Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chicken with Couscous Halabi Style

I think this was one of the first recipes I learned from my mom. Its an easy dish, just requires a bit of prep work.Ive been making some fatty dishes lately, so I decided to go healthy today. =)  Take out your chopping boards and sharpen those knives! One of my friends suggested to me that I take pictures of the steps as I'm cooking, so here goes. Enjoy.


6 Peices of Chicken with thigh skin on
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 red pepper
2 Carrots
5 vine tomatos
1 Vidalia onion
1 can of garbanzo beans
4 tablespoons of fresh crushed garlic
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Crushed red pepper ( add as much or as little as you want, depends on how much heat you'd like.)
4 tablespoons of cinammon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of all spice
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 vegetable bouillon
Couscous ( Get the boxed instant couscous, and make as much as you like, just follow the instructions on the box but use the broth that were going to make, more instructions later)

First, cut up all your vegtables. You can use any vegtables you like, but these are the ones that I like to use.


Then, Take your garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper and combine them into almost a paste.

Take the chicken in a large pot and put about half of the garlic paste on top. Saute them for about 4-5 minutes on high heat.

Add 5 liters of water I know like this seems alot, but its going to cook down alot and your going to need the broth for the veggies and the couscous. Add the cubed vidalia onion, all the spices, and a vegetable bouillon.

Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer for about an hour, until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken and put it in a baking pan. Add about half of the leftover garlic paste, and add a teaspoon of tomato paste to that. Cover the chicken with that and let it bake in 450 in the oven till the skin is crispy, your not cooking the chicken, just browning the skin.

Add the tomatoes into the broth. Once it comes to a boil, add your vegetables and garbanzo beans and lower the heat. Let your vegetables cook at a simmer. Near the end of cooking your veggies, add the remaining garlic paste. Once they are done cooking, remove them. Be careful, and make sure that you don't overcook them. Now, if your using different types of veggies, you may want to add some before others. For example, some people like to use summer squash. If you do that, you'll have to add it before the zucchini, which takes less time to cook. Play around with your vegetables and use what you like. Some people also like to add raisins near the end.

Now, follow the instructions for cooking the couscous. But instead of using water, use the liquid from the vegetable broth.I also like to add a teaspoon of tomato paste to the broth for the couscous and some salt. Traditionally, couscous is steamed, but not all of us have a couscousi pot. =)

Once the couscous is done cooking, Take a large plate. Add the couscous, ladle a some broth, and then add the vegtables. Finally, add the chicken on top. Have some of the broth on the side for people to add if they'd like, its delicious! Enjoy!! =)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Shrimp with Rosa Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, we went to dinner @ this place called Buca Di Beppo. Everytime we try to go, its insanely crowded. So this time we made reservations. I decided that the crowds must be because:

A) The food is really good
B) They have huge portions ( I was leaning towards 2, we all know how much american's love supersized portions.)

Turns out its a family style restaurant with pretty good food. So we split a salad and a pasta dish.  We ordered shrimp with rosa sauce. Before we ordered, we told the server we only want vegetarian food, ( bc my hubby is zabiha.) Much to my disappointment, the rosa sauce they made used their alfredo sauce, which has chicken stock in it. So we ended up getting shrimp with  marinara sauce. After I left, I was determined to try some rosa sauce. I researched online and made some of of own. Here's my attempt: ( FYI this is by no means healthy, but hey its ok to splurge sometimes right?)

