Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



Potato & Leek Soup 1

Posted on October 29, 2015 by Sahar

Now that the weather here in central Texas is (Finally! Hopefully!) beginning to feel like actual Fall, my own thoughts are turning to soup.

I know you can eat this extremely versatile dish all year, but I prefer the cooler months.  It’s honestly difficult for me to enjoy a lovely bowl of soup when it’s 100F outside.

This is one of my favorites.  It’s quick, simple, easily doubles, freezes well, and is open to variation and adaptation.  You can make it vegan, vegetarian, with chicken broth, pureed, or chunky.  It’s completely up to you.

In my version, I’ve added kale to the soup.  Dark leafy greens are excellent in Potato & Leek Soup.  The add a wonderful deep flavor and texture as well as help to stretch the soup a little further (excellent if one is on a budget).  Plus, it’s a great way to use leftover greens.

I started adding kale for my Aunt Cathy.  She would come to visit me in Austin during the wildflower season in the Spring and I would always fix a meal or two for us.  I made this soup during one of her visits and decided to toss some leftover kale in.  Cathy was a kale fiend – she loved it.  I can’t remember how many bowls she ate, but she certainly enjoyed it.  Sadly, she passed away several years ago.  So, whenever I make this soup, I think of her.

 

A few notes:

1.  I like to make this soup with waxy as opposed to starchy potatoes.  It’s a simple preference.  However, if you prefer to make the soup with starchy potatoes (i.e Russet, Yukon Gold), go ahead.  I’ve never made this with sweet potatoes, but I’ll bet it’s great.

2.  It’s up to you whether you want to peel the potatoes or not.

3.  You can puree the soup or not.  I generally don’t. I’ll just take my potato masher and mash a few down.  While I do enjoy a good pureed soup, I prefer some extra texture for this one.

4.  If don’t have or can’t find leeks, you can use one large onion.  Just be sure to slice it very thinly.

5.  This recipe results in a more stew-like thicker soup.  If you want a brothier soup, then add more liquid.  Just be sure to adjust the seasonings accordingly.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients. Not pictured: vegetable broth, cream.

 

2 tbsp. olive oil, butter, or a combination of both

2 leeks, cleaned and thinly (1/4″) sliced, white part only

Leeks. They basically look like overgrown scallions. Generally, only the white part is used in cooking. However, you can use the greens as well. I generally save them and use them in stock.

Leeks. They basically look like overgrown scallions. Generally, only the white part is used in cooking. However, you can use the greens as well. I generally save them and use them in stock.

The inside of the leek. AS you can see, it's got layers like any other onion. Unlike onions, these tend to get dirt in the layers; so, you want to be sure to wash the leek thoroughly after you cut it. This one was fairly clean, but you can still see some dirt in the lower right hand corner.

The inside of the leek. As you can see, it’s got layers like any other onion. Unlike onions, leeks tend to get dirt in the layers; so, you want to be sure to wash them thoroughly after you cut them. This one was fairly clean, but you can still see some dirt in the lower right hand corner.

 

2 lbs. potatoes, cut into roughly 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces

I chose to use fingerling potatoes this time around. You can use any type you prefer, however.

I chose to use fingerling potatoes this time around. You can use any type you prefer, however.

4 c. vegetable or chicken broth

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme, or to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

From top left:

From top left: black pepper, salt, olive oil, dried thyme, garlic

1 bunch cooked and chopped kale, optional

Some lovely kale. Just trim off the leaves and use the stalks for compost or stock.

Some lovely kale. Just trim off the leaves and use the stalks for compost or stock.

1/2 c. whole milk, half-and-half, cream, optional; or, plain soy or nut milk, optional

 

 

  1.  In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil or butter.  When the oil is heated, add the leeks and garlic and sauté until the leeks have softened, about 5 minutes.  Be sure to stir frequently.
Sauteing the leeks & garlic. Stir frequently. You want the vegetables soft, but not browned.

Sauteing the leeks & garlic. Stir frequently. You want the vegetables soft, but not browned.

 

2.  Add the potatoes.  Cook and stir until the potatoes are coated in the oil, leeks & garlic, and are a little warm, about 5 minutes. This will help the potatoes jump-start cooking as well as absorb some of the flavor of the leeks and garlic.

I didn't realize some of the potatoes were pink (or, I guess, red) until I cut into them.

I didn’t realize some of the potatoes were pink (or, I guess, red) until I cut into them. I wonder what would happen if I threw some purple ones in the soup.

 

3.  Add the salt, pepper, and thyme.  Cook and stir frequently for another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the salt, pepper, and thyme.

Adding the salt, pepper, and thyme.

 

4.  Add the broth.  Cover the pot and bring the broth to a boil.  Uncover, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer the soup until the potatoes are fork-tender; about 30 minutes.

Adding the broth.

Adding the broth.

