Syrian Kibbe Gheraz

IMG_1496Okay, this is definitely NOT something you make on a whim. However, if you follow all of the steps, it may be somewhat time-consuming, but it really isn’t too difficult and the result is a stunning WOW dinner. I had eaten kibbe in Israel, but had never made it before; however, with Matthew home and me taking this week off from work, I decided to give it a try. It was definitely worth the effort and I would make it again. If you are not familiar with kibbe, there are many different kinds and each Middle Eastern/North African country has their own twist. Syrian cooking is very sophisticated and this version combines ground meat with spices and sweet fruit. It is both sweet and tart and the flavors and textures are layered and complex. The presentation is lovely. Generally it is served with a rice pilaf, but I served mine with a matzah salad instead. If you are feeling ambitious, just follow the steps and I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

Syrian Apricot and Sour Cherry-Stuffed Meat Rolls with a Cherry Sauce (Kibbe Gheraz) adapted from Jewish Holiday Cooking by Jayne Cohen

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

For the Kibbe Shell

2 cups of long-grain white rice (I used Basmati)

1 pound extra-lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

For the Kibbe Filling

1/2 pound ground lamb or beef (I used ground lamb for this part)

2 Tablespoons finely chopped celery, including some of the leaves

1 Tablespoon of a fruity EVOO

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground allspice

Rounded 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 Tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts

About 6 ounces, mixed, of dried apricots and sour/tart dried cherries, covered with hot water for about 1.5 hours until plumped. Then drain, them and pat dry. If the apricots are whole, split them into halves with your fingers. IMG_1475

4 Tablespooms EVOO

For the Cherry Sauce

1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)

1 cup unsweetened prune juice

One 15 or 16 ounce can of sweet cherries in heavy syrup

3 Tablespoons Pomegranate molasses or temerhindi (I used pomegranate molasses)

Juice of one lemon

1.5 teaspoons of granulated or raw sugar

Directions

For Kibbe Shell

  1. Soak the rice in warm water for about 1 to 2 hours, changing the water every 20 minutes or so. Drain the rice and dry it with a tea towel or paper towel.
  2. Grind the rice in a food processor until it resembles meal. Add the extra-lean beef and the salt and puree the mixture, using the pulse motion until well combined and everything has taken on a lovely pink hue.

For the Kibbe Filling

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the lamb or beef, celery, oil, salt, allspice and cinnamon until well-blended.

Assemblage

  1. Divide the rice/meat shell mixture into four parts. Divide the filling ingredients into four parts. IMG_1474
  2. Place one portion of the shell mixture between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, and using a rolling pin or bottle, roll out into a rectangle, approximately 5 by 7 inches. IMG_1479
  3. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and cover first with one portion of the meat filling. Replace the top piece of plastic wrap and roll the meat out, leaving a small border along the sides. IMG_1480
  4. Remove the top layer of plastic and sprinkle iwth one quarter of the pine nuts, followed by one quarter of the apricot/cherry mixture.
  5. As you would a jelly roll, carefully roll up the kibbe from the short end, using the plastic wrap to help you.

    Pinch both ends together and gently press around the seam area to make sure that the roll is well sealed. Wrap the finished roll in plastic wrap and refrgerate while you repeat the process with the other 3 sections. Refrigerate all of the rolls for at least 30 minutes.

Cooking

  1. In a heavy-bottomed, deep saute pan with a lid that is large enough to hold the rolls in a single layer, heat 2 Tablespoons of EVOO until hot but not smoking. Add two of the rolls, seam-side down and fry over medium heat until golden, but not brown. Using two spatulas or wooden spoons, carefully turn the rolls until all sides have browned. Do NOT allow a hard crust to form! Transfer the finished rolls to a platter and repeat the process with the remaining rolls.
  2. Using the same pan, make the cherry sauce. If the oil in the pan is dark, wipe it out and add 2 Tablespoons of fresh oil. Mine was fine and I didn’t need to do this. Add the onion, a sprinkling (about 1/2 teaspoon) of Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has begun to soften and color.
  3. Stir in the prune juice, cherry liquid from the canned cherries, pomegranate molasses, juice of 1/2 lemon, sugar and additional salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring the sauce to a boil and add back the kibbe rolls. Reduce the heat to a simmer, spoon sauce over the rolls, cover the pan and cook for 35 minutes, basting once or twice. IMG_1491
  5. Add in the canned cherries and simmer, covered for 15 minutes more.
  6. Transfer the kibbe to a platter and keep warm in the oven. You can reduce the sauce to thicken it a bit by allowing it to boil, uncovered over high heat for a few minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings if necessary. I didn’t need to change a thing.
  7. When ready, remove the kibbe rolls from the oven and cut them into thirds on a diagonal. Spoon the sauce over the top and prepare to be wowed!

