Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



Sayadieh الصيادية 1

Posted on September 25, 2015 by Sahar

Sayadieh (الصيادية), or Fish with Rice, was a staple meal for my sisters & me as we were growing up.  It’s a wonderful and simple amalgam of white fish, rice, onion, saffron, and lemon that we would eat until we were in food coma.  Two of my aunts ( عمـاتـي), Ahlam and Layla, considered to be the best cooks in the family, make sublime Sayadieh.  However, the best I have ever eaten is from my mom. I still don’t know what she does, but Mom’s Sayadieh is, and I’m not exaggerating, ethereal.

I’m not sure what the origin of this dish is, but it does figure prominently in Lebanese cuisine. Like any other regional dish, it has its variations – with caramelized onions, with a spice blend (or, specific individual spices), pine nuts, almonds, lemon… The list goes on.  The two must-have ingredients, however, are, of course, fish and rice.  The fish is always a firm-fleshed white fish (i.e. tilapia, haddock, cod) and the rice is always long-grain white.  Some recipes have the fish cooked separately from the rice while others have them cooked together.

This is very close to the recipe I grew up with.  The fish is marinated in lemon, lightly breaded, browned, and then cooked with the rice.  The dish is usually served with a tahineh-radish sauce (recipe follows).

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Clockwise from top right:

Clockwise from top right: cumin, olive oil, salt, saffron, pepper, pine nuts

 

1 lb. white fish

1/4 c. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

flour

2 c. chicken broth or water

1 c. clam juice, fish stock, or water

1/2 tsp. saffron (opt.)

1/4 c. olive oil

1 med. onion, diced

1 1/2 c. rice

1/2 tsp. cumin

Salt & pepper to taste

3/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, lightly toasted

 

 

On a large plate or in a large bowl, carefully toss the fish with the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.  Let the fish marinate for at least 1/2 hour, tossing if needed to make sure the pieces are evenly marinating.

My personal preference is for Tilapia. Not pretty, but it works.

Marinating the fish. My personal preference is for Tilapia. Not pretty, but it tastes good, it’s cheap, and it works.

Meanwhile, if you are using saffron, heat the stocks or water in a separate small saucepan with the saffron.  As soon as it comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside. If you aren’t using saffron, you can skip this step. (But, it doesn’t hurt to have the liquid hot or at least warm before you add it for the final cooking.)

By heating up the saffron with the liquid, it helps to release the flavor and color of the saffron.

Heating up the saffron with the liquid helps to release its flavor and color.

Remove the fish from the lemon juice and lightly dredge it in the flour, carefully shaking off any excess.  Save the lemon juice.

Don't have too heavy a coating if flour on the fish.

Don’t have too heavy a coating if flour on the fish. I did shake these off a little more.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the fish in the oil and let brown. (You may need to do this in batches.)  You don’t need to let the fish cook all the way through, just enough for the flour to brown.  Take care not to try to turn the fish too soon or the coating will stick to the bottom; the fish will let you know when it’s ready to turn.

Browning the fish. The flour coating helps to hold the fish together during cooking.

Browning the fish. The flour coating helps to hold the fish together during cooking.

If there is any burned flour, take the saucepan off the heat and carefully wipe it out with a thick layer of paper towels.

When each batch of fish is done, take it out of the saucepan and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the saucepan, turn the heat up to medium-high, and add the onions.  Saute the onions for 5 – 7 minutes, or until they begin to soften and become translucent.

Sautéing the onions. Be sure to stir frequently.

Sautéing the onions. Be sure to stir frequently.

Add the rice and saute another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the rice. Cooking the rice like this will help it start cooking and soak up some of the favors of the onions and oil plus any other spices you add.

Adding the rice. Cooking the rice like this will help it start cooking and soak up some of the favors of the onions and oil plus any other spices you add.

Add the cumin, salt, and pepper.  Saute another 2 – 3 minutes. (You want to be careful how much salt you add, especially if you are using commercially made stock – those are loaded with salt.)

Again, be sure to stir frequently so the spices don't burn and that the rice and onions are evenly coated.

Again, be sure to stir frequently so the spices don’t burn and that the rice and onions are evenly coated.

Spread the onion-rice mixture into a fairly even layer on the bottom of the saucepan.  Lay the fish on top.

Ready for the liquid.

Ready for the liquid.

Carefully pour over the stock or water and reserved lemon juice (from the marinating).  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover the saucepan.

Ready to cook.

Ready to cook.

Let the Sayadieh cook for 25 – 30 minutes, or until all the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.  (Occasionally, some of the rice at the very top will be undercooked.  If this happens, quickly pour another 1/4 cup broth or water over the top and quickly put the lid back on.  Let the rice cook for another 5 minutes and it should be cooked through.)