The potatoes will absorb the broth, so the volume will go down. This is normal. If you feel the soup is too dry, add more broth. However, this is a fairly thick soup and if you decide to add cream, then you may want to hold off on adding any broth.  Otherwise, add more broth and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

 

5.  Meanwhile, prepare the kale (is using).

To trim the kale, simply strip the leaves away from the stalks and wash. Don’t tear the pieces too small – you want them still fairly large as they go into the steamer so there will be less chance of the kale overcooking.

Take a medium saucepan and fill the bottom with about 1/2″ of water.  Place a steamer insert in the bottom, put in the kale, and cover the saucepan tightly.  Over high heat, steam the kale until it is just wilted and still has some bite to it (you don’t want the leaves too soft); about 3-4 minutes. (Carefully take a small piece out and taste it to be sure it’s ready.)

Steaming the kale.

Steaming the kale.

When the kale is ready, take it out of the steamer (the easiest and probably safest way to do this is to dump everything in to a colander; be sure to drain the kale thoroughly if you use this method), place it on a cutting board, and roughly chop it.

The cooked and chopped kale ready for the soup.

The cooked and chopped kale ready for the soup.

At this point you may ask, why don’t you just throw the raw leaves into the soup? Well, because I find the kale (or whatever green I’m using) tends to impart too strong a flavor into the soup that I don’t necessarily want.  Steaming the leaves ahead eliminates that factor.  I still get the flavor without it overpowering everything else.

 

6.  So the following two photos are an example of do as I say, not as I do.

When the potatoes are done take the pot off the heat.  If you like, either puree the soup (time to pull out that stick/immersion blender you got as a long-ago gift or impulse bought), use a potato masher (as I usually do), or do nothing (another great option).

Once you have achieved the consistency you prefer, add the kale and cream – or whatever it is you’re using – and taste for seasoning.

IMG_7436

Adding the kale and cream. I did this step a little backwards.

IMG_7437

So, you want to be sure and take care of the consistency before adding the cream and kale.

 

7.  Finally, time to eat.  I like to serve the soup with either some stoneground crackers or a good crusty bread.

IMG_7440

 

Enjoy!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) 0

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Sahar

Years ago, as I was rifling through my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I came across 2 cans of black beans and a jar of pickled jalapeños (that I figured I needed do something else with besides make nachos).  Of course, these are pantry staples every Texan should have.

Hmm… I thought. What can I do with these?  After looking through my fridge and finding some cilantro, I stumbled upon it.  “Tart these beans up, Sahar”, I said to myself.

A no brainer, really.

At the time I came up with this recipe, Husband Steve was a vegetarian. And, honestly, me being a dedicated omnivore, there were times I struggled with figuring out what to feed him other than the same old dozen or so meals.  Thankfully, he liked this new concoction so much it became a semi-regular in the rotation.  I liked it because I was working a full-time job at the time and this was a quick & easy meal to make for dinner.  Cheap, too.  And, let’s not forget the most important part here – delicious.

I’m not even going to call this anything remotely like authentic Mexican cuisine.  I mean, I honestly don’t know of any interior Mexican recipe that uses pickled jalapeños.  However, I like to think I’ve at least kept to the flavor profile somewhat and honored the spirit, if not the authenticity.

 

A few notes:

1.  I really designed this recipe around black beans.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, pinto will do in a pinch.

2.  If you don’t have a jar of pickled jalapeños, you can use fresh. Use one, and, depending on the heat level you want, remove the seeds or not.  Also, in place of the jalapeño brine, use lime juice.

3.  I generally serve this dish with brown rice. It just seems to work.  However, white rice or even your favorite Spanish or Mexican rice recipe will be fine, too.

4.  Occasionally, I’ll dice up a tomato (after I remove the seeds) and add it to the beans when I add the second half of the cilantro.  I’ll let the tomatoes sit in the beans just long enough to warm through before serving.

5.  When I serve the beans with cheese, I’ll use Jack cheese or Queso Fresco as a general rule.  The rule being that I usually have one or both of those in my fridge pretty much all the time.  Honestly, they just seem to work.  However, if you decide to go the pinto bean route, cheddar will work, too.

6.  To make this dish vegan, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese.

7. If you’re feeling decadent and carnivorous, a small piece or two of salt pork or bacon cooking with the beans wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just watch the amount of additional salt you put into the beans.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 cans black beans (frijoles negros), drained

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 c. onion, fine dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño, chopped

2 tsp. jalapeño brine

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

3/4 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano

1 bunch cilantro, chopped and divided

IMG_3104

1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, or water; more as needed

Rice, cheese, lime wedges, and tortillas or cornbread

 

 

1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and let heat up.

2.  Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is soft, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic. It's important to allow the saucepan to become hot before adding the oil. This helps even a non-stick saucepan or skillet to become more non-stick. Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Sautéing the onion and garlic. It’s important to allow the saucepan to heat up before adding the oil. This helps the surface to become more non-stick than it otherwise would be (especially in a non-teflon pan or saucepan).  Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute.

Adding the jalapeños.

Adding the jalapeños.

