Category: Vegetables & Sides

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

I had the most amazing za’atar fries at Falafel Inc. in DC over the summer. If you haven’t been there, this small place off M street also has delicious falafel sandwiches, for the affordable price of $3. Not only are their falafel sandwiches $3, but get this … for every $10 earned by Falafel Inc., the restaurant feeds a refugee for a day through its donations to the World Food Programme. (This is not an ad, I just really love the food, the mission, and well, who doesn’t love falafel?). You have to get the za’atar fries. You will not regret it.

Admittedly, I got my inspiration from Falafel Inc. for Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

So what is za’atar exactly?

Za’atar, heavy on the A, (زَعْتَر‎‎) is an herb blend consisting of dried oregano, dried thyme, dried savory, (sometimes powdered coriander and cumin), sumac and white sesame seeds. It’s one of those basic food staples that every Palestinian household can’t live without. Za’atar is to Palestinian pantries as peanut butter is to american pantries. Admittedly, we always have both. I am, Arab-American afterall.

How do you use za’atar?

Simply, you can pour some in small dish, and fill another small dish with olive oil, then use pita bread to first dip into the olive oil, then the za’atar.

You can spread some Labaneh into a pita pocket, or toast bread, and sprinkle with za’atar.

Or you can make manaeesh, a traditional Palestinian pizza, if you will, consisting of bread topped with a za’atar and olive oil mixture then baked. No bread? no problem, try my Mini Manaeesh.

And of course, you can make Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries!

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 Sweet Potatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar (you can find the herb mix at any Middle Eastern/ Arabic market or use the recipe below)
  • ¼ cup olive oil +1 tablespoon
  • salt, to taste
  • For the za'atar herb mix (you can substitute chopped fresh thyme and oregano):
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • 2 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat Oven to 450 F
  2. Peel, wash and cut the sweet potatoes into long slices
  3. Toss with ¼ cup olive oil and salt, to taste
  4. Place the cut sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, flipping the fries halfway through
  6. Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven, place in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and za'atar spice blend (recipe included), and toss until coated
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Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles [Zoodles] with Kafta Meatballs

 

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

I saw a meme once that said something along the lines of, every girl’s dream is not to find the perfect man, it’s to eat whatever she wants without getting fat. 

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

So. Much. Truth. Unfortunately, that requires going to the gym more than once a month and not eating all the things I love — bread, pasta, cheese, salt and vinegar chips, crispy chicken, etc. I know I’m not the only one struggling here! Although I do love pasta, there have been some pretty solid vegetable substitutes. I won’t lie to you and tell you zoodles or spaghetti squash taste anything like actual spaghetti. But it’ll do the job when you’re really trying to cut the carbs. Carbbsss … I’m still thinking about my Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread.

But we’ll save that for a cheat day. Until then, I’ll be upping the spaghetti squash intake and trying my hardest to replace carbs with veggies.

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

I still haven’t found a suitable bread replacement. Will share once I get my hands on something delicious.

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles [Zoodles] with Kafta Meatballs

Yield: About 25 meatballs

Ingredients

    For the Zoodles
  • 4 Zucchinis
  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 packed cup Parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • For the Sauce:
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (or cooked/pureed tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp Seven Spice
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tbs White Vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Prepare your zoodles by cutting the ends off each zucchini.
  2. Using a zoodler (or spiralizer), spiralizer your zucchini and set aside.
  3. Once the tomato sauce is simmering, add zoodles to a deep skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until softened.
  4. Remove from heat
  5. Pour the tomato sauce over the zoodles and add meatballs
  6. For the Meatballs
  7. Preheat oven to 400 F
  8. Place the ground beef into a large bowl
  9. In the bowl of a food processor, process red onion, parsley and spices until minced
  10. Add the minced onion and parsley to the ground beef and mix well
  11. Using your hands, form golf ball sized balls and set aside (you can use a melon baller or ice cream scoop for more even balls)
  12. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat
  13. Place the meatballs into the skillet and fry until browned all over
  14. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray
  15. Place the meatballs on the pan in a single layer
  16. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes
  17. For the Spicy Tomato Sauce
  18. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat
  19. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  20. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes
  21. Add the tomato sauce, Seven Spice, salt and pepper to taste, chili flakes and vinegar.
  22. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low
  23. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened
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Sautéed Dandelion Greens [Elet]

Dandelion Greens

Last week, during my weekly visit to see my Tayta, she pulled out some sautéed greens, Elet (علت) and a few pita rounds. I hadn’t had Elet in a very long time and was really excited to share a plate with her. As we were sopping up the greens with pita bread, I asked for her recipe and diligently took notes (in my notes app), but I had one problem. I had to figure out what Elet was in English. After sending a couple WhatsApp messages to my cousins in Amman, I found that those delicious sautéed greens were actually dandelion greens. Sounds weird, right?

When I think Dandelions, I think those yellow flowers that grow between the grass and weeds. The ones I used to pick out to make makeshift flower bouquets for my mom.

Dandelion Greens

That’s not what I’m talking about here. Dandelion greens actually look a lot more like flat-leaf kale or Swiss chard. Each leaf has a sturdy spine that gives way to soft green leaves. Surprisingly, dandelion greens are sold at Wegmans and Whole Foods, so they’re not hard to find.

Does anyone else find it fascinating that Arabic food includes numerous veggies that don’t seem mainstream here in the U.S.? I still have a hard time explaining Mloukhiya to non Arabs. I now go with, it looks like creamed spinach, but not.

Dandelion Greens

 

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Dandelion Greens
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 3 onions, two cut into long slices and the over chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemon)
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash the dandelion greens very well (they tend to have a lot of dirt)
  2. Cut the stems off the greens and chop into large squares
  3. In a large pot, bring the dandelion greens to a boil, and boil on medium-high heat until soft (about 10-15 minutes)
  4. Drain the greens and squeeze out the excess moisture, then set aside
  5. In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup vegetable oil and fry the sliced onions until caramelized, but not burnt, remove from pan and set aside.
  6. Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil and add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent
  7. Add the garlic and stir in the dandelion greens until combined and soft
  8. Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and stir
  9. Serve with the caramelized onions on top, and with a side of warm pita bread
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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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One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

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.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

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.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

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.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

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

 

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Prepare the chicken and vegetables
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the seven spice, salt, sumac and garlic
  4. Using your hands, rub the chicken generously, back and front and all over, with the spice mixture, then set aside
  5. Next, toss the potatoes in the spice mixture and set aside
  6. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (or oven safe skillet) over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken skin-side down in an even layer, and the potatoes
  8. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes, until the skin is crispy, then remove and set aside
  9. Cook the potatoes until crispy on the outside, about 2-3 minutes on each side
  10. While the chicken and potatoes are being sautéed, toss together the carrots and onions with the spice mixture.
  11. Remove the potatoes from the pan and add the carrots and onions, cooking for about 5 mins (or until slightly charred)
  12. Turn the heat off
  13. 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.
  14. Pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock
  15. 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
  16. Serve warm

Notes

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.

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