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Archive for the ‘lemon juice’


Berry-Mint Lemonade 0

Posted on June 22, 2015 by Sahar

I love a good glass of lemonade.  Real lemonade. Not the powdered stuff.

And, with summer lasting about 8 months in Texas, it’s almost a necessary staple, along with water, iced tea, and beer, to power through the heat.

The basic lemonade recipe consists of three things: lemon juice, water, sugar.  The flavor all depends on how you personally prefer it – sweet or tart.  Personally, I like it more on the tart side.

Of course, since it is such a basic recipe, it leaves lots of room for interpretation and experimentation.  You can add just about any herb or spice that goes well with lemon – mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, ginger, pepper – for example; or, even add other fruits or juices to the mix – the list on that is pretty much endless.

My personal favorite is probably one of the more obvious ones – mint and berries. I think it’s because during the summer, when berries are truly in season, I like to find as many ways possible as I can to use them.  And, mint is a natural affinity flavor for lemons and berries.  It’s a win-win.

So, here is my recipe for Berry-Mint Lemonade.

A few notes:

1.  Yes. I have used lemon juice from the green plastic bottle. I know fresh squeezed is better, but I don’t always have a bottle of the fresh-squeezed juice around.  If you really want fresh squeezed and don’t have any or can’t find it, you can either squeeze it yourself (a pricy and time consuming prospect), or just go for the green bottle. It’s fine and most people won’t know the difference. I will say the one distinct added plus to the green bottle lemon juice is that the flavor is consistent.  Fresh lemons can vary in tartness and yield.

2.  You can use all of one berry in this if you like.  I just always happen to have a large container of cut berries in my fridge during the summer as Husband Steve’s & my go-to fruit.  Bear in mind, however, that the color and overall flavors will definitely change.  As it is with anything completely natural, there are always going to be differences in flavor – either more sweet or tart.

3.  You can use either white or raw sugar in this.  I prefer the raw because it’s a little less sweet than the white.

4.  If you don’t like or don’t have mint, you can use another herb in this.  Most herbs & spices that go with lemon work well with berries, too. You may want to experiment on the amount you want to use. Some are definitely stronger than others (i.e. rosemary, ginger, oregano), so you want to be sure what you’re using won’t overpower the other flavors.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 c. sugar (either raw or white)

1 c. water

1/4 c. lightly packed mint leaves

2 heaping cups mixed berries

1 1/4 c. lemon juice

3 c. water

 

1.  In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar over high heat.  Stir frequently to make sure the sugar is dissolved.

The simple syrup.  Since I made this with raw sugar, it is obviously going to be darker than with white sugar.  A simple syrup made with white sugar will be clear.

The simple syrup. Since I made this with raw sugar, it is obviously going to be darker than with white sugar. A simple syrup made with white sugar will be completely clear.

Bring the syrup just to a boil, take the saucepan off the heat, and add the mint leaves.  Allow the mint to steep in the syrup until it has cooled, about 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours.

Adding the mint.

Adding the mint to steep.

2.  Meanwhile, puree the berries.  With a food processor running, drop the berries either through the feed tube. (Adding the berries in while the machine is running guarantees that all of the berries will be pureed.  You won’t be left with any large pieces.)

Adding the berries to the food processor.  I like to wear gloves to keep the berries from staining my hands.

Adding the berries to the food processor. I like to wear gloves to keep the berries from staining my hands.

 

Let the berries process until they are pureed.

The pureeing the berries.

The pureeing the berries.

Place a small strainer over a large measuring cup (at least a 4-cup), large bowl, or a pitcher.  Pour half of the pureed berries through the strainer and, with a rubber spatula, work as much of the liquid out of the pulp through the strainer as possible, leaving behind the seeds and pulp. Be sure to scrape the outside bottom and sides of the strainer. Dump the leftover seeds and pulp into a small bowl and repeat with the other half.

On the left, a strainer; the right, a colander. They do a lot of the same things, but a strainer is used for finer work (i.e. sifting, straining purees, etc.). Don't confuse the two.

On the left, a strainer; the right, a colander. They do a lot of the same things, but a strainer is used for finer work (i.e. sifting, straining purees, etc.). Don’t confuse the two.

Pressing the pureed berries though the strainer.

Pressing the pureed berries though the strainer.

If you like, take the remaining seeds and pulp, put them back into the blender or food processor and puree again.  You’ll be surprised how much more liquid you can get out of them. (If you are fine with a more “country style” lemonade, you can skip this step and simply pour the pureed fruit into the pitcher without straining.)

The final leftovers after two sessions in the food processor and straining. You want to get as much of the juice as possible out of the berries.  I generally just put this in the compost.

The final leftovers after two sessions in the food processor and straining. You want to get as much of the juice as possible out of the berries. I generally just put this in the compost.

3.  Once the syrup is cooled, pour the syrup through the strainer so it can catch the mint.

Straining the syrup.

Straining the syrup.

I like to leave the strainer on so I can pour the lemon juice and water over the mint as well. This way, you can get as much flavor out of the mint as possible. Mix thoroughly.

Lemon juice.

Lemon juice.

Water.

Water.

4.  Place the lemonade in the refrigerator and let chill.  Mix it again before checking for flavor.

Lemonade.

Lemonade.  This also makes a great mixer, by the way.

 

Enjoy!

 

Oyster Stew 0

Posted on March 09, 2015 by Sahar

 

IMG_3035

It’s been a seemingly unending winter here in Central Texas. At least our version of it. Damp & chilly with the occasional freeze and subsequent public freak-out.

So, seeking out “hearty” comfort foods to try to ignore Winter’s lingering visit is simply human nature. In that spirit, I decided on Oyster Stew for dinner last week.

I suppose one could call this a chowder.  It certainly has some milk (my preferred chowder base) in the broth. However, this recipe only uses 1 cup of milk, is thickened with a roux, and doesn’t have any bacon or salt pork in the recipe as traditional chowders do.

I do serve it with oyster crackers, though.

 

Note: In this example, I did use clam juice.  It has a fairly neutral flavor and is readily available.

If you do use a commercial seafood-based stock, be careful of how much salt you add.  Commercial stocks, especially seafood, can be salty.  Some of it is simply from the natural saltiness of the seafood and some is from the addition of salt during manufacturing.

 

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

2 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

1 stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)

1 small onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste

4 c. fish stock, shellfish stock, or clam juice (or, in a pinch, chicken broth or water)

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 pt. oysters (keep any oyster liquor [juice] – it will be added with the milk)

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering - not Red Tide.

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood Market. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering – not Red Tide. It’s too cold for Red Tide in this hemisphere right now, anyway.

I generally remove the connective muscle from the oyster because I don't like the texture.  It's easy to remove; just pull it out. However, you can keep it in if you like.

The oyster with its connective muscle removed. I generally remove this from the oyster because I don’t like the texture. It’s easy to remove; just pull it out (try not to take too much of the oyster meat with it). However, you can keep it in if the texture doesn’t bother you. To see the muscle in the oyster, look at the above photo. It’s opaque and plastic-looking.

