13 Oct

Fattoush Salad

It’s time for another Eating the Alphabet recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.

So far I’ve done:

(A or B): Buttercup Squash and Artichoke Pasta
(C or D): Grenadian Oil Down with Cassava (Favourite)
(E or F): Homemade Fig Newtons (Favourite)
(G or H): White Chicken Chili with Hominy
(I or J): Juniper Berry Bechamel
(K or L): Kamut Brioche
(M, N, or O): Caramelized Onions
(P, Q, or R): Pomegranate Glazed Eggplant (Favourite)

This month’s letters are S or T so I decided to take a look at Sumac.

SumacSumac Plant (Image source)

Sumac is a quintessential ingredient in Lebanese and Middle Eastern cooking. The sumac plant grows wildly in the Middle East and is harvested in the fall. A variety of sumac also grows wildly in North America, I’m sure you’ve seen it before, except the North American variety is poisonous. . . so don’t try foraging it in your back yard!

The sumac plant makes a cluster of tiny fruits that are ground into a powder that is used as a spice. It is deep purple in colour and has a lemony taste but is more tart than lemon. There’s really no good substitute for sumac.

Sumac (1)Sumac Spice (Image Source)

One of my favourite use of sumac is in fattoush, a Lebanese chopped salad loaded with vegetables, dressing with a tangy sumac dressing, and topped with crispy fried pieces of pita. In this version I toasted the pita instead of fried it, which obviously isn’t as delicious as fried pita, but it is a quicker and easier variation.

This is a pretty standard fattoush recipe but you are free to play around with the ingredients a bit by adding chopped parsley or diced peppers or your favourite salad vegetable.

Keep in mind that the keys to the flavour of this salad are the fresh mint, the sumac, and the pita, so don’t sub these ingredients, whatever you do.

Fattoush Salad

Makes one huge salad (enough for probably 8 people as a side dish)

Ingredients

Salad

1 head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 medium English cucumber, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch radishes, halved and sliced
2 green onions, diced
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 large pita

Dressing

2 cloves garlic
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for pita
2 T sumac, plus extra for pita

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F. Brush the pita with the extra olive oil and sprinkle with the extra sumac. Toast in the oven until crispy and golden. Break the toasted pita into small shards and set aside.

Put all the salad ingredients into a large bowl and stir together.

Sprinkle the garlic with a dash of salt and mash with the side of a knife (or a pestle). Place the garlic in a small bowl and whisk in the lemon juice, sumac, and olive oil.

Pour the dressing over the salad and stir until all the ingredients are coated. Add the pita pieces and toss to combine.



(Click for more info on Eating the Alphabet)



07 Apr

Happy Easter 2012

My favourite part about Easter is the Lebanese food. I spend all year waiting to eat these:

Kabeb

Kabeb courtesy of my Aunt Randa. It’s like fried kibbeh but isn’t made with meat and it’s stuffed with onions, raisins, and nuts.

I devoured two for breakfast this morning.

My aunt also made us a big batch of makhlouta, a Lebanese bean soup with bulgur and little dough balls inside. That was my lunch this afternoon.

Another Easter favourite of mine is bukho (or m’jaddara) which is a lentil, rice, and caramelized onion dish which I made for Matt and I a few times already during Lent.

Easter is the best time of year for Lebanese food. : d

I hope everyone has a great Easter this weekend!


Oh, and happy birthday to my older sister Victoria who turns 29 today!

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Vicki at Creemore Springs

25 Aug

food blog friday: Falafel Loaf

Falafel Loaf

It’s Food Blog Friday!

Today’s recipe comes courtesy of my favourite Lebanese food blog Taste of Beirut. Joumana’s, the blogger at Taste of Beirut, share a repertoire of recipes that includes traditional Lebanese dishes and Lebanese inspired dishes. The blog showcases the healthiness and variety of Lebanese cuisine.

I was really excited to try this recipe for a falafel loaf. One of my favourite dishes to order at a Lebanese restaurants is falafel because my Lebanese family never makes it and I hate deep frying food (I feel like it’s such a waste of oil!) This baked version seemed like a really good variation on the traditional deep fried balls of deliciousness.

The only changes that I made to this recipe are that I omitted the bunch of Italian parsley and I included 2 chopped jalapeno peppers for a bit of heat. The rest of the recipe I kept the same.

I took the loaf out of the oven after 45 minutes and a toothpick came out of it clean but when I took the loaf out of the pan it started to fall apart and the centre was still too wet. I left it in for another 10 minutes. . . then another 10 minutes. . . then another 5. By this point it still looked uncooked but I was hungry so I said "”fuck it” and cut into it anyway.

The slices pretty much fell apart when I cut them but I realized later that I should have probably left the loaf to cool to about room temperature (which is the recommended serving temperature) before trying to cut it because it firmed up quite a bit once it cooled.

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My falafel loaf in pieces

In spite of the poor aesthetic of the dish once it fell apart, the taste was unbelievable. The loaf is very fluffy and very moist and just melts in your mouth. It doesn’t have the outer crispiness of a deep fried falafel but I think I liked it even better this way.

