za’atar caramelized cabbage and onion buns

za’atar caramelized cabbage and onion buns

Mom really enjoyed the Hungarian caramelized cabbage buns (káposztás pogácsa) that I made from Jewish Soul Food the other day, but as she was eating them, I heard a lot of “but” this and “but” that. You know what buts make me do? Spend a few hours in the kitchen recipe developing for the sake of not hearing that word again. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re in quaritine together.

These are inspired by those same, beautiful buns, without mom’s but. (I’m laughing every time I say that). I scaled down the recipe since there’s only 3 of us, and I used more parmesan, and some different spices I tend to use often. Oh! And za’atar. These are freaking addicting. Almost like a biscuit, if you’re into that. I omitted the caraway seeds from the original recipe, only because mom doesn’t like them.

Serves 10, or up to 14 if you use leftover and roll them out again.

You will need:

for the cabbage and onion

-260g (a heaping 1.5 cup) green cabbage, very finely chopped
-tsp salt, to sweat out the cabbage
-100g (2/3 cup) onion, finely chopped
-1 tbs butter
-1 tbs olive oil
-1 tsp sugar
-1/2 tbs sweet paprika
-few pinches of allspice and pepper

for the dough

-375g (3 cups) all purpose flour
-45g finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup)
-1/2 tbs active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 c warm water plus 1 tsp sugar or other sweetener, wait 5-10 min, til it gets nice and bubbly.
-30 ml milk (about 2 tbs)
-1 egg yolk
-1/3 c yogurt or sour cream, a little over 5 tbs
-1 stick salted butter, 8 tbs, softened (if using unsalted, add salt)
-1 heaping tsp garlic powder
-1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper or other, add more if you like heat
-egg yolk for the glaze
-za’atar, to sprinkle on top

1. In a mesh colander that is sitting on top of a bowl or cup, add your cabbage and toss them with salt. Let it sit for about 45 minutes. The salt will draw moisture out from the cabbage. Use a paper towel to dry out the rest once 45 minutes are up.

2. Under low heat, slowly cook down the cabbage and onion in butter and olive oil. Add sugar, sweet paprika, and allspice. Saute every 5 minutes. They should caramelize within 30 minutes. Set aside.

3. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, mix together your flour, parmesan, spices in it’s bowl. Then, on slow speed, gradually add the yeast, milk, yolk and knead for about 5 minutes. Add butter and knead for another 5 minutes. Then add in the cabbage, kneading another minute or so. When all seems combined, I like to flour a surface and knead by hand before letting it rest for 2 hours in an oiled bowl. Keep it at room temp, covered.

4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. It should be 1 inches thick. Use a cup, cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter and arrange rounds on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush egg yolk on each. Use a sharp knife or toothpick to make a pattern on the glaze. I did thunderbolts for mine, but the traditional way is a crisscross pattern. Sprinkle za’atar on each and let rise for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400. When ready, bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check in on them. They should be golden.

Serve same day, or freeze them.

When I made them the first time, I served them with a tomato and cucumber salad, and braised, spiced chickpeas.

Last night my mom had a few with her spaghetti and meatballs. And today I’m doing brunch with a lox grazing board. Pics to come later this afternoon, if you have Instagram or Facebook! Happy baking.

whatever-you-have minestrone

You know what I have? Canned and frozen goods. Know what I need? Soup. This is what I used:

-a small ziplock filled with saved beef bones from the freezer
-1 leek, sliced after a good cleaning
-3 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 celery stalks, sliced
-1 large carrot, diced
-2 bay leaves
-dried red pepper, I use aleppo pepper
-14.5oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes plus same amount of water
-parmesan rind, I keep mine in the freezer
-14.5oz canned cannellini beans plus 2×water or stock, more if you want it brothy
-275g potatoes (a little over a cup), I use golden varieties but any will do
-200g zucchini (about 3/4 cup), cored if large and very seedy, diced
-handfuls of frozen peas, or any frozen veggie
-chopped greens such as kale, swiss chard, whatever you have

Literally, whatever. Any kind of bean or green or herb or saved rind. A different allium or canned tomato or root vegetable. I wish I had pumpkin or sweet potatoes, but I didn’t. Frozen peas was a nice touch of sweet that was missing. Frozen or canned corn is nice, too.

I browned the bones first in some olive oil and red pepper, then added leeks, garlic, celery and carrot. Sauted them for a couple of minutes then added the bay leaves, diced tomatoes, water, and rind. Allow that to simmer for 25 minutes before adding beans and more stock. Allow that to boil for 15 minutes then add your potatoes. After about 8 minutes when the potatoes are slightly tender, you’ll add the zucchini and peas. When they are ready, your greens come next. Turn off the stove and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle away.

