Green almonds salad (Salatet al-lowz al-akhdar)

tob almo salad

The idea for this salad came from chef and cookbook author Marlene Mattar, one of my favorite Lebanese chefs. I, of course, had to make it my own by adding other ingredients. Her salad includes red leaf lettuce, sliced green almonds, arugula and feta cheese. I added sliced sun-dried tomatoes, purslane instead of arugula, and lupini beans (termos). 

Green almonds are in season now and sold by streetcart vendors all over Beirut; in the US, they can be found in Middle-Eastern or ethnic stores, sometimes at farmers markets. The lupini beans are sold in jars in the Middle-Eastern stores (they are very popular for a mezze) and I have also found them in Latino markets in Dallas. Any other legumes would work. The purslane is sold in Latino stores under the name verdolaga, as it is a popular herb in Mexico. This herb is also sold in major health food chains under the French name mâche. In Lebanon, it is available year-round and is tremendously popular and  always included in a fattoush salad.

The beauty of salads is how versatile they can be; I made another one later with pita croutons, sort of like a fattoush. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of green almonds, sliced (sprinkle with fresh lemon as they oxidize very quickly)

1 cup of purslane or other herb such as arugula

1/3  cup of shredded sundried tomatoes

1/2 cup lupini beans or other beans

Dressing: 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 olive oil

salt, to taste

Aleppo pepper, to taste 

1. Place all the ingredients ia a bowl; mix the dressing prior to serving and combine with the ingredients. Serve right away.

dup fatt w gren almon

apple blossoms in Deir

At least, Spring is always there, year after year. 

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Loquat stewed in syrup

dup stewed loquats

Loquats (called akedenia in Lebanon), used to be my favorite Springtime treat. I saw a street cart vendor selling them lately, huge ones, (I need to snap a picture of him soon) ; a cross between a pear and a mango, with a short season, these fruits are special. They are grown in California and in Dallas, one can find them at the Middle-eastern store.

Loquats originated in China; to this day, the loquat leaf is used in Asian medicine to treat coughing (and other) issues. The fruit itself boasts a very high ratio of Vitamin A and is loaded with potassium. It contains pectin making it an ideal choice for jams or as a filling for pies. The seeds are toxic though and children should be kept away from them.

This is a simple dessert I made one day as an afterthought; stewed loquats funnily taste like apricots.

dup akedenia in bowl

 INGREDIENTS: 4 to 8 servings 

  • 1 lb. loquats, washed and peeled; seeds and inner skin discarded; cut in 2 or 3 pieces; sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • ½ cup pistachios, soaked in hot water for 2 hours prior, drained and peeled.
  1. In a large saucepan, place the sugar and cover with the water; bring to a simmer over medium heat; stir from time to time and as soon as the sugar has dissolved, add the loquats to the saucepan; simmer the mixture for 30 minutes; pour the lemon juice the last few minutes of simmering.
  2. When ready to serve, sprinkle a few pistachios in each bowl or place them in a bowl next to the loquats.

NOTE: Replace the loquats with any stone fruit. Loquat treeLoquat tree in the neighbor’s yard in Beirut.

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Cabbage and keshek soup

dup cabbage soup

Keshek is a very nourishing food traditionally prepared in rural areas for sustenance year-round; it is a mixture of yogurt and milk fermented with bulgur, dried and ground into a powder. Urbanized Lebanese buy it commercially made; however, there are still plenty of people in the villages who still make it at home. It is a long process.

 Keshek is incorporated into many dishes such as flatbreads for breakfast, soups, and salads. This is a simple soup with keshek and shredded cabbage. Keshek  smells  like buttermilk powder.

Keshek connoisseurs will insist that the best is made with goat milk; I bought both and found the one with goat milk to be a bit too pungent. I guess I am definitely not an expert on keshek.

I found keshek sold at the Middle-Eastern store in my Dallas neighborhood. It is also sold online.

