Mini Vanilla Pancakes w/ Macerated Raspberries & Mascarpone Cream

These mini vanilla pancakes with macerated raspberries and mascarpone cream are a very delicious way of starting or ending a brunch.  You can also make them as something slightly different form the usual pancakes and syrup.  My family loves them.  You may want to start with the macerated raspberries, as they will be macerating in the refrigerator for about an hour.

MACERATED RASPBERRIES

12 ounces Raspberries
1/4 cup granulated Sugar
1/2 Lemon juiced

Place the raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl.  With a fork, gently mash the raspberries, and mix all the ingredients together.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  When the macerated raspberries have been in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, start on your pancakes.

MINI VANILLA PANCAKES

2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup granulated Sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1 cup organic heavy Cream
1 cup organic Milk
2 organic large Eggs
2 tablespoons organic Butter melted
2 tablespoons pure Vanilla Extract

Begin by whisking or sifting (for a smoother batter) the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In another bowl, add the cream, milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla, and whisk them until they are homogenized.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir just enough to combine and form the pancake batter.  Do not over work the batter.  It is ok to have some lumps.

You may use oil or butter for cooking your pancakes.  Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, and lightly oil or butter it.  With a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop, ladle a spoonful of the batter onto the griddle or skillet.  When you see bubbles forming on the top, gently check to see, if the bottom is golden brown.  If so, flip the pancake, and allow it to cook for another couple of minutes for the top to brown.  Place all the golden brown pancakes on a serving dish.  If you are not going to serve the pancakes soon, cover them to keep them from drying out.

MASCARPONE CREAM

8 ounces Mascarpone Cheese – at room temperature
1 pint heavy whipping Cream
1/2 cup powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons pure Vanilla Extract

Make sure your mascarpone cheese is at room temperature, and that the heavy whipping cream is very cold.  In a stand mixer, place the mascarpone, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and whisk them on high, until you form stiff peaks.  If you do not have a stand mixer, use a bowl and a hand mixer.  You can always whisk the ingredients by hand, but it takes a very long time, and it is very tiring; so, I do not recommend it.  If you are not going to serve the pancakes immediately, cover the freshly whipped mascarpone cream with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator, until you are ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve the pancakes, you can either plate them, add the macerated raspberries, and top them with the mascarpone cream; or, you can have your family and guests do it themselves.

They are very delicious!


Arugula Salad w/ Lemon Vinaigrette

This salad is very clean and fresh.  It goes well with many dishes, especially hearty animal protein and heavier dishes or hors d’oeuvres that need a little acid to cut the fat, and balance the flavors.  The last time I made this zesty salad was last weekend to accompany blue cheese, tomato, and thyme tarts.  It is very easy to make.

ARUGULA SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

1 small package Arugula or Arugula/Spinach mix – 0.5 ounces
4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
5 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Wash and thoroughly dry the greens (using a salad spinner), and place them in a large salad bowl.  In a small bowl or dressing jar, add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  If you are using a bowl, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, while whisking.  If, however, you are using a jar, place the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in the jar, and shake it very well to get the vinaigrette to emulsify properly.

Immediately before serving, drizzle the vinaigrette gently and slowly around the edges of the bowl, as in on the outside of the greens, as they are quite delicate.  Gently toss the salad with the vinaigrette.  Serve and Enjoy!


Blue Cheese, Tomato & Thyme Tarts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made these tarts for a brunch my husband and I hosted last weekend.  They are some of my favorite tarts to make and to serve during a fun gathering.  They go best with an arugula salad, tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. To be featured in my next post.

BLUE CHEESE, TOMATO, AND THYME TARTS
Makes 15 – 20 tarts

1 sheet Puff Pastry (preferably Dufour brand)
6 – 8 oz Blue Cheese
2 Shallots
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
15 – 20 grinds Black Pepper

Thaw the puff pastry according to the package instructions.

