Tag Archives: middle eastern

January Wrap Up

WARNING: Picture heavy post

The first month of the new year is almost gone and, while I ate well, I’ve had to be very frugal in my grocery shopping. Which meant foraging in my freezer for things I bought in more affluent days. Some of the meals were very simple while others were a bit more fussy.

Fried pork chop with leftover butternut squash

Ready-made frozen potato, cheddar and bacon filled pierogies sauteed in onions, topped with sour cream and served with Debrecener sausage

Buffalo Chicken wings – Two pounds of wings dressed with sauces/dips included in the box. Added bagged, frozen hashed brown potato patties and salad

 

Chicken Cutlet Caesar Salad – Leftover cutlet, home made croutons and shredded cheddar for extra texture and flavour

Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausage) Steamed Rice

One of my favourite dim sum dishes is sticky/glutinous rice lotus leaf wraps (lo mai gai). Along with chunks of steamed chicken, small chunks of Chinese sausage (lap cheong), Chinese mushroom and scallions are also found in the wrap. I remember pieces of hard boiled egg … but that seems to have disappeared. When I ran across a package of those tasty sausages, I picked it up with the vague idea of making something similar. Instead, I just added them to the top of a pot of rice before cooking it and let the fat melt and flavour the rice. Then I chopped up the sausages, and stirred them, along with green onion and soy sauce, into the rice. A spoonful of sambal oelek for spice and I had a fast and delicious rice bowl for lunch or supper.

Cheese “Boats” or Pies aka Fatayer Jebneh or Khachapuri

Some years ago I made fatayer, a Middle Eastern yeast based pastry which may be shaped in a variety of ways and filled with meat, spinach, mushroom or cheese. Left as flat rounds or mini ‘pizzas’ the dough may be topped with a za’atar paste (a spice mixture made up of thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seed) or a ground meat mixture. The meat ones are called ‘sfeeha’.

Cheese Pies (Fatayer Jebneh) – makes 20 6″ oval cheese pies

Use ~2 oz/56.7 gm per fatayer

To make the dough

3 cups flour, divided (2 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (see note)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tbsp granular yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water

For the cheese filling

2 cups crumbled paneer, ricotta or feta cheese  (or some combination)
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced green onion (~2)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Proof the yeast by mixing it with the 2 tsp of sugar and warm water in a cup; the yeast should foam and bubble. If it doesn’t then it has gone bad and you need to replace it with new package.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of the flour, salt and baking powder (if using) until combined.

Add the oil and then rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips.

Add the yogurt and the water/yeast mixture and knead the dough until it forms a smooth soft ball that doesn’t stick to your hands, using the reserved flour as needed. (TIP: lift the dough and slam it into the table 7-10 times during kneading. That will give your baked goods that fluffy interior.)

Oil a bowl with a little olive oil, place dough inside, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Push down the dough and then cut into half. Roll each half into a sausage shape and cut into 10 even sized portions. Roll the 20 pieces of dough into balls and cover them with a clean towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each dough ball into an elongated oval shape 5-6″ long. Place 1 rounded tbsp of the cheese filling in the middle of the oval, leaving about 1/2″ around the margin.

Fold one edge of the dough over and press it with your finger tips to seal it. Fold over the opposite side and tuck the dough under the pastry boat. Repeat on the opposite side.

Once you’re done shaping the pastry gently press the top folds down to adhere the dough to the cheese. This helps to prevent the pastry boats from opening up when you bake them

Brush the pastries with milk, egg wash or olive oil to give them a beautiful golden color when they bake.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Rest the pastries for 10-15 minutes after shaping before baking them.

Bake on the lower-middle rack for 15-20 min until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.

Note: If you are going to consume the fatayer soon after baking, keep the baking powder (increases the fluffiness of the dough and allows it to rise better in the oven). If you plan on storing them or eating them over a couple of days omit the baking powder because the fatayer remain softer and more chewy when they are cooled and stored without the baking powder. (Baking powder results in the baked goods hardening a little when they are cold)

 

Recently, I learned about a similar cheese topped pastry called khachapuri made in Georgia (the Caucasus mountains). I was intrigued by the shaping, so I used the same dough and a similar filling (ricotta, cheddar and feta cheese, green onion, salt and pepper)  I’d used to make the fatayer and played with the dough. They looked pretty good (and tasted delicious) but I need to work on my shaping as the boats opened up during baking. NOTE: The cheeses were all frozen and bagged 2-3 months ago so I wanted to use them up.

