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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