Chewy Dried Fig & Apricot Spinach Salad with 3 ingredient dressing!

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I feel like I'm cheating when I use any other dried fruit besides dates.  Dates are a staple in any of my salads because I love the chewy sweet texture it adds.  I'm sorry dates, figs and apricots are the stars today.  Dried figs are so great because the little seeds in the middle add the perfect little crunch to the chewy texture.  This salad literally took a few minutes to put together and was so filling and perfect.  

For the past few years I have been making my own fig jam using a recipe my mother in law and her friends use.  I've been told it's the best some have ever tasted.   For a while I even worked on mass producing it because EVERYONE loved it so much.  I kind of felt like I was doing a diservice to the public by not manufacturing it.  It's still in the works but with everything going on it's not high on the priority list.  So I used a teaspoon of the fig jam in my recipe but feel free to use any jam (doesn't have to be fig).  Make sure to shake the dressing real well so all the ingredients emulsify together.  

SIMPLE yet FLAVORFUL Kofta Pizza

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I first posted this recipe over at Eazy Peazy site a while back.  It's such a fun, simple yet super flavorful dish.  The combination of the feta, the fresh bread, and the flavorful kofta really make it a winner! 

This Kofta Pizza will elevate any summer party and the best part is of course, its SO EASY and tastes SO good!  Kofta is basically meatballs or dumplings from the Middle East and Southeast Asian region.  They are formed into either balls or cigar shaped and are used in hundreds of variations of dishes.

The meat is first ground up so finely that it becomes a smooth paste and then mixed with various spices depending on the region.  Most common spices used are cumin and cardamom and also with onions and parsley.  The Middle East and Southeast Asian region is so vast, so depending on where you are the kofta could taste quite different.  Some bake it, grill it, roast or fry it, either way, the flavors of the spices in the meat taste amazing.

In parts of the Middle East it is served in a pita bread as street food, in other parts it is cooked in with various sauces.  In fact, the word Kofta is derived from the word “koftan” and in Farsi that means to “beat” or to “grind” because it is ground so much to create the smooth consistency.

I recently discovered an amazing little bakery that bakes baguettes fresh daily and even writes the time the bread came out of the oven!  The inside of the baguette is so soft it felt like I was biting into a cloud.  Because Syria was occupied by the French for quite some time, there is a huge French influence in the region, one of which is baguettes.  Thank you France!  I immediately dreamed of a kofta baguette sandwich with all the trimmings.

When I decided to make this though, I took it one step further and bought garlic bread from my local supermarket and that just gave it the perfect garlic touch.  I added spaghetti sauce on top of it, placed the baked kofta on top of that, added slices of feta cheese and garnished with parsley.  We devoured it in minutes!  This is definitely going to be what I will make for my family at our next BBQ

THE BEST Lebne Garlic Dill Dip

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This is the best dip ever for everything.  That's quite a bold statement but I stand by it.  And I'm sure some of you are wondering if I think its better than Muhammara, since I'm so passionate about that.  To that I say, it's like a mother of multiple children, her love for each child is different and cannot love one over the other.  And that's how I feel!  But all jokes aside, I am obsessed with this dip.   Usually I serve it with roasted baby potatoes and it's usually all done before I even officially set it on the table.  I have also served it with baked salmon, also a hit.  I've made it with chicken wings, a hit again.  So clearly, the winner is the dip although I'm sure the potatoes, salmon and chicken were great too haha. 

This is another one of those dips that I'm pretty sure my mom invented because I think she invented everything.  Quite a culinary genius that one.  The genius of mixing fresh dill with dried dill creates such a unique flavor, combine it with the garlic and creamy lebne makes it a winner.  Be warned, the dill flavors need a few minutes to really settle and release their flavor.  Thank me in the comments below! :) 

How I entertain with Saffron Roads

How cute are these!!!  Who knew "chips" aka Saffron Roads BeanStalks could be so good looking! I think I mentioned before that Ayla, my almost 3 year old daughter eats based on the color and shape of the items she's eating.  So of course, these bean stalks were on the top of list of things she approves eating.  Although I completely approve of her eating these Saffron Roads bean stalks, because they are made from three different types of beans and have 3 grams of plant-based protein in every serving—but with 50% less fat than potato chips, I had to continue the mind games with her and tell her she's allowed to have some only if she's a good girl.    Mothers of toddlers, you know what I'm talking about with the mind games, right?

