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.

 

Makhlouta

Food Styling by Maya Oryan - Photography by Serge Oryan

Food Styling by Maya Oryan – Photography by Serge Oryan

Mornings are the worst when one is sick. I still have the cold and waking up in the morning with a persistent cough and a very dry throat.

My beloved husband came to bed this morning, with some freshly squeezed OJ and told me: “I cooked Makhlouta for the kids and you”.

I guessed he was cooking Makhlouta as I heard the pressure cooker whistling;-) It’s still awesome news, no! He knew I was too sick to enter the kitchen. How sweet of him!

I love how he didn’t say lunch or dinner, he said Makhlouta his favorite meal -and mine- on a cold winter day like today.

Makhlouta is a Lebanese traditional stew that means “mixed” because it consists of a mixture of pulses and beans. There’s no straight recipe, it can be any kind of 5 to 7 pulses and grains. Open your kitchen cabinet or check your pantry and take a handful of every grain you have there.

I grew in the heart of the city and my parents never cooked Makhlouta for us, while my husband grew in a Lebanese village called Baskinta situated at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level. The winter in Baskinta is cold and snowy, so many dishes are pulses based and Makhlouta is a meal you can eat twice a week. Now that we are married, anytime I ask him what to cook, his answer would be anything with whole grains.

Makhlouta is loaded with fibers and protein, its simple ingredients makes of it a very easy vegetarian thick soup.

This recipe uses pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, whole wheat, brown rice and cracked wheat but feel free to use any 5 to 6 variety of your choice like broad beans, white beans, red kidney bean. The most common is to use brown lentils, but this recipe uses a mix of 3 colors lentils as we had an organic mix in our pantry.

NOT ONLY HE COOKED FOR ME, BUT HE ALSO TOOK THIS BEAUTIFUL, MOUTH-WATERING PHOTO! SERGE YOU’RE A TREASURE!

Makhlouta

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup mixed 3 colors lentils, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup brown rice, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup Burghul or cracked wheat, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup whole wheat
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 cup pinto beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked in water overnight
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Extra virgin Olive oil, to drizzle

 Preparation

  1. Drain and rinse the beans and the chickpeas. Place it in a pressure cook, cover with water and let cook.
  2. In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the onion until wilt and brown.
  3. Add lentils, rice, burghul, whole wheat and water and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the cooked beans and chickpeas, with their water, stir in tomato paste. Season with salt, and cumin if desired, and simmer until everything is tender.
  5. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Tip 1: If you’re not using a pressure cook, place the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer. Let it cook until tender; this might take a little over an hour, depends on how fresh are the dried beans.

Tip 2: While soaking the beans, you may rinse and change the water after a couple of hours, if you want. Use a lot of water as the beans will grow in size and volume.

 

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
  • 80g bulgur wheat
  • 2 tbsp 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.

Hummus with Meat

Hummus b-lahme

Hummus b-lahme

I’m traveling again this weekend and was trying all this week to finish everything in my fridge before going.

I have Hummus leftover, it’s a shame to throw it, no? I decided to fry some meat and pine nuts, and this fabulous recipe is the result.

Hummus is a very Lebanese appetizer –we even have a news website called hummus nationknown for being a healthy meal especially for vegetarians around the world. I haven’t met one vegetarian from anywhere in the world who hasn’t heard about Hummus. They might not heard about Lebanon, but they sure know Hummus hehe;-)

I wonder who had this idea to top the Hummus with meat!

Might be a disappointing story for vegetarians, but for meat lovers out there, I promise this combination is a delish! Eat it with pita bread and remember to open your eyes☺

Ingredients

To make the hummus

  • 2 x 410g cans chickpeas (a.k.a Hummus or Garbanzo Beans), drained
  • 5tbsp Tahina (sesame paste)
  • 4tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1tsp salt
  • 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • 1tsp sumac (optional)

To make the topping

  • 1tbsp butter or cooking oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3tbsp pine nuts
  • 200g ground beef or cut in small pieces
  • 1 tsp 7 spices (if not available, use cinnamon and black pepper)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

Preparation

1.In a food processor, put the drained chickpeas with the rest of the ingredients (Tahina, lemon juice, garlic, salt and olive oil) and blend until you get a smooth paste. This is now Hummus.

2.To make the topping; melt butter in a frying pan and sauté the onion, add the pine nuts and fry for 2mn. Add the meat and cook for 10mn or until they are well done. Sprinkle with black pepper, cinnamon and salt. Add the molasses and stir until well combined.

3. Top the Hummus with meat, drizzle with more olive oil if desired and garnish with parsley. Serve with Lebanese (or pita) bread.