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.

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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allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

Pretty excited about this one, loves! The idea of sesame seeds in a buttery, sugary crumb-topping has been sitting with me for WEEKS, and adding allspice to the chocolate batter was literally a last second decision. And guess what? It works so beautifully I could cry.

Entirely inspired by a lot of my favorite middle eastern desserts, both savory and sweet. From savory ka’ak to sweet sesame cookies…to those rich with honey and rosewater and orange blossom…I am crazy about this.

AND THE EDGES ARE BROWNIE-LIKE.

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

Preheat oven to 350.

sesame seed crumb topping:

-1 and 1/4 cup flour
-1 cup light brown sugar
-1/4 cup white sesame seeds, 1/2 ground and 1/2 kept whole
-pinch of allspice and salt
-8 tbs room-temp butter, cut into pieces
-1/2 tbs black sesame seed, for sprinkling

Whisk together the flour, sugar, sesame seeds and allspice. Add the butter, tossing the pieces into the dry mixture, and using your hands, start squeezing them together til big crumbs form. Leave it in the fridge as you work on the batter.

chocolate cake batter for 9 X 13 pan:

-1 cup flour
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 heaping tsp allspice plus a pinch more if you love allspice as much as I
-1/2 tsp kosher salt
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 baking soda
-1/3 cup half n half or buttermilk
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg, gently whisked
-1/3 cup boiling water

Whisk together the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Do not over mix (or burn yourself).

Pour into the pan making sure it is distributed evenly. Then break the crumbs over the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes.

And enjoy.

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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A Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

A Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

Do you love sweet and sour dishes? I didn’t til I sat at my love’s Syrian-Jew-But-Also-Italian table.

Traditionally made with apricots, I noticed how Dan’s mom, Lori, would also add an equal amount of prunes to her Yebra (stuffed grape leaves), which are smothered, gently, with a tamarind sauce. It’s a beautiful, vibrant-tasting dish. When I decided to challenge myself by making these for my love (or making these at all–I didn’t want to ruin a gorgeous recipe!) a light-bulb struck. Why not use another dried fruit that I adore?

Figs.

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Let me tell you. Eating this made me want to buy fresh figs and roast them in this sauce–which actually might be a recipe coming soon–but I digress.

Did I eat more figs than grape leaves? Probably. But mostly because I wanted their to be enough of the leaves themselves for Lori to try. When I told her I was making Yebra, I received a stream of expected texts, “did you rinse them first? Dry them? Did you soak the rice? Make sure you lay them vein-side up.” I didn’t have much time to reply (because..yes..I was doing all those things!) I have made these a few times with her and my confidence in the kitchen that morning sang through the window on the 5th floor of my mom’s tiny UES kitchen. Upon the first bite (I swear it!) my guy teared up. All I heard was “…babe.” And he then came at me for a bear hug and a hundred kisses. Next day, I received a text from Lori that said it tastes just like Aunt Sara’s. Which, BTW, is the ultimate compliment. For as long as I’ve sat at their table, Dan has always said “Please make it taste like Aunt Sara’s.” I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her, but here’s to you, Sara.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves with Figs and Apricot in Tamarind Sauce

1 lb hashu, recipe follows
8 oz jar of grape leaves (about 30-36)
10 dried mission black figs
8 dried California apricots (do not use Turkish here)
juice of large lemon, plus more to taste
5-6 tbs tamarind concentrate
pinch of brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 cups water (plus more)

Hashu (Meat and Rice filling)

1 lb beef
1/3 cup basmati, soaked for 15 minutes, drained
1 small onion, finely diced
1 heaping tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. In a bowl, gently mix by hand all the ingredients and spices for hashu and set aside. *Set oven to 350 degrees unless you plan on cooking these babies on the stove from beginning to end.

2. Drain grape leaves, carefully taking them out of the jar. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add the grape leaves, carefully turning them with tongs, for about a minute. Then quickly get them into a big bowl of ice water. Pour them over a colander and begin to dry each one, while cutting off their stems. Make sure you lay them vein-side up when done.

3. Take a heaping teaspoon of hashu (more or less, depending on the size of the leaf), and place the spoonful at it’s center closest to the stem. Fold in the sides and roll them semi-tightly.

4. In a dutch oven or pot, drizzle a little vegetable oil on the bottom and start arranging your stuffed grape leaves and dried fruit, creating about 2 or 3 layers of them, depending on how many grape leaves you were able to stuff. (Some come torn up in the jar). My pot ended up with only two layers–about 32 grape leaves.

5. On med-high heat, cover the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a medium bowl, add your lemon juice and tamarind. Whisk in about two cups of water and a pinch of brown sugar and salt. Pour over the grape leaves. Add another 2-3 cups of water so that it almost reaches the top layer of grape leaves, about 3 quarters of the way. A lot of the liquid will decrease as it cooks, and you’ll want some later. It’s the good stuff. You don’t want it soup-like, though.

6. Place a heat-friendly plate directly on top of the leaves to keep them from unraveling (or don’t. I didn’t. But if you’re making a lot it might be wise to.) Simmer up to 45 minutes on the stove or in the oven, covered. Spoon sauce over the top leaves occasionally. When some leaves have caramelized, turn them onto a platter and serve with all the things.

Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

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Yebra served with homemade Za’atar Flatbread.

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And hummus topped with warm chickpeas that simmered in it’s own broth with toasted cumin seeds, then got tossed in an olive oil and lemon dressing, topped with za’atar and Aleppo pepper.

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And a very fresh, colorful market haul salad made of very finely chopped parsley, red cabbage, scallions, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I suppose all that’s missing is the bulgar!? (There was bulgar, guys. But since it was so fine (I bought it to make kibbeh), it turned to mush.) Kitchen fails are welcomed here. This salad was beautiful and simply wanted to be without.

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On the table, which is actually the gorgeous cheeseboard my guy got me years ago sitting atop a radiator by the windowsil (because good lighting!), is a precious tea towel Tory gave me recently. It has a Syrian recipe of anise bread printed throughout. I love it so!

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I sent over a grape leaf question to Kathryn from Cardamom and Tea the other day, and she responded with absolute kindness. I might have an opportunity to learn how to forage for fresh leaves and I do hope to meet this amazing woman whose food speaks to my soul. Lori already said she’s coming with! A day out with new friends and family in spring sounds like just the thing.

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