Too cheesy? Fine. But really, this recipe is delicious. So far, everyone who is open-minded about offal and has tried it ends up liking it. I’m quite sensitive to meats that have a strong taste or smell, so the fact that I like this also says a lot. I’m excited about posting this recipe because I consider it a pretty big accomplishment to be able to make innards that actually taste good. I don’t know how to cook things like lungs or tripe, but for livers, hearts, and gizzards, this is definitely my go-to method.*
A note on how I clean these things: in most countries, when you buy gizzards they come with a little piece of weird-looking yellowish brown skin on them. I don’t have a picture of it, but you’ll spot it instantly. To clean the gizzards, just peel this bit off. Then wash the cleaned gizzards in cold water, pour the juice of a lemon on them, and let them soak in the lemon juice for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water again, and they’re ready to use. Here’s what they should look like after the cleaning process:
For hearts, I make little slits in them and remove any congealed blood that’s inside. An easier way to do this is to just cut each one in half, but if I have the time, I like to try and maintain their shape by keeping them whole. Just like with the gizzards, I rinse them in cold water, soak them in lemon juice, and re-rinse.
For livers, you don’t need to do any kind of special cleaning. Just do the rinse, soak in lemon, re-rinse thing, and handle them carefully because they’re delicate.
Also, I usually cook gizzards separately, and hearts and livers together. The gizzards take longer to soften, so the cooking technique is slightly different. You can also cook each item separately if you want. And as usual, all the ingredients listed here are adjustable to taste; these are just approximations of how I tend to prefer them. Add or decrease any spices or herbs as you wish :)
And did I mention this recipe is literally done in 20 minutes? Major plus.
1 pound of gizzards, cleaned and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon each of chopped garlic and chopped fresh ginger (you can use garlic ginger paste if you have it)
3 teaspoons each of black pepper, ground red chili pepper, and mixed baharat (can substitute Seven Spice mix or allspice)
pinch of yellow curry powder (optional)
3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped (can substitute dry rosemary if you don’t have fresh, but using fresh is best!)
2-3 mild green chili peppers, chopped (increase if you like it hotter)
salt to taste
oil for cooking
chopped cilantro for garnishing (optional)
1. Heat a skillet or frying pan, preferably nonstick. Put in your gizzards and let them cook on medium heat until all the liquid they release dries up.
2. Then, add about half a cup of warm water, cover, and let cook on medium heat until tender. Check on them frequently, adding more water if they get too dry before cooking fully. Once they are cooked to desired tenderness, either add or cook off the liquid in the pot depending on how much sauce you want. I prefer the dish a little drier, but it’s your call.
3. Turn up the heat under your pan, add a couple spoonfuls of oil, and get them sizzling. Add the garlic and ginger, your spices, the chopped chilies, and the rosemary. Keep frying them until they get nice and crispy, and the liquid in the pan thickens up a bit. Add salt to taste, then garnish with more chopped green chilies or chopped cilantro. Serve hot with bread and french fries or steak fries.
Hearts and Livers:
1 pound combined of hearts and livers (livers should be cut into bite sized pieces)
The rest of the ingredients are exactly the same as above. To cook, follow the same steps for gizzards but skip step 2.
Try it. You might just change your mind about innards.
* In Palestinian Arabic, gizzards are called awaniss, livers are kibdat, and hearts are qlub.
If you like Baba Ghannoush or Mtabbal, you should definitely try Mtawwamit Kusa. The concept is similar, using zucchini instead of roasted eggplant, and it can work as a salad, a sandwich spread, a side to grilled meats, or a dip for a chips/veggie platter. To keep it as basic as possible, you can omit the walnuts and dill if you want, although they add a nice touch. All the ingredients can be adjusted to your own particular liking.
2 medium sized zucchini, grated (you can also use the leftover “insides” of the zucchini if you recently made mahshi!)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large lemon, juiced
4-5 tablespoons of tahini paste
2 tablespoons of cold water
2/3 cup of thick Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1/3 cup of finely crushed walnuts (optional)
1 tablespoon of finely chopped dill (optional)
olive oil for garnishing
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the grated zucchini with two cloves of crushed garlic in a couple tablespoons of oil until the zucchini gets soft. Add a bit of water, turn the heat down and cover, letting it cook while checking it every few minutes, until the zucchini completely softens. Turn off heat and let cool.