Sprinkle with the browned pine nuts or almonds and serve with the Tahineh-Radish Sauce.

 

Tahineh-Radish Sauce

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

For my money, this is one of the best brands of tahini you can buy. Tarazi is another good brand. Avoid Krinos, though. Yuk.

For the money, this is one of the best brands you can buy. Tarazi is an excellent brand, too. Avoid Krinos, though. Yuk.

 

1 c. tahineh (make sure it is thoroughly mixed; it will separate in the jar)

1 bunch radishes, washed and trimmed

1 c. chopped parsley

2 tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste

Water, as needed

Salt to taste

 

Place a small strainer over a medium bowl and use a small-holed (i.e. fine) grater to shred the radishes.

Grating the radishes. If you don't have a small grater, you can use your food processor with the fine grater attachment. Just be sure to drain the radishes afterwards.

Shredding the radishes. If you don’t have a small grater, you can use your food processor with the fine grater attachment. Just be sure to drain the radishes afterwards.

Once you have shredded all the radishes, press down on the shreds in the strainer to get out as much of the liquid as you can.  Remove the strainer from the bowl, pour off the liquid, and place the shredded radishes back in the bowl.

Amazing how much liquid comes out of a bunch of radishes.

Amazing how much water comes out of a bunch of radishes. That’s close to a cup of liquid.

The finished radishes. The whole shredding and draining process goes much faster than you would think.

The finished radishes. The whole shredding and draining process goes much faster than you would think.

Add the tahineh, lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt.  Mix.  The tahineh will start to thicken due to the lemon juice (it’s an acid-base reaction; chemistry!).

The tahineh with the radishes and parsley

The tahineh will start to thicken when you add the lemon juice. It’s a chemistry thing.

Add water until the sauce loosens up and becomes a smooth consistency.  Adjust the seasoning.

Adding the water. You may not think this will come together, but it does. Trust me.

Adding the water. You may not think this will come together, but it does. Trust me.

Once the  sauce has smoothed out and it is the consistency you like, stir in the parsley.

Told ya.

Told ya.

 

Serve with the Sayadieh.

I think I ate this in about 5 minutes.

I think I ate this in about 5 minutes.

 

Sahtein! صحتين!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Kibbeh الكبة النباتية 0

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Sahar

Kibbeh is ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.  If you know anything at all about this dish, you know it is usually made with meat – beef, lamb, or, rarely, goat. It can be baked, fried, or eaten raw.  It is essentially a meat feast with a little wheat thrown in.

However, during Lent, many Christians throughout the world – including the Middle East – give up eating meat.  So, a vegetarian version was created (most likely in Lebanon) so they could still enjoy Kibbeh throughout Lent.

I came up with my version of this dish about 15 years ago when my husband was still a practicing vegetarian.  He’s since come back to the dark side, but I still like to make this version on occasion whenever we are having a vegan week here at Chez Ray.

 

A few notes:

  • I use pine nuts in this recipe, like I do in traditional Kibbeh.  However, if you can’t find, afford, or don’t want to use them, you can substitute slivered almonds.
  • If you want to add some additional flavoring or bulk, you can also layer in along with the filling, sliced boiled potatoes, sautéed squash, sliced tomatoes, or fried eggplant slices.
  • If you are making this for someone who is allergic to nuts, then you can use vegetables (see above) or seitan or tempeh.  However, if you decide to use either of these, be sure that either of them aren’t highly seasoned (like many commercial ones are – especially seitan).
  • I like to use fine bulghur wheat for this dish (#1 grind) because the crust holds together better with the finer grind.
  • If the crust mixture is too dry, add a little water; if it is too wet, add a little whole wheat flour.  However, make sure that you have everything well mixed before you begin adding any additional ingredients.  If you do have to add anything, adjust the seasonings accordingly.
  • A traditional accompaniment to Kibbeh is a cucumber-yogurt salad.  If you want to keep this completely vegan, then use a soy-based or coconut milk-based yogurt (however, check the label to make sure there’s no casein in the yogurt).

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 c. fine bulghur wheat

The wheat. Try to use a #1 grind. You can generally find it at any Middle Eastern market.

The wheat. Try to use a #1 grind. You can generally find it at any Middle Eastern market.

2 med. onions, diced

1 c. chopped parsley

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 c. walnuts, chopped

1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almonds

Walnuts and Pine Nuts. You can substitute slivered almonds for the pine nuts. However, the walnuts are a must.

Walnuts and Pine Nuts. You can substitute slivered almonds for the pine nuts. However, the walnuts are a must. Most other nuts are going to be too sweet.

