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

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cousa Mahshi, or Stuffed Baby Summer Squash



Cooking is a communal activity in traditional Palestinian culture, and when you read this recipe, you will see why.  Whenever families gather together to share a meal, you will find aunties and tetas (grandmothers) gathered around the kitchen table, rolling these delicate grape leaves and scooping out the soft flesh of the cousa.  Time flies quickly when many are gathered to do the work, while sharing jokes and family gossip, and passing cups of hot mint tea. Aunties teach their nieces how to roll the grape leaves hayk, like this, nice and tight, so that they don't unravel in the hot pot.  Grandmothers cluck their tongues and roll, and re-roll the grape leaves until every one is just right, and then pop them all into the pot.  Rolling grape leaves and stuffing cousa is an art form, one that can be learned in an hour, but mastered over years.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Make Palestinian Rolled Grape Leaves, or Waraqa Dawali

We are back from a nice long visit with my family in Michigan.  The trip was glorious, full of excellent food, and plenty of sun and lake adventure.  My mother, the most talented Rhoda, bossed me around in the kitchen, taught me a great deal, actually measured her ingredients, and waited patiently for me to photograph food.  She was such a trooper.  The first dish that I asked her to teach me how to make was this dish, rolled grape leaves.  I have helped her make it several other times before, but this time I took notes.  

Stuffed grape leaves are something to get excited about.  The lemony flavor of  Palestinian grape leaves, cooked until tender and stuffed with a spiced rice and meat mixture, served with a squeeze of lemon juice and a bowl of yogurt - who can resists them?  Most Americans are probably familiar with the Greek version of this dish, dolma, which are also delicious but flavored differently.  Waraqa dawali, which means "rolled leaves" is usually prepared with another dish, stuffed squash, or cousa mahshi

Friday, August 2, 2013

Stuffed Sweet Peppers and Tomatoes: An Easy Introduction to the Arab Art of Stuffing Vegetables

I adore peppers.  My love affair started when I was old enough to sit in the front of a shopping cart.  My mother tells me that my favorite treat from the market was a green pepper, which I would clutch in my arms until we got home.  She would put me in my high chair while putting away the groceries, and then slice it up for me and give me a little homemade vinaigrette to dip it in.  This was such a favorite snack that my mother claims that she used slices of green pepper to reward my potty training efforts.

(In case you're wondering, this hasn't worked on my children.)

A Love Affair with Stuffed Vegetables

Now Palestinians love to stuff vegetables.  They love to stuff zucchini, eggplant, cabbage . . . any vegetable that can be turned into a conduit for a rice and meat stuffing has indeed been stuffed by an Arab woman.  Menu-planning, if you are Palestinian, is pretty simple:  keep a supply of meat and rice on hand, and then go to the vegetable market and bring home several boxes of seasonal vegetables.  Stuff the vegetables with rice and meat, cook it in one big pot, and dinner is done.  One day it is stuffed cabbage, another day it is green beans and meat over rice, another day it is stuffed squash, and then the last day might be a stuffed chicken.  Serve all of this with yogurt, a fresh salad, a little bread, and dinner is done. 

Cooking lessons are given from mother to daughter, so no one follows recipes.  They simply mix up the rice filling, scaling quantities up or down depending on the number of mouths to feed, and then start stuffing vegetables.  If they have leftover filling after making their main dish (usually stuffed cabbage rolls or stuffed cousa, a summer squash), then they use up the leftover filling by stuffing a few tomatoes or peppers, which they always have on hand.  So stuffed peppers and tomatoes are a convenient use-up, not the star of the table.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Make Tahini, or Sesame Paste

If you want to cook Middle Eastern foods, you're going to want to have a jar of tahini in your pantry.  This creamy, nutty sesame paste is the cornerstone of so many wonderful Middle Eastern dips and sauces (hummus! kefta! baba ghanoush! tahini-lemon sauce!).  Plus, it has the shelf life of a jar of peanut butter, and is highly nutritious to boot (read more about its health properties here). What's not to love? 

Well, the price, for one.  Tahini can be expensive.  Also, in some parts of the country, it can be difficult to find in your regular grocery store.  This would be a serious impediment to making many Arabic dishes, so when several readers asked me if I knew how to make tahini, I started to play around in my kitchen. 

After a few false starts, I was delighted to see a beautifully creamy sauce coming together in my food processor.  This sauce is rich and nutty, and while a little grainier than commercially prepared tahini, I think it will be wonderful in many Palestinian dishes.  I was surprised by how easy and utterly affordable this tahini is.  The whole process takes about fifteen minutes, and costs a fraction of what store-bought tahini costs.  I think I might have to switch to homemade tahini for some of my recipes. I haven't tested this tahini in my recipes yet, but I think it will work especially well for dips, such as hummus and zucchini dip (recipe forthcoming!). 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Curried Sweet Corn and Zucchini Succotash

My mother loves to buy lots of produce.  But she also despises wasted food.  I mean, hates it with a passion.  She follows recipes loosely, makes up her own, and always incorporates whatever she needs to use up in the fridge. 