In a bowl, whisk the tahini paste with half of the lemon juice until the tahini turns white. You will need to gradually add the cold water in while you’re whisking to keep the consistency creamy. Add the yogurt, the remaining two garlic cloves, and the parsley. Add the walnuts and dill at this point if you’re using them. Mix well.
Mash the cooked zucchini – you can make it as smooth as you want, but I like to leave it a bit chunky. Add the zucchini into the tahini+yogurt mixture. Add remaining lemon juice, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, then chill. Serve drizzled with olive oil.
It’s snowing for the first time this winter in Istanbul, and as I sit here watching everything become buried under a layer of thick, white fluff, I think of winters in Minnesota: the crisp air, cold feet, wearing a million layers, frozen nose hairs, peppermint mochas, shoveling the driveway, baking cardamom cookies, my sister’s leg warmers, stinging red cheeks, lemon-ginger tea, slippers, and obviously, the snow.
Sometime around the beginning of last year, I was making stuffed cabbage in Minnesota during a beautiful snowfall just like this one. Stuffed leaves of any kind are great in all weather, but winter is when things like cabbage, collard greens, kale, and chard are at their prime. These kinds of leaves are much easier to stuff and roll than grape leaves (which are best made in the spring anyway), because they tend to be larger, and you don’t have to worry about folding in the edges to keep the stuffing from falling out during cooking.
I can see the snow still falling endlessly outside my window, and it seems like a good time to post my recipe for stuffed cabbage in a simple broth. You can use it for other winter greens as well, and you can always mix tomato sauce into the cooking liquid if you’d prefer, since some people don’t like plain broth. This recipe is best served hot, although I’ve included a vegetarian variation at the end of this post that is delicious as a cold side or appetizer.
1 medium sized cabbage
half a batch of my stuffing recipe
approx. 4-5 cups of good quality meat or chicken broth seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, although you can use vegetable broth if you like
two tablespoons of allspice or “mixed baharat”
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
5-6 lamb or beef chops/ribs or any kind of bone-in meat (optional but adds good flavor) – I know some people use oxtails
Core your cabbage. You can do this by either hollowing out the center with a knife, or by quartering the cabbage and cutting out the core. The cabbage I used here was quite small, so I just hollowed out the center, although with bigger ones it can be pretty difficult to do.
Boil the whole cabbage or the quarters in water until the leaves become tender and pliable. I like to add a spoonful of cumin powder to the boiling water.
Remove from pot, strain. Separate the leaves out. Cut out any large, tough stems from each leaf. Do not discard!
Put a few spoonfuls of oil in the bottom of a large cooking pot, then use the stems you just cut out to line the bottom of the pot so the cabbage leaves don’t stick and burn. Also layer your meat pieces on top, if you’re using them.
Place a small amount of stuffing onto each leaf, and roll it up like a cigar. Layer the rolls quite tightly in your pot.
Combine the allspice with the broth, then pour it over the cabbage. The liquid should just surpass the top layer of cabbage, so make sure to add enough broth or top it up with water if necessary. Sprinkle in the garlic cloves.
Put the pot on high heat and let the broth come to a boil, then turn the heat down, put a heavy plate directly on top of the cabbage to ensure that it’s all pressed down, and cover the pot with a lid. Let it cook on low heat for about an hour to an hour and a half. The cooking time will vary, so test a cabbage roll by cutting it open and checking if the rice inside is fully cooked. If not, let it cook more.
Serve steaming hot with plenty of lemon wedges and fresh yogurt.
Yalanji: a vegetarian alternative
Mix up a stuffing of rice OR bulgur; chopped mint, parsley, and dill; very finely diced tomato, cucumber, and carrot; grated onion, pine nuts, salt, pepper, allspice, a pinch of cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, and a few tablespoons of olive oil.
Use this to stuff the leaves, then cook them just like in the recipe above, using vegetable broth or water for cooking mixed with a quarter cup of olive oil.
Fun fact: yalancı (pronounced ya-lawn-juh) is Turkish for liar. I guess the vegetarian stuffed leaves are lying because they’re pretending to be proper mahshi but they don’t actually have meat in them ;)
It’s been almost a year since I posted a recipe on this blog, during which I got engaged, then married – much sooner than was initially planned! -, and moved to Turkey to pursue a masters degree in Turkish Studies. It’s been a hectic but rewarding chapter of my life, and I’ve really missed posting new recipes throughout.