These Saffron Roads bean stalks are so pretty I wanted to do something extra with them.  And what better way then to entertain with them!  For me, the hardest thing about entertaining is timing.  I always want to make so many different dishes and hor d'ouvers that I end up overwhelming myself.  What I love about these Bean Stalks is they are so effortless.  I can basically just present them in a pretty ceramic bowl and they would automatically elevate my party from zero to hero.  Which is exactly what happened when our friends called us at 7:30 pm and told us they are stopping by because they're in the area.  I sprinkled fresh dill on top of the lebne and BeanStalks and also put some fresh dill in a bowl for that extra pop of color.  

In the top pictures I used lebne (which tasted amazing with the barbecue flavored Saffron Roads bean stalks but feel free to substitute with sour cream or greek yogurt if you don't have access to lebne) I used the lebne as a nice bed for the bean stalks BUT I do warn that they should be consumed immediately because the lebne will make the BeanStalks soft if kept on there for too long.  

Put lebne in a ziploc bag and cut the corner so you create a piping bag and pipe the lebne inside the Beanstalk

Put lebne in a ziploc bag and cut the corner so you create a piping bag and pipe the lebne inside the Beanstalk

There are SO many things to do with these BeanStalks.  They're just the perfect tube shape, it allows for more flavor on the inside and out.  The interesting shape also makes it fun to use in multiple ways to entertain.  In these pictures I used some parchment paper in a french fry cone holder and served the BeanStalks that way.  Such a great party idea to give out to kids and also feel good about feeding it to them.

This post is sponsored by Saffron Roads, all opinions are my own.

Source: http://saffronroadfood.com/beanstalks/

Amazing Eggs in Sumac Onion Dressing

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I created this dish by accident actually and have had it every single day for a week since!  The crunchy red onions, the tangy sumac olive dressing, the creamy yolk all together with warm pita.  Would you believe me if I say I'm not even a breakfast person!  

Breakfast for me is only exciting when it's with the entire family or a big group of friends, on the weekend, and music is playing in the background with everyone participating in the fun.  And even then, I usually just like it for the experience and family/friend time but not necessarily the breakfast food itself.  But this dish changes things.

That's how our weekends were as children in New Jersey.   My mom putting together an entire spread for breakfast and all 5 of us, 6 including my dad trying hard to help but actually being more of a distraction.  At some point my mom would get overwhelmed with all of us in the kitchen and we would be banned to the living room until food was finished.  My dad at that point would try to take advantage of the time and teach us math or science and we of course would try to avoid that.  Some of us would escape and run upstairs only to be called back down.  Others would pretend they were sleeping just to stall.  And by the time my dad managed to get all 5 of us in one room sitting down, not giggling or laughing, and fully paying attention, breakast was ready.  Great memories spent on those Saturday and Sunday mornings, It's surprising I don't love breakfast more.  In Damascus, they work a 6 day work week and it's only Friday that's off.  Unless in the Christian quarters where Sunday was the day off.  

This dish is so good but be warned the onion smell is strong.  Have gum or a toothbrush handy!  

Turkey Shawerma Nuggets

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Okay okay, I know what you're thinking.  Shawarma by its nature means sliced so a shawarma nugget is basically an oxymoron.  But, luckily for us, the culinary world is a creative space and there are no food police so technically I can do what I want.  

This of course goes against everything my mom believes in.  I think I mentioned in the past that my mom, a culinary genius, but when it comes to Middle Eastern dishes she is absolutely by the book.  She grew up eating shawarma in a pita wrap, with garlic sauce and pickles and you absolutely cannot convince her to eat shawarma in nugget form.  She'll eat the nugget, she just won't call it shawarma.  It's unorthodox and she doesn't want to be a part of it. But with any other cuisine she will explore, create and run free. 

And just to be clear, these nuggets are not going to replace your shawarma wrap craving but they do taste amazing and they're perfect for your kids or for entertaining and thats what matters.  Anything and everything in mini form right?

 

Shawerma is one of those things that you have to have in the Middle East.  I have yet to find a place in the US that makes a shawarma sandwich like the way they make them in Damascus.  Don't get me wrong, I've had a ton of great tasting shawarma sandwiches but none that are similar to the ones from the street vendors or shawarma cafes in Damascus.  They are made different in various parts of the Middle East and Turkey but in Damascus they are made small and simple.  Fresh warm bread, juicy flavorful chicken shawarma, garlic sauce and green middle eastern pickles.  Thats it.  Simple but perfect.  

