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.

Cranberry Stollen

Stollen.jpg

I love our Christmas family gatherings and all the good food that comes in between. This year I wanted to change from my ginger cookies giveaways and made cranberry bread instead. What’s better than a Stollen recipe!

The origin of this bread is German and traditionally baked during Christmastime. Sweetened with honey and packed with dried fruits, this recipe contains no sugar. I wrapped each loaf with Christmas papers and twines, the presentation and the taste were amazing.

Merry Christmas to all and happy baking during the holidays!

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Ingredients

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dried raisins

¼ cup fresh orange juice

1 tbsp cointreau        

 

1 tbsp active dry yeast

¼ cup lukewarm milk

2 tsp honey

1 cup all-purpose flour

 

½ cup/100g unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup honey

1 large egg, beaten

1 tbsp grated orange zest

½ cup peeled, slivered almonds

3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

 

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

 

Preparation

  1. Place the dried fruits in a bowl and drizzle with orange juice and liquor. Stir the mixture to coat and set aside.
  2. In another bowl sprinkle the yeast with warm milk and wait until it rises and makes a good head of froth (about 10 minutes). Add honey and flour and set aside for another 15 minutes.
  3. In the mixer bowl, add the cranberries and raisins, the yeast mixture, butter, honey, egg, orange zest, almonds and salt. Start mixing adding the flour gradually, half cup at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic.
  4. Wrap the dough in an oiled plastic film and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
  5. Knock back the dough and divide into 2 portions. Shape each portion into an oval; alternatively roll the dough in one large loaf without dividing it. Glaze with melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper, place carefully the dough, cover with tea towel and leave again to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 185 degrees C/ 365 degrees F for 10 minutes. Place the dough in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. If using thermometer the internal temperature of the bread should reach approximately 90 degrees C (190 degrees F).
  8. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a rack to cool.

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.

 

Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes Caprese Salad

 

1.Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes Caprese Salad

Photography Serge Oryan

The beauty of Italy never ceases to amaze me, from north to south, armed with many authentic places (and recipes!!!) I fall in love with each city I visit. I was in Rome this month for my Birthday. My precious husband treated me with a 5-stars vacation and spent his time spoiling me.

What fall under the culinary section during my trip, are lots of Parmesan cheese, seafood and sparkling wine. From casual street food to Michelin starred restaurants, Italian cuisine is as influential as Rome’s artistic and historical assets. I selected only a couple of places to talk about, the ones I really want to visit again upon my next trip.

The first night we had dinner at Rinaldi al Quirinale, 11 via Parma, the next day we came back for their orange marinated salmon, Salmone Marinato all’Arancio; the best I ever had! On the way to Rinaldi, at the southern end of via Nazionale, my husband couldn’t resist the fab’ smell of the fresh and crunchy fries at Queens Chips. He ordered a piccolo (small) size, which was really a massive portion of freshly fried chips and sauce for €2.50!

Rome2015

After a long shopping day around the Spanish steps I was in the mood for some Italian cheese, fresh smoothie and a hearty salad. Ginger restaurant, via Borgognona 43/44, was the best place for that. The menu is a compilation of gourmet treats, well presented in a white, modern and trendy environment. They serve light meals, fresh salads and sandwiches. Not only I enjoyed my cheese selection with a refreshing Caienna smoothie (Avocado, dates, banana, almond milk) and a Fossa salad (Mixed salad leaves, yellow and red lettuce, rocket, spinach, dried tomatoes, turkey, goat cheese, organic walnuts, green apple), but I also got to meet and chat with the talented Soprano Zeina Barhoum, who happened to be sitting right next to us.

On our way back from the Colosseum we stopped by Aroma restaurant where we booked a table for lunch. This gourmet restaurant has been awarded with 1 Michelin star and its regional cuisine has been recognized with 5 Star Diamond Award! It offers a spectacular view on the Colosseum, highly recommended for a special event (like my birthday!!). The food was exquisite and creative and the attentive staff follows the chef’s dedication. This dining experience was so momentous and exceeded our expectations.

The Aroma2

ZAroma

On the last eve, I went to a gourmet store and bought fresh mini mozzarella balls, as I was dreaming about Caprese salad. My recipe is so simple and totally relies on the freshness of the ingredients. It requires no slicing at all. Combine all ingredients and toss with best quality olive oil. There’s absolutely no excuse for using average olive oil in your salad. The key to a perfect Caprese salad is to use only the good stuff. Don’t add pesto or balsamic vinegar; the less improvement you do, the better. The recipe is a classic as it is, do yourself a favor and don’t try to ameliorate it. It doesn’t matter what kind of tomatoes you use as long as it’s fresh! I love to use yellow and red tomatoes, as this slight twist adds elegance to the presentation also the sweetness of the yellow tomato rounds off the creaminess of the mozarella. Enjoy!

Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes Caprese Salad

Ingredients

  • 100 g red cherry tomatoes, washed and rinsed
  • 100 g yellow cherry tomatoes, washed and rinsed
  • 150 g mini Mozzarella Cheese balls
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Dried oregano, to taste
  • Extra virgin Olive Oil, to taste
  • Coarse Sea Salt, to taste

Preparation

Combine tomatoes and Mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with basil leaves, oregano and salt. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with Italian grissini or some crusty bread.

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.