Bamia w Riz / Lamb and Okra Stew

MayaOryan-Okra with Rice

The Taste of Marjeyoun is a cookbook by Dina Bayoud Kohl and published by Tamyras. I was lucky enough to meet the author last October and purchase my signed copy of her book.

My dad’s lifelong love was his hometown Marjeyoun where he was born. Despite the fact that he moved to Beirut with his parents at a very young age, he always speaks fondly about his town, the people, the culture and the food.

Dina’s recipes are so authentic and easy to apply. They are like many Lebanese recipes exquisite and rich with healthy ingredients from pulses to vegetables to aromatic herbs like thyme, parsley and mint. I enjoyed trying many of them and results were always successful.

I particularly felt in love with the beef and okra stew recipe, healthy, refined and simply delicious. I may have changed a couple of steps on how Dina Bayoud Kohl makes it, but stayed loyal to the ingredients.

I’m reliving my dad’s tasty food with every bite I take! Live Love Marjeyoun:)

Ingredients:

• 2 tbsp vermicelli
• 2 cups long grain rice
• 800g Frozen Baby Okra
• 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 2 tbsp sunflower oil
• 2 medium Onions, finely chopped
• 5-6 Garlic cloves, crushed
• 500g Lamb meat, cubes
• 1tsp ground cinnamon
• 450g tomatoes, crushed
• 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
• ¼ tsp allspice
• Salt, to taste

Preparation:
1. Sauté the vermicelli in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil then add the rice and cook according to package instructions.
2. In a large bowl drizzle lemon juice over okra and set aside.
3. In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until wilted and golden, stirring constantly. Add the meat and cinnamon and brown for about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes over low-medium heat and 1 liter of water and let it simmer.
5. Add the okra, tomato paste, allspice and salt and cook covered for about 20 minutes or until the okra is cooked through. Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes and until the sauce slightly thickens. Serve with vermicelli rice.

Loubieh Bi Zeit or Green Beans in Oil

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Loubieh Bi Zeit literally means “green beans in oil” and is a Lebanese traditional vegetarian dish. Many local dishes use olive oil I think because Lebanon produces fine olive oil and combined to many ingredients result into absolute indulgence.

I prepare this dish using fresh beans, tomatoes, garlic and onions. I love this old-fashioned simple version, I change nothing add nothing!

This meal is refreshing, tasty and healthy, the combination of ripe tomatoes and green beans gives it a sweet flavor with a bit of acidity.

Classic!

Ingredients

  • 1kg flat green beans (a.k.a helda beans), washed
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 400 g ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ tsp Lebanese seven spices
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Fresh herbs for garnish

 Directions

  1. Top and tail the beans and cut into even-sized pieces.
  2. Fry the onions over medium-high heat until golden. Add the whole garlic, the flat beans, the pepper and the salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the beans are a vibrant green.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir.
  4. Cover with water and simmer on low-medium heat for about 25 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and add the tomato sauce. Continue cooking until the liquid evaporates and the tomatoes form a thick coating around the beans.
  6. Garnish with parsley, coriander or mint and serve at room temperature with fresh onions and flat bread.

 

 

Apricot Jam Crumb Tart

Tarte Em Tony IMG_0613

Isn’t something to have a recipe after your name? Fettucini Alftedo,  Béchamel sauce or cake Savarin! I wonder if these people knew that one day their name would be remembered and taught for hundred years later.

Most of us have special recipes passed to us thru our parents, relatives or neighbors. Recipes that are famous in the family and even sometimes in the neighborhood! But how is it possible to make a recipe internationally recognized and adapted for the next generations?

I invited my friend Carole to spend the day with us. She got us with her a box filled with apricot crumble tart cut in squares.

I tasted one and it was the best buttery shortbread-style cookie ever with a soft crumbly texture that just melts in your mouth. Totally delicious! And when I asked for the recipe, Carole answered with confidence: “Tart Em Tony” (translated from Arabic to Tony’s mama), as if I was supposed to know what does that mean and what’s inside. She continued: ” Everybody on the block knows Tart Em Tony. That was our favorite dessert when we were kids”.

