Crowns in kadaifi with nuts (Tajate)

blog crowns

This is one of those pastries that once you bite into (for a small little bite of course),  you find yourself eating the entire thing and swooning all the way. It is extra crunchy, yet light, and sweet but not too much, and nutty; in short, heavenly. They are called tajate (crowns)

These are not difficult to make but need some planning ahead. They are made with a dough called kadaifi (or shredded phyllo dough) in the US and osmalliyeh in Lebanon. In Lebanon, some shops specialize in making this dough fresh; in the US, it is sold frozen in 1-pound packages. 

The key is to get it as golden and crispy as possible; and there is only one way to do this: Soaking it in plenty of melted butter or oil (or a combo). In pastry shops, these pastries are fried, but for home use it is not necessary (and a lot less messy). 

The syrup can be prepared several days ahead or even weeks and kept in the fridge. 

INGREDIENTS: Makes 2 dozens (more or less depending on the size of the muffin tins); quantity can be halved or doubled. 

  • 1 box kadaifi dough (1 pound)
  • 2 cups melted unsalted butter or oil or a combination of both
  • 2 cups sugar syrup
  • 3 cups assorted nuts, unsalted if possible
  • 1/2 cup ground pistachio nuts for garnish if desired

1. Make the syrup and store in a jar in the fridge, covered. 

2. Unravel the pastry over the countertop;  take thin strands at a time and coil them and place them one at a time in a muffin or cupcake tin. Leave overnight for the pastry to dry out. If you have several pans, place one on top of the other. This will ensure the pastries will hold their shape while baking. 

3. The next day, douse the pastries in melted butter or oil. Set the nuts on the surface of each pastry in a concentric circle. Preheat the oven to 375F and bake them until they are golden and crisp. If the butter is oozing out, tilt the pans and drain the excess butter. Pour the syrup over the pastries. Sprinkle with pistachios if desired and let them sit to absorb the syrup for a few hours. Serve. These will keep in a tight container for several days. 

couronnes

Syrup

3 cups of sugar

1 1/2 cup of water

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

1 Tablespoon of rose water, 1 Tablespoon of orange blossom water

  • Place the sugar in a saucepan, add the water and the lemon juice (it is OK to use bottled lemon juice). Set on medium heat, stirring from time to time. It will boil. Let it boil and don’t stir anymore. It needs to boil for about 12 minutes. If you own a candy thermometer, it will read 230F or 110C, which is one notch below softball. One minute before the end of cooking add the flavorings, orange blossom and rose water or one or the other. ( I add both)
  • Let the syrup cool and if using that day, set it aside. If not cover  and refrigerate  for a few days or weeks.
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Fava beans in the stalks with cilantro sauce (Ful akhdar ‘ateh)

fg salad fava stlaks

Fava beans, pronounced fool in this part of the world, are a much beloved vegetable. They are made into a delicious salad when still young (and their pods still tiny), using the entire stalk. They are stir-fried in a garlic and herb sauce, smothered in olive oil, then boiled till tender. The stalks turn very soft and get infused with the garlic and herb flavor. Cilantro, called kozbara, is the most popular herb used in this dish.

Salah w:foul akhdarThe image above shows Salah, a farmer of Egyptian origin, splitting open the tender fava stalk to show the baby bean. Egyptians love their fava fool very much; they make a street food with it (so do the Lebanese), called mudammas, which is a boiled fava bean soup, and the famous ta’amia aka falafel. 

The only problem with this dish is that it is not photogenic. However, its taste is just delightful and it melts in the mouth.

INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  •  1 head of garlic (or less, to taste), peeled and mashed in a mortar or food processor with 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (or a mixture of fresh chopped herbs like Italian parsley and mint)
  • 2 pounds fresh fava beans in the stalks (tender stalks), cut into two-inch pieces
  • 2 cups of water (add more if needed)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced 

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and fry the onions till golden. Add the garlic and cilantro and fry a few seconds till the mixture gets fragrant. Add the stalks and stir-fry a few minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer; let the stalks cook gently for about 15 minutes or until tender, adding the lemon juice at the end of cooking. Serve at room temperature.

dup ful akhdar

NOTE: If the stalks have strings, remove them prior to cutting them. Another way to cook this dish is to boil the stalks first and add the garlic and chopped cilantro sauce at the end. 

NOTE: Personally, I like to add the cilantro and garlic mixture at the end of cooking to keep the flavors fresh and pungent. If you are like me, fry the onion, add the stalks, boil them till soft and finally add the garlic and cilantro previously stir-fried in olive oil for a few seconds in a small skillet.

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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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