3 tbsp. olive oil, total

2 tbsp. pomegranate syrup (molasses)

1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste

2 tsp. allspice, or to taste

Salt & pepper, to taste

Clockwise from top: pomegranate syrup (molasses), salt, pepper, cinnamon, olive oil, allspice, garlic

Clockwise from top: pomegranate syrup (molasses), salt, pepper, cinnamon, olive oil, allspice, garlic

Additional pine nuts or slivered almonds for garnish

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Either spray or oil a medium baking dish (about 7″ x 11″) and set it aside.

 

2.  Rinse the wheat in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.

Rinsing the wheat. You want to be sure to get off as much of the dust as possible. Processing methods are better than they once were, but some dust is still present.

Rinsing the wheat. You want to be sure to get off as much of the dust as possible. Processing methods are better than they once were, but some dust is still present.

Then, put the wheat into a bowl and cover with 1″ of water.  Set aside and allow the wheat to soak until it is “al dente”, about 20 – 30 minutes.

Soaking the wheat. Start testing it after about 20 minutes. It should still have some chewiness to it, but it shouldn't be crunchy.

Soaking the wheat. Start testing it after about 20 minutes. It should still have some chewiness to it, but it shouldn’t be crunchy.

Once the wheat is ready, drain it through the strainer again. (There’s no need to squeeze out all of the water; just be sure the wheat is well drained.)  Set aside.

The soaked, drained wheat. You just want to be sure that excess moisture is drained away; it doen't need to be squeezed dry. You'll need that moisture when you make the crust.

The soaked, drained wheat. You just want to be sure that excess moisture is drained away; it doesn’t need to be squeezed dry. You’ll need that moisture when you make the crust. (In other words, make sure it’s not dripping, but it’s not dry either; just nice and damp.)

 

3.  Make the filling:  Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onions until they become soft, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Sauteing the onions.

Sautéing the onions.

Take half of the onions out of the skillet and place them into a bowl.  Set aside.

This half is waiting to be made into crust.

This half is waiting to be made into crust.

Place the skillet back on the heat and turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic to the onions.  Sauté for 2 – 3 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Adding the garlic.

Adding the garlic.

Add the pine nuts and the walnuts and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes, or until they have toasted (be sure not to burn them).  Again, stirring frequently.

Be sure not to let the nuts burn. You just want to get a nice deep golden brown on them.

Be sure not to let the nuts burn. You just want to get a nice golden brown on them.

Add in 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, the pomegranate syrup, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Take the skillet from the heat and taste for seasoning.  Allow the filling to cool slightly.

Mmm... This is what you're looking for - a deep maple color.

This is what you’re looking for – a deep maple color.

4.  Make the crust:  Take the other half of the onions and place them into a food processor along with the parsley, and the wheat.

The wheat, onion, and parsley in the processor.

The wheat, onion, and parsley in the processor.

Pulse a few times to begin mixing the ingredients, scrape down the bowl and add the other half each of the cinnamon and allspice, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

Process the mixture (scraping down the sides and pulsing as needed) until it is well mixed and has almost a paste-like consistency.  It should still have some texture, but the mixture should hold together.  Taste for seasoning.

The finished crust mixture. Try to resist the urge to adda any ingredients like water or flour. If the ingredients are well mixed, you shouldn't have to add anything.

The finished crust mixture. If the ingredients are well mixed, you shouldn’t have to add anything to adjust the texture.

5.  Assembly: Take half of the crust mixture and spread it evenly over the bottom of the dish.

The bottom layer. Be sure it's spread as evenly as possible.

The bottom layer. Be sure it’s spread as evenly as possible.

Spread the filling evenly over the bottom layer.

The filling. This, of course, is where you would add any additional filling if you wanted to.

The filling. This, of course, is where you would add any additional filling if you wanted to.

Carefully spread the top crust over the filling, smoothing it down as you go. (You may have to do this in sections.)

Eseentlially, this is ready to go into the oven. The top layer is a little thin because I used too much on the bottom layer. If that happens to you, just very carefully spread out the top as much as you can.

Essentially, this is ready to go into the oven. The top layer is a little thin because I used too much on the bottom layer. If that happens to you, just very carefully spread out the top as much as you can. It does smooth out; it may not be pretty, but it will work.

6.  Cut the assembled Kibbeh into serving-size squares; or, if you want to get fancy, into diamond-shaped pieces (it’s more traditional).  Press a few additional pine nuts on each piece for garnish. Spread or brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top. (See above photo)

7.  Place the Kibbeh in the oven and cook until the top crust is slightly browned, about 30 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sahtein!