I served mine with Jamie Oliver’s baked tiella rice from Jamie Cooks Italy. Layers of cherry tomatoes, potatoes, celery, mussels, parmesan, zuchinni..cooked in prosecco say what!? It was magic. But, please, this soup is quite filling on it’s own.

braised whole cauliflower and syrian meatballs

braised whole cauliflower and syrian meatballs

Mom says this might be the most beautiful meal she’s ever seen, and I think she was mostly referring to the whole-roasted cauliflower which was then basted several times before showcasing it’s good looks. It’s a beauty draped in tomato-red and turmeric-yellow. Tender syrian-style meatballs (and olives, if you have) circle around it, completing this meal. I’ve added garlic scapes this time around. It is, after all, summer.

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Preheat oven to 425 (or 400 for powerful ovens)

for the cauliflower

-1 medium head cauliflower
-pot of generously salted water
-tsp turmeric
-1/2 tsp cumin
-pinches of salt
-olive oil
-tsp of harissa (optional)

Place the cauliflower in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes. With a pair of tongs, remove the cauliflower and transfer it to a sheet pan. Add a generous amount of olive oil all over, including upside down so that the oil truly gets inside. Season it with turmeric, cumin, and salt. Rub harissa over it if using. Pop it in the oven while you work on the meatballs and braising sauce.

for the Hashu (spiced ground meat with rice)

-1 pound grass fed ground beef
-1/4 c dill, chopped
-1/4 c parsley, minced
-1/3 c basmati rice, soaked in warm water
-1 spring onion/scallion, sliced then chopped, or 1 sm onion finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp allspice or baharat
-1/2 tsp aleppo pepper
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1 egg (optional)

Make the hashu by gently mixing all ingredients in a bowl. Form medium-sized meatballs and sear them in a lightly oiled pan. Don’t over-cook them as they’ll finish off in the sauce. Transfer them to a plate while you work on the sauce.

for the sauce

-olive oil
-2 big garlic cloves, sliced
-sprig of thyme
-aleppo pepper, as much as you’d like
-1 8 oz can tomato sauce
-2-3 cups water or vegetable stock
-a handful of castelvetrano olives (optional)

In a braiser under medium heat, add the olive oil and saute your garlic, thyme, and red pepper for about a minute. Stir in the tomato sauce and stock and bring it to a gentle boil.

At this point you can take the cauliflower out and transfer it to the center of the braiser, spooning some of the sauce on top. Surround the cauliflower with meatballs* and olives and put the pan back into the oven for 20 minutes.

Transfer the meatballs to a bowl and spoon more sauce over the cauliflower. Finish it off in the oven til it reaches desired tenderness and some of the head has caramelized. You can put the meatballs back in during the last few minutes to warm them up.

Note: If your braising pan is not big enough to hold both the meatballs and cauliflower to cook together, cook the meatballs first, transfer them to a bowl, and then braise the cauliflower.

When ready, transfer to a large serving bowl, though we ate straight from the pan! It looked just fine there.

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citrus cod and olive stew

citrus cod and olive stew

I’m back to my cooking-with-oranges shenanigans, though I doubt I ever took a pause on that, did I? Summer’s recipes included the zest of oranges in both my Syrian Meatball Stew, as well as a citrus caper dressing for heirloom tomatoes. This cod stew has the zest aaaand some, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The sweetness of orange and vidalias becomes underwhelmed with the addition of olives, herbs, and fish. A beautiful sweet and salty dance.

You will need:

-2 long cod fillets, cut into 4-inch pieces
-olive oil
-1 med vidalia, halved and sliced
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-red pepper flakes, as much as you’d like
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
-3 strips orange zest
-1 tbs tomato paste
-1 cup white wine
-8 oz can tomato sauce plus 8 oz water
-1 cup castelvetrano olives, halved or kept whole
-1 slice of orange, halved
-few tbs minced herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

We’re making the sauce first.

In a dutch oven under medium heat, saute your onion and garlic in olive oil for a couple of minutes, along with your red pepper and cumin seeds.

Stir in tomato paste, letting it caramelize in the olive oil for about a minute. Stir in your tomatoes and orange zest. Pour in the wine and allow it time to decrease by half in volume.

Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Nestle cod pieces and orange slices into the sauce. Drizzle olive oil onto the exposed pieces. Salt and pepper them too.

Leave it uncovered and bake for about 20 minutes, then broil for about 5-7.

Stir in herbs and serve with cooked veggies, salad, and/or rice.

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

When I don’t want to make Syrian stuffed grape leaves but still want the sweet and tangy tamarind flavors that are smothered all over them, this is my go-to. Let me tell you: it is DEC-A-dent. You can serve it with rice and lentils, a generous amount of salad, or even some of my spring greens kibbeh (Autumn coming soon *wigglingeyebrows*).

