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.


Mediterranean Shrimp Salad

The flavors of the Mediterranean are so fresh and vibrant.  As I always tend to fall back to my Mediterranean roots, when it comes to food, I decide to make a refreshing and colorful shrimp salad.  You may enjoy this zesty and colorful salad for lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer, if you serve a smaller portion.  I prefer it for lunch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, while sitting outside on a beautiful sunny day with Kevin and my friends.  I guess that is one way to be transported to the Mediterranean, while staying in Dallas.

MEDITERRANEAN SHRIMP SALAD

THE SHRIMP

1 lb Shrimp 26 – 30 count
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Corn Starch
6 grinds Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon organic Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a bowl, add the salt, pepper, corn starch, and paprika to the shrimp.  Make sure they are coated thoroughly.  In a hot sauté pan, add the butter and the olive oil.  Sauté the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side, or until it is pink and firm.  Remove the shrimp, and place them on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the access grease.

THE SALAD

2 cups Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup Capers
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 cup Italian Parsley leaves
2 Lemons – zest
1 large Shallot
1/4 teaspoon Salt
12 grinds Black
1 Lemon – juiced – or 2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus little extra for drizzle finish

Slice the tomatoes and olives in halves, and place them in a bowl.  Finely dice the shallot, and add it to the bowl.  Add the capers, parsley leaves, zest of two lemons, juice of one lemon, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.  With a spoon, gently toss the ingredients together.

It is very important to use very good quality extra virgin olive oil, whenever you are adding it to salads, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, dressings, salsas, or anything that will not be cooked.

Plate all the salad on a serving platter or a portion of the salad on a salad plate of your choice, then add some of the shrimp on top.  If you want to keep the shrimp very crispy, do not mix them with the salad, because the crispy coating will become slightly soggy.  However, if you want to coat the shrimp with the lemony dressing, then go ahead and mix them with the salad.  Finish the dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Pour yourself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy.


Lebanese Kibbeh – 2rass

Kibbeh is one of those very versatile dishes in Lebanon that can be served as part of a mezze / mezza or for dinner with yogurt, many lemon wedges, tabbouleh, hommos, French fries, or anything you wish.  It can be made with different ingredients and utilizing various different applications and techniques, as in lamb kibbeh, beef kibbeh, fish kibbeh, potato kibbeh, pumpkin kibbeh, raw kibbeh, grilled kibbeh, fried kibbeh, baked kibbeh, etc.  I love it all, but for this occasion, I am making lamb kibbeh for one of my favorite people and wonderful longtime friend, Phillip Anderson.  Phillip LOVES kibbeh!  He orders it every time he goes to a Lebanese restaurant.  The version of kibbeh I am making is traditionally deep fried and served as part of a mezze; however, I am oven “frying” it, or baking it, for a slightly healthier approach and serving it for dinner.

LEBANESE KIBBEH – 2rass

THE FILLING

1 1/2 yellow Onions – finely diced
1 1/2 lbs ground Lamb
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tablespoon organic Butter
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2 tablespoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan over medium low heat.  Add the pine nuts and toast, until they are golden brown.  Please pay close attention to them, as they tend to brown very quickly.  Put them to the side.  In a larger sauté pan, brown the lamb in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter on medium high to high heat.  Remove the browned lamb from the pan, and place in a bowl to the side.  DO NOT clean the pan.  In the same pan that was used for the lamb, add the onions with 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sauté the onions on medium low, until they are caramelized.  Add the browned lamb to the onions, while still on the stove.  Add the salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and toasted pine nuts.  Stir to combine.  Tilt the pan to allow the filling to drain a little, so the residual fat can separate.  Do not discard that fat, as it can be used in the place of olive oil in the crust*.  Allow the filling to get to room temperature.

*This is a very delicious thing my mother taught me.  Using the residual fat from the filling in the crust, will yield a much tastier kibbeh.

THE CRUST

2 large yellow Onions – puréed
2 lbs ground Lamb
1 1/2 cups Bulgur – very finely ground
1 tablespoon Salt
2 teaspoons Allspice
3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – or 1/4 cup residual fat from filling
1 cup Water
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for brushing the kibbeh

Begin by rinsing the bulgur a few times, then draining most of the water.  Make sure to leave some excess water to allow the bulgur to absorb it, as it site for a few minutes.  Place the ground lamb in a large bowl.  Roughly chop the onions, and place them in a food processor.  Purée the onions, then add them to the bowl, along with the moist bulgur.  Add the salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and olive oil.  Mix the ingredients until a paste is formed.  Allow to sit in the refrigerator for about an hour, to help the flavors integrate together.

Now comes the challenging part, forming the crust / paste into 2rass.  Find an open surface, such as a kitchen island or a table, and place the bowl with the crust / paste, the bow with the filling, a small bowl filled with 1 cup of water, and a large plate for the kibbeh balls or 2rass on said surface.  Make sure to grease the plate with a little olive oil, to keep the kibbeh from sticking.

