Make this and you’ll never go out and buy that sad excuse they call “hummus” in the grocery store again!

I know…I know! I’ve had this blog for months and I’ve still never showed you how to make hummus! That’s a Middle Eastern staple. This should have been one of my first recipes on the blog. Alas. I do have to admit…hummus is not the end all, be all for me so I don’t ever make it for myself. GASP! WELL, I grew up with it and it’s just as ordinary as peanut butter to me in a way.

When I was a child, most Saturday mornings my father would set up an “Arabic breakfast”. Sundays were reserved for pancakes ;-). We would lay a blanket on the dining room floor and adorn it all homemade fried eggs and potatotes (batata fi baid), hummus, foul (similar to hummus, but made with fava beans), za’atar (a spiced sesame mixture), fresh extra virgin olive oil, salty olives, pickles and labne. Oh, and there was always fresh tea brewed with dried sage leaves (meramieh). We ate everything with pita bread and by our hands. We sat on the floor and there was no silverware in sight.

When hummus started becoming a staple you could find in any grocery store, I got so excited. I tried every brand. I found them all super disappointing. Most have this horrible, gritty texture. It’s because they leave the skin on the chick peas when they mash them. BIG NO-NO. Also, a lot of brands naturally have this weird cumin flavor when it’s not even listed in the ingredients. Yuck. Once you have it fresh, it’s hard to have it any other way.

My recipe is super easy and will yield the fluffiest, creamiest, buttery hummus you will never try from a store bought tub.

Palestinian/Syrian/Lebanese Style Garlic and Lemon Hummus

 

 

SO, here’s the short cut. You can go to your local Middle Eastern market and buy PRE-MASHED chickpeas. Hard work already done! So, that’s what I do pretty much all the time. If you realllllllly want to do it from scratch, make sure you take all of the skins off of the chick peas before you blend them and add in 2 extra tbsp of tahini into the food processor when you’re blending to give a super creamy consistency.

“But, wait, Amal, I don’t live near a Middle Eastern market!” No joke…I literally found these cans in my Dominican bodega in Washington Heights next to the Goya black beans. I was bewildered! Or, you can order them online!

Assemble your cloves of garlic. I made a double batch, so I used 6, but hey, if you want to make this Garlic Lover’s Hummus, more power to you. Using the flat surface of a knife, mash the garlic until the peels come loose and transfer them to a mortar and pestle.

Mash until you have a nice even consistency.

The next step is to empty the cans of chickpeas into a mixing bowl with the garlic. Just be careful who’s around to listen to cans opening because they might think it’s time to be fed!

Next, add in 2 tbsp of tahini. Make sure your tahini is well stirred from the jar, or else you’ll be putting in mainly sesame oil!

Next, add the juice of 2 lemons and salt to your liking. Be careful of the pits!

At this point, you should mix the hummus together. It’ll have a nice consistency, but it’ll still be a little gritty. Here’s where the magic comes in…the secret ingredient is….

WATER.

Yup. Start with a couple tablespoons and mix it together. You’ll see that the hummus instantly will start to whip and fluff and become creamy. Start in smaller increments because you can’t work backwards if you put too much in!

 

And, there you go! I brought this to a picnic at Tanglewood and it had rave reviews! I garnished it with sumac (a lemony spice), pine nuts and fresh parsley for a bright contrast.

You also don’t have to use lemon and garlic in this! Do any combo of flavors! Full recipe is below. Enjoy!

Double Recipe (Serves 8-10)

  • 2 cans hummus tahini (found in Middle Eastern Markets) OR 2 cans drained chick peas with skins removed (follow prep instructions above)
  • 2 lemons
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp water, or more
  • salt to taste
  • sumac, pine nuts, parsley for garnish

In a mortar and pestle, grind peeled garlic cloves until mashed. In a large mixing bowl, empty contents of hummus cans. Add in the garlic, juice of 2 lemons, tahini and salt. Combine. Incrementally add in water to create a smoother consistency until it is nice and whipped. transfer into a serving dish and garnish!

Enjoy and comment! Let me know you’re reading :).

