Friday, December 16, 2011

holiday greetings! celebrate the season with alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking gift book offer!

my new december art news went out yesterday with a holiday greeting which i'd like to share here, that includes a holiday offer of 5 copies of alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking for gifts, as everyone loves alice's kitchen!!! 5 copies including free shipping for $75 if you order by december 18th. 

email me right away to get these books for your loved ones! or if you just need one copy, use the "buy now" on  my website to purchase via paypal. or you can also buy through amazon, if you prefer!
let me know if you'd like your books signed and personalized!
remember to find the great recipes for holiday pastries in alice's kitchen! the baklawe (baklava) posting and other Christmas cookies in this blog provide inspiration as well as direction.

please email me if you'd like to be on my emailing list!

sending love, blessings, abundance, joy, great health, and peace in the new year!
and most of all, happy cooking!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

summer's officially over...but dried figs provide summer sweetness all year long!

two ways to cut fresh summer figs to dry and preserve them for winter delights! 

my garden and i are blessed with several varieties of fig trees that do well in the pacific northwest. this year's crop came all at once even though the varieties normally ripen in a delightful flow over july, august, and september because of our cool and late summer. drying them is a traditional way to keep them for the winter, as well as making fig jam.
my tried and true way of drying them has been to cut the juicy moist and plump fruits in half after removing the stems, leaving them connected at the blossom end, and placing them on food dryer trays. 
this summer after having dried two full batches in my habitual way, i remembered visiting my dear aunt adele in los angeles a couple of years ago and seeing her just-harvested figs from the trees that my uncle edmond had planted years before he passed away drying in her sewing room on trays in the warm LA breeze. 
she cut them into a 4-pointed star shape—much prettier and faster drying than my halvsies, even when presented on a beautiful wooden dish from India and sprinkled with almonds—a great serving combination.

now you can see auntie adele's inspiring designer cut figs and how they fit like mosaic pieces on the drying try! pretty! and you can see the normally early crop (green outside, light inside) next to the july crop (green outside, red inside) of Desert King, both of which ripened in august/september!

see how much they shrink when dried, which in pacific northwest climate with my food dryer takes about two days.

no recipe needed for this simple treat if you have the abundance of fresh summer figs! mama's fig jam recipe with walnuts and aniseed is in Alice's Kitchen on page 213! happy eating!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Refreshing, light Lebanese yogurt and cucumber salad

just-picked Middle Eastern cucumbers—small, crisp, and not seedy give the best crunch to this Lebanese summer salad. when a cup of yogurt might be refreshing, adding thinly sliced cucumbers, garlic mashed to a paste with salt, crushed dried spearmint, and a little lemon juice makes a superb complement to barbeques, spicy entrees, or simply makes a perfect light meal all on it's own.
this chilled summer salad, the Lebanese cousin of Greek tsatziki, or Indian raita, or Turkish cacik, or Persian mast o khair which is very similar to the Arabic and Lebanese name, laban ou khyar, which is what mama called it so that's it's name in Alice's Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking on page 66.

this cucumber variety is called "muncher", an American version of Persian cucumbers or the Mid-East Prolific variety which i usually grow. it's the first time i've grown munchers, and am quite pleased. the blossoms on the plant are huge—almost 3 inches wide! and the cucumbers shown here are only about 4 inches long, picked when they're small and crisp.

my dear friend josephine gave me some Lebanese cucumber seeds a year or two ago, and i managed to have one plant that survived the slugs that feasted on lots of the garden this damp and cold june. pictured here is a mix of Lebanese and "muncher" cucumbers.

i forgot to mention the laban ou khyar salata was on the menu last week with the shish kebabs, along with the green fresh garbanzo beans (hommus or homsi) served as an appetizer...part of the Lebanese or Middle Eastern mezza (hors d'oeuvres). these were a special treat that simply required putting them in a bowl! look how cute they are...sometimes with "two chick peas in a pod".

if you don't grown your own (and i didn't grow these, although many years back i tried...and the graceful leaves of the garbanzo bean plant are lovely), you might be lucky to find these at a farmer's market, or as i did in a local employee-owned grocery store with an international clientele. add them to the mezza or appetizers you're serving along with an empty bowl for the husks, olive seeds, and pistachio nut shells which are essential components of a mezza.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

laham mishwi! shish kebab! skewered grilled lamb lebanese alice's kitchen style! authentic lebanese mountain cuisine!