Shrimp with Rosa Sauce

- 1 pound of cooked shrimp ( I bought some yummy pre cooked frozen shrimp)
- 14 oz of thick, yummy marinara sauce. ( Don't use anything too liquidy, like prego or something.)
- 6 oz of whipping cream
- 2 cloves of garlic smashed ( FRESH people!!)
- 1 finely diced shallot
- 1 finely diced small red onion
- some red pepper flakes to your liking
- 6 ozs of broccoli buds
- 8 oz of mushrooms thickly sliced 
- 3 ozs of  frozen peas ( Just eyeball the veggies, use as much or as little as  you like)
- 1 pound of macaroni, bow tie, penne, etc.
- 2 cups of freshly grated parm cheese.
- 2 cups of freshly chopped roma tomatos
- About 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Now, obviously, boil your pasta, and about 5 minutes into boiling it, add the broccoli buds and peas. Wait till everything is cooked and drain it.
 Take a large sauce pan, add some olive oil, enough to cover the bottom, and add the smashed garlic, shallot, and red onion over medium heat. ( If the heat is too high the garlic will burn.)
Let them saute till they start to soften, and add the mushrooms, a sprinkle of fresh black pepper, and some red pepper flakes.
Once the mushrooms are about halfway cooked, add the marinara sauce and the whipping cream. Add the cooked shrimp, fresh tomatos, and basil. Let it simmer on medium heat covered till the sauce thickens and reduces.
Once the sauce reduces, ( takes about 10-15 minutes) remove from heat, and add the parm cheese. Stir it in till it melts.
Mix in the pasta and enjoy!! =)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chili Mac

Have any of y'all had hamburger helper? I think you either love it or hate it. Me, I love it. That delicious fake cheese sauce and god knows what else with a pound of hamburger is yummmmyyyyy. My mom never made it for us, but my dad made it a few times when my mom couldn't cook or was out of town. I loved it.

But I've decided to ban all preservatives from my diet, so hamburger helper is probably one of the worst processed foods you can ever eat. It's high in sodium and trans fat. I decided to attempt my own version of hamburger helper, minus the trans fat And sodium.


1 box of elbow macaroni
1 pound of ground beef
1 8 oz can of rotelle diced tomatoes ( the garlic and green peppers one.)
1/2 a packet of taco seasoning
1 medium red onion
1 one diced bell pepper
1 8 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 cloves smashed garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin.
1 12 oz package of shredded taco cheese or Mexican cheese
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cups of milk
Salt and pepper

Boil your pasta, make it al dente and drain it.
In a large skillet, add a little bit of olive oil and heat it up. Add your chopped onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Sauté over medium heat until soft.
Add the ground beef. Cook throughly.
Add the can of diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes on medium heat.
Add the half packet of taco seasoning.
Turn the temperature down to medium low heat, and let the sauce simmer a little bit for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once it's done cooking, taste it and see if it needs salt.
Take another pot, and melt the butter on medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and then keep wisking into it forms into a paste and all the flour is slightly golden. ( your making a roux.)
Wisk in the milk, and turn the heat up to medium high. Let it come to a boil, and whisk it the entire time. ( this will take about 10 minutes.) once it becomes thick like a béchamel sauce, take it off the heat and put in about 8 oz of cheese. Stir it unti the cheese melts.
Combine the finished meat sauce, cheese sauce and pasta in a greased casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes on 375, until the cheese starts to get golden and bubbly.

Enjoy!!!! :)

Lard Rant

There is a bakery in town that has delicious bread. I buy it sometimes, such as their basil pesto bread, or sun dried tomato bread. I've been going there since I've moved here. Lately, me and the hubby have been discussing the dangers of preservatives. Have you ever looked at your package of bread from the grocery store? It contains very little yeast, flour, and water. Instead it is a list of chemicals and stuff I can't pronounce. So I decided, hey let me pay a little more and I'll buy some fresh bread from the bakery. Today I headed to the bakery, and decided to ask what exactly their ingredients were in their bread.

" hmmm, I'm not really sure. Yeast, flour, sugar, water.." She pauses for a minute.

Me: " Oh that's it? That's great! I'll start buying bread here weekly."

" Oh yeah, we also put lard."

LARD?!?!? That was the first time I've ever heard of Italian bread having lard. My jaw literally dropped. I've read ALOT of bread recipes, and I've rarely encountered lard. Shortening sure. But lard?!? The only other bread I know that sometimes uses lard are tortillas.

I informed them that an ingredient like that is something one should mention, because many people do not eat pork. And a lot of people don't eat lard for medical reasons, such as hmmmm heart attacks. Needless to say, I was mad.