Begin by slicing the shallots and cherry tomatoes, and placing them in a bowl with the salt.  Allow them to soften by sitting at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  In the meantime, sprinkle a little flour on a clean surface, and roll out the puff pastry.  With a round cookie cutter, cut out individual round tarts.  You may want to prick each tart with a fork to keep the pastry from rising in the oven.  I, however, don’t prick them, as I like the way they look when they rise.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

After you crumble the blue cheese, place about a teaspoon of it on each tart, followed by a couple of tomatoes, a few shallots, some fresh thyme, freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Place the tarts on parchment paper and into the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.  When they are done, take them out of the oven and allow them to sit, until they reach room temperature.  Plate them and serve them with whatever you would like, preferably an arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette.  ENJOY!


Bacon, Potato & Mushroom Hash w/ Sunny Side Up Eggs

My husband and I hosted about eight of our friends for brunch this Saturday.  It was wonderful!  The food was delicious, the mimosas were free flowing, and the conversation was engaging.  I made a hash with butter fried eggs on top, blue cheese, tomato, and thyme tarts, arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette, and mini vanilla pancakes with macerated raspberries and mascarpone cream.  I will post the recipes to all these delicious dishes; however, this posting will be about the hash and eggs.

BACON, POTATO, AND MUSHROOM HASH WITH SUNNY SIDE UP EGGS

THE POTATOES:

2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 tablespoons Organic Butter – melted
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tablespoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
1/2 teaspoon fresh Oregano
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme

Start by making the potatoes, as they take the longest to cook.  Cut the potatoes into small cubes, and place in a large bowl; pat them dry with a paper towel, before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add the olive oil, melted butter, salt, pepper, onion powder, piment d’espelette, oregano, and thyme to the bowl.  Mix well, then place the potatoes on a baking sheet and in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Do not crowd the potatoes.  I used two different baking sheets to get the potatoes to get crispy on the outside.  Take the potatoes out of the oven, and leave to the side for a few minutes.  You may now combine them onto one baking sheet, as I did in the picture above (to maximize space).  Keep the oven on for the bacon.

THE BACON & MUSHROOMS

12 Crimini Mushrooms
2 Shallots
4 tablespoons Organic Butter
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
12 slices Maple Bacon – thick slices

Begin by placing the bacon slices on a rack that is placed on a baking sheet to capture all the grease.  Place the bacon in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.  Take the bacon out of the oven and allow it to rest for a few minutes.  Take all the bacon fat that is collected in the baking sheet, and place it in a container to go in the refrigerator.  If you choose to cook with it, then go ahead.  I, however, do not like to use it.  I leave it in the refrigerator until it hardens, then I toss it in the trash, as the grease should NEVER be thrown into the sink.

Gather the cooked bacon, then dice it into smallish cubes, and put them in a sauté pan on medium to medium high heat.  Since most of the fat was rendered in the oven, you will not get much while sautéing it.  This step is just to make the bacon crispy.  Take the crispy bacon bits out of the pan, and place them onto a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up the residual fat.  If there is a lot of fat in the pan, you may remove it or keep it.  If you choose to keep it, do not use the butter for this step.  I did not get much bacon fat, so I used the butter.

In that same sauté pan, melt the butter.  Finely dice the shallots, then add them to the pan.  Clean and chop the mushrooms, then add them to the caramelized shallots.  Sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, then add the salt, pepper, and thyme.  Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.

In the same sauté pan, add some or all the roasted potatoes, depending on the size of your pan, and allow the flavors to develop by sautéing the bacon, mushrooms, shallots, and potatoes on low heat for a few minutes.  For the eggs …

THE EGGS

3 – 4 tablespoons Organic Butter
10 large Organic Eggs
3 tablespoons Chives – finely chopped
1 teaspoon Sea Salt – to taste
16 grinds freshly ground Black Pepper

In a non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter on medium heat for every 3 eggs you will be cooking.  Cook the eggs, until the whites are white and hard and no longer translucent.  The yolk must still be runny; unless, you prefer otherwise.  You may salt and pepper the eggs in the pan, or after you plate them.

For the plating, scoop some of the hash onto a plating dish.  Gently add one or two of your cooked sunny side up eggs on top of the hash.  If you did not season the eggs, lightly salt and pepper them.  Then garnish with the desired amount of finely chopped chives on top of the eggs for a gentle onion flavor.  Repeat for however many guests you have.  Serve and ENJOY!