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings

  • 2 cups shredded white cabbage
  • 1 cup ground meat (lamb preferably)
  • ½ cup keshek
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper or allspice
  • 4 cups water

1.Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat and fry the onion until golden; if adding meat to the soup, fry the meat alongside the onion; add the cabbage and stir-fry 10 minutes longer until softened and translucent. Add salt, spices and the keshek and stir; pour the water over the mixture. Cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Serve.

NOTE: The meat in this soup can be replaced with lamb confit (awarma), which is traditional; if unable to source awarma, a few slices of bacon, chopped, can be substituted. 

dup cabbage soup

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Popcorn cake

blog pop cake It is amazing how homesickness manifests itself by reaching out for certain foods; both my daughter and I have our popcorn cravings and she also managed to single out the best Lebanese brand for peanut butter. She was doubtful first when I told her of my idea; after all, popcorn is supposed to be a salty snack. I pointed out that the French eat it sweetened. In any case, this experiment was easy and the taste was approved. It is a handy snack to take to college or work (just make it when it is not too hot or humid outside!) There are 2 ways to make this: One is like rice crispies bars, by melting marshmallows and some butter; the super-easy way is to use jarred butterscotch topping, briefly heated, to glue all these popcorns together and shape into a cake. The more elaborate way is to make a caramel with melted powdered sugar and cream. Leave me a message is you’d like a recipe.brush pan with oil melt marshmallows press onto pan INGREDIENTS: 8 servings

  • 1 bag of microwave popcorn (lightly salted), about 6 cups of popcorn
  • 1 bag of marshmallows (40 large)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup toasted nuts, optional (or other dried fruits, like cranberries or pistachios)

1. Spray the cake pan with oil. Set aside. Cook the popcorn and transfer to a large bowl. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, place the butter and melt; add the marshmallows and stir briefly from time to time until they melt, combining them with the melted butter. Immediately pour onto the popcorn and fold quickly with a spoon to coat as many popcorns as possible with the sauce. Transfer to the cake pan and using a piece of plastic (otherwise the texture is too sticky), press on the popcorn cake to make it adhere to the pan and to give it shape.  2. Place in the fridge for about one hour (or longer); to unmold onto a platter, dislodge using a spatula and flip it over and tap on it. It should come out easily.  NOTE: I have made this cake with melted butterscotch topping; melt in the microwave about 1 cup of topping for about 20 seconds.

NOTE: The image on top is for the cake made with butterscotch topping; the one below is made with marshmallow cream.

dup popcorn cranb

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Kibbeh in yogurt (Labniyeh)

labnieh fg This is one of the best (if not the best) kibbeh dishes; we grew up with it, with my grandmother patiently coring the hollow kibbeh balls and stirring the yogurt till thickened. The final kick of flavor was when the cilantro and garlic fried in oil was added to the sauce. In Lebanon, the hollow kibbeh balls are available in supermarkets and delis and this dish is considered to be “easy”. Most households I know have a stash of frozen kibbeh balls to use at the last minute for a labniyeh. 

I am going to point out some shortcuts. 

Kibbeh balls: These can be replaced with:

  1.  Frozen meatballs (supermarket)
  2. Kibbeh paste made in minutes in a food processor and shaped into meatballs with a cookie dough scooper. The bulgur and meat balls are then brushed in oil and baked for ten minutes or can be boiled for a few minutes. They can be frozen or used that day. If frozen, dump them in the yogurt sauce straight from the freezer. 

dup kibbeh balls

To make the yogurt sauce, click here

Cilantro sauce: This one can be replaced with: 

  1. A heaping tablespoon of prepared pesto (with basil or other herb). Add some olive oil and more mashed garlic to taste, and swirl into the yogurt sauce a couple of minutes before serving. Use a pesto which does not contain cheese. I used parsley this time, using the same technique as cilantro sauce. (Refer to the link)

blog labniyeh

 

 

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