Orzo Summer Pasta

OrzoSaladbyMayaOryan

Today feels like summer and all I can think off is a refreshing, healthy summer salad. An Orzo Salad wins the listed options hands down. It is simple, light and packed with lemony flavors (and contains pasta… what’s not to love about it?) ;-)

I love Orzo (look for it on the pasta aisle), when tossed with Feta cheese, red onions and cucumbers it makes a beautiful hearty dish that keeps well in the fridge. It can be served as a side meal or it can be The Meal. Pull me a bowl out of the fridge on a hot day like that and I’m in heaven!

This whole scenario activated my drool glands; I rushed into the kitchen and like an artist in the making, I mixed cucumbers, red bell pepper, mukimame (shelled edamame), Feta and a touch of thyme leaves for fun.

Looking at my bowl and thinking you gorgeous creature, I’m so ready to dig in and enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1 cup mukimame, cooked
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, picked and washed

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

1. Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water

2. In a bowl, combine orzo, mukimame, cucumbers, feta, bell pepper, and thyme leaves.

3. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Stir gently until all ingredients are well coated.

Kibbet La’teen or Pumpkin Kibbeh Balls

KibbehMayaOryanDubai is calling me again and I have to travel next weekend. My trips are getting closer with time and I’m kind of used to it now, it’s in the system!

It’s actually in the entire family’s system (laughing). My mom offers her baby-sitting services before she accepts any invitation from her friends. My husband waits until I come back to travel so we don’t both leave the kids at the same time. My sisters cook always a little bit more to send it to us and my daughters have always a wish list of gifts ready for me to get them when I travel. I’m so blessed!

Thank you all for your support and for understanding how much I love what I do.

Well, everybody knows that when I’m not styling food, I’m still very busy doing everything else. I’m much more productive than every woman I know who has no job. I don’t know if it’s my energy that keeps me on the go, or simply the guilt feeling that I’ve been away from my family to work and I have to make it up for them. I exercise every day. I cook two meals (stirring in one hand and whatsApp-ing with the other). I tend to be the perfect wife, the fit mom, the present friend and the career woman.

My friend says it’s my adrenaline, I simply think I’m well organized.

It requires nothing but good planning (and love life). I don’t want one day to look back and realize that I wasted my life only dreaming.

Those beautiful pumpkin kibbeh balls are a dream coming true. Well I’d be cheating on you if I say I made them, because my mother-in-law did. And as long as she is sending it to us regularly I doubt that I will try it any soon;-)

Pumpkin kibbeh balls are more popular during Lent and among vegetarians. For those of you who’d like to adventure in the kitchen, making this recipe, it’s somehow long but worth every effort.

Ingredients

Stuffing

  • 2 tbsp frying oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
  • ½ cup chick peas
  • 200g chopped walnuts
  • 50g toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp ground cumin (optional)

Meatballs (kibbeh)

  • ½ kg fresh pumpkin, boiled, pureed and drained in a sieve for 10 hours.
  • 1 onion, minced in a processor
  • 280g bulgur wheat
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp dried basil

Preparation

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onion until brown and soft. Add Swiss chard, chickpeas, walnut and pine nuts and fry. Turn off the heat, add seasoning, lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Process onion, pumpkin purée and bulgur wheat. Add seasoning and flour, mix and let it cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour. If mixture is too hard add few drops of water.
  3. Moisten your hands and form kibbeh mixture into egg-size balls. With your index finger, make a hole on one end of the oval ball and spoon one tablespoon of filling inside and pinch the end to seal.
  4. Fry the kibbeh in cooking oil in batches or if desired, roast it in oven for about 25mn.
  5. Place the kibbeh on a serving dish and serve with cucumber yogurt salad.

ITALIAN APPLE CAKE

ItalianAppleCake-MayaOryan

It is said that we spend around the third of our life sleeping; I would love to know how much am I spending mine baking.

