Wednesday, December 30, 2009

holiday persian shirazi salad

over the holidays, my dear friends pam and wayne had a wonderful persian potluck with some of their persian friends. my contribution was a shirazi salad, a very classical persian salad very similar to our lebanese salads with lemon and olive oil, but without garlic—just like tabbouli. having recently eaten this tasty dish at a new persian restaurant in my neighborhood, salar's mediterranean grill, i concocted my own recipe based on discerning the flavors and ingredients of this quintessential persian salad. typically served in summertime, it's colors were just what was needed for a festive event to complement the kuku, chicken and saffron rice with beautiful and tart red barberries (zereshk polow), and kefta. luckily the discerning excellent persian chefs there loved my shirazi salad. i didn't peel the persian cucumbers since they're not waxed, and this variety has minimal seeds, making the texture crunchy not soggy.

my recipe: persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, parsley, dried mint since my fresh mint had frozen in the cold, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. the salad is minced and very refreshing and colorful. my photo showing before it's tossed and dressed.

a new persian international market in my neighborhood, PARS International Market, has the barberries if you decide to make zereshk polow! and they sell Alice's Kitchen, too! the owners are delightful, so if you're in the neighborhood, do check them out and tell them linda sent you!

here's a shirazi salad recipe from the iran chamber  which has recipes for a number of persian favorites.

Salad-e Shirazi

4 Servings

4 medium tomatoes
2 small cucumbers
1 medium onion
3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2-3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
200 grams fresh mint (or 1 teaspoon dry mint)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon black pepper


Wash and peel cucumbers. Wash tomatoes and mint. Peel onion. Chop cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion very finely, and mix. Chop mint very finely and add. Add fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

Mix well and serve cool. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

tis the season for baklawe! fa la la la la! la la la la!

Growing up in Alice's Kitchen, sweets and pastries were reserved for special occasions and holidays rather than a regular after-dinner event. a big bowl of fresh, seasonal fruits was our typical dessert, while the homemade farmers' cheese (jibn) and olives that mother and sitto cured from our tree in the front yard remained on the dinner table with some arabic bread, fig jam, and the occasional halawe (halvah).

mother's irresistable homemade baklawe (baklava) was for the holidays, when she'd graciously package up numerous tins of sweets to share with friends, guests, neighbors, and relatives visiting from arizona or other far away places.

her baklawe—so light and delicious—one piece was never enough. this quality distinguishes our baklawe from others that are so heavily laden with syrup and sweet, one piece can be too much! in the old country (lebanon), people made their own filo pastry, but thank goodness in LA in the 1950s there was one Arabic grocery store Nasrawey's on Hollywood Boulevard, where they sold frozen filo pastry dough. how lucky we are now that most supermarkets in major cities carry this, making baklawe a fun holiday baking project with kids, as they love brushing on the butter, and grinding the walnuts in an old-fashioned nut grinder!

so i'm getting in the mood to make baklawe to fill the Christmas tins i just bought and to use the fresh crop of walnuts from my tree—rescued from the squirrels this year by my hero doggie, baba ghannouj! here's a photo of last year's tray. making this is much easier than one would imagine, and the results are worth the effort.

i use a utility paint brush to spread the melted butter. and instead of basting each filo sheet, save time by placing two sheets at a time which coats each sheet on one side. half of the buttered filo dough goes on the bottom of the baking tray, then a layer of walnuts, sugar, and orange flower water mixed together, and then the final layer of filo brushed with butter. a sharp knife is best to cut diamond-shaped pieces before baking. when the hot baklawe is removed from the oven, a cold simple syrup flavored with orange flower water or rose water and a little lemon juice is drizzled over the top. agave syrup works beautifully in place of sugar! the pieces need to be cut through again, but one buttery bite of this Arabic delicacy is heaven-sent! happy holidays and happy baking!

oh, yes, of course the complete recipes for baklawe, jibn, and how to cure olives are in Alice's Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking! so order your copies now for holiday baking and gift giving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

alice & linda are cover girls again!

check out the latest post on my art blog, as it's related to both of my blogs—cookbook and art!

alice's kitchen cookbook article, "Memories of a Lebanese Garden" written and illustrated by me is featured on Saudi Aramco World's 2010 calendar! you can download your own calendar by clicking on this link!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

my lebanese cooking classes featured in the blogosphere!

over the past few years, i have been teaching lebanese cooking classes in people's homes, featuring recipes, of course, from my book, alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking.

i just discovered that a recent cooking class/dinner party i taught at my friend and naturopath elaine's house was blogged on by her husband, david, whom i met that evening. we had an ambitious menu, so i requested the guests/class refrain for a while from drinking alcohol, since we had a lot to do if we wanted to eat before midnight! when you see the menu, you'll understand!


        baba ghannouj
mhammara (red pepper & walnut dip)
ful mdammas (fava beans with garlic)
raw cut veggies (persian cucumbers, carrot sticks, romaine lettuce, and such)
pita bread
feta cheese
pistachio nuts, cashews, jordan almonds
lebanese omelette (vegetarian—either as entreé or appetizer)
barbequed chicken with homemade garlic mayonnaise
sheikh al mihshi (japanese eggplant stuffed with lamb) served over lebanese style rice, garnished with  sauteéd nuts

lebanese beet salad
fresh seasonal fruits and berries
knafe bi jibn (lebanese cheese pastry) with simple syrup (attar)
lebanese rose syrup 
jallab (sweet date beverage) with pine nuts
lebanese beer and wine

quite an effort and quite a feast! twelve guests/cooks were invited—not all were in the kitchen! some of the men played music while mostly women and one brave man were the students/cooks, with david documenting the event with his camera! it was a great collaborative effort and still we didn't eat until after 9 p.m. (early for middle easterners!) perhaps because of the elaborate menu and challenges with using the convection oven—elaine had barely used hers—it was new, and my total cooking experience is on my traditional vintage gas stove!

it was an enjoyable and memorable night! here's one of david's photos. be sure to read his blog to see more and to hear his perspective. thanks, david!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

alice's kitchen returns to LA for 100th anniversary of...

the church founded by my great uncle, Fr. Gerasimos Sawaya, of Douma, Lebanon, St. Anne's Melkite (Byzantine rite) Greek Catholic Church. copies of alice's kitchen were given in honor of my mother, Alice, and the Sawaya family to guests attending a banquet to celebrate this event. people who knew mama, and others were thrilled to receive copies of the book, which along with so many recipes, includes history, historical photos, and memoir. Fr. Sawaya looks a lot like my father, Elias, quite handsome, indeed.

this summer i was craving tabbouli salad made from my homegrown tomatoes, parsley, mint and green onions (recipe of course from alice's kitchen!). it is served in little romaine "boats" and picked up to eat like a taco! not much bulgar in it compared to what is often called tabbouli in the west. the winter version of tabbouli, called safsouf, has much more bulgar since greens are not as abundant as in the summertime.

i am delighted to be posting on this new blog, with color photos showing what many of our traditional lebanese dishes look like in full beautiful color.

things are winding down in the garden, so i will have more time to post. and i will include some images of the abundant summer harvest, like this one.