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

-2 lbs oxtails or short ribs
-1 heaping tsp tomato paste
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
-6 pearl onions (optional)
-10 dried mission figs, 8 dried California apricots
-1 bay leaf
-1 1/4 tsp allspice
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 tsp aleppo pepper
-pinch or 2 of cinnamon
-3-4 tbs tamarind concentrate*
-water, enough to cover a quarter of the way
-medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
-salt and pepper, to taste

Using a dutch oven drizzled with a little oil, you’ll want to brown your meat in batches under med-high heat.

Stir the tomato paste into a pool of oil left in the pot, being sure to caramelize it for about a minute. Add all spices, carrots, garlic, onions if using, and 3 tbs of tamarind. Stir together, then cover with water.

Allow it to lazily simmer for at least 1 hour on the stove-top with lid on before adding the sweet potatoes and dried fruit. While it simmers, preheat oven to 350. Taste it when the hour is up. If it’s not tangy enough for you, add another tbs of tamarind.

Pop it in the oven for another 45 minutes, uncovered. The meat should be very tender, and sticky with all that tangy goodness.

Roasted Cheese-Stuffed Spiced Tomatoes

Roasted Cheese-Stuffed Spiced Tomatoes

There’s a roasted caprese I love to make for the family: campari tomatoes stuffed with ciliegine, basil, and topped with seasoned bread crumbs. While I was craving them last weekend, I was also craving sambousak, a buttery, sesame pastry filled with muenster cheese. Lori serves them whenever she cooks a Syrian feast. In fact, it’s how we begin one. While she works the stuffing, I am usually put on sesame seed duty. Dipping and pressing each pastry into a bowl of seeds, then lining them up on a baking sheet and popping them into the oven. The aroma of that moment is what I’m after.

In a perfect world, I would’ve made both. But it’s finally truly warm out and I wanted to fully embrace “less is more” on a Sunday afternoon. The only solution was this: stuffing tomatoes with muenster cheese, leaning more towards Syrian cuisine by using familiar spices, swapping out the basil for parsley, and then topping each tomato with sesame and nigella seeds before they get popped into the oven and, 20 minutes later, right into my mouth.

Guys, I should triple this recipe. I mean, look at that pre-bake and imagine cheese melted, tomatoes fragrant with spices and tasting sweeter, even bolder, than ever. The aroma of toasted seeds fills your kitchen. Or don’t imagine and just peep that after shot.

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You will need:

– 2 lb campari tomatoes, or other similar-sized variety, about 18-22
– drizzle of olive oil
– 1/2 tsp allspice
– 1/4 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1/4 tsp salt
– couple of pinches of cardamom
– 7 oz muenster cheese, small diced
– 2 tbs parsley, finely chopped
– 1 tbs sesame seeds
– 1/2 tbs nigella seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Core each tomato and take a sliver off the bottom of each one so that they sit up nicely when ready to roast. While you’re working on everything else, have them lined up on paper towels, upside down, so that any excess liquid is drained.

Meanwhile, put all spices in a small bowl and whisk them together. In another small bowl, add both seeds and whisk together.

In another bowl, toss your diced muenster cheese with parsley and a 1/2 tsp of the spices, reserving the rest for later use.

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In a large bowl, drizzle a little olive oil onto the cored tomatoes and sprinkle the spices inside and outside of each one, gently tossing them to make sure they are each seasoned equally.

Stuff each tomato with the seasoned muenster cheese and place them in a cast iron skillet. You’ll want to see cheese peeking out of the tomatoes. When they melt, they get real snug into each one.

Top each tomato with a generous amount of seeds.

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Roast for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Enjoy your Sunday.

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Spring Greens Kibbeh

Spring Greens Kibbeh

Guess what? I have never had an all-veggie-and-herb kibbeh before. Nor a very flat one. It is the hefty oval-shaped classic stuffed with meat that I’m used to; with it’s outer, crispy shell made of bulgur wheat and even more (but very delicious) meat. In Lori’s kitchen, all that’s needed is a fresh squeeze of lemon over them and each bite is heaven. But it’s spring and I want to do the following: see green, eat green, maybe not spend too much time in the kitchen if there’s a shortcut I can live with. I also really want to eat less meat.

So bring on this quicker version of kibbeh packed with fresh herbs, chickpeas, spring peas, and beautiful spices. Kibbeh-meets-falafel, almost! Use whatever greens you fancy.

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While you can use fresh English peas that are already pre-packaged for you, I’ve come across spring’s sugar snap peas plump enough to shell and use for this recipe. No steaming necessary! They are currently in season. They are sweet all over and you can make a simple salad out of their tender shellings.

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Add some fresh herbs and toss them in lemon juice and good quality olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and sumac. And yes, it goes perfectly with kibbeh!