I love baking. Whether it’s sweet or savor, my pupils just grow larger in front of almost any kind of food coming out of the oven.

Yesterday I baked an apple cake and witnessed it coming out my kitchen triumphantly smelling like heaven.

I had my family over for my yearly Christmas party. I love our get-together, it’s warm and joyful. Kids were delighted with all the new gifts waiting for them under the Christmas tree and we, “grown-ups”, were happy drinking and eating merrily. A day to remember! Also was my cake☺

My daughters Kaia and Axel

My daughters Kaia and Axel

ITALIAN APPLE CAKE

Ingredients

  • 100g butter (at room temperature)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4tbsp milk
  • 3 sweet apples such as gala or golden, cored and sliced (skin on)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1tbsp limoncello

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 180° C. Butter and flour a 22cm round cake pan.

2. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Pour milk gradually while mixing and scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.

4. Pour the batter in the cake pan and decorate with the apple slices arranging them close together and overlapping on top of the batter.

5. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle this over the apples. Drizzle with limoncello (or lemon juice).

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.

6. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

MayaOryan-QuinoaSalad

My first encounter with QUINOA was only few years ago. Before that, I never heard of it.

My Peruvian friend told me that it has been around for centuries, and I thought of myself, what a goose!

When I googled QUINOA, I found out that it is a whole protein and is packed with dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. This grain is gluten-free and has seen an increase in popularity in gluten-free diets. So gifted!

-Quinoa and I can sure be pals.

And all of a sudden, every restaurant I know has a quinoa recipe on his menu, and every Lebanese recipe has been exposed to the Quinoa factor; Tabouleh with quinoa, Falafel Quinoa, Zucchini stuffed with quinoa, Halloumi quinoa salad and many more.

Ever since, I geared up and Quinoa became a staple in my pantry.

One of my favorite Quinoa recipes that I’d like to share today, as it’s also going on my Christmas menu this year, is Quinoa and Chickpea Salad. And here how I make it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked as per packet directions
  • 400g chickpeas aka garbanzo beans, cooked and peeled (or canned in brine)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced

For the vinaigrette:

  • 4 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 1tsp Dijon Mustard
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

Basically, 1 cup of quinoa is cooked in 2 cups of water. Boil until all water is absorbed.

In a salad bowl, mix all 4 ingredients.

Whisk together the sauce’s ingredients until thickened and drizzle over the quinoa-chickpeas mix. Combine well and serve.

Beef Steaks in Herbed Marinade

ImageGrilled steaks are perfect deals when I have little time to spend in the kitchen. Especially when I have them marinated overnight. The juicy flavor of the meat is enhanced with a marinade of Mediterranean herbs and olive oil.

And here below how I make it! It’s no more a secret recipe:)

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces / 200gms beef steaks
  • Pam spray

Marinade

  • 1 cup / 250ml olive oil
  • 3 tbsp grape vinegar
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 2 more for garnish
  • 1 handful fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 fresh lemon, cut in 4 wedges
  • 1 tsp salt

In a shallow dish, combine all the marinade ingredients and soak steaks inside. Cover and let stand for at least 2 hours.

On a medium-high heat, oil a stovetop griddle or a grilling pan and place the slices of steak to grill. Cook around 5 minutes per side or to your liking, turning once only. Move to a serving plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes.

Garnish with rosemary and serve with salad, potato mash or grilled vegetables.

Green Power Juice

GreenJuicebyMayaOryan

Might be choking for some people, but I don’t drink coffee. No black coffee, Turkish coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino, NOTHING!

But I do drink a lot of healthy juices. It’s an excellent way to get my daily serving of fruits and vegetables. I almost juice vegetables every day and keep the juice fruits as a treat (because without the fibers fruit juices are high in sugar).

A green juice is part of many detox diet and can cleanse your digestive system. Vegetables are easy to digest. This juice is a valuable factor in helping your body so energetic.

