8th June 2008

Arak Cookies

Arak Cookies

We had a Lebanese food fest at our friend Megan’s last night, and one of the items we brought were these delicious Arak cookies, adapted from a butter cookie recipe in Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen. The original uses orange flower water, but I thought they’d be delicious with the anise-flavor of arak. Boy was I right — the flavor level was right on: just a hint of licorice without it being overwhelming.

Lisa says:

These are so addicting…

Thad says:

Mmmmm… very good.

Chris says:

I think they’re awesome — they’d be great with pistachios.

Lisa says:

Then they’d totally be Lebanese…

Abbie says:

These are delicious — and I don’t even like arak!

Megan says:

Yeah, how’d you think to use arak in these? Genius!

Chris says:

I’m trying to make room in my belly for more, but the other 9 courses we had tonight are making that quite difficult…

Arak Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp arak
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Almond slivers

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar, and arak until the mixture is light and fluffy. With a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Arrange the balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Gently press to flatten each ball to make round cookies about 1 1/2-inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle 3-4 almond slivers (or one pistachio) into the center of each. Bake the cookies at 325F 20 to 25 minutes or until they are firm to the touch. Don’t let them brown!
Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets 5 minutes; sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

24 Cookies

posted in Desserts, Middle Eastern, Recipes and Remembrances | 6 Comments

4th April 2008

Lamb and Spinach Fatta (Fattet Sabanikh)

I’ve had a hankerin’ for lamb lately, so I made this layered dish featuring a spinach and lamb stew over broken toasted pita, covered with a mint-garlic yogurt sauce, and covered with roasted pine nuts! Not the most photogenic of dishes, but we both loved all the different flavors and textures. The recipe comes from Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen.

Chris says:

I’m happy about finally making a lamb dish… and this was actually pretty simple. It cooks for a while, but it’s mostly hands-off.

Lisa says:

This is really good… and the kitchen smells great!

Chris says:

I’m gonna happily get “fatta” by eating more of it.

Lisa says:

I like scooping up the stew with the toasted pita.

Chris says:

If “Middle Eastern Nachos” didn’t sound so unappetizing I’d call it that.

Lisa says:

I just call it delicious.

Lamb and Spinach Fatta (Fattet Sabanikh)
2 bunches of spinach (about 2 lbs)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 lb lean boneless lamb, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 tsp Mixed Spices (4 parts ground cinnamon, 1 part each ground nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp Middle Eastern red pepper
2 6″ pita breads, toasted and broken into bite-sized pieces
Minted Garlic Yogurt Sauce (1 1/2 cups low-fat yogurt, crushed garlic, 1 tsp crushed dried mint)

Wash the spinach thoroughly, remove and discard the stems, roughly chop, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened, stirring frequently. Add the lamb and saute, turning to brown on all sides. Add the Mixed Spices, salt, pepper, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour or until the meat is tender and most of the water has been absorbed. If it has not, uncover and boil until the liquid is reduced. Stir in the spinach, cover, and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, and adjust the spices to taste. Turn off the heat.
In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the pine nuts and saute until golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the red pepper and remove from the heat.
To serve, spread pieces of the toasted pita in the bottom of a serving dish. Spoon the lamb and spinach stew over them. Cover with the yogurt sauce and garnish with the sauteed pine nuts. Dribble the red pepper butter remaining in the skillet over the top.

4 Servings.

posted in Main Dishes, Middle Eastern, Recipes and Remembrances | 5 Comments

19th February 2008

Onion Lovers Rejoice! Mujadara & Chicken and Onions in Hot Sauce

Tonight’s we had an onionstravaganza! Mujadara, a Lebanese rice and lentil dish topped with blackened onions, paired with chicken cooked with onions, tomato, and hot pepper, served family-style. The chicken recipe comes from Secrets of Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine.

Chris says:

I could have made the chicken spicier; our red pepper’s not hot enough.

Lisa says:

Yeah it’s not super-hot. Maybe add more onions.

Chris says:

True; doesn’t the surgeon general recommend 8 entire onions a day?

Lisa says:

We’re almost there now! So good … I love the sweet taste of the rice!

Chris says:

I love the onion taste of the everything.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion , chopped
3 garlic cloves , minced
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup dried lentils , rinsed, picked over
3/4 cup long-grain white rice
2 large onions, sliced
3 tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and next 4 ingredients; sauté until onion softens, about 4 minutes. Add broth and lentils; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in rice; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender, about 15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions; sauté until soft and beginning to blacken, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to plates; top with blackened onions. Garnish with tomatoes, yogurt, and mint.

Chicken in Hot Sauce
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp hot red pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
4 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup water

Cut the chicken into 2″ pieces and coat with 1/2 tsp of the red pepper. Sautee the chicken over medium-high heat until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onions to the pan with a couple tbsps of water; cook until translucent. Return the chicken to the pan, and add the tomato paste, water, and the rest of the hot red pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

4 Servings

posted in Main Dishes, Middle Eastern | 2 Comments

30th September 2007

Lahmajoun / S’fiha / Meat Pies

This evening Lisa successfully tackled an all-time favorite dish, lahmajoun (also, lahm bi ajeen, s’fiha). These little flatbread “pizzas” feature a crispy crust and ground beef mixed with tomatoes and a delicious mix of various herbs and spices. This is the first recipe we’ve made from Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen, which we received as a wedding present from Megan. We served it with a cucumber and yogurt salad.

