely simple recipe can be pulled together in five minutes, but it will perfume your house with the smell of fall for hours to come. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

End-of-Summer Zucchini Omelettes

Summer is on its way out, here in Virginia.  In the mornings, we button up cardigans and light coats, and clutch mugs of warm tea.  But by the afternoon, we shed them all and run in the bright golden sunlight, kicking aside the first yellow leaves in the grass. 

While my thoughts are turning to pumpkin spice and warm apple cider, my kitchen is still full of the end-of-summer abundance:  fresh heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, bell peppers, peaches.  If you have zucchini still showing up in your garden or CSA box, here is one mighty tasty way to serve them up this week:  rounds of fried onion-scented egg fritters, full of fresh zucchini and herbs.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Middle Eastern Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Salad doesn't get any simpler or more delicious than this:  ripe tomatoes, and crunchy cucumbers dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a drizzle of sharp olive oil.  Add some minced onion for bite, a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh herbs from the garden, parsley and mint. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just as Good as Hummus: Palestinian Smokey Eggplant Dip

Now if you love hummus, (and I know that a lot of you just can't get enough hummus), you have got to try its smokey cousin:  eggplant dip.   It's a hearty dip made from the same ingredients as hummus except with eggplant instead of chickpeas.  This dip has it all going on: creamy, smokey, garlicky, a little nuttiness from the tahini, and texture from mashed soft eggplant.  Mmm, mmm, mmm. 

For many years, my (American) father preferred hummus over imtabbal.  It wasn't until my Uncle Yousef came to visit us in Jerusalem after years of living in Texas, and made this dish for our family one afternoon, that my father fell in love with it.  What did my uncle do differently?  Nothing really.  He just added a handful or two of garlic.  A handful or two.  We couldn't stop eating it and we've been eating it ever since.  My mother goes easy on the garlic, but I still like it extra garlicky. 

Let me give you five reasons to try eggplant dip instead of hummus:

1.  No food processor needed.  Just mash with a fork or a masher.  Easy peasey. 

2.  You don't have to soak or cook anything.  Throw your eggplant on the grill, stir up the tahini and lemon juice, and you'll be done in no time. 

3.  This is dip is mostly vegetable.  Besides soft, warm Arabic bread, I also love to dip red peppers into this dip, or even a sweet carrot stick.  Vegetables dipped in vegetables? Maybe not strictly tradition, but definitely healthful and delicious.

4.  Your tahini jar is getting a little bored.  I am not a one-trick-pony, she says.

5.  This dip will wake up a party, picnic or barbeque.  Everyone seems to bring hummus to a potluck but who bring eggplant dip?  You do, that's who!