But back to the recipe at hand.  I have been trying hard to think of different ways to feed my child.  She sure likes to challenge me.  These were perfect because she approved of their shape (she decides what to eat based on the shape and color of the dish)  and they tasted amazing.  I actually had to "taste test" about 4 of these as I was taking pictures!

Juicy Baked Chicken & Potatoes in Mouthwatering Lemon Garlic Sauce

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I originally did this post for EZPZ meals a few weeks back (http://www.eazypeazymealz.com/juicy-baked-chicken-potatoes-in-mouthering-lemon-garlic-sauce/) and I've made this dish so many times since!! The potatoes in this dish are everything! And there is a actual secret that makes the potatos in this chicken & potato dish different than any other chicken and potato dish you've tried!

This particular dish has always been a family favorite and of course everyone fights over the potatoes.  Once you know the secret to why the potatoes are so amazing you'll understand why my mom couldn't simply add more potatoes to satisfy everyone.  If it was going to be amazing, there had to be limited potatoes and they were hot commodity. 

My mom usually uses regular russet potatoes sliced into 1/2 inch thick circles but I thought it would be fun to use a variety of colorful small potatoes.  Either way, they're amazing.  So are you ready for the trick of what makes it amazing?? ...... 

Okay.

Funnily enough, the secret to this dish is a trick that I didn't even know was a trick! The first time I made this dish, not realizing there is method to the madness, I didn't stay true to the trick and the results were off.  

The placement of the potatoes is the trick!

Placing the potatoes at the bottom of the pan makes them so flavorful and juicy because they are pressed down by the weight of the chicken and absorb all the juice from the chicken and the garlic lemon sauce.  A side of rice is usually served with this but a side of salad is just as great!

Potato chicken garlic_0281 copy.jpg

One Pot Creamy Tomato Harissa Shrimp Past

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It’s funny because a lot of my friends think just because I own a food company or a food blog that dinner is always easily available at my home and I never need to ask myself whats for dinner.  I'm here to tell you, this is not true and you are not alone!  I am surrounded by food all the time and I too get stumped sometimes and I don’t always have the time to spend figuring out what to make. 

Enter one pot dinners into my life. 

I’ve just been fascinated with the idea that I use one pot, throw in all my ingredients, and voila dinner is made!  It reminds me a lot of the "ma'loubay" dishes made in the Middle East which is the "upside down" dishes.  Basically a bunch of ingredients are put into one pot with rice and then flipped upside down.  I posted my favorite one here .  

Usually if I was to make a pasta dish it would take me 10 mins just to boil the water and pasta where as with this one pot pasta dish, the entire dish is complete in 20 mins!

Honestly, for me, the olives are everything in this dish.  In fact, my husband picked out all the olives that I ended up just adding more afterwards.  The green olives I get are from the Middle Eastern supermarket.  They have a hint of lemon to them that make them so delicious against the creamy tomato sauce and perfect kick from the harissa. 

Oregano is a very popular herb used in the Middle East to season meats and kabobs.  I used Italian seasoning, which I commonly use in my cooking, to give it that extra flavor.  You can do this dish without the heavy whipping cream if you are trying to be healthier and the dish will still taste amazing.  A lot of the flavor is going to come from the olives, tomatoes, Harissa, seasoning, onions and garlic all being cooked together.

Best of all, Ayla approves :) 

Refreshing Sumac Salmon Kale Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

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Recently, my husband and I have been listening to a lot of podcasts and watching documentaries about health and diet.  The concept that food is medicine seems so revolutionary and yet so simple at the same time.  I recommend everyone watch the documentary “Forks over Knives” and read the book or watch on Youtube “The China Study”.  Whole food plant based diets are linked to complete decrease in cancer and cures to autoimmune diseases.

 

I can go on and on about this documentary but I’ll just let you watch it.  Just know that I’ll be eating a lot more vegetables and salmon and a lot less meat and I hope I can inspire you to do the same! Enter Salmon kale salad with Tahini Sesame Vinaigrette and Pickled Turnips into my life and in my belly. 

