Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Baked Egyptian-Style Felafel

Some Egyptian friends of mine asked me if felafel is as popular in the U.S. as it is in Egypt.I usually like to joke with them by saying that the only felafels that I have ever come across are from a box.The kind where you just add water to a prepared felafel spice mix and then fry.But, I don't think anything would upset them more than to learn that my method for preparing them involves baking them as opposed to frying.
The following recipe takes about the same amount of time to prepare as the frying version but minus the calories and fat.Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Yield:18 felafel balls


2 Tbsp. olive oil

1-14 oz. canned fava or lima beans, rinsed well and drained

2-14oz. canned low-sodium chick peas (garbanzos), rinsed well and drained

6 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled, minced

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. whole coriander seedsfinely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 c chickpea or regular flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a large baking dish with the olive oil. Set aside.

2.Combine all the ingredients together except the sesame seeds in a food processor or blender.Process until well combined.

3.Form the felafel mix into 2 Tbsp. sized balls or patties.

4.Place the sesame seeds on a dish.Roll the felafel balls or patties into the sesame seeds fully coating them.

5.Place the felafels in the oiled baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.Serve with sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and spreadable feta.

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Mamounia (Semolina Pudding)

Yield:4 Servings
3 c water
1/2 c superfine sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/2 c semolina
1 Tbsp. rose water
1 Tbsp. orange blossom water
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. slivered almonds, to garnish

1. To make the sugar syrup, place the water and sugar in a saucepan , stirring continuously till the sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.Remove from heat and set aside.
2.In a separate pan, melt the butter, then add the semolina, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until all the butter is absorbed. Slowly stir in the sugar syrup and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened.
3.Remove mamounia from heat and add the rose and orange blossom water. Stir to evenly combine.
4. Pour mamounia into 4 serving dishes and sprinkle with ground cinnamon and slivered almonds.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Orange-Blossom Scented Chicken(Dajaj Mai Qedda)

Orange-blossom water (mai qedda) is a popular flavoring derived from the blossoms of the sour orange tree. It is used in middle-eastern and arabic cooking. to give a delicate perfume flavoring mostly to pastries, syrups, and puddings.This recipe combines essence of orange-blossom with chicken to create a fragrant and flavorful dish perfect for a quick mid-week meal.

Yield:4 Servings
For the Marinade:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground cardamom
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
finely grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1 oz. orange juice
2 Tbsp. orange-blossom water

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.Oil a baking dish with the olive oil, set aside.
2. To make the marinade, in a small bowl, combine together the cardamom, minced garlic cloves, salt, freshly ground pepper, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, orange zest, orange juice and the orange-blossom water.Stir together till evenly combined and a paste is formed.
3.Put the marinade in a resealable plastic bag and add the chicken breasts one by one and shake making sure the marinade completely covers each breast.
4. Put each chicken breast in the oiled baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes.Serve with basmati rice.
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Za'faran wa hail ka'ak (Saffron & Cardamom Cake)

The idea for this cake recipe was inspired by the spice souks of the Middle East.This cake is perfect for Ramadan and any other festive occasion or is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.The combination of saffron, turmeric and cardamom blend perfectly together to create a cake that is both light and aromatic.

Yield:6 Servings
pinch of saffron threads
6 dates,pitted, chopped
5 eggs
5 oz. sugar
1 tsp. cardamom, ground
pinch of turmeric
5 oz. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
butter or oil for greasing
flour for dusting
handful of almonds, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Soak the saffron strands in 2 Tbsp. of hot water for 1 hour, then set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar till well combined, about 10 minutes.Add the cardamom and turmeric.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder together.Then sift into the egg/sugar bowl slowly while mixing.
4. After the flour and baking powder have been folded into the egg/sugar, add the saffron water and vegetable oil and mix.
5.Grease a small cake pan with butter or vegetable oil.Dust with a little of the flour.
6.Pour half the cake mixture into the pan. Add the chopped dates , then cover with the remaining cake mixture.Top with the sliced almonds.
7. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hamour Mahshi (Arabian-Style Stuffed Fish)

Hamour is a type of grouper that is commonly found in the waters of the Persian Gulf and is the fish of choice in a lot of gulf recipes.Unfortunately, it is only available in the Gulf countries and is quite expensive because of its future danger of extinction Banned Fish Traps Threaten Hamour. Here's a common recipe that is popular throughout the GCC countries,if you cannot find hamour you can replace it with sea bass or cod.

Yield:2-3 Servings
1 hamour, cleaned and scaled
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 plus 1/2 tsp. turmeric
sea salt, to taste
3 garlic cloves,crushed
1/8 tsp. ginger,ground
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
sea salt, to taste
1 3/4 oz. almonds, sliced
3/4oz. pine nuts (optional)
3/4 oz. walnuts,roughly chopped
3 Tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, sliced

1.Preheat oven to 350F.
2.Oil an oven-proof baking dish with the olive oil and place fish in it. Rub 1 tsp. of the turmeric allover hamour and sprinkle it with salt and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, blend together the crushed garlic, ground ginger,cumin, and remaining turmeric,black pepper, and sea salt until it becomes a paste.

4. Add the almonds, pine nuts (if using),walnuts and cilantro and combine together until well blended.

5. Stuff the hamour with the nut stuffing and place some on top.Place the half the sliced onions inside the fish and the other half on top.Bake for 45-55 minutes.Serve with yellow or white rice.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Simple Middle Eastern Hummus Salad (Salata Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat)

Yield:4 Servings


6 Tbsp. olive oil

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

3/4 c fresh cilantro, thinly chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

2 c canned low-sodium chickpeas (garbanzos)

1/2 medium red onion, thinly chopped

1. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, red wine vinegar,cilantro, salt and pepper until evenly combined.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the chickpeas and onions.Add the dressing and toss gently till evenly coated.

3.Place chickpea salad in refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour.Serve chilled.
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tabil (Fiery Tunisian Spice Mix)

Tabil, a fiery spice blend from Tunisia is a blend of caraway, coriander, garlic and chili.It is commonly sprinkled over meats and used to add an extra bite to stuffings, vegetables, and stews.

Yield:1/4 c
1/2 c coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
2 tsp. dried red chili powder or cayenne pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder

1. Place the coriander and caraway seeds in a spice grinder and grind till powdered and combine
with remaining ingredients or use a mortar and pestle.
2.Place tabil in tight fitting jar and store in a cool, dry place. Will keep for 6 months.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Arab Ice Cream in a Box

One of the delights of living in the Middle East is the unusual range of food products one comes across. I came across this package for instant ice cream in the supermarket around the corner from where I live.It claims "Ice Cream in 5 Minutes" and comes in chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate flavors.Of course, it's claims are a little deceptive as the preparation takes 5 minutes but, the actual ice cream isn't ready for another 2-3 hours depending on how cold your freezer is.

So, I followed the 3 step instructions:
1. Pour 1 glass of cold milk with the chocolate powder into a bowl.

2.Mix milk and chocolate powder by hand until completely combined, for 5 minutes.

