Stuffed Vine Leaves

MayaOryanIMG_8508-RPhotography Serge Oryan

Stuffed vine leaves are as easy as a salad to make! It has to be easy since this recipe was among the first ones I learned. In fact you combine all the ingredients same as you do for a salad, drizzle the olive oil and the lemon juice and start the stuffing. The rolling is not that complicated!

An authentic traditional recipe, prepared just like my mom and her mom before her. Stuffed vine leaves are really moreish, these juicy little bites, melting soft in the mouth are best consumed as an appetizer or as a main dish.This dish is one of the essential plates in Lebanese mezze. Because it’s vegetarian, it makes it a popular staple during the Lent period.

Full with nutritious ingredients, this meal is a heart-healthy choice for almost anyone. According to the nutrition data, Grape leaves are low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacin and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and Folate. They can provide your body with beneficial nutrients, from Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese to omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. What’s not to like about that!

 One last note, if using canned grape leaves, rinse the leaves gently with warm water and use, while fresh grape leaves have to be soaked in hot water for 10-15 minutes before using.

Ingredients

  • 250g grape vine leaves
  • 1½ cup uncooked short grain rice
  • 4 cups parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup chickpeas, canned or cooked
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sweet pepper
  • 1-2 Potatoes, sliced in circles
  • Water
  • 2-3 tomatoes slices in circles

Preparation

To prepare the stuffing, combine uncooked rice, parsley, mint, onions, tomatoes and chickpeas in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, layer the potatoes slices as one layer.

Open flat the grape vine leaf, shiny side down, spoon inside the parsley rice mixture and roll tightly, closing the sides first. Arrange in pan placing the rolls closely one to the other. To finish, top with a layer of tomato slices and strain the reserve stuffing liquid over all.

Place a large plate on the top of the rolls to keep them holding together. Cover with water and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes.

Let cool and serve with yogurt. Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves.

Note: You might finish the stuffing before the leaves, or the leaves before the stuffing. I tried to be as close as possible to the quantity of the ingredients, but it varies from one size of leaf to other and depends on the amount of stuffing you use in each roll.

 

Pomegranate Moscow Mule

Moscow Mule

Photography Serge Oryan

When I think of a refreshing and light drink to sip while watching the clock countdown to midnight, I make myself a red Moscow Mule.

Pomegranate juice is a brilliant addition to the classic recipe. It’s a fantastic compliment to ginger beer while pomegranate arils make it pop up with Christmas colors. Holiday heaven!

Mules has definitely been my favorite cocktail during 2015, it’s traditionally served in copper mugs, but apparently customers can’t stop snatching them from bars, that a lot of places are replacing their attractive cups with glasses.

Still cool for me:) I love the ginger-spicy and pomegranate-sweet mixture and here I am celebrating tonight in style. Cheers everyone to a fresh beginning!

And this is what to mix
Makes 2 drinks
Ingredients
• ½ cup vodka
• 1½ cup ginger beer
• ½ cup pomegranate juice
• Juice of 1 fresh lime
• Pomegranate arils, to taste
• Fresh mint, for garnish

Directions
Combine vodka, ginger beer, pomegranate and lime juice. Stir. Top with ice cubes or crushed ice if desired. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint and enjoy.

Freekeh, A Festive Recipe

Freekeh-MayaOryan

Just when I finally learned how to regularly incorporate quinoa in my cuisine, another new grain starts surging in popularity, loaded with nutritional and healthy benefits, containing more protein and double the amount of fiber as quinoa. I’m talking about FREEKEH!

Freekeh, (frikeh, fah-reek or farik) is obtained from wheat that is harvested while the grains are still green, soft and immature. They are gently roasted so only the chaff burn and not the seeds. After roasting the wheat is thrashed and rubbed -thus the name in Arabic fareek, which means rubbed. Grains inside are too moist to burn and the result is a smoky, nutty wheat with a distinct taste.

Recipes passed from one generation to another, have always a special place in our hearts especially if it brings along all the wonderful souvenirs from our childhood.

My dad’s hometown is Jdeidet Marjeyoun, located in the south of Lebanon, where freekeh is part of the town’s culinary heritage. He cooked us meals using Freekeh only on special occasions. For a long time I somehow forgot about this grain, until recently I started to use it more often, and just like my dad “on special occasions”!