Chris says:

Wow, I can’t believe how good this turned out, especially considering you’ve never made it solo before… the dough was perfect!

Lisa says:

Neither can I — these are *so* good. The flavors in the meat are fantastic. I love that we have nine pies left to freeze, too.

Chris says:

Oops, better make that eight. Mmmm… this cucumber stuff is good.

Lisa says:

I’m not sure why they call it “salad”; it’s very similar to a cucumber yogurt soup I’ve had. So cool and refreshing!

1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

(Meat Topping)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs lean ground lamb or beef
2 large tomatoes, peeled seeded, chopped, and drained
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped mint
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (reduce unsweetened pomegranate juice to by two-thirds)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp mixed spices (2 parts allspice, 1 part cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and cumin)
salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste

To make the dough pour 1/2 cup of the water into a small bowl and sprinkle it with the yeast and sugar. Let the mixture stand about 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast completely. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes foamy.
In a large bowl combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the remaining 1/2 cup water, the yeast mixture, and the oil. Blend the mixture until it forms a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, sprinkling with just enough additional flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let stand in a warm, draft-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, prepare the meat topping. In a medium heavy skillet heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine the lamb/beef, tomatoes, and tomato paste and mix well. Add the parsley, mint, and pine nuts, Pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, mixed spices, and salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Drain the onions of oil and add to the meat mixture. Knead the mixture until it is thoroughly blended. Divide into 16 equal portions and set aside.
Punch down the dough and divide into 16 equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball and arrange the balls 2 inches apart on a lightly floured board. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface roll out each of the balls into a circle that is no more than 1/8″ thick. Arrange the circles slightly apart on large, lightly greased baking sheets. Top each circle with a portion of the meat mixture, spreading evenly to the edge. Bake the pies in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Makes 16

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
2 cups low-fat plain yogurt, drained to 1 1/2 cups
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt
1 tsp crushed dried spearmint
1/2 tsp crushed tarragon
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp olive oil
2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded
2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together all ingredients and refrigerate to cool and let flavors combine.

Makes approx. 2 cups

posted in Arabic, Armenian, Main Dishes, Middle Eastern | 11 Comments

23rd September 2007

Manti (hooray!) and Swiss Chard with Bulgur

We’ve been looking forward to making manti again (okay, I’ve been looking forward to Lisa making manti again), and the first day of fall sounded like a perfect excuse to make this Armenian favorite: Crispy little canoe-shaped dumplings stuffed with ground beef, onion, and allspice, in a bowl of chicken broth, topped with a dollop of garlic-yogurt.

Chris says:

Holy mackeral, I love this stuff. My favorite part is taking some of the leftover manti and just dipping it right into the garlic-yogurt. I could eat that every day and never tire of it. And I like that new side dish with the swiss chard. I’m glad we’re finding more things to do with the bulgur in the pantry.

Lisa says:

I love it too, but how about next time you spend an hour putting the manti together, and I’ll play on the computer. Also, that side dish ruled, but needed more garlic.

Chris says:

I don’t want to ruin perfection, so I think you should continue to be the designated manti-maker. Hey, haven’t we already featured this on the blog?

Lisa says:

Yeah, the very first post — but that’s back when you were lazy and weren’t listing the recipes. Besides, we made a new side dish with it, and have this picture of the manti before it went in the oven. I want to show off my hard work.

(from The Complete Armenian Cookbook)
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, minced
salt, pepper, and allspice to taste
won ton wrappers
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp butter

To prepare the filling, combine the ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, and allspice in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside. Cut each sheet of won ton wrappers into four squares. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square. Pinch the two ends with your fingers to form a canoe-shaped pastry. Arrange the manti close together, meat-side up, in a well-buttered pan. Dot each with a bit of the butter. Bake at 350 degrees about 20-30 minute, or until the manti are golden brown. Keep warm. Heat the chicken broth. Combine the yogurt and garlic in a mixing bowl. To serve, place the manti into individual bowls, add the hot chicken broth and the garlic-yogurt. Sprinkle with the sumac, and serve.

4 Servings

Swiss Chard with Bulgur
(from Secrets of Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb Swiss chard, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup #3 bulgur
1 cup water

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the swiss chard to the onion and let them cook, over medium heat, for 6 to 10 minutes or until the Swiss chard has reduced in bulk. Make a hole in the center of the Swiss chard, add the bulgur, then cover it with the chard. Cook for 5 more minutes. Season with pepper. Add water and cook over low heat until the water has evaporated.

Serves 4

posted in Armenian, Main Dishes, Middle Eastern | 7 Comments