Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes

roasted sweet potatoes

These savory sweet potatoes are a quick and easy side for any meal. I served them up along my Thanksgivng turkey this year, and they were a big hit! The sweet potatoes wedges are tossed in my special mix of sultry and savory spices, and roasted to a delicious crisp. The cinnamon I use is a high quality organic ceylon cinnamon powder; it has a aromatic scent of spicy cinnamon and tastes superior to others I have tried. Ceylon cinnamon is also cleaner and safer, contrary to the cheaper cassia cinnamon on most local grocery store shelves. Cassia cinnamon may have a toxin within it that may effect the health of children and adults if consumed frequently. Read more about this here.  

peeling sweet potatoes

I have to mention this major tip I learned only recently because it is incredibly useful: use an actual potato peeler. It works like magic. If you have ever tried to peel or cut into a sweet potato, you know how tough it can be.  A $4 peeler is well worth it as the skin slides off like butter.

I combine cinnamon with savory onion powder, white pepper, salt, and black pepper which perfectly balances the sweet and spicy flavors of the cinnamon and the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are an ultra healthy root vegetable, with a high content in carotenoids (vitamin A), a wealth of antioxidants,  and other nutrients that reduce blood sugar levels. Additionally, the absorption of the nutrients is improved when sweet potatoes are consumed with a healthy amount of fat, such as olive oil.

chopped sweet potatoes

So eaten in moderation, this side dish is an excellent carbohydrate to add to your meals or snack repertoire and feel great about. Just be sure to use organic sweet potatoes because as a root vegetable, it would absorb a high concentration of toxins and chemicals from the soil, if it isn’t organic! 

roasted sweet potatoes
It is mandatory to roast these orange gems on a large flat dish-the more surface area the better because you get more of that roasted, browned, and slightly charred flavor. When the potatoes are layered upon each other, you will have less of that desirable crunchy and charred texture and more that is softened. Rest assured, either way it is delicious, but I would say that the crunchy, slightly charred and crispy pieces are everyone’s favorite part!

sweet potatoes

Laying out the sweet potato wedges or cubes in a larger baking sheet like this will yield crispier potatoes.

roasted sweet potatoes

peel the sweet potatoes

roasted sweet potatoes roasted sweet potatoes roasted sweet potatoes

Savory and Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4
A crunchy sweet and aromatic side of potatoes, this recipe is the perfect addition to any meal.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 3-4 large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
  2. 3 tbsp of olive oil
  3. 2 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  5. 1/2 tsp white pepper
  6. 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  7. 1 tsp onion powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree fahrenheit.
  2. With a large knife, slice the potatoes into 1 inch cubes, or wedges that are about 3/4 inch wide. The thicker the potato chunks, the longer it will take to cook and get crunchy. So this size is about perfect. If it is too small or thin, it will burn and get dry.
  3. Mix the olive oil and all the spices in a bowl.
  4. Toss the chopped potatoes in the bowl until well coated. Add extra oil if necessary.
  5. Spread the potatoes evenly on a large, flat pan, avoiding any overlapping.
  6. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender and golden.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and remove from pan with a large spatula.
Notes
  1. Serve this along with your favorite steak, chicken, fish, or just as a delicious and healthy snack!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Chicken Pane (Egyptian breaded chicken)

chicken pane with onions

This dish is easily a favorite for all in our family, a comfort food that triggers nostalgia, and a delicious and easy recipe to include in every kitchen! The chicken is juicy and tender, with a crunchy and flavorful outer crust. 

Chicken pane is classic Egyptian recipe of breaded, fried chicken. The flavors are somehow juicier and zestier than what I have tried in the classic American fried chicken counterparts, although both are equally delicious in their own regard. This chicken is softer crunch, with a more flavorful bite. I also use this recipe on smaller strips of chicken tenderloins to make chicken strips or chicken nuggets for the kids, and this is a favorite for all! The name chicken pane, comes from the French word meaning bread crumbs. It turns out when Napolean came to Egypt, the French occupation left some flavorful influences. It is not uncommon to find French influence on Egyptian cuisine, language, and music. Because I love all things Parisian, I don’t mind throwing in this tidbit about my parents’ beautiful home country. 

chicken pane plated egg wash and salt

To make this dish, you need boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into two pieces, and filleted in half (sometimes into thirds, if it is especially thick). It is essential to marinate the chicken in onions, garlic, salt, and pepper overnight or for a couple of hours at the very least! This is what makes the chicken extra juicy and flavorful. 

marinate chicken onions

Once you have your marinated chicken breasts prepared, it is most efficient to set up of an assembly line of 3 bowls: one bowl of flour, one bowl of egg wash, and one bowl of bread crumbs. It is helpful to use a large, deep bowl for the breadcrumb mixture, so that you can easily toss and shake the chicken breast to coat it well. The final destination is a large pan with oil. I like to use a mediterranean oil blend I get at Costco that includes sunflower oil, grape seed oil, and olive oil. This oil combination definitely tastes better than vegetable oil and it won’t burn as easily, but any will work. If I am making smaller chicken strips or simply want a healthier dish, I lay these on a pan lined with foil and bake it. Check out this great demo for coating the chicken pane. 

breading chicken pane

The breads crumbs mixture is combined with some panko crumbs and a delicious combo of seasoning: salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, onion salt, and garlic powder. Sometimes I add minced parsley. 