This festive recipe brings joy to my guests and family, tasting delicious and looking outstanding. Can easily combined with your favorite chicken recipe, beef or lamb. I chose today to cook it with vegetables and top it with salmon.

The wait is over, time to knock out old recipes and try something different and bedazzling, this Christmas!

Vegetables and Smoked Salmon Freekeh

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium size white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups frikeh, washed and soaked at least 1 hour
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • ¾ cup carrots, diced
  • ½ cup artichoke bottoms, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Thyme leaves (optional)
  • Smoked Salmon, to garnish

Directions:

1.In a medium saucepan, heat oil and sauté the zucchinis, the carrots and the artichokes until cooked. Season with salt.

2.In a separate heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and transparent. Add in the freekeh and cook, for 2 minutes.

3.Add wine to the softened onions and cook until the liquid has evaporated off.

4.Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat this process until freekeh is thick and creamy; the freekeh should still have some chew to it. Season to taste.

5.If the freekeh is still hard. It has to be cooked with additional boiling water.

6.Once the freekeh is cooked, mix in the vegetables and finish with 1 cup of stock. Let simmer a couple of minutes until it is entirely absorbed.

7.To transfer this meal into a festive dish, put freekeh in a small serving bowl and top it with thyme leaves. Cover the bowl with a dinner plate and flip it swiftly upside down. Decorate it with smoked salmon and lemon wedges and serve immediately.

 

Honey Tahini Cookies -(feat.video tutorial)

IMG_5765

I always wanted to post one of my recipe videos but kept on postponing thinking that it might be boring; until today, I was watching this recipe with my little daughter when she told me “this looks super easy, lets make some straight away!”

Not only I was happy that it took her only once to watch the video and wanting to try the recipe out, but also I was encouraged to upload my video and not to be nervous anymore about it.

If you love Halawa (Halva) you will love these cookies. They are both crisp and chewy and totally easy to make. The combination of Tahini and honey tastes like Halawa and who wants to resist this flavor.

These cookies will be your new favorite!

Honey Tahini Cookies

Makes 30

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick / 100g butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup tahini (I used Al Wadi Al Akhdar tahini)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add the tahini, honey and orange blossom water.
  3. In a medium size bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour to tahini mixture, combining well until forming a dough.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 170°C or 350°
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, take a walnut size of dough and shape into balls. Arrange them on the cookie sheet at least 2 inches / 5cm apart. Dip the tines of a fork in flour and gently press a crisscross pattern into each ball. Dip fork in flour after every cookie to avoid sticking.
  7. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 13-15 minutes or until the cookies begin to show cracks.

Meatballs, Potatoes and Rice – Daoud Bacha w Riz

Daoud Bacha and Rice - Photo by Serge Oryan

Daoud Bacha and Rice – Photo by Serge Oryan

If I were ever granted one superpower, I’d want the ability to manipulate time. Forward. Stop. Rewind.

It would come in helpful to forward insignificant days, zap undesirable phases, lap disappointing circumstances.

If I can stop time it will enable me to do all the things I want and I will never miss a deadline. How many times you wished for a moment to never end, for a pleasure to prolong in measures you never reached before, for those thrilling feelings to last longer.

If I can rewind time, I will have perfect control over my destiny. Not only I’d use this ability to catch back opportunities I never thought they were important, but also to run through again memories and time that touched my heart.

If you were granted one superpower, what would it be?

Last time I did meatballs, my friend Carole who lives in Dubai came over for lunch with her beautiful daughters, we sat all around the table and enjoyed a meal together and laughed. How I wish right now to rewind this day and live it as is all over again:)

Meatballs, Potatoes and Rice

Ingredients

  • 450g beef ground meat
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumb
  • 3 tbsp Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups potatoes, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Pine nuts, toasted (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper and parsley, add the egg, flour and breadcrumbs and mix. Make small balls.

Heat oil in a large pot and add the meatballs to cook until browned on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside.

In same pot, add oil and drop in the onions and garlic to fry until golden. Add potatoes and tomatoes and mix gently. Cover with water and let it simmer on medium heat. Spoon the tomato paste in and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with rice on the side.

