Tag Archives: Lebanese Food

Mutabal is the New Humus

Mutabal
It’s been too long and it feels so good to get back to my roots. April 29, 2012 was the last time I posted a recipe post. Why? I’m not really sure, I guess I got caught up with Paris during summer and when I came back I started FIODTuesdays, so my food photography was put on the back burner. But last week, something pinched me. You know that spot above your waist, yea right there, and it made me jump towards my camera. One of my all time favorite food bloggers, Aran of Cannelle Et Vanille, is hosting a food and lifestyle photography workshop in the Basque Country on September 5 – 10, 2013, AND I REALLY WANT TO GO! Registration for the workshop starts on Thursday 21st and spaces are limited to 9 people based on a first come first serve basis. Out of the thousands of people who are planning to apply, I’m hopping to be among the 9 acceptances. If I don’t make it, which may be the case, I will say thank you to Aran for helping me kick-start my photography again. If I do make it, I’ll make sure to bring Aran back with me to introduce her to all the fabulous foodies and restaurants in Dubai. To restart my recipes, I’d like to make an announcement; Mutabal is officially the new Humus. Mutabal is an eggplant based dip known for its smoky flavors.  It’s usually served as a starter, dressed in olive oil and eaten with bread. When taking a bite of a well-made plate of mutabal, the tip of your tongue should tingle from the eggplant and the lemon juice. To achieve the perfect mutabal, you need the perfect eggplant. While choosing an eggplant, you must be picky. The type of picky you use when you pick The One. Some rules that my mother has passed on to me to find the perfect catch: choose a big plumb eggplant. The stem must be a bright green. The skin should be youthful and wrinkle free. When you tap the eggplant it should be firm and sound hollow.  In Dubai, some of the best eggplants for mutabal are from Holland. (Hey momsi, shout out to my mama for teaching me everything I know in the kitchen, love you) One of my favorite flavor combinations, and I know I’m not alone, is sweet and smoky. My eggplant gives me the smoky and for my sweet, pomegranate, which is common and red cherries, which is not so common. Picking up my pomegranates from the grocery store, my hands couldn’t pass up the cherries because I knew their juicy, sweet flavors would compliment my mutabal exactly the way I wanted, and they do. If you do have a chance, try out my mutabal and you’ll understand why it’s officially the new Humus. Sahtain, Love, Tala

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Ingredients:
  1. 1 large eggplant
  2. 1 small lemon
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 - 2 table spoon water
  5. 2 tablespoons Tahina
  6. Fresh Cherries
  7. Fresh Pomegranate
  8. Olive oil
How To:
  • With a knife poke two holes into the eggplant.
  • Put the eggplant on a baking sheet and into the oven for 1 hour.
  • When the eggplant is cooked, the skin will be wrinkled and the texture will be soft to the touch.
  • Peel the skin off the eggplant.
  • Remove all the seeds from the eggplant meat.
  • Squeeze out all the water from the eggplant.
  • Put the eggplant in a bowl and add the lemon, water, salt, tahini and crush with a garlic crusher.
  • Add more salt if needed.
  • Keep grinding and pressing down the mixture until it forms a paste. If you find it dry add a tablespoon of water. The finished texture should still remain lumpy. Mutabal is not as creamy as humus.
  • Put the mutabal into a serving bowl and sprinkle some pomegranate and pitted cherries.
  • Before serving, drizzle with some olive oil.
 