When we eat, our energy is focused on our digestive system to break down the food in our stomach. When we are not digesting our energy is doing other jobs like trying to heal and rejuvenate our body. No one wants an exhausted body all day long. It’s good to give your body a break and feed him light snacks:)

Green juices are really yummy and easy to prepare. I read somewhere Green Juice Recipes for Beginners. Well how difficult it can be to throw few pieces of vegetables in the chute of your juicer!!

You can make any combination you like. Peas, pepper, kale, cabbage, lettuce, carrot, beetroot, celery, fennel, …

All green plants have Vitamins A and C, which are important co-factors for calcium absorption. Vegetables contain many nutrients and among my favorites, are:

Cucumbers: Mildly diuretic. Great source of B vitamins and can lower blood cholesterol.

Spinach: Oxalic acid contents of leaves hinders absorption of iron and calcium. Contains large amounts of antioxidants and beta-carotene. High in folate.

Broccoli: High in fibre, antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene and C, which help against heart disease. Its phytochemicals have important properties, especially against cancer.

Parsley: High source of antioxidants, folic acid, Vitamins A and C, which help control blood-cholesterol, prevents constipation, protects the human body from free radicals mediated injury and from cancers.

Ginger: A well-known anti-nausea remedy; ideal for travel and morning sickness. Also stimulates circulation and aids digestion.

GreenJuiceNotebook-WhiteTo make my juice sweeter I sometimes add an apple, and here is one of my favorite combinations.

  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1 green apple, peeled
  • A handful of parsley (optional)
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled
  • ½ lime

Put all ingredients through your juicer. Spice it up with ginger and squeeze lime into juice, if desired. Have straight away and enjoy.

Happy 2nd Blog Anniversary!

Devil'sChocolateCake-MayaOryan

It’s two years now since I posted my first post on this blog!

Two years and some hundreds of followers later! Two years and I’m still enjoying blogging more every day. I have no plans to stop now it’s just the beginning! ♥

Through blogging, I became a much more skilled and knowledgeable cook. I learnt about various food cultures and inspirational eating habits. I’ve come to know, virtually and in reality, many other amazing bloggers. And I have been part of wonderful food events.

Thank you all for your LIKES and SHARES and COMMENTS. And mostly thank you for keeping coming back you’ve been a great support to me.

Can’t wait to eat a piece of the cake, it’s one of my favorite chocolate cakes recipes.

Devil’s Food Cake 

Ingredients

Serves 10 to 12

  • 300g / 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • 1tsp Baking Soda
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour cream, at room temperature

For the Frosting

  • 200g / 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6tbsp hot water
  • 300g semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and hot water.

3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and cocoa powder mixture, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

4. Divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1.Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water until smooth.

2. With an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and salt on medium-high speed.

3. Reduce heat and slowly add melted chocolate and cocoa powder mixture. Mix until well combined.

Vintage Memories of Childhood Food

Biscuit w Raha-M.OryanBiscuit Gandour 555, Unica, Ras el Abed, Dabké, Tutti Frutti, Choco Prince, Babol!

There’s no way you lived in Lebanon and haven’t got fond memories of at least one of these iconic food brands!

Some of them got a makeover, changed their name, but most of them are still on the rise and refuse to die out.

By chance, I went to the grocer last day where I spotted the famous green and red box of Lucky biscuits, or is it 555? I call it “Biscuit Gandour” and I consume it exclusively with Turkish Delight. However, I bought one box of biscuits and one box of Turkish Delight!

As soon as I reached home, I proudly displayed my little treasure on the dining table where everyone can notice it. AND EVERYONE DID NOTICE IT☺ And everyone tucked into the biscuits and the delights, or should I say into the feast of reminiscences?

Somehow, “Biscuit and Raha” (Biscuits and Turkish Delights) not only triggers happy memories but is still considered as an enjoyable and tasty treat. I introduced it to my daughters Kaia and Axel and watched them munching their share with indulgence and joy.

