Old School Middle Eastern Recipes with Some Modern Day Twists

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Fasoolia Baytha (White Bean Stew)

Fasoolia Baytha (White Bean Stew)

White beans braised in a tomato based sauce is Fasoolia Baytha. Fasoolia means “bean” and baytha means “white” in Arabic. Thus, this is a white bean stew. This dish could not get any simpler. You can use canned or dried beans for this recipe, whichever […]

Baked Chicken Wings with Spicy Tahini Dipping Sauce

Baked Chicken Wings with Spicy Tahini Dipping Sauce

We are taking a break from the “Timin and Marakah” series in honor of Super Bowl snacking. This is a super easy recipe to pop in the oven while you work on other Super Bowl snacks or just want to spend more time watching the […]

Akil Majnoon (Braised Vegetable Stew)

Akil Majnoon (Braised Vegetable Stew)

Cauliflower, eggplant and cabbage braised in a tomato based sauce is the basis of Akil Majnoon. The warm spices of bahar, make this such a cozy winter meal. Naturally vegan, it is just as much considered comfort food like Basalia and Bamia and is recipe #3 in the “Medley of Marakah.”

Akil in Arabic means calm/sane, and majnoon means crazy/insane. So basically the dish translates to “sane insane.” No matter how many vegetables you throw into this dish, it still comes out tasty. See?… “sane, insane.” Sometimes the Arabic translations of things can be a stretch, especially sayings, but there is some humor and charm to it. Lol, check these out. Another example of funny translations is the dish Ras Asfour, which means “bird’s head” because of the resemblance of the meatballs to the shape of a birds head, NOT because there is any form of bird in the dish.

For such a complicated name, Akil Majnoon is the opposite. It is low fuss. Basically you chop up all these vegetables, leave it on the on the stove on low heat to braise a bit, then eat with rice. The slow braise allows the vegetables to soften, deepen their flavor and release their natural sweetness. Simple and delish. Sane and insane.

Akil Majnoon

Cauliflower, eggplant and cabbage are braised in a tomato based sauce that is peppered with the warm spices of bahar. Eaten with rice, it is such a cozy and easy meal.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (~2 cups)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into rough florets (~8 cups)*
  • 1 eggplant, pealed and cubed (~2 cups)*
  • ½ green cabbage, core removed and sliced (~4 cups)*
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes, plain or fire roasted
  • 5 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp bahar, more or less to taste
  • 3 tsp salt, more or less to taste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • cups water

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot.
  • Once the oil starts to glisten, add onions and cook until onions become almost translucent, ~5 minuets.
  • Add cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, salt, bahar, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix until evenly coated. Cook for about 10 minutes to sear ingredients.
  • Add tomato sauce and water to pot. Allow sauce to bubble for a few minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for ~1 – 1.5 hours, the longer you cook it, the more tender it will get.
  • Serve with rice and enjoy!

Notes

*Feel free to add more or less of each vegetable depending on your preference. You can add other vegetables if you prefer as well. Adjust the cooking liquid to the amount of volume in your pot. There should be enough liquid to allow the vegetables to simmer in, rather than fully submerged in. Keep in mind, there will be additional liquid release from the vegetables as they braise. 
Bamia (Okra Stew)

Bamia (Okra Stew)

Number 2 of our Timin and Marakah series (remember that means rice and tomato-based stew from our Basalia post)! Bamia (aka okra) is a beautifully tart and savory okra stew. It would always be a treat when our mom would make this dish for us, […]

Rice with Hikaka

Rice with Hikaka

Rice with hikaka is a staple in our house. But, what is hikaka (pronounced hick-ka-ka in Arabic) you may ask? Hikaka is the delicious, crispy rice that forms at the bottom of a pot of cooked rice. When ready to serve the pot is flipped […]

Basalia (Pea Stew)

Basalia (Pea Stew)

Welcome to the first of a series of posts entitled “Medley of Marakah.” Marakah (accent on the first syllable) is an Arabic word for a tomato-based stew/sauce and there many different kinds of Marakah. Arguably the most popular Marakah in our family is Basalia and for good reason. Basalia (peas in Arabic) is the main ingredient in this stew and gives it a slight sweetness that is balanced by the acidity of the tomato sauce. The ground meat adds a hearty protein that rounds out the dish. Pour it over a bed of a rice and your meal is complete.