 

Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb Shanks with Mint Yogurt

IMG_1471There are so many reasons to be happy and grateful when Matthew and Frances come to visit, and one of my joys is that I get to cook anything I want and I know it will be eaten with gusto. They have no food quirks, allergies or limitations and because they both work out every day I don’t have to worry about them gaining weight.

We love lamb, in all of its forms, and lamb shanks are a particular delight. I make it many different ways, but when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Just the smell wafting from my kitchen was worth the effort and the actual taste was incomparable. It has a lot of ingredients, but it is not really difficult to make and requires no special skills. Since I do so much Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, I have most of the spices on hand already. If you want to wow your family or guests, this is a great dish to make. There is enough sauce to actually increase the lamb shanks to 6 or possibly even eight. The only challenge would be having a heavy pan with a lid that is large enough to accommodate them. If you keep Kosher or are lactose intolerant, you can omit the Yogurt Mint sauce, but it does add a wonderful flavor and texture.

Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb Shanks with Mint Yogurt adapted from D’Artagnan Recipes

Yield: 4 generous servings with additional sauce

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, peeled, sliced in half and then in thin 1/2 moon slices

1 Tablespoon  peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon, peeled and minced fresh garlic

1 red chile, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon Harissa or Gochujang

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large carrot, diced (I actually used julienned carrot, which I had bought and wanted to use up)

2 generous teaspoons ground cumin

2 generous teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon or more to taste of Aleppo pepper (or cracked black)

2 3-inch long cinnamon sticks

3 whole star anise

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 generous teaspoon oregano

4 Lamb shanks

1 24 0r 28 ounce can of peeled tomatoes, broken up

3 cups of chicken stock, preferably unsalted

20 high quality black or green olives WITH pits (I used canned green Mediterranean olives)

8 dried apricots, sliced

For the Mint Yogurt Sauce

6 ounces of plain Greek-style yogurt

1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves, torn

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons EVOO

Kosher Salt and Aleppo (or cracked black) pepper to taste

Drizzle of EVOO, preferably Meyer lemon infused

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large heavy Dutch Oven that can fit the lamb shanks in one layer, place the EVOO, onion, ginger,garlic and chile over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until they are frgrant and the onion begins to soften.
  3. Add the celery, carrot, cumin, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, turmeric and oregano and cook for 3-4 more minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, olives and apricots and increase the heat to bring to a boil.
  5. Make a couple of slits, into the meat of the lamb shanks and add the thems to the sauce. Cover the pan and place in the oven. Cook for about 2 to 2.5 hours, turning once until the meat is practically falling off of the bone.
  6. Mix the ingredients for the yogurt mint sauce, topping with the drizzle of EVOO.
  7. To serve, cook up some rice or couscous and serve one shank per person with plenty of sauce. Top with a dollop of the yogurt mint sauce. IMG_1469

NOTE: I served this with Shmura matza that was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.

Gremshelish – Dutch Sweet Matza Fritters

Passover pancakes

Of course my family and I love matza brei, that wonderful cross between an omelette and French toast, but I was looking for something a little different and came across this recipe a few years ago. They are light and have a sweetness from the raisins soaked in sweet wine, but are not too sweet since I also add the juice of a lemon. They don’t require anything more then a bit of cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar on top.Matthew can sit down and devour a dozen of these in a sitting, but most people will eat half of that amount. Thankfully, Matthew takes after his father and is tall and very slim so Frances and I get to cook to our hearts content without worrying about making our men fat!

Gremshelish – Dutch Matzah Fritters adapted from The Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene

Yield: About 30 2.5-inch fritters; 5-6 servings

Ingredients

4.5 standard-size square matzot

3 large eggs, separated

3/4 cups finely chopped walnuts or almonds

1 cup light or dark raisins, just covered in gucky sweet Kosher wine or dessert wine for at least four hours or overnight

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

juice of 1/2 a lemon plus more to spary over the finished pancake

Grated zest of one lemon

3 Tablespoon matzah cake meal

Pinch of Kosher Salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1/2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

