Friday, February 13, 2009

Zucchini Gratin

 Healthy meal, full of flavours with a crunchy topping, I am sure you will enjoy it

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion sliced
3 zucchini sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 tbsp flour
1 cup hot milk
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup of grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

in a large non stick pan warm 1 tbsp of butter and cook the onion till tender and translucent, and starts to brown, add the zucchini and another spoon of butter and stir to melt and start browning
add salt and spices. when the zucchini is light brown on both sides, move them to a gratin plate,
melt a spoon of butter and brown the flour on low heat add the milk and stir to melt completely and thickens to a sauce . Pour it over the zucchini .
in a food processor process the bread to crumbs, and mix it with the cheese , sprinkle the top of the zucchini , cut the butter into small bits and dot over the zucchini . Bake in a warm 400F oven for 25 minutes


BloggerAid CookBook

Hunger has become practically invisible in the developed world. We rarely encounter it face to face. If we do see hunger on our television screens, it is likely to be on the face of a child. It is through the eyes of a hungry child that we can best understand the incredibly debilitating nature of hunger, its erosion of a child’s body, mind, and future. Countless millions of children have enjoyed the most basic of human rights, the right to food and education, thanks to the dedication and vision of George McGovern.

Blogger Aid is a Social Network of International Food bloggers,founded by Val of More Than Burnt Toast, Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen and Ivy of Kopiaste…to Greek Hospitalilty to raise awareness and funds to alleviate hunger world wide. In there latest ambitious project, for raising funds, all foodies are invited to contribute to the Blogger Aid Cookbook.
Sales will be directed to a specific program by the World Food Programme(WFP).
Rules can be found on the forum page of the Social Network of BloggerAid. The cookbook is targeted for sale on Amazon by December 2009.

It has been decided to extend the deadline until March 31st for cookbook recipes submission. Check on BloggerAid for more information. You don't need to be a member of BloggerAid to submit a recipe . You just need a willingness to share your love of food from around the world and want to be involved in raising awareness and money for this program. There is no cost to you – just a sense of satisfaction that comes from participating in this exciting project and seeing your name and recipe in print.

100% profit from the cookbook sale will go toward the "WFP" largest areas of assistance "School Meals"

75 million primary school-aged children do not go to school
97 percent of them are in developing countries
57 percent of them are girls
150 million children drop out of school before attaining basic primary education
Check the BloggerAid for more information.


Around the world, more than 400 million school-aged children suffer from hunger. The majority of these children – most of them girls – do not attend school.
School meals programs involve just what the name implies – providing meals in schools. The idea is simple; the impact is significant. Serving food at school not only fights hunger among the world’s poorest children, it also helps get them into school, providing them with an important key to a better future – an education.

Where school meals programs are offered, enrollment and attendance rates increase significantly, particularly for girls. Students also stay in school longer. Academic performance improves as well; students with a full stomach concentrate better and comprehend material more quickly.

Through its school meals programs, WFP places special emphasis on girls' education. In areas where enrollment rates for girls are particularly low, WFP works with families and communities to help make it possible for girls to attend school. In some cases, a girl’s good attendance is rewarded with food for her family. These take-home rations can be eaten by the family or sold to make up for the loss of the girl's labor at home. This kind of program makes education affordable and encourages families to send their daughters to school.

School meals programs also help expand the reach of a number of other important activities, including de-worming campaigns and HIV/AIDS education.

Chicken Kibbee is a total new Lebanese recipe - I created it specially and dedicated as my entry for the BloggerAid CookBook.
I incorporated healthy flavours bringing the Traditional Kibbee Recipe to a new level.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gourmet Chicken and Wild Mushroom Pizza

You had a nice roasted chicken for dinner, with some leftovers in the fridge looking at You.
Oh my , you're running out of time to create a meal. what to do !!! call for delivery ??? or prepare this yummy , simple and healthy pizza!!!!

Gourmet Chicken and wild Mushroom Pizza (I)

Home made pizza dough, or store bought frozen bread dough
Home made or store bought jar of basil pesto
2 tbsp of sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup of Kalamata olives
2 cups of sliced roasted chicken
1 cup of sliced wild mushroom

If you have the time to prepare your dough:
3 cups of unbleached flour, ½ tsp of salt (I add wheat and white flour)
¼ cup of olive oil
1 ¼ warm water + 2 ½ tsp of dry yeast + 1tsp of sugar or honey
Dash of mahleb spice (optional – can be found at Middle Eastern Store, gives the dough a nice flavour and aroma)
Add the oil and salt to the flour and mix well by hand to combine and the oil is distributed , what I do I grab some flour and rub it between the palm of my hands so I don’t have lumps and at the same time you help the oil and flour to combine. I learned this trick from my mom.
Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water, stir to help dissolves quickly, when it starts to rise, add it to the flour and knead by hand to combine and turns to nice smooth dough, put it in a well oil bowl, cover and let it rise in a warm place.
Prepare your stuffing for the pizza:
Since I do my own pesto in the summer, using organic basil and pine nuts and pure olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice to keep the bright green color, I don’t add the cheese to the pesto during the preparation time, instead I add the cheese when iam serving . The cheese turns the pesto to a dark color.
Cut the chicken into small pieces or cubes, pit and slice the olives, clean and slice the wild mushroom, and cut the sun dried tomatoes into small pieces.
When the dough rises, prepare your pizza pan, and on a flour wood board, sprinkle some corn meal, and start turning your dough by hand and stretch, I don’t like to use a rolling pin, if you are good, you can throw the dough in the air couple of times to stretch it, other wise use your fingers turn and stretch keeping it round as much as you can, I dip my hand in some oil, it helps working with the dough. Brush the surface with pesto, sprinkle the chicken, mushrooms, olives and sun dried tomatoes, and bake in a hot 425F oven for 15 minutes, then take it out and sprinkle the cheese on top and return it to the oven to continue baking.