That is why, other than the traditional foods that we enjoy in her house, we rarely eat the same meal twice.  Created on the spot out of the contents of her fridge, flavored by my mother's intuitive understanding of seasoning, her food is very much of-the-moment. 

Hope you enjoyed the meal, my mother teases us, because you'll never have this again. 

We whine.  Beg her to write it down.  But we know that it will never happen.  We might get another similar meal in the future, but never the same one twice.

This dish is in that vein, born from the same twin desires to stuff my house with the glories of early summer produce, but then to use it up and let none of it go to waste.  The difference is, I'm writing it down this time. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Musakhan: Roasted Chicken with Carmelized Onions and Olive-Oil Drenched Bread

Put away your forks and knives, friends.  This is finger food. 

Now, this is a favorite Palestinian feast.  Tender chicken pieces, seasoned with lemony sumac, roasted with loads of sweet caramelized onions and olive oil, baked onto soft bread that absorbs the juices of the chicken, and topped with buttery pine nuts . . . I think of it as the Palestinian version of fried chicken, because of the generous amounts of olive oil used here, which soak into everything and transform a simple chicken and onion dish into a rich, melt-in-your-mouth experience.  Plus, this meal is traditionally eaten with your hands. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Zayt-and-Za'atar Sourdough Crackers

Zayt (olive oil) and za'atar is to Palestinians what peanut butter and jelly is to Americans. Zayt-and-za'atar - they just belong together.  We love to dip fresh bread into olive oil, and then into a bowl of za'atar.  I thought:  Why not make a cracker that does it for you?

Zayt-and-za'atar crackers!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tahini-Lemon Cauliflower Bake

Do you have a gorgeous head of cauliflower?  Instead of making a cauliflower gratin, try this simple and easy recipe - cauliflower baked in a tahini-lemon sauce. 

Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and its mild flavor pairs well with creamy sauces.  The nuttiness of the tahini is particularly lovely against cauliflower.  And given all of the health benefits of tahini, I am happy to see my children eat this nutrient-dense side dish. 
This is a rich and hearty side dish, perfect served alongside fish, grilled or roasted chicken, or even spooned over brown rice as the main course.  While not a standard Palestinian recipe, this is the kind of food that my mother and I like to  make, day in and day out:  simple, flavorful, nourishing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Za'atar Bread, or Mana'eesh

Salty, lemony-herbed, olive-oil soaked flat bread.  Add a hot mug of sweet mint tea, a fried egg, some oil-cured olives, ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, maybe a little white farmer's cheese, and you have yourself a proper Palestinian breakfast.

Mana'eesh, or in more classical Arabic, manaqeesh, is a flat, round loaf of bread - the same dough used for basic Arabic, or "pita" bread - topped with olive oil and za'atar, a thyme, sumac and sesame seasoning blend (click here to read more about za'atar).  The word mana'eesh is actually the plural form of the word, so one loaf is called mana'oush, which means to carve out.  Instead of puffed bread that forms pockets, this bread is flat, pressed down by the weight of the toppings.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Make Really (Smooth) Authentic Hummus

Hummus . . . a creamy, garlicky, lemony,  protein-packed dip.  It's all the rage in this country now, the most ubiquitous Arabic food to reach the American table.  I am not sure when hummus became so popular here, because when I would travel back to the States as a child and teenager, most Americans approached our plate of hummus with a great deal of, um, suspicion, and rarely tasted it enthusiastically. My, how things have changed. 

The word hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea (also known as a garbanzo bean).  In fact, this dip is technically called hummus bi tahini, meaning chickpeas with tahini.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

Remember that neglected jar of tahini in your pantry?  You know, the one that you use for making the occasional batch of hummus?
Well, let me tell you, that jar of tahini is about to bust out of prison. 
Nutritious, delicious, versatile, here is one more way to use tahini:  as a salad dressing for a simple cucumber tomato salad!   
A week ago, I posted a recipe for tahini-lemon sauce.  So easy to make, and a hundred ways to enjoy it.  I think that this one might be my new favorite?  The creamy tahini, garlic and lemon juice take this simple salad to a new level, the sort of dish that would be delicious served as part of a  mezze lunch along with (dream with me) hummus, baba ghanoush, cured olives and feta cheese, or as part of a summer picnic, with kebabs or burgers or grilled fish.  Mmmm.  Can you tell that I am anxious for warmer weather?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Maqlouba, or Upside-Down Dinner

Mmmm . . . ma'loubi. 

The mouth-watering flavors of lamb, rice, and cauliflower, all simmered in cinnamon and allspice-seasoned broth was enough to make my children and their little friend all yelp "yum" when they walked in the door after playing outside.  When I inverted the steaming pot of food onto a platter and then sprinkled toasted almonds on top, they said excitedly, It's like a cake!  I allowed them to pick as many almonds off of the top as they wished.  Served with mounds of fresh plain yogurt, which of course, they could also not keep their fingers out of, this dish made for a very happy children dinner party.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Basic Tahini-Lemon Sauce, with Fish

Looking to add a new flavor to some of your basic recipes?