Sahtein! صحتين!

 

 

 

Bean & Lamb Stew (Fasoulia فاصوليا) 2

Posted on December 13, 2013 by Sahar

As comfort foods go, Fasoulia was another one my sisters & I were rewarded with as we grew up.  It is a delightful stew consisting of (at least in the Palestinian tradition) of lamb, tomatoes, and green beans.

In fact, the word “fasoulia” in Arabic literally means “bean”.

Fasoulia is a dish that is found in several versions throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North & Sub-Saharan Africa, and southern Europe. There are versions that use white beans (Syria & Lebanon), red beans (Lebanon), with carrots (Ethiopia), and with olives and greens  (Greece).

The version I’m making is the one we grew up with (and the one I learned from my mom – who makes the best Fasoulia I’ve ever had, by the way).  It’s in the Palestinian style, with lots of tomatoes.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish vegetarian/vegan by simply omitting the meat and using vegetable broth.

2.  This dish is always served over rice.  I like to serve over saffron rice (because that was the way my sisters & I grew up eating it).  However, if you want to use plain white rice, or even brown rice (especially if you’re making the vegetarian version), go for it.

3.  If you don’t like or can’t find lamb, you can use beef.  Use chuck.  It’s meant for stewing and braising.

4.  Use regular, fresh green beans for this dish.  Don’t use frozen or haricot vert (French green beans).  They won’t hold up to the cooking time.

5.  This is generally served with browned pine nuts sprinkled over the top as garnish.  However, if you don’t want to go to the expense of or can’t find pine nuts, browned slivered almonds are an excellent substitute.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat.  Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat. Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The beans. Use regular green bean; not haricot vert or frozen. They won't stand up to the cooking.

The beans. Use regular green beans; not haricot vert or frozen. They won’t stand up to the cooking.

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

 

1 med. onion, finely chopped

2 lbs. lamb, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces

3 tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (try to buy without basil; if you do get basil, pick out the leaves)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. allspice

2 c. beef or chicken broth

 

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and cook, in batches if needed,  until it is browned.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

2.  Add the onions to the saucepan and cook until they are softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the onions.

Adding the onions.

3.  Add the beans and cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

And now for the beans.

And now for the beans.

4.  Add the tomatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.  Taste for seasoning.

With the tomaotes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

With the tomatoes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

5.  Serve with rice with a few browned pine nuts or slivered almonds on top.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

 

Sahtein!

Two Pestos 1

Posted on July 11, 2013 by Sahar

While I love to cook any time of year, unfortunately, it’s a little more difficult in the throes of a central Texas summer.  The thought of turning on the oven or the stove makes me want to stick my head in the freezer.  So, while it may not always be possible to avoid the extra kitchen heat, it can be minimized.

And one of those ways is making some pesto.

Pesto originated in Genoa in the northern Italian province of Liguria.  The name comes from Italian word pestare  (Genoese: pesta) meaning “to crush; to pound”.  It is traditionally made with garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk).

The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together. Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated cheese, and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. The first mention of recipe for pesto as it is known today, is from the book La Cuciniera Genovese written in 1863 by Giovanni Battista Ratto.

While pesto was introduced in the US is the 1940’s, it didn’t become popular until the 1980’s.

(some information from wikipedia.org and thenibble.com)

The pestos I’m showing you today aren’t the traditional recipe that many have come to know and love.  While I’m very serious about traditional recipes, sometimes experimentation isn’t a bad thing.

Now, on to the recipes.

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

A few notes:

1.  Splurge and buy the freshest ingredients you can.  And that includes buying imported cheeses.  While America makes many wonderful cheeses, we aren’t too good with hard Italian cheeses.  Since pesto is essentially a raw product, you want the best.

2.  I don’t recommend using oil-packed/cured sun-dried tomatoes.  They’re usually flavored and I can’t control the amount of oil in the pesto.  Plus, somehow, they always taste cooked. Buy plain sun-dried and you won’t be sorry.

3.  You’ll no doubt notice in the instructions that I use a food processor for these recipes.  It is simply for ease in preparation.  If you feel like going all traditional, go for it.  But, it’d be a safe bet to say those tomatoes would be a bitch to beat down with a mortar and pestle.

Also, I keep the processor running through most of the prep.  This helps greatly when adding the “harder” ingredients like the garlic and nuts.  If you add them to the bowl and then turn on the processor, you won’t get a fine or consistent chop, which is what you want.

4.  When I serve these pestos, I always have some extra cheese on hand, some minced parsley (for the sun-dried tomato) and some halved cherry tomatoes (for the cilantro).  You don’t have to have these, but I thought I’d pass it along.