3. Put mixture in freezer for few hours until frozen.
The Result?
Sorry I don't have a pic but ice cream looks and tastes just as good as the one bought already made from the store.Only thing they forgot to mention in the package is that it needs to be stirred about every half hour to hour to break up the ice crystals.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Persian Eggplant Yogurt Dip(Borani-e Bademjan)

Yield:6 Servings
1 1/2 lb. eggplant, edges trimmed,sliced, outer purple skin removed
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil plus extra
1 1/2 c plain whole greek-style yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
salt, to taste

1.Cube the eggplant slices.Over medium-high heat, warm a pan with 2 Tbsp. olive oil.Add
the cubed eggplant and saute regularly until they become soft and begin to cook (15 minutes).Add more olive oil if necessary.
2.Remove pan from heat and allow eggplant to cool slightly.
3.In a medium bowl, add the eggplant and the remaining of the ingredients and mix manually
for few minutes till somewhat evenly combined.
4.Add the eggplant/yogurt mixture to a food processor and process till evenly combined and
it becomes a puree-like consistency.Add salt to taste and process for few more seconds.
5.Place borani-e bademjan in a serving dish and serve at room temperature.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm moving to Cairo but don't know for how long

Just in case your wondering where I've been the last 2 weeks I am planning a move to Cairo so unfortunately this has kept me from updating my blog.I was supposed to leave Monday but instead am leaving tomorrow (long story)so I will probably be back to sharing my recipes with you within 1 week .I hope the hostel where I'm staying lets me use their kitchen in the meantime.Well, just want to say to everyone thanks for everything I really enjoyed getting your feedback and reading your blogs and I will be back shortly and look forward to keeping up with your them while I'm in Cairo.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Khoresht-e Badenjan (Persian Eggplant Stew)

Picture courtesy of TurmericSaffron

A quintisential Persian dish, Khoresht-e Badenjan is one of the most well-known and loved of the Persian stews.Slight variations of this recipe can be found throughout the Middle East like some calling for the addition of grapes, golden raisins, or loomi (dried limes) for adding a sour note.Just keep in mind that preparing this dish takes some time and requires about 1 hour cooking time, but it is well worth it.

Yield:4 Servings
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil plus more if necessary
2 1/2 lbs. small eggplants, cut into strips
1 onion, halved and sliced
8 oz. lamb, trimmed of visible fat, cut into small cubes
1 tsp. ground turmeric
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c small, unripe grapes or golden raisins (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and fry the eggplants until they are soft.Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
2. Add the onion and fry until translucent.Add the lamb cubes and cook till browned. Add the turmeric, tomato paste,chopped tomatoes, grapes or golden raisins (if using)and lemon juice and enough water to cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Add the eggplants to the simmering stew with a little more water, season with salt and pepper, cover, and continue simmering further for another 20 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and serve hot with rice.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hilbeh (Yemeni Fenugreek Relish)

Looking for something different other than the usual pita & hummus for mezze?Spice things up a bit with hilbeh, a spicy Yemeni relish made with fenugreek and cilantro.Hilbeh is a staple on the Yemeni table much like zhoug.It is used as a dip for Arab bread or added to Yemeni-style stews.Hilbeh is very easy to make but just keep in mind the the fenugreek seeds require about 18 hours soaking time to remove their bitterness.

Yield:4 oz.
2 tsp. fenugreek seeds, soaked in water for 18 hours or until they have softened, drained
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fresh green chili, chopped
a handful of cilantro, chopped
2-3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, to taste

1. In a food processor or blender, grind the fenugreek seeds with the garlic, chili and cilantro to a coarse paste.Place fenugreek paste in a medium bowl.

2. Add the tomatoes and beat in the sugar,lemon juice, and salt to taste.Serve with arab bread or as a flavoring for stews.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Buza al-Halib (Sahlab Ice Cream)

When one thinks of Middle Eastern desserts, ice cream is not the first thing that comes to mind. Buza al-halib (Sahlab ice cream) aka buza bi mistiki (mastic ice cream) is just one of many iced desserts available throughout this region.Buza al-halib is a snowy white ice cream that is thickened with sahlab,powdered orchid root and flavored with mastic, not to be confused with gum arabic,a resin taken from the lentisk tree which is native to the Mediterranean.

Mastic gives this ice cream a consistency that is smooth, elastic, while at the same time chewy.Mastic is usually available from middle eastern grocers or you can try My Amazon Store.It looks like small, hard translucent crystal-like lumps that must be ground to a fine powder before using.Here's a recipe for authentic arab ice cream,buza al-halib, if you cannot find mastic , don't worry about it,the ice cream tastes just as good without it.

Yield:6-8 Servings
3 Tbsp. sahlab
5 c whole milk
1 c sugar
small piece of mastic, size of half a fingernail, pounded till powdered (optional)
1 tbsp. rose water
chopped pistachios,for garnish (optional)

1. In a small bowl, mix the sahlab with a little milk to create a loose paste.Put the remainder of the milk with the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly till the sugar dissolves.

2. Reduce the heat. Add the sahlab/milk mixture to thee warmed milk, stirring vigorously.Add the mastic and continue stirring vigorously until it has dissolved.

3. Simmer milk for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.Add the rose water. Remove saucepan from heat.

4. Pour milk mixture into a ceramic bowl and allow it to cool before freezing. Freeze for 4 1/2 -5hours,stirring every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals.*

5.When ready to serve, spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired.

*Pour ice cream mixture into ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Ras al-Hanout (Moroccan Spice Blend)

To say ras al-hanout contains a lot of ingredients is an understatement.Ras al-hanout is an aromatic Moroccan spice blend consisting of spices, herbs, and roots. It may contain anywhere from 15 up to 100 ingredients. Yeah, you read that right but usually averages about 13 ingredients.Ras al-Hanout loosely translates into "head of the shop" which is such an appropriate name since each spice merchant's blend is unique and contains different ingredients.

A typical ingredient list for ras al-hanout may contain any of the following spices in varying amounts:allspice, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, grains of paradise, dried rosebuds,lavender, nigella seeds, various ground chillies, peppercorns,belladonna, nutmeg, orris root,turmeric,and cantharides (Spanish fly).Ras al-hanout can be bought ready made from Middle Eastern grocers but chances are you may have most of these spices available in your cupboard, well with the exception of cantharides.Here's a recipe for Moroccan ras al-hanout.Use it to flavor moroccan tagines, game dishes,and couscous.

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. groung ginger
1/2 tsp. ground mace
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried rosebuds, optional
1/2 tsp. cantharis,optional

1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and blend thoroughly.Place ras al-hanout in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.Will keep for 1 year.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Salatat Batata al Tunis (Tunisian Potato Salad)

Unlike potato salads in the USA which are drowning in mayonnaise or sour cream,the potato salads of the Middle East are light, full of taste and make a perfect accompaniment to any meat dish.Recipes for potato salads vary from region to region and are characterized by their origin depending on the spices used.The following recipe is typical of Tunisia for it's use of caraway and cayenne pepper.

Yield:4-6 Servings
1/4 c olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground caraway
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
2 dashes of salt
5 large potatoes, cooked, peeled, and cubed
4 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
4 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
4 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the lemon juice, caraway, cayenne pepper, salt and stir.
2.After about 5 minutes, add the potatoes and stir until evenly coated with the seasoned oil.Warm the potatoes for 5-7 minutes.
3.Remove potatoes from heat and place in a bowl and chill till ready to serve adding the fresh herbs, tossing them together with the potatoes before serving or add the herbs immediately and toss and serve potato salad warm.Adjust salt, if necessary.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Ka'k or Kahk (Middle Eastern Spice Bracelets)

Who would have thought that Middle Eastern bakers would find a culinary gem right in the pit of a cherry, that when dried in the sun and ground to a powder produces a spice,mahlab which gives breads an almond-like flavor.Mahlab comes from a tree called St.Lucy's cherry(Prunus Mahaleb).It is a large shrub-like tree that grows primarily in the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean and is used exclusively for mahlab production.To make mahlab, the pits of this cherry are dried in the sun till golden-brown then pounded to a powder form.Mahlab is used to give a sweet almond flavor to candies, cookies, pastries, and breads throughout the Middle East.

The following recipe is mentioned in the medieval cooking manual,Kittab al-Wulsa Illa' L-Habib and is still being used today.Ka'k or Kahk are bracelet-shaped breads that are flavored with coriander and sprinkled with mahlab.They can eaten for breakfast or as a snack.They are perfect the next day heated a little and dipped in olive oil.

