Showing posts with label Side Dish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Side Dish. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fried Curried Eggplant with Pomegranate Molasses

Summer is slipping into fall around here, and I couldn't let it slip quite away before I shared with you a simple-as-summer recipe.  I keep finding myself standing in front of my stove, frying up cubes of eggplant, because as often as I make it,  I never seem to get enough of it.

My blog has been quiet, as it usually is over the summer months, because my home has been full of toddlers and children (some of whom belonging to me) running in and out the front door, trips to the pools (with requisite snacks), and a generous handful of trips to visit family, see new places, try new food.

Of special note, was a trip to Pittsburgh's Conflict Kitchen, were my husband and I enjoyed a delicious Iranian lunch.  The Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant with a walk up counter, that serves a rotating menu from countries with which the United States is in conflict.  This month, they serve a beautiful selection of Iranian dishes.  About a year ago, in a controversial move, they rotated their menu to cover dishes from Palestine.  If you are ever in Pittsburgh, do try to find it.

Back in my hot and humid Virginia, my kitchen is overflowing with luscious summer vegetables - zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant.  The summer months, though, bring more ambitious cooking projects to a halt.  I crave simple, light meals, salads and simple cuts of protein, meals that keep me out of the kitchen and at the pool.  On this particular day, I had several eggplants that needed some love, but I was far too hot to fire up the grill for eggplant dip, and far to lazy to contemplate a batch of eggplant bake, or menezali, so I found myself creating this simple eggplant dish.

One spoonful, and I was hooked.  I've always loved eggplant, especially fried eggplant cubes, with its lovely velvety and luxuriant richness.  This time, I added a drizzle of pomegranate molasses to cut through the richness and brightens and sweetens the dish. Add a sprinkle of toasted nuts, and suddenly this plate of vegetables, for me, becomes utterly crave-able.

I've served this over a bed of basmati rice, for a simple, meatless main dish, or as a warm side dish, with grilled chicken.  Either way, you are in for a treat.

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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Salad in Winter: Citrus Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Arils

The season of tomatoes is over.

I feel quite lost.

I miss our simple tomato-cucumber salads of the summer.  I grew up eating salads almost every night (my father was the salad and dressing maker), but they almost always had a little chopped tomato in them: cabbage salad with tomato, lettuce salad with tomato, cucumber, carrots, or a basic chopped tomato and cucumber salad.

When I first came to this country, I would still buy tomatoes year round because I just couldn't imagine my kitchen without fresh tomatoes.  Those piles of tomatoes in the grocery store in December, January, February - I didn't realize how far they had traveled and how little they tasted like real fruit.  I just bought them because I had never, ever, ever in my life lived in a house where there were no tomatoes.

A few years ago, I finally broke down and admitted:  I am not in Palestine anymore.

I am in Northern Virginia.  And here, the winter tomatoes are the worst.

Once I admitted that, I found I could stop buying them.  I walked right past the display case of mealy tomatoes.

Is there still salad after tomato season?  I was wandering in new territory here.  I tried apples and pears, cucumber and feta, cabbage and spinach, bacon crumbles, walnuts, sourdough croutons.   They were good, but they didn't taste quite like home.

A few weeks ago, I was pushing my cart through the grocery store, and my baby squealed with delight and said, "BALL."  He was pointing at a pomegranate.   That's not a ball, honey, I said.  It's a pomegranate.  He didn't believe me, and clutched it in the cart for the rest of the ride.

We brought the pomegranate home, and looked at it for a while, on the counter.  It was so pretty, in a bowl with the baby oranges and the pears and apples, that it seemed a shame to break it open.  I found a video tutorial by Martha Stewart on how to de-seed a pomegranate, and the older children and I followed her instructions and were soon rewarded with a beautiful mound of pomegranate seeds.  (It's not a very elegant video - but it was fun to follow!).