Juice of 1 lemon

1 c. milk or half-and-half

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter or heat the oil.  Add the celery and onion and saute until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

2.  Add the potatoes and continue sauteing just until the potatoes begin to warm up, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don't like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It's their starchy quality.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don’t like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It’s their starchy quality that just works for these dishes.

Add the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the Old Bay Seasoning.  Stir until the vegetables are coated with the seasonings.

The spices and thyme added.

The spices and thyme added.

3.  Add the stock or broth.  Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, uncover the saucepan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

Adding the clam juice

Adding the clam juice

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potaoes are just about done.

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potatoes are just about done and the broth has thickened slightly.

4.  Meanwhile, make the roux.  In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir until it is mixed thoroughly with the butter.  Stir over the heat for an additional 2 minutes.  Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

5.  When the potatoes are done, add the roux, lemon juice, milk, and oysters (along with their liquor).  Continue cooking until the milk is heated through, the stew is thickened a bit more, and the oysters are cooked, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

Taste for seasoning and serve with crackers.

Nothing like a nice stew on a cold night.

Nothing like a nice warm stew on a cold night.

 

Enjoy!

Lemon Curd 0

Posted on January 13, 2015 by Sahar

For me, winter is the best time of the year to make Lemon Curd. Why? you ask? Because winter is when I can find Meyer Lemons at the store. While I can certainly make lemon curd with regular lemons, I find Meyer Lemons have just the right mix of tart and sweet that take this lovely confectionary spread to the next level.

Meyer Lemons were grown in China for centuries and were introduced in the US in 1908 by F.N. Meyer.  Botanists believe it is a cross between a lemon and an orange.  It is generally larger, juicier, and less acidic than regular lemons.  They are usually available from fall through early spring, with their peak season during the winter.

A Meyer Lemon (l) and a standard lemon (r).

A Meyer Lemon (l) and a standard lemon (r).

IMG_2863

Regular Lemon (l) and Meyer Lemon (r)

 

Now, wait, you may be saying. What is exactly Lemon Curd?

First, there are two types of curd:

1.  Curd solids from milk.  These solids are formed when rennet (or another acid) is used to separate the milk solids from the liquid (whey) during the cheese making process.

2.  A sweet creamy spread that consists of (usually) citrus juice, egg yolks, sugar, and butter.  It can be made with other fruit such as berries.

 

A curd is a type of sauce called an emulsion.  The simplest explanation for this comes from The New Food Lover’s Companion:  “A mixture of one liquid with another with which it cannot normally combine smoothly. Emulsifying is done by slowly adding one ingredient to another while at the same time mixing rapidly (usually whisking). This disperses and suspends tiny droplets of one liquid throughout the other.  Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture.”  Mayonnaise, vinaigrette, hollandaise, and bearnaise are all examples of emulsion sauces.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this with regular lemons.  Find lemons that feel heavy for their size.  The final product will be more tart, but you can add some sugar to taste if you like after the curd is finished.

2.  The best way to go about this is low and slow.  If you show any impatience or lack of attention, you could easily over cook the curd and end up with sweet scrambled eggs.

3.  Always have extra bowls on the side in case you need to move your curd to a cool, clean bowl.

4.  Having an instant-read thermometer will come in handy.  You want the curd to come to about 160F.  It will be fully cooked at this point without scrambling the eggs (that is, if you are careful).

5.  When using the double-boiler, the boiling water should never touch the bottom of the bowl.  This will cause the eggs to cook too quickly.

6.  You can make lemon curd into a preserve: Fill a half-pint jar with a 1/2″ head space and process the jars for 15 minutes.  Take the canning pot off the heat and leave the jars in the hot water for a further 10 minutes, then take the jars out of the water, and place them on racks to cool and seal. Because of the nature of the curd, however, the texture will change during the processing, and it will only have a shelf life of 2 – 3 months because of the high dairy content.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lemon zest. I sue a Microplane for mine. If you don't have a Microplane, just very finely mince the zest.

The lemon zest. I use a Microplane for mine. If you don’t have a Microplane, just very finely mince the zest.

 

3 egg yolks, room temperature

1 whole egg, room temperature

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. lemon juice (preferably Meyer Lemons)

Zest from juiced lemons

6 oz (10 tbsp.) butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes, softened

 

 

1.  Combine the egg whites, whole egg, and sugar in a medium stainless steel bowl with either a whisk (if you have a lot of upper body strength) or a beater starting on medium-low speed and gradually increasing the speed and mix until the mixture becomes light, thick, and falls into a ribbon when the whisk or beaters are lifted from the bowl. (Doing this will help to begin the emulsion process, start dissolving the sugar, and begin to chemically cook the eggs.)

Early in the process.  The mixture is still dripping unevenly. I kinda cheated here and used the electric beaters.

Early in the process. The mixture is still dripping unevenly. I kinda cheated here and used the electric beaters.

About 10 minutes later.  The mixture is thickened and is falling much more smoothly from the beaters.  If it doesn't fall  in a ribbon, you want the mixture to at least leave a "trail" in the bowl as it falls back in.

About 10 minutes later. The mixture is thickened and is falling much more smoothly from the beaters. If it doesn’t fall in a ribbon, you want the mixture to at least leave a “trail” in the bowl as it falls back in.

 

2.  Carefully mix in the lemon juice and zest.

Adding the zest and juice.

Adding the zest and juice.

3.  Have a saucepan about 1/4 full of simmering water ready on the stove.  Place the bowl with the lemon mixture on top. (You just want the bottom of the bowl to sit over the water.)

Setting up the double boiler: Fill the saucepan about 1/4 full of water. Make sure that the boiling water never touches the bottom of the bowl.

Setting up the double boiler: Fill the saucepan about 1/4 full of water. Make sure that the boiling water never touches the bottom of the bowl.

Have a second bowl on the side in case the mixture cooks too quickly and begins to curdle (that would be the eggs scrambling).

4.  Stir the lemon mixture with the whisk constantly until the foam subsides and begins to thicken.  Adjust the heat as needed (the easiest way to do this is to take the bowl from off the top of the saucepan, or, if the mixture is cooking too quickly, move the mixture to your second bowl; if you do move to a second bowl, very carefully scrape or do not scrape the original bowl – what’s left in the bowl is more than likely going to be scrambled).

Whisking the mixture. You want to do this fairly constantly until the foam subsides. Once this happens, the eggs will begin cooking much more rapidly.

Whisking the mixture. You want to do this fairly constantly until the foam subsides. Once this happens, the eggs will begin cooking much more rapidly.  Again, remember – low & slow is the key

The foam has pretty much subsided and the mixture is beginning to thicken. If you use an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 155F - 160F.

The foam has pretty much subsided and the mixture is beginning to thicken and look darker. If you use an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 155F – 160F.

5.  Begin to slowly add the softened butter.  Just add 2-3 pieces at a time, still whisking constantly.  You want to incorporate the butter into the lemon mixture.  If you simply add the butter and let it melt without whisking, the fat in the butter will separate and you won’t be able to incorporate it. You’ll simply end up with butterfat floating on top.