5.  As we all know, pesto is good on so many other things than just pasta.  Spread it on bread, use as a dip for vegetables, top grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables.

6.  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  I don’t recommend freezing.

Cilantro Pesto

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Toasted pine nuts. These aren't inexpensive, so watch them very carefully.

Toasted pine nuts. These aren’t inexpensive, so watch them very carefully. If they begin to small like popcorn when you’re roasting, you’ve gone too far.

 

4 -6 cloves garlic, depending on size

1/2 c. pine nuts, roasted (350F for 3 – 5 minutes)

-or-

1/4 c. raw, unsalted pistachios

1/4 c. walnuts

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c.  Romano cheese, fresh grated

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, fresh grated

2 – 3 bunches cilantro, depending on size, large stems removed (It’s OK to have some stem. No need to pick the leaves.)

Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx. 1 1/2 tsp.)

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Salt & pepper to taste

 

1.  Have your food processor running.  Drop the garlic through the feed tube and chop. Add the pine nuts and pepper flakes.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

Turn off the processor, remove the lid, and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Turn on the processor again and let the cheese mix in.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

2. Again, with the processor running, push the cilantro down the feed tube.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

 

Add the oil and lemon juice.

Adding the oil.

Adding the oil.

Continue processing until the mixture becomes a paste.  Add more oil if you want a thinner pesto.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

3.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

*****

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Toasted pecans.  Again, nuts aren't inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

Toasted pecans. Again, nuts aren’t inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed; see note above)

1/2 c. roasted pecans (350F for 5 – 7 minutes)

4 cloves garlic

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1/4 c. Romano cheese, shredded

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tbsp.)

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes.

Soaking the tomatoes.  Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Soaking the tomatoes. Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Drain the tomatoes, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Set aside.

The soaked tomatoes.

The soaked tomatoes.

2.  Have a food processor running and drop the garlic down the feed tube.  Let it chop.  Add the pecans the same way.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Turn off the processor and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Again, process until everything is mixed.

3.  With the processor running, add the tomatoes down the feed tube.

Adding the tomatoes.

Adding the tomatoes.

Pour in the oil and lemon juice.  Turn off the processor and check for seasoning and consistency.  If the pesto is too thick, add a little of the soaking water  or oil and process until it becomes the consistency you like.

Mmm...

Mmm…

The most common way to serve pesto is over pasta.  So, cook your pasta of choice according to the directions.  Be sure to save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta.

I generally like to place a serving of the pasta in a medium bowl, spoon over the amount of pesto I want, and begin to toss them together.  I’ll use some of the pasta water if I need to.

I’ll place the pasta on the plate, garnish a little, and serve.

The completely optional garnishes:  Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

The completely optional garnishes: Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #2.

Serving Suggestion #2.

 

Enjoy! Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kibbeh – Arabic Comfort Food 1

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Sahar

For my next blog post, I decided to make a dish that is near and dear to my heart; one of my ultimate comfort foods – Kibbeh.  My sisters and I grew up eating this dish.  Rather ravenously, I might add.   It’s part of our heritage.  Putting it together was a collaborative effort for our parents.  Mom always made the filling, Dad put it together – whether as little footalls for the fryer or in the baking dish for the oven.  It was always a much appreciated treat.

Kibbeh (كبة‎) is a popular and much-loved dish throughout the Middle East.   It is generally made with cracked wheat (burghul), spices, minced onion and ground  meat, gnerally beef, lamb, or goat, or a combination.

It can be shaped into stuffed croquetes (basically little footballs) and deep fried for mezze or made into layers and baked for a main dish. Some folks also eat raw kibbeh. Like Arabic Steak Tartare, minus the quail’s egg and capers.

In Israel, Kubbeh matfuniya and kubbeh hamusta are staples of Iraqi-Jewish cooking. Kubbeh soup, served in many oriental grill restaurants in Israel, is described as a “rich broth with meat-stuffed dumplings and vegetables”.

A Syrian soup known as kibbeh kishk consists of  stuffed kibbeh in a yogurt and butter broth with stewed cabbage leaves.

Fried, torpedo-shaped kibbehs have become popular in Haiti, Dominican Republic and South America – where they are known as quipe or quibbe – after they were introduced by Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian immigrants in the early 20th Century.

(some historical information from www.wikipedia.org)

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

Now, on to the recipe.

I make this with a combination of beef and lamb.  You can use all of one or the other if you like.  Goat is also very popular (in the Middle East, anyway) in Kibbeh as well.