Recently, I went to a restaurant in LA called Fundamental LA and they had an amazing Salmon Kale salad with pickled turnip and a ginger vinaigrette.   You know how super giddy I get when I see anything Middle Eastern in my cuisine.  That was me when my salad came out with pink pickles on top.  The pickled turnips are so nostalgic of Syria and the Middle East because they’re consumed all the time!  Mainly in a falafel sandwich or with certain entrees but we like to even eat them solo as a crunchy snack.  I call them the Middle Eastern pickle because that’s exactly what they are.   Pink pickles. 

I’m working on a separate post on how to make pickled turnips because there is a natural trick to achieve that color and because they're just that good.  So stay tuned!  In the meantime, you can find pink pickles at any ethnic Middle Eastern supermarket. 

The addition of fresh mint and thai basil leaves really make this salad such a burst of amazing flavors.  Combine that with the tahini dressing and the sumac salmon and then top it off with crunchy pink pickles and we got ourselves a winner salad. 

Falafel Crunchy Chickpea Granola Bars

Crunchy chickpeas are my moms all. time. favorite. snack!  Whenever my mom has an upset stomach she swears salty roasted crunchy chickpeas will “adjust” her stomach and make her feel better.  She lives off of them.  And only until recently, she would ask anyone coming from the middle east to bring some back with her because they were just different from over there she would say.  Until of course, Saffron Roads came out with their crunchy chickpea lines.  They’re so perfect and so flavorful.  I actually always have a bag in my car, because I live in Southern California, and because there is always traffic, and because I "healthy snack" in my car all the time.  

You all know what a huge fan I am of Saffron Roads, there has not been a single product that I wasn’t absolutely in love with.  Beyond my love for their products, I fell in love with the company when was first starting mine.  I was fortunate enough to meet the founders of Saffron Roads and have been lucky enough to call them mentors.  Knowing them personally and seeing firsthand the great lengths that they go to to in order to ensure their products are made with only the highest quality ingredients makes me the huge fan that I am.  It's just getting so much more difficult these days to consume quality products and feed my daughter whole food ingredients but thankfully there are more and more companies that are passionate about this cause, and this is one of those companies.  

I played around with the falafel flavored crunchy chickpea recipe and I thought it would be fun to make a falafel inspired granola bar.  The crunchy chickpeas give it that nice crunch and the falafel seasoning is already there, the dates and tahini make it chewy and yummy and the oats make it extra healthy.   They were so perfect!  Ate a few with a hot cup of coffee, yummy!

This post is sponsored by Saffron Roads, all opinions are my own.

Freekah Kale Salad

In the Middle East and growing up we never consumed Freekah in a salad.  I paired it with honey roasted sweet potatos and kale and it was perfect.  So filling, healthy and the right amount of sweetness and smokiness. 

Freekay, Freek, Freekah is an ancient whole grain that is harvested when it's still young and green, then it's roasted and rubbed to create a unique smokey flavor.  Across the Middle East freekah is prepared usually with lamb or chicken or as a soup (which I love and thinking about making it tonight!).  Freekah has been around for centuries but Oprah featured it on an episode in 2010 and since then it's become more popular.  

The freekah process was actually discovered by accident almost four thousand years ago in the Middle East, most sources agree.  The story is a group of villagers were trying to protect their wheat crop from an enemy attack so they harvested the unripe grain.  The enemy still set the crop on fire but because of the moisture inherent in the green kernel only the dryer outer shells were charred.  The grains were then rubbed together, hence the name "freekah" which means "to be rubbed", and the shells were removed.  The wheat was saved and a new grain smokey grain was discovered.  

The superfood grain is also mentioned the Old Testament.  In book Leveticus Chapter 2 verse 14, the verse says "when you bring a meal offering of the first grain to the Lord you shall bring your first grain meal offering from "barley" as soon as it ripens parched over the fire, kernels full in their husks "ground into" coarse meal.  

Freakah is packed with fiber, more than twice the amount of quinoa and three times the amount of brown rice!  It's also high in iron and a good amount of protein, a true super food.  There is an Australian study (read it here) that shows that because the freekah is harvested young it retains more of the fiber, proteins and minerals than mature wheat.   

It used to be hard to find freekah in the local supermarkets and my mom would have to wait until someone was traveling from the Middle East to bring some back with them.  So eating freakah when I was young was always special.  Luckily, I can find it at Whole Foods now but my mother in law does bring me some whenever she visits because it seems the grain from the Middle East is larger and greener.  

