Who loves breakfast? I love breakfast! As a matter of fact, I love it so much I look forward to huge weekend breakfasts – Brunch, if you may. Usually because by the time I wake up, make coffee and get started in the kitchen, we don’t eat until somewhere around Noon or 1pm.
I’m trying something new and completely out of my zone: Iraqi breakfast. Yes, it’s a little different. Iraqis have a couple dishes that aren’t quite like the Palestinian ones I’m used to [see below for my faves]. One of which is Bagila bil Dihin. It sounds like a heart attack, since the translation is “beans with fat.” In reality, it’s just Fried Eggs over Broad Beans over soaked pita bread and topped with hot oil. Bagila is the Iraqi word for beans, broad beans or lava beans to be exact. Aside from Bagila bil Dihin, they also have a sweet dish Kahi and Geymar. What is it exactly? It’s layers of flaky pastry drowned in a sweet syrup topped with clotted cream. I used the recipe from Sara over at Add A Little Lemon. It’s delicious and super easy to follow. Trust me, you’ll love it with some freshly brewed tea.
My favorite kind of breakfast is Palestinian breakfast. I’m talking mana’eesh, foul, hard boiled eggs, falafel, labaneh, honey and eshta, olives, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and lots of pita bread. The bigger the table, the better.
I have vivid memories of childhood Sundays filled with Arabic lessons and tables full of my favorite goodies afterwards. I usually woke up way too early and put all my Arabic books and homework together before my aunt came over to deliver a couple hours of rigorous Arabic tutoring. We essentially did a week’s worth of tutoring in a few hours. Thanks Amto! It totally paid off. The best part, though, was breakfast! It was a little hard to focus when I could smell a delicious mix of onions, zaatar and falafel, but I pulled through.
Iraqi Breakfast: Bagila bil Dihin [Fried Eggs over Broad Beans]
Yield: 4 servings
½ lb Dried Broad Beans
Lemon Juice from one lemon
Dash of Salt
2 large Pita Breads, cut into large cubes
½ cup Vegetable Oil
1 Onion, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped
Soak the broad beans in water overnight then drain.
In a medium pot, bring the beans to a boil with a dash of salt and lemon juice. Boil until softened (about 20 minutes), then remove the beans from the water, and set aside. Keep the water boiling over low heat, it is essential for the next step.
To prepare the bread, place the bread cubes in the boiling bean water and remove immediately (just dip once and remove), then place on your platter
Pour the broad beans over the bread
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over low heat, add the onions and fry until caramelized
Beat the eggs and pour on top of the onions without stirring
Once the eggs have cooked through, place the fried eggs over the beans and pour any extra oil over the whole platter
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.
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.
Back in April, I was in Amman and had the very fortunate luck to try out Seed Healthy, a health food shop specializing in juices, smoothies, and organic food. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t luck. I had been following Seed Healthy on Instagram for a while and just had to check it out. I’m so happy I did because I tried the most delicious date smoothie, and took one to go for my mom.
I had totally forgotten about the smoothie, until this Ramadan. Ramadan is really the only time of year I actively eat dates. Mostly because I break my fast on dates. It’s no surprise then, that the first week of Ramadan, I decided I was going to whip up my own version of a date smoothie. Every afternoon I’d think about it, make sure I had all the ingredients I needed, and every evening I’d get so distracted by the actual meal that I wouldn’t get around to making the smoothie I was craving just a few hours earlier.
I finally committed. I made the Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie (conveniently, many months after Ramadan) and it was everything I had dreamed of!
As a matter of fact, I find it downright offensive that restaurants want to charge you upwards of $5 for a small bowl (bowl is a generous description, it’s more like a soy sauce-sized bowl) of olives. Crazy right? I mean olives are such a staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets. We have at least two massive jars full of green and black olives. And I frequent Wegman’s olive bar at least once a month. They have these green olives stuffed with all sorts of things. I’m talking cheese, garlic, almonds (those are my fave).
So my neighbor, Mr. A, who is this amazing older gentleman who basically owns our neighborhood, moved out a few years ago and held a yard sale of sorts with all the things he wouldn’t be able to take with him to his new, smaller, home. Mr. A’s wife was an amazing cook (god rest her soul) and a lot of the things Mr. A was getting rid of were Mrs. A’s kitchen gadgets and appliances. My mom got her hands on their 1960s Dutch oven and it’s gotta be one of the best things we’ve gotten (Etsy is currently selling the “vintage” model for a lot more than we got ours for).
Super convenient because I woke up one day thinking “I have to make Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread, ” oh yea! And I want it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. After much research, I found that crispy bread can be accomplished with lots of wait time and baking it in the Dutch oven. You’ll notice that you have to wait at least 10 hours for the dough to rise. This is essential. Literally every Dutch oven recipe out there makes you wait. Which is fine … I’m sure you have plenty of other things to do. The wait is well worth it, because this Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread is to-die-for. Perfect with some Labaneh or dipped in olive oil.
In a small bowl, use a spoon to mix together water and dry yeast. Cover and let stand for 10-15 minutes (it’ll get really bubbly)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt
Add the water and yeast mixture to the flour mixture
Using a wooden spoon, mix until well incorporated (or you can use the knead attachment on your stand mixer to knead on low until a shaggy dough forms. See notes.)
Coat your hands in flour and shape into an oval
Place in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm draft-free place (usually an un-warmed oven works) and wait 10-18 hours (or overnight) until the dough rises.
In a medium bowl, toss together the olives and rosemary
Heat oven to 450 F. Place your Dutch oven in the oven uncovered and heat for 30 minutes (see notes)
Meanwhile, place the dough on a floured surface and press the dough flat. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mixture, and fold the sides over the dough to hide the mixture, press again to flatten, add another 1/3 and fold the sides over again. Do this until you've used all the mixture. Then continue to knead until the olives are incorporated, add more flour to your hands if needed.
Cover and let rest for 30 minutes, until doubled
Place the dough in the heated Dutch oven and cover with the lid
Bake for 30 minutes
Remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes until browned
Remove from Dutch oven and place on a cooling rack
Cool completely before slicing
*Shaggy Dough is when the dough is formed, but still very floured and looks a little bit like a shaggy dog (that's where the name comes from)
**If you don't have a Dutch Oven, you can use a deep oven-proof skillet or an oven-proof soup pot
I just can’t believe summer has come to an end already! It seems like it just wasn’t long enough this year. I mean, really … where did summer go? We’ve just crossed the Labor Day Weekend threshold (the Official End of Summer, at least that’s when all the swimming pools close), and my tan game slowly degraded as summer went on. In my defense, that’s because I was busing filling my weekends up with adventures of the non-culinary type. I had my fair share of BBQs, laying by the pool, and sitting outdoors basking the summer evenings, shisha in hand.
So for summer to end so abruptly (and yes, I will say abruptly since even Labor Day Weekend was rainy and cooled off so much it was almost too cold to swim) was such a disappointment.
To transition, albeit with difficulty, to pre-fall I baked up mini Spiced Cardamom cakes in my With a Spin cake molds. I learned some valuable lessons about silicone cake molds, most importantly that you have to wait until the cakes completely cool before taking them out of the molds, otherwise you’ll end up with a crumbled mess. Not to worry! I used those Spiced Cardamom Cake scraps to make Spiced Cardamom Cake pops covered in pink, white and semi-sweet chocolate. So in reality, they didn’t go to complete waste.
Spiced Cardamom Cake is best enjoyed with a steaming cup of coffee (or tea).
Incase you were interested in my fun-packed summer, here’s a recap of some of the summer adventures:
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.
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.