As I stated in my Hummous post (3/19/12), I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to my Middle Eastern food.  The one thing I have in the traditional recipe I’ve changed is the amount of onion I use.  Most recipes can call for up to 4 onions.  I use 1 medium-sized one.  Otherwise, it’s pretty authentic.

 

The ingredients

Spices (clockwise from right): Black Pepper; Kosher Salt; ground Allspice; ground Cinnamon

Pine Nuts. These are not inexpensive. They can go for upwards of $20 per pound depending on where you shop. If you decide you don’t want to go to the expense, slivered almonds are a good substitute.

 

Kibbeh Filling

2 tbsp. clarified butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (use 90/10 ground)

1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almonds

1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground allspice, or to taste

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste

 

Raw Kibbeh (the top and bottom layers)

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (use 90/10 ground beef)

2 cups cracked wheat (burghul)

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground allspice, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste

 

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In this recipe, I call for clarified butter.  I don’t use much, but it’s a necessary traditional flavor component.

A note on clarified butter:  I always like to have it on hand.  It has a much higher smoke point than regular butter (450F vs 350F) so it doesn’t burn as quickly.  Plus, it’s delicious. There are some chefs who deep-fry in clarified butter.  You can buy it off the shelf in Indian and Middle Eastern Groceries (Ghee and Samneh, respectively).  When buying, make sure the container indicates that the clarified butter was made with milk.  If it says “vegetable” anywhere on the container, it’s essentially margarine.

However, clarified butter is very easy to make at home.  It keeps for several months and tastes a whole lot better.

Here’s a lovely essay on clairfied butter from the New York Times (5/6/08): http://tinyurl.com/bobsuje 

Basically, clarified butter is butter where the milk solids have been removed.  It can be made with either salted or unsalted butter. (I prefer to use unsalted. I can control the amount of salt in my recipes.)  It’s always best to use European style butter.  It has a lower water content and a higher butterfat content.  Not only will it taste better, you’ll end up with a higher yield.

To make clarified butter, slowly melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. (I usually do 2 pounds at a time. I recommend doing at least 1 pound.)

Melting the butter.

 

Once the butter has melted, take it off the heat and, with a large spoon,  carefully begin skimming the milk fat off the surface.

Milk solids on the surface of the melted butter.

Skimming off the milk solids.

I generally discard the milk solids, but some people do use them for other things.  Like spreading on toast or pancakes.  It’s certainly up to you.

After skimming off the milk solids.

Carefully pour the butter into a storage container or into a measuring cup.  Leave any residual milk solids and water in the saucepan.

About 3 cups clarified butter is my yield from 2 pounds of butter.

What’s left in the saucepan is mostly water and any residual milk solids.  Go ahead and discard.

The water and residual milk solids left over.

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

Now, time for the Kibbeh.

1.  Make the Kibbeh Filling:  In a large skillet,  heat the butter and olive oil.  Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the meat (in this illustration I used lamb) and cook until it is no longer pink.  Add the pine nuts or almonds and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spices and mix thoroughly.  Cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the filling to begin cooling. (There may be some extra fat in the skillet. If there is, go ahead and drain it off.)

The completed Kibbeh filling. Yummy. I have a hard time not standing there with a spoon over the skillet eating.

 

2.  Make the Raw Kibbeh: Put the bulghur in a fine-meshed strainer and rinse it off under cold running water.  Do this until the water runs clear.  Let it drain.

Close-up of bulghur wheat. I like to use a medium sized grain. Too fine a grain will give the kibbeh too soft a texture.

Rinsing off the bulghur.

Put the bulghur in a medium bowl and cover with water.  Let the bulghur soak until it begins to soften; about 20 – 30 minutes.  Drain in a fine sieve, pressing out as much of the water as possible, and set aside.

Soaking the burghul.

 

3.  Take the meat and put into a large bowl. (In this illustration, I used beef for the Raw Kibbeh.).  Add the bulghur.

The meat and burghul. Getting ready to mix together.

 

Now, time to use your hands.  Dig in and mix the ingredients together.  You want them to be thoroughly mixed.  Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice.  Mix until the spices are well incorporated.

The meat, burghul, and spices all mixed together.

 

Now, you need to taste for seasoning.  For me, the best way to taste for seasoning is to take a small amount of the mixture and give it a quick fry on the stove.  That way, I’ll get a better idea of how the finished dish will taste once it’s been completely cooked. Plus,  I won’t be eating raw ground beef.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little of the clarified butter.  Take a small amount of the mixture and form it into a roughly quarter-sized patty.  Once the butter is hot, add the patty to the skillet and cook.  It should take about 2 – 3 minutes.  Take the patty out of the skillet, allow it to cool for a minute, then taste.

Adjust the seasonings as needed.

