Almond shortbread cookies (Lawziyeh)

blog lawziyehThese cookies are dangerous. Too good to eat just one. They are called lawziyeh, from lawz, meaning almond. They are very similar to Mexican wedding cookies. The almonds are chopped (not peeled) and incorporated in the dough, which is a basic shortbread. They are a specialty of  pastry shops in the Chouf Mountains  and one of my friends always loves to pick-up a box when she comes over for a visit. They are easy to make and last for several weeks. 

Happy Eid El-Fitr 2014!

Hope all of those suffering around us can see their pain alleviated very soon.

INGREDIENTS: 50 cookies

  • 1  cup unsalted butter+2 tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch or rice flour
  • 2 cups almonds, chopped (toasted too, as an option)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 

1. Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy; incorporate the flour and cornstarch. Add the chopped almonds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

2. Roll out and cut with a cookie cutter; bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes or until light golden in color. Cool and serve. 

NOTE: These can be rolled-out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper. They can also be dusted with powdered sugarblog almond cookie

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Fish in a tomato stew

blog fish in sauce I don’t know about you, but the (sometimes) oppressive heat does not encourage me to bend over a hot stove. This is quick and easy and flavorful and a last-minute inspiration. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare. 

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings  

    •    4 fish fillets (salmon, snapper, grouper, sea bass, sea bream, or other firm fleshed fish fillet)   

   •    1 large onion, chopped   

   •    4 cloves of garlic, mashed    

  •    1/2 cup of chopped cilantro or parsley    

  •    3 large tomatoes or 1 l can of tomatoes in juice (14 oz), peeled and chopped     

•    2 tbsp of grape molasses (substitute honey or date syrup) 

   •    1 tsp of salt (to taste)     

•    1 tsp of dried coriander     

•   Dash of paprika or chili powder     

•    1/4 cup olive oil    

 1. Heat the oil in a large skillet and pan- fry the onion  till soft and translucent; add the tomatoes to the skillet  and garlic paste and grape molasses. Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for a few minutes.     

2.  Sprinkle the fish with the spices on both sides and place in the sauce; cover the skillet for 7 minutes and let the fish cook over gentle heat till it flakes easily. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve immediately with a garnish of chopped cilantro or parsley. fish in pond

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Cream of wheat pudding (Ma’mouniyeh)

blog mamounieh Here is a traditional (and ancient) Middle-Eastern pudding that can be prepared very easily with ingredients from any mainstream supermarket. It is named after the ninth century Caliph Ma’moun (revered by some and loathed by others). It is so simple to make, yet it is a celebratory dessert. It is also prepared for a special breakfast and garnished with toasted nuts or melted white cheese or whipped cream.

  INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water or other flavoring such as vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil
  • 1 cup cream of wheat (for a coarser texture) or semolina flour
  • Garnish: pistachios, chopped fine. Pine nuts, toasted or panfried till golden-brown. Almonds, toasted. 

1. Place the water and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer for a few minutes. Add the orange blossom water and set aside.

  2. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the semolina or cream of wheat; stir constantly until the mixture is light brown and a toasted fragrance comes-up. Gradually add the syrup, stirring, until the mixture thickens (which takes just minutes). Transfer to a bowl or several ramequins. Garnish with the nuts and serve immediately. 

NOTE: Other flavorings include saffron, which can be diluted in a few tablespoons of water and added to the semolina. Some people like to add shredded cheese to this pudding as it cooks, melting the cheese.  Blog cream of wheat puddin

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Bell peppers stew (Shakshuka)

dup plate shakA perfect Summer dish, this (vegan) stew is a mixture of bell peppers, tomatoes and garlic, all pan-fried in olive oil. It is served at room temperature and eaten with pita bread. It is considered an appetizer (mukkabalate). 

INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings

1/2 cup olive oil

3 bell peppers, one of each color or all green ones, sliced thin, and seeded

1 heaping tablespoon of garlic paste or 8 garlic cloves peeled

salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon red pepper or chili powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder (optional)

6 large tomatoes, chopped fine or 2 (14-ounce) cans of chopped tomatoes in their juice

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet and pan-fry the bell pepper slices a few minutes till softened; add the tomatoes and spices and simmer over gentle heat about ten minutes longer. Taste, adjust seasoning and cool. Serve with bread at room temperature. 

NOTE: You can add sliced onions or a chili pepper to this stew if you like. 

pepper salad

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Yogurt drink (Ayran)

yogurt drinkI posted this image on the blog’s Facebook page, just to see how many people would respond to it. Initially I thought it was only an Eastern Mediterranean (Turkey) and  Middle-Eastern drink; turns out it is popular in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, even in parts of China.

In Lebanon, it is called ayran and most people  buy it at the neighborhood market already made. In the US, it is sold in Arab or ethnic groceries. Yet preparing it at home is easy and the great thing about it is that it is unsweetened, very refreshing  and has protein and calcium from the yogurt. It is excellent with kebabs or grain-based dishes.

20140716_134128

Above machine was photographed in a Beirut (Hamra) restaurant serving Aleppian cuisine. The machine keeps the ayran cold and smooth.

I am sharing a recipe from my friend and master chef Asma, who is of Kurdish heritage (it is called daw in Kurdish/Kurmanj). 

INGREDIENTS: for one serving

1/2 cup yogurt, plain

1/2 cup water

pinch of salt, optional

1. Mix the yogurt and water till smooth. Add a sprinkle of mint if you like or drink it plain.

3 generations of Kurdish ladies-2

Three generations of Kurdish ladies, Asma (middle) and her sister Fikriyeh (right) are both Master Chefs.

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