growing up in los angeles' climate provided many opportunities for summer barbeques. our all-time favorite was laham mishwi, which literally means grilled meat. in alice's kitchen that meant lamb, following her douma mountain village tradition. 

mama would buy a big leg of lamb, since los angeles supermarket butchers in those days didn't sell cuts of lamb as did the old country village butchers. she and sitto, my grandmother, spent tedious hours in the kitchen cutting the leg of lamb into various cuts for specific dishes: some for kibbee, some for mishwi, little pieces for stuffed meat pies, slightly larger pieces for stews. it was an art form she perfected as well as a labor of love. 

mama made the process of cutting a leg of lamb an anatomy lesson and it is illustrated in alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking with black and white photos of mama cutting the lamb. the recipe for laham mishwi is on page 79 in the cookbook.

i was fortunate to find excellent fresh halal lamb at a new local Palestinian grocery store aptly named JERUSALEM. my only task was to cut it off the bone and remove the "bad" fat, which mama described as the dry, chalky fat, which gives lamb an unpleasant flavor. my little doggie, baba, loved the bones!

mama's recipe is simple enough: chopped onions, salt, black pepper, and cinnamon tossed together and chilled to marinate a couple of hours before skewering.

ready for the grill! since the cuts of meat are fairly small, the cooking time is brief—about 4 minutes on each side.

mama's tradition to use a piece of arabic bread and hold the skewer to slide the grilled meat and onions onto a platter made us all fight for that bread that had the lamb juices embedded in it. i forgot to photograph this—we were all drooling and ready for the main course even though we had mezza (appetizers) galore!

the occasion for this long time vegetarian to make this lebanese specialty? my dear friends rima, bashar, and haitham were returning to lebanon. so we had a feast for their going away dinner party. 

the rest of the menu included fresh garden salata, green beans (loubiyeh) grilled with garlic and olive oil, hommus, baba ghannouj, mhammaralebne, and of course a platter of figs for dessert. all of these can be found on this blog with recipes in the cookbook! one surprise was a bowl of fresh garbanzo beans in the shell purchased at a local grocery with a great international clientele that is worker owned, called Winco. these are not readily found in the U.S. and my guests were delighted. i will pick up some more and photograph them soon.

you can see the fig tree laden with figs behind bashar, who devoured the baba ghannouj while waiting for his parents to arrive and the kebabs to grill! bashar came to my kids' art class when he was around 6 years old; now he's 14 and over 6' tall with an appetite to match! Smallah!

bon voyage to them and bon appetite to all on this labor day weekend!

Monday, August 29, 2011

salatat baqle—lebanese purslane salad—with finally garden ripened tomatoes!

finally, it's been warm enough in portland for the tomatoes to ripen. and i found enough purslane (baqle) to make another salatat baqle with fresh garden ripe tomatoes instead of canned. check out the photos from my earlier post before the tomatoes were ready!

and yet today started out cold and rainy. i'm tempted to get a sweater and make some hot soup! the sun's trying to come out. and i'm grateful for the beautiful figs that have finally started ripening a month late, and grateful we're not having heat waves, floods, or droughts. grateful for the summer just as it is.

Monday, August 15, 2011

purslane: a summer weed/super food makes a zingy lebanese salad—salatat baqle

purslane, an international common weed originating in India, known in Arabic as baqle, contains more Omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provides about 350 mg of α-linolenic acid. as many health-conscious folks know, omega-3's are antioxidants.

it is also an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, providing 44% of RDA) and one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is a known powerful natural antioxidant.

but beyond health benefits, today i found enough baqle to make the purslane salad recipe from alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking on p. 70, and it was so good, i ate the whole bowl! i found the weed in beds planted with other veggies, on pathways, under a summer squash plant; this year it's really thriving.

what i love so much is that it just shows up in the garden on it's own like clockwork, in the middle of summer...august 15, full moon and all.

wash and drain it along with italian parsley and spearmint, the thick stems removed, 

and then chopped along with fresh tomatoes if you have them. mine aren't ripe yet, so i used some canned ready-cut organic tomatoes that i use until my garden tomatoes ripen. the dressing is, if you read this blog you'll have guessed, garlic mashed with sea salt, lemon juice, and olive oil!

simple to prepare...a perfect summer lunch with baba ghannouj, garden cukes, and some gluten free rice crackers for dipping. 