3.  Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sauté another minute or just until the spices begin to have a fragrance. Be sure not to let them burn.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

4.  Add the beans, jalapeño brine, half of the cilantro, and the broth or water.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeno brine.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeño brine.

 

Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Be sure to taste for seasoning.  Add more broth or water if the beans become too dry.

After 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes.

5.  When the beans are soft and the broth has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cilantro and taste for seasoning.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you're using tomato, add it now.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you’re using tomato, add it now.

6.  Serve the beans with rice, cheese, a lime wedge, and cornbread or tortillas on the side.

Without cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.

With cheese.

¡Buen Apetito!

Mujadarah مجدرة 0

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Sahar

In the ongoing informal series of foods from my childhood, today, I’m going to introduce you to Mujadarah.

Admittedly, this wasn’t my favorite dish growing up.  I usually picked at it or ate it with lots of salad so I could get it down.  But, as happens with most of us, my palate changed and discovered that I, even if I don’t love Mujadarah, I like it.  It must have been the lentils.

The first record of mujadara dates back to  1226, in the Iraqi cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh by al-Baghdadi. It was known as “peasant food”.  Mujaddara is the Arabic word for “pockmarked”; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. Generally consisting of rice, lentils, sometimes burghul (#3 or #4 coarse grind), and, very occasionally, meat, it was served during celebrations. Without meat, it was a medieval Arab dish commonly consumed by the poor. Because of its importance in the diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.”

Arab Christians traditionally eat mujaddara during Lent.  The dish is also popular among Jewish communities of Middle Eastern origin, in particular those of Syrian and Egyptian backgrounds; it is sometimes nicknamed “Esau’s favourite”. Jews traditionally ate it twice a week: hot on Thursday evening, and cold on Sunday.

(Some information from wikipedia and Rose Water & Orange Blossoms)

If the recipe looks somewhat familiar to you, I’ve made a dish similar before, Koshari.  The biggest difference is that Koshari has chick peas and pasta and is generally served with a tomato-cumin sauce.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish with white rice, brown rice, or burghul wheat. If you use burghul, be sure to use a #3 (medium coarse) or #4 (coarse) grind. If you use burghul, it will be the standard 2:1 ratio you would use for white rice.

2.  You can use either brown or green lentils.  Don’t use red.  They cook too soft for this dish.

3.  My mom uses just cinnamon as the spice (other than salt & pepper).  Play with the spices and come up with a combination you like.

4.  While some do make this dish with meat, I’ve always eaten it as a vegetarian meal.  If you want to add meat, follow the meat cooking instructions for Kidra.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Use brown or green.

The lentils. Use brown or green.

From top left:

From top left: cumin, allspice, olive oil, black pepper, salt

 

1 c. brown or green lentils

2 c. white or brown long-grain rice

2 lb. onions, cut in half and sliced thin

4 c. water or broth (5 c. if using brown rice)

2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. olive oil

 

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the rice and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the rice.  I used brown in this post.

Sauteing the rice. I used brown in this post.

Add the salt, pepper, allspice, and cumin.  Cook until the spices begin to give off a fragrance, about 1 minute.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice.  Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don't burn.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice. Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don’t burn.

Add the water or broth, bring to a boil, cover the saucepan, and turn down the heat to low.  Cook until the rice is done – 25 to 30 minutes for white, 45 to 50 minutes for brown.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Stir occasionally, until the onions are soft and begin to take on color.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely.  You want caramelization, not burning.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely. You want caramelization, not burning.

Once the onions begin to brown, watch them more closely and stir more often; you want the onions to brown, not burn.  Cook them down as far as you like. (I prefer them to be fully caramelized.)  Depending on how dark you want the onions, it could take anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes to cook them.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

When the onions are done, take them off the heat and set aside.

3.  About halfway through the rice cooking time, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water to at least 1″ above the lentils, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook the lentils, adding water as needed, until they are done, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Boiling the lentils.  Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don't dry out.

Boiling the lentils. Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don’t dry out.

4.  When the lentils and the rice are done, mix them together (I usually do this in the pot I cooked the rice in).  Mix in the onions.  Taste for seasoning.

5.  Mujadarah is usually served with either yogurt or a tomato-cucumber salad (basically tabouleh without the bulghur wheat).

Sahtein! صحتين!

Sahtein! صحتين!

 

 

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.

 

 

Waldorf Salad – My Version 0

Posted on July 08, 2014 by Sahar

The origin story of Waldorf Salad is a fairly straightforward and simple one.  It was the creation of the long-time maitre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) in New York City, Oscar (“Oscar of the Waldorf”) Tschirky, in 1896.  It became an instant favorite with diners at the hotel.  Oscar, while not a chef, was the creator and inspiration of many of the dishes in the Waldorf’s first half-century. (He stayed with the hotel from 1893 until his retirement n 1943).

The original recipe consisted of simply apples, celery, and mayonnaise.  Not long afterwards, walnuts were added and became an important component of the salad.

Later variations have included turkey or chicken, dried fruit (especially raisins), lemon juice, orange zest, grapes, and yogurt.