This sauce balances the rich nuttiness of tahini against the acidity of fresh lemon - a classic Palestinian combination.  (Read about all of the nourishing benefits of tahini here).  I love this sauce because it is so very versatile.  Drizzle over fish or chicken, pour over vegetables, use as a dressing for a salad or a sandwich - Palestinians use this sauce in many ways.  You already may have tried this sauce over kefta, a Palestinian meatloaf, but if you haven't, you should.  Sometimes without the parsley, this also makes a simple stand-alone dip for Arabic bread.  It is also the base for other dips, such as hummus and baba ghanoush. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lemony Lentil Soup, or Shorabat Addas

Winter is flirting with spring here.  One day we need parkas, the next day my children are gleefully flinging off their mittens.  It is a good day to make this winter-meets-spring soup, with its warming heavy lentils and olive oil, lightened up by a burst of lemon. 

I am not shy about my love of lentils, and my love of soups, so I have eaten and made many different lentil soups.  This particular soup is so simple, so easy to pull together, and yet has such lovely flavor.   I love the play of smokey cumin against the fresh lemon, and the flavor of lentils simmered in broth.  Since married, I have grown used to the heavier sausage and lentil soups, with plenty of red wine and Parmesan, which is also tasty.  But this soup is lighter, fresher and put a smile on even my toddler's face. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Vermicelli Rice

This is another one of those dishes that brings me back to my childhood, my toddlerhood, even, as I was served up bowls and bowls of this with fresh whole yogurt.  It's a soft and flavorful rice, fragrant with cinnamon and allspice, often topped with browned almonds or pine nuts.  The broken peices of noodles, sauteed in butter and then cooked along the rice, make this a dressed-up rice.  As soon as I could safely see over the rim of a pot, it became my job to saute the broken noodles in the butter, stirring diligently to prevent the noodles from burning.  Of course, I still remember the smell of those noodles burning, and my mother chidding me, and my defense:   I just turned away for a second! 

When we would have American friends over, they would point at this rice and declare, "Rice-a-Roni!"  My mother would always smile kindly and say, "Yes, very similar."  Except that it's not.  It's much, much better.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Eggplant Bake, or Mnezzali

Oh.  My. 

This is delicious. 

When I gave my husband a spoonful, his reply was:  Holy Cow. 

My kiddos each had to have a bite as soon as it came out of the oven. 

This is one of my very favorite Palestinian dishes, one that I requested whenever I came home from college, jet-lagged, with bags under my eyes and breaking out from the stress of exams and the less-than-nourishing cafeteria food.  One bowlful of this hearty, flavorful dish and I had a smile on my face again. 

Eggplant has since become one of my favorite vegetables.  It's smoky and rich flavor shines in this dish, and paired with tomatoes and beef, allspice and cinnamon, with the faint spicy taste of olive oil--this is one dish that you won't be able to stop sneaking spoonfuls. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fresh Herb Gaza Omelette, or Ijee

I would eat them in a boat, and I would eat them with a goat. 

In honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, we are celebrating Palestinian style: 

Green eggs.

Hold the ham. 

From Gaza, with Love

I remember the first time I had this omelette.  My teta, my grandmother, was living with us in our home outside of Jerusalem and one evening we were having a simple supper of eggs and labani and bread and my grandmother made one of these omelettes for us. It is your father's favorite omelette, she said, I made this for him when your mother and father were newly wed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Palestinian Meatloaf: Lamb Kefta, Two Ways


Kefta is meatloaf, really.  Ground meats, mixed with seasonings by hand, pressed into a dish, smothered in sauce.  There are differences, of course.  Instead of beef, pork and veal, we use lamb and beef.  Instead of bread crumbs, we use minced parsley.  The lamb is spiced with cinnamon and allspice.  On top, we skip the ketchup and pour a creamy tahini and lemon sauce, and sprinkle with pine nuts. Or, if you are in the mood for tomatoes, we pour a little tomato sauce and arrange sliced fresh tomatoes.

I remember the first time my mother explained kefta to an American family:  your loaves of bread are high, and so that is how you make meatloaf.  Our loaves of bread are flat, and so that is how we make meatloaf. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stewed Green Beans, or Fassoulia

Did your mother serve you spaghetti and meatballs every Wednesday night, with thick slabs of garlic bread? 

Mine didn't.  Instead, she regularly served this rich tomatoey stew, full of hunks of beef and softly cooked green beans, scooped high over cinnamon and all-spice seasoned rice.  The smoky-sweet smell of behar, all-spice, quickly brings me back to her kitchen, to the covered pot of rice on the stove top, and the second pot of bubbling green bean stew. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Make Pomegranate Molasses

Want to know a little secret?

Pomegranate molasses.  It's amazing. 

My mother introduced me to this ingredient, by hand-carrying a bottle from home.  I have kept a bottle in my cupboard ever since.  It's a thick, viscous syrup made out of boiled-down pomegranate juice.  The flavor is complex, puckering tart - almost lemony, fruity, and slightly sweet. 

What do I do with this? 

Use it on meats, my mother said.  Rub it into a beef roast, or a pork roast.   Spread it over a roast chicken.  It is magic, I tell you. 

It really is.