Fatoush

Fatoush
My hair is starting to slightly misbehave while enjoying a rooftop night. The tip of my nose and my shoulders are starting to get a darker Valentine ’s Day red on the beach. And the walk from my office to the nearest grocery store is starting to get harder and harder. What does this all mean? Ladies and gentlemen, the Dubai summer is officially around the corner. Grasping on to the short lived “spring season” in Dubai, like woman dangling off a ten storey building, everything excessively fruit and vegetable based is on the menu in my house. What could be more springy and fresh than a large bowl of salad? And more specifically, a fatoush salad. Other than its beautiful colors and fresh appeal what draws me to fatoush is the use of lightly toasted bread in the salad. At first it packs a crunchy punch and a contrasting texture to the Fatoush. Towards the end of the fatoush life span the bread bits absorb all the juices of the sauce and vegetables to deliver a heavily drenched bite of salad broth – my favorite part! On a culinary perspective what sets fatoush apart from other salads is the use of Sumac. Sumac is a beetroot color, dried Lebanese spice that delivers a lemony flavor.  You can leave any ingredient out and the salad would still be considered fatoush if Sumac is part of the mix. There is a simple variation to the fatoush salad which is not traditional in my house but very well loved by everyone. It’s the introduction of pomegranate molasses to the salad. The royal, deep rich flavors of the pomegranate molasses elevates the intensity of the fatoush I leave you with this fun and simple recipe that would transform any a salad meal into an enjoyment. Recipe Ingredients:
  1. 4 Tomatoes
  2. 2 Cumbers
  3. ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
  4. ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  5. 1/8  cup sliced radish
  6. 1 juice of a lemon
  7. ¼ cup Lebanese olive oil
  8. 2 small Peeta bread
  9. 2 tsp salt
  10. 2 table spoons sumac
  11. 2 table spoons pomegranate syrup
Place the Peeta bread in the oven and bake it until it becomes toasted, around 5 minutes. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers and add them into a large bowl. Add the parsley and mint leaves and radish. Add the lemon, oil, salt and sumac and toss everything together. Before serving break the toasted Peeta Bread into pieces and sprinkle over the top of the Fatoush. Drizzle some pomegranate syrup over the salad and enjoy. Sahtain!

Lentil Soup

lentil

It’s finally “winter” in Dubai, or as close as it gets to winter:

Going to the beach is now reserved for tanning or for my toes to playfully flirt with the waves brushing up against the shore. Walking is actually an option for a means of getting from point A to B and even to C. The sky is blue. A reservation at a restaurant with outdoor seating is as hard to get as a flight to Beirut on the 24th of December. And finally, my wantingness (I know that’s not a word) for any form of soup catapults to unbelievable heights.   There are generally two types of soups in this world, the light, clear based soups and the thick chunkier ones. I love both equally as if they were my children, but desire either type at different times. One of…. actually let’s back track on that one, the most underrated soup, in the Lebanese cuisine, is lentil soup. I can’t begin to explain the nutritional value of lentils – they are low in fats and high in proteins and fibers. And strangely enough, contrary to the whole taste vs. nutrition pendulum, are heavenly to eat! Lentil soup is creamy, full of texture and has an underlying sweet and smoky flavor. Traditionally, after the soup is cooked it should be run through a food mill to make it extra smooth – I usually skip this step to keep the texture more rustic. To give the soup a slight twist, I introduce chunks of carrots and sweet potatoes to it. This gives each bite a different taste and breaks any form of monotony with regards to taste. When it comes to veggies in my soup I like em big n I like em chunky! To play off the light smokiness of the lentils, I roast some carrots and sweet potato in the oven to be used as croton like toppings. (While roasting I add onions to the veggies to heighten their richness but take them out for serving) Add a cool splash of fresh lemon juice before eating and enjoy a bowl of hearty, warm, chunky, creamy, healthy goodness. THE RECIPE Ingredients: -       1 cup lentils -       1 onion -       2 carrot -       1 sweet potato -       3 teaspoon Salt -       2 teaspoon white pepper -       1 table spoon on vegetable oil -       4 cups Water -       A drizzle of olive oil -       A drizzle of lemon The Soup Wash and soak the lentils for ten minutes. Dice the onions. Peel and chop the carrots and sweet potato into bite sizes. Add the vegetable oil, onions and 2 teaspoons of salt in a deep pot and sauté until the onions are translucent. (Keep a handful of onions on the side to be used for the crotons) Add half the carrots and sweet potato and the full amount of white pepper to the onions and sauté for 3 minutes. (The other half of the carrots and sweet potato will be used for the crotons) Add the 4 cups of water to the vegetables and bring to a boil. Strain the lentils and add them to the boiling water and veggies. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Have a taste test and add salt according to your liking. Serve hot and drizzle some lemon and paprika on top. The Crotons Take the remaining onions, carrots and sweet potato and lay them out on a sheet pan. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the vegetables. Bake in the oven until roasted, about 30 minutes. I prefer to serve the carrots and the sweet potato as crotons leaving behind the onions. Sahtain!