Adding the butter. Be sure to whisk constantly to make sure the butter is incorporated evenly into the lemon mixture. Do not let it simply melt on top.

Adding the butter. Be sure to whisk constantly to make sure the butter is incorporated evenly into the lemon mixture. Do not let it simply melt on top.

6.  After you have incorporated the butter, switch to either a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula.  Continue stirring constantly until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon or spatula.

Stirring the curd after the butter has been incorporated. Again, keep stirring constantly, making sure to keep, especially, the curd on the side and bottom of the bowl moving. That is the curd that will quickly overcook if it isn't constantly stirred.

Stirring the curd after the butter has been incorporated. Again, keep stirring constantly, making sure to keep, especially, the curd on the side and bottom of the bowl moving. That is the curd that will quickly over cook if it isn’t constantly stirred.

Coating the back of a wooden spoon. Running your finger through the curd on the spoon will test if it's ready. If the curd doesn't drip, it's ready. This means that the eggs are cooked and your emulsion was successful.

Coating the back of a wooden spoon. Running your finger through the curd on the spoon will test if it’s ready. If the curd doesn’t drip, it’s ready. This means that the eggs are cooked and your emulsion was successful.

7.  When the curd is done, remove the bowl from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Very carefully scrape or do not scrape the sides of the original bowl (it depends on how your final product looks).  You can strain the mixture if you prefer. (Straining is recommended if you have larger pieces of zest or you want to smooth out a slightly lumpy curd.)

If, when you are done cooking, your eggs are curdled or scrambled, or your butter separates out, you can pour the mixture into a blender (not a food processor) and try to make a smooth curd.  However, there’s no guarantee this will work; and if it does, you may still need to strain it to remove any remaining lumps of scrambled egg or the butter may separate out again.

8.  To store, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and place in the refrigerator. Because of the high butter content, it will set up into a fairly firm spread.  It will keep for 4 – 5 days.

A lovely, creamy lemon curd. Sometime, I eat it just like this.

A lovely, creamy lemon curd. Sometime, I eat it just like this.

 

Perfect serving suggestion.

Perfect serving suggestion.

 

Enjoy!

 

Lentil Soup شوربة دس and Artichokes with Coriander اضيوكي مع الكزبرة 2

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Sahar

I am now going to introduce you to two more dishes from the Middle East – one from my childhood and one I discovered more recently.  Lentil Soup and Artichokes with Coriander.

Lentil Soup (Shorbat Adas) is a very popular dish during Ramadan. Soup is a traditional way to break the fast and the heartiness of this soup is perfect for that.  Some people will put cooked ground beef or lamb in the soup, others balls of Kefta (basically, ground meat with onion, parsley, and spices).  Some will also use dried bread and puree it into the soup to thicken it. Sliced radishes are also a popular addition.

The Artichokes with Coriander (Ard al-shokeh ma’kuzbara) is a more recent discovery for me. It’s a dish popular in Jericho in the early summer when artichokes are in season.  Here, I’ve used frozen artichokes.  This way, I can eat this dish at any time of year.  Mainly, though, because I really don’t like to clean artichokes.

 

A few notes:

1.  The soup is really best with the red lentils.  They have a lighter, slightly sweeter flavor that’s best for the soup.  They’re much more readily available than they used to be.

2.  Be sure to wash the lentils.  They’re generally dusty when they’re packed.  While processing methods have become better, sometimes, especially if they’re from a bulk bin, they may also have small rocks or dirt. So, be sure to check them carefully.

3.  As with most soups, this is even better the next day and freezes well.  When you reheat the soup, be sure to add a little broth or water because it thickens up as it sits.

4.  If you want a smoother soup, then you can puree it.  However, I prefer a little texture in the soup.

5.  You can easily make the soup vegan by using either vegetable broth or water.

6.  Don’t use marinated artichokes packed in olive oil.  Be sure, especially with canned or jarred ones, that they are packed in water.  Or, if you’re using frozen, they’re unseasoned.

7.  If you don’t like cilantro (coriander), you can use parsley.  It obviously won’t taste the same, but it will work.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They're much more readily available than in the past.

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They’re much more readily available than in the past.

From the top:

From the top: salt, pepper, olive oil, flour, cumin

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 c. red lentils, washed and drained

4 c. broth (chicken, beef, lamb, vegetable) or water

1 med. onion, minced

3 cl. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1 tsp. cumin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one lemon, or to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan, place the onion, garlic, lentils, and broth or water.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Cover and bring to a boil.  Keep the saucepan covered, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

The boiling pot.

The boiling pot.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

Add the mixture to the lentils after the first 45 minutes of cooking.

 

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time.  Sorry, the lentils don't stay red.  They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time. Sorry, the lentils don’t stay red. They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After you add the oil & spices, cook for another 15 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.

3.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 5 minutes.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

Taste for seasoning.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top and some extra lemon on the side.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.  Perfect.

 

 

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Salt, pepper, olive oil

Salt, pepper, olive oil

The artichokes.  I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, bue sure they aren't marinated ones.

The artichokes. I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, be sure they aren’t marinated & flavored  ones.

Artichokes with Coriander

2 lb. artichoke hearts (2 bags frozen-thawed or 6 cans drained)

4 tbsp. olive oil

3 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 c. coriander (cilantro), chopped

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/4 c. lemon juice, or to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Cooking the garlic.

Cooking the garlic.

Add the artichokes hearts and cook another 5 minutes.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Add the coriander (cilantro), salt, and pepper.  Cook another 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

2.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 2 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and taste for seasoning.

The finished artichokes.

The finished artichokes.

3.  You can serve this either warm or room temperature.  This dish can also be made a day in advance.  Warm it slightly or let it come to room temperature before serving.

Sahtein! صحتين

Sahtein! صحتين

In this post, I served the soup with toasted split pita bread to make a sort of cracker.  You can also serve with warm pita or a cracker of your choice.  The plainer the better.

 

 

Three Dressings 0

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Sahar

Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island.  Three dressings that have been ubiquitous  on the American Dinner Table for decades.  Of course, being American, these dressings have been adapted to serve other purposes than just coating lettuce.  They are used for dipping vegetables, marinating, as a sandwich ingredient, and for mitigating the heat of Buffalo Wings.

Each one of these has an origin story that shows off, even in some small way, American ingenuity, taste, and not a little desperation.

Ranch Dressing was created on the true-life Hidden Valley Ranch (a dude ranch) near Santa Barbara, CA.  The originator, Steve Henson, was said to have come up with the original recipe while working as an electrical contractor in Alaska.  When he and his wife opened their dude ranch in the early 1950’s, they served the dressing to guests and it became a hit.  They began selling kits to guests to take home and make their own dressing (just add buttermilk).  The Hensons managed to build a small empire on their dressing, eventually selling their company to Clorox in the early 1970’s (the company still owns the brand).

