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.
Side note: Another favorite fan favorite is the Brazilian Potato Salad.
- 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
- Peel, wash and cut the potatoes into cubes
- Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with lightly salted water.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Check for tenderness by piercing a cube with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes and place into a large bowl
- Mix in the chopped parsley, garlic and green onions
- Mix well, then add olive oil, vinegar and salt
- Toss to coat
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving
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.
I can offer some advice when it comes to making stuffed potatoes:
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover the potatoes when they bake in the oven. This way, they don’t dry out.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes [Batata Mahshiyeh]
For the stuffing
- 1 lb gound beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Seven Spice
- 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
For the Stuffing
- In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sauté the onions until translucent
- Add the ground beef and cook until browned
- Season with seven spice, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg
- Remove from heat
- 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.
For the Potatoes
- Peel and wash the potatoes
- Using a thin vegetable corer, carve out the middle portion of the potatoes making sure not to puncture the potatoes
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
- Once hot, place the potatoes in the oil and fry on all sides until a light golden brown
- Remove and place on paper towels to absorb additional oil
- Once the potatoes have cooled, stuff the potatoes with the ground beef mixture leaving 1/8 inch space from the top
- Place in a single layer in a baking tray
- Use 1 tablespoon olive oil to saute garlic
- Add tomato sauce and water
- Bring to a boil, add in seven spice and Maggi, then turn heat off
- Pour the tomato sauce over the potatoes
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes on 375 F
Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetables is one of my favorite comfort foods. Comfort food by definition is, ” food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” For most, that means lots of carbs and lots of sugar. For me, comfort food really does fit the Merriam Webster definition, that is, a traditional dish that brings back childhood memories. So what is it about One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake that makes me nostalgic? I have so many childhood memories of being at my Tayta’s around dinner time. She’d whip up her chicken and vegetable bake. She always had a way of making even the hardest dish seem easy to pull together. It must be all her years of cooking for 8 children. Yes, eight. The apartment always smelled amazing. It was wafting with aromas from a mix of garlic, onion and Arabic spices that made me practically drool as I waited not-so-patiently in the family room watching TV.
My mom learned to cook Arabic dishes from my Tayta. And I’m so happy she did. I grew up eating vegetables, stews, beef, chicken and lamb. You name it, I grew up eating it. I’m pretty sure my baby food consisted of full Arabic meals smoothed out in the blender and served in plastic Barbie bowls. And for that I’m thankful. There is no other comfort to me than cooking with Arabic spices, lots of garlic, lots of onions and lots of olive oil. I know I’ve done something right when my dishes look and smell like my mom and Tayta’s dishes.
A note on “thirds of an oven.” You may have read in some of my recipes, or in other recipes a reference to cooking something in the top or bottom third of an oven. If you’ve baked sweets, you’ve definitely read baking in the middle rack. So here’s the deal with thirds of the oven. Different recipes require direct, medium or indirect heat. Most sweets are safe in the middle rack, where you’re ensured that the bottom won’t burn. While, other recipes, such as roasted vegetables, may require more direct heat to get that roasted and charred flavor.
Open up you oven and take a look. Visually divide your oven into thirds. You’ll see there is a Top third, Middle, and Bottom Third. Keep that in mind when reading recipes. For the One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake, I mention baking in the bottom third of the oven. When I refer to the bottom third, it means place your rack in the lower half of your oven, closer to the heat.
One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 4 Chicken Thighs, skin on
- 2 tablespoons Seven Spice (found at your local Arabic store)
- 2 tablespoons Sumac
- Salt, to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Yellow Onion, cut into wedges
- 1 cup Carrots, chopped
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into wedges
- 1/4 cup Chicken Stock
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Prepare the chicken and vegetables
- In a small bowl, mix together the seven spice, salt, sumac and garlic
- Using your hands, rub the chicken generously, back and front and all over, with the spice mixture, then set aside
- Next, toss the potatoes in the spice mixture and set aside
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet (or oven safe skillet) over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken skin-side down in an even layer, and the potatoes
- Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes, until the skin is crispy, then remove and set aside
- Cook the potatoes until crispy on the outside, about 2-3 minutes on each side
- While the chicken and potatoes are being sautéed, toss together the carrots and onions with the spice mixture.
- Remove the potatoes from the pan and add the carrots and onions, cooking for about 5 mins (or until slightly charred)
- Turn the heat off
- Using tongs or a spatula, arrange the vegetables in your large oven-safe skillet (or in an oven-safe baking dish), then nestle in the chicken, skin-side up.
- Pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender and can be poked easy with a fork
- Serve warm
Your oven is divided into thirds. Visually imagine the thirds as: Top third, Middle and Bottom third. When I refer to the bottom third, it means place your rack in the lower half of your oven, closer to the heat.
I love planning things. I almost think that in another life, I should have become an event planner. The only downside is that I don’t like to deal with rude people, and you never know what kind of clients you’ll get. I’m obsessed with planning anything and everything from my outfits, to dinner parties, to weekend trips, to big vacations and beyond. I’m a little biased, but I think I have some pretty good ideas.
So here I am, planning a girls dinner for February. Date is still TBD. I’m not too worried about locking down a date as much as I am worried about planning my menu! Anyone who’s hosted a dinner party knows you have to ask your guests ahead of time (especially if it’s a small group) for any dietary restrictions. You have got to take into account people’s allergies, and other things such as … vegetarians. Admittedly one of my guests is a vegetarian and also allergic to sesame, so that makes menu planning a little bit difficult. So, I’ve come up with a preliminary menu. After some recipe testing, I’ll have a better handle on the full menu and I’ll be able to share it with links to my recipes, and other recipes I may try out. I decided to go with a Mediterranean theme. It’s healthy, full of fish, meats and veggies and it’s just so colorful.