 

Cooking the mixture to taste it for seasoning.

Or, you could be like my mom or my Arab aunties and just know by smell when the seasoning is right.  I’ve not ever been able to master that skill.

4.  Once you’re happy with the raw kibbeh, prepare a baking dish.  (In this illustration, I used a 12″ x 18″ dish, and it was a little large.  Use something closer to an 11″ x 15″.) Give it a quick spritz with non-stick spray or grease it with butter or olive oil.

Take half of the raw kibbeh and spread it over the bottom as evenly as you can.  It’ll take some doing, but you’ll get there.  If you wet or grease your hands, it’ll help make the process a little easier.

Begin preheating the oven to 375F.

The raw kibbeh spread in the bottom of the baking dish.

5.  Take the Kibbeh filling and spread it evenly over the bottom layer of the Raw Kibbeh.

Kibbeh filling added to the baking dish.

6.  Time to put the top layer on.  Because of the filling, you won’t be able to spread the top layer the same way as the bottom.  So, a different method is needed.

Take small amounts of the raw Kibbeh and flatten them out into thin pieces and lay each piece on top of the Kibbeh filling.

Putting on the top layer.

Be sure to fill in any little gaps as needed.  I know that it will seem like you’ll not have enough for the top layer; but, if you persevere, you will.

7.  Once you have finished completing the top layer, cut through the layers in diamond or square shapes approximately 2 inches each.  This will help with even baking and make cutting the finished Kibbeh easier.

Cutting the Kibbeh.

 

If you like, take some extra pine nuts or almonds and press one into the center of each diamond or square.  Drizzle a little clarified butter or olive oil over the top.

Kibbeh ready for the oven.

8.  Put the Kibbeh in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until it is well-browned.  If you like, turn on the broiler for about 3 – 5 minutes after the initial cooking time to make the Kibbeh golden brown.

The Finished Kibbeh. De-licious.

 

Let the Kibbeh sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

9.  It’s a good idea to serve this dish with a bit of yogurt on the side.  It will help cut the richness of the dish.

However, I prefer to make a quick salad with the yogurt.  I’ve based this on a recipe very similar that Mom always made.

The salad ingredients.

1 cucumber (If you can go with Hothouse [English] or Persian. If you use standard cucumbers, peel and remove the seeds)

1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped

3/4 c. plain yogurt (I like to use full fat Greek yogurt)

Salt & black pepper to taste

 

Cut the cucumber into whatever size pieces you like. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Adjust the seasonings if you like.

The finished salad.

 

10.  Serve.

Dinner is ready. It tastes much better than it looks in this photo. I promise.

 

Enjoy! Sahtein!

 

p.s.  If you like this, I’m teaching even more classic Eastern Mediterranean dishes on Sunday, September 16, at Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar Boulevard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hummous. The real thing. 1

Posted on March 19, 2012 by Sahar

Hummous (Arabic: حمّص), or as it’s known by it’s full name, Hummous bi Tahineh (حمّص بطحينة),  is one of the most well-known and popular Middle Eastern dishes known to the Western palate.  This is in large part due to Middle Eastern immigration, marketing, and expatriates.  Plus, it just tastes really good.

It’s a dish that ubiquitous all over the Middle East.  It’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, with dinner, and as simply a snack.  It’s cheap, filling, and packs a lot of protein.

Hummous is also a very healthy dish.  It is high in iron, vitamin c, folate (B9), and B6.  The chickpeas make it an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber.  Tahineh paste is ground sesame seeds, which are an excellent source of amino acids. And, depending on the recipe, hummous has high amounts of monounsaturated fat. Hummous is also a compliment for vegetarian and vegan diets.

This is a dish that my sisters & I grew up with.  We had it often enough that we learned to make hummous from a very young age.  While this is a dish that is part of my father’s cultural background (he is Palestinian), Mom makes a mean hummous as well.

And one of the things we learned is that hummous is a simple dish with simple, and, yes, ancient ingredients.  The basic ingredients in hummous – chick peas, tahineh, lemon, and garlic – have been around for millennia.  The dish itself has a rather murky history.  Some culinary historians trace the dish back to the 13th Century and the warrior Saladin.  However, more recent research finds that the first known documentation of a cold dish of chick peas and tahineh comes from the Egyptian Abbasid period (1251-1516).  But, it most likely isn’t what we know now as hummous.  The earliest known documented form of “modern” hummous comes from Damascus, Syria in the late 19th Century.

(Some historical and nutritional information from Wikipedia)

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A short editorial is called for here.  This is a purist recipe.  I have seen hummous made with different types of beans, black seeming to be one of the more popular, with sweet potatoes, and, I have seen vegetables added as well.