Thousand Island Dressing has a slightly more murky history.  One story is that Oscar (Oscar of the Waldorf) Tschirky introduced the dressing to patrons of the Waldorf Hotel in New York via his boss, George Boldt, who was served the dressing while on a boat tour in the Thousand Islands in upstate New York.  It was said the chef on board basically threw together a salad dressing with whatever he had on hand, and it became a hit.  Another story, probably the more likely one, is that Sophia LaLonde, the wife of the fishing guide at the Herald House on the Thousand Islands, came up with the recipe in or around 1911 to serve at the hotel and shore dinners there.  The Broadway actress May Irwin enjoyed the dressing so much she asked for the recipe.  Mrs. LaLonde obliged, and Ms. Irwin took it back to New York and gave the recipe to Mr. Boldt so the kitchen could prepare it for her.  Once the Waldorf began offering the dressing to its patrons, the dressing became popular throughout the country.  The Holiday House Hotel in the Thousand Islands still sells the original recipe dressing at the hotel and online.

Blue Cheese Dressing has a very murky origin story.  It has been suggested that it originated in France, but that’s highly unlikely.  The French prefer lighter vinaigrette-style dressing on their salad; it’s doubtful that putting cheese in their salads would even occur to the French.  Blue cheese has been in America since at least the Revolution where that well-noted Francophile, Thomas Jefferson, enjoyed it at his dinner table.  The first recorded evidence of Blue Cheese Dressing as we’ve come to know it (Then known as Roquefort Dressing) was in Edgewater Hotel Salad Book in 1928.  An earlier version of the dressing appears in the Fannie Farmer’s 1918 Cookbook.  By the 1930’s the dressing had spread in popularity not only through Fannie Farmer, but also through Irma Rombauer’s ubiquitous book, The Joy of Cooking.

(some historical information from wikipedia.org, justserved.onthetable.us, thousandislandslife.com)

A few notes:

1.  All three of these recipes can easily be made vegan.

For the Ranch:  Omit the sour cream; substitute vegan mayonnaise and plain soy milk.

For the Blue Cheese:  Omit the sour cream and cheese; substitute vegan mayonnaise and plain soy milk; use crumbled hard

tofu to get the texture of the cheese; add tahini and apple cider vinegar (start with just a small

amount and add to taste).  If you have some nutritional yeast, you can also use that for additional cheesy flavor.

For the Thousand Island:  Substitute the mayonnaise for vegan mayonnaise.

2.  If you can find it (and it’s getting easier to), use “country style” buttermilk.  The flavor and thickness make so much difference in the finished dressing.

3.  If you must use dried herbs in the Ranch Dressing, use 1/2 the amount of the fresh in the recipe.  The dressing will need to  sit for an hour for the herbs to infuse their flavor.

4.  For the Blue Cheese Dressing, I used Amish Blue.  I have used gorgonzola, roquefort, and Stilton in the past.  Extravagant, but delicious.   You can use any type of blue cheese you like – as your cheese department and budget will allow.

5.  For the Thousand Island, I usually add more than 1 teaspoon of horseradish depending on what I’ll use it for (i.e. Reubens). So, adjust according to your taste.

6.  You can substitute low-fat yogurt for some or all of the sour cream.  If you must.

7.  All of these dressings will last up to a week.  If they begin to separate, just give them a stir.  The Blue Cheese Dressing, will, however, thin out considerably as it sits.  Just add more mayonnaise and sour cream to thicken.

Now, I will say, these are my versions of these dressings (and, no doubt, many others have made these same adjustments).  You can certainly add, subtract, and/or change ingredients.  For example, the original Thousand Island Dressing uses finely chopped egg in the recipe; I don’t. The original Ranch Dressing is made with buttermilk only; I’ve added mayonnaise.  I’ve added lemon juice to the Blue Cheese Dressing. I, like many, have also added bacon from time to time (it’s excellent on burgers when you feel like indulging).

Sometimes, I like to go all ’70’s and use an Iceberg wedge when I serve any of these dressings.  A dear, late friend of mine, Chef Roger Mollett, used to say, “Iceberg is the polyester of lettuce”.  He’s right, you know.

Uniquely American. From top clockwise: Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Ranch

Uniquely American. From top clockwise: Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Ranch

 

All of these dressings are made the same way:

1.  Add the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

2.  Let sit for at least an hour, taste and adjust for seasoning.

3. Serve with salad or other food of your choice.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Salt, Pepper, Garlic

Salt, Pepper, Garlic

Ranch Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. sour cream

1/4 c. buttermilk

1 clove garlic, very finely minced

1 tbsp. chives or scallion tops, very thinly sliced

If you don't have chives, thinly sliced scallion tops work as well.

If you don’t have chives, thinly sliced scallion tops work as well.

2 tbsp. dill, finely minced

Fresh dill is what really makes this dressing so delicious.

Fresh dill is what really makes this dressing so delicious.

1/4 c. parsley, finely minced

You can use either curly or flat-leaf parsley.

You can use either curly or flat-leaf parsley.

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Everything in the bowl.

Everything in the bowl.

Mixing. The buttermilk will be stubborn and not want to incorporate at first. But, trust me, it all comes together.

Mixing. The buttermilk will be stubborn and not want to incorporate at first. But, trust me, it all comes together.

Not pretty. But it's damn indulgent.

Not pretty. But it’s damn indulgent.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. sour cream

1 1/2 c. blue cheese, crumbled

I used Amish Blue for this example. You can use any blue cheese you like.

I used Amish Blue for this example. You can use any blue cheese you like.

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. black pepper

Buttermilk, as needed

Mixing in the blue cheese. It's a lot. If you have to cruble your blue cheese (as opposed to buying it already crumbled), leave the pieces different sizes.  It makes for a more interesting texture.

Mixing in the blue cheese. It’s a lot.
If you have to crumble your blue cheese (as opposed to buying it already crumbled), leave the pieces different sizes. It makes for a more interesting texture.

Mixing in the pepper and lemon juice.

Mixing in the pepper and lemon juice.

My favorite.

My favorite.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

Thousand Island Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. ketchup

1 tbsp. onion, very finely minced

1 1/2 tbsp. sweet relish

1 1/2 tbsp. dill relish

1 tsp. horseradish

From top right, clockwise:

From top right, clockwise: minced onion (I had some scallion, so I used that), dill relish, sweet relish, horseradish, pepper, salt

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt & Pepper to taste

Mixing

Mixing

Sweet-tart goodness

Sweet-tart goodness

The best way to test a dressing – any dressing – is to use some of the greens you’ll be serving it with to better gauge the flavors and how they taste together.

Testing the Thousand Island Dressing.

Testing the Thousand Island Dressing.

Plus, as well know, when you’re adjusting recipes standing up in the kitchen, the calories don’t count. Plus, hey, it’s lettuce.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Fattoush فتوش 1

Posted on June 24, 2014 by Sahar

Fattoush is another one of those Middle Eastern salads can be as simple or as complex as you like.  It is ubiquitous throughout the region, including Turkey.  While it can contain different ingredients, the base is always stale toasted or fried bread.

The word Fattoush comes from a mix of Arabic (fatt فت – meaning “broken”) and Turkish (ush).