Yield:14-17 (varies depending on the size & thickness)
4 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 c butter(melted) or ghee
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c white sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. mahlab

1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.Add the coriander, cumin, and salt and mix with the flour.
2. In a small dish, combine the yeast and the sugar and add a little lukewarm water, enough to cover.Allow it to bubble ( maybe 3-5 minutes).
3. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the yeast and butter or ghee, if using.Using your hands work the mixture into a dough.Add a little more lukewarm water if dough is a little dry to help it bind.Knead dough for 10-15 minutes.
4. Take a walnut size piece of dough and roll into a thin "cigar"shape about 4 inches long, then bring the ends together and press them firmly to make a bracelet and set aside.Repeat with the remaining dough.If they are not even don't worry about it, different sizes make them more interesting.
5. Lightly oil a baking sheet.Place the spice bracelets on it and lightly brush them with the beaten egg.Sprinkle spice bracelets with the sesame seeds.Leave in a warm place for 2 hours to rise.
6.Preheat oven to 350F. Sprinkle spice bracelets with mahlab and place in the oven for 4o minutes.
7.After removing the spice bracelets from the heat, leave them to cool and become slightly hard or you can eat them right away after slightly cooled.
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Melokhia bi Dajaj (Chicken with Melokhia)

Melokhia is as I can best describe it one of those things where the history behind it is more interesting than the dish itself.Melokhia is a green leafy vegetable that belongs to the same family as the jute plant.It resembles spinach but when cooked acquires the texture of okra.Melokhia is one of those things were either you like it or hate it.There is no in between.Melokhia is derived from the Arabic word for "royal" because dishes made with this vegetable were greatly enjoyed by royalty especially the 7th century Umayyad caliph, Mu'awiyya. Unfortunatly, the 10th century Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah didn't quite agree.Al-Hakim believed that its consumption led to a life of debauchery and banned its cultivation and consumption.

Today melokhia is enjoyed throughout Egypt and in Lebanon and Jordan.Traditionally it is made into a soup by the same name or is used as a sauce for chicken and rice dish.

Yield:6 Servings
4 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, chopped into pieces
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled, chopped
6 cardamom pods, optional
salt and pepper
2 or 3 - 14oz. melokhia, frozen, chopped

For the garlic sauce(takleya):
15 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground red chili pepper
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Basmati rice, to serve
Arab flat bread, to serve, optional

1.Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces and cook in a medium -high heat for 5-7 minutes.Add the onions, cardamom pods, if using, and salt and pepper.Cook for 10-12 minutes more, stirring regularly.Add the melokhia and cook for another 10 minutes, till melokhia is cooked.Remove from heat and set aside.Keep warm.
2.To make the garlic sauce, heat the vegetable oil .Add the garlic, coriander, and ground chili.Stir.Cook sauce for about 8 minutes till it becomes fragrant.Remove from heat and add to chicken and stir.
3.Serve immediately with rice or serve layered with Arab bread on a dish topped by rice then followed with melokhia chicken/garlic sauce mixture.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Halva Kharrub (Carob Halvah)

Most of the halvah available in Middle Eastern markets is either hard, brittle, frozen and lacking any taste.Traditional middle eastern halvah should be light and soft.The following recipe uses carob, a pod that is used primarily in Middle Eastern cooking.This carob halvah can be put together in a few minutes and can be ready to eat immediately and is the perfect dessert for when company shows up unexpectedly.

Yield:6 small servings
1 c raw sesame seeds
1 tbsp. raw carob powder
dash of ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1/4 c raw honey
2 tbsp. raw tahini
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Put sesame seeds in a food processor and process for 60-90 seconds.Put sesame seeds in a large bowl.

2. Add the carob powder, cinnamon, and the salt to the sesame seeds and blend together.

3. Add the honey, tahini, and vanilla extract to the sesame seeds mix and blend together to form a stiff dough and shape.

4. Store halvah in the fridge prior to serving.Will keep in a sealed container for 3 weeks.Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tajin Samak (Baked Fish with Bay Leaves)

Pic courtesy of
The following recipe is popular throughout the Middle East.It is preferable to use whole fish but fillets work as well.

Yield:2-4 Servings
1(3-4lbs.) whole fish such as red snapper,cod, or trout,gutted, rinsed
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves,mashed
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
4-5 bay leaves, crushed
salt & pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

1.Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Make about four incisions on the top of the fish an rub the olive oil and mashed garlic allover and inside the fish.
3.Put half the bay leaves and cumin seeds inside the fish and the other half on top.Bake fish for 45-50 minutes.Serve with lemon wedges.
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Monday, April 5, 2010

Ranginak (Persian Date Fudge Cake)

A popular Persian dessert that hails from Southern Iran,ranginak is an easy, no-bake stuffed dates set in a fudge-like mixture garnished with ground walnuts and pistachios.

*Pic coming soon

Yield:12-16 pieces
3/4 c walnuts, halved
2 2/3 c dates, pitted
1 c butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. almonds, ground
1 Tbsp. pistachios, ground

1. Place half a walnut inside each date.Lightly grease a shallow baking dish and place the dates in it, making sure they are tightly packed.
2.Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan and stir in the flour.Cook it until it turns a caramel-like color.
3.Pour caramel/fudge mixture over dates and let it set.In a small bowl, combine ground almonds and ground pistachios and mix.Sprinkle ground pistachios and almonds over dates.
4. Cut Ranginak into squares and serve with tea or coffee.
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Rubyan al Maghreb (North African-Style Shrimp)

This is a quick and easy spicy shrimp recipe that is very common to the Maghreb countries of Northern Africa.Serve with couscous or basmati rice.

Yield:4 Servings
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cumin
2 pinches of cayenne or ground chili pepper
6 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 lbs.large fresh shrimp,peeled

1. Heat olive oil in a medium pan.Add the garlic and stir for 3-4 minutes.
2.Add the shrimp,paprika,ground ginger,cumin, and cayenne and cook till the shrimp become pink, stirring constantly.

3.When most of the shrimp are almost pink, add the fresh cilantro and salt and keep stirring till all the shrimp are pink and fully cooked.Remove from heat and serve immediately.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zereshk Polo (Persian Barberry Rice)

Here's another delightful recipe from the Persian kitchen using barberries(zereshk), the sweet and tart berries that give Persian rice dishes their distinctive taste.

Yield:4 Servings
2 oz barberries
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/3 c black currants or raisins
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 3/4 c basmati rice, soaked for 2 hours
2-3 saffron threads,soaked in 1 Tbsp. boiling water

1. Rinse the barberries in cold water, then drain.
2.Heat the butter in a pan and add the currants or raisins,if using.Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
3.Add the barberries and continue stir-frying for another minute. Add the sugar , cinnamon and cumin.Cook for about 2-3minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
4.Drain the rice and then bring to a boil it in a pan of salted water for 5 minutes.Reduce the heat and simmer until almost cooked.
5. Remove rice from heat and transfer to a large serving dish. Add the barberry-raisin mixture and saffron water to it and mix till well combined. Serve immediately.
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Melokhia (Traditional Egyptian Melokhia Soup)

I was talking with my boyfriend the other night who happens to work in Saudi Arabia and asked him what he was having for lunch.Chicken sandwich with corchorus.Corchorus??He seemed surprised that I did not know what this was.At first I thought he meant cornichons(a kind of pickle)and had misspelled the word but no, he said it looks like spinach.So after much searching, I realized he was talking about a green, leafy vegetable known as melokhia.

Melokhia (corchorus olitoris) is a green,leafy vegetable that is popular in Egypt and countries of the Levant.It is known by several names and spellings such as Jews mallow, mlookheeyeh,mlukhiyya,mulukhiyya,melokheya and of course corchorus.Melokhia is also the name of the national dish of Egypt, a soup that is extremely popular today as was during pharoanic times.Melokhia is also used as a sauce spooned over rice and chicken.

