Mediterranean Kafta Burgers

Mediterranean Kafta Burgers

It’s a little later than midsummer and my tan game has been going strong. Okay, it’s actually been fairly weak in comparison to past years, but with Ramadan falling smack-dab in the middle of summer it really put a dent in my tanning plans. Not to mention, it’s been pretty rainy overall. Not ideal for catching those much sought after rays. I still have another solid month before I declare summer officially over and I’m going to take full advantage with pool and beach time, and BBQs, of course.

 

Mediterranean Kafta Burgers

Speaking of BBQs … I’m a pretty traditional girl when it comes to BBQs. I love burgers, hotdogs, the occasional T Bone steak and on special occasions grilled fish. I’m not a grill master myself. I leave that job to my brother. He has a handle on it, and not to mention he rarely lets anyone else get involved when he’s manning the grill. It must be a guy thing. Manning the BBQ used to be my dad’s thing. It was pretty much the only kind of “cooking” he could do. That was before my brothers grew to be two times his size, and he passed it on to them, with just a little micromanaging. He is the dad after all. Now, he just sits back, snacks on chips and dip and waits for his sons to do all the work while he enjoys the fruits of his labor — raising them to be solid men. As for me, I’m in charge of prep work – also a duty I’ve inherited from my mom. Aside from marinating chicken and forming burgers, I like to make Arabic Potato Salad. It’s a delicious no-mayo alternative to (what we call) American Potato Salad. 

 

Mediterranean Kafta Burgers

 

Mediterranean Kafta Burgers

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 packed cup Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Place the ground beef into a large bowl
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, process red onion, parsley and spices until minced
  3. Add the minced onion and parsley to the ground beef and mix well
  4. Using your hands, form burger patties (about 4) and set aside
  5. Grill on charcoal grill until cooked through (10 or so minutes)
  6. Serve in a traditional burger bun
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Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn_

I have this obsession with popcorn. This wasn’t always the case, but over the years, I’ve developed this serious obsession with light, crunchy, slightly salty (usually white cheddar flavored) popcorn. My mom used to make popcorn almost weekly. She’d mix some dry corn kernels with vegetable oil  in a pot over the oven and I’d wait around the kitchen listening to the kernels popping against the sides of the pot. Sometimes, the popcorn would overflow onto the stove. She’d toss the popcorn with salt, and I’d run off to watch my favorite TV show with a bowl of mom’s simple stovetop popcorn.

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn_

Over the years, my mom stopped making stovetop popcorn. Mostly because it was a lot easier to just buy a bag of microwave popcorn. It wasn’t until a few years ago I discovered SkinnyPop popcorn. Aside from the fact that  it’s low calorie — major selling point for me — it’s also made with simple ingredients. It tastes like my mom’s stovetop popcorn, without all the work. I was sold! Not to mention, it also comes in my favorite flavor … white cheddar. I could have cheddar popcorn every day and be the happiest person in the world. Some days, I even forego a nutritious lunch for a whole bag of low calorie cheddar popcorn. Don’t tell my mom …

 

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn_

 

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn

Yield: About 4

Ingredients

  • 4 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • [Alternative: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, cover and leave on heat until most of the kernels have popped]
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Salt (citric acid)
  • 2 tablespoons Sumac
  • 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix popped popcorn with olive oil until coated
  2. Add Sumac, Onion powder, Garlic powder and seven spice and continue stirring until completely coated
  3. Serve warm
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Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup

Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup

Guys! It’s summer time, which means lots of free time, friends, family, BBQs and tons of summer fruit. This month, I’m super excited to announce that I’m collaborating with some fabulous food bloggers and food-stagramers to bring you recipes inspired by our favorite summer fruit, Peaches!

If you haven’t tried grilled peaches, you’re in for a real treat! They’re perfectly warm and sweet. Add a touch of sweet eshta cream and top with orange blossom syrup for sweet Middle Eastern inspired goodness. You can swap out the sweet eshta cream for your favorite ice cream (I recommend vanilla) and top with cinnamon and walnuts. I’ve used eshta before in a strawberry eshta cream tart. The trick to the thicker consistency, is heating it up with some corn starch, whisking and then refrigerating to harden a bit. If you don’t follow these steps, you’ll be left with a thinner liquid … which isn’t necessarily bad, depending on what you’re using eshta for. 

So fire up the grill this summer, and add Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup to your cookout menu. I promise this dessert will not disappoint. 

Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup

Don’t forget to look at other peach recipes from these fabulous food bloggers, and check #summerlovespeaches on instagram.

Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup

Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 peaches, sliced in half and pitted
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 can Eshta cream
  • 1 teaspoon Corn Starch
  • 2 teaspoons Orange Blossom Water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions

    For the Peaches
  1. Half the peaches, and remove the pit
  2. Brush the peaches with butter and place on the grill, cut side down
  3. Cook until charred and softened (about 4 to 5 minutes), flip the peaches over and grill on indirect heat for another 5 minutes
  4. Remove from heat and set aside
  5. For the Cream
  6. In a small saucepan, mix together the eshta, orange blossom water and cornstarch until combined.
  7. Heat over low-medium heat and stir constantly until the eshta thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  9. For the Syrup
  10. In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and lemon juice
  11. Bring to a boil over medium high heat
  12. Reduce heat to low, add 1 teaspoons orange blossom water and simmer for 10 minutes (until the syrup thickens. You can test this by dipping the end of a spoon. If it coats the end of the spoon, it's ready)
  13. Assembly
  14. Scoop the chilled cream into each half of the peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and chopped walnuts (optional), then drizzle with orange blossom syrup
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Arabic Potato Salad

I don’t have anything against mayo. I just really don’t like store bought potato salad. I think it’s more about the fact that despite potato salad being a savory food, the store bought kind is just too sweet. I just can’t understand it. I’m telling you, my taste buds get confused. Does anyone else find it odd that a lot of foods in America, as compared to Europe and the Middle East tend to be on the sweeter side. It’s like they add sugar to everything. Have you ever had store bought three-bean salad? It’s sweet! Completely mind-boggling to me. That’s why I prefer that homemade too. Europe and the Middle East do it right. They keep savory foods savory and completely separate from any sweetness. That’s the way I think it should be.

One of my favorite family BBQ is staples is Arabic Potato Salad. Yea, that’s what we call it. The recipe is something my Tayta taught my mom and it’s just kind of stuck. It’s a no-mayo alternative and has no sweetness included.

Summer Sundays were the best when I was in elementary and middle school. After an Arabic tutoring session with my aunt, we’d either have a huge Arabic-style brunch, or a family BBQ. Dad was master of the BBQ. Since then, my brothers have taken over. It was the best! Mom would prep the meats, usually marinated chicken, or steaks and some sides. Green salad, Arabic Potato Salad and corn on the cob. Everyone got together including my aunt and Tayta.

Arabic Potato Salad

Side note: Another favorite fan favorite is the Brazilian Potato Salad.

Arabic Potato Salad

 

Arabic Potato Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped Parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Instructions

  1. Peel, wash and cut the potatoes into cubes
  2. Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with lightly salted water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Check for tenderness by piercing a cube with a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes and place into a large bowl
  5. Mix in the chopped parsley, garlic and green onions
  6. Mix well, then add olive oil, vinegar and salt
  7. Toss to coat
  8. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving
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Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes [Batata Mahshiyeh]

Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes

It’s Ramadan and I’ve been beating the long days and boredom (especially on the weekends) by cooking. The first weekend, I may or may not have gone on a complete cooking spree and I just haven’t been able to stop myself since then. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m up to, follow along on my Instagram story. I’m always sharing photos and videos of my goodies. Currently, I’m waiting my Pink Pickled Turnips to set. Only about a week and a half or so left before they’re ready to be devoured.

I made Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes not once, but twice over the last week. The first time for a weeknight iftar at a friend’s, and the second to actually take photos (and feed my family).  Here’s the deal with coring vegetables in general; first, you have to use a thin corer. Generally, you can find them at the Arabic store. Also, unless you’re a professional vegetable corer, it’s almost impossible to figure out if you’ve dug your holes too deep (that is, unless you poke through the other end of the vegetable). It’s part practice, part luck. After coring two bags of potatoes, I can proudly call myself a self-proclaimed professional potato corer.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes

I can offer some advice when it comes to making stuffed potatoes:

  1. The smaller potatoes are, surprisingly, easier to core than the large ones. I found that with the smaller ones, you have a better sense for how much to hollow out before hitting any of the sides. With the larger potatoes, it’s a little harder to figure out.
  2. When you fry the potatoes, make sure the oil is hot before you put the potatoes in. This way, it’ll only take a couple minutes on each side to get slightly browned.
  3. Cover the potatoes when they bake in the oven. This way, they don’t dry out.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes

Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes

Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes [Batata Mahshiyeh]

Ingredients

    For the stuffing
  • 1 lb gound beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Seven Spice
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • For the Potatoes
  • 1 bag Yukon Gold or Butter Potatoes (about 12-15 potatoes)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 cups tomato sauce + 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • 1 cube Maggi