Making the 2rass:

You must wet your hands with water EVERY time you start making a kibbeh ball (2ors).  After you have wet your hands, take some of the paste, depending on how large or small you want the 2rass to be, and form it into a round ball.  Push your index finger gently through the center of the ball, to form a tunnel of sorts for the filling.  With a spoon, take some of the filling, and place it in the tunnel you just formed.   Close the opening with the inside of your thumb and the outside of your index finger.  Mold the oddly shaped, stuffed oval into the shape of an American football by smoothing the paste with your fingers.  If you see some cracks forming, wet your fingers with water, and smooth out the crack.  If this process proves to be too lengthy and challenging, then roll them into balls instead.

If you choose to make these the traditional way, bring 2 quarts of grapeseed or vegetable oil to 365 degrees Fahrenheit, and fry the kibbeh until golden brown.  When you remove them from the oil, place them on a rack to drain and cool a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the kibbeh on it.  Gently brush the top of every 2ors or football with olive oil.  Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and delicious.  Remove from the oven and plate.  Kibbeh is always served with yogurt and lemon wedges.  Eat up!


Romaine, Avocado & Cilantro Salad w/ Caesar Vinaigrette & Homemade Croutons

Salads are something I like to make quite often, and I do.  I make them for brunch, lunch, and dinner, but mostly for dinner.  When I come home from work, and I don’t have enough time to make an elaborate meal, I make a salad.  Gladly, my husband and daughter don’t seem to mind.

ROMAINE, AVOCADO, AND CILANTRO CAESAR SALAD

1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 large Avocado
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves only
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 cups homemade Croutons – recipe below

Begin by washing all your produce and drying them thoroughly.  Chop the lettuce or tear it in any way you prefer, and place it in a large salad bowl.  Add the sliced tomatoes, olives, avocado, and grated Pecorino Romano to the lettuce.  Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems, and leave to the side for now.

CAESAR VINAIGRETTE

1 Garlic clove
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Orange juice
1 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Anchovy Fillets
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Pinch of Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper

 

In a blender or food processor, blend the garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy fillets, salt, and pepper together, while slowly drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil, until everything is emulsified .  Add the grated Pecorino Romano and blend one last time.  The result should be a Caesar dressing that has a vinaigrette consistency; in other words, it is not as creamy as the traditional version.  Place the vinaigrette in the refrigerator, until you are done with making the croutons, and are ready to serve the salad.

Traditional Caesar dressing does not have orange juice in it.  I like to use a splash of orange juice sometimes to balance the flavors.  The traditional version, however, has an egg yolk, which I have chosen to omit, as the Dijon mustard will be assisting with the emulsification of the dressing / vinaigrette.

Just a note: since you are using Pecorino Romano, which is a very salty yet delicious cheese, be careful with how much you salt the vinaigrette.  Thus the reason for a “pinch of salt” in the vinaigrette ingredients.  If you choose to substitute another cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, you may add a bit more salt.

HOMEMADE CROUTONS

2 cups cubed Ciabatta loaf 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, mix your ciabatta bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, Piment d’Espelette*, and dried Italian seasoning, until every cube is thoroughly coded.  If you cannot find Piment d’Espelette, you may use paprika or cayenne pepper as a substitute, or you may omit this ingredient altogether.  Place the croutons on a baking sheet and in the oven for about 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Don’t forget that they will continue to harden, even after they are out of the oven.  Remove them from the oven, and leave them to the side for a minute, before you top your salad with them.

*Piment d’Espelette is a chili from the Basque (Southern Atlantic) region of France.  The chili is dried then ground, and used in many regional dishes.  It is wonderfully DELICIOUS!  

Top the salad with the still warm croutons and the cilantro leaves.  Lightly drizzle the Caesar vinaigrette and toss the salad gently.  You may have this as your main meal by adding grilled chicken, fish, or meat, or you may have it as is.  You may also have it as your appetizer, before you serve a protein and a starch.  Whatever you decide to do, serve and ENJOY!


Oven Roasted Shrimp w/ Cocktail Sauce

My daughter, Amanda, loves shrimp and cocktail sauce!  Actually, she loves all kinds of shellfish, cooked in all kinds of ways.  It makes me smile to watch her face beam with excitement, every time I make her a shellfish dish she loves.  I personally think there is nothing too special about boiled and bland shrimp dipped in store bought cocktail sauce.  So, I set out to make her a slightly better version of the bland classic … or so I think.

COCKTAIL SAUCE

1/2 cup organic Ketchup
1 tablespoon hot creamy Horseradish
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Chili Sauce or Sweet & Sour Sauce
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Salt
6 grinds of Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together, then set aside in the refrigerator.  Now, for the shrimp … If  you are making this dish for adults or guests, I highly suggest buying your shrimp with the tail still unpeeled, and instead of the 27 – 30 count, I recommend the 10 – 12 count.  

OVEN ROASTED SHRIMP

1 lb uncooked Shrimp 27 – 30 count
2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rinse and dry the shrimp very well with paper towels.  Place them in a bowl.  Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and combine them.  Place the shrimp on a sheet pan; make sure to place them far enough apart for them to roast properly.  Roasting them instead of boiling them gives, the otherwise bland shrimp, a much better flavor.  Put the sheet pan in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  Remove the roasted shrimp and plate them, along with the cocktail sauce, or leave them in the refrigerator, if you prefer them to be cold.  I choose to serve them straight from the oven, as my daughter hovers around me like a 12 year old vulture waiting to strike.  She wants them the minute they are out of the oven.  Since I made them for her, why not?  I hope you enjoy them as she did.