 

Roasted Kofta on a Cold Spring Night

Ok, New York City. It’s May. That old saying, “April showers bring May flowers”, has been anything but right. It’s been rainy and cold pretty much every day and the end doesn’t seem in sight. I can’t wait for a week of straight sunshine and warmer days!

Cold weather always makes me crave comfort food. I found some ground beef on sale at my local Whole Foods and waited for the right opportunity to use it. I knew that kofta would be perfect for a warming, Sunday night meal.

Kofta is pretty much a spiced Arabic meatball. In the summer, it’s great to grill on skewers! As a kid, I remember that our family barbecues always had kofta on the menu. My uncles would make patties out of the mix, trying to disguise it as “American” hamburgers, but all of the kids would grunt in disgust. We were stupid, ha!

In the colder months, we would prepare it by baking it in the oven. Everyone’s favorite recipe was accompanied with tomatoes and potatoes, but my father tried to win our hearts over with a version that doused and baked the meat in a tahini (sesame paste) bath. We were not fans, but maybe I’d like it now!

I followed the basic recipe, but for time’s sake, baked the potatoes separately (kind of like healthy chips!). When it was cooking, the aromas coming from the kitchen warmed my heart.

Kofta Kebabs with Roasted Potatoes and Tomatoes

  • 1 lb ground beef (should be 90/10 or higher)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 plump Roma tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp all spice
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • olive oil

 

 

First, thinly slice your potatoes and place on a greased baking sheet. Hit them with a spray of cooking oil, salt and pepper. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Now it’s time to prepare your mix. Roughly chop Italian parsley and a small onion. Then place in a food processor/ blender with a little bit of olive oil and puree to as smooth of a consistency as you can.

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Transfer the mix into a bowl. Add salt, pepper and allspice to the mix.

Now it’s time to get down and dirty. Add in the ground beef and mix all together. You really want to use the lowest fat percentage you can find. Mine was 90/10.

Form balls, about 2 tbsp worth of meat, and roll into a log. Place them in a baking dish and form rows.

Oh, so pretty!

Thinly slice Roma tomatoes and place on top of the kofta. This helps to keep the meat nice and moist without any additional fat!

Put the kofta and potatoes in the oven. Check on the potatoes and flip them after about 20 minutes. Allow them to both cook another 20 minutes, then take the potatoes out. The kofta will need 10 more minutes, totaling 45-50 minutes of cook time. Let cool and serve together!

Ketchup is a necessity for me for this meal! You can even wrap the kofta in pita and eat it that way. Yum!

As always, thanks for reading! Comment below and let me know you’re out there :). Until next time!

A Quick and Easy Weeknight Meal!

Hi readers!

I apologize in advance- I’ve fallen slightly off the bandwagon! New work has kept me busy and traveling (yay!), but has left a lot less time for cooking for fun (boo!).

I thought I would share one of my go-to midweek staples. It’s not Middle Eastern, it’s not quite American, it’s my own spin :). Let’s call it “New Chop-Suey” as an homage to my New England roots. And friends, if you have any recipes that you want simplified or a Middle Eastern dish you’re dying to make at home, PLEASE give me ideas. I love taking requests and love seeing what my readers make off of my recipes!

I really like using ground turkey. It’s a great lower fat alternative to beef, it holds flavor well, doesn’t taste weird when you reheat it like other poultry AND it’s cheap. You can always find it for $2.99/lb at Trader Joe’s! I was originally intending to play around with crumbled tempeh (vegan protein alternative) for this recipe , but the turkey was on sale so I went with the cheaper option! That being said, this recipe would work great with soy meat crumbles, crumbled tempeh or even Tuscan white beans.

You can get this baby done in about 20 minutes! Yum!

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb ground turkey (or 1 package tempeh, or 2 cans of drained and rinsed white beans)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 box of your pasta of choice (I used rotini)
  • 3 stalks of chopped kale
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Grated Parmesan

In a large pot, heat salted water and bring to a boil for the pasta.

Once the pasta is cooking, in a medium sauce pan (great if it has a lid), heat oil and cook turkey through. Drain the fat when done.

