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!