Grilled Sweet Corn & Vegetable Salad w/ Mediterranean Vinaigrette

I recently decided that my family and I needed a break from all kinds of animal protein.  We need to have something fresh and healthy.  So, I grilled quite a few vegetables, made a delicious Mediterranean vinaigrette, and combined them together in a very vibrant grilled salad.  If you would like to add animal protein to this dish, grilled chicken breasts would go wonderfully.

GRILLED SWEET CORN AND VEGETABLE SALAD WITH MEDITERRANEAN VINAIGRETTE

The Salad

5 ears Sweet Corn
1 white Onion
1 red Bell Pepper
6 large Cremini Mushrooms
1 cup Garbanzo Beans – cooked
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground
3/4 cup English or Persian Cucumbers
2 Avocados

Make sure all your vegetables are cleaned and / or washed by you (not the store) before you use them.  Slice the bell pepper and onion into manageable and easily grilled sliced.  Remove the shank, husk, and silk from the corn.  Oil, salt, and pepper the corn, mushrooms, onion slices, and bell pepper slices, and place them on a hot grill pan or an outdoor grill.  Grill each side until the vegetables are slightly charred or caramelized.  While you are grilling, prepare the vinaigrette.

MEDITERRANEAN VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup Italian Parsley – finely chopped
2 tablespoons Cilantro – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Oregano – finely chopped
1 large Lemon – zested & juiced
1/2 Orange – juiced
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 – 1/2 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Capers
1 teaspoon Salt or more to taste
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground

Finely chop the parsley, cilantro, and oregano, and place them in a bowl with the dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, capers, salt, and pepper.  Slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, and whisk, until the vinaigrette comes together and is emulsified.  Leave the vinaigrette in the refrigerator, until you are done making the salad, so the flavors can adequately meld together.

On a large clean cutting board or surface, place the grilled corn stem side down.  Run a sharp knife along each side, slicing the kernels off the ear and onto the surface.  Place all the corn in large bowl.  Slice the rest of the grilled vegetables, and add them to the bowl with the corn.  Add the cooked garbanzo beans.  Dice the cucumbers into small cubes, and add them as well.  You may slice the avocados, squeeze some lemon juice on them to prevent them from turning brown, and leave them to the side for garnish.  Or … you can slice them at the very last minute.

Take the vinaigrette out of the refrigerator, and drizzle it all over the salad.  Mix the salad well.  You may leave your freshly made salad in the refrigerator for the flavors to marry … or, you may serve it, while it is still warm.  When you are ready to serve the salad, top it with the fresh avocado slices, or leave them on the side, and Enjoy!


Oven Baked Egg, Potato & Shallot Frittata

What I love most about weekend brunches is the uninterrupted and relaxed time I get to spend at the brunch table with my family and friends.  An unlimited supply of organic Guatemalan coffee, fresh orange juice mimosas, and a healthy spread of breakfast foods.  All that takes some time to make.  When a lazy Saturday comes by, and I don’t want to put in the effort to make a huge spread, I defer to an easy, but delicious oven baked frittata.

OVEN BAKED EGG, POTATO, AND SHALLOT FRITTATA

POTATO AND SHALLOT HASH

3 Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Shallots
2 tablespoons organic Butter
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Piment D’Espelette – you may use Cayenne or Paprika instead
1 tablespoon organic Butter to grease baking dish

THE FRITTATA

8 large organic Eggs
3 tablespoons Italian Parsley – finely chopped
2 tablespoons Feta Cheese
1 tablespoon Heavy Cream or Half & Half
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Piment D’Espelette – you may use Cayenne or Paprika instead
1 cup grated Havarti Cheese

ON THE SIDE (OPTIONAL)

Uncured Hard Salami (no nitrates or nitrites)
Whole Wheat English Muffins – toasted and buttered

Begin the potato and shallot hash by thinly dicing the potatoes. In a large enough sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat, and add the diced potatoes. Allow the potatoes to caramelize and brown, then turn the heat down and cover them; let them steam for about 7 minutes, or until they are mostly tender. Thinly slice the shallots, and add them to the sauté pan with the potatoes. Add the salt, pepper, piment d’espelette, and fresh thyme to the pan. Cook the mixture for another few minutes, until both the shallots and potatoes are completely tender, then transfer to a greased oven safe dish.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, crack 8 eggs, and add the Feta cheese, salt, pepper, piment d’espelette, cream, and finely chopped parsley. Whisk well, then add the egg mixture to the potato hash in the greased baking dish. Top the egg and potato mixture with the Havarti cheese. Place the baking dish in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until you achieve the desired frittata consistency.

