🍋 Sour Treat 🍋

Back to my favorite corner at home, my kitchen! It’s been since I got busy with our move that I haven’t really spent quality time in there. I circulate in the kitchen pretty much most of the day, everyday, having converted it temporarily to an operation room/playroom/dining room while the rest of the house is gradually getting fit for use. Nevertheless, I only recently started using my kitchen to create things that makes my family happy and not only sated. And voila some happiness in a bowl!IMG_4172

It is called Harrak Osba’o (حراق اصبعه) which translates from Arabic to “finger burner” (I promise no finger burning required for the recipe)! It is a Syrian dish that I discovered a couple of years ago when my mother-in-law was entertaining. A fun and really easy vegetarian dish when Mdardara (lentil based Lebanese vegetarian dish) starts becoming meh. It is all about that sour punch that gives it all its juiciness and the secret for that is pomegranate molasses. The recipe combines lentils and pasta seasoned essentially with sautéed onion, garlic and coriander. The combination of a legume (lentil) and a grain product (pasta, preferably whole grain) makes of Harrak Osba’o a rich-in-protein vegan dish. Not to mention that lentils are also rich in fiber, folate and iron. The original recipe includes garnishing the dish with fried pieces of dough or fried pita croutons. I chose to omit this part to keep it as healthy as possible:

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 cup of brown lentils
  • 1 cup of small shaped pasta
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves mashed
  • ½ cup of coriander chopped
  • 4 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of pomegranate molasses
  • 4 spoons of lemon juice
  • 1 spoon of vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Place oil, onion, garlic and coriander in a cooking pot and stir-fry
  2. Add lentils and water, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
  3. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes

Sour never tasted so good!

Last Days of Winter

The last stretch of winter is the toughest. You’re sick and tired of the gloomy weather, beaten by the cold and worn-out by the toll of heavy coats and layers on your shoulders. When these blues hit me, I take shelter in my kitchen where I always end up finding my remedy: Hello food innovation! Here are a couple of cold-weather-worthy recipes to try shortly before kissing wintertime goodbye!

Cabbage Cigars

photo 1-19I find that cabbage is usually not given its turn in most people’s diet from both gastronomical and nutritional perspectives. When raw, it’s commonly associated with abdominal conditions (such as bloating and flatulence) and is often kept away from cooking pots, as many find the smell of dissipating sulfur compounds in cooked cabbage unpleasant. Work around its minimal drawbacks and you’ll discern a smooth texture, a sumptuous flavor and a distinguished comfort in this winter veggie, a really great fix for cold days! You’ll also benefit from a great dose of vitamins such as vitamin K, vitamin C and folic acid in as little as 20 calories in a serving (75g).

Here is my favorite approach to savor cabbage:

*For a better digestion: parboil before cooking

*To mask its sulfuric smell: add some lemon juice and/or herbs (such as fresh or dried mint) to the cooking water

Cabbage Cigars is a melting-in-mouth dish! Cabbage leaves are stuffed in minced beef, rice and spices and seasoned with sautéed onion, garlic, mint and lemon juice. Here’s my recipe:

(Makes 6 servings)

1 whole cabbage

Filling:

  • 1 cup of sushi or Egyptian rice
  • ½ lbs. of ground beef
  • 1 tsp. of each: black pepper, allspice, ground cinnamon and salt

Seasoning:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 head of garlic peeled (half of the cloves mashed and the other half left to distribute between rolls)
  • 3 Tsp. of crushed (dried or fresh) mint
  • 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 1-2 cup of water (or just enough to cover the cabbage in pot)
  • 2 Tsp. of vegetable oil

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water until they are tender. Cut the leaves in half if necessary and take the thick stems out (save them to line pot). Mix the meat with rice and spices and put aside. Stir-fry onion, garlic and mint in vegetable oil in the bottom of the pot then line the pot with the cabbage stems. Stuff the leaves by placing a tablespoon of the filling mixture in the middle and rolling it like a cigar. Place each stuffed leaf in the pot, one tight layer at a time. Add some garlic cloves here and there. Place a small plate on the cabbage rolls to hold them in place and to avoid the stuffing from coming out. Pour the lemon juice over the rolls and add water to cover the cabbage. Cook for about 1 hour over low heat or until the leaves are very tender and the stuffing is well cooked. Serve warm with plain Greek yogurt or with a minty cucumber yogurt accompaniment. Yum, trop chou!

Spinach Stew 

photo 2-16

Spinach is a treasure food for a light and healthy cuisine. Rich in water, super light in calories and unlike other veggies, its nutritional profile is enhanced once it’s cooked. Known for being packed in iron, thanks to Popeye, spinach also provides an exceptional amount of other vitamins and minerals (vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin K, magnesium and manganese). Furthermore, some antioxidants in spinach are particularly beneficial for the eyes.

Spinach stew is a zesty wholesome dish, a great consolation on cooler days. Moreover, lemon complements spinach perfectly as it enhances beautifully its flavor and improves iron absorption. Here’s my recipe:

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 kg of  frozen chopped spinach
  • ½ lbs. minced beef
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup Lemon juice
  • 1 bouquet of fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp. of: black pepper, allspice, 7 spice mixture (optional)
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 2 Tsp. of vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cups of water

Blend the garlic and cilantro into a paste and stir-fry it in vegetable oil on the side. Stir-fry the onion in main pot with the rest of the vegetable oil. Add the meat and cook it while breaking it into very small pieces. Add the spices and salt. Cover the meat with the spinach and add water. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes. Add the lemon juice, cilantro-garlic paste, and stir all the ingredients together. Cover the pot again and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve warm with whole grain rice.

Bean Medley

picstitch-69

Trying to get off the holidays’ rush, lack of structure and overindulgence wave and finding it a bit overwhelming to get back to your normal routine? Well, me too!

I usually like to take it easy the couple of days after the holidays, so I make sure to have a smooth transition into my usual routine to avoid post-holidays blues. At the same time however, I try not to stall too much in getting my family back onto its normal schedule.

My first fix is a healthy, cleansing and simple meal. By simple I mean no trip to the grocery store and only minimal preparation. So I dig into my pantry and I make the best out of it. Here’s a recipe that helps put me back in a supreme state of mind, ready to hit all my to dos for the rest of the week!

 “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Roosevelt

Bean Medley (or Makhlouta) is a soup gathering the essential groups of food, making it a complete meal with nutrient-rich ingredients, mainly a fiber mine! It’s simply a mixture of 4 or 5 types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, lentils, chick peas and black eyed peas), grains (bulgur or wheat and rice), onion, a bit of olive oil or canola oil and spices. You can make your own mixture, depending on what you find in your pantry.

Here’s my recipe for 6 servings

  • ½ cup large white beans
  • ½ cup black eyed peas
  • ½ cup lentils
  • ½ cup chickpeas
  • ½ cup bulgur
  • ½ cup rice
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. If you’re using dried beans, soak them separately in water overnight (except lentils)
  2. In a pot, heat the canola oil, add the onion and stir fry until browned
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the lemon juice) and let them cook on medium heat for 30-45 minutes or until the beans are tender
  4. Add the lemon juice and let it cook on low heat for 5 minutes
  5. Serve hot (This soup is thick as the grains absorb most of the added water)