Tag Archive | palestinian cuisine

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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Delicious Chicken Soup, Palestinian Style

I love this simple, delicious chicken soup that stands out because of the distinct flavor of cardamom. If you love a bowl of steaming hot chicken soup but want to try something new, this is the recipe for you.

Orzo or risi pasta is used to give the soup body. In Arabic, this small, rice-shaped pasta is called lsaan 3asfour, or “bird tongues,” because of its shape. I remember eating this excellent soup at my Taita’s house in Egypt, amazed at the thought that I was consuming tiny bird tongues!

Ingredients

approx 1/2 cup of orzo/risoni, or risi pasta

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

2 cups of excellent quality chicken stock

1 small onion or shallot

1 tsp of black pepper

1 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp of allspice (optional)

salt to taste

Method

In a pot, heat the oil. Add the pasta and sautee it for a couple of minutes.

Add the chicken stock. Put the onion in whole. Add the spices, and salt to taste.

Let simmer for a few minutes. Before serving, remove the onion.

Serve with a salad for a light meal.

 

Variation: In pot, sautee a medley of chopped fresh vegetables (onion, carrot, zucchini, green bean, potato) in some olive oil. When slightly softened, add chicken broth, cardamom, and salt&pepper to taste. Let simmer for a few minutes then serve.

Salvers: Meat and Potato Roast

I always like to read menus at restaurants here in Amman and look out for the English typos. It’s funny when you see items like “pananas and milk”, “eggplane”, and my most recent favorite, “salvers”. My lit.- major friend thankfully pointed out that salver is an actual English word, albeit a bit archaic. The item itself, however, is a popular favorite among the people of Amman. The basic idea is to roast any combination of meat and vegetables in the oven to then be eaten with fresh bread. These roasts (or “salvers”! – called sawani in Arabic) are considered lighter to eat and easier to make compared to tabeekh – literally, “cooking.” My aunt Hala always reminds me that she and her husband much prefer these sawani, and as such she is a pro at making them. I’d like to post a recipe for one of her most simple roasts: meat and potatoes.

Ingredients

approx. 500 grams of cubed lamb or beef – you can also use your favorite cuts of chicken instead of red meat

approx. 500 grams of cubed, peeled potatoes

approx. 500 grams of cubed tomatoes

2 red onions, halved and finely sliced

1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)

1-2 bell peppers (optional)

salt&pepper to taste

1-2  tablespoons of allspice

1-2 teaspoons of yellow curry powder

a pinch of cardamom and cinnamon

approx. 2/3 cups of hot water

approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable or olive oil

Method

Preparing the vegetables outside in Aunt Hala’s garden!


In a large roasting pan, combine the meat and all the vegetables. Add the spices, a drizzle of oil, and salt&pepper to taste.

Toss with your hands so that the spices combine with all the other ingredients thoroughly.

Arrange the ingredients in the roasting pan such that the meat is on the bottom, and the vegetables are on top.

Pour the hot water and then the oil all over the ingredients in the pan, and then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Roast in a medium oven for approximately half an hour or until the meat is cooked thoroughly. If you want, you can uncover the pan at the end and turn on the broiler for a few minutes, so the vegetables blacken a bit on top.

 

Serve with fresh bread and a salad.

Easy Potato Stew: Yekhen Batata

I had mentioned the various yakhani, or stews, that Palestinians like to make. One easy yekhen is made using potatoes and parsley. It’s very simple and tastes delicious. My aunts usually don’t make it as a meal alone; they like to serve it next to something like stuffed chicken, but I think it’s perfectly fine served as a main course. I think it does the potatoes justice, since there are no heavy spices to cover up the light flavor of the potato. This is my aunt Hanan’s recipe for yekhen batata.

Ingredients

Potatoes, peeled and cubed

Vegetable oil for frying

Good quality chicken stock

Chicken bouillon cube, for extra flavor

salt&pepper to taste

Parsley, washed and chopped

Garlic, mashed

Vegetable oil for ‘ad7ah


Method

Heat oil for frying in a pot. When hot, put in the cubed potatoes and let them get golden brown.

Once fried, add them to a pot of hot chicken stock. Let the potatoes cook thoroughly in the stock until desired tenderness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a bouillon cube if you want to add extra flavor. Then, add the chopped parsley.

Stir the parsley in. In a separate frying pan, heat some vegetable oil for the ‘ad7ah (explained in the post titled Bamyeh: Palestinian Okra). Once very hot, add several cloves of mashed garlic to the oil and let it get golden brown. Then, pour all the oil+garlic into the pot of potatoes and chicken stock. Watch out! It will hiss and sizzle very loudly! Stir it in, then add salt&pepper to taste.