It’s really a dish that simply lends itself to interpretation.

While I’ve stayed with the basic version of the salad, I have added my own variations as well.  Somewhere along the way, I thought, why not add some blue cheese?  It goes well with apples and walnuts as well as cutting some of the sweetness of the dried fruit.  Besides, I just like blue cheese.

 

A few notes:

1.  I like to use a mix of apples.  As always, whenever I use apples in a recipe, Granny Smith apples are my base.  I’ll add Pink Ladies, Gala, MacIntosh, or, if I’m feeling extravagant, Honeycrisp.  The flavor contrast works well.

2.  I’ve used both walnuts and pecans in this recipe.  It just depends what I have on hand.

3.  If you want to use yogurt in the salad, I would recommend going half-and-half with the mayonnaise.  Yogurt alone would be too strong a flavor.  Also, use a full-fat yogurt.  Fat-free – yuk.

4.  My preferred blue cheese in this recipe is either Amish Blue or Maytag Blue.  These are both excellent American blue cheeses and are readily available.  European-style blue cheeses (i.e. Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales), while delicious, are simply too strong.

5.  I don’t peel my apples.  You shouldn’t either.

6.  I use very little celery in my recipe.  Unlike the original recipe, I use it for flavoring, not as a main component.  However, if you prefer to use more celery, feel free.

7.  To make this dish vegan, simply omit the cheese (if you still want the cheese flavor, use nutritional yeast to taste), and use vegan mayonnaise.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese. Good stuff.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

 

4 lg. apples, approx. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs.

1 lg. stalk celery, finely diced

1 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped (If you would like to toast them, put the nuts in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Let cool before adding to the salad.)

1 1/2 c. dried fruit – one of each or a combination: cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, raisins, sultanas (gold raisins)

4 oz. (1/2 c.) Amish Blue or Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 c. mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Cut and core the apples.  I like to use a melon baller to core out the apple and cut out the blossom and stem ends with a “v” shape cut.  With the flat side down, cut the apple in to 1/2-inch thick slices.  Then, with 2 – 3 slices laying flat on the cutting board, cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.  Place the apples into the bowl.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it's safer than either a knife or an apple corer.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it’s safer than either a knife or an apple corer. (I frankly find apple corers to be completely useless.)

Core. Out.

Core. Out.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Blossom end cut out.

Blossom end cut out.

Apples cored, cleaned,  and ready

Apples cored, cleaned, and ready

2.  Add the celery, nuts, and dried fruit.  Toss together.

All mixed together.

All mixed together.

3.  Add the cheese and mayonnaise.  Mix together until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ready.

Ready.

4.  Traditionally, Waldorf Salad is served on a bed of lettuce.  I generally don’t.  However, if you would like to, go ahead.   I like to serve the salad with crackers or a good crusty bread.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Salade Niçoise 0

Posted on June 11, 2014 by Sahar

Salade Niçoise has its origins in Nice, Provence, France.   No one really knows the complete origin story of this dish.  However, there is the ongoing legend that Catherine d’Medici brought a form of it to France before her marriage to Henri II.  How much credibility this has, I don’t know; but Nice is less than 20 miles across the Mediterranean from Italy.

The basis for this salad is its seasonality.  You use what you have fresh and in season.  Few, if any, of the ingredients are to be cooked (although, more modern versions certainly ignore this edict).  And, because of Nice’s proximity to the Mediterranean (and Italy), tuna and anchovies were added somewhere along the way.

The always main components of this dish are eggs (usually hard-boiled; sometimes poached), tomatoes, black (preferably niçoise) olives, green beans, and either tuna, anchovies, or both. It is always dressed with a vinaigrette. There are recipes that include artichoke hearts, white beans, radishes, potatoes, beets, corn, bell peppers, asparagus, cucumbers, green olives, mayonnaise, mushrooms, basil, tarragon, rosemary, and scallions.  Just to name a few.

So, basically, a French Cobb Salad made with whatever the chef has fresh in their kitchen.

I myself prefer a much more simplified version.  I try to stay as close to the traditional as possible.  By keeping it simple, I feel, each component can come through.  According to David Lebovitz’s post on Salade Niçoise (http://tinyurl.com/4rfsgjf), the original recipe stated that you don’t use anything cooked in the salad except for the eggs.  Nor are tuna and anchovies ever in the salad together. Well, I certainly bucked that tradition.  I think it’s all right in this case since cooks in Provence skirt the rules on this as well.

A few notes:

1.  You can use canned tuna in place of the tuna steak.  2 cans should be sufficient (but you can use more if you like).  Be sure to use a good quality brand packed in olive oil.  Be sure to read the label and avoid any that have extra flavoring (StarKist comes to mind).  Drain off the oil before you add the tuna to the salad.

2.  if you can’t find Niçoise olives, you can use Kalamata.  Just be sure to chop them a bit before adding to the salad.

3.  If you are using pitted olives, be aware that pits can still occur (especially with Kalamatas).  Whether you’re using whole or pitted olives, warn your guests about the pits.