I know for sure, that many of you are still loyal to nostalgic food where simple treats like “Biscuit w Ra7a”, sounded like a real feast. I can feel your taste buds drawn to the past; to some of your favorite old-fashioned food, you no longer eat. I don’t know how many hearts belong to vintage food, but I know my heart does!☺

Strawberry Jam

MayaOryanStrawberryJam

Who among us has never stopped in front of a street vendor mouth-watering over fresh oranges, roasted chestnuts, fluffy cotton candy, and the list is endless!

I love the way in Lebanon, street food merchants display their goods. When a fruit or a vegetable is in season, here they are, conveniently scattered everywhere, making sure you bump into one of them before you reach home. No matter what direction you’re driving in! And the best part about it, Sweet Heaven, you don’t have to leave your vehicle; Free Car Delivery!

I think best sellers in Lebanon are fresh fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans)!

Fresh peas, Greengage plums (janerik), loquat (akidinye), are quite popular as well, and very dear to every Lebanese’s heart:)

As for me I felt for strawberries yesterday. Small, aromatic and intensely sweet! The smaller ones are more tasteful than the large ones. I let my nose be my guide and look for fragrance rather than color. A sweet aroma is the best indication of good flavor. And at this really affordable price, why not buy a large quantity to make some jam that kids can enjoy and mommy can show off with her super easy recipe without using a pectin;-)

Ingredients

  • 1 kg fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 600g / 2½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation

Place the hulled strawberries in a big salad bowl and cover with sugar. Let it rest for 10 hours, preferably in the fridge if the weather is hot.

In a heavy based saucepan transfer the syrup without the strawberries and bring to boil for 10mn on a low flame.

Add the strawberries and the lemon juice and cook for about 25mn or until a small amount of the juice gels on a chilled plate.

Pour carefully in jars and keep refrigerated. Consume within a month.

Yield: 3 to 4 jars, 370g each

Tip: If desired, one extra cup of sugar can be added to increase the quantity and sweeten the flavor.

Let’s Hangout!

 

FaçadeWhen you go to a restaurant what would you ask for more than a great food, nice atmosphere, big and lit space and a good service?

Well the Hangout restaurant has it all!!

The Hangout opened in December 2012 and since, it has made an indelible mark on Gemmayzé dining scene.

When I got an invitation to visit the restaurant for lunch along with other food bloggers, I surely replied: Hell Yes!

At my arrival I was welcomed by one of the owners Selim Heleiwa. Listening to him describing the restaurant brings many fond memories about our childhood. The place is an old Lebanese house from the late nineteenth century, beautifully restored, spacious and friendly. I certainly admired the little collection of cooking books on display.

To kick off we were presented with some Salmon Tartar, Fried Mushrooms with Halloum, Sahen el Teta (goat labneh, home made butter and organic pickles), fresh bread and a Goat Cheese salad. The cheese balls have an apricot fruity taste served with a slice of bread, iceberg, olives and sundried tomatoes. The dressing is so yummy that I ate all and will definitely order this one again!!

The Hangout cellar holds around 2000 bottles of wine with the finest Lebanese vintages as well as wines from around the world.

I had a glass of wine from Selim’s recommendation for this week Château Khoury Rosé de Rêve 2011.

The cellar with an 80% selection of the best Lebanese wine
The cellar with an 80% selection of the best Lebanese wine

I spent an epic two-hours at The Hangout, tasting and enjoying an array of delicious food. Everybody around was sharing the same experience and expressing how much the Gourmet Burger, the Côte de Boeuf and the Beef Stroganoff are delicious and flavorful.

I was offered a fresh mango juice with a hint of cardamom flavor I don’t know if this was on the menu, but I will sure ask for it upon my next visit along with the best Pain Perdu in town.

Everything on the menu was so creative and no wonder the restaurant is increasingly growing in fame so fast.

… in short, The Hangout is a breath of fresh air and just the kind of restaurant we’ve been waiting for.

The Salad Bar!

The Salad Bar!