I’m against all of that.

I’m usually not one to argue against experimentation in cooking.  It’s what keeps the culinary world fresh and exciting.  But, to me, this dish is perfect in it’s simplest, purest form.  Putting stuff that shouldn’t belong in the first place is an anathema to me.  If you do decide to make hummous, and you decide to put anything more than the recipe calls for or decide to use a different bean or legume, or heaven help me, a pureed vegetable, I really don’t want to know.

Perhaps it’s a cultural bias. Perhaps it’s because this is what I know from eating this dish for most of my life.  When it comes to Middle Eastern food, I’m very much a traditionalist, ingredient & flavor-wise.

 

Now, for the recipe.

I will say that generally, I don’t measure when I make hummous.  I go by texture and taste.  So, I had to really make a conscience effort to measure the ingredients this time around.

You’re welcome.

Also, I do see the irony in using modern tools to make an ancient dish after my stance on traditionalism.  I’m sure this dish was made originally with dried chick peas that were perhaps cooked or soaked overnight, stone-ground tahineh, and mixed with a mortar & pestle.

 

Hummous bi Tahineh

The ingredients

1 ea. 14-oz can chick peas (garbanzos), drained, liquid reserved (save a few whole chick peas for garnish if you like)

1/2 c. tahineh (The oil and the solids separate, like natural nut butters. Be sure to stir before using)

4 cl. garlic, stem ends removed

1 tsp. salt (I use kosher)

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 c. pine nuts, optional

Paprika or sumac, for color, optional

 

1.  Set up a food processor.  With the processor running, drop the cloves of garlic through the feed tube.  Process until the garlic is finely minced.

2.  Stop the processor, remove the lid, and pour in the chick peas and 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid.  Process again until you make a rough paste.

Rough paste of chick peas, garlic, and liquid.

3.  Add the tahineh and salt.  Process again until smooth.  Add the lemon juice and process again.  Taste for seasoning.

The finished Hummous bi Tahineh.

 

If you prefer a thinner hummous, use more of the reserved liquid.  If you like a thicker hummous, use less.

4.  Now, there are several ways to present  hummous.  Reserving a few whole chickpeas or a little chopped tomato or cucumber as garnish (not mixed in!) are some traditional methods of garnishing.  But, my favorite way is to brown some pine nuts and serve the hummous with them.  Just like Dad does.

There are two ways this can be accomplished.  The healthier and vegan way of doing this is to brown the pine nuts in a 350F oven for 3 -5 minutes.  They brown quickly, so you need to err on the side of caution.  Once the pine nuts begin to smell like popcorn, you’ve gone too far.  And pine nuts are too expensive to waste.

The other, more indulgent way to brown the pine nuts is to cook them in butter.  Which is my favorite way.  Not healthy, admittedly, but, delicious.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the pine nuts and stir constantly.  Once the pine nuts begin to brown, take them off the heat immediately and pour them, butter and all, over the hummous.

If you do use the butter-browning method, wait until you’re just about to serve.  Otherwise, the butter will harden and that’s pretty unappetizing.

For color, sprinkle on a bit of paprika or sumac.  Very traditional.

Browning the pine nuts in butter. Mmm...

 

The completed dish. Admittedly, I got a little crazy with the butter.

5.  Now, hummous is almost always served family-style.  So, everyone gets to dig into the plate.  If you’re in a traditional Arab home and this is a situation you find yourself in, there is a proper way to eat hummous without offending anyone and embarrassing yourself. (Of course, this applies to any family-style dish.)

To begin with, make sure your hands are clean.  I’m not kidding.  If you’re sharing a large dish with people, they don’t want to eat after someone with dirty hands.

Make sure you always eat with your right hand only.  In Bedu (Bedouin; i.e. traditional Arab) culture, the left hand is used for, well, things other than eating.  If you’re a southpaw, learn to become ambidextrous when eating.

Stick to your side of the platter.  Don’t dig into the center.  It’s rude.  Find a corner, so to speak, and stick there.  Move in as everyone else does.  Take your cues from them.

And don’t be afraid to ask if you have etiquette questions.  People will be more than happy to help guide you through the ritual.

Now, of course, if you’re moving through a buffet line and you spoon food on your plate, then the above tips won’t apply to you.  Except for the right-hand thing.

6.  Tear off a small piece of pita bread and make a scoop.

Pita bread scoop.

As I said before, take your scoop of pita with your right hand and dip into your designated “corner” of the bowl or platter.

 

Dipping the scoop into one "corner" of the bowl

And, there you are.

Ready for eating. Yummy.

 

Enjoy! Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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