Oh well. I will move on from this tragedy. People! Before you buy bread at a bakery ask them for their ingredients.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lentil Yumminess

So I recently joined a book club here in town. Minor problem, every book they've done so far I've already read. SO I haven't been even going to the book club meetings. I just got the email for next months club, and its a book that I've already read. It's called White Tiger, and it's a very gripping novel. I think I will have to suggest August's book club choice, so it'll be something I haven't read yet.

So today I will share with you my go to recipe when I can't think of anything to cook, and I always have the ingredients in my house. I call it, Mujadara. Desi's call it Kichri. Masri's call it Kuchari. Mujadara is an easy dish, but its all about getting your liquid measurements right.


- 1 cup of rice ( I only cook with Jasmine rice, unless I'm stuffing something.)
- 1 cup of green lentils
- 6 cups of chicken broth
- 1 large vidalia onion
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter

That's it! =)

- First, take your rice and soak it as your preparing everything else.
-Now, slice the onion, and take about a quarter of the onions and a little bit of olive oil and saute them in a pot. Let them get soft, and then add the chicken broth and the lentils.
- Bring the lentils to a boil, and then let them simmer. You have to check the lentils by tasting them. You want them to be halfway done, so somewhat soft but still have a bite to them. For me, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get them to this stage. If they get completely cooked, then your Mujadara will be mushy. 
- Now, strain the lentils and onions out, and save 3 and a half cups of cooking liquid.
- Combine the 3 and a half cups of broth and lentils and onions in the pot. Bring to boil, strain the rice, add some salt, and dump it in. Bring it to a boil again. Once it boils, but it on LOW heat, and cover. Cook for exactly 16 minutes.
- In the last 5 minutes of cooking the rice, take a frying pan and melt the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the rest of the sliced onions. Saute them on medium high heat until they start to brown and become crispy. This takes about 10 minutes or more. Be sure your constantly stirring it, because it burns easily.
- Once the rice is done cooking remove it from the heat, add the contents of the frying pan ( onions and the butter and olive oil) into the rice. Stir it so that it is absorbed into the rice. Cover it and let it sit for 5 minutes.

And its done! I usually serve this with a cucumber, garlic, and mint yogurt sauce. = )

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Can't We All Get Along?

I know my blog is entitled my life through meals and books, but today I'm going to talk about a Movie I just watched.

I live in a city that has a huge orthodox Jew population. Their is an entire part of the city that is dominated by temples, kosher delis, and Jewish bookstores. This part of town also has a restaurant that serves kimchi fried rice (delicious), so I frequent this part of town often. Growing up, I've always been taught at my mosque, at home, at my Islamic school, to respect all religions. I have had friends from all different faiths.

When I first went to this area, I saw a lot of Jewish women with head coverings, and I thought that was really cool, almost bonding us in this secret society that the outside world doesn't take a part of. I started smiling at other women as I saw them on the street. Sometimes I receive puzzled looks. I found this confusing.

I think the problem I'm facing here is that everyone is divided in their neighborhoods and groups that some people are not exposed to each other in a positive manner. Therefore, for some people, a friendly smile from a Muslim person might be weird. They probably think Muslims are supposed to hate all other religions (which is totally against our religion.) Unfortunately, due to propaganda, so called "Muslims" who misinterpret Islam and ruin it for the rest of us, many people believe that Muslims are taught to hate all other religions.

Why this long rant? Because it ties into the awesome movie I just watched called "Arranged".

The movie is about a Muslim woman and an Orthodox Jewish woman working together in an elementary school in Brooklyn. It explores their expectations from their families and the friendship they develop from sharing many of the same values. This movie was great. Why?Because the Muslims were not terrorists and beating their wives. The Jews weren't miserly and loud mouthed. Instead, it portrayed Muslims and orthodox Jews accurately and as human beings. It was authentic and heart warming, and most importantly, shows us how we can all bridge the gaps we have between people of different faiths and societies. I think everyone should watch this movie so we can understand each others cultures. More importantly, it'll encourage us to reach out with a friendly smile to people different then us and open up the doors of understanding and break down all the barriers we have built.