Melokhia is an acquired taste.It tastes like bitter spinach or sorrel when cooked and develops a mucilaginous and viscous texture, like okra. Melokhia requires short cooking time.Because of its mucilaginous texture, the leaves will remain "suspended" in the stock, once they sink to the bottom of the pot, it is overcooked.Melokhia is normally sold fresh in the Middle East but elsewhere is available dried,frozen, or canned from Middle Eastern grocers.

Yield:4-6 Servings
1 lb.fresh or frozen melokhia
5 c vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 garlic cloves,crushed
1 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
1-2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. red pepper,ground
salt and ground black pepper

1. If using fresh melokhia,cut into small pieces and rinse with cold water and set aside. If using frozen, thaw melokhia in cool water,remove and set aside.
2.In a large saucepan, heat the stock and bring to a boil.Stir in the melokhia and simmer for 25 minutes.
3.Meanwhile, in a small pan heat the ghee and add the crushed garlic and fry till slightly brown.Stir in the coriander and red peeper and mix to form a paste.
4.Add the coriander-red pepper paste to the soup and simmer for a while longer (5 minutes).Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bouza al Karaz (Cherry & Goat's Milk Ice Cream)

Goat's milk is so under appreciated.Try searching for recipes online and in cookbooks and they are hard to come by, which is a shame since it has a slightly sweet, full creamy taste not "goaty" like commonly believed.Plus, goat's milk is the perfect alternative for those individuals that are lactose intolerant.Here's a recipe for ice cream I developed using goat's milk.You can usually find it in Middle Eastern or Armenian grocers if not you can try My Amazon Store

Yield:2 qts.
1/2 c honey
3 eggs
6 c goats' milk
1/2 tsp. rose water essence
2 c cherries, pit removed, pureed in blender or food processor

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the honey, eggs and 2 cups of the goat milk and beat with an electric mixer until well-blended and smooth.
2. Pour honey-egg mixture in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens (5-8 minutes).Remove from heat and let it cool completely.
3.When completely cool, pour mixture into a ceramic bowl,add remaining ingredients, stir, and chill thoroughly in a freezer.*Every hour mix to break apart ice crystals.Ice cream will be ready in 4 1/2-5 hours.

*Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Qawarma (Spiced Preserved Lamb)

A good example of meat preservation in the Middle East is the Lebanese qawarma.Qawarma is highly seasoned pieces of lamb or mutton fried in melted fat from the fat-tailed Awassi sheep,then packed into earthenware ,clay sealed jars and stored in a cool dry place.Once popular in the in the rural areas of Lebanon, this ancient dish is almost but forgotten.
Used to be a very young, usually six month old sheep was force fed grain, mulberry and vine leaves during the Spring/Summer months then came early Fall was butchered in preparation for the coming months.But nowadays with modern conveniences and time constraints this ancient method of preservation has been lost.
Qawarma served a several purposes.It was mainly used to impart a meaty flavor to rice dishes when meat was unavailable.It also formed the basis for winter stews.Other uses included using it as a cooking fat and as a spread for bread. Below is a simplified, modern version recipe for qawarma.

*Note:Qawarma will keep well for 1 year and does not need refrigeration.

Yield:4-6 qts.
2 1/2 lbs. beef fat or margarine,melted
5 lbs. lean lamb or mutton, cut into 1/2"cubes
5 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp.pepper

1. Place the melted beef fat or margarine in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil.Add in the lamb or mutton, if using, salt and pepper.Cook uncovered.Stir regularly to make sure the lamb does not stick to the bottom of the pot.Cook until lamb is well cooked.
2.Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3.Place the meat in clear glass jars covered with 1/2" of the fat.Seal tightly.
4.Store qawarma in a cool, dry place till ready for use.Before using, slightly warm the qawarma and discard the fat.Always return unused qawarma to cool. dry place after use.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Koubba Helwa (Iraqi Dumplings/Kibbeh)

This recipe is one of the many koubba (kibbeh) recipes that are common throughout the Middle Eastern region.This particular one I am told comes from Iraq.

Yield:4 Servings
For the koubba:
1 1/2 c semolina
1c water
1 c lean ground beef
1 tsp. ground dried lime(loomi) 0r 1 tsp. lime zest
salt and pepper
flour, for dusting

For the Sauce:
1 Tbsp. plus more, if needed ghee or olive oil
1 onion, thinly chopped
2 gloves garlic, mashed
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
handful fresh cilantro, chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon

1.Put semolina in a bowl and with a little salt and pour enough water over it to cover.Knead semolina till it becomes doughy.

2.In a separate bowl mix the ground beef, onion, and dried lime powder.Add salt and pepper and knead it till it is evenly combined.

3. After combining the meat mix mixture, wash your hands and dry them thoroughly and dust them with flour.Take about a walnut size of semolina mixture and roll it into a ball then flatten it. Take 1 tsp. size of meat mixture and place it in the center.Fold the semolina over the meat mixture and shape into a meatball. Set aside.Keep repeating this step with the remaining semolina-meat mixture.

4. To make the sauce, in a saucepan pan, heat the ghee or olive oil (if using) and stir in the onion.When it becomes translucent, add the garlic and zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes.Add more ghee or oil if onions and garlic start o dry out.Stir in the tomato paste,sugar,parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice.

5. Add 4 c of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil.Season with salt and pepper then lower the heat to simmer.Gently add the dumplings to the saucepan.

6. Cover and cook koubba for 25-30 minutes,stirring occasionally.When they begin to float to the top of pan, they are ready.Remove them and set them on a warmed dish.When all the dumplings are ready, transfer them to a serving dish and pour sauce over them.Serve with basmati rice.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sahlab (Middle Eastern Orchid Root Drink)

Sahlab also known as salep in Turkey and Greece is a powder made from the dried tubers of a species of orchid,Orchis mascula that grows throughout the Middle East.These dried tubers are ground to an extremely fine powder and are used to give a gelatinous texture to foods.Because this powder is so fine, silky, and odorless it is commonly used as a flavoring for drinks and ice cream.

Pure, unadulterated sahlab is very hard to find outside the Middle East.If your lucky enough to find it at a Middle Eastern grocer it can be very expensive. I have seen some boxed "instant sahlab" ,but these are an inferior product as they contain a high ratio of cornstarch to sahlab.The following recipe is for a thick, wintry drink popular during the winter months throughout the Middle East.I figure now is a good a time as any to try this recipe before the weather becomes warm.If you cannot find genuine sahlab, you can try the boxed kind(available in my Amazon store) or you may substitute (surprise), cornstarch.It gives sahlab the same creamy texture but not the flavor that makes this drink so unique.

Yield:4 Servings


1 Tbsp. sahlab (can substitute 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch)

4 c whole milk

3 Tbsp. sugar or more, to taste

2 tsp. orange-blossom water or rosewater, to taste

ground cinammon, for dusting

1. In a bowl, mix sahlab or cornstarch (if using) with a few drops of cold milk.

2.In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining milk to a boil and pour in the sahlab mixture.Turn down the heat to a simmer.Stir till lumps are dissolved.Keep stirring till mixture thickens (maybe about 10 minutes).

3. Stir in the sugar and either orange-blossom water or rosewater and stir for 30 seconds.

4. Remove from heat.Pour sahlab in serving mugs and dust the top with ground cinnamon.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ataif (Arab Pancakes)

Ataif alternately spelled qatayif are small yeast pancakes that are dipped in orange-blossom syrup and served with clotted cream(eishta) and garnished with chopped pistachios. They can also alternately be stuffed with nuts and unsalted white cheese and dipped in syrup.Ataif (qatayif) are traditionally eaten during Eid al-Fitr ,the breaking of the fast that marks the end of Ramadan and they also make an appearance at festivals and weddings.Ataif(qatayif) are very easy to make but most people usually buy them already prepared from bakeries and then take them home to prepare them according to thier preference.
Below is the recipe for ataif (qatayif).The recipe is fairly easy to make but keep in mind that unlike American pancake batter, the pancake batter for these Arab pancakes need to rest for 2 hours.