For breakfast, I sliced up oranges and sprinkled them with pomegranate arils.  The children picked up the pretty gems-like seeds, the baby ate them by the fistful, and my daughter studded the center of her orange rounds with the ruby red seeds.

And I suddenly saw my new winter salad: a bed of baby spinach leaves, sliced rounds of baby oranges, and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.

Oranges and spinach are a classic combination, but the tart little pomegranate seeds add crunch and a tart burst of juice into each bite.  I drizzled a homemade citrus dressing, with a little Dijon mustard and pomegranate molasses stirred in, to complement the salad.

Unforeseen result:  My salad is in the holiday spirit!  Wouldn't this be lovely to bring to a Christmas party?

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.

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!

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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Middle Eastern Cabbage Salad

Looking for a new cabbage slaw recipe to take to this summer's picnics?

Check out this classic Middle Eastern salad, which is as pretty as a rainbow, mayo-free, and as easy as it is delicious.  Dressed lightly with lemon and olive oil, and with a sprinkle of mint, parsley and green onion, this salad is a refreshing break from the classic coleslaw.  

Find the recipe over at MidEats!

And if you need other picnicking ideas, be sure to check out my last post, a Middle Eastern picnic recipe round-up.  


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:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How to Make Fluffy, Flavorful Rice (Like an Arab)

Sticky rice, fluffy rice, gummy, gluey rice, bland, wet or crunchy rice.  I have made all of these things.

I remember rice as my first culinary challenge out of college.  If I can just cook rice, I thought, I can feed myself.  And while the instructions on the sack always seemed so simple, so straight forward, the results were rarely good.  My Chinese roommate had a little electric rice cooker that she swore by, and I loved the beautifully steamed rice that she produced, but even that little gadget alluded my attempts.  For a while, I gave up and accepted half-soggy, half-crunchy bland rice.

It was very sad.

Because we Arabs love our rice!  Like our friends farther east, from India all the way to Japan, we love our rice.  Our rice style is more similar to Indian rice, and every time I dig into a vibrant dish of biryani, it reminds me of home.  Arabs pride themselves in producing light, fluffy rice, with a nutty and rich flavor, well seasoned enough to stand on its own.  We love to serve mounds of fluffy white rice, warmly spiced with the flavors of allspice, turmeric, cinnamon or nutmeg, topped with buttery pine nuts or almonds fried in ghee.  For a simple childish favorite, we serve this with just a scoop of fresh plain yogurt, and we call it rooz ma' laban.  Please, mama, we would beg my mother, can we skip the sauce and just have rooz ma' laban?

Can you blame me?

After watching my mother, badgering her with questions, and then (this was the hard part), actually doing what she told me to do, I learned how to make a decent pot of rice.  If you want to make delicious rice that will wake up any basic fish, chicken or steak meal, look no further.

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.

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!

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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grilled Lamb Shawarma with Cucumber Mint Yogurt Salad

Just in time for Father's Day, here is an easy but festive meal that is great on the grill and will warm any father's (and mother's!) heart.  Well-seasoned leg of lamb, grilled and sliced, folded into fresh warm bread, topped with a cool minted cucumber yogurt sauce - now that's enough to entice me to dust off our grill and sweep off our patio. 

My mother still tells the story of her first encounter with lamb in America.  As a young bride, she spent several months in her mother-in-law's house, and learned to eat American food for the first time.  For some special occasion, my American grandmother served her lamb with mint jelly.  My mother said that she tasted the lamb and it was good, but she couldn't figure out what the green gel on the side of her plate was.  She tasted it and found it very unpleasant, and so bizarrely sweet; for Arabs love lamb, and love mint, and even lamb with mint, but never sweet with savory.

This meal is a nod to that mint-and-lamb combination.  Both the lamb and the yogurt salad are traditional Palestinian recipes, but Palestinians would serve the yogurt salad on the side and use this tahini-lemon sauce on the shawarma. 

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. 

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.