Because the freakah is roasted there are sometimes burnt pieces that are dangerous because they become so hard they can crack a tooth.  Although the freekah cooks in roughly 20 mins the most time consuming part used to be sorting through each freakah to remove the burnt pieces.  My grandmother and aunts would make a morning get together out of it.  They would get the kids together, drink tea, catch up and sort through their freekah.  Nowadays, the freekah I buy from the supermarket is already sorted through but out of habit I still do a quick sorting through just to make sure no one will break their teeth eating my freekah.  

Freekah is sold in two kinds;  whole and cracked.  Cracked is basically whole freekah broken down even further.  Whole freekah takes a little bit longer to cook and has a slightly different texture.  It takes about 35-40 minutes while cracked freekah takes about 15- 20 minutes.   There are different ways to make it too; some cook it like they do pasta, boiling it in water or stock and discarding the excess liquid.  While others cook it until all the liquid is absorbed.  I cook it 1 cup of freekah to 2 1/4 cup of stock for about 20 minutes.   

Muhammara Chicken

MY MUHAMMARA IS A FINALIST FOR A SOFI AWARD!!!!!  I was literally shaking when I got the call because I know what a big deal it is.  There are thousandssssss of amazing sauces and dips out there and for the judges to pick mine out of such a great group, I was just ecstatic.  When I first decided to package my moms Muhammara, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  How hard can it be, I thought.  I'm glad I didn't know how difficult and challenging it was going to be because I might have been too intimidated but thankfully I was naiive.  If any of you are ever thinking about taking a recipe to market, please ask me first! There are tons of avenues to take and a lot to know but it is possible so you should do it!  

Hands down the recipe I've been making almost every other day, but you already knew that from Snapchat haha (@nadiahubbi).  So this is an interesting dish because Muhammara is not traditionally cooked in with food, it's served as part of a meze platter and eaten the same way hummus is.  I was playing around with different ingredients in the kitchen and created this dish.  My husband immediately told me to write it down because he knows me better than I know myself, I happen to still be in the stage of denial as to how bad my memory has gotten so I assume I can remember how I made it.  He says, please just write it down in case you forget how you made it.  Glad I listened to him!  

Muhammara has complex flavors stemming from the red peppers, walnuts, pomegranate, chili, among other ingredients.  It's texture is unique because bread crumbs are used and the flavors marry each other well.  This dish is so simple but it screams exotic and mysterious because untouched taste buds will be activated.  The already complex flavors of the Muhammara combined with the sweet potatoes, the chewy dates, and the sweet onions makes for one party in your mouth.  No one is going to believe this dish took less than an 45 minutes to make!  It might take a little longer if you don't have Sweet Pillar Muhammara in stock but have no fear, it's still easy!  I have the Muhammara recipe posted here and you can always make some and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks! 

Blue Cheese Stuffed Medjool Dates

I am obsessed with dates; medjool dates in particular.  I feel like they have such a bad reputation though because they look so similar to prunes, sorry prunes.  They're wrinkly and not a bright fun color.  The taste though is anything but!  They are the perfect sweetness it's unbelievable!  The texture combination with the sweetness is perfect.  

The health benefits are tremendous too; they actually have more potassium than a banana and more antioxidants than blueberries!  They are so rich in dietary fibers and help sustain energy and stabilize blood sugar.  They're truly a superfood in more ways then one.  

There are a ton, over a hundred, of different types of dates in the Middle East but in the US there are only about 5; Medjool and Deglet dates being the most popular.   Medjool date is considered the "King of Dates" as it was reserved for the King and his family because of its large size, its chewy firm texture, sweetness and extremely labor intensive cultivation process.  In 1927 a disease struck the Medjool date palm in Morocco and threatened their existence but an American by the name of Walter Swingle brought back 9 offshoots to California.  Interestingly enough the medjool dates of today are the descendants of the surviving moroccan palms!   Another fun fact is the medjool date is the oldest cultivated fruit, dating back to 6,000 B.C in ancient cultures in the Middle East!  It is because of this that the date is so entrenched in middle eastern cuisine especially dessert.  And now, thankfully, the American mainstream has caught on to the secret exotic King of Dates and I can find dates in all natural grocery stores, vegan restaurants and all sorts of trendy LA restaurants.     