Meanwhile, place the salami in a sauté pan over medium high heat for about 2 or so minutes on each side. This will allow all the fat to melt, and will make the salami slightly crispy. Place the cooked salami on a paper towel, so the excess grease can be absorbed. I am not a fan of having a greasy piece of meat. Toast the English muffins and butter them. Remove the frittata from the oven, and allow to rest for a couple of minutes, before you cut it into individual sizes and plate it.  Sprinkle a little of the chopped Italian parsley on the frittata slices.  Plate the salami and English muffins. Serve and ENJOY!


Mna’eesh Bi Za’atar – Breakfast Wild Thyme & Olive Oil Flat Bread

Mna’eesh bi za’atar make up a very important and essential part of a Lebanese breakfast.  In Lebanon, most people buy them from their local bakery, as they are made fresh daily.  When I was a kid, I remember that on the weekends, some people send their kids (as I was sent a few times) or go themselves and take their own za’atar mixture to their local bakery.  They have the baker use his dough and their za’atar to make the mna’eesh.

In the US, it is not easy to find already made mna’eesh, so most Lebanese tend to make them at home.  One of my favorite things about visiting my parents are my mom’s freshly made mna’eesh that she bakes very early, every morning of my visit.   She gets up around 5:30 am to begin the process.  When she starts baking her addictive mna’eesh between 6:30 and 7:00 am, the intoxicating aroma fills the house and seeps into my room, gently awakening me.  They always smell so good!  Why is everything tied to our mothers so amazing?  I guess, it just is …

THE DOUGH

3 cups all purpose Flour – plus a little extra for dusting
1 teaspoon coarse Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus a little extra for finished dough
1 – 1 1/2 cups warm Water – depending on humidity
1 pkg rapid rise Instant Yeast – about 2 1/4 oz

*You may use regular active dry yeast, but you will have to proof the yeast in the warm water and sugar before you add it to the flour, salt, and olive oil.  I like using rapid rise, because it is much easier and takes less time for the dough to rise.

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer, and turn it on low.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, and slowly add in the warm water.  Start with a cup; should you require more, add a little drizzle at a time.  If your dough is too moist, add more flour.  Turn the stand mixer to medium low and keep kneading the dough for about 5 – 8 minutes, until it is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.

On a clean board, sprinkle some flour and transfer the dough to the floured board.  Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl.  Drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil to coat the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave it a warm place to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half.

MNA’EESH BI ZA’ATAR – WILD THYME AND OLIVE OIL FLAT BREAD

1/2 cup green Za’atar – preferably Lebanese za’atar
1 tablespoon Sumac
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt (optional)
Previously prepared Dough

Allow me to begin by stating that this will be the easy way to make mna’eesh.  Instead of taking the time to make them beautifully round, as tradition dictates, I am going to make one large rectangle; after which, I will cut said rectangle into individually sized small squares / rectangles.

Now that the dough has risen, very lightly oil a sheet tray, and gently spread the dough with your fingers to cover the full surface of the sheet tray.  In a small bowl, mix the za’atar, sumac, grapeseed oil, and extra virgin olive oil together.  Taste the za’atar mixture to make sure that it is seasoned well.  If you are making your za’atar mixture fully from scratch, you will need to add salt and sesame seeds.  I, however, get my za’atar imported from Lebanon for the most part, or Jordan, if the Lebanese variety is unavailable.

Scoop the za’atar and oil mixture onto the dough, and spread it all over.  Allow the za’atar covered dough to sit for about 5 – 10 minutes, as you preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the man’ouchi (singular for mna’eesh) or za’atar flat bread in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until you achieve the desired crust color and texture.