Yield:16 pancakes
For the pancake:
1 packet (1tsp.)active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/4c lukewarm water
2 c all-purpose flour
sunflower oil

For the syrup:
2 c sugar
1 1/4c water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 Tbsp. orange-blossom water or rosewater

To serve:
2-3 handfuls of pistachios, chopped
clotted cream

1. Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with 1/4c of lukewarm water and leave till it begins to froth(about 5-6 minutes).
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the remaining water and beat till you have a smooth batter.Add more water , if necessary.Cover the bowl with a dishtowel and leave to rest for about two hours in a warm place.
3. When the batter is ready(by this time you will see air bubbles have formed in the batter),oil a large pan with the sunflower oil and heat pan.Slowly add about 1/4c of the batter to the pan and wait for it to bubble on one side.Then flip it over to the other side till batter is firmed up.
4. Place pancake on warmed serving platter.Repeat this process till batter is finished.
5.For the syrup, Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.Stir in the lemon juice and simmer for 15 minutes.Add the orange-blossom water or rosewater, if using and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
6. Remove syrup from heat and allow to cool then chill in the refrigerator.
7.When ready to serve, arrange pancakes on a platter with a dollop of clotted cream and drizzle with chopped pistachios.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Couscous with Mint & Barberries

I've been meaning to try this recipe for awhile and since I still have some barberries left over from the khoresht-e zereshk recipe I figure now is a good a time as any.This is a very interesting recipe as its a combination of two culinary cultures,north African Moroccan couscous and the Persian barberries.Its very easy to put together and is done in under 30 minutes from start to finish.

Yield:4-6 Servings
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled, mashed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. turmeric
2 c couscous or 1 box plain Near East Brand Plain Couscous
1/4 c barberries
1/4 c fresh mint, chopped
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

1. Combine olive oil, mashed garlic, salt and turmeric in a pot with 2 1/2 c water.Bring to a boil.
2. When water is boiling add couscous and lower the heat to simmer.Remove couscous from heat once all the water has been absorbed.Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.Fluff with a fork and transfer couscous to a serving bowl.
3.Stir in the barberries, mint and parsley.Season with salt and pepper.Serve immediately.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tamr bi Loz (Stuffed Dates)

Craving a chocolate truffle??Why don't you try this easy and healthy date snack recipe. A popular way of eating dates throughout the middle east, their pit is removed and stuffed with either pistachio or an almond.Just as delicious as that chocolate you've been craving.

Yield:50 pcs.


1 1/2 c whole almonds or shelled pistachios, unsalted

1 lb. dates, pitted

2-3 Tbsp. rose water or orange blossom water, for sprinkling

1. Slit a small cut down the date but leave the ends intact.Insert a pistachio or almond or you can mix and match and put on a serving platter.

2.Sprinkle rosewater or orange blossom water over them and enjoy.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Salata Naranj bi Fistuk Halibi(Orange Salad with Pistachios)

I've been wanting to try this recipe for days unfortunately the weather here has not been in my favor.It would be nice if you can use Jaffa oranges ( also known as shamouti or khalili in the Middle East) but if they are not available just use any you have on hand.This recipe is perfect as a simple, light dessert after a heavy meal and requires minimal preparation.

Yield:4 Servings
4 large Jaffa oranges or other kind of orange
1 1/2 Tbsp. rose water
1/4 c shelled pistachios
2 tbsp. whole mint leaves, for garnish
1/4 c fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)

1. Using a paring knife, slice of the top and bottom of the oranges, then peel.Then slice each orange into equal slices (about 1/4"thick).
2. Place the orange slices on a nice serving platter and drizzle rosewater over them.Scatter the pistachios and raspberries(if using) over the orange slices ,then garnish with the mint leaves.Serve immediately.
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Khoresht-e Zereshk ( Persian Barberry & Nut Stew)

Barberries are synonymous with the Iranian cuisine. They grow wild throughout Europe and Asia but the edible variety,Berberis Vulgaris grow exclusively in Iran.Barberries are similar in size and taste to cranberries but are never eaten fresh,instead they are dried in the sun and are used to add a tart flavoring to stews. They are also used to add a sour, tart flavor to rice pilafs,stuffing, and numerous khoresht.
The following recipe is a very popular dish served traditionally at Iranian weddings.Like most wedding dishes, it is made extremely sweet with hints of sourness to symbolize happiness for the newlyweds but to also remind them that there will be sad times also.

Yield:4-6 Servings
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 lb. lean lamb, cut into cubes (or can substitute with chicken)
1 1/2 c almonds, slivered
1 1/2 c pistachios, chopped
2 pinches saffron threads, soaked in hot water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 c barberries
salt & black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large pan.Add the onions and fry until they are a golden brown ( about five minutes). Stir in the lamb and brown it, stirring often.
2. Pour some water in the pan, enough to cover the meat and simmer for about 4o minutes.Stir in the pistachio and almonds and simmer for another 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile with a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads with the 2 tbsp of sugar and add some hot water and mix it till it becomes reddish.
4. Add the saffron liquid and barberries to the pan and stir to combine.Simmer for another 7-8 minutes and remove from heat.Season with salt and pepper.Serve immediately spooned over plain rice.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Samak Dibs Rumman (Fish with Pomegranate Glaze)

The sweet and sour taste of the pomegranate syrup works well with the meaty quality of the swordfish but if it is not available feel free to substitute this recipe with any other favorite firm fleshed fish.Also, this recipe requires about 2 hours extra marinating time.

Yield:4 Servings
4 equal sized swordfish steaks (or can be substituted with tuna, halibut, red snapper)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

For the glaze:
1 garlic clove, crushed
dash of salt
4 Tbsp. pomegranate syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
dash of black pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

For the garnish:
3 Tbsp. fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
seeds of 1 small pomegranate, for garnish

1. To make the glaze, place the garlic in a mortar and add the dash of salt and mix with a pestle until smooth.Transfer to a larger bowl and add the pomegranate syrup,cinnamon, cilantro, pepper , and olive oil and mix to combine.
2. rub the pomegranate glaze allover the fish steaks and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for minimum one hour.
3. After you are finished with the marinating, preheat the oven to 350F and bake the fish for 30-40 minutes or until it flakes easily.
4.Remove from oven and transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the fresh cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Khoresht Anjaar-aveej (Persian Chicken Walnut & Pomegranate Stew)

Photo courtesy of Steve Brown at

Yield:6 Servings
1 medium 6-8 lbs. chicken, rinsed and cut into 8 pieces
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 medium onions,peeled and thinly chopped
6 1/2 c water
2 1/4 c mix of fresh herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro, and scallions)
2 garlic cloves , peeled and crushed
salt, to taste
1 lb. ground walnuts
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 c fresh pomegranate juice or 1/4 c pomegranate molasses
1 tsp.walnuts, halved, to garnish
basmati rice, to serve

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan.Add the onions and cook until translucent.Add the chicken and cook for about 8 minutes.Add the water and bring to a boil.Reduce the heat and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes.
2.Rinse and finely chop the herbs.In a separate pan, saute the herbs with the garlic in 1 tbsp. vegetable oil until tender, about 3-4 minutes.Transfer the herb and garlic mix to the chicken saucepan and add salt, ground walnuts,sugar, pomegranate juice or molasses (if using) and simmer for 1 hour or until sauce starts to thicken.
3.Once the sauce has thickened, remove chicken from pan and put on a serving dish and pour walnut sauce over it.Garnish with the halved walnuts .Serve hot with basmati rice.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kabees Left (Pickled Turnips)

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of pickled foods but since they are an important staple of the Middle Eastern kitchen, I decided no discussion of Middle Eastern/Arabic cuisine would be complete without them.Pickling foods is one of the oldest methods of food preparation.It was introduced to the Arabs by the early Romans, Greeks, and Persians and considering the time period and location was the perfect solution for preserving foods for consumption at a later date.