More oil for frying

Cinnamon sugar or confectioners sugar for dusting as a garnish

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl, beak up the matzot into small pieces and cover them with cold water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain the matzot well and using your hands, squeeze out all excess water.
  2. Mash the matzot with a fork until they are completely crushed. Then mix in the egg yolks, nuts, raisins, oil, cinnamon, lemon juice, salt, zest and cake meal. IMG_1458
  3.  In a separate bowl (I use my standing mixer or you could use a hand mixer), beat the egg whites until foamy. Then add either the vinegar OR the cream of tartar and continue whipping on high until stiff peaks have formed. You know it is ready when you lift the beater and the egg whited don’t fall off.
  4. take a 1/4 cup of the whites and stir them through the matzah mixture to lighten the batter and then carefully fold through the remaining egg whites. IMG_1460
  5. In a large skillet (I like cast iron, but use what you have), heat oil that is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep on medium high heat.
  6. Drop generous tablespoonfuls of the batter into the oil. I used a cookie scoop which made it very easy and kept the size pretty even. Fry the fritters until they are borwn on both sides, turning them once. You can keep the fritters warm in the oven on a cookie sheet while you continue making the remaining fritters. While they are on the cookie sheet or just before serving, squeeze a little additional lemon juice on top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or sift confectioners sugar over the top.

 

Orange and Radish Salad

IMG_1473IMG_1473This salad was such a hit at the Seder that I am making it again in a much smaller quantity to accompany tonight’s Sockeye salmon. While I am making this for Passover, there is absolutely no reason that my salads can’t be eaten during the rest of the year – or at least throughout spring and summer. And, in fact, I am always preparing some salad or other since veggies and fruits make up a large part of our diet. This salad is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey and sounded wonderful so I gave it a try. For the Seder I made a much larger amount and used both the plain red radishes and daikon radish. I also used a couple of blood oranges in addition to navel since I happened to have them and they lent such a lovely color and unique taste. Tonight’s version only has the navels.

Orange and Radish Salad adapted from Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

2-3 navel oranges

1/4 packed cup radishes, thinly sliced

1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Torn mint leaves, scattered

Drizzled glaceed balsamic vinegar (This is vinegar that has been reduced until it is almost a syrup. You can buy it in most grocery stores and is wonderful over strawberried served with basil.)

Directions

  1. Peel the oranges in such a way that you remove all of the white pith along with the skin. Slice off the “navel” and a slice off of the other end. Cut into circles about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and set aside.Arrange attractively on a large plate.
  2. Scatter the radishes over the oranges.
  3. Sprinkle the salt, cumin and pepper.
  4. Scatter with the mint and just before serving, drizzle with the glaceed basalmic vinegar.

Egyptian Ground Fish Balls – Bellahat

fish balls on platter with garnish

I have never loved gefilte fish – even when it is homemade – but I wanted a fish first course and this recipe caught my eye. Egyptian Jews make it for holidays, including Shabbat meals. I made it for the first time last year and it was huge hit, so I made it again this year. The key is finding a fish monger with beautiful fresh fish, who will grind it up for you and fresh herbs and spices. You can grind the fish yourself but having someone else do it makes this dish pretty easy to make. Any leftovers make terrific lunches for the rest of the week. Frances has already placed her “order” for her flight home, which unfortunately is tomorrow. These are best made a day ahead so the Bellahat can absorb the flavors of the wonderfully savory sauce. Because I know my audience, I make these flavorful, but not too hot. I have recently discovered the joys and wonder of Aleppo pepper, which is a sweet, savory hot pepper that never overwhelms. I made lavish use of it this Passover, and will make sure that this is now a staple in my spice pantry.

Egyptian Ground Fish Balls with Tomato and Cumin (Bellahat) from Jayne Cohen’s Jewish Holiday Cooking.

Yield: About 8 servings, but can easily be doubled

Ingredients

For the Fish Balls

1.5 pounds (net) of a non-oily white-fleshed fish like flounder, cod, sea bass, snapper or grouper (I used Red Snapper) with the skin and bones removed and finely ground

1/2 cup matza meal

2 large eggs

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Aleppo pepper (or cayenne if you want it really hot) to taste

2 Tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

For the Sauce

1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic

3 Tablespoons EVOO

One 28 ounce can of San Marzano or other high quality whole tomatoes, with their juice and broken up

NOTE: (You can make this with fresh plum tomatoes and sweet red and yellow peppers, but I try to put my efforts where it really makes a significant difference. And if the plum tomatoes are not in season from a farmer’s market, don’t even bother.)