The chief ingredients are generally tomatoes, cucumber, onions, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon.  Other ingredients can be radishes, lettuce, cabbage, bell peppers, pickled chiles, olives, sumac, garlic, and pomegranate syrup.

 

A few notes:

1.  While I have given some measurements here, there are no hard and fast rules other than the bread.

2.  English (hothouse) or Persian cucumbers are preferable.  They have less water, fewer seeds, and don’t need to be peeled.  If you need to use the more familiar salad cucumber, then you will need to peel it (the skin is tough and usually waxed) and scoop out the seeds.

3.  If you use large tomatoes, be sure to seed them.  If you use cherry tomatoes, don’t bother with seeding.  Just cut them in half.

4.  Curly parsley is more traditional.  However, flat leaf (Italian) is fine.

5.  If you use garlic, use less than you think you need.  Raw garlic is powerful stuff and can easily take over the rest of the salad.

6.  You don’t need to cut the vegetables fine.  They can simply be chopped.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

2 loaves pita bread, preferably day-old

1 cucumber, preferably hothouse (English) -or- 2-3 Persian cucumbers, cut into large dice or sliced roughly 1/4″ thick

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped -or- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste

1/4 – 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Prepare the bread: If you are toasting the bread, preheat the oven to 450F.  Split the loaves around the outside edge.

Splitting the bread. A serrated knife is especially helpful with this task.

Splitting the bread. A serrated knife is especially helpful with this task.

Don’t worry if the loaves aren’t split cleanly.  You’ll be breaking them up after they’ve been toasted.

The split loaves. if they;re not perfext, don't worry. They're going to get broken up anyway.

The split loaves. if they’re not perfect, don’t worry. They’re going to get broken up anyway.

Place the split bread directly on the oven rack and let toast until it is a golden brown.  Try not to let the bread get too dark or will add a bitter flavor to the finished salad.  It should take about 2 – 3 minutes for the bread to toast.

The toasted bread. Once it's cooled, break it up into bite-sized pieces.

The toasted bread. Once it’s cooled, break it up into bite-sized pieces.

Let the bread cool and then break it up into bite-sized pieces.  I generally like to accomplish this by putting the bread into a large zip bag and breaking it up. No mess and the bag can be re-used.

If you decide to fry the bread, heat your oil to 375F.  A mix of vegetable and olive oil works well for the flavor. (use pure olive oil, not extra virgin.) Cut the bread into bite-sized pieces and separate them.  Fry the bread in batches until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

2.  Place all of the prepared vegetables in a large bowl.  Add the bread and toss.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss again.  Taste for seasoning.

The vegetables ready for the bread and seasonings.

The vegetables ready for the bread and seasonings.

Let the salad sit for about 15 minutes, then serve.

Sahtein!

Sahtein!

 

The salad will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator, but it’s really best the day it’s made.

 

سحتين!

 

Caesar Salad 0

Posted on June 16, 2014 by Sahar

The classic Caesar Salad can make a diner recall the days of martini lunches, 2-inch steaks, paneled dining rooms, and the Rat Pack.  In short, it’s an American classic.

An American classic that originated in Tijuana, Mexico.

Legend has it that Caesar Cardini, a restauranteur in San Diego, invented the salad in 1924.  He also operated a restaurant in Tijuana to circumvent Prohibition.  According to his daughter, the Caesar Salad was invented out of sheer necessity when the kitchen supplies were depleted.

After a rush on the restaurant one July evening,  Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the tableside preparation by the chef.  And thousands of tableside performances were born.

So, now you know. It has nothing to do with Julius Caesar (other than the fact that both he and Caesar Cardini were both Italian – technically). And, when my sisters and & I were kids, our dad try to convince us that it was invented by Caesar Romero. (You know, the Joker in the 1960’s “Batman” series.)

*******************

A few notes:

1.  I (and many others) use anchovies in the dressing.  The original recipe didn’t use them; the anchovy flavor came from Worchestershire sauce.  If you would prefer to leave them out, go ahead.

2. To make this dressing vegetarian/vegan, omit the egg, anchovies, and Worchestershire Sauce and use vegan mayonnaise and vegetarian Worchestershire Sauce.

3.  If you find the addition of all extra virgin olive oil too strong, you can cut it with half pure olive oil or an unflavored oil like vegetable or grapeseed.

4.  Since this recipe does use raw egg yolks, it is best not to serve this to anyone who might have a compromised immune system. Healthy adults should be fine  – especially if the eggs are fresh.  However, if you are concerned about using raw eggs, substitute the mayonnaise.

5.  Croutons are essential in this recipe.  You can buy them, but they are easy to make.  I’ve included instructions.

6.  When you grate the cheese, don’t use a Microplane; the cheese will be too fine.  Either do shavings of cheese with a vegetable peeler or a larger grater.

7.  The most common proteins served with Caesar Salad are grilled chicken or shrimp.  However, this does go with almost anything. Or, alone.

 

The Crouton Ingredients

The Crouton Ingredients

The seasonings I used:

The crouton seasonings I used: (clockwise from top: Italian Seasoning; Kosher Salt; Cayenne Pepper; ground Black Pepper)

The Caesar Salad Ingredients

The Caesar Salad Ingredients

Clockwise from top: Dijon Mustard; Worchestershire Sauce; Black Pepper, Red Wine Vinegar

Clockwise from top: Dijon Mustard; Worchestershire Sauce; Black Pepper, Red Wine Vinegar

 

2 heads Romaine Lettuce, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

 

Croutons:

4 c. day-old bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/4 c. olive oil (you can use either extra virgin or pure)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

up to 2 tsp. additional seasoning, if desired

 

Dressing:

3 cloves garlic

6 ea. anchovy filets

2 egg yolks  -or- 1/4 c. mayonnaise

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. Worchestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

Pinch salt

1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Grated Parmesan, Grana Padana, or Romano cheese

 

1.  Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 250F.  Line a large baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with pan spray or line with parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the oil, salt & pepper, and whatever other seasonings you like.  Spread the cubes out in an even layer on the baking sheet and place in the oven.

Croutons ready for the oven.

Croutons ready for the oven.

2.  Bake them for one hour, or until they are dried and crispy.  Set aside and let cool.

The finished croutons. Easy, right?

The finished croutons. Easy, right?

3.  Meanwhile, make the dressing: Have a blender or food processor running.  Drop in the garlic and anchovies and let them chop.  Turn off the blender or processor and add all of the other ingredients, except the oil.  Blend or process until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Everything except the oil

Everything except the oil.

4.  With the processor or blender running, slowly add the oil.  (You don’t want to add it too fast or it won’t incorporate and your dressing will separate.)

Adding the oil. Be sure to do this in a slow, steady stream.

Adding the oil. Be sure to do this in a slow, steady stream.

When you’re done processing/blending the dressing, taste it for seasoning.  It will be thick.

The finished dressing.

The finished dressing.

5.  Place a couple of big handfuls of the lettuce in a large bowl.  Drizzle over about a tablespoon or two of the dressing and toss until the leaves are lightly coated. (You don’t want the leaves soggy, just lightly coated.)  Place the lettuce on a plate and add some of the cheese and croutons on top.  Some people also like to sprinkle on some additional black pepper as well.  Have a bowl of the dressing on the side in case anyone wants more.

