Middle Eastern Chicken Skewers/ Shish Taouk

Hello Friends! It’s been a while, huh?

My brother flew in from California to spend his spring break with us, and we’ve just been busy with him. I feel like I had been waiting for his upcoming trip for SOOOO long, and as soon as he came the time jut flew by. I had so many cooking/baking plans for him, but there’s only so much food that I can stuff him with 🙂

The day my brother was set to arrive, I decided to make Cheesesteak Sandwiches for him. I needed to make a quick run to the local meat shop to buy the meat for the sandwiches, and while I was there I picked up a packet of boneless chicken breasts. After coming home and prepping the meat, I decided to marinate the chicken for Shish Taouk (I found the recipe here. It is by far the most authentic recipe I have found so far!) and just freeze it. This was my first time freezing marinated meat. The verdict? AMAZING! I can’t believe I waited so long to try this method! It makes life so much easier, especially if you’re in a bind to get dinner/lunch cooked. You just marinate the chicken (fresh, not previously frozen) and freeze. Then you allow it to thaw at room temperature, skewers those suckers up, and grill/broil until done. That’s all! Check and check 😉

 

ShishTaoukPic

 

Shish Taouk

(Arab Chicken Skewers)

Yield: 3 to 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into desired sized pieces
  • ¼ cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except chicken together in a bowl and mix well. Add chicken and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).

Pierce chicken onto skewers and cook on an oiled grill until the meat is cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes on each side.

Note: Fresh chicken can be marinated and put in the freezer. Whenever you want to eat, take the chicken out of the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature.  Also, to prevent chicken from drying, cover cooked skewers with aluminum foil until ready to eat.  This will trap the steam and prevent the meat from drying out.

Arabic Lentil Soup

I am a total novice when it comes to making soup.  My mom’s post-op recovery was the first time I dabbled in the business of making soup.  Unsurprisingly, my first few attempts were less than stellar…  much less. My mom was such a sweetheart though.  She would never complain about the lack of flavor, or the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.  One day she suggested making a vegetarian soup, and I instantly remembered that Sawsan had recently posted a recipe for Arabic Lentil Soup on her blog.  Not only is her recipe simple (a plus for soup-novices like me), but the simple ingredients cook and simmer to form a light and delectable soup that anyone would be proud of. I’m home now, but I’ve made this soup a handful of times and every time I sip a spoonful I think of my parents and brother.  I miss them a little more with each spoonful of this soup 🙂

ArabicLentilSoupPic

Arabic Lentil Soup

Yield:  4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and soaked for 1 hour
  • 2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose or wheat)
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, for garnish
  • Freshly squeezed lemon or lime, for garnish

Directions: In a medium pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Add sliced onion and sauté until soft. Add drained lentils and flour, and stir so that the flour does not retain any clumps.  Add water and stir so that the flour has dissolved.  Allow the water to come to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and allow the soup to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from heat. Puree the soup until smooth.  Top with remaining olive oil and salt to taste.  Serve with black pepper and lemon (or lime).

Zuni’s 2nd Birthday / Baklava

Last week my blog-baby turned one, and this week my real baby turned 2!

To celebrate the occasion, my parents flew in from California and we hosted a birthday bash that included both sets of grandparents, close friends, and plenty of food.  Our menu included:

Appetizers- Chips and Salsa, Chicken Spring Rolls, and Channa Chaat

Main Meal- Chicken Biryani, Karhai Chicken, Aloo Palak (Potato and Spinach Curry), and Vegetable Pasta

Desserts- Gulab Jamun, Cake, and Baklava

With such an intensive menu, I wanted to start preparing in advance.  I didn’t want to stand around in my kitchen all day when my parents were visiting from so far, so preparing as much as I could before they arrived was the smartest thing to do.  I prepped the vegetables that were to be cooked a day before I cooked them, and I was even able to make the Baklava almost 5 days before the party!  I had found a recipe at Maureen’s website (love her site!) for Baklava that can keep well at room temperature for 2 whole weeks! 2 weeks people!  That’s perfect party-prep language!

Baklava has been on my to-do list for quite some time, and adding the fact that it stays so well at room temperature only fueled my desire to make it for Zuni’s birthday party.  Although it may seem intimidating, Baklava is actually pretty simply to make.  Maureen’s recipe provides a way to skip the usual buttering of each phyllo sheet, and instead pour the butter over the entire sheet of Baklava.  The end result tastes the same as if each sheet had been buttered separately.  Hey, it keeps well for long amounts of time, and it has shortcuts?  I’m in, and you will be too 🙂

BaklavaPic

Baklava

Yield: One 9”x13” Pan

Ingredients:

For Syrup:

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water

For Clarified Butter:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

For Baklava Layers:

  • 1 pound phyllo dough, at room temperature
  • 3 cups nuts, toasted (walnuts, almonds, cashews, and/or pistachios)
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Directions:

Make Syrup:

Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan and boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, add orange blossom water, and refrigerate.

Make Clarified Butter:

Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat until completely melted.  Allow the melted butter to simmer and foam.  When the foaming subsides, remove from heat and skim the foam off with a spoon.  Line a jar or bowl with a paper towel and pour the butter into the vessel.  The paper towel will separate the excess solids.  Set aside.

Assemble Baklava:

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Grind nuts in a food processor into a coarse crumb.  Add sugar, mix, and set aside.

Brush the bottom and sides of pan with clarified butter.

Trim the phyllo dough to fit a 9”x13” pan.  Divide the dough in half (about 20 sheets) and place at the bottom of the pan.  Spread ground nuts over the dough evenly.  Place the remaining phyllo dough on top of the nuts, making sure that the top sheet is not torn.  A sheet from the center of the layer can be used if the top is torn.  Brush the top layer with clarified butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds by cutting six rows horizontally, and nine rows diagonally.

Pour the remaining melted clarified butter over the baklava and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.  Bake, on the shelf second from the top, for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

Remove from oven and immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot baklava.  Allow it to soak overnight.

Note:  Baklava can be kept at room temperature for two weeks.

Hummus

Since we’ve been living in the Midwest, we’ve been lucky enough to live in areas with large Arab populations.  Needless to say, we have been very fortunate to be able to try a vast amount of authentic Middle Eastern and Arab cuisine.

The biggest shock that came from sampling all of these amazing Arab foods, was that what I once considered Hummus was really not Hummus at all.  Authentic Hummus is creamy, and has a slight tang.  It’s not supposed to be chunky and bland.  How could I have possibly been depriving myself of the real-deal for all these years?!

So basically since I’ve discovered real Hummus, I’ve made it a point to locate a recipe that is as authentic as it gets, and to include it in our diet as much as possible.  What makes this recipe stand out is the addition of yogurt, which adds additional creaminess and a slight kick to the Hummus.  This Hummus keeps well in the fridge, and tastes amazing either warm, at room temperature, or even cold.  It’s totally versatile 🙂

HummusBiTahinipic

Hummus bi Tahini

Yield:  1 ½ to 2 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 ¾ cup chickpeas, cooked and drained
  • Paprika and olive oil, for garnish

Directions:

Combine lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil, garlic, tahini, and salt in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth and light.

Add chickpeas and continue blending, stopping to stir frequently, until smooth.  Add lukewarm water one tablespoon at a time to achieve desired consistency.

Spread hummus on serving dish and garnish with paprika and olive oil.

Refrigerate leftovers.