4.  If you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, omit the anchovies, tuna, and eggs.  Use chopped garbanzo beans in place of the tuna (or, use a good recipe for “garbanzo tuna”; there are many available) and soft or firm-silken tofu cut into bite-sized pieces in place of the eggs.

5.  Some will lay the salad components on the serving dish separately, while others make more of a tossed salad-style.  It’s up to you how you like to serve.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Big Eye Tuna. You can use canned tuna,  but fresh is better.

Big Eye Tuna. You can use canned tuna, but fresh is better.

Nicoise Olives. These have a slightly smoky, peppery flavor.  These are pitted, but if you do have to use whole olives, let your diners know.

Nicoise Olives. They are a small olive with a slightly smoky, peppery flavor. These are pitted, but if you do have to use whole olives, let your diners know.

 

From the top and l-r:

From the top and l-r: olive oil; sugar; minced garlic, anchovies, Dijon mustard; black pepper, kosher salt, red wine vinegar

 

Vinaigrette

2 tbsp. red or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 cl. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. shallot or onion, minced

1/2 tsp. each salt, black pepper, sugar

3 – 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

 

About 1 lb. fresh tuna steak -or- 2 to 3 cans good quality olive oil packed tuna

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped -or- 1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 c. red onion, very thinly sliced

1 c. black olives, preferably Niçoise (if you can get pitted, all the better)

1 c. green beans, preferably haricot vert, cut into 1/2-inch pieces -or- fresh fava beans -or- edamame beans

1 bu. Italian parsley, chopped

4 ea. hard boiled eggs

4 ea. anchovies, minced

4 c. mixed greens (any you like; my personal preference is baby spinach & arugula)

 

 

1.  Make the vinaigrette: In either a medium bowl (if making by hand) or in a food processor or blender, mix together all of the ingredients except for the oil.  Either constantly whisking the mixture by hand or with the food processor or blender turned on, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream. (You don’t want to add the oil too quickly; it won’t incorporate and the vinaigrette will separate.)

Once you have mixed in all the oil, taste for seasoning and adjust if you like.   Set the vinaigrette aside.

The finsihed vinaigrette. I like it a little more on the sharp side.  If you want a milder flavor, use more oil.

The finished vinaigrette. I like it a little more on the sharp side. If you want a milder flavor, add more oil.

2.  Prepare the fava beans (if using):  As you probably noticed in the main ingredient photo, fava bean pods are quite large.  To open them, you will need to press the pod lightly on the seam and pry open with your fingers (it’s easier than it sounds).  Remove the seeds and place them into a bowl.

Fresh fava bean. The pods are fairly deceptive. They're thick with an almost cottony inside and anywhere from 3 - 5 beans inside.  The pods should be bright green (a little speckling is fine), shiny, and no soft spots.  The beans inside should be plump and light green (this is from the extra skin on the beans that you'll remove later). If you find any beans that are brown, discard them.

Fresh fava bean. The pods are fairly deceptive. They’re thick with an almost cottony inside with any where from 3 – 5 beans. The pods should be bright green (a little speckling is fine), shiny, and no soft spots. The beans inside should be plump and light green (this is from the extra skin on the beans that you’ll remove later). If you find any beans that are brown or shriveled, discard them.

The shelled beans.

The shelled beans.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add the fava beans and blanch for 3 – 5 minutes.  Drain the beans and either run them under cold water or plunge them into ice water.  Drain.

The beans after boiling.

The beans after boiling.  Notice how the skins are loosened.

Here’s how to remove the skins from the beans in 3 easy photos:

Getting ready to peel the bean.

Getting ready to peel the bean.

To peel the bean, simply make a small tear in the skin to expose the bean...

To peel the bean, simply make a small tear in the skin to expose the bean.

Then, slip the bean out of the skin. Discard the skin.  Add the beans to the bowl.

Then, slip the bean out of the skin. Discard the skin. Add the beans to the bowl.

Easy.

If you can’t get fava beans (they’re still fairly seasonal), you can either use blanched French green beans (haricot vert – a very thin green bean) cut into 1/2″ lengths or edamame beans (If you use frozen, just cook them according to the direction on the package and let cool.)

3.  Boil the eggs:  There are no doubt a thousand ways to boil and peel eggs.  Some work, some don’t.  For me, the best way I’ve found is to place the eggs in a saucepan filled with water and bring it to a boil.  As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes.

Drain off the water and immediately place the eggs into ice water and crack the shells (leave the eggs under the water).  This allows the water the get between the shell and egg and make it easier to peel.

After boiling the eggs, immediately plunge them into ice water and crack the shells.  The water will get between the shell and egg and it will be easier to peel.

After boiling the eggs, immediately plunge them into ice water and crack the shells. The water will get between the shell and egg and it will be easier to peel.

ta da!

ta da!

Cut the eggs into quarters lengthwise and set aside.