Return turkey to the pan on medium heat and add a can of tomatoes:

Add garlic. I know the tomatoes already had it, but you can never have enough garlic in my opinion ;-). Add in the salt, pepper and chili flakes as well.

Throw in a handful of pine nuts:

Remove the stems and chop the kale. I was lazy and didn’t want to dirty a chopping board, so I broke it into pieces with my hands.

Cover the saute pan and let the kale steam down for 2-3 minutes. This is what it’ll look like when it’s done!

Now, you can either combine the pasta into the saute pan when it’s done, or serve separately. I decided to keep them separate because I’m kind of calorie counting at the moment. Ewww.

Feel free to eat as is, or garnish with some grated cheese and hot sauce. This is currently my go-to brand! I found it at a craft fair in Brooklyn a couple months back and boy, it’s potent stuff! Check out their products with the link below. I also like that it’s called Fil-fil, which means pepper in Arabic :).

https://www.filfilfoods.com/

 

And ta-da! Healthy and easy. Not a lot of clean up and fills you up well!

“Rolled” up in memories…

Hi friends and followers!

Sorry I’ve been a bit “M.I.A.”! I’ve been traveling and haven’t had time to figure out what I wanted to blog about next! I recently went to visit one of my good friends who lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. It has a large Lebanese population there, which means it’s pretty much the Mecca of delicious, fresh and authentic Arabic food. She took me to this new grocery store that opened up in the neighborhood and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life. It was like the Walmart of Middle Eastern food. They had everything I wanted and needed and it was CHEAP. Needless to say, I loaded up and took home more than I expected that day, including a jar of grape leaves.

One of my absolute favorite things growing up has always been stuffed grape leaves. Especially when they were made by my Tata (grandmother). They were a special treat because she lived overseas, so we only got to eat them when she would come visit and be begged to make them. My Tata was a bridal seamstress, so she was very detailed and intricate. She worked so easily with her hands and she would roll the grape leaves so tiny, they were like little cigarettes. I would gobble them up and eat them until I felt sick!

Nowadays you can easily find pre-made stuffed grape leaves usually by the same brands that make hummus. I’ve seen them at salad bars as well. Those types are more “Mediterranean” style and served cold in an olive oil brine. The traditional Palestinian style is served hot in a spiced tomato stew. YUM. So, I’m going to show you how I make them. I am by no means as skilled as my Tata, so even though they weren’t pretty, they still tasted good! Chunk out a good amount of time to prep these…the rolling process is pretty time consuming. This recipe also yields a LOT, so invite friends over when you make it!

The most difficult ingredient to find will be the grape leaves:

Any Middle Eastern market should have them, but I regularly see them at Whole Foods and sometimes in the Ethnic aisles of more Urban supermarkets.

 

Palestinian Style Stuffed Grape Leaves (Serves 6-8)

  • 1 jar grape leaves, in brine
  • 1 lb sirloin steak, or lamb* chopped VERY finely
  • 1 3/4 cups white rice, dry
  • 1 jar tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Allspice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste

*- Lamb is more authentic, but I used steak. You can also sub 3-5 diced Roma tomatoes for a vegetarian version.

To prep, cube the meat in very tiny pieces.

Add in uncooked rice, salt, 1 tbsp allspice, 1 tbsp tomato paste and enough olive oil to “wet” the mixture. (Usually 1-1 1/2 tbsp). Mix all together.

In a strainer, empty out the grape leaves and lightly rinse the leaves. 

Now comes the fun part! You will need a working station to prepare these. Grab a large pot and line the bottom of it to prevent burning.

Using a plate or a cutting board, lay out one leaf at a time. If any leaves have large holes or rips, they unfortunately cannot be used! If the leaf also has any stem sticking out, have a sharp knife on hand to cut it off. The batch I bought had them removed already. 

The leaves come in all shapes and sizes. My batch had a bunch of smaller leaves, so you just have to be proportional to the amount you stuff it with. The rice will cook and expand, so sometimes less is more so that they don’t rip. I started off with a generous pinch of filling- about 1 tbsp.