The final step seems obvious: fry the chicken. However, I consider it mandatory to lay it on a plate lined with some paper towel as soon as you remove it from the pan. Maybe it’s the blot-the-oil-off-your-pizza high-schooler in me, but I find that this makes it lighter and tastier without the greasiness. But again, you could certainly bake this in the oven if you choose! Baking steers away from the traditional recipe and flavor, but it still works. I promise. Just brush the baking pan with some oil and turn the chicken over mid-way. This ensures a crispy golden crust. 

fried chicken pane chicken pane with salad

Chicken Pane
Serves 6
This is a juicy and flavorful breaded chicken with a crunchy and delicious crust.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Ingredients
  1. 3 lbs of chicken breast, filleted and cut in half
  2. 1.5 cups of bread crumbs
  3. 1.5 cups panko crumbs
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1 tbsp water
  6. 1 large onion, sliced or blended
  7. 4 garlic cloves minced
  8. 2 tbsp salt
  9. 1 tsp pepper
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika
  11. 1/2 tsp oregano
  12. 1 tsp onion salt
  13. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  14. 1/4 cup sunflower or grape seed oil (or any oil for frying)
  15. 1/2 cup flour
Instructions
  1. Cover the chicken breasts with the onion and minced garlic, 1 tbsp of salt, and 1 tsp of pepper and marinate over night.
  2. Crack the eggs in a bowl and whip with the water.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the breadcrumbs, panko crumbs, and remaining salt, pepper, and spices.
  4. Pour the flour in a third bowl.
  5. Add the oil to a pan and turn to medium-high heat. The oil does not need to fully cover the chicken, as you will be pan frying it on each side.
  6. Remove the pieces of chicken breast from the marination mixture one at a time and dip it into each bowl you have prepared. So first dust with the flour (shake off any excess flour), then dip into the egg wash so that it is coated on both sides, then dip into the bowl of breadcrumbs to coat completely. Shake off the excess and place it in the pan.
  7. Cook the chicken on one side in the pan until golden, and then flip it. This takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat for each piece of chicken, and add more oil if necessary.
  8. Remove the chicken after it is golden and place onto a plate lined with paper towel.
  9. Serve garnished with red onions, parsley, or other vegetables you prefer.
Notes
  1. You may bake the chicken in the oven at 375 degree F. Simply place the chicken on a pan brushed with oil and flip half way through the cook time. Cook 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the chicken.
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Green Bean Stew (Fasulya)

Green bean stew

Serve over rice or your favorite grain.

 

This is such a delicious and simple recipe, you will want to add it to your favorites and quick dinners repertoire. The recipe is a classic Egyptian stew eaten in most Middle Eastern homes throughout various countries in the region. There are sure to be variations, but the main ingredients along with the green beans are crushed tomatoes seasoned with onions, garlic, and crushed coriander seed. Some people cook this with lamb or beef stew, and others keep it entirely vegetarian. I prefer to prepare this flavorful stews as a vegetarian recipe whenever possible as I am trying to be a more conscious consumer and cut down on the amount of meat butchered in the world, both for environmental and health reasons. Besides, dishes like this fasulya, my Sipinagh (spinach stew), mulokhia, or stuffed zucchini and peppers are already so tasty and hearty without the meat; you really do not need it. 

You need green beans, of course. Because these are the main ingredient, and play the starring role, these guys need to be of superb quality. Some people use frozen cut green beans, which is fine. If you do use frozen, make sure it is cut only horizontally (not french cut).  French cut green beans are thinly sliced, or julienne, vertically which is too thin for this stew, and all the juicy little beans will leak out, making a stringy mess of a stew. You want a nice full green bean, simply cut in half to be shorter in length. 

fresh cut green beans

Cut the green beans in half, or in thirds if they are long.

Fasulya ingredients

Green beans, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce.

While using frozen may be faster and more convenient, you will really enjoy this dish with some freshly picked, crunchy summer green beans! Simply cut off the stemmy ends and cut in half, or in thirds if the bean is particularly long. This is really the most tedious part of the recipe (which isn’t all too tedious at all), so you may want to enlist some help from the kids to do this part (a plastic knife works fine). My kids love to help and are more likely to eat when they have “cooked” the meal; so try to include the children whenever possible.  

The stew is ready to be prepared once you have a crushed tomato sauce from either freshly blended tomatoes or a jar of crushed tomatoes. You will sauté the onions and garlic with the coriander, until fragrant. If meat is being used, you also add it in the beginning to brown it, before adding the tomatoes.  Once the onions and coriander have scented your kitchen and have sizzled golden, pour in the crushed tomatoes. In Egyptian kitchens, the infamous chicken bouillon cube called Maggi is often used. I have forbidden this mysterious and magical concoction of MSG and sodium from my kitchen for a variety of reasons, so I use good ole’ chicken broth instead. I use Saffron Road’s Artisan Roasted chicken broth which flavors the stew perfectly. Let it simmer until all the flavors have come together and add the cut green beans for the last 20-30 minutes of cook time. 

 

Serve with rice or your favorite grain, and enjoy!