Maamoul With Pistachios or Walnuts

Maamool-MayaOryan

It’s this time of the year where the neighborhood smells sweet. Housewives and women of the family would be traditionally gathering right now to bake batches of Maamool. The aroma sneaks out of the oven to reach every sense of smell around and makes one desire to eat Maamool instantly. Hopefully this ritual will never go out of style, as it adds excitement to this beautiful occasion.

Maamool is very popular in Lebanon during Easter and I’ve been asked for the recipe hundreds of times. I hope you will love it as much as I do and appreciate the artist behind this elegant treat. I think who ever invented it, did care about each of his taste buds. Who would have thought about the mix of this fragrant dough coming from the combination of the rose water and the orange blossom water. The result is a delicious cookie that melts in your mouth and the pistachio filling gives it a soft chomp. Impressive!

Maamoul With Pistachios or Walnuts

For 30 pieces

Ingredients

Maamoul Dough

  • 3 cups coarse semolina (ferkha)
  • 2 cups fine semolina (smeed naim)
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 3 sticks/300g of butter, melted (and let cool down) I use Lurpak blocks
  • 100ml of rose water
  • 30ml/2 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • ⅙ teaspoon instant yeast

Nut Filling

  • 200g of unsalted pistachio nuts or unsalted walnuts
  • ¾ cup of regular sugar
  • 2tbsp of rose water
  • 3tbsp of orange blossom water
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Preparation

  1. Mix coarse semolina, fine semolina and sugar together.
  2. Add yeast and melted butter and rub with hands until well combined.
  3. Gradually pour WARM orange blossom water and rose water, kneading the dough gently with hands. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a wet kitchen towel. Let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  4. To make the filling, combine all ingredients.
  5. Divide the dough in 2. Scoop walnut size of maamoul dough and flatten it on the palm of your hand, fill it with pistachios or walnut filling and make a ball. Repeat this step until you finish the dough.
  6. Press gently each ball into a traditional “Maamoul” mold to take shape and tap out on the baking sheet to drop out of the mould. If the dough is sticky, lightly flour the mold.
  7. In a preheated oven 200C/400F bake the maamoul cookies for about 15-20mn or until the sides are slightly golden.
  8. Sprinkle with icing sugar, while still hot. Let cool down and sprinkle again until fully covered.

My Valentine Red Velvet Cake

Valentine Red Velvet Cake

Kids had few days off school as part of their winter break and instead of taking them to a ski vacation we flew to sunny Dubai and stayed at one of our favorite resort Atlantis the Palm, where kids had an amazing time on the beach with mommy (myself hihihi)  and friends. We’re lucky to have so many friends living in Dubai, which always makes of our vacation an unforgettable one.

Back to my kitchen and to my baking passion, an old recipe of a red velvet cake shouted at me across the room to urgently make it; I was so powerless over its lusciousness and didn’t hesitate for a second.

I usually prefer dry cakes without any frosting on, but this combination of red velvet cake and vanilla cream cheese frosting is gorgeous and I’m sure once you try it you will stay hooked.

I had fun writing words with my children to top each slice of the cake, we wrote much more than we needed as some of them got broken while peeling them off the paper, but no one minded eating an extra piece of chocolate, they clearly have a sweet tooth like mommy.

Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp red food coloring
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 450g / 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate to make the toppers (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 185°C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

Mix together cocoa powder and food coloring to form a paste and add it to the egg mixture.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, gradually to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk, beat until well incorporated, making sure to scrape down the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.

Mix baking soda and vinegar together and add.

Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake 30-40 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pressed with finger.

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.

To make the frosting: Whisk together cream cheese and butter until smooth.

Add, sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high speed until well combined.

Spread the cream cheese over the top of one of the cakes and on top (bottom up). Now spread the remaining cream cheese to cover the cakes from all sides, and decorate if desired.

To make the toppers: Melt chocolate over a bain-marie and fill it in a squeeze bottle or a piping bag. Write words (like love, kisses, hugs, xoxo, valentine) on a wax paper and wait few minutes to cool. Once the chocolate is hard, peel it off the paper and insert it gently in the cream.