Buen Apetito!

Buen Apetito!

The dressing will last 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator if you use eggs and up to 1 week if you use mayonnaise.  The croutons will keep a week in an airtight container.

 

Tabouleh تبولة 1

Posted on June 06, 2014 by Sahar

Tabouleh (or Tabooly, Tabouley, Tabouly, Tabboole, Tabbouleh) is one of those ubiquitous Arabic dishes that has entered the Western diet along with Shish Kebabs, Baba Ghannouj, Hummous, and pita bread.  Few people really give any of these dishes much thought about where they originated, but what they do know is with the ever-popular Mediterranean Diet, these dishes have become almost de rigeur to the Western palate.

Tabouley did originate in the Middle East, namely Syria, and has been eaten since at least the Middle Ages (and quite likely further back than that).  The word tabouleh comes from the Arabic word taabil (توابل) meaning “seasoning”.  There are, of course, regional variations.  In  Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, it is usually served as part of a meze (appetizer), with romaine lettuce. In Lebanon, cooks use more parsley than bulgur wheat in their dish. A Turkish variation of the dish is known as kısır, while a similar Armenian dish is known as eetch.

(some information from www.wikipedia.org)

********************

There are no real hard-and-fast rules to making tabouleh.  Every region, every household, has its own version.  The most common ingredients are:

Bulghur Wheat

Tomatoes

Cucumber

Parsley

Mint

Onion (yellow or green)

Lemon Juice

Olive Oil

 

Some of the variations include:

radishes

lettuce

couscous

garlic

oregano

thyme (za’atar)

 

I’ve also seen recipes that include:

olives

corn

cilantro

bell peppers

vinegar

 

For me, I like to stick to the classic preparation, with the inclusion of garlic.

The ingredients

The ingredients

So, in my tabouleh, I have (from l-r)

Mint, minced

Parsley, minced

Green Onions, sliced very thin

Cucumber, diced

Lemon juice, to taste

Tomatoes, seeded and diced

Garlic, minced

Olive Oil

Burghul Wheat, rinsed, soaked and drained

Salt to taste

 

A few notes on the ingredients:

1.  If you use cucumber, use either English (hothouse) or Persian cucumbers.  They have a lower water content and fewer seeds.  Plus, they don’t need peeling.  However, if you must use the standard cucumber, you will need to peel them (the skin is tough and usually waxed) and scoop out the seeds.  I cut mine into a roughly 1/4-inch dice.

2.  Tomatoes will need to be seeded and diced.  Unless you’re using cherry tomatoes.  Just cut them in halves and don’t worry about seeding them.

3.  The traditional parsley used in tabouleh (or any Arabic dish, for that matter) is curly.  However, if you have flat-leaf (Italian), that’s fine.  I happened to already have some on hand, so that’s what I used here.

4.  If you use green onions (scallions), use both the green and white parts.  If you use yellow onion, use a fine mince.  Don’t use red onion – the color will leach out.

5.  If you use garlic, make sure it is finely minced.  And, remember, raw garlic is powerful stuff.  Begin by using less than you think you should use.  Once the salad is finished, taste.  You want the garlic to compliment, not overpower.  Remember, you can always add, but you can’t take away.

The same can be said for any of the seasonings.

 

I don’t include any measurements in this recipe because, like I said before, there are no true hard-and-fast rules.

That being said, The ratio I prefer of bulgur-to-vegetables is about 1 cup (soaked) bulghur to 2 cups vegetables.

 

As for the bulghur, I like to use is a medium-coarse grind.  I prefer the chewiness of it, which is especially nice after the tabouleh has been sitting for a while, like overnight.

Bulgher Wheat. Medium coarse.

Bulgher Wheat.  It’s basically wheat that has been parboiled, dried, then cracked. It’s also known as “cracked wheat”.

There are four different grinds of bulghur:

#1: very fine – usually used in kibbeh

#2: fine – usually used in stuffings and tabouleh

#3: medium coarse – can be used in tabouleh, but is also used in soups and pilafs

#4: very coarse – usually used in pilafs, stews, and as a rice substitute

 

You will need to wash and soak the bulghur before adding it to the vegetables.  There is a lot of dust left on the bulghur during the manufacturing and packaging.  The best way to accomplish this is to place the bulghur in a fine sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth) and run it under cold water until the water runs clear.

Rinsing the bulgur.

Rinsing the bulgur.

Once you have rinsed it, transfer the bulghur to a large bowl and cover with water (about 1″ above the surface of the wheat).  Let the bulghur sit for at least 20 minutes (depending on the grind) or until it is al dente.  The wheat will increase in volume by 50% – 100%, again, depending on the grind.

Soaking the wheat.

Soaking the wheat.

While the wheat is soaking, prepare the vegetables & herbs and place them in a bowl large enough for you to mix in when all the ingredients are ready.

The vegetables and herbs ready to go.

The vegetables and herbs ready to go.

When the wheat is ready (taste some to be sure it’s to your liking), drain it thoroughly in a fine sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth.  There shouldn’t be too much water left.  If there is very little water, you can simply squeeze the bulgher in your hands and add it to the vegetables.

The soaked bulghur.  It's hard to see in this photo, but there is a real difference in the volume.

The soaked bulghur. It’s hard to see in this photo, but there is a real difference in the volume. (Compare to the one above.)

Adding the bulghur to the vegetables and herbs.

Adding the bulghur to the vegetables and herbs.

Now, carefully mix together all of the ingredients until they are fully incorporated.  Add the olive oil, lemon, and salt to taste.  Mix again.  Taste again.  If you can, let the tabouleh sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Sahtein! سحتين

Sahtein! سحتين

The real beauty of this dish is it can be served with anything or alone.  It can be served cold or at room temperature.  And, anyone can eat it – omnivore and vegan alike.

It will keep in the refrigerator for 3- 4 days.

 

 

 

 

My Arabic Breakfast فطوري العربية 3

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Sahar

One of the great things about having a parent, or parents, who were born and/or grew up in another country is getting to learn and experience mores, manners, customs, and, yes, food that are different than what you might experience daily in the wider world.

My sisters and I grew up with just such a parent.  Our father is Palestinian.  He’s originally from a town called Nablus.  When he was born, it was a part of  western Jordan. Now it is in the Occupied West Bank under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.  Dad came to the US in 1960 to go to college.  Eventually, he met and married our mom, graduated from college with an engineering degree, co-raised three girls without losing his mind, worked for the same company for 40 years, and happily retired.

Along the way, Dad did impart in us some of his old-world wisdom.  Or, at least tried to.  And while we didn’t always appreciate the lessons he tried to teach – especially Arabic, which I’m still struggling to learn – we always appreciated the food.

And while my sisters and I certainly ate with glee the kibbeh, sayadieh (fish with rice), mjudarah (lentils and rice), mishi waraq (stuffed grape leaves), and knaffeh (sweet  shredded phyllo dough with cheese) our parents made (Mom and Dad each have their specialties), we especially enjoyed breakfast with unrestrained glee.