My face turned pale, it must be jealousy! Who on Earth is Em Tony and has a recipe after her name? A recipe that all the neighborhood shared at a time when food blogger wasn’t even a word.

I requested the recipe and instantly Carole whatsaped it to me. It was a picture from a recipe book handwritten just like the old days. How many of you remember his mom writing all her recipes in an old agenda notebook. The trend was to copy recipes into our books, while now we take snapshots with our smart phones and share digital copies effortlessly with friends or on the Whatsapp family group.

EM TONY tart

I know that many of my recipes have been tried all over the country. I know that my pumpkin sweet potato soup is a hit and have been passed to many people on the five continents, but would I ever have one recipe that will outlive me? A recipe recognized as the Oryana recipe, and for decades from now? I will call that an achievement!

Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup apricot jam

Preparation

Grease or line a 9-inch square pan. In the bowl of the stand mixer cream the butter and the icing sugar on medium speed. Beat in the egg and vanilla and mix further until light and fluffy.

In a separate bow, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add it slowly to the butter mixture, mixing until the dough comes together.

Push half of the dough into the pan so it covers it evenly. Let it chill in the fridge along with the other half of the dough for about an hour.

Take it off the fridge and spread the jam on the top.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

To make the crumble topping, grate the remaining dough over the jam to cover it all.

Bake the tart in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until it is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let it cool completely before cutting.

It can be sliced into squares using a knife or cut into circles using a cookie-cutter.

The Roof at Four Seasons Beirut

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What I love the most about Beirut in summer, is to watch the sun slipping below the horizon, with a frosted drink in one hand and cool music playing in the background.

With sweeping views of Downtown Beirut and the Mediterranean sea, “The Roof” perches on the Four Seasons Hotel’s 26th floor, offering a unique menu of tapas and an impressive cocktail list.

This chic rooftop lounge is a great spot to chill out enjoying some local glamour and lounging around with an A-list celebrity clientele and a live DJ spinning tracks.

Yesterday, I woke up craving for their Asian-inspired tasty bites so in the evening I slipped into one sexy dress and headed there with Serge and some friends. As soon as we arrived, we ordered a refreshing bottle of rosé to start with, while our eyes focused on that world-class sunset. We were lucky to have the manager Rita Bou Antoun on duty to visit our table and recommend a concoction from The Roof tailored menu, to inspire appetite and generate fun conversations.

Everybody around seemed to have fun, even though the venue is more of a lounge area than a party place, nevertheless some guests were swinging and dancing on the live tunes of DJ David Maouad. He was so good that turned the setting into one high-end playground for rich and famous hanging there and transforming an ordinary summer day into a terrific evening.

Finally not only the views were sensational but also the ambiance, the refined delights and the fascinating dessert. Thank you The Roof for making every night out here a most treasured experience. Can’t wait to go back!

Le Choux A La Creme

MayaOryan-IMG_9842-RLast week I came back home to find a beautiful gift from POLYGEL HOME BAKER waiting for me on my desk office.

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A jam-packed goody bag has always an enjoyable impact on me, especially when it’s from a brand that I love. I rummaged through the bags to find many baking accessories, party items, 65% dark INAYA chocolate from Cocoa Barry ideal for my ganache, Spanish almond flakes and a lovely cake mould that I will try soon. But the one item I was thrilled about the most was the star cream, which is a ready mix to make crème pâtissière. I’ve been craving for a choux a la crème for a while and this came handy at the right time.

I love choux because the dough on its own is not too sweet so it really goes with any flavor you fill in. It can be catered to your liking. The most popular is to have a custard cream inside, but some recipes include caramel, coffee, strawberries, banana,… so the options are really unlimited.

The choux a la crème and éclair dough are the same, they are just piped in a different way. I prefer the choux pastries because it’s a bite size treat picked up and devoured in a single mouthful. These little sweets dole out an irresistible dose of rich flavor and will soon become your next favorite treat.

As per the rest of the items found in my goody bag, I know now I have few weeks worth of testing and evaluation. Checkout Polygel Home Baker website, many of their fabulous products can be ordered online.

