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!
My aunt makes fettoush that turns out perfectly every time (like most of her cooking!). Fettoush is a salad that is famous in Lebanon and Syria, but Palestinians make it too. It gets its unique flavor from the combination of garlic and dried mint. Her special ingredient that always makes her fettoush foolproof is apple cider vinegar. Another tip is to use a smaller quantity of tomatoes relative to the “greens.” When she makes it , my cousins and I usually end up gobbling up the fettoush and forgetting about the main dish. I hope you enjoy her recipe for this simple, delicious salad!
2 ripe tomatoes, medium diced
4 large leaves of romaine lettuce, medium chop
Half a small onion, very finely chopped
Half a small red cabbage, julienned
3 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated or julienned
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 small cucumbers, diced
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of good quality sumac (optional)
1 small bunch of dill, finely chopped (optional)
2 1/2 heaping tablespoons of dried mint
Combine all of the vegetables and herbs (up until the dried mint) in a large salad bowl.
Then take the dried mint and rub it in your hands, letting it fall into the salad bowl. If you don’t crush it like this, the leaves and stalks might get stuck in your teeth or irritate you as you chew your salad.
For the dressing:
4-5 cloves of crushed garlic
6-7 tablespoons each of olive oil and apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
Mix these ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Mix well! You want the garlic evenly distributed throughout the salad.
Do this step right before serving the salad! Separate the two layers of a loaf of pita bread. Tear both layers into medium-sized pieces. Fry them lightly in some hot vegetable oil till light brown and crispy! Then mix three quarters of the bread chips into the salad. Use the remaining chips as decoration on top!
Sa7tain w hana :)