Go watch it!! It's on netflix. And make your friends watch it too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Comfort Food

So I just finished reading this book, and its called Lucky Girl. I must say, it was very interesting. The book is about this young Taiwanese girl who was adopted by an American family at the age of 8 months. She later goes back to get to know her Taiwanese family, and discovers her heritage. Now usually, books like this are sappy and she uncovers some deep dark family secret. But this book is a true story, and it really goes through the emotions and perils of adoption. It's very well written, entertaining, and my favorite part, brutally honest. Definitely worth reading. Heres a link to the book:

Lucky Girl: A Memoir

Now, my post is entitled: Comfort Food. All of you know, everytime I post a recipe, I tell you its my favorite food. But, those of you close to me know that I absolutely love anything cooked with yogurt. Yogurt pasta, Kiba fi labaniya, Mahshi Ajoor, shish barak etc, etc. So now I shall share with you my favorite yogurt recipe, ( #2 being my greek yogurt pasta.)


The name alone sounds comforting. Shukur means to give thanks, and Shakriya almost sounds like it is thanking you for eating it.  Everytime I eat this meal, I feel like all is well in the world, and I want to personally thank the delightful combination of meat, yogurt, and rice in my plate.And I do, by enjoying every last bite of it. I think I'm a fat person living in a thin person's body, desperately and slowly coming out.

So heres the recipe, enjoy! =)

1) 2 pounds of stew meat OR if your feeling particular rich that day, two pounds of cut up ribeye ( without the bone.)
2) 1 Large onion sliced
3) 2 tablespoons of allspice ( Or arabic pepper, that brown powder.) 
4) 12 cups of water
5) 2 large containers of GREEK yogurt ( you cannot use any other kind of yogurt, only  greek. You can find this @ publix, trader joes, most organic food stores.)

and thats it for the ingredients! How simple is that?

Now to prepare the food.

Take a large pot and melt a teeny bit of butter and some olive oil, and add the stew meat and onions and a sprinkle of salt. Brown the stew meat a little bit and then add the water and allspice.
Bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down and let it simmer for one hour.
After one hour, check the stew meat. It should be done and tender. If you cook it on high for an hour, its going to get very chewy and hard. The key is to cook it on medium to low heat, just so that its simmering, so that it slowly cooks and becomes tender.
Near the end of cooking your meat, take out another large pot, and put it on medium low heat. Take the greek yogurt and dump it into the pot. You have to constantly wisk it until it becomes liquidy and warm. Once its warm and more liquid like, turn the heat off. You cannot let it boil. If it boils, the yogurt will fall apart. If it does fall apart, just put it in a blender, or use a handmixer like I do.
Slowly start to add the stew meat water. I usually do a cup at a time and wisk it in. You need about 9 to 10 cups, depending on how watery you want it. If you want it thicker, then add less water. Once your done, keep wisking it. Again, if the yogurt falls apart ( and it should'nt if you are wisking) use blender or hand mixer.
Strain the meat and onions out and add it to the yogurt mixture. At this point you can taste it and add salt if you want or more allspice, but I usually let whoever is eating to add it to their own plate.  enjoy!

For a side, I usually cook the rice in the stew meat water, its yummy and a beef broth. I also saute some vermicilli noodles in the pot before I add the water and rice.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We're Back!! =)

So I haven't posted in a while! I've been busy. First I visited my family and then visited the in-laws, so May was a fun month Alh. Now I'm back in Pittsburgh and ready to share a recipe with you iA!

First, lets start with the recipe. The other day I had a HUGE craving for some green beans, so I decided to make some fasooliya, which is a green bean stew. This is probably one of my favorite dishes ( Don't I say that about everything though?) . Theres two variations, so I'm going to give you both, one with stew meat and one with ground beef. Lets start with the stew meat one.

For the stew meat, get some beef stew and cube it. Saute it with some onions and then boil it on a simmer for about 20 minutes ( It's not supposed to be fully cooked). Turn it off and proceed to make the green bean recipe.

