Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spiced Sweet Potatoes

I heart sweet potatoes. And if you want the sweet-potatoiest sweet potato, go for the garnet variety, which I tend to find in the organic section (all the better!).

Here, I peeled and sliced them. (When you do so, be prepared to get some sugary starch on your hands from the potatoes. It's a little difficult to get off, though vinegar and salt helped me scrub it off. Or wear gloves.) Then I placed them in an olive-oiled tray and roasted them.

When the potatoes are almost done, crush a bunch of garlic and grind some (toasted if you like) cumin and coriander. Cook the garlic, cumin, and coriander in some olive oil (or butter) and add to this some chili powder, cinnamon, and salt. This will form a sort of cooked-down paste, which you will then brush on the potatoes. Let the potatoes roast until done and enjoy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cranberry Relish

This is an extremely easy cranberry dish to make; so easy, in fact, that I learned to make it 25 years ago in my kindergarten class. It's been a family favorite ever since. My Uncle Louis, in particular, is an ardent fan.

You need a food processor; about equal amounts of (washed, of course) red apples, oranges (preferably navel), and fresh cranberries; and sugar. Roughly chop the apples and oranges, keeping the skins and peels on, but taking the stems and seeds out. Then fill the processor with about equal parts apple, orange, and cranberry, and some sugar. Process the fruits until they achieves a relishy consistency. There's no way to tell you how much sugar you'll need; it depends on your personal taste, as well as the sweetness and tang of the particular fruit you're using. Just add the sugar bit by bit, until you achieve a balance you like between tart and sweet. If you make a batch that's too sweet, make the next batch less sweet and mix the two batches. 

This relish tastes even better the next day, so you may want to make it (and refrigerate it) a day before you serve it. It makes an excellent sweet, tart, cold counterpart to warm, savory turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tortilla Soup

Most tortilla soups are made with chicken, but this is a vegan one.

I started by making a vegetable broth of green and red bell peppers, onions, garlic, pablano peppers, ancho (dried pablono) peppers, salt, black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, oregano, basil, and chili powder. Sautee all these ingredients in some olive oil until they've cooked down, then add some boiling water and let everything simmer for a while.

Next, add cooked beans (I used black and pinto), corn, fire roasted tomatoes, and some slices of corn tortilla or tortilla chips, and let them all cook in the soup. Squeeze in a bit of lime juice. And that's it!

Many people eat this with cheese or sour cream (or other garnishes), but since I am 98% dairy-free, I added a few more chips, and raw tomato and onion.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Snap Peas With Ginger and Garlic

Ginger and garlic, one of heaven's pairings. This time, I used them to make a quick lunch, combining them with snap peas, tamari sauce, and sesame oil.

Most soy sauces have wheat in them, so you have to choose a wheat-free soy sauce, which is often labeled "tamari" in the American market. But that doesn't mean all tamaris are gluten-free; in fact, I have seen some that contain wheat. Make sure your bottle of tamari explicitly says "gluten-free."

Do these snap peas look a little wrinkly? That's because, once cooked, they are! If you see photos of cooked snap peas that look perfectly green and smooth, then they're stylized, not real. Just like people, real ones have some wrinkles!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stuffed Grape Leaves

In my last post, I said that if you are presented with the simple sauteed insides of a zucchini, then you should know that something more complicated is not too far away. So here it is, stuffed grape leaves (waraq 'inab) with stuffed zucchini.

This is a labor intensive dish, especially because my family does not make it with ground beef like most people do. Instead, we are among the minority of Arabs who cut the meat by hand into tiny, bean-sized pieces (which takes a bit of time), and then mix it with rice, salt, pepper, olive oil, and spices. If you're including zucchini, you must also hollow those out.

Then comes the actual stuffing and rolling of each leaf (about 150 for a large pot), and the filling of the zucchinis. As you make a batch of rolled leaves, you carefully line them up in the pot. This is not so bad when there are 2 or 3 people working together, but because I insist that I prepare every detail of everything featured on this blog, I took on this endeavor by myself last weekend. Needless to say, it was a long Saturday night. But I hope you enjoy the photos of my efforts. :)

The potatoes you see are used to line the bottom of the pot so that the bottom layer of grape leaves doesn't get stuck. They are optional, and if you don't use them, then this dish is totally nightshade-free.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lib al Kousa

Arabs have a thing for stuffing leaves and vegetables, one of the most common being zucchini. And when you hollow it out, you're left with a bunch of zucchini (kousa) insides (lib), which you sautee in good olive oil with diced onion, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Also included is a zucchini that didn't make it through the hollowing process intact.

Sure, it looks simple, and it is, but it's also healthy and delicious. And do know that whenever you encounter this humble dish, it signals that something more sophisticated is not far away. But that's for the next post.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Lentils are among the most ancient of foods, especially in the Middle East. They are also one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Rice and lentils paired together create a complete protein (Google it). Though they are an excellent source of iron, you need to have some vitamin C with your lentils, so that it can aid your body in absorbing the iron. 