bon appetite!

please add a comment letting us know if you have found purslane (baqle) in your garden and what city and country you're in! it will be fun to see the responses! of course let us know if you make this perfect summer salad!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

kale and amaranth: sauteéd summer greens—not typically lebanese—done lebanese with garlic, lemon, and olive oil—YUM!

this latest lebanese food art photography reminds me of a 1960s tie dye! and although red russian kale and amaranth (native american) are not typically lebanese vegetables, when sauteéd and dressed with our classic garlic, lemon, and olive oil dressing, these vegetables that are abundant now in my portland garden that is a month behind because of record cool temperatures and july rain, made a fabulous accompaniment to leftover mjaddrah.

red russian kale is a beautiful plant. the leaves have a reddish purple stem with frilly edges.

red amaranth, a native american grain, has been growing in my garden since i first planted it from seed about ten summers ago! the flowers are stunning, produce thousands of tiny seeds, which the birds adore and continue to volunteer every year as i allow a few plants to flower and go to seed. here's my darling puppy, baba ghannouj, at three months old in october, 2008, pictured in the garden with the totally extraordinary red amaranth in the background that grew to about 6 feet tall. 

here's another view of amaranth in the garden

here's how the young red amaranth plants look in the garden before picking to accompany red russian kale and red onions for the sauteéd summer greens with lebanese garlic lemon olive oil dressing.

lots of young amaranth showed up in my salad greens bed and i have been using them raw in salads also, adding lots of nutrition.

since i shredded the kale and the amaranth, it cooks quickly. so be careful to sauté it briefly to maintain the health benefits and to preserve the bright green color of these vegetables; add them to the red onions after a few minutes of sautéing. i used a mixture of olive oil and coconut oil (which both have great health benefits and great flavor) for the sauté. remove the greens quickly and drizzle the dressing over the top. serve in a beautiful plate...

...for the finished dish—the most yummy and nutritious summer greens using the recipe in alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking on page 169. here's a link for the extraordinary health benefits of eating kale. this website states that kale is by far the richest "in numerous health benefiting polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, and vitamins than found in any other green leafy vegetables".

this link for the health benefits of amaranth mentions amaranth being recommended for cancer patients.

sahtein! in Arabic means "double health to you!" this is my wish for you!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

KAFTA— a fourth of july lebanese barbeque cookbook clubs on the rise

the san francisco chronicle had an article recently about the rising popularity of cookbook clubs. to read the article, click here!

in the past few years,  i've been invited several times to teach lebanese cooking classes by friends who have book clubs featuring cookbooks. totally enjoyable—everyone participates in prepping, following the recipe in alice's kitchen, and my demonstration. then we all sit down together to enjoy a great lebanese feast, which sometimes includes a barbeque.

this fourth of july, give this lebanese lamb specialty a try on your grill or under a broiler, as these photos demonstrate. it's called kafta and can be done on skewers or just hand rolled into this shape and broiled or barbequed. i've made these in little balls for appetizers and they disappear quickly!

the recipe from alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking is easy to make, using ground lamb specially ground at my local organic grocery store with very lean lamb. finely chopped onions, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and allspice provide flavors that bring out the very best in lamb. minced parsley adds a touch that my mother, alice, included when she made hamburgers for us growing up, that we vociferously complained of. now, adding parsley to hamburgers is de rigueur of course!

drizzling garlic and lemon sauce over the kafta just after cooking completes this fantastic dish that is complemented by any of the lebanese salads featured in alice's kitchen, including tabbouli, fattoush, or simple salata.

here's the lamb kafta before it's broiled; you can see that it shrinks in size. it's really important not to overcook it so it doesn't dry out. about 4 minutes on each side is perfect!

speaking of tabbouli, my first efforts at sprouting quinoa to use in gluten-free tabbouli were unsuccessful. i was led astray by the wikipedia entry on quinoa saying they sprout in a couple of hours. so instead of soaking overnight, as is my practice for sprouting any seeds, beans, or legumes, i just soaked them a couple of hours. and instead of sprouting, they fermented and kind of smelled like beer. so i composted them!

will let you know how the next effort goes. in the meantime, have a fabulous fourth of july weekend. and let me know if you try the kafta recipe and how you like it! bon appetite!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

lebanese tabbouli goes gluten free!