1) one pound to a pound and a half of fresh green beans ( This is important, make sure they are really fresh and yummy, they should snap easily if you bend it.) If you MUST use frozen and your too busy, then make sure you get reallly yummy frozen green beans.
2) 2 freshly chopped tomatos
3) 1 chopped red pepper
4) 1 chopped green pepper
4) 1 sliced onion
2) 2 tablespoons of ground coriander ( NOT fresh, it has to be ground.)
3) 1 and a half tablespoon of minced fresh garlic ( don 't use the jarred stuff its gross).
4) 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
5) 1 eight ounce can of puree tomato.
6) One chicken or vegtable bouillon cube.
7) 1 lb of ground beef or beef stew ( whichever you decide to use.)

- Take the green beans and wash them. After that, what I do is just snap off the ends with my thumb and then just break them in half.
- If you decide to use ground beef, add it at this point. Add some olive oil to the pot. Combine the ground beef, all the vegtables, garlic, coriander and stir fry it together until the meat starts to brown. If your using stew meat, then add all the other ingredients except for the ground beef.
- After the beef starts to brown, add enough water until its about an inch or two above the green beans. If your using the stew meat recipe, add the water that you used to boil the stew meat with.Usually around 5 to 6 cups.
- Add the tomato paste, puree and vegtable bouillon, and bring it to a boil.
- If your using the stew meat, add it at this point. 
- Bring to boil, and then simmer for an hour and a half, until the green beans are done and the sauce is consistent and is thicker.

And your done! I usually serve this with plain white rice. Its sooo delicious. Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: I mentioned in a previous post that my green bean stew wasn't that great, WELL I've worked on it a lot, and realized that its all about the green beans that you use. If you use ones that aren't fresh it ruines the entire dish. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010


So the past few days, as I've been lying around on the couch, I've realized that I have basically accomplished nothing these past few months. I've decided to make my blog more productiive, and take a new approach to it. NOW before all my fans go crazy don't worry, I'm still going to post recipes, BUT I'm also going to start writing litarary reviews / criticisms of books I'm reading. I feel like that will work my brain a little bit. Sometimes I feel like my brain is oozing out of my ears. I think this will stimulate it a lil bit. =)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sakeena Lo Mein

So I just made some DELICIOUS Lo Mein, courtesy of Sakeena Ahmed. =)

Here's the recipe she gave me:

Ok, so here's the recipe.  It's a recipe for Vegetable Lo Mein, but you can easily add chicken/beef/shrimp to it if you want.

  • 16 oz. lo mein noodles, uncooked
  • 1 cup vegetable broth/chicken broth/beef broth (depending on what you are making)
  • 1 Tbspn corn starch
  • 3 Tbspn soy sauce
  • 2 Tbspn thick soy sauce (available in Oriental stores)
  • 1 Tbspn sesame oil
  • 2 Tbspn peanut or olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 1/2 tspn dried crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 3 stalks scallions, coarsely chopped
Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes.  Rinse, drain, and set aside.

Mix the sauce: broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, thick soy sauce, and sesame oil; mix well and set aside.

Preheat a wok or large nonstick pan with the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and stirring constantly until the garlic is light brown about 1 minute.  [If making beef/chicken/shrimp, add now and stir fry until cooked.]  Add the carrot and mushroom and turn the heat high; stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add the snow peas, salt, black pepper, and red pepper; continue stirring for another minute.  Add the sauce, stirring well and bring to a boil.  Add the noodles and stirring well for 2 minutes.  Add scallion, stirring well and serve hot.  Serves 6-8.

* I made it with chicken, so I marinated the chicken in some cornstarch and sesame oil before I cooked. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

We're Back to Stuffing

The halabi bug has bit me once again. I feel an urge to stuff something. This time, I've decided to stuff indian eggplants. Indian eggplants are the cute babies of the eggplant world.

 I searched online to see why they are called Indian eggplants. This is all I could find:

"The Indian eggplant is known for its tenderness and sweet flavor. It is small and round with smooth skin and a red-purple color. The skin does not need to be peeled; it can be used interchangeably with the American eggplant. Another variety, the Indian paint eggplant, has white stripes. It is more fragile, but are perfect for stuffing and baking

So I didn't find out why its called an indian eggplant. Maybe it was discovered in India. 