3.  Cook the tuna:  Lightly coat the tuna in olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper on each side.  Heat a skillet over high heat on the stove.  When the skillet is hot, lay the tuna steak in the skillet and let it sear until the side is lightly browned.  Turn the steak over and sear the other side.

Now, if you like your tuna very rare, you can stop at this point.  If you prefer medium-rare to medium, continue to cook the tuna on the stove, turning once more, until it’s done to your preference.

If you prefer your tuna well-done (as my husband does – at least for this), have your oven preheated to 450F.  If your skillet is oven-proof, take the skillet off the heat and place it in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tuna steak.

Searing the tuna.

Searing the tuna.

Remove the skillet from the heat, take the tuna out of the skillet and set it on a plate to cool slightly.  When it is cool enough to handle, either cut the tuna into bite-sized pieces (as I prefer), or you can chop it so that it resembles canned tuna.

4.  Place all of the vegetables (except the mixed greens), olives, eggs, anchovies, and tuna into a large bowl.

Ready for the tuna and vinaigrette

Ready for the tuna and vinaigrette. Pretty, isn’t it?

Pour over the vinaigrette and mix thoroughly.

5.  Place a large handful of the greens on a plate.  Take a couple of large scoops of the salad and place it on top of the greens.  Be sure to get a little of everything.   Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

Stuffed Grape Leaves محشي ورق عنب 3

Posted on May 28, 2014 by Sahar

Stuffed Grape Leaves. In Arabic, محشي ورق عنب, or, spelled phonetically, mishi waraq ‘einab.  It was another one of those dishes my sisters & I ate gleefully growing up.  When Mom would make stuffed grape leaves, it was cause for great rejoicing. Especially for Dad.

Many know the Greek word, Dolmas.  Dolma comes from the Turkish word “dolmak” meaning “to be stuffed”.  In Arabic, “mishi” means “stuffed”.  There are literally dozens of variations of stuffed grape leaves all over the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Central Europe, and Central Asia.

Probably the most common way to make the grape leaves is to cook them in an olive oil – lemon juice based-sauce.  However, the way I was taught to make grape leaves was the way my grandmother made them; with a tomato-based sauce.

I was talking to my mom about this one day.  She said the first time she ever ate grape leaves, the sauce was made from sour grapes.  She said it was awful.  The next time she had the dish, my dad had made it the way he preferred and the way his mother made them – with tomatoes.

I like to call it Palestinian-style.

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

If you would like to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, substitute an equal amount of roasted eggplant for the meat, vegetable broth for the beef broth, and add 1/4 cup tomato paste to the stuffing (this will help the filling bind together).

If you would like to use brown rice in place of the white rice, be sure to add 20 – 30 minutes to the cooking time.

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

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The spices clockwise from right:

The spices clockwise from right: Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Allspice, Salt

The grape leaves. be sure to rinse them thoroughly after remaoving them from the brine.

The grape leaves. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly after removing them from the brine; otherwise, the end result will be like a salt lick.

 

1  jar grape leaves

1 lb. ground lamb or beef

2 c. long-grain white rice

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste

2 tsp. allspice, or to taste

3/4 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste

Lamb shanks, lamb chops, or beef short ribs, optional

1 large can (22 oz.) whole tomatoes

2 c. beef broth

 

 

1.  Take a large saucepan or stockpot and place a rack on the bottom. If you don’t have a rack, use a steamer that sits in the saucepan. (I like to use my pasta pot with the insert.)  This is done not only to keep the grape leaves off the bottom to keep them from burning but to help steam the stuffed leaves as they’re cooking.

If you are using shanks, chops, or ribs, place them on the rack or steamer.  Set aside.

My dad always used chops or shanks in the bottom of the steamer.  It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish. Plus, it's an extra treat.

My dad always used chops or shanks in the bottom of the steamer. It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish. Plus, it’s an extra treat.

2.  Carefully take the grape leaves out of the jar (take care not to rip the leaves) and rinse thoroughly.  You want to be sure that the brine is rinsed off. Usually, you will need to separate the leaves when rinsing.  I’ll also fill a large bowl with water and let the leaves soak for a few minutes, then drain.  You want the water to be as clear as possible.

3.  Parboil the rice:  In a large saucepan, place the rice and cover it with 1″ of water.  Over high heat, bring the water to a boil, stirring frequently to keep the rice from sticking.

Parboiling the rice. Be sure to stir occasionally to be sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

Parboiling the rice. Be sure to stir frequently to be sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Boil the rice until it is about halfway cooked (take some rice out of the water and test it; it should be slightly chewy with a very crunchy center).  Drain the rice in a colander and set aside until it is cool enough to handle.

The finished rice.  Let this sit until it's cool enough to handle.

The finished rice. Let this sit until it’s cool enough to handle.

4.  In a large bowl, mix together the meat and rice (it’s best to use your hands for this).  Add the spices and mix thoroughly.

Starting to mix together the rice and meat. It's best done with your hands.

Starting to mix together the rice and meat. It’s best done with your hands.

After adding the spices. My mom says she knows when it's seasoned right because of the smell.  I've not yet mastered that technique.