Now that your man’ouchi is out of the oven, cut it into individual squares using a knife or a pizza cutter.  Plate the mna’eesh and serve them with a plate of freshly cut tomatoes, white onions, cucumbers, fresh mint, and olives.  I always make some Earl Grey with my mna’eesh; they go so well together.  But when I visit my parents, my dad always has Ayran on hand that he has made himself.  Ayran is a cold plain yogurt drink with salt that is thinned out with some water.  It is the drink of choice for most, when having this breakfast … Unless you have some freshly picked tomatoes.  A tall cold glass of freshly juiced tomatoes goes even better with the mna’eesh.  Whichever you decide on, ENJOY!


Oven Roasted Chicken & Avocado Sandwich w/ Sundried Tomato Spread

I LOVE sandwiches; I love them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  What I love about them is there are no rules.  Unlike most pastries and traditional cuisines, sandwiches can be made however you want, with whatever you want, as long as something is sandwiched between two pieces of something or laying on a piece of something … preferably freshly baked or toasted bread.  Think of all the possibilities!  Growing up in my parents’ household, sandwiches were a staple.  In Lebanon, my breakfast and lunch would consist of labneh, or some sort of cheese, or even za’atar sandwiches with tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, and olives, all wrapped in pita bread (Lebanese style).  I remember my dad ‘s AMAZING sandwiches that he continues to make on a daily basis.  He uses all kinds of Lebanese, Greek, Italian, and French cheeses and cured meats with all kinds of vegetables, herbs, pickles, and extra virgin olive oil or European butter, depending on the ingredients of the sandwich, and places each layer delicately in freshly baked and lightly toasted small French baguettes.  DELICIOUS!!

For this recipe,  I had leftover marinated chicken breasts from a dinner party I hosted the night before.  So, I decided to oven roast them, and use them as the main protein in a sandwich or two.  The marinade consisted of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, orange juice, orange zest, little turmeric, coriander, fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground pepper.  I baked the chicken breasts in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 – 45 minutes.  I let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes, before I did anything else with it.

OVEN ROASTED CHICKEN AND AVOCADO SANDWICH WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO SPREAD

THE SANDWICH

2 Baguettes or loaves of Ciabatta Bread
2 marinated and oven roasted Chicken Breasts
2 Kumato Tomatoes
2 cups Baby Spinach – loosely packed
2 Avocados
1 Lemon
1/4 cup Cilantro leaves
1/2 – 1 cup Sundried Tomato spread – recipe below
Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper

SUNDRIED TOMATO SPREAD

3/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes* – packed in oil preferrably
1/3 cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 clove Garlic
2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of Sea Salt
10 grinds fresh Black Pepper

*If you choose to use loosely packed sundried tomatoes, make sure you rehydrate them first, by placing them in VERY hot water for a few minutes, before you drain them and blend them with the rest of the ingredients. 

Start with the sundried tomato spread by placing all the ingredients in a good blender, and blend them well.   I like my spread to have little tiny bits of sundried tomatoes left in it for a little bit of texture.  Remove the sundried tomato spread from the blender into a bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes for the flavors to adequately integrate.

Slice the chicken breasts, tomatoes, and avocados into medium slices, and place them to the side.  Slice the baguettes or ciabatta loaves lengthwise, and spread the sundried tomato spread on one or both sides of the bread.   Start by layering the spinach, followed by the chicken, tomatoes, and avocado slices on each loaf.  Top the sandwiches with salt, pepper, and cilantro leaves.  Finish with a generous squeeze of lemon juice for extra freshness, and to keep the avocado slices from oxidizing and turning brown.  Slice each sandwich down the middle, and serve with Salt and Vinegar chips (my favorite) or a side salad, if you so choose.  Again, since there are no rules for sandwiches, you may omit, replace, or add anything you prefer to this edible creation.  I just hope you enjoy your sandwich!