it is spring time, and i begin to crave tabbouli...the infamous lebanese salad traditionally made with a small amount of bulgar wheat (burghul in arabic), finely minced parsley, mint, green onions, and tomatoes. this is how my mother, grandmother and beyond made this classic lebanese salad. and this is how the recipe in alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking is written.

this is great and delicious, except that starting this past march, it was recommended by my naturopathic doctor that i be GLUTEN FREE or "GF" as many packages are now marked for this rising international trend (my lebanese friend samar saw GF pastries at the paris airport!).

so if you know arabic food, lebanese food, and alice's kitchen, you know that bread and wheat are big parts of the cuisine. so what is a lebanese cookbook author to do, who loves to cook our food TRADITIONALLY? especially right now, when i'm craving tabbouli with the mint and parsley in my garden just in their prime. 

QUINOA (pronounced keen-wa) is the answer! i steamed up some quinoa, a non-gluten "grain", and let it cool. following the recipe in alice's kitchen on page 58, i merely used the cooked quinoa instead of bulgar. no need to soak it, just place a small amount (1/3 cup) in the bowl, season with salt and cayenne pepper. add fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, and set aside to marinate while chopping tomatoes, onions, parsley, and spearmint.

at this time of year in portland since the tomato plants in my garden have barely been planted in the ground, i'm using organic canned chopped tomatoes (without the juice, which i sip and savor) instead of fresh tomatoes that are not yet in season locally. my foodie friend samar tells me that cooked tomatoes have more lycopene, so all the better! plus they've been picked and canned at the peak of the season, so they're sweet!

here's the lovely and fantastic result—lebanese tabbouli with quinoa—served in romaine lettuce "boats" that are picked up and eaten like a taco, and i'm ecstatic about it, since i LOVE tabbouli, and couldn't imagine it without bulgar.

just now in researching quinoa online, i learned on wikipedia that it is over 4000 years old. and that it can be sprouted within a few hours! so my next experiment with the next batch of tabbouli will be with sprouted quinoa instead of cooked! and i may find some red quinoa to try as well. stay tuned for the results. in the meantime, make a bowl of lebanese tabbouli with quinoa and delight in the flavor and healthful results. be sure to let your "gluten free" friends in on the secret.

i'm off to sprout some quinoa right now! this spring i've been sprouting lentils, sunflower and alfalfa seeds, and mung beans to add to my salads, adding protein and a real feeling of eating LIVE foods...and can't wait to try the quinoa! let me know how your results turn out! and happy cooking and sprouting! 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

tulips for alice!

i cannot let this day go by without acknowledging mama's birthday here. if she were alive, it would be her 101st!

so i dedicate this day and these tulips in my garden to mama. as i gardened today and planted seeds, i remembered that she loved gardening and shared this passion with me as a child. it is one of my joys, and she often said it was her "therapy", as was her art.

mama indulged me as a child by taking me to the local nursery, which is still in business on sunset boulevard in los angeles and i visited recently, aptly named sunset nursery, and allowing me to choose whatever flowers i wanted for transplanting into our garden. i still remember choosing celosia...a vibrant magenta and cockscomb, a variation of the flame-like plant that is crested like a rooster's, of course! my propensity for bold color emerging early on!

so blessed to have had such inspiring parents and grandparents, with their roots in the mountains of lebanon, their fingers familiar with its soil, and their spirits guiding me through my journey.

the photo of mama and sitto on the cover of alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking was taken when they first arrived to this country in 1926 and mama was a sweet and lovely 16!

here's an "arty" photo of steamed brussels sprouts fogging up my camera lens. and because it is spring in oregon and this is a food blog, and i've had these photos to share for awhile, this seems like a good time to show you—brussels sprouts with garlic, lemon, and olive oil.

it is the same basic-essential-all-time-and-all-vegetable dressing of garlic mashed into a paste with salt, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and olive oil.

here's the tangy vegetables in a less arty photo. the dressing is fantastic on steamed asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, chard, beets, as a dip for artichokes, and on and on! the recipe is on page 43 of alice's kitchen!

it is so easy to make a big batch to keep on hand in the fridge for last minute salads, steamed veggies, and it's heavenly on sliced avocados.

garlic-lemon dressing is also an essential complement to kafta, drizzled on just after grilling or broiling. here's a sneak preview of my next blog post featuring this lebanese grilled lamb dish—something i hadn't made or tasted for many years as a vegetarian, that has become a renewed favorite.

sahtein and happy cooking!