Rosé all day…with beets!

Oh my goodness, let’s talk about cooking in season! I went down to the Union Square farmer’s market a couple days ago and just LOVED what I found ripened for the end of the summer harvest. I found beautiful bundles of fresh purple kale and candy cane beets, which I had never cooked with before. I knew I had to try out something fun!

I love grain salads- especially in the summer. Maybe it stems from eating tabbouleh (a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, bulgur, mint, parsley and other deliciousness) all my life, but I find them very satisfying while not feeling too heavy after. Plus, with grains you have a blank slate! I love farro. It’s nutty, chewy, hearty and soaks up flavor really well. I decided to take this recipe a little on the sweeter side because I knew it would compliment the beets really well. If you can’t find candy cane beets, yellow works too. I paired this salad with my standard recipe for sautéed chicken breast. This will serve 4-6 portions. Enjoy!

Candy Cane Beet and Farro Salad with an Apple Cider Vinaigrette (Vegan) and Lemon and Garlic Pan Seared Chicken Breast 

  • 1 lb chicken breast (pictured only 1/2 lb)
  • 1 large lemon
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper

 

  • 1 bag quick cook farro (find at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of purple kale
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 bunch candy cane beets
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar reduction
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • salt and pepper
  • feta cheese for garnish

First, let’s get the chicken marinated. If you’re not making chicken, scroll down :).

In a medium sized bowl add the juice of the lemon, grate or smash the garlic cloves, add olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

Add in the chicken breasts, coat really well in the mixture, cover the bowl in saran wrap and stick in in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to marinate.

Now it’s time to let our all-star shine! Look at these babies! I got so excited when I cut into my first one.

Bring a good sized pot of water to a boil. While it’s heating up, wash your beets well (they’ll still be a bit dirty), and with the skins still on, cut them into quarters.

Transfer them to the pot when the water is at a gentle simmer and keep it cooking on medium until the beets are fork tender, about 30 minutes.

While the beets are cooking, we’re going to make the dressing! It’s easy to mix all the ingredients at the bottom of a large bowl, so there’s less clean up. One of my favorite finds is this cider syrup from Carr’s Ciderhouse based out of MA. (You can buy it here: http://www.carrsciderhouse.com/purchase-new/) I was gifted this by a friend who works at farm that carries all local goods. This stuff is great. It’s the cider equivalent of aged balsamic vinegar. It’s sweet and thick. You can use it in dressings, marinades, on pancakes…it even tastes great mixed in drinks! If you can’t get your hands on this, a nice aged balsamic vinegar with honey or a glaze will do. Having the thickness is the key to the dressing.

With the syrup and lemon juice at the bottom, slowly whisk in the olive oil and spices, salt and pepper until it’s emulsified. Set aside.

Once you’re done with that, cook the farro. I love the TJ’s brand because you cook it like pasta and it’s ready in 10 minutes!

Gah, blurry picture! While the farro is cooking, slice your red onions and thinly slice your kale. I rolled my kale and cut it in a chiffonade style so it could really soak up the dressing and be tender without having to cook it!

By this point, the beets should be ready. Drain them, let them cool a bit and then peel the skins off. They’ll slide off really easily! Just don’t burn your fingers.

Once the farro is cooked, drain it and put it directly on the salad. This will slightly wilt the kale and take the edge of the raw onion flavor.

Mix together and add in your raisins, beets and pine nuts. Set aside and let the flavor melding get to work!

 

In a non stick skillet, cook your chicken on medium high. Don’t add any of the extra marinade. You want just the chicken breasts. You also don’t need to add any extra oil to the pan because the chicken has been soaking in it. My pieces of chicken were on the thicker side, so required about 7-8 minutes per side. I could tell when they were done by the finger test. Take your thumb and touch your ring finger. Gently press on the inner part of your hand below your thumb. That’s what well done chicken should feel like in the pan!

When it’s done, slice it in strips to serve with the salad.

I covered mine in a healthy portion of feta because it’s what I had on hand, but gorgonzola or bleu cheese would have been great as well!

As always- like, comment and share! Let me know what recipes you want to see next!