Lay the filling horizontally across the center, kind of shaping a tube. (Ignore my OM hands, haha!)

Start by folding up the bottom and tucking the top, so the filling doesn’t spill out. 

Fold one side, then the other and roll up tightly and gently. These babies are delicate! 

Stack them in the pot as you go! (Yah, some of these ripped…what can you do…)

Once all of the grape leaves are rolled up, prep the sauce you will cook them in. In a bowl, put two or three generous spoonfuls of tomato paste into a bowl warm water.

Stir vigorously until blended.

Next, add in the ground allspice and salt.

Once mixed, pour mixture on top of the stuffed leaves. Add in more water to submerge the leaves and place a plate upside-down on the top and put pressure on the leaves. This is so they won’t float around and unravel while cooking. Cover and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once bubbling, bring down the temperature to a very low simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until the rice is done.

 

As you can see, mine are far from perfect and some of them broke! The rolls on the top will always come apart more than the bottom. Those looked nicer :).

You can squeeze a little bit of lemon on top and serve with pita bread!

I also made Ehdje that night (cauliflower fritters), but that recipe will be for another post!

My roommates Maxwell and Elizabeth and my friend Javier  were subject to helping me eat this feast. There were no complaints!

Anyways, this is a tricky one, but it’s a fun activity to learn something new if you like to experiment in the kitchen!

With happy hearts and happy tum-tums,

Amal

Mujaddara and Memories

Mujaddara (a rice and lentil dish) has always been a staple in my family. It’s easy to make, cheap to assemble and a well-built meal. My mom has even mastered it in the rice cooker but, you’ll have to ask her for the recipe on that!

I love making this for friends and dinner parties. First off, the base of the recipe is vegan AND gluten-free, so everyone can easily partake. It always gets requested and sometimes lovingly called “mmmmmm-jedra”.

My roommate and I traveled recently and stayed with one of my good friends from college. As a gratitude for her hospitality, I offered to make dinner. Guess what I made? You’re right! The pictures below are from that night.

Mujaddara is usually served with a fresh salad and topped with caramelized onions and labne (soft, tart cheese). I couldn’t find that, so I easily subbed it with plain Greek yogurt. This recipe serves 6-8 people and makes lots of happy, full tum tums. A step-by-step guide is below, followed by the actual recipe with measurements.

Mujaddara (Palestinian-Style Rice with Lentils)

Gather all of your veggies for the salad and rice, lentils and onions!

You need to par-boil your lentils for a little so that they cook evenly with the rice later.

As they’re boiling, slice your onions to prep them for caramelizing.

Once the lentils are halfway cooked, strain and rinse them (once cool enough!) and add in the dry rice and rinse everything together. A mesh strainer is best.

Put the wet rice and lentils in a large pot, then cover in water and add in all of the spices. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn on low.

After that starts up, add a good amount of olive oil to a saute pan. Cook onions on a medium high heat, occasionally stirring as they start to caramelize.

While that’s all cooking, you can prep the salad!

Once everything is chopped, cover in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss! Using your hands is fun! Just make sure they’re clean :).

I like the onions to come out like this. You can make them more brown or less….your choice! The rice is done when the water is evaporated.

Either serve on a platter, or simply dump the onions on top of the rice and voila!

For the rice:

  • 1.5 cups white basmati rice
  • 1.5 cups brown or green lentils
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder (optional)

For the onions:

  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

For the salad:

  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley or mint….or both!
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 seedless, english cucumber, chopped in quarters
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium lemon, squeezed
  • salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, put lentils with enough water to cover it and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook for about another 7-10 minutes. Lentils should be halfway cooked.

Strain in a fine strainer and run cold water over them. Add in dry rice to the strainer and continue to run under cold water.

Bring wet rice and lentils to a large pot. Add water. You want the grains full submerged with about an inch of water above it. Add in spices. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the water is evaporated and the rice is done.

After the rice is all assembled and starting to boil, start to saute the onions. In a large saute pan, add in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and turn the heat to medium high. Once the oil is hot, add in the sliced onions and spread out evenly on the pan. Periodically stir the onions as they slowly caramelize. This will take pretty much as long as the rice takes to cook. Once the rice and onions are done, pour the onions on top of the rice in the pot.

