Tag Archive | lunch

Offal That Isn’t So Awful At All

 

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:

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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.

 

Gizzards:

Ingredients

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)

 

Method

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.

 

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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.

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Try it. You might just change your mind about innards.

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* In Palestinian Arabic, gizzards are called awaniss, livers are kibdat, and hearts are qlub. 

 

 

 

Mtawwamit Kusa: Tahini and Yogurt Zucchini Dip

 

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.

 

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Ingredients

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

 

Method

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.

 

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Rushtayeh: A Traditional Dish of Lentils and Noodles

Even though spring is nearing and the weather is starting to warm up a bit, there are still some very cold days that pop up once in a while, and that’s when I want a simple and warming dinner that doesn’t require buying or preparing a lot of ingredients. This easy lentil dish is perfect, and can be altered to your specific dietary requirements (substitute gluten-free pasta, use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and so on). Admittedly, the end product may not look like much, but it tastes fantastic!

Traditionally, rushtayeh is made with homemade noodles. Since that can be quite time-consuming, I substitute regular packaged pasta and it works excellently. However, I’m including the recipe for the noodles at the bottom of the post, in case you’d prefer to make them yourself :) And again, most of the quantities here are approximations; I always eyeball all the ingredients when I make it.

Rushtayeh (serves 2)

2 handfuls of brown lentils, washed and picked over

1 medium onion, thinly sliced in half-circles

1 chicken or beef bouillon cube or stock base

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp each of allspice, black pepper, cumin powder

3-4 tbsp of sumac (substitutes: pomegranate molasses or tamarind)

2 handfuls of wide egg noodles

salt to taste

Method

Put the lentils in a pot and add water to cover them by about three inches.  Let the water come to a boil, turn the heat down and cover the pot, and cook till the lentils become tender.

As the lentils are cooking, fry the onions till they start to get golden and crispy, then add them along with all of their oil to the pot of lentils.

To the pot, add half the chopped garlic, the bouillon cube, the cumin powder, allspice, and black pepper, then check the salt. Finally, add the sumac; you can increase this to your desired sourness.

Once the lentils are cooked, put in a couple handfuls of noodles. I use these wide egg noodles, called erişte in Turkish (coincidence? I think not!).

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Add some water to the pot if needed so it’s not too thick. Let the noodles cook, stirring frequently so they don’t stick to the bottom. Once cooked, the texture of the dish should resemble a thick, soupy porridge. You can keep it thick, or thin it out with water if you prefer.

Finish it all off with the typical ‘ad7ah: fry the remaining garlic in some oil until it starts to turn golden, then pour it with all the oil into the pot of lentils and give it a stir. Garnish with fried onions and chopped cilantro or parsley. I like to serve this dish with a simple salad and fresh yogurt.

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To make the noodles yourself: measure out two cups of flour, and mix in a teaspoon of salt. Gently add in water and mix until the dough comes together and can be rolled out. Roll it out as thinly as possible, then cut lengthwise into four or five sections, each about three inches wide.  Sprinkle with flour, then stack the sections on top of each other, and slice across the width so you have a lot of shorter noodles :) Add them in according to the recipe above.

Oh, and the lovely salad bowl in the photo is handcrafted by my cousin-in-law Humna Mustafa, Creative Director at Diya Studio. Check out her website and Etsy page to see and purchase her beautiful pieces!

Safsouf: Lebanese Bulgur Pilaf

I love bulgur; it has great flavor and texture, is extremely easy to cook, and is very filling. Today’s recipe is for a Lebanese dish called Safsouf, that makes a delicious and healthy vegetarian pilaf to serve hot, or a great salad that can easily be packed for lunch.

The method of preparation varies from family to family, as well as regionally; the recipe below is how I prepare it. You can easily alter the spices to your tastes. Also, the quantities are very flexible.

Note: bulgur generally comes in three grades of coarseness. The medium or coarse bulgur works best for this recipe.

Safsouf

Saute crushed garlic, thinly-sliced onions, and cabbage in olive oil until soft. Add a handful of slightly-chopped walnuts or pecans, plus a teaspoon of tomato paste (optional). Add chopped parsley. Add equal amounts of allspice, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon to taste.

Add coarse bulgur, stir until well-incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour in enough water or stock to just cover the bulgur. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook until bulgur is tender.

Serve hot or cold with yogurt and plenty of fresh lemon.
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Ma’karonah Bil Bechamel: Baked Middle Eastern Pasta with Bechamel Sauce

Ma’karonah Bil Bechamel is a very popular and easy to prepare, baked pasta dish. Egyptians are known for their Ma’karonah Bil Bechamel, but Palestinians make it too. Bechamel is simply a white sauce that is thickened with flour.

There are so many different ways people make Ma’karonah Bil Bechamel. I’m posting what I find to be the easiest recipe, and will provide two variations on making the actual white sauce.