So this is all great, the health benefits, the taste, the history but I actually also consume a lot of dates especially when I have people over because of pure laziness haha.   It's soooo simple and yummy!  This is a super simple way and super delicious way to serve dates; stuff with blue cheese (or goat cheese, or cream cheese) and a sliver of crunchy red apple.  The color of the apple is a nice contrast to the white cheese and brown date and also adds a nice variety of texture.   Let's be honest, a wrinkly brown date doesn't stand a chance in appearance next to a bright beautiful bright red strawberry or a bright orange peach and we all know that people eat with their eyes first, or is that just me?? hmm insert pondering emoticon here.  So adding the bright red apple is a key touch for flavor and visual. 

When serving dates ALWAYS remove the pit and make sure it is clean on the inside because unfortunately sometimes they can be bad dates undetectable from the outside.  You want to NOT eat it if you see a bunch of tiny little dots, and you'll know when you see it.  I was hoping I would find one so I can photograph it for reference but fortunately and unfortunately I didn't have a rotten one.  

Ramadan Inspired Iftar Dinner

Dictionary needed for this post:

Ramadan: A holy month for Muslims in which fasting happens between the hours of sunrise and sunset.

Iftar: literal translation is break-fast.  The meal that takes place at sunset for everyone to break their fast on

Fanoos: A lantern used to wake people up before sunrise 

Can I say that I LOVE Ramadan.  Don’t get me wrong, I panic leading up to it and think about all the breakfast meals I love (I’m actually not a huge breakfast person but I still crave eggs and pancakes all month hah).  I freak out at the long days and how dehydrated I’ll be because I drink water all day everyday.  But the feeling of love and family and friends and food which are all my favorite things are so heightened during the month that I actually enjoy it and it manages to go by so fast!  Helping those less fortunate is also stressed during the month of Ramadan so the feeling of giving back always makes me feel good.  All in all, it’s such a spiritually calming month filled with all my favorite things; primarily food lol.  

 

With life being so hectic for everyone, I don’t see some friends all year but we always see each other during Ramadan.  People start securing Ramadan iftars at their homes weeks before Ramadan even begins.  It seems that the third Saturday of Ramadan is always the most booked lol.  It honestly feels like a Thanksgiving dinner (my favorite holiday of ever), every. single. night.  So, now you see why I love it :) 

I was fortunate enough to spend two Ramadans in Damascus and I fell in love.  In Damascus, the streets were always so calm and serene during the day because the entire country was basically not eating.  Hotels have huge iftar parties that are bustling and happening well into the morning hours.  Everyone sleeps in and starts the day a little later.   Moments before the call to pray sunset which also means it’s time to eat, the streets are so quiet you can hear a pin drop.  No one is out in the street because everyone is at home around the dinner table, laughing and having a great time around the iftar table counting the minutes to eat.  Some people eat a quick bite then go to the mosque to pray before coming back and continuing their meal.  Others eat until they can’t move and end up passing out on the couch.  Either way, everyone is always huddled around the TV after iftar time watching these television specials that only air during the month of Ramadan.  It’s like airing a Game of Thrones episode every night for a month, then airing the second season the FOLLOWING Ramadan.  They’re like telenovelas but in Arabic and all across the Middle East and amongst the Arab speaking community, everyone tunes in and talks about them all month.  My favorite was a historical Syrian drama television series called “Bab il 7ara” which translates to “The Neighborhood's Gate”  which took place in Damascus circa 1930s when Syria was under French occupation.  I have non Arab and non Muslim friends that love Ramadan solely for the television shows lol.  Comment below if you watched Bab il 7ara! 

@jfcakegram made these amazing cookies using @sweetfajr printable ramadan designs

@jfcakegram made these amazing cookies using @sweetfajr printable ramadan designs

The lantern is significant during the month of Ramadan because traditionally/religiously people are supposed to wake up BEFORE sunrise to eat, drink tons of water and pray in order to hold them over throughout the day.  So way back when, men would carry these lanterns called fanoos and walk through the streets before sunrise and wake everyone up to eat and pray.  Now people just set their iPhone alarms haha. 

Printed these Ramadan mubarak tags directly from www.sweetfajr.com website and used mini clothespins that I purchased from Michaels to clip them to the apricot drink!