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The recipe for: Choux a la creme

Makes around 50

Ingredients:

  • 100g / 1 cup butter, diced
  • 300ml water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3-4 eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F. In a medium size pan, melt the butter with water and bring to simmer.
  2. Add the flour and the sugar, whisking constantly and remove from the heat and continue beating until the mixture forms a paste that doesn’t stick to the pan. Let the paste cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs a little at a time and beat until you have a glossy smooth dough.
  4. Using two teaspoons (I prefer piping), place blobs of the dough onto the lined baking sheet, leaving space between them as they will puff up. If you use a piping bag, dip your finger in water and flatten down the little tips on the top.
  5. Bake the buns in the middle rack of your oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Leave to completely cool on a rack.
  6. To make the filling, mix 350g of Laped Starcream Vanilla (crème pâtissière) with 1 liter of cold milk and whip for 3 minutes until glossy and fluffy or use the whole pack (400g) with 1 liter of water and whip vigorously.
  7. Fill the choux pastries with the chilled mixture of crème pâtissière and dust with Laped Powdered Sugar, ideal for usage in pastries and decorations.

 

Note: Alternatively, you can fill these choux with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or any other filling of your choice.

Orzo Mozzarella Salad

OrzoMozarrellaSalad

This recipe is inspired from the salad of my awesome friend Sandrella.

I have a lot of awesome friends but none of them has her get-up-and-go astonishing characteristic. None of them is the gym freak to drive 1 hour in the morning, because this is where her favorite PT trains. None of them travels 4 times a year with 3 kids on different adventurous vacations. None of them runs her overseas business while baking her children sophisticated cake recipe or spending the day driving them from and to activities or play-dates.

I congratulate you my friend, not only because your food has been labeled as inspirational, but also because your vitality is contagious.

I surround myself with friends who have great sense of humor, extraordinary dreams and great ambitious. This helps to focus my energy in a positive direction. Being positive attract positive people, they somehow gravitate toward me.

In Oprah’s book What I Know For Sure, I like her chapter on gossip. She first talked about a truth Maya Angelou passed on to her: “I’m convinced that the negative has power—and if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over,” she said. “Those negative words climb into the woodwork, into the furniture, and the next thing you know, they’re on your skin. A negative statement is poison.”

Oprah writes: “We live in a culture obsessed with gossip—who’s wearing what, who’s dating whom, who’s entangled in the latest sex scandal. What would happen if we declared our homes, our relationships or our lives gossip-free zones? We’d probably be surprised at how much time we’d free up to do the work that’s most significant—building our dreams rather than tearing down others’. We’d fill our homes with a spirit of truth that would make visitors want to kick off their shoes and stay awhile. And we’d remember that while words have the power to destroy, they also have the power to heal.

I did this salad on Saturday for some of my beautiful friends. We had dinner, chatted and laughed out loud. No one was making any effort to incorporate humor into the atmosphere, the energy was there, circulating light and carefree.

Always find the best in others, it’s necessary to living the good life.

 And now back to some serious talk of ORZO MOZZARELLA SALAD and this is how I make it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, full or halved
  • 12 mini mozzarella balls
  • ¼ cup black olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Olive oil, to taste
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano

Preparation:

  1. Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water.
  2. In a bowl, combine orzo, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and black olives. Toss with pesto until ingredients are completely coated. Add olive oil, salt and oregano and toss again.
  3. Decorate with pine nuts and serve.

NOTE: I made my own pesto: Slice very thin a quarter cup of fresh basil. Crush basil inside the mortar with 1 tablespoon of pine nuts and 1 garlic clove. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan and stir.

 

Fried Caulifower and Tahini Dip

Fried Cauliflower

Nothing can beat this amazing vegetarian appetizer! Served as a snack or as a side dish, it’s crisp, tasty and easy to make. The homemade tahini dip a.k.a tarator is the perfect accompaniment to this straight forward recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 kg cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Vegetable Oil for frying

For the Dip

  • ½ cup tahini (tahina or sesame paste)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil, and blanch the cauliflower for 8-10 minutes. Remove from water. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the cauliflower in and fry for 5-6 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with wax paper or paper towel to drain.
  3. To make the dip, combine tahini, lemon juice, water and salt. Stir until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning to liking.
  4. Serve cauliflower and dip as an appetizer.

P.S. Can also be served in pita bread as a sandwich.