Time to recipe test one of the sides I’m thinking of including. I love potatoes in all forms, but I especially love fried and roasted potatoes. Here I opted for roasted, it’s a lot healthier than the fried alternative. The key here is to roast the whole potatoes until they’re crispy on the outside. The marinade can also be heated separately in a saucepan and poured over the potatoes once they’re done roasting.
Lemon and Herb Roasted Potatoes
- 1lb Small Round Potatoes
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- Juice from 2 Lemons
- 1 cup Vegetable Broth
- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
- 1 cup Parsley, chopped
- 3 tbsps Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Paprika
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- Mince the parsley, rosemary and garlic in the food processor.
- Add parmesan cheese, paprika, and salt
- Add lemon juice and vegetable broth
- Place potatoes in a gallon-sized ziplock bag, pour in the marinade and toss until fully coated
- Marinate for 1 hour in the fridge
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Take the potatoes out of the marinade and set the marinade aside
- Place the potatoes in a single layer on an aluminum lined rimmed baking sheet
- Roast for 1 hour until golden and slightly browned
- Meanwhile, pour the marinade in a small saucepan over medium-high heat
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes
- Pour the heated sauce over the potatoes once you've taken them out of the oven
I’m trying really hard to stay healthy (read as: cut carbs) but it’s just so hard. I love carbs. I especially love bread and pasta and rice and all those delicious things that add inches to my thighs when I eat too much. We’re on week 2 of 2017 and I’m doing pretty well so far. I’ve been going to the gym, taking a healthy breakfast to work — and actually eating it, I’ve been packing my lunches, filling up on veggies, fruit and protein. Yes, I’ve been having some cheat meals. But come on, I need to live a little!
I don’t have anything against veggies, I just prefer to have the carbalicious version. In the warmer months, I was all about the zoodles, zucchini cut into a noodle-like texture. If you loved zoodles, you’re going to really like spaghetti squash. Yea, it’s another vegetable, but it’s naturally stringy and makes for … you guessed it … the perfect spaghetti noodle substitute. While you can go with the classic tomato sauce and meatballs, I invite you to try some different variations. Most recently, I experimented with Pesto Spaghetti Squash. If you love pesto, this is recipe for you. The most time consuming part of the Pesto Spaghetti Squash recipe is roasting the spaghetti squash, 50 minutes to be exact. Other than that, it’s smooth sailing and so healthy. As matter of fact, if you don’t take any part of this recipe except how to roast spaghetti squash, I have no issue with that!
Feel free to use pre-packaged basil pesto, or if you have some extra time, whip up my parsley pesto. My parents wanted grilled chicken in their squash, while I opted for meatless. It’s delicious either way. If you feel you need some added protein, grill some chicken or sauté some shrimp and Ta-Da!
- 1 Spaghetti Squash
- 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil, for brushing
- Salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup Pesto (use my Parsley Pesto Recipe LINK or use pre-packaged)
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Cut spaghetti squash in half, the long way (it's easier to cut if you've microwaved the squash, whole, for 1 minute)
- Remove the seeds, and the squishy insides. Don't worry, the "spaghetti" comes from the flesh
- Place face-up on parchments paper lined baking sheet
- Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt
- Bake for 50 minutes on a middle rack
- Meanwhile, if you're making pesto, this is the time to do it
- Remove squash from the oven
- Using a fork carefully pull at the flesh until it becomes shredded -- resembling spaghetti noodles and place in a medium bowl. Save the squash shells.
- In a medium bowl, mix the shredded squash and pesto until combined
- Scoop the pesto squash back into the shells and serve
Over the weekend, we celebrated Mother’s Day. The boys and I usually take mom out for a bottomless brunch at a fancy restaurant, but this year we decided to change it up a bit… a simple brunch at home. The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, so we were able to eat outside on my parents’ deck. Obsessed with party planning, I picked our theme and started working on decoration ideas and drafting a menu almost a month in advance. Needless to say, I consulted Pinterest. Although I did all the cooking and craft making, the boys really came through for me, helping me prepare, decorate and pick up last minute things. It was absolutely gorgeous — a Pinterest-worthy party, if I should say so myself.
Mother’s Day isn’t complete without the woman who is the core of our family, my Tayta. She is the glue that holds us all together and I can’t imagine a world without her.
My mother is my idol. I admire her for so many things. Most of all, her patience, unselfish nature, support and intellect. She’s one tough cookie and I really hope that one day I could be a fraction of the mother, wife, sister and friend she is.
Bacon and Puff Pastry Wrapped Asparagus
- 1 bunch asparagus
- Turkey bacon
- 1 1/2 sheets Puff Pastry, thawed
- 1 Egg
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Wash and cut off the bottom ends of the asparagus
- Cut each slice of turkey bacon into three long strips
- Cut the puff pastry into 1/4 inch strips
- Wrap one strip of turkey bacon around one stalk of asparagus
- Then wrap one strip of puff pastry around the asparagus stalk in the opposite direction
- Place on a baking sheet
- Repeat with the rest of the asparagus stalks
- Once all the asparagus are on a baking sheet, whisk the egg with a little bit of water and brush over the asparagus
- Bake for 25-30 minutes