Kosher salt and more Aleppo Pepper

Juice of one large lemon

Soft-leaf lettuce for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley or lemon wedges for garnish

Directions

  1. I make my sauce first.In a large heavy saute pan or deep skillet, warm the garlic in 2 Tablespoons of EVOO until fragrant but not brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes and their juice, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over moderately high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken up and the sauce has thickened.
  3. Stir in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of EVOO and the lemon juice. fish balls adding lemon to tomato baseTurn off the heat while you make the fish balls.
  4. In a food processor or by hand, combine the finely ground fish with all of the other ingredients and either pulse until well-combined or mix thoroughly with your hands.fish balls after mixing
  5. With hands moistened in cold water, shape the mixture into 16 slightly flattened ovoids, using about a 1/4 cup for each.
  6. Turn the heat on under the sauce and add the fish balls directly into the sauce. fish balls simmering in paella panWhen all of the fish balls are nestled in the sauce, bring the sauce to a simmer on a low heat. Cover the pan and cook the fish balls for 20-25 minutes until the fish balls are firm and cooked through, turning them once. Turn off the heat and adjust any seasonings of the sauce. Allow the fish balls to cool in the sauce and refigerate over night or up to 48 hours.
  7. Serve on a platter or individual plates with the lettuce leaves, the fish balls and sauce and sprinkled with chopped parsley or cilantro.

NOTE: I like a slightly chunky sauce, but if you prefer a smooth one, remove the fish balls from the sauce before serving and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.

 

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

chocolate meringue platedThis cookie is a crispy, airy chocolatey delight that crumbles and melts in your mouth on contact. I admit that I have never been a huge meringue fan. I like the idea of meringue but the egg white is my least favorite part of the egg and let’s face it, that’s what meringue is. However, by making this vegan, most of that egg whitiness that I dislike just doesn’t seem to be there. Since aquafaba reacts like egg whites when making meringue, my feelings might just be purely psychological, but there you go. Give these a try for Passover.

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover adapted from Egg Farmers of Ontario

Yield:

Ingredients

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons potato starch

Aquafaba from one 15 ounce can of chickpeas that have been drained

1/2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar or cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 Tablespoons unsweetened, Dutch process cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and potato starch and set aside
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the aquafaba on medium until foamy. Add in the vinegar OR cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste and continue beating on medium until soft peaks form. On high speed, add in sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time (I am serious – 1 T at a time) and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  4. Using a spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips and cocoa powder, just until blended. The meringue will deflate some.
  5. Drop by tablespoonfuls, about 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes or until cookies are dry to the touch, rotating pans halfway through. Don’t try this on a humid day.
  6. Remove parchment and cookies from baking sheets and place on cooling racks. Cool completely and then carefully peel off of the parchment. Store in airtight containers. These would be great crumbled over ice cream or “fool.”

 

Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons

platedPlease don’t buy those macaroons from a tin. It really is very easy to make your own and the difference is quite extraordinary. No longer will macaroons be the butt of jokes the way that fruit cake is in December. And of course, when you make your own, you can opt to decorate them by dipping part in chocolate or leaving them pure. Last year I read a recipe for a cinnamon almond macaroon in the Off Duty section of the weekend Wall Street Journal. Somehow cinnamon just didn’t sit right with me and when I was making them, I simply skipped that step. I think I made the right decision, but feel free to add it back if you like. After you taste these, there won’t be any more jokes about macaroons surviving the apocolypse. This year I am making these vegan, substituting aquafaba for egg whites so my godson can eat them since he is allergic to eggs.

Almond Coconut Macaroons adapted from Leah Koenig

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

3 large egg whites OR liquid from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas that have been drained (this is aquafaba) See note.

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

⅔ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

2¼ cups coarsely shredded unsweetened coconut

½ cup sliced almonds

Ground cinnamon, for dusting (optional)

Directions

1. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, stir together egg whites, salt, sugar, vanilla and almond extract until combined. Set saucepan over low heat, stir in coconut and almonds, and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly and turns sticky, 5-6 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Mound slightly rounded tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets, moistening your fingers with water if mixture is sticking. forming

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through cooking time, until macaroons are golden around edges, 20-25 minutes total. (Be careful not to overbake as cookies will continue to firm up while they cool.) Carefully transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If desired, once cool, dust lightly with cinnamon, leave as is or dip the tops in melted chocolate.  Store in an airtight container.

NOTE: I accidentally opened a can of cannellini beans instead of chickpeas, but decided to use the liquid anyway to see what would happen. It worked perfectly! I ended up only baking these for 22 minutes, turning the pan once.