 

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Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

I’ve been lucky enough to have two parents who are both great cooks. I learned a lot from them and grew up to be pretty self sufficient in the kitchen. When I was in Boston a couple weeks ago, my dad was home (he works overseas) and my sister asked him to make Malfoof, which is stuffed cabbage leaves. I grew up eating it, but never learned how to make it, so for today’s post, I had my dad take the reigns and I just took lots of pictures and lots of notes! This recipe feeds an army, so either half it, or plan to feed a lot of people when you make it! 🙂

I recently went to a Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village because I am part Ukrainian on my mom’s side. I really wanted to know what their cuisine was all about. I got a combination of things to try, one of them being stuffed cabbage rolls which were filled with kasha (as in the same stuff in Kashi cereal) smothered in a mushroom gravy. It was interesting and earthy, but I do have to say I like the portability and brightness of these more. Also, it’s what I’m used to ;). But, I am happy to see the same type of food crossing into many of my cultures. Pretty neat! Enjoy!

Malfoof (Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Rice and Steak)

You’ll need:

  • 2 heads of cabbage (Savoy, other variety- read below)
  • 2 cups white short grain rice
  • 1/2 lb sirloin steak or lamb
  • entire head of garlic
  • 3 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tbsp allspice
  • salt and pepper
  • water
  • lemon wedges for garnish

First, we need to wash and prep our cabbage! We used two types here. On the left, savoy and on the right, I’m honestly not sure…I tried to look it up. My dad found it at the Asian supermarket and it was familiar to him as something they also have in the Middle East. Any readers know the answer?? With this type, you need to cut slits at the bottom so the leaves will loosen when you go to boil it later.

With the savoy, you want to pull off the leaves until you get to the center where the leaves are too small to roll. Set those leaves aside.

Get a VERY large pot with water and put the head of cabbage in, bottom down. Let it start to simmer and start to pull the leaves off as they start to wilt. Set aside. You don’t want them to get too boiled, just cooked enough that they’re malleable.

Repeat with the savoy leaves. This will get hot. Use tongs, not bare hands like my dad! Once you have par boiled all of your leaves, set the pot of liquid to the side. You will use this later.

Now comes the fun part of rolling! First you have to prep your leaves. Remove the middle veins and cut the leaves into more workable sizes. Keep the scraps to the side because we will use them to line the pot later.

This is a very large piece my dad can cut into 3 separate rolls.

Removing the middle vein.

With the savoy, just cut the vein from the middle out.

These piles are ready to roll!

Now it’s time to prep the filling. My sister chopped about a 1/2 lb of sirloin steak into very tiny cubes.

Once the meat is cubed, add it to 2 cups of dry white short grain rice. Add in 1.5 tbsp cumin, 1.5 tbsp allspice and salt and pepper to your liking. Mix all together.

Before we start rolling, get the big pot (put the liquid to the side) and line the bottom with cabbage scraps and lots of cloves of garlic.

When rolling, put about a spoonful of mixture onto the cabbage leaf into the center. You want the bumpy side of the leaf on the inside, so what you’re putting your filling on. The outside of the leaf should be smooth. Fold up from the bottom and the sides and roll tightly. Set them to the side.

Once you roll one, you also want to squeeze out the excess liquid. This holds it together better.

Once you have a little pile going, start to stack them in the pot. The general rule of thumb is to put the darker leaves at the bottom because they take longer to cook.

Once you’ve rolled all your leaves, cover with more garlic and scraps and place a plate over it. We are going to cover it in broth and this will help weigh it down so they don’t lift and split open while they cook.

Take the cabbage liquid from earlier and put in the same spices that we put in the rice mixture- cumin, allspice salt and pepper. I would say the same measurements. As you can see, my dad didn’t measure anything or really care to use utensils at this point!

Once combined, pour the liquid over the leaves and bring to the stove top. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the rice is cooked through.

Garnish and serve with lots of lemon and you’ll be very full and satisfied!! This easily serves 8-10 people.

As always- comment, share, enjoy!