Green Bean Stew (Fasulya)
A hearty and flavorful tomato broth stew with savory green beans, onions, and garlic.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 pounds fresh green beans, stems cut off ends
  2. 1.5 cup crushed tomatoes
  3. 1 tbsp crushed coriander seed
  4. 1 large onion, diced (3/4 cup diced)
  5. 3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  6. 1 tsp fresh crushed garlic
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  9. 1 tbsp olive oil
  10. 1.5 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  11. 1 lb meat or lamb stew (optional) + 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  12. fresh cilantro leaves and stems for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Wash the green beans thoroughly, and cut in half to shorten the length. It may be necessary to cut some into thirds if they are long. Do not cut vertically.
  2. Sautee the onions in the olive oil, over medium-high heat until yellow. Slowly stir in the crushed coriander seed, until fragrant. Be careful not to scorch the spice.
  3. If you are cooking with stew meat, add it now with the salt and pepper and brown.
  4. Add the crushed and sliced garlic. Stir well as garlic browns quickly and may burn. Add the crushed tomatoes before the garlic burns.
  5. Add water if you are cooking meat. If no meat, simply add the broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
  6. If you are cooking with meat, simmer for an hour. If you did not add meat, allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes before adding the green beans.
  7. Add the green beans and a few stems of cilantro for flavor and simmer on medium for 20-30 minutes until they are tender. Taste the sauce and season with more salt if needed. Remove the cilantro stems after cooking if you do not want to eat the stems.
  8. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
Notes
  1. If you added meat, the cook time will increase. The sauce will need to be diluted with more water to allow enough liquid for the meat to cook well. Let the sauce simmer for at least an hour before adding the green beans.
Adapted from Mom and Neveen Aref
Adapted from Mom and Neveen Aref
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Roasted Sumac Chicken (Mediterranean Chicken)

Garnish with sumac sprinkled on top for an extra citrus kick.

Garnish with sumac sprinkled on top for an extra citrus kick.

I was in the mood for a delicious roasted chicken. I love the flavor of sumac with onions so I decided to rub a fresh whole roaster all over with some of these fantastic flavors. The result was a juicy, incredibly flavorful chicken! I surrounded the chicken with yellow potatoes and plenty of onion slices, which are very important for delivering that delicious citrusy sumac flavor. This dish is reminiscent of a popular chicken dish from the Levant, called Mm’sakhan (yes, pronounced with a mmmm in the beginning for good reason 😉 ). Mm’sakhan also involves some delicious toasted pita bread and pine nuts…but that is another post. This roasted sumac chicken is an incredibly easy dish to prepare with the same great flavors. It takes less than 10 minutes to dress the chicken, and then you just let the magic happen in the oven while you do a few other things.

Sumac is a gorgeous reddish-purple Middle Eastern spice that comes from crushed flowers. You can find sumac spice in an international or Middle Eastern store (obviously), as well as some specialty stores that carry international spices. I could not find it at the local Whole Foods, however. Sumac is also that special spice Arabs use in zaatar bread, spinach pies, and Arabic salad dressings such as Fattoush. It has a strong citrusy, tangy flavor that is perfect over chicken or fish. Every chef should include sumac in their culinary repertoire!

Sumac

First I dressed the chicken with a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and a lot of sumac and paprika. Then I also generously rubbed sumac and paprika ALL OVER the chicken. It is essential to rub underneath the skin, right onto the flesh. This gets the chicken’s flavors to really stand out and keeps it very juicy and delicious. Be sure to surround the chicken with plenty of sliced onions and sprinkle them as well with the seasoning.

 

Surround the chicken with potato wedges and sliced onions.

Surround the chicken with potato wedges and sliced onions.

Mix lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, sumac, crushed garlic, and olive oil to dress the chicken.

Mix lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, sumac, crushed garlic, and olive oil to dress the chicken.

roasted sumac chicken

Stuff the chicken with onions and the remaining lemon halves, to infuse the chicken as it roasts.

Cover the chicken with foil, and let it roast for 1-2 hours, depending on its size. Then remove the foil at the end and let it broil for about 10 more minutes to get a nice golden crust. Be careful not to scorch or dry out the chicken. I find it well worth it to purchase a meat thermometer, so that you could measure when you reach the desired internal temperature (160 F) and not overcook the chicken.

 

 

roasted sumac chicken roasted sumac chicken

 roasted sumac Chicken

Roasted Sumac Chicken
A delicious citrusy roasted chicken, surrounded by lemony potatoes and tangy onions.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
2 hr 15 min
Total Time
2 hr 25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
2 hr 15 min
Total Time
2 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. one whole roaster chicken (pasture raised is best), neck and insides removed
  2. 2 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1-2 lemons, juiced
  4. 3 tsp salt
  5. 1/2 tsp pepper
  6. 2 tsp paprika
  7. 3 tbsp sumac, plus garnish
  8. 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  9. 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  10. 1 lb yellow potatoes cut into medium wedges
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and place the rack in the center.
  2. Place the chicken in a large oven-safe dish, and surround it with the potatoes and onions. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over everything.
  3. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, crushed garlic,1 tablespoon of sumac, 1 teaspoon of paprika, remaining salt and pepper, and the olive oil. Pour evenly all over the chicken, rubbing some underneath the skin.
  4. Use the remaining sumac and paprika and rub it directly onto the chicken skin, as well as underneath it. Sprinkle sumac on the potatoes and onions as well.
  5. Put the leftover lemon halves and some onions inside the cavity of the chicken, to infuse it as it roasts.
  6. Cover with foil and roast for 90 minutes-2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken. Internal temperature should be 160 degrees F. Once internal temperature is achieved, remove foil and broil under high for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is golden.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven, and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. Sprinkle chicken pieces with sumac to garnish when serving.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Creamy lentil soup (shorbat ads)

Shorba means soup in Arabic. Ads means lentils, so shorbat ads translates literally into soup of lentils.

shorbat ads with lemon and pita

This popular soup is a Ramadan staple and will be found at Iftar (the daily meal of breaking the fast during Ramadan) tables quite frequently in the Arab world. It is a beautiful, creamy, yellow soup that is both hearty and healthy. It is naturally vegetarian and vegan, has virtually no fat, and is full of heart healthy fiber and vegetables. So almost every diet will love incorporating this dish.