 

 

Dessert made with leftover pastry from the chicken pot pies

Butter tarts with raisins

Blind baked mini pie shell filled with orange curd and topped with sweetened whipped cream

 

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Harissa Chicken Kofta

Kofta are a popular Middle Eastern dish of ground (minced) meat, ie. lamb, chicken, beef or even pork, which may be shaped into meatballs, patties or loaves. Or sausage shaped and threaded onto skewers and then grilled. It’s the latter that I decided to make and bake off in the oven, as winter in Ontario, Canada is NOT a good time to go outside and fire up your barbecue.

Harissa is a spicy chili pepper paste common to the Middle East (Tunisia) which gives flavour to the blandest of dishes. I recently bought a dry spice blend at Bulk Barn and decided to give some zip to my chicken skewers by adding a generous amount to the meat mixture along with some other spice blends from my pantry.

Harissa Chicken Kofta

Harissa Chicken Kofta – serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks roughly one inch in size
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Harissa spice blend
1/4 tsp Chicken shawarma spice blend
1/4 tsp Bharat spice blend

Preheat oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit.

In a food processor add all of the above ingredients and pulse until you get a relatively homogenous mixture with some texture left to the meat.

Divide into four portions and with wet hands, form into 4-4 1/2 inch sausages. Thread onto soaked wooden skewers and place onto a baking sheet lined with a sheet of aluminum foil generously coated with vegetable oil.

Bake for 20-25 min, turning after 10 minute, until set with some bounce left to the meat. Turn on the broiler and broil for a couple of minutes until lightly browned.

Serve with the starch of your choice … roasted potatoes, rice or couscous as a main dish.

Greek Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

During a pre-Christmas visit, my SIL mentioned a syrup soaked cake that my mother had made years ago. She had discussed the dish with a work colleague who was curious about the dish but didn’t have a lot of recipe details to share with her. Since it had been a long time since I’d tasted the dessert myself, I was vague on details, but I thought it contained semolina. My nephew, however, thought it was finely ground cornmeal. His memory has been proven to be better than mine, in the past, but I thought I was right this time.

My mom never wrote down any of her recipes and I had, over the years, done some web searches for dishes that I remembered having eaten and liked. I was pretty sure I had saved something similar on one of those searches so I checked my hard drive, before I went web surfing again.

I ran across a recipe for a Greek semolina cake, with orange syrup, from “The Spruce” website, called “revani/ravani” which I thought I’d give a try. A similar dish, with Arabic/Algerian origins, is known as “basbousa”.

Since I was only cooking for one, I decided to scale down the recipe, designed to be baked in a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, and baked it in an 8 by 8 inch disposable aluminum baking pan.

Greek Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup – served with a spoonful of sweetened whipping cream

Just before folding the beaten egg whites into the rest of the batter.

Ready to bake

The baked cake after soaking in the syrup.

Cut and decorated with sliced almonds. It turned out well, though I decided to get creative in my cutting, and ended up touching the top of the cake, while it was soaking in the syrup, with my flexible cutting board which I was using as a guide. It took the top layer off the cake … so the result wasn’t as pretty as I hoped. And my cutting design was disappointing.

Conclusion: An easy to make cake, tasty and moist. The texture isn’t as ‘grainy’ as I remember my mom’s being. Maybe she used a coarser semolina grind, #2 not the finely ground #1, that the recipe called for.

If making this cake again, I’d cut it into 2 inch squares and not scale down the soaking syrup, since there wasn’t enough to get to the center of the cake.

Early October Wrap Up

I haven’t had a lot of inspiration for cooking in the last couple of weeks, and I’m just getting over a bad cold. A woman’s got to eat, however. Luckily, I threw a few things together before it got too bad.

I used the same basic dough recipe that I made those pumpkin and kaiser-shaped rolls with, but I left out the ground oats and threw in an egg and 1/4 cup of sugar. About 1/3 of the dough (300 gm) was rolled out and cut into six strips to wrap around Jumbo hot dogs … for pigs in blankets.

NOTE: Shaping and baking instructions found at link above.

I was going to make caramel rolls with some of the remaining dough but it turned out I didn’t have any caramel sauce in the fridge (just fudge sauce). So I got creative with the leftover cranberry sauce in my fridge and some quince jam from the pantry.

  

I transferred some of the cranberry sauce onto the quince jam portion, cause there was just too much sauce to roll up without it all oozing out. Originally, I was going to make two distinct fillings.