Timin (Arabic for “rice”) and Marakah is a weekly dinner staple in our family. The varieties of Marakah are fairly easy and quick to make. They can even be made ahead of time and frozen for even easier meals during the work week. I remember my Mom asking us every so often especially before big milestones (like the first day of school or our birthdays) which Timin and Marakah we would like to have. Basalia was a clear front runner in answering this question. The coming weeks, however, will reveal a few more varieties you can try for yourself and then decide. Stay tuned ….

Basalia

Peas and ground meat are braised in a tomato based sauce. It is eaten with rice, and is the most delicious and complete meal.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Arabic
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped yellow onion medium size
  • 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1.25 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp Iraqi baharat or all spice if you don'y have baharat on hand
  • 4 cups frozen peas

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in large saucepan on medium heat
  • Add chopped onion and saute until soft and almost translucent
  • Add ground meat and mix with onion breaking up the meat with spoon until cooked thoroughly
  • Add tomato sauce, water, salt, pepper and all spice, peas and stir
  • Bring mixture to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low
  • Let cook on low for 15 – 20 minutes then uncover and remove from heat
  • Let it cool for 5 minutes then it's ready to serve with rice
Pomegranate Molasses and Blood Orange Glazed Halibut with Olives and Herbs

Pomegranate Molasses and Blood Orange Glazed Halibut with Olives and Herbs

This dish has flakey, light halibut glazed with a rich and smoky pomegranate molasses and blood orange sauce. It is then garnished with briny green olives and bright herbs. Best part though – it all comes together in 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES. Lets take a […]

Citrus Tahini Kale Salad

Citrus Tahini Kale Salad

With the holidays being over I am craving a kale salad in a major way. I mean we went from summer, to 2 seconds of fall, to a baked goods manifesto over the holidays, and now here we are. This salad is currently giving me […]

Gerbeaud / Zserbo

Gerbeaud / Zserbo

Chocolate-covered, layered, and full of apricot jam and walnut filling, gerbeaud was the first Hungarian dessert I was introduced to. The bite-sized pieces trick you into eating many slices of this indulgent Christmas-time treat.

Edina (my boyfriend Soma’s mom) and their family always make gerbeaud around the holidays. Getting into the holiday spirit a bit early, Edina brought a full box of gerbeaud last November. Soma’s parents were in town to see him run his first marathon and brought this dessert as a pre and post run snack. Soma swears that this packed treat gave him the much needed energy to finish the race and get that extra boost to complete it in under 4 hours. This year, I wanted to make sure we showcase this famous dessert on the blog and asked Edina how to make them just in time for Christmas. I’m so excited to share the family’s recipe! There are many versions of this recipe, and it may vary from family to family (as do all of our traditional Middle Eastern recipes we share). We even did some of our own experimentation as we worked on the recipe together. This is the first recipe I have made with Edina, and it was wonderful learning about Hungarian baking. And of course also super helpful to learn some tricks from her as this isn’t the easiest of desserts.

I am not accustomed to the foundations of this dessert, such as layers and yeasted dough, but I would highly recommend fully reading through the recipe in order to understand the steps before beginning. In my first attempt of this recipe, it was important to closely follow the recipe and take my time. So, although this may seem daunting, it will turn our well if you take it step by step! Please trust me that it is well worth to make more than once!