Craving Thai Curry in the Summer

I have always been a huge fan of Asian food. It’s pretty much the only cuisine I continually will go out and spend money on. I really don’t like going out to eat other for than the convenience of it. Half the time I feel that I could have made it better at home, BUT I can never come close with Asian dishes. Thai food is probably my favorite because the flavors are so complex and you can never go wrong with a steaming bowl of pad see ew!

Thai curries have always been a pleasure for my palate to explore and I’ve grown to love Panang and Massaman curries the best. It has been my mission over the last couple of years to make a legitimate Thai curry. I’m happy with this version, but there’s always room for growth. Any Thai friends want to help me out? 🙂

Massaman curry uses spices not “native” to the Thai culture. Massaman actually translates to “Muslim” curry, where the spices might have been brought over by Middle Eastern or East Indian traders. I thought that was a cool fact! It’s traditionally cooked with beef, but I made a vegan version with chick peas today! Massaman curry is generally always accompanied with potatoes, onions and peanuts. The base of how I prepare the curry recipe can be used with any type of curry paste. This is a one pot meal and the longer it simmers, the better it tastes. Enjoy!

Vegan Massaman Curry with Chick Peas and Peanuts

 

First, let’s get to chopping! Cube up yukon and sweet potatoes to medium chunks and set aside. You can choose to peel or not to peel. I was lazy and didn’t want to, but also the skin has a lot of nutritional value so I left it on. Just make sure you clean them well first!

Rough chop some garlic and ginger. This will just help to release some extra aromatics into the broth. Also, slice an onion length wise. I forgot to take a picture of that!

Drain and rinse your chick peas. If you don’t want to use chick peas, use tofu, chicken, beef, pork, etc! I would just sear it ahead of time before adding it to the broth for texture’s sake!

Now, this is the all star of the night! Massaman curry paste! I was able to find this at Whole Foods!

Ok, ALSO another key ingredient. FULL FAT coconut cream. If you can’t find it, then coconut milk. DO NOT use reduced fat. It will water down the taste of the curry and you’ll try it and be like, “This needs flavor…I’ll add salt!” and you’ll add more and more and it won’t be what it needs and you’ll be sad. Don’t skimp on this!!!

Now we get to cooking! Grab a large pot- I’m using a dutch oven- and get some oil really hot. We’re going to fry the paste first.

Once the paste starts releasing lots of fragrance, it’s time for the next step!

Add in the coconut cream and whisk, still keeping it on high heat until combined.

Once the curry/ coconut milk is boiling, add in a carton of vegetable broth and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and taste test. At this point, I tend to add in a little more salt and a little bit of sugar to balance the flavor. Curry is all about a balance of savory, sweet and salty!

I also wanted it a little more spicy, so I added in some chili garlic paste. Yum!

Once the broth is simmering, add in the potatoes, garlic, ginger, chick peas and onions.

 

You can also add in as many peanuts as you’d like. I put a lot! Stir it all together and let simmer on medium heat.

Once the curry is boiling, reduce heat to low and cover until the potatoes are cooked through- about 20-30 minutes. The longer you leave the curry simmering, the better the flavor gets!

Serve over rice and you’re ready to eat! This makes 6-8 hearty portions.

Chick Pea Massaman Curry

  • 2 cans chick peas, drained
  • 1 can massaman curry paste
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1 carton vegetable broth
  • 4 yellow potatoes
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 nub ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup of peanuts
  • 1 tbsp canola/ peanut oil
  • salt and sugar to taste

Chop potatoes into medium sized pieces, cut onion length-wise and rough chop ginger and garlic. Drain chick peas.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp oil on high heat and fry the curry paste for about a minute until it becomes very fragrant. Immediately add in the coconut cream and whisk until combined. Bring to a boil and add in vegetable broth. Turn down the heat to medium high and let it come to a simmer. Taste the broth and add salt and/or sugar accordingly. Add in all of the vegetables, peanuts and chick peas and bring to a boil. Once it’s at a steady boil, bring down the heat and cover until the potatoes are cooked through- about 20-30 minutes. Serve with rice. Enjoy!

As always- like, comment and share!

 

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.

img_4595

 

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