Icing sugar, softened butter and milk glaze

Close-up of crumb inside the rolls

Pantry chili with veggies from the crisper drawer and canned small red kidney beans and diced tomatoes (with herbs and spices). Served over or with those piggy buns.

   

Pasta is always a quick meal like this Shrimp aglio e olio over leftover linguine.  Sometimes finely minced garlic sauteed in olive oil is all you need to dress your pasta. And a sprinkle of pepperoncini (dry hot red pepper flakes). Cooking the pasta takes longer than cooking the shrimp and making the sauce.

Brunch – I love fried eggs over easy and bacon. For breakfast, lunch OR dinner. And some sort of dairy … like cottage cheese, or cream cheese if I can’t get that. Sometimes I pile it on top of toasted home made bread.

  

Red pepper hummus with home made sourdough tortillas for a quick snack or part of brunch

There’s still the weekend left for more cooking, but I think I’ll wrap things up here.

Slow Weekend for Cooking … Soup, Bread, Mayonnaise and Hummus

Parts of the world need rain but here, in south-western Ontario, we’ve had rain 4 out of the last 5 days, including this weekend. A bit of sun would be greatly appreciated. Since I have lots of food in the freezer, I decided to take a break from cooking … though I did want to use up the last few leaves of kale in my crisper, and some of the sweet peppers I bought on sale (4-pack for $1.88) since areas were getting ‘soft’. The carrots are getting a bit tired too. And, for a change of pace, I soaked some white quinoa to add to the soup in place of rice, potatoes or pasta/noodles.

The result, a Veggie, Turkey and Quinoa soup with the tiny bit of turkey breast left in the fridge after eating it for most of the past week.

If you have some diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) or marinara sauce, you can add that to the soup as well. I just had some tomato paste, so, with that, dried thyme and chicken stock, I made this delicious soup.

Work lunches need bread and since I prefer buns, I made a batch of yeast dough and played with the shaping. Some of it ended up as kaiser rolls (~70 gm) and the rest … well, with Halloween and Thanksgiving (US) ahead, and the Canadian one behind, I shaped some of the dough into pretty little pumpkins (~50 gm) with a whole clove for a stem. For a bit of texture/nutrition/fun, I added a cup of finely ground and sifted rolled oats in the dough in place of a cup of all purpose flour.

Rolled Oats Flour Bread

 

Rolled Oats/Ground Oatmeal Bread – makes ~840 gms of dough

1 cup milk, scalded
2 tbsp butter
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups flour (1 cup rolled oats, fine ground and ~3 cups AP flour), divided
1 tsp salt

Scald the milk in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in the butter and let cool until just barely warm.

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 1 tsp out of the total sugar. Stir in or sprinkle on the dry yeast. Let sit in a warm place to proof until the yeast is nice and foamy (5-10 min).

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the finely ground rolled oats, 1 cup of the flour and the salt.

Whisk in the warm milk mixture and the proofed yeast. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, starting with about 1/3 of a cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir and forms a ball around your wooden spoon.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, using part of the reserved flour. Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with the mixing bowl, and let rest for about 5 min. Continue kneading for another 5 minutes until you have a firm but supple dough. Shape the dough into a round ball.

Add a couple of tsp of vegetable oil to a large bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl and roll around several times to coat the ball of dough. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or a damp towel (so the surface doesn’t dry out) and place in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 min. An electric oven with just the light on works well.

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.

Shaping:

I cut the dough in half (>400 gms each), and shaped one half into 8(~50 gm) pumpkin rolls) and the other half into 6 (~70 gm) kaiser rolls. I let the rolls proof for about 30 minutes in a warm place, covered, then brushed the top with a whole egg beaten well with 1 tbsp of cold water, and then baked the rolls until well browned (15-20 min) and cooked through.

Let cool on wire rack.

For Pigs in Blankets:

300 gms of dough was rolled out into a 6 inch by 12 inch rectangle and cut across the short side into 1 inch strips and then wrapped around each Jumbo hot dog. The wrapped sausages were placed on a baking sheet and baked, unglazed, for 15-18 min, until the top was a golden brown and the bottom was firm and lightly golden as well.

Tasty sandwiches sometimes need a spread, like mayonnaise, and since I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I made a batch of blender mayonnaise. It failed on the first try, so I poured the oily mixture into a measuring cup, added a 3rd egg yolk, a squirt of French’s mustard and a bit of lemon juice back to the blender cup and then slowly poured in the failed oil mixture while my immersion blender was running again. Success. (Every once in a while I get a mayo fail, but I never throw it away. It’s worth adding another egg yolk or 2 to get a thick creamy mayo. In fact, it may have been a bit TOO thick.)