All manner of fruits and vegetables can be pickled in the Middle East and to a lesser extent meat and fish.Some of the most popular are turnips,peppers, onions, olives, lemons, cabbage,cauliflower, and eggplants.Today, there is no longer a necessity to pickle foods at home because they are available from street vendors and neighborhood grocers throughout the Middle East but the practice still remains.

Pickled vegetables are usually served as part of a mezze or to accompany main dishes.They are fairly easy to prepare but require some time to be ready(a minimum of two weeks).The following recipe ,Kabees Left is one of the most popular Arab pickled vegetables. This recipe is from Claudia Roden's,The new book of Middle Eastern Food and takes just 6 days to be ready.

Yield:2 quarts
2 lbs. small white turnips
1 raw or 2 cooked beets, peeled and cut into slices
3 3/4 c water
3 Tbsp. salt
3-4 Tbsp. red or white wine vinegar

1. Peel the turnips and cut them in half or quarters.Pack the pieces in a clean 2-quart jar interspersed with slices of beets.
2.Boil the water with the salt and vinegar, and let it cool a little before pouring over the turnips and closing the jar.
3.Store in a warm place or at room temperature for 6 days, until mellowed, then keep in the refrigerator.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Samak Tarator (Fish with Pine Nut Sauce)

Tarator is a sharp, garlicky pine nut sauce that is popular in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.It is usually served with grilled fish and seafood but can also serve as a dip or as a dressing for cooked vegetables.

For the Tarator Sauce:
Yield:1/2 c
1 c pine nuts
1 slice stale bread, crust removed, soaked in water, then water squeezed out
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
1/2 c vegetable oil or olive oil

1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until it has a mayonnaise-like consistency.

For the Fish:
Yield:6 Servings
6 fish fillets (red snapper, swordfish,cod, halibut,or sole)
olive oil, for brushing
salt and pepper

1. Prepare a grill.Brush the fish with olive oil on both sides and drizzle with salt and pepper.

2.Grill fish on both sides till it begins to flake easily.Place on a serving dish and pour the tarator sauce on top or serve on the side.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Samak bi Chermoula (Mackerel with Chermoula Paste)

Photo courtesy of Laura Holmes

Because of it's proximity to both the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean,the following recipe is a common way of preparing fish in the coastal regions of Morocco with chermoula, a spicy coriander garlic paste that is widely used in Moroccan and North African cooking.

Yeild:4 Servings


4 whole mackerel, cleaned ,gutted, and rinsed

3-4 Tbsp. chermoula (recipe on prevoius post)

3 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a baking dish. Place mackerel in it and rub chermoula allover including the inside of fish.Season with salt and pepper.

2.Place fish in oven and bake for 30-45 minutes.Remove from oven and serve warm with couscous and vegetables.

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Moroccan Chermoula Paste

Chermoula also spelled charmoula is a spicy garlicky spice paste from Morocco.There are several variations of the recipe as it is made differently by different cooks and by the area of the country in which they reside but it generally includes varying amounts of cilantro, garlic, and chili.This Moroccan spice paste can be used in all different kinds of dishes but is generally uses as a marinade for grilled fish or chicken.

Yeild:4 oz.


2/3 c fresh cilantro, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground paprika

1/4-1/2 tsp. ground chili pepper

6 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1. In a food processor or blender, process all the ingredients together until they form a smooth paste.Store in an airtight glass jar and refigerate until ready for use.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kharouf bi Laban (Lamb with Yogurt Sauce)

The following recipe comes from Saudi Arabia where it calls for a whole leg of lamb to be used but lamb chops can also be used in its place.

Yeild:6 Servings
4-4 1/2 lbs. lamb chops
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2c yogurt
1/2 c tomatoe sauce
1/2 tsp.ground turmeric or saffron
1 tsp. Baharat Spice
salt & pepper

1.Wash and dry the lamb chops.In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic and olive oil and rub allover the lamb chops.Set aside.
2.In another bowl, combine the yogurt, tomatoe sauce, turmeric or saffron, baharat, and salt and pepper and mix till thoroughly combined.
3.Pour the yogurt marinade over the lamb chops and refigerate for 2-4 hours.
4.Preheat oven at 350F and cook for 1 hour.Basting occassionally.Serve with basmati rice.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Nan-e Barbari (Persian Bread)

Barbari or nan-e barbari is the second most common type of flatbread consumed in Iran followed by sangak, lavash, and taftun.It is believed to have been introduced by the Barbars,a group of people living in Afghanistan on the eastern border of Iran.Nan-e barbari is made with either white or whole wheat flour and can be topped with or without black sesame seeds.Barbari is characterized by a long, oblong shape with long grooves running down the center. and is traditionally baked in a domed oven.Nan-e barbari is most often eaten at breakfast by itself or with tabriz cheese.

Servings:3 Barbari flatbreads


1/4 oz. dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 3/4 c warm water

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 1/2 c all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 4 Tbsp. of the water and set aside until it begins to froth (about 5-7 minutes).Stir in the oil.

2.Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and pour yeast mixture in the middle and add water and mix together till you form a ball.

3. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it and knead dough for about 10-15 minutes till smooth and elastic.Then set aside , cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours.

4.Preheat oven to 450F.After 2 hours, divide dough into 3 equal-sized portions.Lightly, flour a work surface and shape each one into a long , oval shape flatbread , about 1/4"thick.With your forrefinger press 4 ridges on the surface of the dough.Brush the surface of each dough with the melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

5. Put doughs on greased baking sheets and bake them for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sabzi Khordan (Persian Herb Platter)

Photo courtesy of LA Times

Sabzi Khordan is a kind of Persian mezze that is offered to guests before or during a meal. It consists of a platter of the freshest herbs,vegetables , and regional cheeses served with pita bread.The platter would include any of the following in no set amount.

radishes, thinly sliced
mint sprigs
flat-leaf parsley
onions, thinly chopped
fresh dill sprigs
scallions or spring onions,thinly cut
garlic chives
romaine lettuce leaves
feta cheese, goat cheese, or any type of regional cheese
pita bread or lavash, to serve

1. Wash and dry the herbs and vegetables.Remove any the have slight browning or are wilted.
2. Arrange the herbs, vegetables, and cheeses decoratively on the platter.Serve with the pita bread or lavash on the side.
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Bizar a' Shuwa (Omani Spice Rub)

Located on the Southeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula, the food of Oman is a blend of several flavors and countries.Like neighboring Arab countries, Oman also makes use of a wide range of spices and combines them beautifully to create spice blends that are unique to Omani cuisine.Among those is Bizar a' Shuwa, a spice blend that is commonly used in slow-cooked dishes or as a rub for meats.Below is the recipe for this spice rub.It's easy to make and doesn't require any special ingredients as you probably have most of these available in your kitchen.