Breakfast at my aunt's home in Jordan

Breakfast at my aunt’s home in Jordan

Breakfast in the Middle East isn’t necessarily a rushed thing.  Well, it isn’t unless one has to rush off to work or school. Breakfast usually starts about 8 or 9 with a nice long chat over coffee.  Then, the food comes out.  It can be as simple as some jam, bread, and cheese on up to dips, za’atar (spice mix made with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt), fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, pickles, eggs, and occasionally leftovers from the night before.

Unlike in the West, coffee isn’t drunk at breakfast.  It’s used as an aperitif, digestive, at social gatherings, and with the desserts the Middle East is so famous for.  Juice, water, or hot sweet tea is drunk at breakfast.

Just to make you hungrier, here’s a picture of my family at the restaurant my cousin Salam owns with her husband. Tarweea. It serves breakfast 24 hours a day.  And it’s amazing.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

So, welcome to my version of Arabic Breakfast.

***************************************************************************************************************************

The recipes I’m showing you are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.  Like anywhere else, there are regional variations for each dish.  That being said, I’m going to show you the way I grew up eating these dishes and the recipes I learned Palestinian style.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

I will be making several recipes in this post:  Ful Mudammas (Fava Bean Dip), Baba Ghannouj (Eggplant Dip), Tomatoes and Garlic Poached in Olive Oil (not sure if this is authentic, but my dad makes it on occasion), and Hummous (which I’ve already made for you, http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?cat=63).

Hummous. Mmm... Click on the above link to get the recipe.

Hummous. Mmm…
Click on the above link to get the recipe.

The additions will be some lovely olives and turnip pickles:

olives, pickles, cucumber

Clockwise from top: Persian cucumbers, turnip pickles (the red color comes from a beet put into the brine), Moroccan Oil Cured Olives, Lebanese Green Olives

Plates of olive oil and za’atar.

Olive Oil and Za'atar

Olive Oil and Za’atar

Bread is dipped in the olive oil and then the za’atar.  It has a wonderful savory-slightly tart flavor.  Some people will also make a paste of the two, spread it on bread and toast the bread until the top is nice and bubbly.  It’s divine.

We also have some lebneh.  It is essentially yogurt cheese.  A lovely, delightfully slightly sour treat. Try it spread on bread with some tomato. Oh. Yeah.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Some farmers cheese is always essential on the table.  Jebne Nabulsi (Nablus Cheese) is our cheese of choice.  Farmers cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes.  For sweet dishes, it’s usually boiled to remove the salt.  The cheese we get in the US is always packed in brine. If you’re able to buy it in Jordan, it’s much fresher. The difference is striking.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it's not too salty and cooks well.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it’s not too salty and cooks well.

 

The first recipe I’ll show you is for Ful (pronounced “fool”) Mudammas (فول مدمس).  It’s a breakfast dish made with fava beans. It’s a dish that’s been traced back to ancient Egypt and is still a very popular breakfast choice throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Now, I use the canned ones.   However, if you want to use fresh or used soaked dry beans, it’s up to you.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

1 can fava beans, drained, liquid reserved

1/4 c. onion, finely minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 – 4 (depending on size and heat level) tabasco or pepperoncini peppers, minced

1/4 c. parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon to taste

Olive oil

additional minced parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the fava beans, onion, garlic, peppers,  about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the beans, and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Beans in the pot.

Beans in the pot.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers waiting to make me happy.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers ready to make magic.

Heat the mixture slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook about 20 minutes.  Add more liquid if the beans become too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

2.  Once the mixture is cooked, taste it for seasoning and some lemon to taste.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and mash the beans, leaving some texture.  In other words, don’t make them a smooth mash.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don't make too smooth a mix.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don’t make too smooth a mix.

3.  Place the ful on a plate, drizzle over some olive oil and additional parsley.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn't it.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn’t it.

 

*********************

The next dish I’m going to show you is Baba Ghannouj (بابا غنوج.). It’s a smooth dip made with eggplant.  It can be served as a mezze, a salad, or a side dish.  It is sometimes served with sliced or finely diced vegetables on top.  Some will use parsley or mint.  In some parts of the Arab world, particularly Syria, pomegranate seeds or syrup are used as well.

Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled over an open flame until it’s soft and charred.  However, I’ve found the oven is an excellent alternative cooking source.

When buying eggplant, look for ones with a smooth unblemished skin and no soft spots.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 eggplant

3 cl. garlic

1/4 c. tahineh, more if needed

Salt and lemon juice to taste

Olive oil for garnish

Pomegranate seeds or syrup for garnish, optional

Parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  Prep the eggplant.  Heat your oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom and spread to cover.

Take the eggplant, cut off the top, then cut in half lengthwise.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white.  And not too seedy.  A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white. and firm. And not too seedy. A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

Place the eggplant cut side down on the baking sheet.  Drizzle to top with a little more oil and put in the oven.  Bake the eggplant until it’s soft, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

2.  Meanwhile, if you are using pomegranate seeds, time to get the seeds out.

Hello.

Hello.

When buying a pomegranate, make sure there are no soft pots, the skin is smooth and free of blemishes, and be sure to check for pinholes in the skin.  That’s a sign of infestation or spoilage.  If you open a pomegranate and any of the seeds are brown or dried out, discard them.

Cut around the equator of the pomegranate just until you break through the skin.  Don’t cut all the way through or you’ll lose some seeds.

Pull the halves until they separate.  This takes a little doing, but it will happen.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

I suggest wearing gloves for this next part. It is now time to separate the seeds from the membrane.  It’s really not difficult.  Just time consuming.  if you can remove the seeds in clusters, all the better.  The trick is to break as few seeds as possible and not include any of the membrane (edible, but very bitter).

Removing the seeds from the membrane.  Not difficult, but time consuming.

Removing the seeds from the membrane. Not difficult, but time consuming.

The remains.

The remains.

You will be rewarded for your hard work.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

3.  Check the eggplant.  Give it a quick poke with your finger or a fork.  If it feels soft, it’s ready to come out of the oven.  Take the eggplant halves off the baking sheet and set aside until cool enough to handle.

The baked eggplant.  You want the char.  It adds a smky flavor to the final dish.  However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

The baked eggplant. You want the char. It adds a smoky flavor to the final dish. However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

4.  when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin and discard.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Place the peeled eggplant in a small bowl or dish.  Set aside.

5.  With a food processor running, drop the garlic cloves down through the feed tube and chop them.

The chopped garlic.

The chopped garlic.

Add the eggplant, tahineh, and a little salt.

Ready to mix.

Ready to mix.

Puree the ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Add a little lemon juice through the feed tube while the machine is running.  When the lemon is mixed in, taste the baba ghannouj for seasoning.

6.  Place the baba ghannouj into a bowl and garish with a little olive oil, some parsley, and a few of the pomegranate seeds.

This is delicious. And I don't like eggplant.

This is delicious. And I don’t like eggplant.