serves 4
To save time you can use store bought bread dough and jar of pesto, and jar of pitted sliced olive

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves - Yabrak Dolmas

Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and surrounding regions, including Turkey, Egypt, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, the Balkans, Greece, Iraq, Iran, Perhaps the best-known is the grape-leaf dolma, which is more precisely called yaprak dolma or sarma. Common vegetables to stuff include zucchini, eggplant, tomato and pepper. The stuffing may or may not include meat. Meat dolma are generally served warm, often with sauce; meatless ones are generally served cold, Both are often eaten with yoghurt.

Ingredients :
500 gm grape leaves(either comes fresh, frozen or in jars packed with water- I grow my own grapes and pick the leaves in the summer and freeze them for the winter)
500 gm of ground meat (50% beef - 50% lamb) or use all beef
250 gm of white short grain rice (I use basmati rice which I like better)

1 tsp Lebanese spice mix (look for my recipe) or tsp. of cinnamon, half tsp. of all spice
1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp black pepper
2-4 freshly squeezed lemons (depend on your taste) 

for serving: homemade yogurt or good quality store bought for serving. (check my recipe)
couple cloves of mashed garlic to mix with the yogurt this is optional or serve with yogurt by itself.

Fresh Ontario Lamb is not available in the stores on regular basis , only the Australian brand.
When I see a nice big piece I buy it slice it myself , divide and freeze it to use in recipes. I used 2 packages of lamb shoulders deboned and the meat is grounded and I added lean ground beef, and used the bones to make the stock to cook the grape leaves.

the instructions and preparation with photos:

the ground lamb

ground lamb , ground beef, rice and spice + (1/4 cup of water to soak the rice )
the lamb stock
leave the frozen grape leaves to defrost, don't try to flatten them before they are completely defrosted , they will break.
if you are using grape leaves from a jar, carefully take the leaves out, wash them from the salt, then boil them for two minutes as some leave are very thick .
For frozen grape leaves, boil a pot of hot water for less than one minutes, as they are picked young and tender and kept frozen they leaves are nice and tender.

Move them to a strainer to drain and cool before stuffing.
I prefer cooking my food in clay pot or ceramic. I soaked my clay pot in water for at least 15 minutes.
open the leaf and turn the back side up facing you, add around tbsp. of stuffing stretch it along the top (when you roll you will have the smooth side for cooking) close both ends over the stuffing , and roll the leaf, don't tight the roll, the rice needs to cook properly and soak the juice, it will turn dry,
also don't roll it very loose the stuffing will come out during the cooking -  adding the 1/4 cup of water to the rice stuffing mix helps the rice to open and fluff when cooking.  My aunt adds the squeezed lemons juice in the stuffing instead of the water... its a preference.

start layering the grape leave in the bottom of the pot, if the stock if very thick and gelatinous, add around two cups only and continue to cover the grape leave with water .  Other wise use all meat stock.  The water has to cover the leaves. look at the photo above.

You can easily cook it in a stainless steel pot on top of the stove, start at medium high and when it starts boiling lower the heat and continue cooking till the rice and meat are cooked completely.  a plate on top of the grape leaves secure the leaves and keep them in place not open.
Serve the Grape Leaves with home made yogurt, or Greek style yogurt.
p.s.: Instead of lamb meat you can use only ground beef and use chicken stock to cook your grape leaves.  My mom puts lamb chops or deboned chicken pieces under the grape leaves to get the maximum flavour.

You can clean core and stuff small marrow zucchini and add it to the pot, its delicious cooked together .

we prefer to use the Lebanese zucchini(marrow squash) if not available use thin bright green and small size zucchini, wash and get yourself this holler, from a Middle Eastern Store in your area. Little by little start going down and turning slowly so you can carve and pull at the same time the heart of the zucchini, making sure your hand is steady so it doesn't break the zucchini.
don't throw the inside , its delicious and healthy, mix it with eggs for omelets or make zucchini fritters .

Roasted Pigeons - Asafeer Mhamarah

Pigeons , Tabbouleh and Lebanese Red Wine

My baby brother Simon went bird's hunting with his friends end of Summer, and he had around 100 birds to bring home, they ate some and left the rest in the freezer, promising me the next feast , I will get some photos to share since this is uncommon in North America, and I would like to share with you, since its a delicacy in Europe and the Middle East.

Its very simple to prepare soon as you get your birds, boil some water and soak the birds in the hot water for couple of minutes , to help you clean the feather , then you open the stomach and clean the inside, wash them in clean cold water for couple of times using flour and lemon juice then drain them. Put in the fridge either to cook them immediately or in freezer bag to freeze.

Cooking direction

in a non stick frying pan or pot with a lid, add couple of spoons of olive oil, with couple of spoons of butter, add the birds, cover the pot and let them cook on medium heat making sure to keep your eye to turn them to the other side when browned, it will take around 15-20 minutes.

to finish the pot either squeeze 2 - 3 lemons and add them to the pot and stir to combine, or first your can add some cognac and get it on fire then add the lemon juice.

Its simple, tasty delicacy and part of the Lebanese Mezza.

1- My brother Simon hunting

2- my sister Mona and my sister in law Natalie, and my niece Miss Thea

3- my sister Madelene and mom`s hand