Red or orange lentils

Shorbat Ads or yellow lentil soup

Garnish with cilantro and paprika; serve with pita chips and lemon.

yellow lentil soup

 

The velvety texture might surprise you because there is no fat, milk, or cream added. The orange lentils, along with the aromatic root vegetables of carrot, onion, and garlic are what scent and flavor this delicious soup. I’ve already discussed what a fantastic legume lentils are for your diet in my recipe for lentil  pilaf, and you can read more health benefits here. This creamy lentil soup is often found in many Middle Eastern restaurants nowadays, and while the flavors can vary, this is surely going to be the best recipe. The recipe comes straight from my Egyptian grandmother’s kitchen (Teta), God rest her soul. While turmeric is used in many modern recipes today, it is actually not a part of this authentic recipe. I presume it is used to boost the yellow color, and it certainly does not hurt to add it. I use it because I have it, but it will dye your wooden spoons yellow 😀 Chopped tomatoes are added to the recipe to boost the flavor and the secret ingredient I incorporate is chicken or vegetable stock. Water is perfectly fine, but I find the broth gives an extra boost of flavor. I don’t use any Maggie cubes or other MSG catch all seasoning with who-knows-what in it, so I definitely prefer the flavors added by the tomato, broth, and root vegetables. 

Root vegetables: carrot, onion, garlic, tomato

The flavor companions clockwise: yellow onion, carrots, garlic, tomato.

root vegetables and tomato

The delicious base of this soup’s fantastic flavor starts by simply tossing the vegetables in some olive oil over medium heat, just until fragrant. Pour in the broth or water, the lentils, and spices and you’re pretty much done. 

shredded carrots 2014-06-30sugarandgarlic2014-9 2014-06-30sugarandgarlic2014-10

sauteed vegetables

Lightly sauté in a teaspoon of olive oil until fragrant.

let it simmer...

Let it simmer…

 

 This soup quickly simmers until the lentils break down into a creamy consistency, which takes all but 20 minutes. The orange shelled lentils cook soft very quickly,  unlike their brown shelled counterparts. So be sure to use the correct lentils.

washing and sorting lentils

Be sure to sort and wash the lentils carefully.

Soup simmering.

Simmer on low, until thickened.

Puree the soup.

Puree with an immersion blender.

I then puree the entire mixture once it is cooked soft, into a thick and velvety consistency. The soup thickens significantly when sitting so be sure to stir in some extra water over low heat before serving if this happens. Like many grandmothers love to do, my Teta went the extra mile and added another step to make this soup REALLY lip smacking good. In another pot, she would brown some delicious tiny vermicelli noodles (sha3reya in Arabic) in butter, then pour the pureed soup over it and simmer until the noodles are cooked. This tastes really great and adds a nice texture.  However, I typically omit this step because I am trying to keep the soup healthy and paleo- and mostly because I don’t want to wash another pot! But I will usually do this for guests because it makes the soup extra special 😀

I serve with pita chips on the side, which is optional.

yellow lentil soup. Dip a pita chip. Dip a pita chip.

Fresh squeezed lemon juice is a must, if you ask me!

Lemon on soup.

Squeeze some lemon juice.

Lemon on soup.

Enjoy! Bil Hana wil Shifaa (Arabic for with health and healing)

Creamy Lentil Soup- Shorbat Ads
Serves 4
A creamy lentil soup full of flavor and healthy vegetables is hearty and filling!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of red lentils (they are actually orange, but called red:)
  2. 3 cups of broth (or water)
  3. 4 cups of water, plus more to thin later
  4. 1 tsp cumin
  5. 1/2- 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  6. pinch of pepper
  7. pinch of turmeric (optional)
  8. 2 large carrots, shredded
  9. 1 tomato, diced
  10. 1 yellow onion, diced
  11. 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  12. 1 tsp olive oil
Instructions
  1. First sort the lentils for any stones, grains, or sand. Wash thoroughly and drain.
  2. In a large pot, over high heat, add the olive oil and vegetables and toss lightly until fragrant. Do not brown it.
  3. Immediately add the lentils, broth, water, and spices. Stir well.
  4. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce to medium-low heat. Allow it to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, uncovered.
  5. Once the lentils are softened and cooked, puree with a blender, and remove from heat. If the soup looks too thick to you, you can add more water over low hear and stir until homogenous.
  6. Serve immediately with lemon wedges, and optionally pita chips.
Notes
  1. Soup will thicken when it sits or when refrigerated. Simply add some water when reheating, and stir.
Adapted from Teta and Mom
Adapted from Teta and Mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Malfoof or Mahshy Krom-b)

stuffed cabbage, or malfoof

 One of the best dishes to originate from Middle Eastern cuisine, this delicious and savory blend of rice, fresh herbs and tomatoes wrapped in a juicy cabbage leaf will leave everyone begging for more! This healthy dish is easily an all time favorite and comfort food for many people. While making it is no simple feat, once you get through peeling and prepping the cabbage leaves the rest of this recipe is one of the easiest! Really. 