After adding the spices. My mom says she knows when it’s seasoned right because of the smell. I’ve not yet mastered that skill.

To taste for seasoning, take a small amount of the mixture and place in a hot skillet to cook (the flavor will be closer to what the finished dish will taste like). Adjust the spices to your taste.

Cooking a small sample to taste for seasoning.  I also consider this cook's treat.

Cooking a small sample to taste for seasoning. I also consider this cook’s treat.

5.  Once you have finished mixing the filling, it’s time to stuff the leaves. Which I will explain in the following photos. (My husband took these photos across from me.  I rotated them so you could see them from my perspective. So, admittedly, they may look a little skewed. Apologies.)

The most important thing to remember is to not wrap the leaves too tight.  You want snug, but not tight.  The rice will continue to expand when the stuffed leaves are cooked.  If you wrap them too tight, they’ll burst.  Conversely, if you wrap them too loosely, they’ll fall apart.  A happy medium is preferred.

Cut off the stem with a sharp knife.

1. Cut off the stem with a sharp knife.

2. Lay the leaf flat with the vein (rough) side up facing you.

2. Lay the leaf flat with the vein (rough) side up facing you.

3.  Take some of the stuffing (this was a large leaf, so I used about 2 tablespoons stuffing), press it together loosely into a sort of log shape.  Please it on the bottom 1/3rd of the leaf.

3. Take some of the stuffing (this was a large leaf, so I used about 2 tablespoons stuffing), press it together loosely into a sort of log shape. Please it on the bottom 1/3rd of the leaf.

4.  Take one half of the bottom and fold it over the stuffing. ( I usually go right to left.)

4. Take one half of the bottom and fold it over the stuffing. ( I usually go right to left.)

5.  Repeat with the other side.

5. Repeat with the other side. The stuffing should be covered.

6.  Now, fold the sides over the filling.

6. Now, fold the sides over the filling.

7.  Repeat with the other side.

7. Repeat with the other side.

8.  Now, finish rolling the leaf until the stuffing is fully enclosed.

8. Now, finish rolling the leaf until the stuffing is fully enclosed.

8. Done!  You want to be sure that the amount of filling you use is proportional to the size of the leaf.

9. Done! Now, do this another 40 times or so.  You want to be sure that the amount of filling you use is proportional to the size of the leaf.

6.  As you make each roll, place it in the pot.  When you are about halfway through, crush a few of the tomatoes with your hands and lay them on the finished leaves.  Pour on some of the tomato juice. Finish stuffing the remaining leaves.   Crush the remaining tomatoes and place them on top.  Pour over the rest of the tomato juice and the beef broth.

The grape leaves in the pot ready to cook.

The grape leaves in the pot ready to cook.

7.  Cover the pot and bring the liquid to boil over high heat.  Lower the heat to low, keep the pot covered, and cook until the rice and meat are cooked, about 30 – 45 minutes.  You’ll need to take one out to test.

8.  When the grape leaves are cooked, place a serving on a plate, carefully pull out one of the shanks or ribs, and spoon out some of the broth to pour over the leaves on the plate.  You can also have some yogurt and pita bread on the side.

Sahtein!

Sahtein!

 

Admittedly, this is a dish that does take some time to put together.  But, the results are well worth it.

 

Sahtein!

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!

French Onion Soup 0

Posted on December 09, 2013 by Sahar

Soup has been around probably as long as people have been eating.  It’s cheap, filling, restorative, and democratic.

Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, since onions were plentiful, easy to grow, and considered a restorative food.

The modern version of Onion Soup originates in France in the 18th C., made from softened onions and, traditionally, beef broth. Onion soups are likewise found  in early English cookbooks and American cookbooks from colonial days to present.It is often finished by being placed under a grill in a ramekin with croutons and Gruyère melted on top. The crouton on top is reminiscent of using bread as “sops”.

Here are a couple of examples of early written Onion Soup recipes:

[1651: France]
“Potage of onion.
Cut your onions into very thin slices, fry them with butter, and after they are fried put them into a pot with water or with pease broth. After they are well sod, put in it a crust of bread and let it boile a very little; you may put some capers in it. Dry your bread then stove it; take up, and serve with one drop of vinegar.”
The French Cook, Francois Pierre La Varenne, [1651] Englished by I.D.G. 1653, Introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 130)

[1869: France]
“Onion Soup.
Peel 2 good-sized onions (say 7 oz.), cut them, in halves and then crosswise, in thin shreds:
Blanch, in boiling water, for five minutes, to remove their acrid flavour;
Put in a 6-inch stewpan, with 1 1/2 oz. of butter;
Stir over a brisk fire, and, when the onion becomes of a light brown colour, add a tablespoonful of flour, say 1 oz.;
Keep on the fire for two minutes longer;
Add: 1 quart of water; 2 pinches of salt; and 2 small ones of pepper;
Stir till boiling;
Simmer, for five minutes, on the stove corner; taste the seasoning;
Put in the soup-tureen 2 ox. of sliced dried roll, and 1 oz. of butter; our in the soup, stirring gently with a spoon to dissolve.
Serve.”
The Royal Cookery Book (Le Livre de Cuisine) , Jules Gouffe, translated from the French and adapted for English Use by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son, and Marston:London] 1869 (p. 38-9)

(sources: www.wikipedia.org, www.foodtimeline.org)

 

************************************************************************************************************************* A few notes:

For myself, I like a lot of onions in my soup; almost stew-like.  If you prefer a brothier soup, either reduce the amount of onions or increase the broth.