There was one red pepper in my 4-pack, so while my oven was still hot from baking the rolls, I cut it up, brushed some oil over the top, put the pepper on a lined baking sheet and then placed the sheet under the broiler to blister and turn black in places. Peeled and added to a batch of hummus, it made for another great sandwich spread or dip for veggies or pita breads.

Red Pepper Hummus

PS: I made dessert, too, but I’ll save that for a separate post.

A Foodie Confession

My friends, I’m about to reveal something to you that you may not have known about me.

No, I haven’t buried anyone in my back yard.

It’s worse than that.

I’m a food snob.

No shocked gasps??

I’m disappointed.

For years, I turned my nose up at using canned beans in my chili or soups. Cause my mom always used to  buy dry beans, cook them up, and then use them in her recipes. A shortage of funds as an immigrant to Canada may have had to do something with it. Or maybe just having grown up in Europe between the two world wars when the luxury of buying canned vegetables wasn’t available to subsistence farmers in Yugoslavia.

Many years, ago, I discovered hummus and decided to make it at home. From dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans.

But no matter how long I cooked the chickpeas … no matter what recipe I used, I ended up with something other than that smooth luscious spread I got in Middle Eastern restaurants. It TASTED delicious, but the texture was disappointing. I blamed my inexpensive blender. I switched to a food processor. Nothing.

Until I bought a 79 cent can of chickpeas on sale.

And it happened.

I will never have to buy hummus again.

I’m SO happy.

I’ve re-posted the recipe I used below with the information needed to make a roasted red pepper version.

ETA: Click on the middle eastern ‘tag’ for some other amazing recipes.

Extra Creamy Hummus – makes a bit over 4 cups, 1.1 kg

1/2 cup tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
juice of 2 lemons (~1/2 cup)
1/2 cup water
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
~3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 14-oz cans, rinsed and drained)
1/3 cup light olive oil
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp of salt and ~1/2 tsp pepper)

For red pepper variation (my original post)
1 roasted red pepper (1/2-3/4 cup)

Roasted red pepper variation: Halve a red pepper, remove the seeds, brush with a bit of oil on skin and then broil, skin side up on a foil lined baking sheet, for 10-15 min or until the skin starts to blister and char. Put into a bowl covered with saran wrap and let sweat enough to loosen the skin. Peel off the skin.

Add tahini, lemon juice and water to a food processor (or blender). Process on high speed until it becomes very light-colored and fluffy, which shouldn’t take long.

Add the roasted red pepper and garlic and process again until incorporated. Add the chickpeas and olive oil, about 1/3 at a time, processing to incorporate them completely before adding more. Once all of the chickpeas and olive oil are added, process for a few minutes longer, stopping to scrape the sides down occasionally, until it becomes as creamy as you’d like. If it seems too thick, add a bit more water (or olive oil for a richer hummus).

When it’s reached your desired consistency, stop the food processor and sprinkle in the paprika, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process to blend them in. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you’d like, processing after each addition.

Serve with crunchy vegetables, pita bread or tortilla chips, or use as a spread on sandwiches!

Ham, Potato and Corn Chowder, Chicken Breast Duo and Honeycomb

It’s fall time again and with the nip in the air, and my kitchen, I’m planning more substantial cooking projects that will warm me up.

Like this ham, potato and corn chowder I found on someone’s blog. The ingredients are similar to a previous soup I’ve posted, other than using a roux to thicken it up to the consistency of a chowder. You can add whipping or half and half cream if you want to add richness to the dish. And don’t mind the extra calories.

In the meantime, however, I thawed out the last of the boneless, skinless chicken breasts from my freezer (1 pound in total) and turned them into chicken and kale pesto spaghetti

… and a fast and tasty marinated Middle Eastern dish on skewers called chicken tawook.

Both are dishes I’ve made before so no recipes.

I recently got a late afternoon craving for something sweet and whipped up this variation on a peanut brittle. Honeycomb is a nut free toffee in which, similar to a brittle, baking soda is added to a caramelized sugar mixture. The sugar used and, most importantly, the amounts of baking soda added vary. The extra baking soda used in the honeycomb creates lots of bubbles resulting in a sponge-like texture that shatters in your mouth as your crunch down on it. I started with a brittle recipe but added an additional teaspoon of baking soda. Next time, I’ll make a traditional honeycomb with brown sugar and molasses in place of the white sugar and corn syrup I used.