In Egypt, we call this dish “Mahshy Kromb”[Mah-shee Ko-romB], which literally means “stuffed cabbage”. In most else of the Arab world, particularly the Levant region, this dish is called “malfoof”, which literally means “rolled” or “wrapped”. Another important difference in this dish prepared in Egypt versus the rest of the Arab world, is that we make it completely vegetarian and full of aromatic herbs. However, in Palestine and Syria for example, it is usually prepared with meat. I of course, combine the best of both worlds. Although I must say I actually prefer the flavor of the vegetarian version; the singular focus on herbs is more flavorful and fragrant than its meat counterpart. In this I combine dill, parsley, and cilantro with rice sautéed in tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cumin with some lean ground beef. This is one delectable dish everyone MUST try!

cabbage and vegetables

fresh ingredients

 The first step is to prepare the stuffing mixture. If you are adding beef, you want to leave enough time for the rice mixture to completely cool off before adding the raw meat so that it doesn’t begin to partially cook in the warm temperature of the rice. If you aren’t adding beef, you still want this mixture to cool off so that you can stuff the cabbage leaves easily and not scorch your fingers. Sauté the onions, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil until they are soft, fragrant, and begin to yellow a bit. Toss in the rice and tomato paste so that it is all well coated. You then add all the chopped fresh herbs. At this point it will smell incredible; try to refrain from eating all the stuffing mixture. Remember we still need to stuff the cabbage leaves before you enjoy this 😉 Set aside to cool.

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil.

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil.

...add tomatoes

…add tomatoes

Stir in the rice and tomato paste.

Stir in the rice and tomato paste.

Add the rice, herbs, and tomato paste. Yum! It smells amazing at this point.

Add the  herbs, and tomato paste. Yum! It smells amazing at this point.

Now you need to prepare your cabbage leaves. The trick to success here is picking the right cabbage and separating the leaves. Finding a “good” cabbage with tender leaves seems to be all luck, at least in Chicago. Reportedly, there are much better cabbages to use in the Middle East and it is very hard to come by them here in the US. The leaves of the cabbages grown here are larger, thicker, and coarser. Nonetheless, you can find a good cabbage by picking a young green one, with what looks like softer, smaller leaves. But again, its all luck-for me and many I know anyway. If you have a good source for picking or buying the right cabbage, please do share it below! I happen to find the best cabbages at a Middle Eastern market or Mexican grocery store, so if you have any in your neighborhood definitely check those out.  As for separating the leaves, I have a very simple way to do so. You need a large enough pot to submerge the cabbage in water, a knife, a fork, and tongs. I first core out the rough center of the cabbage with a knife and pull it out. After washing thoroughly, and pulling off the rough outer leaves, I boil the cabbage for about 3 minutes. Then using tongs and a fork, I start to pull away the leaves and placing them in a colander to drain. You do not want to cook down the leaves in this step! We are simply blanching them to facilitate the separation of the leaves and to slightly soften them. 

how to core a cabbage

Cut around the core on the bottom, and push the knife in deeper each time you circle around.

How to core a cabbage

Then pull the core out, by wiggling it out with the knife and your fingers.

green cabbage

Pull off the outer leaves.

Boil the cabbage for only 3 minutes.

Boil the cabbage for only 3 minutes.

2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-3

 

Begin to pull the leaves off with tongs and a fork.

Begin to pull the leaves off with tongs and a fork. 

Allow the leaves to cool and drain for a few minutes.

Allow the leaves to cool and drain for a few minutes.

Prepare the leaf by cutting off or shaving down the thick stem of the leaf.

Prepare the leaf by cutting off or shaving down the thick stem of the leaf.

If it is a large leaf, just cut it into two pieces and remove the thick stalk in the center.

If it is a large leaf, just cut it into two pieces and remove the thick stalk in the center.

 Once you have the leaves prepared, it’s smooth sailing from here. Kids can help with the rest; it’s that easy. Place a spoon of the rice mixture in the center, and roll the leaves up like a tight cigar or burrito. Line the bottom of the pot with several thick slices of potatoes to protect the cabbage from scorching, and begin to stack the rolled cabbage leaves, filling up one layer at a time. 

fill the cabbage leaf

rolling cabbage leaves 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-46 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-47 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-52 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-53 stack the cabbage leaves into a pot

Finally, pour the cooking liquid (tomato sauce, water, and seasoning) over the rolled leaves and cook to perfection. After the pot comes to a boil, simmer on low for about 35 minutes. Cooking time varies so watch the liquid so that you do not burn your delicate cabbage rolls! 

Cover the leaves with a plate while it boils to keep everything in place.

Cover the leaves with a plate while it boils to keep everything in place.

Remove the plate once you turn down the heat, and cover with a lid.

Remove the plate once you turn down the heat, and cover with a lid.

The cooked product, after about 35 minutes. Cooking time varies so watch the liquid so that you do not burn your delicate cabbage rolls!

The cooked product, after about 35 minutes. Cooking time varies so watch the liquid so that you do not burn your delicate cabbage rolls!

Congratulations! You have made one of the most delicious dishes ever invented.  