Because onions do sweeten as they cook down, I don’t recommend using sweet onions like 1015’s, Vidalias, or Mauis.  They will make the soup too sweet.  Regular yellow onions are just fine. Plus, they’re cheaper.

This soup is traditionally made with beef broth.  However, you can use chicken or turkey broth if you want a lighter soup.  Or, use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian (or vegan if you omit the Gruyère or use soy cheese).

The best bread to use with this soup is a good crusty European-style bread like a baguette, ciabatta, pain au levain, etc.  These will hold up quite well if you decide to make the soup a gratin.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 tbsp. Olive Oil

5 lbs. onions, sliced about 1/4″ thick

4 cl. garlic, minced

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 c. dry white wine or unsweetened apple cider (optional)

4 c. beef broth or vegetable broth

Salt & Pepper to taste

Toasted bread or your favorite crackers

Shredded Gruyère, Emmenthal, or Swiss cheese

 

1.  Heat the olive oil in a stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and the 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt (these will help release the water from the onions and make them wilt more quickly).

The onions. I was quite weepy when I finished slicing.

The onions. I was quite weepy when I finished slicing.

Stir until the onions begin to heat through, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and begin wilting the onions.

Covering the onions. This steams the onions and helps them to wilt more quickly at the beginning of the cooking process.

Covering the onions. This steams the onions and helps them to wilt more quickly at the beginning of the cooking process.

2.  After the first 30 minutes (stirring after each 15 minutes), uncover the onions (there will be a lot of liquid; it will cook down), add the thyme, and continue cooking until the onions are cooked down as much as you prefer, stirring every 15 minutes.  (If you are cooking your onions until they become very soft, you will want to stir them more often as they soften so they don’t begin to burn.)

After 15 minutes. The onions have begun to soften and release their liquid.

After 15 minutes. The onions have begun to soften and release their liquid.

After 30 minutes. More wilted and more liquid.

After 30 minutes. More wilted and more liquid.

Adding the thyme.

Adding the thyme.

At 45 minutes.  I generally cook them further down than this.  However, at this point, it's up to you how much further you'd like to go.

At 45 minutes. I generally cook them further down than this. However, at this point, it’s up to you how much further you’d like to go.

At 1 hour.  This is usually where I'll stop. I don't necessarily want the onions caramelized, just very soft and sweet.

At 1 hour. This is usually where I’ll stop. I don’t necessarily want the onions caramelized, just very soft and sweet.

You want your onions to be soft, but not necessarily caramelized.

3.  Once the onions are cooked to your preference, increase the temperature to medium-high, add the white wine or apple cider (if using) and cook until the wine has evaporated.

Adding the wine.  Let this cook down until most of it has evaporated.  If you don't want to use wine, use unsweetened apple cider.   Or, omit this step all together.

Adding the wine. Let this cook down until most of it has evaporated.
If you don’t want to use wine, use unsweetened apple cider.
Or, omit this step all together.

4.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Adding the broth. You can also use chicken or vegetable broths.

Adding the broth. You can also use chicken or vegetable broths.

5.  If you want to do the more traditional serving method, here it goes:  Turn on your oven to broil and place the rack in the top position. Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls (the best bowls are ones that have handles; you can buy these at any restaurant supply – if you don’t have bowls with handles, place them on a baking sheet), place a piece of the toasted bread in the center and sprinkle on a healthy amount of the cheese.  Place the bowls under the broiler for just a minute or two so until the cheese melts and gets brown and bubbly.  Carefully remove the bowls from the oven and serve.

If you don’t want to go that route, simply serve the soup with the bread and cheese on the side.

The best breads to use are crusty, day-old, European-style.  This is one I made a couple of days before.

The best breads to use are crusty, day-old, European-style. This is one I made a couple of days before.

Grated Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthaler or Swiss cheeses as well.  I'm not sure why these became the most common cheeses for Onion Soup, but they are perfect.

Grated Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthal or Swiss cheeses as well. I’m not sure why these became the most common cheeses for Onion Soup, but they are perfect.

I prefer to serve my soup this way.  Bread on the side with the cheese on top of the soup.  I find it easier to eat and a whole lot less mess to clean up.  Of course, if you prefer the more traditonal gratin method, go for it.

I prefer to serve my soup this way. Bread on the side with the cheese on top of the soup. I find it easier to eat and a whole lot less mess to clean up. Of course, if you prefer the more traditonal gratin method, go for it.

 

Enjoy and stay warm!

 

 



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