I served it on a plate with tahini/lemon sauce. The recipe says that it serves 8 but it is very filling so I’d say more like 10-12.

Falafel Loaf

Falafel Loaf

8 very filling servings, recipe adapted from Taste of Beirut

This moist baked loaf inspired by falafel is delicious when eaten with some tarator sauce drizzled on top.

Ingredients

2 cans of cooked chickpea, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of cilantro, leaves chopped
1 Large white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, mashed with a dash of salt till pasty
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, chopped
3 Large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2  teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Put the chickpeas into the bowl of a food processor with the eggs, baking powder, chopped onions, salt, spices, and process till mixture starts to become a paste.
  2. Add the cilantro, garlic, hot peppers, and olive oil and process till mixture is smooth like a hummus and all the ingredients are well combined.
  3. Pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. Bake in a 375F oven for 1h 10min. Let cool before slicing (otherwise it might fall apart!). Serve at room temperature with tarator sauce (recipe to follow).

Tarator sauce:

Ingredients

1/4 cup of  tahini
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup of water
dash of salt

Directions

Pour the lemon juice into a small bowl containing tahini while stirring constantly. The sauce will start to curdle.

Slowly add enough water to smooth out the sauce and get a nice loose consistency.

Salt to taste.

Falafel Loaf

Because of the fact that the cooking time was way off and the loaf fell apart, I give this recipe. . .

2 Spoons!

The amazing taste and texture really redeemed this recipe. I want to make it again soon.


Food Blog Friday recipes are ranked on the scale of 0-3 spoons

0 spoons – That was fucking horrendous
1 spoon  –  I doubt I’ll be making that again
2 spoons – I’ll probably make that again with some tweaks
3 spoons – That was perfect.

See Other Food Blog Friday Recipe Reviews here.

24 May

Spinach Fatayer

Spinach Fatayer

Last night I decided it would be a good idea to make spinach fatayer. Fatayer is a Lebanese turnover that is usually stuffed with meat or spinach and sometimes cheese. The spinach are by far my favourite.

I don’t make these very often because:

1) They take a hell of a lot of time. – I started at 8:00 and the fatayer were done and the kitchen was clean at 10:30. The last batch was extremely sloppy and I was practically falling asleep while I worked on it.

2) My aunt’s fatayer are always better. – Always.

Spinach Fatayer

 

But, I had a craving and my cravings hardly go unacknowledged so it was well worth the time and effort. And, this time around they turned out pretty damn good, I must say. Matt and I are chomping through half the batch (the ugly half) and the rest I tossed in the freezer to be defrosted for a potluck party we’re hosting this weekend. They make kickass appetizers or snacks.

Spinach Fatayer

I used a recipe from Joumana at Taste of Beirut and took her advice to roll out the dough very thin. I’m used to eating fatayer that are doughy but I really liked how thin the dough in this version; it really made the tart spinach filling stand out (although, with my long nails, it was a bitch to work with).

I don’t think I got my dough quite as thin as Joumana’s, but I still liked the result.

Spinach Fatayer

Spinach Fatayer

From Taste of Beirut; Makes ~50

Ingredients: 

Dough:

5 cups All Purpose Flour
1 T dry yeast
1 T sugar
1 T salt
3/4 cup oil (canola, or olive oil)
1 1/2 cups water

Spinach:

2 lb of frozen chopped spinach
1 large white onion
1/4 cup sumac
1 t paprika
pinch of cayenne
1 T salt
1/2 t black pepper

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T pomegranate molasses

Directions:

Combine the yeast with 3/4 cup of the warm water and the 1 T sugar to proof. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the oil and remaining water with the flour.  When the yeast has bubbled, add it to the flour mixture. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is as smooth and soft (about 5-6 minutes by hand). Let it proof until it has doubled in size, while you mix the stuffing.

  1. Defrost and thaw out the spinach. Place them in a colander and squeeze them out very thoroughly. You want the spinach very dry.
  2. Finely chop the onions and place them in a bowl with the spinach. Add the spices.
  3. In a separate small bowl combine the olive oil, lemon juices and pomegranate molasses. Pour this dressing onto the spinach mixture a little at a time until the spinach is just moistened (too much and the turnovers will open when baking).
  4. Now back to the dough. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll the dough very thin on a greased counter 1/16” thick (no more than 1/8” thick). Using a 4” cookie cutter, cut the rolled out dough into rounds. Place about one tablespoon of stuffing on each fatayer.
  5. Lift the fatayer and pinch 2 ends first and then the third to form a pyramid.
  6. Place them on cookie sheets and bake them for 18 minutes in a preheated oven at 350F until the top and bottoms are golden.
  7. Cool and eat at room temperature or slightly warm. (I like to put them in the toaster oven if I eat them the next day) These freeze really well.

Spinach Fatayer

21 May

food journal 21/05/11

Today was a weird day when it comes to eating. Even more than a normal Saturday’s unstructured eats.

– I had to skip breakfast because I had to fast for a blood test
– I didn’t have a proper lunch because I spent the day shopping in the States
– My dinner had a bug in it. True story.