2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-37

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (malfoof)
Serves 4
A flavorful and delectable treat enjoyed through out the Middle East, featuring an herb savory rice filling wrapped in sweet cabbage leaves.
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Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1-2 green cabbages
  2. 2 c medium grain rice
  3. 2 bunch of dill (1 c chopped)
  4. 1-2 bunch of parsley (1 c chopped)
  5. 1 bunch of cilantro (1/2 c chopped)
  6. 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh, not canned)
  7. 3 tbsp tomato paste
  8. 1 tsp cumin, plus 1/2 tsp for cooking liquid
  9. 1 tsp coriander
  10. 2 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp extra if adding meat
  11. 1 tsp black pepper, plus 1 tsp extra if adding meat
  12. 1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
  13. 1-2 onions, diced
  14. 1 lb lean ground beef (optional)
  15. 3 tbsp olive oil
  16. 3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, over medium heat, sauté the chopped onions in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft. Add the garlic once the onions begins to soften. Add the diced tomatoes, rice, and spices (cumin, coriander, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp of black pepper). Stir well until well coated.
  2. Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste to the mixture and stir well. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Add all of the chopped parsley, dill, and cilantro to the rice mixture.
  4. If adding beef, add it to the rice mixture only after it has completely cooled so that you do not partially cook the meat in the heat of the rice (this will make an unfavorable smell and texture). Add the extra salt and pepper to the beef. If you want to make some cabbage without meat, skip the meat for now, and add it later.
  5. In a large stock pot, boil enough water to cover the entire cabbage when immersed.
  6. Cut out the core of the cabbage and remove any thick outer leaves. Wash it very well.
  7. Immerse the cabbage into the pot of water and allow it to boil for only about 2-3 minutes. Then begin to pull off leaves using a fork and tongs. Place each leaf you pull off into a colander to drain. Continue doing this until you have removed all the leaves. Rinse off with cold water and set aside to drain.
  8. Take one leaf at a time to prepare for rolling. Shave off the thick stalk of the cabbage leaf (see picture), or you may completely cut out the stem with a knife, leaving a v-shaped opening in the leaf. Simply overlap the two sides of the leaf to close this gap. If the leaf is large enough, you could even cut it into two smaller leaves.
  9. Place the leaf on a plate, with the vines of the leaf against the plate. Place a tablespoon of the rice mixture onto the leaf, and roll up like a burrito or cigar. There is no need to fold in the sides as the leaves are thick and will hold shape. However, I like to fold in the sides halfway through my roll, just to keep them all neat and nice :)
  10. Place each rolled leaf into a wide and deep pot, lined with potato slices on the bottom to prevent the leaves from scorching and sticking.
  11. After you have stacked all the cabbage leaves in the pot, prepare the cooking liquid. Combine 2 cups of water with 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp of cumin, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tbsp of tomato paste.
  12. Cover the cabbage leaves with a weighted plate, so that they do not float and move around and become undone when you pour the liquid over. Slowly pour the liquid over the plate until it sifts through down to the cabbage leaves and covers them.
  13. Turn the heat on to medium-high and allow the pot to come to a boil. Once it boils, turn it down to low and remove the plate carefully with tongs (its hot!). Cover with a lid and cook for about 30-45 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  14. Allow the cabbage rolls to cool for about 15 minutes, then serve warm.
  15. Bil hana wil Shifaa! (With health and healing!)
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

 

Egyptian Mulokhia, a super food (Jews mallow; Jute leaves)

jews mallow, jute, mulokhia

Mulokhia, or Jews Mallow is a popular dish in Egypt.

Do you know about this super food? This dish is a classic favorite for Egyptians and is prepared in its uniquely flavored broth and usually served over rice, or with pita bread. Its savory, garlicky flavor is an instant hit and its slipper texture makes it perfect for use in soup and sauces. This dish is outstanding in flavor, and less known for how incredibly nutritious it is, and most importantly very easy to prepare! Mulokhia leaves are incredibly nutrient dense leafy greens full of  phytonutrients that support heart health, immunity, bone health, and anti-inflammation, which may be why this dish used to only be served to the royals and Pharaohs of Egypt.  These super greens are said to have more beta carotene and calcium than spinach, kale, and broccoli, and are also rich in Vitamins A, C, E, K as well as selenium and iron. If only Popeye knew about these leaves!

Mulokhia is not commonly grown or sold in the US, but it is easy to find in the frozen aisle of any Middle Eastern market, as it is a staple. The frozen leaves tastes just as great and as fresh, and they are a lot easier than all the work of picking and mincing. There are two kinds of mulokhia in the frozen aisle, and for this Egyptian version you must use the minced leaves, not the whole. 

 mulokhia, molokhia molokhia with chicken

Mulokhia is one of the first greens I have introduced to both of my babies, and they absolutely LOVED it. It is perfect for babies starting solids because it is minced and served as an easy to swallow soup. Needless to say, it is a favorite in my household and I am glad it is so easy to prepare.  Egyptians always use the minced mulokhia leaves to prepare this recipe, and visions of my grandmother chopping the fresh leaves with an old fashioned mezzaluna blade is a great memory that makes this dish the ultimate nostalgic comfort food. 

 

chicken broth

Boil bone-in chicken legs with cardamom, salt, pepper, and bay leaves to make your own broth.

To start, you need a good chicken broth. Insert here your preferred source, but I always love making my own broth with a whole chicken or a few chicken legs and later enjoying the freshly cooked, then roasted chicken along with my mulokhia. Simply boil a whole chicken or a few bone-in legs with an onion, cardamom, bay leaves, salt and pepper for 30-60 minutes. You could also enjoy this as a vegan dish however, by using a vegetable broth, which will work just as perfectly.

The savored and distinct flavor and scent of mulokhia is achieved when you make the “taqliyya” (which means fried mixture in Arabic). In Egypt, you will often find this scent wafting from homes as you pass them by as this is a favorite traditional dinner served weekly. Simply sauté about 10 beautiful cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil with 2 tablespoons of ground coriander seed. The smell in your kitchen will lure every one in, but no worries you are almost done! Once you stir this garlic-coriander mixture into the broth, place the frozen mulokhia block into the broth and stir it every so often until it has melted. It is important to not over-boil this soup, as the leaves may end up sinking and separating from the broth and you will not have the homogenous consistency that is desired. 

garlic and ground coriander

The “taqliyya” : Sautee crushed garlic and coriander to make the amazing flavor that scents the mulokhia.

garlic and coriander mulokhia

I like to pan fry or oven roast the chicken I used to make the broth by rubbing it with garlic, salt, and pepper, then searing it in lemon and onions. Yummy!

pan fry chicken with garlic and onions

Serve the mulokhia with rice or pita, and you may eat with roasted chicken on the side. Sometimes, when I wish to take a healthier route than white rice, I use quinoa as a side. Bil hana wil Shifa! (With health and healing!)

