Showing posts with label Special Occasion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Special Occasion. Show all posts

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.

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


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Jewel of Middle Eastern Pastries: Honey-Walnut Baklava

Crispy, crackling layers of paper-thin dough, soaked in butter,  stuffed with a rich nutty filling, and then drizzled with a honey-sweet syrup, baklawa is the crown jewel of Middle Eastern pastries. 

This composed pastry dish actually harkens back to the Ottomon empire, so you will find variations on baklava throughout the Mediterannean, from eastern Europe to the far reaches of the Middle East.  The word baklava, then, is of Ottomon origin, but Arabs have adopted and adapted it to their tongue, so I grew up calling this pastry ba'lawa.

Ba'lava is a layered pastry made from phyllo dough.  Phyllo dough is an unleavened paper-thin dough, made with flour, water, a little oil and vinegar.  You can purchase this in the freezer section of your local grocery story, but I am sure that with a little elbow grease, you can make it yourself.  The ba'lawa is built with layers of buttered phyllo dough, and then a couple of thick layers of crushed nuts.  The pastry remains unsweetened until after baking, when a sweet syrup is poured over top, and allowed to soak for several hours or overnight, to set.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Palestinian Grandmother's Orange Chiffon Cake

Pictured with my grandmother's hand-crocheted lace.

Teta, can you make a cake for me

Yes, habibti, yes, my dear.  Let's make cake.  And into our kitchen we would go, where my grandmother would pull out eggs, oranges, flour, sugar, yogurt.  With a little twinkle in her eye, she would tell me that brandy would make the cake delicious. 

My mother learned how to make American-style cakes, chocolate cakes and yellow layer cakes, cakes that looked like bunnies and cakes that were frosted and sprinkled with coconut.  My mother read English cookbooks, studied them, jotting down her notes in the margins in Arabic. 

But my dear grandmother, my teta, who as far as I know never read a cookbook in her life, only knew how to make one cake:  orange cake.  Why can't you make another flavor, I would ask her.  This is the cake I know how to make, she would tell me.  She would pull out a bowl, a spoon, and a mug.  A mug!  No measuring spoons?  No measuring cup?!  She used a clear glass mug to measure out her flour, her oil, her sugar.  And so she beat the egg whites, and stirred the yolks into the sugar and the yogurt.   I watched in awe, wondering how she knew what to add, and how much to add, and would this cake really turn out?  I kept watching, and waiting, and was gifted with witnessing the miracle:  the cake baked, the heady fragrance of orange slowly blossomed in the kitchen until the cake swelled and browned, slightly crispy at the edges. 

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, 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. 

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, 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. 

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. 

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.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Honeyed Date-Nut Muffins with Orange Cinnamon Honey Butter

I love to use dates in baking.  Dates have a sticky caramel-like sweetness that adds moist flavor to baked goods, and are a natural wholesome sweetener in their own right.  Dates with walnuts, dates with honey, dates with oranges, dates with spices . . . these are all traditional Palestinian flavors that have roots in the ancient land.

On a whim, I decided to try to create a muffin (mini-cake?)  that features some of these flavors.  The recipe that I hit upon is fairly sweet to my taste, to render it more of a dessert than a breakfast item, but I think it would be especially lovely on an Easter morning with a cup of hot tea.  The crumb is tender, moist,  and cake-like, and the flavor is mild with a hint of spice.  When made with sprouted flour, this muffin is also very satisfying and filling.

While perfectly delicious  by itself or just spread with some grassfed butter, if you want to take it up a notch for a holiday, try it with a flavored butter, like the Cinnamon Orange Honey Butter described in the recipe below. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stuffed Chicken, or Djaj Mahshi

Do you have something to celebrate? A new bride in the family? A new mother? The fact that it is Saturday? 

Stuffed chicken is a Palestinian celebratory meal, served particularly to new mothers. Traditionally, a new mother would spend a month at home and in bed, caring for her newborn, while her mother-in-law would take over all household chores, including cooking and preparing delicacies for the new mother. Pregnancy, labor, delivery, the early days of breastfeeding - new mothers' bodies have given so much that they should in turn be given the most nourishing foods possible. This tender roasted chicken is stuffed with buttery pine nuts, spiced rice and ground meat. Served with a bowl of tart plain yogurt, a chopped salad and some Arabic bread, this makes for a meal designed to heal and build up a mother's body.

The quality of the chicken matters. When my mother comes to America, she laughs at the plump chickens in the grocery store. Is this a chicken or a turkey? What did they do to these breasts? I have never seen a chicken like this. She mockingly staggers as she picks one up.

I have come to see her point. The chickens I grew up eating were smaller, and also tasted well, more like chicken. More flavorful than the chicken-flavored-cardboard that I had been cooking since I had moved to the States.

I back away from the boob-job chickens.

I pick up an organic, free-range chicken. When on sale, I really enjoy kosher organic chickens. They are so tender that they melt in your mouth and my children adore them. The higher price tag gives me pause until I realize that if I make enough bone broth from the chicken bones, I will actually recoup the cost of the chicken entirely. And because they are pastured birds, they absorb the macro nutrients of the foods they eat, and pass those on to me. These birds fit into our moral framework, too, which I was grateful for tonight when my daughter asked me what the difference was between the chicken that we eat and the chickens that she has seen at farms. When I gently explained that they are one and the same, I was glad to be able to explain that this bird had had a long happy life and just one bad day.


Djaj Mahshi

1 whole chicken, pastured preferred

Rice and Meat Stuffing:
(Enough for extra to cook on the stove top or to stuff two chickens)

1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup rice, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon butter
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or water
1/2 lb ground lamb or beef
Salt and pepper
All spice
1/2 cup pine nuts

Chicken Rub:
1 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
1 tsp Middle Eastern chicken seasoning, or all spice
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

1. Saute the diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add rice and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add chicken broth or water, 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, 1 tsp all spice, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil and then simmer until becoming tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

2. Brown the meat, breaking up into small pieces with your spatula. Season with salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp all spice, and little cinnamon.

3. Saute the pine nuts in a tablespoon of butter, over low heat, stirring carefully and watching. They burn very easily.

4. In a bowl, combine the rice, meat, pine nuts and onions. Check seasonings.

5. Wash the chicken and pat dry inside and out and set it into a shallow roasting pan.

6. Divide the rice into two separate bowls, to prevent contamination. Reserve one bowl to serve with the chicken. Spoon stuffing from the other bowl into the cavity of the chicken, fitting as much as you can. Using toothpicks, secure the opening to the cavity as best as you can. If you prefer, you can sew the cavity closed.

7. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, yogurt and pomegranate molasses. Rub into the chicken breast. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Place some pats of butter under the breast skin, and rub a little more onto the chicken skin.

8. For a tender bird, slow roast the chicken using this method. Preheat oven to 300 F and roast the chicken. Roast until the chicken reaches 160 F, then turn the oven up to 375 F, baste the chicken with its juices and roast until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 180 F. This should take a total of two and a half to three hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

9. Cover with foil and let the chicken rest for five to ten minutes, for its juices to redistribute.

10. To make the most flavorful rice, pour some of the chicken drippings from the roast pan into the reserved rice stuffing and stir it in. Then try not to eat it all on the spot.

*You can purchase pomegranate molasses at Middle Eastern grocers, large grocery stores, or you can make it yourself.   See recipe.