Yield:1/4 c
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. cardamon seeds
2 tsp. ground red chili or can substitute cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. turmeric,ground
2-3 Tbsp. vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed

1. In a mortar and pestle, crush the first three ingredients together until pulverized.
2. Add the chili and turmeric and combine thoroughly.
3.Add the vinegar and garlic and stir to a paste-like consistency.
4. Put paste in a glass container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. Will keep for 2 weeks.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Loubia Tripoli (Tripoli Black-Eyed Peas )

A neighbor of mine recently gave me several cans of black-eyed peas so I was wondering what to do with them.Then I remembered I had this recipe in my collection called Tripoli Black-Eyed Peas.I've had this recipe for several years but could never get around to making it so I figured now was as good a time as any.I don't know much about this recipe as I have it written down and there is no mention of it's source.I don't know if it comes from Tripoli in Libya or Tripoli in Lebanon.I'm not sure if it's even Middle Eastern as I've always associated black-eyed peas with the cuisine of the Southern USA.If anyone knows anything behind the history of this particular recipe and its origins, please let me know.
1/2 small onion, thinly chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3c black eyed-peas(canned),drained and rinsed
1-1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 celery stalks,chopped
1/2c fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

1.In a large serving bowl, combine all the ingredients together and mix till evenly combined.
2.Serve with lemon wedges.
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Alya (Sheep Tail Fat)

A staple of the Arab kitchen since 3000B.C. , alya also known as aliya or roghan-e donbeh in Farsi is the rendered fat from the tail of the Awassi sheep, an Asian breed of sheep that are commonly found in parts of Africa, the Middle East,Northern India,Mongolia, and Western China.Just like the camel, these sheep hold most of their energy reserves in their tail which can weigh upwards of up to 25+lbs. and are able to survive in hot, arid climates.

Alya is hardly used anymore except in rural areas because of the widespread availability of other more convenient cooking fats and oils but it was used extensively in Medieval Arab recipes.Most Medieval Arab cookbooks refer to it's method of employment as "melt tail" or "fry in tail".Nowadays,certain rural areas of Lebanon and Syria have been known to use it where it is a common ingredient in the Lebanese dish qawarma, pieces of meat that are fried in alya , then preserved for later consumption.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Filfil Hilu bi Halloumi wal Snubar (Broiled Bellpeppers with Halloumi Cheese & Pine Nuts)

The following recipe isn't particular to any Middle-Eastern country but is a combination of foods that are commonly found throughout the Mediterranean.It's very easy to prepare and can be put together in a few minutes and is done in under 30 minutes.This recipe is perfect for when your looking for something quick and different to prepare but don't have all day to spend in the kitchen.

4 red bell peppers,seeded and cut in half
2 yellow bell peppers,, seeded and cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil
9 oz. halloumi cheese, cubed
2 oz. pine nuts

1.Preheat the broiler.Rub some of the olive oil allover the red bell pepper.
2.In a small mixing bowl, combine the yellow bell pepper, halloumi cheese and pine nuts and mix to combine.Then equally stuff the mixture into the red bell peppers.
3. Drizzle the top of the bell peppers with the remaining olive oil and broil for 20 minutes.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dejaj bi Kammun wal Filfil Aleppo (Baked Chicken with Cumin and Aleppo Pepper)

5-5 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, rinsed, visible fat removed
1 1/2 large garlic clove, mashed
3/4 tsp. salt, to taste
black pepper
olive oil, for greasing baking dish
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1/2 c water

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease baking dish with olive oil.Place chicken in baking dish and rub mashed garlic allover it.Then sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.Scatter chopped onions on top of chicken breasts.

2. In a small bowl, mix together cumin and Aleppo pepper and sprinkle evenly throughout dish.

3. Add 1/2 water to baking dish and place in oven and bake for 1 hour.
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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Labna bi Zayt (Yogurt Balls Marinated in Olive Oil)

Labna (alternately spelled labneh,labne,and laban) has been a basic food of the Middle East for centuries.It usually accompanies or is an ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes.Labna bi Zayt is the result of yogurt that has been drained until it is quite firm and dry and is manually shaped into small balls and marinated in oil.Labna bi Zayt can be enjoyed as part of a mezze or as a popular snack called arus "the bride", which is a warm pita bread with labna and sprinkled with zaatar.

Labna bi Zayt is easy to make but is very time consuming and once I show you the recipe you'll see why.If you prefer, you can purchase it at any well-stocked Middle Eastern grocer or as I did this past weekend at an Armenian market.Mine was imported from Syria.Below is a 2 part recipe for Labna bi Zayt.

Recipe for Labna(Yogurt)
5 c whole milk
1 Tbsp. plain yogurt(starter)

1.Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Then, as the froth rises, turn off the heat, then allow to cool where it is slightly warm.

2.Put the plain yougurt (starter) in a small bowl and stir 2-3 Tbsp. of the warm milk into it. Beat this mixture into evely combined and then pour back into the milk in saucepan.

3. Stir the milk for about 1/2 a minute then pour it into a bowl and cover with a paper towel.

4. Put bowl in a warm place and leave overnight (8+ hours) to rest.

5.After the 8+ hours, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and it's ready to eat or be used for another recipe.

Recipe for Labna bi Zayt (Yogurt balls Marinated in Olive Oil)
4 c full-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. salt
extra-virgin olive oil
2 Muslin bags
large glass jar

1. Mix the yogurt with salt and stir to remove any visible lumps.
2. Put the 2 muslin bags together and scoop the yogurt into the center of it and tie an the ends and suspend over a large bowl overnight(8+ hours) letting the whey drip out.Scrape the contents of the bag every so often to facilitate draining.
3. After the 8+ hours are up, remove the cheese from the muslin bag and crumble unto a paper towel-lined baking sheet or tray.
4.Refrigerate yogurt until it feels firm and dry.
5.When desired texture is reached,lightly oil your hand with olive oil and roll yogurt into 1"diameter balls.
6. Put the labna inside a jar when finished and cover fully with olive oil.Refrigerate before and after opening.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Salatat Halloumi wal Einab (Halloumi & Grape Salad)

Halloumi alternately spelled hallumi,haloumi,and hallum is a salty,semi-hard white cheese made with either sheep or goat's milk.Originally made by the bedouin of the Middle East , it's popularity spread to neighboring Greece and Cyprus where now Cyprus is the largest producer.Halloumi is usually eaten grilled. It is cooked in a hot pan with olive oil until the outside becomes a golden brown color and the inside is soft.

In Lebanon,it is known as kebab cheese because it is cubed and grilled on skewers and eaten as a quick street snack.It is also part of mezze where it is eaten as part of a salad or with khoubz,the Arab flatbread sprinkled with nigella seeds.The Cypriot version is flavored with dried mint.


4c mixed salad greens with fresh herbs (romaine lettuce, raddichio, purslane,etc.)
60z. seedless red and/or black grapes,sliced in half
9oz. halloumi cheese,sliced into cubes
5 Tbsp. oil & lemon juice

1. In a mixing bowl, toss together the salad greens with the grapes.

2. Heat a non-stick pan and coat lightly with olive oil. Thinly slice the halloumi cheese and cook briefly, turning until it becomes a light golden brown.Remove from heat.

3. Put salad greens in a serving bowl. Place halloumi over salad greens.Drizzle with oil and vinegar.Serve immediately.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Beid bi Toum (Fried Eggs with Garlic)

6 eggs
2 Tbsp. butter
3 cloves og garlic, crushed
1 tsp. ground sumac
a pinck of dried mint
salt, to taste

1. Melt the butter on a skillet over medium heat.Add the garlic and sumac and stir.Break the eggs into a bowl.
2. Once the onion begins to become transluscent,add the eggs. Fry the eggs, then add the mint.
3.Once cooked, remove from heat and sprinkle with salt.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Saudi Desert Truffles (Kamaa or Faqa')

Known by the classical arabic name of kamaa or the saudi name faqa', desert truffles are a distant cousin of the European truffle. A desert crop, it is found throughout North Africa, Syria,Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Arab States.Within each of these countries, they are known by several names.In Morocco, they are known as terfezia, in Egypt as terfas,in Kuwait as fagga,in Oman as either faqah or zubaydi, and in Iraq,Syria, and KSA as kamaa.

Unlike European truffles, kamaa do not require much rainfall to grow and thrive.Bedouins believe that truffles grow and appear when there are thunderstorms and lightning hits the ground.Bedouins also prize them for thier medicinal properties as it is believed that they possess special curative powers for eye ailments.

Truffles can be eaten and cooked in many ways.They can be eaten raw,boiled in camels milk, sauteed in butter,roasted (in campfires),or added to other dishes such as stews or stuffings.