 2014-03-04sugarandgarlic2014-7 molokhia

Egyptian Mulokhia (jews mallow)
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Cook Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable stock
  2. 1 package of frozen minced mulokhia leaves
  3. 2-3 tbsp minced garlic
  4. 2 tbsp ground coriander
  5. 1 tbsp olive oil or butter (ghee is traditional)
  6. 1-2 tsp salt, to taste
  7. 1/4 tsp black pepper
  8. white rice (optional)
  9. pita bread (optional)
  10. roasted chicken (optional)
Instructions
  1. Boil the broth in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil. Add the ground coriander and stir until browned, being careful not to scorch or burn the garlic. Remove from heat after 3 minutes.
  3. Pour a ladle of the broth over the garlic mixture so that it sizzles together, and stir. Pour the entire garlic mixture into the larger pot of broth and stir well.
  4. Add the frozen mulokhia block into the broth (no need to thaw). Stir every few minutes until it has dissolved and melted into the broth. Simmer for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Do not over-boil as this will compromise the homogenous consistency of the soup.
  5. Serve over rice, with pita, or with chicken. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. My mom sometimes adds a dash of tomato sauce to the broth which gives another great flavor, if you are looking for variations.
Adapted from Dear mom
Adapted from Dear mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Veggie Tuna Salad

This is a refreshing and filling veggie tuna salad that you can eat on its own right out of the bowl, or you can wrap it into a flat bread for a quick and easy sandwich, or melt some provolone cheese over it to make a warm and toasty tuna melt! Yum!

tuna saladThis tuna salad is so easy to make with fresh ingredients and lots of flavor. We load up on veggies that give this a nice crunch. The recipe is an inspiration based on a green bean tuna salad recipe written by the fabulous Giada de Laurentiss and made for me by a more fabulous friend:) I made this at home with some of my fresh and favorite veggies: red bell peppers, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes, and parsley . I omitted red potatoes to reduce the carbs and cooking steps, used fresh crunchy green beans, and added some kick with chopped fennel instead of celery. This was awesome.

Oh and I use plenty of fresh squeezed lemons, almost 1 whole lemon per can of tuna. In my book, the more lemon the better. But it is possible to add too much lemon so don’t get carried away!

I use “Wild Planet” tuna, which is a brand I love because it is sustainably caught (pole and troll), non GMO, no liquids or fillers are added (as is with the common Chicken of the Sea and other major brands), and it is stored in BPA free cans. There are also many other wonderful healthful varieties stored in olive oil. You want to avoid the kinds stored in water, because many of the heart healthy omega 3 fats are lost and nutrients are not retained as well (neither is the taste actually). I use about 5 6 oz cans in the recipe which is enough to feed at least 5 adults; the volume is tripled with all the fresh chopped vegetable ingredients we add!

chopped veggies

parsley, tomatoes, scallions, and garlic

Tuna salad veggies; in this variation I included chopped asparagus!

Tuna salad veggies; in this variation I included chopped asparagus!

If you let your kids dice and stir this salad with you, they are always more likely to eat what they make. They always love the bright colors in the salad too.

green bean tuna salad

red bell pepper

red bell pepper and diced fennel

tomatoes and garlic

layers of flavor with tomatoes and garlic

Veggie Tuna Salad
A fresh and delicous tuna salad that is heart healthy and easy to make in no time!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 4-5 6 oz cans of tuna, packed in olive oil
  2. 2 red bell peppers, diced
  3. 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  4. 1/2 cup fresh fennel, diced
  5. 1 cup of fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  6. 1 cup tomatoes, diced
For the dressing
  1. 3/4-1 c fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1/4 tsp black pepper
  4. 1/2 tsp cumin
  5. 1/2 c olive oil
  6. 2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Toss all the chopped ingredients with the tuna in a large bowl.
  2. Stir the dressing together and pour all over the tuna salad.
  3. Serve in wraps, on toast, on crackers, or eat it as it is as a healthy and filling salad!
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Garden Vegetable Linguine

This delicious linguine pasta dish features spinach, pea shoots, onion, and garlic, with some hearty portabella mushrooms and sweet red bell peppers. 

vegetable pasta

Pasta is such an essential go-to dish to create a flavorful and easy meal with a variety of vegetables and fresh ingredients. I love me a good farm-to- table meal; and these fresh chopped veggies from the farmer’s market are the perfect companions to pasta linguine. Even better, this a fast and easy quick meal, and even the busiest of us can whip up this gourmet dinner in no time!

sliced mushrooms and onions

Pasta has been getting the cold shoulder a lot lately with the ever increasing popularity of gluten free and low carb diets. Even I personally have been limiting my carbs lately and trying to eat a lot more whole and raw foods, but there will ALWAYS be a place for pasta in my life. The key is to utilize it as a vehicle for the fabulous fresh vegetables and sauces you create. My kids love to eat pasta, and I love to give it to them loaded with nutritious vegetables and ingredients.

Pasta is also an excellent dish when you need a carb loaded meal to give a boost of energy such as at the end of a long Ramadan day of fasting!