In Edina’s words, this dessert will get better over time. This is something you can make ahead and put in an airtight container (not in the fridge). We usually make this the week leading up to Christmas and eat it throughout the holidays. Edina also mentioned that the amount of filling is based on preference. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to add more apricot jam and walnut filling (and less if you would like a less indulgent version). Enjoy this gerbeaud and all the wonderful traditional treats this holiday season!

Gerbeaud / Zserbo

Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time40 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Hungarian
Servings: 20 squares

Ingredients

Dough

  • 12 x 16 inch baking pan
  • 1 cup unsalted butter 250 g of butter total
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 3/4 cups flour 500 g
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk 50 mL
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant active yeast 17 g
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar 60 g
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg yolks (room temperature)

Filling

  • 300 grams ground walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar 200 g
  • 450 grams apricot jam

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup granulated sugar 200 g
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder 28 g cocoa powder total
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup water 66 mL
  • 4 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

Dough

  • Using either a pastry cutter or fork, combine the flour and butter in a large bowl until mixture has a cornmeal texture
  • Sift in confectioner's sugar and salt and mix until combined
  • Warm up milk, but do not make it too hot as you do not want to kill off the yeast. Add yeast to the milk and let sit for a few minutes
  • Warm up the sour cream, but like above not too warm. Add the sour cream and egg yolks to the milk and yeast mixture. Stir to combine
  • Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Mix to combine and bring on a surface to knead until it becomes a ball. The mixture may not seem to combine at first but keep working the dough. As you are kneading try not to add too much flour as the dough will become very dry
  • Place the dough ball in a bowl covered with a damp towel and let the dough rest for about 30-40 minutes. Start to make the filling during this time

Filling

  • In a medium bowl, sift confectioner's sugar into the ground walnuts. Mix to combine
  • Split the apricot jam into 3 equal parts.
  • Separately, split the walnut filling into 3 equal parts

Prepare the layers

  • Heat oven to 360 F
  • Line the baking pan with parchment paper
  • Split the dough into 4 even pieces
  • Roll out the first layer of dough to be about 14 x 12 inches (just so it's a bit smaller than the baking sheet). I do not like using flour to roll out the dough in this recipe as it may make the dough dry. I recommend taking two pieces of parchment paper measured at about 14 x 12 inches. Then, place the dough in between the parchment paper to roll it out. If one side reaches the edge before the other as you are rolling, then continue to fold the dough to match the edges until the dough is rolled into your desired shape
  • Once the first layer is rolled out, place on to the parchment paper in the baking pan
  • Warm up the first third of the apricot jam, so it's easir to spread (about 20-30 seconds only). Do not warm up too much as you do not want it to become liquid. Spread the jam evenly on the first layer of dough
  • Add the 1/3 of walnut mixture on top of the apricot
  • Repeat the dough, apricot jam, walnut mixture layers above twice more
  • Roll out the fourth piece of dough and place on the top of all layers
  • Using a fork, prick holes evenly throughout the top layer.
  • Place into the oven for about 30-40 minutes and remove when the top becomes a golden brown
  • Let the gerbeaud completely cool

Make the Chocolate Ganache

  • In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, and water
  • Stir constantly over medium heat
  • Remove the mix off the stove once it starts to boil (do not overcook to avoid the sugar from caramelizing) and immediately add butter and pinch of salt. Stir until butter is melted into the chocolate
  • Pour the ganache over the top of the gerbeaud and spread evenly. Let it sit until sit the chocolate cools
  • Once chocolate cools, cut the gerbeaud first by trimming the sides then cutting into equal rectangular pieces. The size should be about 2-3 bites worth in each piece
  • This dessert gets better with age, so cover and leave out during the week to enjoy (do not put it in the fridge)
Black Seed Biscuits

Black Seed Biscuits

These delicious flaky biscuits are inspired by my favorite cookie, Kakat’ Mahlab. Black seeds, butter and mahlab spice are the mainstays of both these biscuits and the cookies. And, as Nana would say, “it has just a finger of butter,” which is Nana language for […]