As all is cooking, you can also assemble the salad! Get a large salad bowl and chop the romaine, parsley, tomato and cucumber. Add them all to the bowl. Then roll a lemon and slice in half. squeeze each lemon half over the salad, the drizzle about 2-3 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to your liking. Take your hands (or salad tongs- BORING) and mix it all up!

When you serve the rice, make sure you get some yummy onions on top! Garnish with a dollop of labne or Greek yogurt and serve the salad on the same plate so all the flavors can meld together. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Winner winner, Turkey Dinner?

Ground Turkey. The ever popular American protein. It’s lean, it’s flavorful and it’s versatile. Turkey always makes me think of Thanksgiving growing up. Thanksgiving with my family was always a momentous occasion. 20+ aunts, uncles, cousins and pets running wildly, talking loudly and drinking lots of Pepsi. Thanksgiving was an American holiday. My mom, one of my aunts, my cousins and I were all born and raised Americans. The rest of my family were immigrants who fully embraced the traditions of their newly found holiday. The biggest issue was that pretty much all of my Arabic relatives really, really hated turkey. They didn’t grow up with it and although it’s mild in the poultry family, it had a very distinct flavor that was a big turn off. Every year growing up, a large turkey was always prepared with the standard side fare along with an arsenal of Palestinian meat and rice dishes. By the end of the night the turkey was barely picked at, but the fully roasted lamb was just a pile of bones. Our family gatherings are smaller now that everyone is older, but it’s just not Thanksgiving without someone complaining about the turkey!

All jest aside, I do love turkey! It’s super quick to cook with and it’s great for an easy mid-week meal. I’ve developed this recipe over some time and it’s one of my staples. It’s mildly sweet, but super flavorful and hearty! For my veggie friends, this can be easily subbed with crumbled tempeh. Enjoy!

 

Spiced Ground Turkey and Quinoa with Citrus Dressing

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This recipe is ready in 20 minutes and makes 3-4 servings. It’s also perfect for leftovers. Yum! You will need:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 4-5 cups chopped kale (I like dino!)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts (or pepitas, or pecans….your choice!)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, divided
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 bouillon cube
  • Whatever spices you want! I used smoked paprika, cayenne garlic and onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, mix quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Add in bouillon, cover and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. You can also sub the water for stock, or just prepare the quinoa in water. I usually chose the most flavorful option!

In a large saute pan, heat sesame oil and brown the turkey. Once it is almost fully cooked, add in the garlic and kale. Once the kale begins to wilt, add in 1/4 of a cup of orange juice, pine nuts and the dried cranberries and cover and cook on medium heat until kale is completely wilted.

While all is cooking, you can prepare the dressing! In a tightly seal-able container, mix the remaining orange juice, olive oil, maple syrup and salt and pepper. Seal it tight and SHAKE, SHAKE SHAKE until it’s fully emulsified! Set aside.

Once the turkey mixture and quinoa are done you can either mix it together or serve one on top of the other! I think this is a bowl-worthy dish.

Once served, Garnish with green onions and dressing. I added a little bit of smoky hot sauce as well. Mmmm.

Hope you enjoy it!

Happy Hearts and Happy Tum Tums,

Amal

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, taking charge

Hello! Thanks for stopping by!

Ahh, the last time I “blogged” was probably in middle school on Live Journal. I promise that this will be a bit more refined!

I got the idea to start this blog because a lot of people ask me for my recipes. I tend to make a lot of stuff up on the spot, so this gives me the chance to figure out what I’m actually doing in the kitchen. I cook for myself most nights of the week and go out to eat very rarely. It’s more cost efficient, I know what I’m putting into my body and the majority of the time I feel like I could make it better! The recipes I share will be a mix of dishes from my Palestinian heritage and my take on the American classics I grew up with. I collect a lot of recipes and I ask my friends to show me how they make the yummy things they eat and I’m excited to have a platform to share them with you!

Happy hearts and happy tum tums,

Amal