So I went all over town  trying to find some indian eggplants, and they have disappeared off the face of pittsburgh. They are usually really easy to find. I finally found some yesterday @ the veggie market in the strip district. My mom is known for this dish. All her recipes are yummy, but her fetat al magdoos is Amazing. Anytime she has a dinner party and she makes it, people talk about that dish the most. So here we go:

 For the Yogurt:
1) 1 container of Greek yogurt.
2) 3 tbsp of tahini
3) 5 freshly squeezed lemons
4) 1 clove of garlic, smashed

For the Sauce:
4) 1 small container ( 6 oz)  of tomato paste
5) 2 Tablespoons of vinegar
6) 1 teaspoon of pomengrate syrup
7)  sliced onions
8) 1 tablespoon of butter
9) Two beef bouillon cubes
10) 1 package of pita bread ( make sure its yummy, not that nasty supermarket brand)

For the Eggplants:
11)  half a pound of ground beef
12) around 3 tbsp of pine nuts
13) 9 Indian eggplants ( just enough to cover the top of your casserole)
14) One sliced onion

15) Some chopped parsley

- This recipe is easy, but has alot of steps, so I'm going to divide it up. First lets start with the eggplants.
- The eggplants need to have the insides removed, and I usually use a special tool called a Ma'wara. You can usually find it in the arabic store. It looks like a knife that is a half circle, so you just cut off the top of the eggplant and then clean out the insides. Make sure you dont make the skin too thin, it needs to stay thick because the skin is really yummy, just hollow it out a little bit so you can stuff it.
- Now, take the pine nuts and roast them in a saute pan. After your done take them off.
- In the same saute pan, melt about half the butter and saute half the onions. Add the ground beef, and cook till finished. Once it's done, add the pine nuts. And there you have it, its the stuffing for the eggplants.
- Take the eggplants and stuff them.
-  Take a pot, and fill it with some frying oil ( I use peanut). Now, you need to fry the eggplants in the oil, but You only put enough oil so that it doesn't cover the eggplant. You just have to saute the eggplants in the oil, so your not deep frying. Take each eggplant and saute it in the oil, and keep turning it around in the oil till its cooked. It's about 5 minutes an eggplant, and the skin needs to be soft. Make sure none of the oil gets in the stuffing though, so you put half an inch of oil in the bottom of the pan.
- Your done with the eggplants! That's the most labor intensive part. Now, all you need to do is make the tomato sauce.
- Take the rest of the butter, and saute the onions in a pot.  Then, add about 5 cups of water, the jar of tomato paste, the pomengrate syrup, the vinegar, and the bouillon cubes, and some salt. Let it boil for about 30 minutes till all the flavors are combined.
- Take the eggplants and soak them in the sauce for about 5 minutes when the sauce is done and then take them out. 
- Take all the yogurt ingredients and mix them together in a bowl.
- Now, chop up your pita bread into squares and bake them in the oven until they are crisp.


- Take a casserole dish and layer it with pita bread.
- Take the tomato sauce and soak the bread with it.
- Then, take the yogurt mixture and pour that on top.
- Then, take the eggplants and put them on top, and garnish with parsley.

AND your done! Enjoy doing the dishes though, bc theirs ALOT! But its worth it, because it is so yummy.  If you want to make it fattening, take some pinenuts and almonds, roast them in butter, and pour it on top of everything before you add the parsley. =)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beef Curry Nastiness

I'm sure all artists have had their shares of errors. Maybe Micheangelo painted a painting that looked like it was made for Bed, Bath and Beyond. Perhaps Wolfgang Puck food poisoned some people ( he actually did, I read an article about that once.) Today, I made a mistake. One of the biggest ones in my entire culinary career.