Traditional Lebanese Hommos – Hummus

Here we are again, discussing a traditional Lebanese food that is becoming very popular in the West.  I have blogged about the Lebanese mezze / mezza quite a few times in the past (tabboulehftayer bi sbanekh, baba ghannouj, and kibbeh).  As Lebanese cuisine becomes more and more popular in the United States, more and more people are finding out about what constitutes a traditional mezze spread.  There are so many Lebanese restaurants popping up all over Dallas.  This is very exciting to me!  However, the only area of concern is do these restaurants cater to the masses, or do they remain true to the traditional cuisine of Lebanon?  I have to say that for the most part, most cater to the masses … to my slight disappointment.  Hommos is one of those foods that people seem to make into many variations.  Interesting as that may be, there is nothing quite like the traditional and original version.  Authentic and traditional Lebanese hommos does not vary from the following ingredients: garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and extra virgin olive oil.  For to us, traditional hommos is king of the Lebanese mezze.

TRADITIONAL LEBANESE HOMMOS (or HUMMUS)

1 cup dried Garbanzo Beans (or 3 cups canned)
2 cloves Garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
2 large Lemons (about 8 tablespoons)
1/4 cup Tahini (Sesame paste)
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus more for garnish
2-4 tablespoons cooking liquid (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian Parsley – for garnish
1/2 teaspoon Paprika – for garnish

Begin the night before by soaking the dried garbanzo beans in cold water overnight.  The next day, place the rehydrated beans with 6 – 8 cups of cold water in a large pot, and cook them until the beans are soft.  Drain the beans, reserving some of the cooking liquid, in case you need to thin out the hommos later.  If you are using canned garbanzo beans, make sure to rinse them thoroughly in cold water, and drain them.

Place the beans in a food processor, along with the salt.  Grate the garlic with a microplane, or mash it with a mortar and pestle, then add it to the beans.  Run the food processor to roughly chop the beans.  Add the tahini and lemon juice to the chopped beans, then run the food processor again.  While it is still running, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil, until everything is thoroughly combined.  If the hommos is too thick to your liking, add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid and process, until you reach the desired consistency.


Choosing the right Tahini is crucial to the flavor of your hommos.  Most tahini brands have a little bitterness to them, which I do not like.  If the one you have tastes good to you, then use it.  If not, see if you can find a good tahini without any bitterness to it.  I always use a Lebanese brand, Tarazi, that I buy from my local Middle Eastern store.  I love it!

Now that you made the hommos, place it in a covered container and in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  This will allow the flavors in the hommos to marry, and will make it easier to plate.  Once you are ready to plate, remove the hommos from the refrigerator, and place it in a bowl or a shallow plate.   Garnish with some paprika, finely chopped Italian parsley, and a little extra virgin olive oil.  Serve with Lebanese pita bread as part of a mezze, an appetizer, or a side dish to a lovely meal.


Gratin Dauphinois

Gratin Dauphinois is the French name for scalloped potatoes from the Dauphiné region in southeastern France, or  what is now known as the Grenoble region.  This simple and wonderful side dish is amazingly delicious, whether with a good steak, lamb chops, pork chops, or on its own.  You will definitely notice that as it bakes, the smell emanating from that oven is intoxicating!  I remember making it a couple of years ago for Sunday dinner at my sister’s house.  My parents were visiting from out of town, and  Léna, my sister, made an awesome spread of grilled meats and fish with a zesty salad.  I was in charge of bringing a starchy side dish.  I brought the gratin dauphinois.  It went so well with what Léna prepared.  I even remember my father asking me to leave him all the leftovers … to my husband’s chagrin.

GRATIN DAUPHINOIS

1 tablespoon organic Butter
4 tablespoons Garlic – finely minced
1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh Thyme – finely chopped
7 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 1/2 cups heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground
1 cup Gruyère – grated

Begin by washing your potatoes and leaving them to the side, while you mince and chop your garlic and thyme.  Slice the potatoes using a mandolin.  Grease an oven safe baking dish with butter, then place one layer of the potato slices to cover the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly ground pepper, a sprinkle of the minced garlic, and a sprinkle of the chopped thyme.  Finish the layer with a fresh grating of nutmeg.  Repeat the layering process until you have layered all the potatoes with the garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Gently add the heavy cream to the potato layers, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.  Grate the gruyère cheese, and top the potato gratin with it, then place the gratin back in the oven on broil for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.  The length of time of this last step completely depends on your oven.  So, make sure to watch the gratin, while it is broiling.  You do not want to burn the cheese after all that work you did.  Once you take the gratin our of the oven, leave it to sit and rest for about 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.