Tag Archive | tomato

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.


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.

Homemade Snacks: Baleela and Fule

In the fall and winter, the streets of Amman are filled with men selling Baleela and Fule off of small carts. Baleela – not to be confused with the Egyptian wheat cereal – is chickpeas cooked in a tomato broth, while Fule is fava beans cooked until tender with lemon and salt. Both are flavored with cumin, and are eaten as a popular street food.

I particularly remember leaving the University of Jordan campus on gray, rainy winter evenings, and stopping to order Fule from the man with his cart who stood right outside the main gate. For 25 piasters, I would get a good-sized plastic pouch of Fule from the steaming hot mound piled high, and decorated with slices of fresh lemon. I would snack on the hot beans as I waited to get a taxi home.

Many people make Baleela and Fule as an evening snack at home, too, because it’s so easy,and you can control the quality and quantities of seasoning.


2 cups of good quality chickpeas (dried or canned)

2-3 large onions, sliced into rings

1 cup of tomato sauce OR 3 tbsp of tomato paste

1 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of ginger

1/2 tbsp of black pepper

1/4 tsp of turmeric

1/4 tsp of paprika (optional)

hot pepper flakes or hot chili powder to taste (optional)

salt to taste


If using dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight, or give them a Quick Soak: Put the chickpeas in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Let boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let the peas soak for an hour to an hour and a half. They should be slightly tender by now. Add half a cup of water and simmer, covered, on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until chickpeas are cooked and tender. Proceed with recipe.

If using canned chickpeas, drain the liquid off of them, rinse, then put in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Proceed with recipe.

To the pot of chickpeas and water, add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer, covered, on low heat for 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls, with plenty of the broth! Squeeze fresh lemon on it right before eating.


2 cups of good quality dried fava beans (they’re usually quite large, but the variety I found here at my Middle Eastern store were really tiny, as you can see in the picture)

2 onions, chopped

1.5 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of black pepper

hot pepper flakes or hot chili powder to taste (optional)

salt to taste


Soak the beans overnight or using the Quick Soak Method described above for the chickpeas.

To the pot of fava beans and water, add the rest of the ingredients. Let simmer, covered, on low heat for 20-30 minutes. The skins of the beans should start to crack open; this is a sign that they’re ready.

Fule is usually served steaming hot and without the broth. People sprinkle salt, extra cumin, and a squeeze of lemon onto their individual servings. You eat them with your fingers, popping the skins off before putting them in your mouth. Delicious!

Kabsa: Unbelievable.

I have been waiting for a looong time to post a recipe for kabsa, because I absolutely LOVE it. Kabsa combines fragrant, spiced hot rice with tender meat/chicken, and a very exciting (and spicy!) tomato chili sauce on the side. I can’t get enough kabsa! It’s also incredibly easy to make, and is a great dish to serve if you have a lot of people to feed. Serve it piled high on a huge platter, decorated with raisins and toasted almonds, and you’ve got a serious feast for your guests. We serve fresh yogurt, a simple salad, and a hot tomato-chili sauce on the side to complete the meal.

Kabsa is known as being a traditional Saudi Arabian dish, although some say it originated in Yemen. Other Gulf countries, like Kuwait and the UAE, make a variation of kabsa but they call it machboos. In Jordan, Palestinian families have started making it, and it has become very popular, especially for people who like their food with some heat in it! It is most commonly made with meat (usually lamb), but I like it a lot with chicken. My aunt Hanan makes absolutely amazing chicken kabsa, and I’m very happy to share her recipe with you now :) I know a lot – most? – Saudi recipes don’t add tomato to the stock that the rice is cooked in, but my aunt does, and it tastes very flavorful this way. I’ve made this recipe many times and it’s perfect! Make. This. Dish.

A couple notes:

Kabsa is usually made with basmati rice. I have found that for my aunt’s recipe, American long grain seems to work better. Basmati just ends up being a bit dry for my taste, but you can use basmati if you prefer it.

