Posts Tagged ‘Arabic Cooking’

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

June 10th, 2012 10 comments

I love serving this salad because it has a colorful presentation and it’s so healthy. The sweet peppers combine well with the salty goat cheese and citrusy lemon peel. Plus, it can be made ahead, and it holds up for hours.  The leftover bell peppers (if there are any) can be slipped into a sandwich or green salad or eaten cold out of the fridge.

The dish, which can be served as a starter or side salad, is adapted from a recipe in Flavors of Morocco by Ghillie Bason, one of my favorite Moroccan cookbooks, simply for its gorgeous photography.

This salad calls for preserved lemon rind, a common ingredient in Moroccan cooking and something you can easily make at home. However, it does take a month for them to be ready, so if you don’t have this ingredient handy, you can still make this colorful and flavorful salad.

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

          Serves 6 as a side dish

4 large red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers (no green)

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

½ small red onion, finely chopped

1 small package (125 g, 4½ oz.) goat cheese, crumbled (or substitute feta)

¼ rind preserved lemon or more, finely chopped (optional)


1. Roast the peppers. This can be done in advance or the day before. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C or Gas Mark 4). Place the peppers in a baking dish and drizzle the olive oil over top. Don’t skimp on the oil, as you will use it later in the salad. Roast for 30 minutes or more until the skin is wrinkly, buckled and partially browned. Reserve the pepper-infused oil to use later. Allow peppers to cool.

2. Peel skin off peppers (as much as you can). Remove stalks and cut each pepper lengthwise into quarters. Trim and remove seeds. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Arrange peppers on a platter, alternating colors, skin-side down. Mix the parsley and chopped onion and scatter over peppers. Next, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese, followed by preserved lemon, if using. Finally, drizzle the reserved oil over the top. Serve at room temperature.

Question: How do you serve roasted bell peppers?

Preserved Lemons ~ A Distinctive Flavor in Moroccan Cooking

June 9th, 2012 10 comments

Lemons are present in some form in practically every Arabic meal. The Moroccans take it a step further by using preserved lemons in their cooking, which give a refreshing tangy flavor to many of their dishes.

Imagine a very intense, incredibly flavorful lemon zest, but silky and fragrant. Preserved lemons retain all of their lemony-ness even when slow cooked in a tagine. Essential in a Moroccan kitchen, they are used in salads and dressings, in lamb and vegetable tagines, and as a garnish. Preserved lemons are the star ingredient of the well-known Moroccan dish Chicken Tagine with Lemons and Olives.

Not to be confused with dried lemons (which are darkened and hard), preserved lemons keep their vibrant yellow color. Basically they are lemons pickled in salt. Normally cooks use the peel alone and discard the pulp, but you can use the pulp, too, if desired.

The unique texture and flavor of preserved lemons cannot be substituted with fresh lemon. Don’t even try. However, you can easily prepare preserved lemons at home. But here’s the catch: they require at least a month to mature before they’re ready to use. So, if you’d like to use them in your cooking, you’ll need to plan ahead. Way ahead.

Preserved Lemons – What you’ll need

1 large sterilized jar with tight-fitting lid

10 lemons (unwaxed, preferably organic) or as many that will squeeze into your jar

10 Tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt, (Not iodized table salt), 1 T for each lemon

Fresh lemon juice, as needed


1. Wash, scrub, and dry lemons. For each lemon: cut the tips off. Standing each lemon vertically, cut the lemon into quarters, but don’t cut all the way through. Leave about a half-inch uncut.

3. Stuff one tablespoon sea salt into each lemon.

4. One by one, stuff the lemons into the jar. The lemons will soften and release their juices, making it possible to pack them in. Pack them down and squeeze in as many as you can.

5. If the jar is fully packed, the juice from the lemons should nearly fill the jar. Add some additional fresh lemon juice if necessary. It’s important that all the lemons are covered with the salted lemon juice. Leave some airspace before sealing the jar.

6. Store in a cool dark place or the refrigerator for at least a month. The longer they are left, the better the flavor. To use, scoop out and discard the pulp. Rinse the lemon peel under water to get rid of the salt. Chop finely, in slivers, or as instructed. Preserved lemons can be used for up to a year.

Question: How do you use preserved lemons in your cooking? 

A Year of Blogging

May 20th, 2012 14 comments

Thank you to all the new followers and readers of my blog. I appreciate your support and encouraging comments. The past year has flown by—70 posts, so much to blog about.

Who knew?

Meanwhile, here is a review of some of my favorite posts from the past year, in case you missed one.

Cultural Posts

I started this blog with the post Sharing my Zeal, which explained my original goals. So, I’m wondering … have I brought down barriers between Arabs and non-Arabs? Well, my eldest son tells me I should simply work on bringing down barriers between myself and my Arab in-laws. Ha Ha Ha. Teenagers are so funny.

My most popular cross-cultural posts were the three-part series I wrote about Raising Arabic-Speaking Children. These posts generated a lot of questions and comments from other parents—many more successful with biligualism than we have been.

Another noteworthy post was Our Desert Dog. I was hesitant to blog about my pet, but my writers group encouraged me to go ahead with it. It indeed struck a chord, as some of the comments from readers were posts by themselves.

For those of you who are writers, you might appreciate my piece Writing about another Culture. I offer tips on how to avoid cultural stereotypes and clichés in your writing.

Food Posts

I started out the blog thinking I might include “a few recipes.” Well, I’ve gradually discovered that I enjoy developing Arab recipes and taking photos of food. It has thrilled me to learn that people actually prepare my dishes. Not only that—three other bloggers have blogged about testing my recipes—with positive results. Wow. That made me happy.

I guess my favorite food posts are the Ma’amoul recipes—Arab pastry secrets revealed! Also, I like my Grilled Halloumi Salad post. After all, I eat that salad nearly every day.

Look forward to more recipes coming up—especially during Ramadan. I’m now working on printable recipes. Stay tuned.

Book Reviews

I’ve stumbled a bit with my book reviews. However, now I think I figured it out: keep them short and sweet. Focus on new books that people want to know more about.

My most popular book review was a review of five books: Memoirs by Western Women Married into Arab Culture. I received lots of positive feedback on that. I also enjoyed writing a review of my favorite Palestinian memoir: In Search of Fatima. I love this book.

Travel Stories

The travel story of the year that I am most proud of is about our family trip to Mecca: My Umrah. I also liked my post Journey to Jerusalem, a story that will always stay with me.

Thank you again for reading. It’s been a fun year, and I look forward to another 70 posts, which I hope will not disappoint.

Question: What kind of posts would you like to see in the upcoming year?