NOTE: DO NOT disturb your molten sugar mixture once you’ve poured it out onto your buttered or greased baking pan in order to even it out. You’re flattening out all of those lovely bubbles if you do so.

Baked Kibbeh (Kibbeh bil sayneeye)

Kibbeh is a delicious Middle Eastern appetizer, mezze offering or main dish. Served with tzatziki or other yogurt based sauce, few people would pass this by.

I’ve made the individual stuffed version but it’s fiddly to make and then you have to shallow or preferably, deep fry, the football shaped kibbeh.  I chose to make this kibbeh in a pie plate, but you can also make it in a 9×13 inch baking dish and cut them into diamond shapes.

My first attempt used only beef but a combination of half beef and half lamb is even tastier. You can use the same recipes for this version except bake for 40-45 min in a preheated 350 deg F oven. I added 2 tsp of the Baharat made below to the filling and 1 tbsp to the shell mixture.

Baharat spices before and after being ground

Turkish Baharat

2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp clove
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp green cardamom
1 pinch cinnamon

Toast dried, whole spices lightly. Let cool and grind in coffee grinder. Store in dark bottle in the fridge or freezer.

Dessert … Turkish delight (loukum)

Pine Nut Brittle and a Break

I  think I’m going to take a bit of a break … not sure how long though so I’ll leave you with a quick candy recipe post. This will give anyone reading a chance to catch up on earlier posts which they may have missed (hint) and give ME a chance to come up with some ideas for what to make during my two months of summer break.

POSSIBLE projects are mostly rehashes of things I haven’t made in ages … like cannoli shells, potstickers, pastas (I’ve been meaning to try a beet puree for colouring), yaki onigiri. (I may add more ideas here as they come to me. Right now I’m too hungry to think clearly.)

I had a brittle craving a while ago, but the only nuts in the house were pine nuts from my freezer, so that’s what I went with. Not cheap to make compared to something like a peanut brittle, but OH SO GOOD.

Pine Nut Brittle

A very simple basic brittle recipe using equal amounts by weight of sugar (100 g /1/2 cup sugar, 100 gm/1 cup pine nuts, 1 tsp butter, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of sea salt and a few finely minced fresh rosemary leaves).

I made a second batch in which I doubled the sugar and halved the nuts. It was good too and more economical on the nuts if that’s a concern. Here’s a picture of the two versions for comparison. At least I could spread out the 2nd batch of brittle more thinly on the sheet.

Meal Round-up

Breakfast of sourdough starter pancakes topped with macerated strawberries and maple syrup, eggs over easy and LOTS of bacon.

Various chicken dishes: a disappointing chicken kebab recipe which was transformed into a chicken shawarma wrap, a couple of ways to serve leftover shredded chicken mole

Leftover pea-meal bacon roast, mac and cheese and peas … all from the freezer

Potato salad with hardboiled eggs with my home made blender mayonnaise.

Red Pepper Falafel: Baked versus Shallow Fried

Falafel are one of my favourite meatless mains. I haven’t had them in ages so recently, when I ended up with a beautiful red pepper in my veggie drawer, I decided to make a batch and incorporate a roasted red pepper puree into the mixture. I was reluctant to fry so I looked up baked falafel recipes.

And while I waited for the first batch to bake, I used the tried and true shallow frying method for the remaining mixture.

All of the falafel started out the same size but while the oven baked ones ended up rather flat and crispy, kind of like hockey pucks, the fried ones puffed up into plump, crispy balls with a soft and moist interior.

Baked falafel (on the left) for 20 min at 375 deg F and shallow fried (on the right) at ~ 350 deg F (#4 electric stove setting)

Mise en place – Soaked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cilantro and mint, onion and garlic, egg and roasted red pepper. Do NOT use canned chickpeas if you can avoid it. You want the texture of soaked chickpeas.

Falafel mixture – about 2 tbsp are shaped into walnut sized balls for baking or frying after being pressed lightly into a 1/2 inch thick patty.

Baked falafel – the parchment paper, as well as the tops of the patties, are sprayed lightly with a vegetable spray to help them brown

Flatter baked falafel

Shallow fried falafel plump up during cooking

Next time, I think I’d use more roasted red pepper puree and the Sriracha sauce the original recipe suggested for a ‘red’ falafel. To be honest, I forgot about the latter.