Kabsa requires a special mix of spices. If you live in an Arab country, just ask for “kabsa spice mix” at the spice market/spice section of store. In the US, most Arabic/Middle Eastern grocery stores sell prepared kabsa spices, but I think making your own mix is just as easy and is definitely more fresh.

Here is how to make a kabsa spice mix (the spices will differ from household to household):

Process equal parts of the following spices in a spice grinder/food processor:

ground turmeric

coriander seeds

whole cloves

black peppercorns

ground red pepper or red pepper flakes

cardamom pods

fennel seeds

ground ginger

also,  2-3 small dried black lemons

also, a lesser amount of ground cinnamon

Alternatively, you can just combine all of the above ingredients if you buy them each ground and ready to go. Also, lessen the amount of peppers used if you like it less hot.

And now, for Unbelievable Chicken Kabsa:


1 chicken, washed properly and cut up into 4-6 pieces (or you can use a package of thighs or whatever cut you like best)

1 large onion, finely chopped

4-5 tablespoons of vegetable oil for browning the onions in

5-6 large tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons of tomato paste

Kabsa spice mix

extra teaspoon of turmeric

extra cardamom pods for extra flavor (crack each pod open slightly with your teeth so the flavorful seeds can get into the food)

4 bay leaves

salt to taste

approx 2 pounds of American long grain rice (wash it, soak for about 15 mins, then drain off the water)


Sautee the onions in the vegetable oil until soft and transparent.

Add the pieces of chicken, and let them brown. Add the chopped tomatoes, the spices, the tomato paste, the cardamom pods, the extra teaspoon of turmeric, the bay leaves and salt to taste to the pot.

Pour in warm water until the chicken is just covered, and give it a stir. Turn the flame up to high. Let the contents of the pot come to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pot.

Let the chicken cook – about half an hour.

When thoroughly cooked, scoop the pieces of chicken out of the pot and put off to the side. Pour the rice into the pot of spiced tomato-chicken stock. Turn up the flame, let it come to a boil, then cover the pot and turn the heat way down to very low. Add some more salt here if you want. Let the rice cook for about 15 minutes, then check it, picking at it with a fork. If it’s dry but is still not cooked, add some more water and re-cover. If it’s cooked, you’re done!

To serve: (reheat the chicken pieces in the oven upon serving)

We pile the rice high on a large serving platter, then arrange the pieces of chicken on top. Sprinkle fat yellow raisins and golden toasted almonds on top for garnish (I don’t like raisins so I always leave them out).

Sides you must serve with kabsa:

Fresh yogurt

Simple green salad: diced tomato and cucumber mixed with chopped lettuce and parsley, dressed with lemon juice, salt, and a bit of olive oil.

Our version of Daqous: a spicy tomato chili sauce. To make our version of Daqous: in a blender, puree 2 large tomatoes, 4 large cloves of garlic, one hot green chili pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Serve immediately.

An individual serving of Kabsa, with Daqous, yogurt, and salad...

Yeah. Chicken Kabsa. Must eat now.

Beauty from Palestine: Some Photographs.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the wonderful experiences I had while in Palestine. Not all of the things pictured below are edible, but they are all yummy! Enjoy!

Beautiful tomatoes in my great aunt’s house in Khalil…

Juicy, thirst-quenching loquats off the tree in their garden..Eskadenya!

Steaming hot knafeh, the cheese so stretchy, dripping with sugar syrup!

Wild poppies everywhere!

Pots and pots of  authentic Khalili ‘idrah roasting away in a hot oven…

I walked on ancient stone roads, down winding alleyways, and under dusty arches…

Morning glories drape the walls of the old city in Khalil…

Of hand-made pottery…

… and stained glass…

Crunchy sesame seeds at the press where they make sesame oil…

Then off to Jerusalem, to be greeted by a luscious fruit dish!

With mini apples, baby apples! Little tiny sugar apples…

… that you can cup in the palm of your hand!

The journey towards holiness begins …

… and ends.

So serene…

Always a fresh, wholesome meal waiting at home… thick, tangy yogurt…

… warm, fresh bread…

… and a perfect, pink end to an amazing trip :)


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