For a slightly healthier and lighter version of this dish, try Koosa Bil Bechamel, where zucchini is used as a substitute for pasta. It’s equally delicious, and you won’t feel as bad eating it :)

Ingredients

approx 2 lbs of ground beef or lamb (for ~8 people)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 tsp each of allspice (or “bharat” spice), black pepper

1/2 tsp each of cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric

salt to taste

large package of elbow macaroni (or penne, or any other medium-sized short-cut pasta)

For the Bechamel sauce:

5 cups of cold milk

4 tablespoons of flour

1 egg, whisked

3 tablespoons of butter

Method

Start by boiling your pasta until it’s just cooked. Drain.

In a pan, saute the chopped onion until soft, then add the ground meat. Cook the meat thoroughly, breaking it up so you don’t end up with any large clumps. Season with the allspice/bharat, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, and salt to taste.

Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with a few drops of oil. Using half of the cooked pasta, make an even layer of pasta in the bottom of the baking dish. On top of that, add all of your cooked meat, spreading it out to make an even layer.

On top of the meat, add another layer of pasta using the remaining half.

Set this aside while you make the Bechamel sauce:

Method 1 (easier, less likely to clump):

Pour one cup of the cold milk into a saucepan. Add the flour and egg, and whisk until smooth. Add the rest of the milk, the butter, and salt&pepper to taste, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. After it boils, keep cooking for approx. five more minutes, then remove from the heat.

 

Method 2 (more difficult and likely to clump, but richer tasting):

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir constantly, letting it cook for about a minute and turn golden brown (basically making a roux). Add the cold milk and whisked egg to the pan slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it boils, cook for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat.

Pour the Bechamel all over the top of the pasta.

Spread it to even it out, making sure to cover the pasta entirely. Set it aside for a few minutes to let it cool and set a bit.

Finally, bake in a hot oven (~450 dgrees) until the top of the Ma’karonah Bil Bechamel browns. This usually takes about an hour. You can put it under the broiler for a couple minutes at the end to make sure the top is perfectly golden, with some darker patches here and there (the best part!).

Alternatively, when I’m in a hurry, I don’t even bother baking it since all the components are already cooked. I simply broil the top, which takes about ten minutes; this method is good for when you’re in a rush, but the layer of Bechamel will have a slightly runnier consistency. If you chose Method 1 for the Bechamel sauce, I highly recommend you bake the dish thoroughly.

Khobbeizeh: Middle Eastern Greens

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).

Only the leaves of the Khobbeizeh plant are used.

Ingredients

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

Method

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!

Egyptian Lentil Soup: Warm Up Your Winter Evenings

 

My family in Jordan eats a lot of lentil soup in the winter. They say that lentils are one of those foods that heat up the whole body, and give you a huge boost of energy. Most of the time, we make Palestinian fattit 3adas, but once in a while, my Taita will make Egyptian lentil soup for a change. It’s a bit lighter than the Palestinian version, and also differs in that it has vegetables and noodles in it. You can really cater this recipe to your tastes, and it only takes about half an hour to make. It’s an excellent soup for those cold winter evenings, and is healthy too!

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp of vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter

2 cups of yellow lentils/split peas, washed and drained

4 cups of water OR any kind of stock

1 large onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 large tomato, roughly chopped

1 carrot, shredded or finely chopped

2 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp each of chili powder and paprika (optional)

1 tsp of hot pepper flakes (optional)

3/4 cup of vermicelli noodles (optional)

salt&pepper to taste

 

Method

In a pot, heat your oil or butter, then add the split peas or lentils.

Sautee them gently for a couple of minutes, then add the water or stock. Let the liquid reach a boil, then add the onion, garlic, tomato, and carrot. Cover, and let simmer on low heat until the lentils are tender. This usually only takes about 15 minutes.

Once the lentils are fully cooked and very tender, let the contents of the pot cool for a bit, then puree them in a food processor, blender, or using a hand blender. Return the pureed mixture to the cooking pot.

Add all of the spices, and salt&pepper to taste. Stir the soup, then cover and let simmer for a few more minutes, so that the flavors from the spices really infuse the soup.

If you feel like the soup is too thick, add some more stock or water to get your desired consistency.

 

Optional: If using vermicelli noodles, heat some more oil or butter in a small pot or frying pan, then add the vermicelli. Brown the vermicelli in the hot fat, being careful not to burn them. Once browned, add the vermicelli to the pot of lentil soup and stir.

 

Traditionally, this soup is served with tiny Egyptian onions on the side, or fresh green onions, as well as arugula and sliced radishes. The spiciness of the onions, radishes, and arugula contrast nicely with the full-bodied flavor of the lentils. To make this meal extra hearty and filling, we often tear up a loaf of pita bread into our bowls. You can even toast the pita bread in the oven first, then break it up into pieces like croutons!

For a non-traditional twist, add a dollop of sour cream, or drizzle some olive oil into your bowl before dipping in.

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