There are two types of truffles that are available in Saudi Arabia, the khalasi and zubaidi.The khalasi is characterized by having an oval shape with an outer black skin and a pinkish/ivory interior.The zubaidi is cream-colored inside and out and is the most sought after and expensive.

Currently, kamaa cost $720 SAR($192 USD) a kilo.Desert Delicacies

Group of Emirati men in desert searching for & cooking desert truffles
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hawayij (Yemeni pepper spice mix)

Hawayij alternately spelled hawaij is a peppery spice mixture from Yemen.It is a mixture made up of black peppercorns, caraway seeds, cardamon,saffron, and turmeric and is used in many Yemeni dishes particularly in soups, grilled meats, and vegetable dishes.

6 tsp. black peppercorns
3 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 tsp. cardamon seeds
2 tsp. turmeric

1. Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, combine all the ingredients together and pound until ground.
2. Store in an airtight glass jar and in an dry, dark place.Will last for 6 months.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Hummus bi Tahina (Chickpea Puree with Tahina)

Hummus is the Arabic name for chickpeas.It is also the name given to the popular Middle Eastern mezze dish.Hummus is a chickpea puree that is flavored with tahina,garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.It is a very simple dish usually eaten simply with Arab flatbread as an appetizzer or snack or as a filling for sandwiches like felafel.Hummus is also eaten in Israel, Turkey,Greece, and Cyprus.It is so popular througout this region ,that several countries have claimed credit for its creation Hummus Wars

Though hummus is readily available in most supermarkets, nothing beats the taste of homemade and it is worth going through the extra effort to make it.Its fairly easy, the only difficult part is the soaking of the chickpeas.

1 1/4c soaked in cold water at least 8 hours, then drained
juice of 2 lemons
3 garlic cloves, mashed
4-5 Tbsp. tahina
olive oil, for drizzling
fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Bring four cups of water to a boil and cook the chickpeas for about 1 1/2 hours or until they are soft.
2. Remove from heat then drain.Blend the chickpeas with the remaining ingreddients in a food processor till it has a puree texture.Taste.Adjust seasonings, if necessary.
3. Pour into a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil and fresh parsley.Serve with Arab flatbread(khoubz).

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chai (Tea)

As with coffee, tea is also another drink of social importance in the Middle East but unlike it , there isn't as much ritual surrounding it.Tea is popular in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, but especially in Iran.This is believed to be traced to the Circassians who introduced it there. Tea seemed to gain a foothold in Iran somewhere between the 17th and 20th centuries as a result of governmental authorities believing that the coffeehouses were centers of religious and political dissention.Finally, the 1920's saw the baning of coffee in Iran.This in turn led to tea being the official drink of Iran.

Like coffee, tea is always offered to a guest as a sign of welcome and also like coffee is served while conducting business in the office or in the souks.Traditionally, tea was prepared using a samovar, a russian-type tea serving dispenser but nowadays a regular kettle is used.It is served in small glasses served atop saucers with a cube sugar on the side. Any type of tea may be used but preferably Darjeling.Milk or cream is never used or served.There are teas made with special infusions of lime flowers or rose petals but these are usually drunk for medicinal purposes or to cure ailments.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baba Ghanoush( Eggplant & Tahini Dip)

Photo courtesy of Lebanese Recipes

Baba Ghanoush also known as moutabal in certain parts of the Middle East is a smoky eggplant & tahini dip.It is a popular mezze dish throughout the Arab world that is served with Arab flatbread.In parts of Syria, yogurt is used in place of the tahini.
Sevings:1 1/2c
2 lbs. eggplants, broiled
2-3 garlic cloves, mashed
salt, to taste
3 Tbsp. tahina
juice of 2 lemons or more to taste
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil, for garnish
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnish

1. Peel the skin off the broiled eggplant and discard it.Put the eggplant in a colander with very small holes and mash it with a fork till all the juices run out.

2. Put eggplant into a mixing bowl, and add the garlic, salt(to taste),tahina, and lemon juice.Mix together to combine.Adjust seasonings if necessary.You can also use a food processor if you want a more smooth texture.

3.When evenly combined, put the baba ghanoush in a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley.Serve with arab flatbread.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Qahwah (Arab Coffee)

Nothing defines Arab hospitality more than the offering and taking of coffee.Coffee is the main drink in the Arab world. Though the Ottoman Turks embraced and spread it throughout thier empire giving it the name "turkish coffee", it actually has its origins in Yemen.The cultivation of coffee began in Yemen sometime around the 16th century.It first became popular with the dervishes in Yemen where it was said it helped them perform thier religious ceremonies then muslim spread it throughout the Middle East.

Coffee is the principal social drink for men.This is clearly evident throughout the coffeehouses of the Arab world.Hours are spent in the coffeehouses socializing,playing backgammon, or smoking the narghileh(water pipe)while drinking coffee.Coffee is also consumed while conducting business or bargaining.

To make Arab coffee a few essential things are required.Mocha beans from Yemen are prefered but if these cannot be found, coffee beans from Brazil or Kenya are an appropriate substitute.Two dallahs (a coffee pot with a long, curved spout)are neededso it can be brewed in the first and poured in the second. The coffeee beans need to be freshly roasted and ground to a very fine powder.And a cardamon pod added to the pot.When serving, only about 1/3 of the cup is filled.The serving cups are small and handle-less.Milk, cream , or sugar is never added to Arab coffee instead dates may be offered.

There is a ritualized etiquette involved in the offering and consumption of coffee.First, all guests are offered coffee, not to offer it is akin to being considered unwelcomed.Once offered, it must never be refused,to do so would be a great insult to your host.Your cup will be refilled a second or third time, to accept more is considered impolite.It is always accepted with the right hand.When you have had sufficient,jiggle your empty cupslightly from side to side.There is an order to serving it.Persons of high rank or the male head of the household are served first,followed by older guests, and men before women.

Yeild:6-8 Servings


4 c water

3 Tbsp. cardamon, ground

2 Tbsp.Arabic coffee, ground

1. Bring water to a boil.

2. Add coffee to the water and bring to a boil over low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Add the cardamon and heat for another 2 minutes.

4.Remove from heat and serve 1/3 full in demitasse cups.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Khoubz (Arab Flat Bread)

Bread is considered a direct gift from God.Bread is held in such high regard in the Middle East that it is said that if a piece of bread is found lying on the floor, it is immediately picked up, a blessing i said, and put respectively on a table.There are many types of breads available in the Middle East:leavened and unleavened, sweet and savory but none as more ubiquituos as the flatbread khoubz or eish shami as it is known in Egypt or as is most commonly called outside the Middle East, "pita" bread.

Although widely available commercially, most people in the Middle East prefer to make their own bread.Khoubz is traditoinally baked in a clay-lined oven called a tannour.It is eaten with every meal.A meal is never complete without the presence of bread.Bread also serves a dual purpose as an eating utensil.It is used to scoop up food from a dish.If you want to make fresh Arabic flatbread below is the recipe plus I included a video showing the traditional way of making bread using a tannour.

Servings:8 flatbreads


2 c flour

2 1/4 tsp.yeast

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4c hot water

1-1 1/2c flour

1. Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl and mix well for about 1-2 minutes.

2.Add the remaining flour and knead making a soft, sticky dough.

3.Put the dough on a floured work surface and continue kneeding for 5 minutes more.

4.Divide into 8 equal sized balls and roll out each on by hand to about 1/4" thick and about 6" diameter.

5. Place flatbreads on lightly oiled baking sheet and let rise in a warm place for 25-35 minutes.

6.While waiting preheat oven to 450F.

7. Place flatbreads in oven for 5 minutes, then turn over for another 5 minutes.Then remove from oven.

8.Serve immeediately or store flatbreads in an airtight container till ready to eat.

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