Loubieh B’Zeit

LLLL
This is the official launch of the Ur Inner Chef section of Fork It Over Dubai. Ur Inner Chef is a portal that directly channels, you guessed it, your inner chef to drive that spatula into the air and take control of your kitchen and what goes into your body. The Ur Inner Chef recipes will be based mostly on Lebanese tastes and flavors because that’s what I know best, it comes straight from the heart and it’s always tremendously healthy. In theory, I will be posting restaurant reviews and recipes in an alternating fashion. In addition to launching Ur Inner Chef I will be displaying my photography. The photography for the Restaurant Reviews on Fork It Over Dubai should be more suitably called snap shots. I’m rarely allowed to take photos in restaurants, therefore I usually ‘sneak in’ all the shots I take. Apart from a photography class in high school, which was only taken to get into the infamous Dark Room, I have'nt had any formal training. I purchased a new DSLR Nikon D5100 camera (high five to all the Nikon Fans out there!) a month ago and have been fiddling around with it since then. I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about displaying my photography for the first time cause I still have a long way to go – but I do hope you enjoy them so far! For this week’s recipe I’m gonna get straight to it. Loubeh B’Zeit (String Beans in Olive Oil) Loubeh B’Zeit is an appetizer dish literally translated to String Beans in olive oil, although figuratively translated to purely vegetarian string beans. Any dish that has B'Zeit (in oilve oil) at the end of it means vegetarian. You can choose any string bean for this recipe although if you really want to get it right, there is a certain type that works best. Just remember ladies, pick your string beans just like you’d pick your men – pick em broad and firm. You can see the difference between the string beans in the picture above. The string beans on the left are the capital H-I-M ones to choose from while the thin circular string beans are rebound, time passers when there aren't other options. The Ingredients: -    ½ a kilogram of string beans -    4 big/plump/ripe tomatoes -    1 medium sized white onion -    1 bulb and 3 cloves of garlic -    2 teaspoons of salt -    1 teaspoon of sugar -    1 tablespoon of olive oil The How Tos: Cut the ends off each string bean and snap them in half. Dice the onion. Slice the top off the whole garlic bulb while making sure every clove stays intact. Peal the three extra cloves and slice them in half. Before you freak out about how much garlic there is in this dish, remember that garlic when uncooked is harsh and a caterpillar in its cocoon, although when cooked it bursts into a light sweet butterfly. Cut the tops of each tomato, and grate each one on a metal grater. Remember to put a bowl under the vegetable greater so the juices can fall right into it. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the grated tomatoes – this counters their acidity. Place the onion, olive oil and salt into a saucepan and stir until the onions are translucent. Add in the garlic bulb and clove and stir for 1 minute. Add in the string beans and fold for 1 minute. Add in the tomato sauce and mix all the ingredients well. If you feel the tomato sauce should be more liquid add some water. The tomato sauce should amount to one third of the ingredients. Cover the saucepan and let the string beans cook on medium heat for 40 minutes or until soft. Once cooked, let the Loubeh B’Zeit cool to room temperature. Loubeh B’Zeit is best eaten with, peeta bread, olives, cucumbers and great company. Sahtain!

Does the Best Tabouleh Exist in Dubai?