So my meals today were mainly liquid or miscellany from the Lebanese grocery stores that I hit up after my bloodwork.

Breakfast:

I went to a couple of Lebanese grocery stores on Wyandotte and every time I go I have to pick up some nougat candies. I didn’t wait until I got home to dig into these babies:

Lebanese NougatLebanese NougatLebanese Nougat

Once I got home I had half of a giant mountain bread smothered with a mix of equal parts tahini and date molasses. It’s delicious, trust me.

Tahini & Date MolassesMountain BreadDate Molasses

– Right before I left to go shopping I had a cucumber with sea salt.

Persian cucumber

Lunch

I went shopping with my friend Tina who, thankfully, brought snacks with her. Lunch was a granola bar and an iced coffee from Starbucks (which was unphotographed but looked something like this)

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(source)

Dinner

– It started off with a delicious boxty stuffed with corned beef and cabbage from an Irish pub in Novi. I’ve never had a boxty before and I really really liked it (It’s like a potato crepe!). About 1/3 of the way through it I found a little fly in my veggies and sent the dish back.

Cabbage and Corned Beef Boxty

So dinner ended up being a Magner’s Cider at the pub and a Mill Street Brewery Wit at home.

Magner's Bottle

Mill Street Wit

Workout

Shopping! It’s cardio, I promise.

I got a cardigan (I subscribe to the philosophy that you can never have too many cardigans), an owl necklace, and a pair of earrings from Forever 21. I wore my purchases home because that’s what you do when you live in Canada, shop in the States, and don’t want to pay taxes on what you bought.

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(I wear sunglasses indoors. What?)

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Another method to avoid paying duty is make the customs officer uncomfortable by telling him you bought hundreds of dollars worth of lingerie. Try it.

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The contents of the bag are between me and Victoria.

I’m off to polish off my liquid dinner. Cheers!

18 Apr

day 82: time for a new programme

This weekend has been awesome.  Last night Matt and I had my friend Daniel as our dinner guest and I’m sitting here chowing some leftover fattoush from the Lebanese inspired dinner that I cooked.

Fattoush is basically a big chop salad with bits of seasoned pita in it and whatever veggies you feel like adding (usually romaine, tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, mint, and green onion). The dressing is pretty simple.

Fattoush Dressing (for a huge salad)

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 1/4-1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic crushed with sea salt

I love having people over for dinner. Especially when I haven’t seen them in months because they’ve been off exploring beautiful, exotic, and dangerous places like South Africa. Especially when they have some great stories to tell. And especially when they bring me back a cookbooks from said places.

I’d say I’m pretty adventurous in the kitchen, but this book might prove a challenge because it’s filled with ingredients that I can barely pronounce (my Afrikaans is a wee bit rusty) and never knew existed (I anticipate I’ll have difficulty getting my hands on the meat from the neck of an antelope). Nevertheless there are some pretty sweet recipes in here that I’m definitely going to try, like this little ditty which involves injecting vodka into a watermelon and chilling it before cutting it up.

Nothing excites me more than getting a new cookbook!


So I have officially completed my 12 week weightlifting programme. I did the same exercises for 12 weeks and every 4 weeks I decreased the number of repetitions and increased the amount of weight.

I’m really happy with my progress.In the past 4 weeks alone I’ve seen some pretty decent improvements in most of my sets, and I’m especially happy about my new “pull-up” ability.

Here’s the progress report of my calculated 1-Rep Max (excluding any ab and lower back work):

Upper Body
Exercise Week 8 – Week 12 – Improvement
1 Rep Max 1 Rep Max
Bench Press 125 lb 122 lb -2.40%
Bent-over Barbell Row 110 lb 122 lb 10.91%
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 41 lb 41 lb 0.00%
Skull Crushers 64 lb 65 lb 1.56%
Barbell Curl 62 lb 64 lb 3.23%
Chest Dips 184 lb 184 lb 0.00%
Pullups 134 lb 151 lb 12.69%
Lateral Raises 23 lb 23 lb 0.00%
Tricep Pushdown 105 lb 107 lb 1.90%
Cable Curls 93 lb 105 lb 12.90%
Dumbbell Shrugs 99 lb 87 lb -12.12%
Lower Body
Exercise Week 8 – Week 12 – Improvement
1 Rep Max 1 Rep Max
Barbell Squat 186 lb 192lb 3.23%
Deadlift 168 lb 169 lb 0.60%
Leg Extension 155 lb 180 lb 16.13%
Lying Leg Curls 81 lb 87 lb 7.41%
Standing Calf Raises 428 lb 447 lb 4.44%
Leg Press 422 lb 447 lb 5.92%
Dumbbell Lunges 50 lb 51 lb 2.00%
Seated Calf Raises 192 lb 198 lb 3.13%

So now it’s back to the drawing board for me to come up with a new programme. I’ve been sifting through some websites to try to put something together that has exercises that I didn’t incorporate into my last 12 week routine, including maybe some supersets and some burn-out sets. If you can recommend anything that you love to do at the gym, please let me know.