I love this recipe because it is fast, fresh, and easy. No sooner than you finish reading this post, you can whip up this quick gourmet meal.

sautee mushrooms in garlic oil

Sautee the mushrooms and peppers in the garlic oil.

add spinach and pea shoots

Add the spinach and pea shoots at the very end.

I simply use inspiration from the fresh produce available. At the farmer’s market I picked up some pea shoots for the first time (at the suggestion of my friend), fresh spinach leaves, portabella mushrooms, red bell peppers and tomatoes.  I made a quick marinara sauce with all the tomatoes I got, then used the remainder of the vegetables to make a delicious rainbow of textures and flavor. I always start by sautéing some onions or garlic, in some olive oil or in this case both. Then add in the mushrooms and peppers until they start to become tender, and add the leafy spinach and pea shoots at the end so that they do not get too soft and release water. I toss this fabulous mixture with the pasta and drizzle my delicious homemade marinara over it, and we have a gorgeous and colorful meal in no time!

toss in linguine

Like a classic Italian chef, toss the linguine in all the delicious ingredients.

Garnish with fresh basil or parsley. Bon a petit! 

 

 

garden vegetable pasta

Garden Vegetable Linguine
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Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
13 min
Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
13 min
Ingredients
  1. 6-8 portabella mushrooms (2 cups sliced)
  2. 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  3. 1/2 cup pea shoots, parsley, or scallions (optional)
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1/2 cup marinara sauce or sliced tomatoes
  6. 1/2 onion, sliced
  7. 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  8. 2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 1 lb linguine pasta
  10. salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt)
Instructions
  1. Boil the linguine pasta in water with olive oil until al dente (about 8 minutes), and drain.
  2. While the pasta boils, slice the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. The spinach only need a rough chop; it will decrease in size considerably over the heat.
  3. Sautee the onion and garlic slices in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and toss for about 1 minute. If using fresh tomato slices instead of marinara, add the tomato slices. Add the spinach and pea shoots and toss gently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Remove from heat and immediately toss in the linguine pasta. If using the marinara sauce, toss in the sauce at this point. Serve hot.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

The Best Marinara Sauce (from scratch)

This is not only extremely easy and fast to make, but the best recipe yet. I love a good marinara sauce because it is so basic and essential in so many recipes: spaghetti, linguine, lasagne, casserole, grilled vegetables, shrimp stir-fry, stuffed zucchini and peppers,  eggplant parmesan, and the list goes on! Every chef needs this in their repertoire and in their kitchen.

best marinara sauce

With a zesty base of herbs and balsamic vinegar simply simmer tomatoes, onions, and garlic!

Not only is this easy and delicious, it comes from fresh, whole organic tomatoes. I was surprise at how many “from scratch” recipes for marinara included the use of canned tomatoes. I love eating clean and using fresh tomatoes to make this aromatic sauce, and nothing smells more amazing than a home with the scent of this sauce drifting throughout! YUM! I used vine-ripened tomatoes and puree them in my blender with half an onion. If you have especially delicious and juicy sweet tomatoes you can also add some chunks to the sauce to simmer as well. This will lend to a chunkier sauce of course.

2014-06-29sugarandgarlic2014-7 2014-06-29sugarandgarlic2014-8 tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano, basil, parsley blending tomatoes

 I gently sauté chopped onion, garlic, and the herbs (parsley, basil, and oregano) until fragrant, pour the tomato puree all over, and then pour in the secret ingredient that gives this that extra zing. Two tablespoons of good, potent balsamic vinegar give this sauce the kick it needs, making it perfectly zesty and balancing the sweetness of the tomatoes.  That’s all there is to this easy, fast, and hearty sauce. Contrary to what some imagine to be an all day simmer in the pot routine, the sauce only takes about 20-30 minutes to cook on medium high heat, because we do not want to break down the tomatoes too much. I often add fresh chopped mushrooms and bell peppers to the sauce in the last 5 minutes to use it as a chunky garden vegetable marinara. Sprinkle in some parmesan cheese, sliced olives, additional herbs or spices to diversify the flavors and make this sauce your own. Every kitchen needs a great marinara sauce and it’s a beautiful thing when you can whip up your own from whole tomatoes and know you are eating clean, fresh, and organic ingredients. 

best marinara sauce

 You can also easily adjust this to be a basic tomato sauce puree to use in endless recipes such as soups, stews, and casseroles! So forget about buying canned tomato sauce and start growing some tomatoes instead 🙂 I omit the herbs and balsamic vinegar and simply simmer the pureed tomatoes with onions and garlic to use this in a variety of dishes.

simmer pureed tomatoes best marinara sauce marinara sauce

 

marinara sauce from scratch

 

 

The Best Marinara Sauce
This homemade sauce is so easy and flavorful, you will love to use this recipe in all your dishes!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 8-10 vine ripened tomatoes
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 medium size onion, diced
  4. 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  5. 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (fresh)
  6. 1/2 cup chopped basil (fresh), plus extra leaves for garnish
  7. 1 1/2 tsp oregano (dried or fresh)
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 1/4 tsp black pepper
  10. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Puree the tomatoes with half of the onion in a blender or food processor. You may add a tablespoon of water to help liquify the tomatoes in the blender.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté the remaining chopped onion and minced garlic in the olive oil until it becomes yellow. Add the parsley, basil, and oregano and heat for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Pour the pureed tomatoes over the herbs. Add the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Serve over warm pasta, vegetables, or chicken parmesan.
  5. Store remaining sauce in airtight containers in fridge for 1 week or in the freezer for 6 months.
Notes
  1. Add fresh chopped vegetables such as mushrooms or bell peppers to enjoy as a chunky garden vegetable sauce.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/