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As for the Poached Tomatoes and Garlic, I really don’t know if it’s an authentic part of the meal.  However, I remember my dad making this dish from time to time, so I do, too.  My husband and I  like this dish, so I make it for that reason as well.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

4 large tomatoes, quartered, core (blossom end) cut out, and seeded

10 – 12 cloves garlic, smashed

3/4 c. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

 

1.  Place all the ingredients in a large skillet or shallow saucepan over low heat.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

2.  While the ingredients cook, you can mash them a bit if you like. Just cook until the tomatoes have completely broken down, about 30 minutes.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

All done.  Yes, it's a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

All done. Yes, it’s a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

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Fried Nabulsi Cheese

1.  Take a few pieces of the Nabulsi cheese and cut them into smaller pieces (I usually cut them in half crosswise and then again lengthwise).  Place them in a bowl and rinse with water several times until it runs clear.  Let the cheese soak in the water to remove some of the salt.

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand,

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand.

Soaking the cheese

Soaking the cheese

Before you get ready to fry the cheese, take it out of the water and drain on paper towels.

2.  In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter starts to foam, place a few pieces of the cheese in the skillet to cook.  Cook until each side is golden brown.

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Drain the cooked cheese on paper towels and eat while still warm.  It doesn’t really keep once it’s cold.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

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Of course, the one indispensable ingredient for the whole meal. Bread. Khubuz خبز

 

The bread.  The most indespensible ingredient of all.

The bread. The most indispensable ingredient of all.

And, here is the final table.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry-Honey Jam 2

Posted on August 08, 2013 by Sahar

As we are now officially in the dog days of summer, it’s a good time to stay inside and bottle up some of the more pleasant summer memories of summer by making some more jam.

And there are few better memories than (seasonal) blueberries.  While, admittedly, they are not my favorite berry eaten out-of-hand, once blueberries have been cooked, they are a lovely thing.

Wild blueberries are grown as far as ideal conditions will let them; even as far north as human habitation (think northern Canada). Botanists and culinary historians believe that the indigenous peoples of America used wild blueberries for a number of foodstuffs: eating out of hand; drying them in the sun for preservation and use in pemmican (a form of dried meat), cakes, and puddings.  The dried berries were also ground for use in soups.

The blueberry that most of us know today were first commercially cultivated in the early 20th century.  They’re a variety called “highbush”, meaning that they are grown on bushes and small trees as opposed to in boggy soil of the lowbush blueberries.  Highbush berries are also larger than the lowbush varieties. Most  commercial cultivation of highbush blueberries comes from  British Columbia, Maryland, Western Oregon, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Washington.  Lowbush blueberries are a native fruit crop to Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Maine.

Blueberries are in the same genus as cranberries.  The Genus Vaccinium.  Blueberries are also related to lingonberries and huckleberries.  All of these fruits are grown in acidic soil and can have a wide variation in acidity both in pH and in taste.  One thing they all have in common is they are all very high in natural pectin.

(Some information from wikipedia.org and The Oxford Companion to Food, Davidson, 1999).

As I stated above, the indigenous peoples of America have used blueberries for millennia before settlers were introduced to them.  Now, thanks to importation and cultivation, blueberries are grown and eaten all over the world.  They are especially prized in France for use in pastries.

And, of course, for jam.  Yummy, yummy jam.

Now, on to the recipe.

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A few notes:

1.  You can use frozen blueberries in a pinch for this recipe.  I like to use blueberries in season – which, in Texas, would mean May – September – but, I have used frozen in the past and they work fine.

2.  Always buy extra blueberries.  This will make up for any that are bad, not ripe, or what you eat.

3.  If you would like to make this a totally sugar-free recipe, sugar-free honey is available at some grocery and health-food stores.  You can also use maple syrup if you’d rather go that route.  I don’t use artificial sweeteners, Stevia, or Splenda in my jams, so don’t ask about substitutions. Or, you could just omit the sweet component altogether. However, this will affect the set-up of the finished jam.

4.  Don’t forget the lemon juice.  It adds the acidity needed to activate the pectin in the blueberries.

5.  Don’t use too dark a honey (i.e. cotton or buckwheat).  The flavor will overpower the blueberries.  You want them to compliment, not compete.

6.  The set of this jam will also depend on how long you cook it.  The longer you cook, the more solid the set.  However, it won’t set up as stiffly as a jam made with commercial pectin.

7.  For the complete hows and whys of canning, please see my post from August 10, 2012, “Classic Strawberry Jam” (http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=756).

 

The Ingredients.

The Ingredients.

Beautiful blueberries.

Beautiful blueberries.

 

6 pt. blueberries (12 c./approx. 4 1/2 – 5 lbs)

-or-

8 ea. 10-oz bags frozen blueberries, thawed, juices saved (5 lbs.)

1 c. honey (I like to use wildflower or clover honey)

2 tbsp. lemon juice

 

1.  Wash and pick through the blueberries.  Discard or compost any that are spoiled or underripe.  If you are using frozen berries, place them into a large colander set over a large bowl and allow to thaw.  Be sure to save any juices that accumulate in the bowl.

I ate these.

I ate these.

2.  Combine the berries, honey, and lemon juice in a 4-quart saucepan. (If using frozen thawed berries, add the juice as well.) Stir to combine.  If you want to crush the berries with a potato masher to release some of the juices from the berries, go ahead.  It’s not necessary, however.  The berries will break down as they cook.

Blueberries, honey, and lemon juice in the pot and ready to go.

Blueberries, honey, and lemon juice in the pot and ready to go.

3.  Cover the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir frequently.

4.  Once the mixture has come to a boil, uncover the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low and boil the mixture for about 1 hour or until the jam looks thick and glossy.  Again, stir frequently.

The berries beginning to cook and break down.

The berries beginning to cook and break down.

Boiling the berries.  If you like, you can put a thermometer in the jam.  220F is the temperature where jelling happens. However, be patient. This takes time.

Boiling the berries. If you like, you can put a thermometer in the jam. 220F is the temperature where jelling happens. However, be patient. This takes time.

Another way to test the thickness of the jam.  Place a small bit of the jam on a frozen plate (or, in my case, an ice mug), run your finger through it, and see if it runs. Once it gets to the thickness you like, it's done.

Another way to test the thickness of the jam. Place a small bit of the jam on a frozen plate (or, in my case, an ice mug), run your finger through it, and see if it runs. Once it gets to the thickness you like, it’s done.

The jam ready to be jarred.

The jam ready to be jarred.

5.  Once the jam is ready, ladle it into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Be sure to wipe off the rim of the jar, otherwise the jars may not seal properly. Place the lids on top and finger-tighten the rims. Process the jars for 10 minutes in boiling water. (Begin timing after the water comes to a boil.)

6. Take the jars out of the water and set them on racks to cool.  Once the jars have sealed (you’ll hear a “ping” noise, the lid will be concave, and, if you pick up the jar by its lid, it won’t come off), tighten the rims.  Let the jars sit until they are cool.

Nice.

Beautiful, delicious, blue-purple  blueberry jam.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 



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