Spring Greens Kibbeh – makes 12-14 thin patties

– 1/2 cup fine bulgur, rinsed and drained completely in a fine mesh strainer
– 3 spring onions, sliced thin
– 3 garlic cloves, minced or 3 ramps/garlic scapes, chopped, if you have
– 1 cup variety of herbs, tightly packed, chopped (parsley, cilantro, dill)
– 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, gently smashed
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs fresh spring peas (frozen is ok)
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1 heaping tsp allspice or baharat
– 1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1 tsp fine sea salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp coriander
– vegetable oil, for frying

In a big bowl, add all ingredients together, tossing so that everything looks fully incorporated. Then knead til big, slightly sticky clumps form.

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Cover and leave in the fridge for about 15 minutes. When ready, knead a palmful of the mixture into a ball and press it down to create a flat disc. Do this til the mixture is gone. No worries if some of the peas run loose. You can always press them gently down onto a patty after you form them.

Heat a cast iron skillet and drizzle vegetable oil onto it. Not too much! We’re just searing each patty on both sides til they’re golden, about 1 1/2-2 minutes a side. For each batch, drizzle more oil onto the pan. Place them on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt while they’re still hot. When ready, plate them however you wish, though stacking them is fun.

Serve with lemon wedges and/or pomegranate molasses. And that shelling salad!

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If you’re serving more than 3 or 4 people, you can easily double the recipe. This is a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, or side dish.

Last night I served it with this beauty of a red snapper with even more beautiful cauliflower and everyone was so silent at the table, enjoying every moment of molasses dripping onto this and onto that.

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If interested in making this super easy one-pan meal, just season the fish with za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Heat up the kibbeh for about 6 minutes in the oven if it cooled down. The crunch of these patties completed the meal! Between the 3 of us, there were only a few left. And I enjoyed those few cold the next day.

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Braised Cranberry Beans (Enjoyed Two Ways)

I’ve a confession to make.

I left these beauties in the fridge for at least a week before getting down to business.

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How dare I, I know. It’s just that I’ve been overly excited about Spring’s arrival, and with that comes some major irresponsibility on my part. I am buying way too many things at the farmers market and I can’t keep up with it all. When I looked in the fridge today, I had bags of three kinds of radishes, thyme, chives, forgotten carrots and onions, cauliflower, purple cabbage, ridiculously expensive cherry tomatoes, 5 kinds of cheeses…the list goes on. But can you BLAME ME?

Anxiety started to build up last night. I stayed up late brainstorming what I wanted to make the next morning. Mind you, everything I thought of had zero things to do with cranberry beans, because I actually forgot I had them. I went to bed with more ideas than a solid plan for 8 AM. When I opened the crisp drawer next morning, there they were, a gloriously pink reminder of their existence.

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It was clearly time to sit down, and start shelling. I had no idea what would happen after I revealed what was inside each pod. That’s what makes this recipe special to me. I felt how I used to when writing a poem. The first step is to begin. Begin somewhere, anywhere, and let it transform into something unexpected and beautiful. That’s what happened here. It began with a braise.

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And then it became a salad of some of the things I couldn’t bare to neglect any longer.

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Braised Cranberry Beans

for boiling them first
-fresh cranberry beans, shelled, about 1 1/2 cup
-1 garlic gloves, smashed
-sprig of thyme or other herbs

for the braise
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil, or enough to cover beans half-way in small pot
-1 tsp toasted cumin seeds or powder
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-orange or lemon peels (optional)
-generous amount of Aleppo pepper (or other red pepper)
-salt, to taste

for the Braised Bean Salad (basically, your market haul) I used:

-braised cranberry beans with oil
-cherry tomatoes, quartered
-3-4 radishes, all the colors
-small bunch of fresh chives
-leaves from 1 thyme sprig
-salt and pepper, to taste
-fresh drizzle of olive oil
-fresh squeeze of lemon
-ricotta salata cheese (or other cheese)

Directions

Braised Beans: After the beans have been shelled, put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes with aromatics. Drain. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and begin to saute the garlic, cumin, and red pepper for about a minute. Add the beans and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes under low heat (or until the beans have softened and some have turned a golden color.)You want that braised-crisp look on the outside, but creaminess on the inside.

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At this point, you can serve as is. Spoon it over beautiful bread. Maybe add some grated parmesan.

But if you’re lookin’ for something more, continue on and make the salad. Add all the spring things and toss. Season with salt and pepper and dress it with fresh lemon juice. Use what you have on hand but be sure to have something in there that provides a good crunch. I love the addition of radishes in here for that very reason. Maybe uncooked green beans! Parsley would make another nice, green addition.

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And here’s a friendly reminder: keep an eye out for the beautiful at your local market. They may come in very tiny bundles. The stuff of poems.

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