Printed these Ramadan mubarak tags directly from www.sweetfajr.com website and used mini clothespins that I purchased from Michaels to clip them to the apricot drink!

http://www.eighthandautumn.com talented ladies hand made the beautiful menu in Arabic & English 

http://www.eighthandautumn.com talented ladies hand made the beautiful menu in Arabic & English 

There are a few things that are "musts" on every iftar table and of course that varies from family to family and region to region.  Of course, everyone across the board breaks fast with a date and milk or water.  Besides it being customary it has a lot of health benefits.  I asked around, "what is a must on your iftar table" and for the most part, almost everyone said some sort of soup, lentil soup being the most popular.  A ton of appetizers are also a must, cheese borek, Kibbeh (fried bulgar meat pies shaped like little mini footballs), samosas, and other hors d'oeuvres are standard.  Salads and greens must also be included to keep the meals all balanced.

Www.moderneid.com provided these adorable crescent and star picks that worked perfect with the shot glass cookie

Www.moderneid.com provided these adorable crescent and star picks that worked perfect with the shot glass cookie

My creative other halves are my sister Samar, sister Laila and practically sister Deana.  If you follow me on Instagram or snapchat you've seen everywhere haha.  We tried to have some fun with this photoshoot, and fun we had!  Deana happens to be a little baking genius that constantly amazes me with her creations.  She decided to make sugar cookie shot glass with toasted sesame seeds and chocolate chips.  We also made mini fig pies with Arabesque cutouts which were so easy to make because we used ready made pie sheets.

I hope this post served as inspiration for everyone this Ramadan! If you know someone fasting or celebrating, wish them a happy Ramadan.  Sometimes it's hard because the lack of food and water is draining but get passed it, focus on making the best of it, invite family and friends over and have a great time.  Happy Ramadan! 

  

The BEST CREAMY Tahini Salad of ever!

So remember I said I come from a family of traditions... well, this is one of them!  My family goes all out for Sunday brunch with all the usual Middle Eastern suspects; jams, cheeses, fava bean salad (ful mdamas), chickpea yogurt dish (tisi'ya// fetay), eggs, walnut stuffed pickled eggplants (makdoos), olives, and pita bread galore.  I remember my dad would always cut the pita bread into half circles and make us fava bean salad pita sandwiches drizzled with yogurt (so. friggin. good btw).  So when my mom would make breakfast, she would make this tahini salad and as a separate brunch dish she would make the fava bean salad which is called Ful.  The ful dish is made up of basically this tahini salad plus boiled fava beans and more olive oil.   My siblings and I never knew the name of this particular tahini salad so we would always beg my mom to make it and refer to it as, the ful without the ful salad.  

So I present to you the "ful without the ful salad".   There was a period where I would eat this every single day.  The way the tahini lemon sauce marrys the crunch cucumber and juicy tomatoes is just out of this world.  

I can eat this salad on its own but its also great served with chicken kabobs or lamp chops or really anything. 

This dressing is everything.  Make some and store for later! 

This dressing is everything.  Make some and store for later! 

It's important to toss the salad because you want all the flavors to combine with the tomatoes.  You want the onions to release their flavors as well.  I've been trying to stay away from consuming too much bread (very difficult because bread is def one of my weaknesses) so I eat this salad as is, but it's actually good with warm pita bread.  Feel free to add more or less of whatever you like.  My sister loves cucumbers so she usually adds way more cucumbers, I like it more lemony so I'll add more lemon.  Don't be afraid to adjust to your liking! 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo - Middle Eastern Falafel Tacos

It’s cinco de mayo today which calls for big celebrations in Mexico and in the more recent years, in the US.  I must say, I should’ve become a food historian because I am constantly fascinated and intrigued at the overlap and fusions of culture through food.  Weeks back, I came across an article that talked about the influence of the Middle East in Mexican cuisine and I was fascinated.  At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, when the Ottoman empire was crumbling and it was the beginning of World War I, a lot of Lebanese, Syrian and other Middle Eastern migrants left their homes for Mexico.  Naturally, they brought a lot of their culture with them which included their food.  

When they settled in their new home in Puebla, a city a couple of hours away from the capital and then eventually gravitated towards Mexico City in the 1930s, they began selling shawerma calling them tacos arabes or Arab tacos which gave birth to “Al Pastor”.  The recipes for spit-roasted lamb were brought over to Mexico, the lamb was switched for beef, and eventually pork, and pitas for tortillas.  Even the word “pastor” means “the way of the shepherd” because of the original use of lamb.  