For those of you who know me, I am an avid reader. Lately I've been reading alot of books about Asia. The latest book I read was by Lisa See, called "Shanghei Girls." It was really good. And throughout the book, the protagonist kept making this dish called "Beef Tomato Curry Lo Mein." Now, besides the fact that I love books about Asia, I also LOVE asian food. I can eat it every single day and not get sick of it. The more I read the book, the more I wanted some Beef Tomato Curry Lo Mein. I googled the recipe after I read the book, waited patiently for some flank steak from the halal butcher, and happily made it today.

I followed the recipe EXACTLY. When it was done cooking, it looked absolutely delicious.I picked up my fork, scooped up a generous serving, and took a big bite. I swallowed, and then I gagged. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten in my life. I had to go spit it out and gurgle in the sink to get the taste out of my mouth. My apartment REEKED of the smell. Curry powder and white wine vinegar DOES not MIX people! My husband came home and tried it, and thought it tasted good and ate from it. I'm starting to question his opinions on my food now, because if he could eat that, then he can pretty much eat anything.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meat Drama

So I haven't blogged in FOREVER!
I've been busy these last few weeks, but everything is back to normal now. We have been pummeled by snow storms. Unfortunatly, this has effected my freezer. I only cook with halal meat, so I have buy it from a butcher shop. I usually get enough meat to last a month or two, and after the last snow storm, I have depleted our supplies. I decided to leave my cave last week and go to the dreaded butcher shop. Why do I dread it? Because it takes me six days to find parking, and after I leave the shop I smell like whatever they're cooking that day. ( The butcher shop has a tiny diner inside.)

After I headed over there on Friday, I was informed that they had run out of meat. The snow storms had delayed all their shipments. So I call them again on Monday, and hes like Yes we have meat come on over! So I get excited and leave the house. On the way there I decide to call my order in so that I don't smell for the rest of the day. They then informed me they ran out of meat. I mean are you serious? So I made an order that will be picked up on Wednesday at 12. Seriously, I have to make appointments now to get some meat? Isn't it also sad that I'm blogging about my meat dilema? I guess. What does this mean for the blog? It means I'm cooking seafood today. So I made the yummiest grouper ever.

I based it on a Giada recipe, except it was kind of bland so I jazzed it up:

- 6 Filets of Grouper, tilapia or any white fish.
- 1 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp 
- 1 12 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 diced small shallot
- 1 green pepper
- 2 roma tomatoes chopped
- 1 lime
- Old bay seasoning
- flour
- Olive oil
- Fresh basil, about a tablespoon

Take the tilapia and season it with the old bay seasoning ( I like the garlic and herb) and then a little salt and pepper. Dip it in some flour and coat it. Then, saute them in olive oil, about three minutes on each side, till they are golden brown.

Remove the fish, and cover it up to keep it warm. Take the same pan, wipe it with a paper towel, and add some olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and let them saute a lil bit till they are soft. Then add the green peppers and chopped tomatoes, and let them saute till they are soft. ( If you like it spicy, I'd throw in some diced jalepeno at this point.) Add the crushed tomatoes, and let it reduce a little bit, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and lime juice and cook them, and then put the fish back in the sauce with the basil. Cook it for two minutes. And its ready to serve!! It's DELICIOUS. =)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Unappreciated Ingredient: Yogurt

One of my favorite ingredients is yogurt. And I love it with my other favorite ingredient, garlic. Yogurt & Garlic. A match made in heaven. Why haven't all those T.V chefs discovered yogurt yet? Its the most amazing ingredient ever. Syria has the best yogurt ever. It's kind of sour, creamy, and delicious. It's perfect for cooking. Most yogurt here on the other hand is watery and sweet, and falls apart completely when you try to cook it. I remember when I was younger my mom would spend hours making her own yogurt. Do I really want to do that? No. So I found an alternative. I discovered Greek yogurt. Its thick, creamy, and slightly sour. PERFECT for cooking. Today I'm making one of my favorite dishes, Greek yogurt pasta. It's similiar to shish barak, but easier.