Instructions

    For the Stuffing
  1. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. Sauté the onions until translucent
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until browned
  4. Season with seven spice, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg
  5. Remove from heat
  6. Heat one tablespoon oil and cook the pine nuts until lightly browned. Keep an eye on them! Pine nuts fry quickly. Remove from oil onto a blotter.
  7. For the Potatoes
  8. Peel and wash the potatoes
  9. Using a thin vegetable corer, carve out the middle portion of the potatoes making sure not to puncture the potatoes
  10. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  11. Once hot, place the potatoes in the oil and fry on all sides until a light golden brown
  12. Remove and place on paper towels to absorb additional oil
  13. Once the potatoes have cooled, stuff the potatoes with the ground beef mixture leaving 1/8 inch space from the top
  14. Place in a single layer in a baking tray
  15. Use 1 tablespoon olive oil to saute garlic
  16. Add tomato sauce and water
  17. Bring to a boil, add in seven spice and Maggi, then turn heat off
  18. Pour the tomato sauce over the potatoes
  19. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes on 375 F
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Strawberry Eshta Cream Tarts

Strawberry Eshta Cream Tart

I really love the idea of going to an orchard and picking your own fruits and vegetables. There’s an orchard out in Maryland that has pick your own fruits and veggies almost year-round.  A few weekends ago, I went with a couple of friends, and one friend’s three kids to pick strawberries. It’s the perfect activity for kids. It’s outdoors, they can play in the dirt, and they really feel a sense of accomplishment when they pick out the perfect strawberry. While the kiddos filled up little blue cartons, I went ahead and picked enough strawberries to last at least 6 months. I may have gone a little overboard. All I could think about were all the strawberry desserts I was going to make with all these strawberries. Needless to say, I ended up freezing most of them before they started to go bad… but not without making Strawberry Eshta Cream Tarts.

Strawberry Picking

Eshta is a sweet thick cream known to most middle eastern households. Lots of people use eshta in desserts such as qatayef, warbat, basboosa, and many others. While eshta is absolutely delicious in desserts, it’s a great compliment to honey. Sunday breakfasts at our house included lots of little dishes filled with labaneh, zaatar, foul (fava beans), and two mall dishes one with honey and one with eshta. I remember the excitement of dipping bread into the eshta first and then the honey. Honestly, I thought I could live off eshta and honey forever. That was … until dinnertime when I wanted nothing more than rice and stew.

So after spending the afternoon with my friends and the kiddos, I went straight home to wash and dry the strawberries, and test out my dessert of course!

Strawberry Eshta Cream Tart

The trick to these tarts was figuring out how I was going to thicken the eshta enough to hold strawberries on a slab of puff pastry. I admit, I had a couple failures. At first, I tried beating the eshta in my stand mixer, hoping it would magically fluff up. It didn’t. Then I got to thinking about how I thicken up milk for Muhallabiyeh. Idea! Why not add corn starch?! The genius in me added corn starch to cold eshta. That didn’t quite work out the way I had imagined. Then it dawned on me (oh yea, and I read the instructions on the corn starch package) that I needed to heat the eshta with the corn starch and stir to get the consistency I wanted. Ladies and gentlemen, it worked and I couldn’t have been happier! Now my dreams of making Strawberry Eshta Cream Tarts was coming true.

It just goes to show you that, even as a food blogger, I have my fair share of almost and complete fails. No one’s perfect, but I can definitely whip up a near-perfect dessert.

Strawberry Eshta Cream Tart_2

Strawberry Eshta Cream Tart

Yield: 6 tarts

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 2 lbs strawberries, stems cut off
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 cans Eshta
  • 2 tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 2 tablespoons Rose Water
  • 4 tablespoons crushes pistachios
  • Honey for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Thaw Puff Pastry
  2. Cut the puff pastry sheet into three smaller pieces
  3. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 400 F
  4. Once cooled, cut each puff pastry piece in half length wise, making 6 tart shells. Set aside
  5. Wash and dry the strawberries. If using small strawberries, you can use them whole, otherwise, slice your strawberries
  6. Glaze the strawberries by combining the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium pan over medium-high heat
  7. Bring to a boil
  8. Once boiling, immerse the strawberries in the sugar and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes
  9. Use a slotted spoon to remove the strawberries and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, sprayed with cooking spray
  10. In a small saucepan, mix together the eshta, rose water and cornstarch until combined. Heat over low-medium heat and stir constantly until the eshta thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  11. Slice the puff pastry in half
  12. Spoon the eshta onto the puff pastry and use a spatula to make an even layer
  13. Then carefully arrange strawberries on top of the eshta, placing each piece as close as possible to the next without overcrowding
  14. Top with crushed pistachios and drizzle with honey.
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