I finally decided to make the commitment to try and update the blog regularly again, even if the interval between posts is longer than I would like. I’ve received comments and feedback from family, friends, and readers, who have both asked for more recipes, and have given me useful suggestions on how to improve my posts!
To start off, I’m sharing a very simple recipe for mtabbal (sometimes spelled mutabbal), a creamy roasted eggplant dip that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meat dishes. A lot of non-Arabic speakers might be familiar with the term Baba ghannouj, which is basically very similar. I hope you enjoy it!
Poke a few holes with a fork into two whole eggplants and roast in oven until the skins start to blacken. Peel them, discard skins, then mash up the insides in a bowl.
Add a spoonful of crushed garlic, some chopped parsley, three spoonfuls of tahini paste, the juice of two lemons, a bit of cold water, olive oil, and salt to taste. Mix well until all incorporated. Mix in some diced tomatoes if desired.
(If you don’t want to turn on your oven, you can roast the eggplants over a gas stove by placing the eggplant directly on the burner, and turning it every few minutes until cooked through.)
Khobbeizeh, or Malva Parviflora, is a wild green that grows throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In Palestinian culture, Khobbeizeh is a food for the common – a green that you can make a cheap, filling, and very healthy meal out of. The season for Khobbeizeh is late fall to early winter, and around this time of the year in Jordan, the markets are full of it. People even go out to large fields outside the city to harvest huge bundles of the wild Khobbeizeh. I’m not sure if you can get it in the US, so I don’t really know how useful this recipe is to people who don’t live in an area where Khobbeizeh grows, buuut because it is such a traditional dish, I definitely wanted to include it in my collection :)
Like spinach or most other greens, Khobbeizeh cooks down to very little, so you need to purchase/obtain it raw in large quantities. There are many, many ways to cook it, and the recipe that I am going to post is a combination of several different variations. Traditionally, the Khobbeizeh leaves are dropped into boiling water, then a traditional whisk-like tool called a Mifrak is used to whisk the leaves rapidly until they start to fall apart. My recipe uses a less traditional and slightly easier method. Although my family doesn’t really make Khobbeizeh that often, it is a very traditional Palestinian dish, and I highly recommend trying it if you like greens in general (or believe in eating them once in a while to feel better about your otherwise-unhealthy diet).
4-5 cups of Khobbeizeh leaves, washed, de-stemmed, and very finely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2-3 cups of water or stock
1 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 cup of coriander, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
5-6 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil
1 cup of coarse bulgur OR roasted green wheat (freekeh) OR regular or wholewheat flour
salt& pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat 2-3 tbsp of oil, then add half of the chopped onion. Sautee the onion until tender, then add the chopped Khobbeizeh leaves. Sautee until they wilt and cook down.
Add the water or stock, and stir, letting it come to a boil. Don’t use too much liquid; you want to add just enough to get a very thick, stew-like texture. Add the chopped parsley and coriander.
If using bulgur OR smoked wheat: wash the grains then drain. Soak in hot water for ten minutes, then drain, and add them to the pot of Khobbeizeh.
If using flour: put the flour in a small bowl and gradually sprinkle a couple tablespoons of cold water all over it. Mix it gently with a fork until the flour forms little balls of dough. Sprinkle on more water if needed. Then, add the dough balls to the pot of Khobbeizeh.
Leave the Khobbeizeh to simmer on low heat for a few minutes while you prepare the ‘ad7ah. Remember, ‘ad7ah is basically adding sauteed garlic to whatever you’re cooking to give it an extra layer of flavor. So, in a small frying pan or saucepan, heat the rest of your oil, then add the rest of the chopped onion and the crushed garlic. Fry until golden brown, then pour the whole thing into the pot of Khobbeizeh. Watch out; it can really splatter!
Give the pot of Khobbeizeh a stir, add salt&pepper to taste, and serve with fresh bread, sliced lemons, and green onions on the side. Enjoy!
I have been away for the past ten days, traveling across the West Bank. I didn’t have any internet access, so updating this blog was impossible. But I’m back, and excited to start updating again inshallah :)
My aunts really like one particular Syrian dish that has a very peculiar name. In Arabic, it’s called “7orra2 Usba3oh” – I think. Which sounds something like “his finger is burning,” or perhaps “his finger is spicy.” Every time I ask my aunts to clarify the name and its origin, they end up telling me “who knows about those Syrians.” So I’m still pretty confused. But what I do know for sure is that the dish is REALLY good. It’s a bit strange, because of the combination of macaroni and dill/cilantro, but it’s a nice, light, cool lunch for a hot day. The closest thing I can compare it to in American cuisine would be a cold casserole. My aunts say this dish is a “women’s dish;” something quick and light that women enjoy making and eating, but definitely not satisfying enough for a hungry man, apparently. I’ll let you be the judge!
