Iranian eggplant and tomato dip (Mirza Ghassemi)

blog mirza

My childhood friend Constantin took me out  in Dubai to a really fancy Iranian restaurant, knowing that I love Iranian cuisine. He ordered a medley of dishes including this one called mirza ghassemi, which I had never tasted before. One bite and I was enraptured. It was light, full of tomato and garlic flavor, and spiced with turmeric. It was served with fresh naan bread that the chef cooked in his tandoor oven to order. 

I got back to Beirut vowing that I would learn how to prepare Mirza ghassemi. Even though this dish uses ingredients familiar to the Lebanese, such as eggplants, tomatoes and garlic, the way they are put together is completely different. The turmeric  reminded me a lot of Iraqi cuisine. I guess since the two countries are neighbors, there are some commonalities in their food. In any case, it is easy to prepare, it is served at room temperature, and it is a perfect appetizer if one is looking for a change from baba ghannouj

INGREDIENTS: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or olive oil or ghee
  • 1 heaping tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 jar  pulp of eggplant (about 1 pound) or 1 pound of eggplant charred over a BBQ grill, peeled, drained and mashed
  • 1 ¾ pounds peeled diced tomatoes or 2 cans of diced tomatoes in their juice
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (if using fresh tomatoes)
  • 2 large eggs, whisked in a bowl with a fork
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  1. In a large and deep skillet over medium heat, pour the oil and warm for 3 minutes; add the mashed garlic and stir a few seconds till it sizzles; add the turmeric and stir for 10 seconds; add the pulp of eggplant and stir a few seconds till all the ingredients are combined. Lower the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste (or canned diced tomatoes) and stir for 4 minutes longer. If the sauce is too thick add ½ cup of water; simmer the mixture over gentle heat for about 10 minutes or until it dries-up and the oil surfaces around the pan.
  2. Pour the whisked eggs all around and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the eggs are cooked, about 4 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature with flatbread or pita bread. Mirza ghassemi can also be served with a platter of fresh herbs, and a bowl of yogurt dip (or white Paneer, Feta cheese or Double Crème if desired).

NOTE:

  • The garlic paste is obtained by mashing 8 garlic cloves in a mortar (or mini-blender or processor) with one teaspoon of salt till creamy.
  • The yogurt dip is prepared by mashing roasted shallots or onions with yogurt and seasoning it with salt.
  • The herbs on the platter could be fresh mint, purslane, fenugreek, oregano, dill, etc. The platter could include radishes.
  • The cheese is a traditional Iranian white cheese similar to the Lebanese double-crème or feta.

 dup Mirza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pomegranate drink

blog pom drink

This drink is inspired by a punch I had at a beach wedding in Lebanon; one of these lavish weddings that take place in the country, making you feel like you are in a world of fairy tales. 

 To reproduce this drink, I am going to insist that fresh pomegranates be used.

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings

4 large sweet pomegranates

1 ½ tsp rose water

Syrup made of 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice.

½ cup pine nuts (previously soaked in 1 cup of water for one hour)

  1. Make the sugar syrup; place the sugar and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil; simmer for 5 minutes then add the lemon juice. Cool the syrup.
  2. Peel the pomegranates and place in the bowl of a food processor; run the machine for a few seconds; transfer the contents of the bowl to a large sieve and press to extract as much juice as possible. Transfer the juice to a bowl.
  3. Add ½ cup of syrup and the rose water. Taste and add more if needed. Stir. Transfer to serving glasses and drop 2 tablespoons of pine nuts in each glass; keep in the fridge until serving.

fg pom drink

blog pom blossom

 

 

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Pasta fritters

blog frittersThis is an easy (and yummy) way to get rid of leftovers and turn them into a “new dish”. Grab some spaghetti or angel hair pasta lurching in the bottom of a bowl, all your veggies in the bin, a few eggs, and make fritters!

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 cup of cooked pasta such as angel hair, chopped into small sticks
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions or green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley or other fresh herbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste (3 cloves of garlic mashed with salt)
  • salt, pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1/4 cup flour or breadcrumbs
  • oil to pan-fry the fritters (about 2 cups)+olive oil to stir-fry the veggies and pasta

1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, pour 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pan-fry the onions, then the veggies, then the pasta till golden-brown for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic paste and season, stirring to combine evenly. Cool the mixture. Add the chopped parsley. Mix in the eggs and flour. 

2. Heat the oil in another skillet and drop the fritters one heaping tablespoon at a time; fry on both sides till crisp and golden and serve immediately. 

dup B bride

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Tuna and potato balls

blog fiddh ballsA quick and fun appetizer using leftovers and a can (or two) of tuna. An added plus is that you can make double the quantity, store them in the fridge, and grab a few whenever hungry.

INGREDIENTS: 24 small balls

  • 2 cans of tuna (6 oz), drained
  • 2 cups mashed potato
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 1 tsp sumac or cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp paprika or black or white pepper
  • 1 tsp worstershire sauce or tamarind sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • oil, for frying

1. Mix the tuna, potato, one egg, onion, and spices in a mixing bowl till all the ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasoning.

2. Whisk the remaining egg with a fork. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Form balls with a cookie dough scooper or a teaspoon and dip in the breadcrumbs then the egg then the sesame seeds. Place in the fridge and heat the oil. 

3. Panfry in the hot oil for a couple of minutes till golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve with the sauce. 

NOTE: Add some flour or breadcrumbs  to the mixture if it feels too “wet” to bind it more.

SAUCE: 

  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey or grape molasses

Combine all the above ingredients and serve with the fish balls. Adjust to taste.

fish balls with dipping sauce-8

girl walks CornicheCorniche is a boardwalk in Beirut filled with people walking, jogging, kids on bicycles, street vendors, fishermen, retirees playing games or just watching the sea. 

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Eggs in meat sauce (Makhlama)

fg makhlamaThis is a delicious Iraqi dish I sampled last Summer when visiting Iraqi friends. It is perfect for brunch and easy to prepare. 

INGREDIENTS: 4 TO 6 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground meat
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 14-oz can (optional)
  • 1 potato, diced (optional)
  • 6 eggs

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat;pan-fry the onion and potato (if using) and add the meat to brown, breaking it with a wooden spoon. Remove the excess oil and add the tomatoes. Stew covered over gentle heat for 20 minutes or so. 

2. Break the eggs, one at a time, in the skillet. Cover and cook a few minutes till set. Season and serve immediately with pita bread or (if you have access to it) tannour bread. 

fg makhlama

 

dup marie with egg

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