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

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!). 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pistachio Ice Cream with Pomegranate Syrup

Move over, neon green ice cream. 

How about a honey-sweet ice cream, mixed with fresh, chopped pistachios?  And for a more sophisticated twist, why not top it with some sweet-tart pomegranate syrup?

This is a flexible recipe.  If you don't have pistachios, add in another kind of nut, or leave it out all together for some lovely honey ice cream.  Guests to impress?  Layer pistachio ice cream with the syrup and then scoop it out to reveal pretty ribbons of pomegranate running through the pistachio ice cream.  Don't feel like fussing?  Just pour the pomegranate syrup on top, for a sundae effect.  Or skip it altogether, and serve your pistachio ice cream plain, maybe with just another sprinkle of pistachios.  You won't regret it. 

There are no rules here, friends. Just lots of ice cream!

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. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lacto-Fermented Hummus

Do you sometimes make a double (or triple!) batch of hummus and then find that it still sitting in your fridge a week later?

I do.  Maybe you don't, because everyone in your house attacks it immediately, which does often happen here.  But sometimes, we just can't eat it all quickly enough. 

And then I become sad.  Because who would want to throw away such beautifully smooth and delicious hummus?

You see, I really like making large batches of hummus.  The best hummus is made from hot, just-boiled chickpeas.  As I shared in my post on hummus (How to Make Really (Smooth) Authentic Hummus), if you want smooth hummus, you need to either peel the chickpeas or make your hummus with hot, freshly boiled chickpeas.  So after I have gone through the work to soak and boil my chickpeas, I try to make as much hummus as I think we can manage to eat before it goes bad.  Otherwise, I have to freeze the chickpeas and peel them the next time I want to make hummus (not fun).

But then we have to EAT all of that hummus.   And even though Palestinians often serve hummus breakfast, lunch and dinner, we don't.   But I do love having hummus on hand all of the time.  I think Americans must love that, too, because Costco sells massive boxes of single serving tubs of hummus and they sell like hot cakes.  Because of the preservatives, store-bought hummus will last a long time in the fridge, but fresh hummus will usually only last about a week.  

So, here is a very easy way to extend the life of your homemade hummus.  It takes no time, doesn't change the flavor, and is as easy as stirring.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lamb in Yogurt Sauce, or Mansaf for Beginners

Palestinian mansaf is not humble food, served just to your family, like mujjadara and fasoulia and shorabat addas.  This is celebratory food, kill-the-fatted-lamb food, the centerpiece of a feast, and often served at weddings, graduations, or prepared for an honored guest.

And this meal is as ancient as the land.  It tells a story of the land and how people used to eat long ago, how they preserved and cared for their foods.

Mansaf is boiled lamb, served in a rich sauce made of yogurt.  Today, it is served over a bed of rice, but since rice is a relative newcomer to the Middle East, it was probably originally served with bread.  It is often eaten by hand, served from a communal dish.  What makes this dish distinctive is the sauce in which the lamb is simmered, a sauce made from a traditionally prepared hardened yogurt. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Banana Swirl" - A Two-Ingredient Cultured Ice Cream

I have to credit my daughter for this one. 

She enjoys the PBS Kids show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and last week, a recipe for blended frozen banana puree was featured on the website.  She was so excited about it that she had to write it down.  (Maybe we have a little foodie-in-training?)

But on our first attempt at Banana Swirl, we didn't follow the recipe exactly, so a new recipe was born. First, I left the bananas in the freezer overnight instead of twenty minutes.  That meant that the bananas were so frozen that we could not blend them by themselves, as the original recipe called for. Usually, I would add milk or yogurt or cream in a situation like this, but this time, I reached for my jar of cultured cream.  I added a few large spoonfuls, until I could process the bananas.  To our delight, the result was:  ice cream!  Creamy, rich, gently sweet, without any added sweeteners - and full of the goodness of cultured cream - a perfectly nourishing treat!

Can you tell that I'm a little bit excited? 

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. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Make Yogurt Cheese, or Labani

In the fridge, at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table, in any home in Palestine and you will find a bowl of this tangy spread made from two simple ingredients:  yogurt and salt. We always had bread and labani in the house.  Stores closed because of a political strike?  Bread and labani.  No time to cook?  Bread and labani for dinner.  In a hurry for breakfast?  Bread and labani and a cucumber.   

Simple as it is, it is delicious and nourishing.  This spread holds all of the goodness of yogurt, high in protein and probiotics, but it is even more concentrated and more portable. 

Labani (also labaneh, labneh, labane) is from the Arabic word laban, which means yogurt.  I have seen it described in English as "yogurt cheese."  Technically not a cheese, this is similar to Greek yogurt, but with the consistency of cream cheese.