250 grams of brown lentils
250 grams of macaroni, cooked al dente, any shape (shells, bows, elbows)
3-4 tbsp of flour
3-4 tbsp of tamarind paste, soaked in hot water for a couple hours
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 bunches of cilantro and dill, finely chopped
half a loaf of pita bread, torn into little pieces
Boil the lentils in a pot of salted water, then cover and let simmer until half-cooked. Do not drain! Add the macaroni to the pot of lentils.
Rub the soaked, softened tamarind paste between your fingers over a strainer, letting the juice fall through into a bowl. Extract as much juice as possible out of the paste. Add the juice to the pot of lentils and macaroni.
Dissolve 3-4 tbsp of flour in a bit of cold water, stirring till smooth. Add this to the pot of lentils and macaroni, and stir immediately. The contents of the pot will thicken. You want the consistency to be pretty thick. Add more flour-dissolved-in-water if necessary.
Add half of the crushed garlic, half of the chopped cilantro and dill to the pot, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Add salt if needed. Set the pot aside.
In a frying pan, heat some olive oil, and fry the sliced onions till crispy and golden. Take the onions out and let them drain on a paper towel.
Pour the olive oil left over from your frying pan into the pot of lentils and macaroni. Give it a good stir.
Sautee the rest of the crushed garlic and chopped cilantro and dill in another couple tbsp of olive oil. Stir while sauteeing, until the greens wilt a bit. Set aside.
Fry the torn pieces of pita bread until golden and crispy. Note: In the original dish, they do not use pita bread. The women traditionally prepare a special dough, and roll it out very thinly. They then cut the dough into little pieces and fry it. Pita bread is a much easier and equally tasty substitute.
Now, to assemble: In a baking/casserole dish, pour the lentils+macaroni mixture. Spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the crispy pita bread chips all over the top. Sprinkle the fried onions on top of that. Finally, scoop little spoonfuls of the sauteed garlic+cilantro+dill over everything decoratively.
Chill. Eat with a spoon! The tamarind juice gives the dish a bit of sourness, and the garlic with the greens is a powerful burst of flavor. I know, it looks kind of strange but I think it’s really tasty, and I am glad they introduced me to it!
I thought I would post a few simple salad recipes today. They are refreshing, and a great complement to any meal.
Palestinian Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Salad
2 cucumbers, chopped finely or grated
1 tub of plain yogurt
3-4 cloves of garlic, mashed
1-2 heaping tablespoons of dried mint
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl except for the mint. Then, put the mint between your palms and rub your hands together briskly over the bowl, letting the mint fall in. This releases the oils in it and makes sure it gets ground up finely.
Turkish Carrot Yogurt Salad
5 large carrots, grated
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed (you can also use garlic salt instead, but I prefer fresh garlic)
3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil for sauteeing
aprox 2 tubs of plain yogurt
salt to taste
In a frying pan, heat the oil. Add the crushed garlic and sautee it until just golden.
Then, add the carrots to the frying pan and sautee them until they get tender and turn a dark orange color. Take them off the fire and let them cool off.
In a mixing bowl, empty the tubs of yogurt. Add the carrots, scooping all the oil out of the pan into the yogurt. Add salt to taste.
Fasulya b Zeit, or Turkish Green Bean Salad
aprox 1 kilo of fresh green beans, washed, with the ends taken off, and cut in half
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
aprox 1/3 cup of olive oil, more if you want
salt to taste
pinch of sugar
In a cooking pot or wok, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sautee until tender. Then add the green beans.
Sautee the green beans gently for a couple minutes, then add the chopped tomato.
Stir, then add water to the pot, until just a few centimeters below the level of the beans. Add salt to taste and a sprinkle of sugar. Cover the pot and let the beans cook on a low flame. Keep covered. Check every fifteen minutes if they need more water. The dish is ready when the beans are tender. Serve chilled (although my Arab relatives preferred to eat this dish hot, with a squeeze of lemon juice, using bread to scoop up the beans!).