You’re done! Serve with fresh bread or rice (preferably Egyptian or American short grain), and a salad.

Bamyeh: Palestinian Okra

One thing I love about Palestinian cuisine is its wide variety of simple yakhani (“thick stews;” sing. yekhen) featuring seasonal vegetables. Many of these yakhani are cooked following a basic pattern: cook meat and obtain broth, add featured vegetable and tomato sauce, then let cook. I love these dishes because I can savor the freshness of the vegetables, and it makes me feel like I am connected to the earth in which they were grown. I always end up pushing the chunks of meat off to the side and eating all the vegetables! Some of my favorite yakhani are yakhnit green fava beans, yakhnit tomato with ground meat, yakhnit white beans, yakhnit okra, and yakhnit spinach. You can eat most of these yakhani with bread or rice (or both, like my Taita does!).

Today we made Palestinian bamyeh, or okra, and I was really happy at the chance to take pictures so I could post the recipe here. The okra that Palestinians know and like best is the small, short kind. I really do not know what variety this is called, but it’s not usually what I have seen sold back in Minnesota. Even in the frozen foods section, it’s easy enough to find chopped frozen okra or long, thin okra, but those don’t work very well for the Palestinian okra dish. I’ll explain why in a bit.

Two things about our bamyeh:

1) We’re going to be cheating a little bit in this recipe, by using frozen okra. If you have fresh okra, all the better, but frozen works just fine when you can’t get fresh.

2) There are several Palestinian dishes that taste even better the next day (actually, they seem to get better day after day :p). Bamyeh is the best example. If you can, I really suggest making this dish a day before you actually want to have it. I’m serious; sitting in your fridge overnight just enhances its flavor, somehow!

Ingredients

500 grams (aprox) of small cubes of beef or lamb

500 grams (aprox) of frozen okra – if using fresh, wash and cut off the stems

8 tbsp of vegetable oil

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cube of chicken or beef bouillon

1 small green chili pepper, chopped (optional)

3 large ripe tomatoes, quartered

salt and pepper to taste


Method

Wash the cubes of meat. Heat two tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a pot, then add the meat and brown it. Add enough water to cover the meat, then add 2 more cups of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and leave it until the meat is just cooked.

Remove the just-cooked meat from the pot and set aside. Remove the broth from the pot and set aside. Keep the pot with the bits of meat for later use!

Cooked meat; set aside...

In a small bowl, empty your package of frozen okra and add 4 cloves of the chopped garlic, the chopped chili pepper, and the bouillon cube.

Bamyeh, chopped garlic, chili, and bouillon cube...

In the pot used to cook the meat earlier, heat two more tablespoons of the oil. When hot, add the okra (+ stuff), and brown it for a bit.

Browning the bamyeh ...

Now add the cooked meat…

Added the meat...

Crush the tomatoes in a blender with about half a cup of water. If it’s still very thick, add some of the broth from the meat cooked earlier.

Crushing the tomatoes...

Pour the crushed tomatoes through a strainer into the pot of okra and meat. Add enough broth from the meat cooked earlier until you get the stew to your desired thickness. I like it a bit on the thicker side. (Use the rest of the broth for making soups!) Let the stew come to a boil, then taste and adjust salt if necessary. Let it gently simmer for about 10-15 more minutes, or until the okra is cooked.

Letting the stew simmer...

The final step is the most fun part! In a small frying pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil well. Add the remaining two cloves of chopped garlic, and fry the garlic until it is “sha’rah” (“blond,” or golden brown). Then quickly pour all of the oil with the fried garlic into the big pot of bamyeh and meat. It should make a sizzling sound as the hot oil hits the surface of the stew.  Mix into the stew. This hot oil + garlic technique is called ” ‘ad7ah,” and is used to add a final layer of flavor to several different yakhani.

Serve your bamyeh with Egyptian or American short grain rice, or with fresh bread for dipping into it. Bamyeh is also commonly accompanied by a simple soup, and mlokhiyyeh, two great dishes for which I will be posting recipes soon insha’Allah :)

(Note on why chopped bamyeh doesn’t work well for this dish: Okra by nature has a “slimy” feel to it (in a good way!), and the “slime” is increased by cutting the vegetable open. If you use chopped okra, the stew itself will become very thick and slimier than it should be. )

Bowl of Bamyeh!

Recipes coming soon for:

Rice, and two common sides: Mlokhiyyeh (the green stew) and a simple soup...

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