When I was young, I considered mujadara to be a very boring food, just boring lentils and boring rice. I ate it,  but I wasn't excited about it. Things have changed. Now I love it!

Mujadara is made simply of lentils, rice, salt, water, and a touch of olive oil. It is then topped with onions browned in olive oil. You can play with the ratio of lentils to rice. Though these photos make  it look like there is more rice than lentils, I actually used a little less rice than lentils.

Because of its earthiness, mujadara is always served with a crisp salad for freshness. Plus, the vitamin C in the salad's vegetables and lemon juice help in iron absorption. Mujadara also pairs very well with yogurt, but if you do eat it that way, know that the vitamin D in yogurt blocks the body from absorbing the iron.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bubble Tea

Some years ago, I was introduced to bubble tea by Tina, Zena, and Nancy. Not only do we still enjoy bubble tea together on occasion, but the drink itself always reminds me of them. :)

A few months ago, upon finding tapioca pearls during a shopping trip, I decided to make some at home. It's easy enough: bubbles, tea, and juice. And, when you make it at home, not only can you choose any flavor of tea and juice you want, but you can also control the sugar and amount of bubbles you add to your drink. (Do not be fooled! It looks light, but bubble tea calories can add up quickly.)

Here's today's results, tea with strawberry lemonade and, of course, bubbles.

Friday, March 25, 2011

New England Clam Chowder

A classic, thin New England clam chowder, made of clams, milk, potatoes, onions, celery, and bacon. Yum! (If you don't eat pork, you can leave it out or use turkey bacon.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Masala Chai

Mmmmm........warm, spicy, milky, sweet, fragrant tea. Why buy it from a cafe or pre-packaged when you can make it fresh?

There are variations to the spices in different regions of India (as well, I'm sure, from one household to another), but I like to use fresh ginger, cinnamon, peppercorns, whole cloves, a dash of nutmeg, and whole cardamom, all which can be found in a well-stocked kitchen. 

After the spices boil together, add some perfumed tea, milk, and sugar and let them simmer.

Using a strainer to catch the whole spices and tea leaves, pour into a cup and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Vegetable Pizzette

A few days ago, I asked some friends what dishes they would like to see on this blog. One answered (specifically on Saturday at 7:36pm), "Something with peppers and onions."

And so begins the peppers and onions series.

The first thing that came to mind is what I'm calling a pizzette, a sauceless, cheeseless pizza. I bought gluten-free pizza crusts, one by Against the Grain and a pair by Whole Foods, both my first foray into pre-baked, gluten-free pizza crusts.

The crust only needed about 10 minutes of baking, which wasn't going to be enough to cook the vegetables through, so I sauteed the peppers, onions, and mushrooms in some olive oil until they were half cooked. I then dressed them with some sea salt, garlic, and lemon juice, and topped the crusts with the semi-cooked vegetables and fresh, diced tomatoes. After they baked, I sprinkled fresh oregano leaves on top.

This is the Against the Grain crust. It's fairly light and crispy, and has some cheese in the dough. It tastes like a cross between a croissant and a cheesey breadstick.

These are the Whole Foods crusts. They taste surprisingly like traditional pizza crusts! And they are denser and chewier than the other one. I'll definitely use both brands again

If I had worked with a raw dough, the vegetables would have baked into the crust. But in this case, they sort of slid off! But that's fine. :) 

Though both of these crusts have dairy, I'm going to tag this dish as "dairy-free" and "vegan," because it could easily be made that way with a vegan crust.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eggs, Potatoes, and Onions

On weekdays, breakfast is usually a piece of fruit or a cup of gluten-free cereal. On the weekend, it's nice to eat something more breakfasty. 

So this morning I chopped up (with one hand, because I have a fractured wrist in a cast) a small, boiled potato and browned it in some olive oil. Then I added the onions, then the eggs. And for some freshness, tomatoes! And nothing tastes better with tomatoes than olives, in this case, oil cured.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vietnamese Beef

This was delicious! I found a recipe for grilled beef that I liked, so I just adapted for the stove top. Please see my previous post regarding authenticity.

The sauteed beef is dressed with garlic, ginger, chilies, sugar, rice vinegar, lemon grass and fish sauce, and topped with mint and peanuts. I served it with a ginger rice.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

This was my first attempt at cooking Vietnamese food. Or "Vietnamese" food. I have very little experience with it, and so I can't claim to have the flavors exactly right. My apologies to the Vietnamese if this tasty version is not 100% authentic. (I know I get annoyed when people totally change a dish, but still claim it's "Middle Eastern.")

I consulted several Vietnamese sources, and each had a slightly different recipe, so I filled the rice paper with my own combination of pork, shrimp, mint, lettuce, bean sprouts, rice noodles, and scallions. The dipping sauce is made of water, rice vinegar. The dipping sauce is made up of water, fish sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, chili, sugar, and ginger.