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Posts Tagged ‘Arabic Cooking’

Yogurt Cucumber Salad ~ Refreshing and Healthy

October 4th, 2012 14 comments

Greek cuisine has tzatziki; Indian cuisine has raita, and Arab cuisine has its own version of this cool and tangy yogurt cucumber salad. A beloved side dish in Lebanon, Turkey and all over the Middle East, this salad is easy to prepare, refreshing and healthy. It’s a perfect accompaniment to rice dishes such as maqluba (rice and chicken) or mujaddara (rice and lentils). It can also be served with bread as part of a mezze table.

Yogurt is a staple food in the Arab kitchen. Made from fermented milk, yogurt is regarded as a health-giving, healing substance. In the Middle East, it’s believed that yogurt aids digestion and contributes to longevity.

For this recipe, use whatever type of yogurt you prefer. I typically use skimmed yogurt, but for guests, I use lowfat. If you prefer the thick and creamy variety, use whole yogurt or substitute part of the yogurt for lebneh or yogurt cheese (strained yogurt).

As for cucumbers, use the small ones available in Middle Eastern and Asian markets, if available, as they are more flavorful and tender. Otherwise, large cucumbers will also work.

When entertaining or pressed for time, this side dish can be prepared in advance. If you’re feeding a crowd, prepare this recipe with a 1 kilo tub of yogurt and use 2½ parts the other ingredients. Below is our family recipe.

Yogurt Cucumber Salad ~ serves 4

2 small cucumbers or 1 large

2 cups (400 g) plain yogurt (skimmed, lowfat, or whole)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried mint

¼ teaspoon salt

Fresh mint leaves (optional garnish)

Method

  1. Peel and finely chop or shred the cucumbers. Sprinkle with pinch of salt and (time permitting) leave in strainer to drain for 10 – 20 minutes.
  2. Discard any liquid from the yogurt and mix with the dried mint, garlic, and salt. After cucumbers have drained, mix with yogurt.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately or chill.

Question: How do you like to serve Yogurt Cucumber Salad?

What I’m Serving this Eid

August 17th, 2012 14 comments

Tomorrow I will begin preparing my date-filled ma’amoul. I make these pastries every Eid and only at Eid time, something I have been doing for many years. Mine are made with an all-flour dough (no semolina), which is not so different from American pie dough… aside from the rose water. I load them with high-quality dates and stamp them out with a mold.

For some Eids, I have made more than a hundred of these little babies. You can find my step-by-step recipe for date-filled ma’amoul here.

Meanwhile, last year for the first time I stepped out of my rut tradition and made nut-filled ma’amoul—which I love just as much, especially the pistachio-filled pastries (below).

Then again, the walnut-filled ma’amoul (below) are pretty swell, too. You can find my illustrated recipe for nut-filled ma’amoul here.

This year I plan to make loads of ma’amoul to put in tins and give to neighbors and the men who run the dukan (little grocery store) by my house. I will also serve them to guests who come to my home over the Eid holiday— friends and my husband’s family. But what to serve the ma’amoul with?

Arabic coffee, of course!

I’m not talking about dark Turkish coffee, but the pale coffee served in tiny handle-less cups, made from greenish coffee beans and scented with cardamom, rose water and saffron. This is the standard welcoming beverage served in Dubai and the Arabian Gulf (with some regional variations). It’s the classic Eid beverage, elegantly served in an Arabian-style thermal flask. You can find my recipe for Arabic coffee here.

In addition to nuts, fruit and fatayer, I’m going to serve something new: rose lemonade—just to have something different up my sleeve. Find the easy recipe for rose lemonade here.

I also plan to prepare and serve date truffles (below) as an Eid sweet for the first time this year. After I stuff myself with ma’amoul, I can switch to this (somewhat) healthier option. Find the date truffle recipe is here.

So far, I’ve only mentioned food served to guests. We also have a tradition for breakfast on the first morning of Eid. For me, the high point is American coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls. I prep the cinnamon rolls the night before (typically around midnight) and put them in the oven Eid morning. You can find the recipe I use for Overnight Cinnamon Rolls from Williams and Sonoma.

Yes, I admit, my Eid is very heavy on the sweets and desserts. What about the main course, you might be wondering… Well, that we eat in a restaurant!

Question: What are you preparing/serving/eating/drinking this Eid?

Date Truffles

August 15th, 2012 20 comments

These are a lovely and easy little sweet to prepare. Made with dates, pistachios and shredded coconut, these truffles are a healthy alternative to date-filled pastries. Also, this is a delicious way to use up leftover dates from Ramadan.

The recipe is adapted from a similar one in Flavors of Morocco by Ghillie Basan.

Date Truffles

Makes about 20 small truffles

1½ cups (200 g) unsalted shelled pistachios

1½ cups high-quality dates, chopped

2-3 Tablespoons orange blossom water

1 Tablespoon honey

1cup dried, finely shredded coconut (unsweetened sticks the best)

Method:

  1. Toast the pistachios in heavy skillet or on baking sheet in moderate oven (350°F/175°C) until they emit a nutty aroma (about 5 minutes).
  2. Pour the shredded coconut into a shallow bowl and set aside.
  3. In a food processor (or with a mortar and pestle), grind the pistachios. Add the dates and mix or grind to form a thick paste.
  4. Transfer the pistachio-date paste to a bowl. Using your hands, mix in the orange blossom water and honey. (This can get very sticky.)
  5. One by one, shape into small even-sized balls and immediately roll in coconut while the ball is still sticky. Gently roll until completely coated in coconut. Repeat with the rest of the paste.
  6. Arrange truffles on a serving dish or place in miniature fluted paper cases. Store in airtight glass container in refrigerator for up to a week. Serve at room temperature.

Note: If you don’t care for coconut or you want more variety, try rolling the truffles in cocoa, chocolate sprinkles or finely chopped pistachios or almonds.

Question: Do you like to cook with dates? If so, what do you like to prepare?