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.
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!
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
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.
A new post is long overdue. After the very labor-intensive stuffing recipes, I think it would be appropriate to add some quick and easy recipes that you can make any time of the day, in less than half an hour.
Shakshooka is a very simple and hearty egg dish that is made in different variations all over the Middle East. It is usually eaten as a breakfast food, but people make it for lunch and dinner too! The following recipe is the way my Taita makes Shakshooka. You should definitely try it out for a super quick and very satisfying meal.
3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
1/2 a chili pepper, chopped
1 large green pepper, diced
3-4 large tomatoes, diced
Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan. Add the onions and chopped chili peppers, and sautee until soft.
Add the tomatoes and green peppers, and sautee for a couple of minutes.
Cover and let cook on medium heat until the vegetables soften to desired texture.
When softened, dig out little holes in the vegetables with your spatula, then crack each egg into a hole. Add salt&pepper to taste, then cover again until the eggs cook.
When the eggs are cooked how you like them, you’re done!
Serve hot with fresh pita bread or toast, or fried potatoes. Perfect for a late lunch on a cold winter evening.
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!