Tabouleh
As the self professed QUEEN of Tabouleh (I have had Tabouleh every night of my life for as long as I could remember) I thought it would be my duty to uncover Dubai’s best Tabouleh. Nominees:
  1. Khan Murjan – In Waffi Mall
  2. Waffi Gourmet – In Dubai Mall
  3. Burj Al Hamam- On Jumeirah Beach Road
Three Tests to Pass to be the Best Tabouleh -        Bowl Tip Test: Tip the bowl to one side and you should see some sauce at the bottom of the bowl. -        The Secret: No not the book, but the overly generous amount of ripe juicy red tomatoes. -        Spice Up Your Life: Seasoning of salt and sweet pepper is a must. Khan Murjan
Bowl Tip Test PASSED
The Secret FAILED
Spice Up Your Life FAILED
The Tabouleh did have sauce, but it was just lemon. It tasted like lemon parsley salad. My taste buds had to question if it was freshly squeezed lemon or bottled lemon juice. Bottled/fake anything is my worst nightmare. Waffi Gourmet
Bowl Tip Test FAILED
The Secret FAILED
Spice Up Your Life FAILED
I was the most disappointed with Waffi Gourmet. I actually thought it would be the top contender, but from what I tasted I would say Fork It Over to the trash. It was so dry I felt like a goat eating a wad of parsley grass. Burj Al Hamam
Bowl Tip Test PASSED
The Secret FAILED
Spice Up Your Life ½ PASSED
Even though Burj Al Hamam did not pass the Secret test and half passed the Spice Up Your Life Test, I think it is one of the better restaurant Tabouleh’s in Dubai. ____________ Entering my house I had an uneasy feeling of recommending something that I value so much that is not 100%, while knowing exactly where you can get a Tabouleh that is beyond 100%. Where you ask? My House! As my house is not big enough to feed all of you, I’m going to teach you how to make the best Tabouleh in Dubai. A ‘recipe’ that has been passed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother to my mother and then to me and now to you. What you Will Need (Feeds 4)
  1. 2 Bundles of Parsley
  2. ½ a Bundle of Mint
  3. 3 Large Ripe Red Tomatoes
  4. ½ a Cucumber
  5. 1 Spring Onion
  6. 2 Table Spoons of Burgul (Cracked Wheat)
  7. 2 ½ Teaspoon Salt
  8. 2 ½ Teaspoon Sweet Pepper
  9. 5 Table Spoons Olive Oil
  10. 2 Large Lemons
-        Parsley and Mint: First, pick the leaves off the parsley and mint stems. Roll the leaves up like a cigar and chop them into thin slices as seen in the picture. Wash the leaves AFTER you cute them not before! Once you’re done this part everything else is a synch. -        Tomatoes: Cut the tomatoes into thin slices then dice them as seen in the picture. -        Onion and Cucumber: Finley dice. -        Burgul: Soak the burgul in water for 1-2 minutes. -        Lemon: Squeeze the two lemons. -        Add all the ingredients together vegetables, salt, pepper, burgul, olive oil and lemon in a bowl and serve immediately. Do Not -        Substitute sweet pepper with black pepper. -        Substitute olive oil with vegetable oil. -        Substitute red onions instead of spring onions. Do -        Have some lettuce or petta bread with the Tabouleh. -        Go the extra mile by pealing the tomoatoes and buying organic parsley. The Result
Bowl Tip Test PASSED Plenty of juicy sauce.
The Secret PASSED Equal to more red than green.
Spice Up Your Life PASSED The sauce is a darker shade from the pepper.
It may seem like a lot of work but trust me it is WORTH every second. If you do end up making it, I hope it would give you as much Taste Joy that it gives me every evening.

Knefeh

IMG_1497
In the spirit of Ramadan I wanted to share a recipe of one of my favorite Arabic sweets; Knefeh. The following is as easy and 1, 2, 3 and as healthy as a Knefeh can actually be. (If that’s possible.) Enjoy! What you will need: Knefeh
  1. 1 and ½ loafs of white bread.
  2. 250g of  unsalted butter
  3. ¾ cup Samolina
  4. 2 cups of powdered milk
  5. 1 and ½ cup sugar
  6. 1 packet mozzarella cheese
  7. 2 table spoons of  rose water
Syrup
  1. 1 cup water
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 table spoons Rose water
  4. Half a lemon
The Knefeh Preheat your over to 350 degrees. Remove the crusts off the sliced bread and cut the white sections into cubes as seen in the picture. In an electric food processer add the bread cubes and butter and process until grainy. Place the bread and butter mixture into a large round pan and pat down evenly. Place it into the oven for 30 minutes. This will form the brown crust of the kenafeh. In a pot, add the samoliona, water and powdered milk stirring constantly making sure to get the bottom of the pot. When the mixture starts to become thick, add the sugar and rose water and keep stirring until it starts to slightly boil. Take it off the heat. When the crust is done place the mozzarella shavings along the crust. Add the milk mixture and place it back into the over for 35 min. After the pan is out of the oven run a spatula along the edges of the knefeh. Place a large serving plate over the pan, this part needs some muscle, and flip the knefeh over onto the serving plate. If you have time, purchase fresh mozzarella instead of the packet; soak it in water for 20 minutes before use then shave it into threads. The Syrup Place the water and sugar into a saucepan and turn the heat on high. Continuously stir the mixture until it starts to vigorously boil. Add the lemon and rose water and you’re done. To Eat Cut out a pizza like slice drizzle some sauce over the top and Fork It Over.