1) One container of greek yogurt ( usually found @ trader joes or other organic stores)
2) Box of shell shaped pasta ( the small one not the kind you stuff)
3) 1 lb of ground beef
4) 2 finely diced onions.
5) Minced garlic ( you have to determine how much you want, just add it to the yogurt and keep tasting until you get the flavor you want.)
6) 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander.
7) 2 teaspoons of cracked red pepper ( also, add as much as you want, whether you want a hint of flavor or spicy.)
8) 2 tablespoons of butter

Get a pot of water boiling, and add ALOT of salt but no oil, because you want the pasta to remain starchy so that the sauce will stick to the noodles.

Add the onions and saute them in some olive oil in a skillet, and add the ground beef. Brown the beef till its done.

In another pot, dump the greek yogurt into it and add as much garlic as you want. Put it on LOW heat and stir until it becomes a liquid and is warm. You have to stir non stop or else the yogurt will fall apart. If it does fall apart, put it in a food processor or use a hand mixer. This takes about 10 minutes, or longer, and is the most labor intensive part of the meal.

Finish cooking the pasta, drain it and put it in a large bowl. Add the ground beef mixture and yogurt.

Take a frying pan and melt the butter, and add about two tablespoons of olive oil. Put it on medium low heat, and add the coriander. Let it sizzle for a minute or two, until you start smelling it. Then, Lift the frying pan off the heat and add the red pepper flakes. They burn reallly fast, so just leave it for 30 seconds and then dump all of it on top of the pasta and mix it. And your done!!! =)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Cilantro Nastiness

Since I got married, I have turned my kitchen into a laboratory. Ever since I was younger, I had an urge to cook like no other. When I was 13, my parents went away for two weeks, so I decided to make a green bean stew for my siblings. I made a long distance call to Syria to get the recipe from my grandma, the Queen of Syrian cuisine, and started cooking. Due to my lack of experience in the kitchen, I dumped in whole tomatoes into the sauce without chopping them up. My grandma told me to add tomatoes, so I assumed to just dump them in. I did not factor in that she has been cooking for 40 years and has developed a short hand way of giving recipes. ( Note to self, do not follow nana's recipe's word from word.) To this day, anytime I mention cooking to my brother and sister they recall the green bean stew.

Now my cooking has improved significantly ( although for some reason my green bean stew still isn't that great) and I have made great strides in the kitchen. My husband hails from Damascus, and their food is slightly different then food from my city, Aleppo. One major difference --> The use of cilantro.

I hate cilantro. My Mexican restaurant visits are always a disappointment because of their love of this herb. Unfortunately for me, my husband loves cilantro. To him, okra stew is inedible without it. Here's the recipe for it:

Okra Stew

1) 2 lbs beef stew chopped
2) 1 bag of chopped frozen okra
3) 6 whole tomatoes ( large ones, not vine)
4) 1 teaspoon of butter
5) 4 tablespoons of olive oil
6) One onion roughly chopped
7) Two cloves of minced garlic
8) teaspoon of tomato paste
9) 3 freshly squeezed lemons
10) Teaspoon of sugar
11) Optional ingredient: chopped cilantro

Ok I know what your thinking, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it's really not. You have most of this stuff in your kitchen.

Now, first things first. Take the frozen okras and put them in a strainer. Run some hot water on them, and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit out for an hour or two, until you cook the stew. This prevents the okras from getting mushy.

Take the tomatoes and put them in some boiling water. Let them boil for about 10 minutes till they are soft. Remove them and let them cook. Once they are cool, remove the skin and the hard white part inside the tomato. Then, put them in a food processor and puree them. ( I usually just use my hand mixer in a bowl, b/c it's amazing. Best kitchen tool ever.)

Voila! Move over Julia Child, you now have fresh tomato sauce. Whenever I make it I truly feel gourmet and organic. Take the stew meat and onions, and saute them together with olive oil and butter till the stew meat is browned in a large pot. Then, add about 5 cups of water, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, and lemon juice. Let it come to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer. Beef stew needs to cook slowly in order for it to become tender, so I usually leave it slowly simmering for about an hour and a half, two hours. Then near the end, dump in the okra and minced garlic and let it cook for another half hour, and add salt and pepper. And there you have it, Okra stew. Oh ya, and if you want, you can add the nasty cilantro at the end too. =) This tastes good with rice or bread.