By the 1960s when the children of these immigrants began to grow older and open restaurants a great fusion happened in the culinary world of Mexico.  They began taking the flavors and techniques of cooking and merging them with flavors of Mexico.  

Although the original shawarma has been modified to adapt to the locals palettes, the original technique of putting a piece of meat vertical next to the flames and spinning it to cook and then shaving pieces of the marinated meat to make it famous street food in Mexico and in the Middle East, has not changed.  To dive even further in food history, the word shawarma is derived from the Turkish word çevirme, which means “turning.”  Today, in Puebla you can still see restaurants serving tacos arabes and use a bread similar to pita bread called Arab bread. 

Writing up this post made me think about my own blog, a “Modern Middle Eastern food company”.  I am today where the Mexican Arab children were in the 60s. I am the child of immigrant parents that wants to creatively merge flavors of the Middle East with the flavors that I grew up with in good old New Jersey. 

In this post I served falafel but instead of presenting it in a wrap I decided to make it a “Taco Arabe” and give a nod to the Arab Mexicans. 

As a wanna be food historian, I can’t help but read about the history of food but also pay attention to the present.  With the largest refugee crisis in our lifetime happening before our eyes, I cannot help but wonder what will happen to the culinary world in decades to come. As Middle Eastern refugees begin to settle in Germany, Sweden, Greece, the US, Canada and beyond they will bring their culture and their food and merge it together with the local flavors.  Call it looking at the glass half full, but I am excited to see what culinary creations are going to happen for the years. 

Middle Eastern Inspired Mothers Day Brunch

The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word "Mother,"

and the most beautiful call is the call of "My mother."

It is a word full of hope and love,

A sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart.

The mother is everything

She is our consolation in sorrow,

Our hope in misery,

And our strength in weakness.

She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness...

-Khalil Gibran

We only changed the tag between the two pictures, one says "Mom" and the other says "Mama"

We only changed the tag between the two pictures, one says "Mom" and the other says "Mama"

Mothers day is definitely a day that should be celebrated everyday.  I know for my mom, every year we ask her what she wants for mothers day and her response is always the same "I just want you to continue to be good to me."  Although, a gift here and there never hurt, but moms want to feel appreciation more than anything.  And they don't want to feel appreciation just once a year.  From before a woman is even a mother, she's dealing with morning sickness, and back pain, nausea and labor.  Sleepless nights are the norm and constantly being consumed with the well being of her child and family is what a mother does.  It is all consuming and even if she gets a break from the physical challenges of being a mother her mind and heart are still consumed with concern and worry.

This year, I thought it would be fun to celebrate Mothers day with other mothers in addition to celebrating with family of course.  I personally feel that if I didn't have other mother friends I don't know how I would've been able to get through. So many times I felt like the worst mother because of this or that, then I would consult with my mother friends and they instantly made me feel like I wasn't on my own, like I wasn't the only one going through this.  I too would survive the stages of motherhood.  I love my mother friends for all the support and guidance I get from them.  They make me a better mother.  

I collaborated with a few amazingly talented individuals who I'm lucky to call friends.  We put together a spread of a Middle Eastern inspired brunch which included Muhammara deviled eggs and Cucumber rose Lebne plate.  I HIGHLY recommend that everyone get together with their mother friends and do something special for each other!  Appreciate each other in each others lives and continue to give each other the love and support that makes you a better mother, a better wife, a better daughter, a better sister, and a better friend.  If you're not a mother that doesn't mean you cannot celebrate!   Get together with your mother friends and mothers, aunts, grandmas, and mother in laws and celebrate motherhood.  

The cake was designed by an amazingly talented mother friend who constantly amazes me with the ability to produces works of art and take care of her 3 children (which include a set of twins!) She beautifully meshed together an arabesque pattern together with shabby chic designs for the ultimate middle eastern inspired cake.  She can be found on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jfcakegram/

The cookies were made by my friends mother who raised 6 beautiful children all the while baking master pieces in her home.  She effortlessly put together rose cookies by combining date and traditional semolina cookie.

The menu was designed by the talented Maece Seirafi, a calligraphy graphic designer that brings together Arabic calligraphy and graphics.  Her work can be found on her site  http://www.maeceseirafi.com.

The rest of it all came together by my good friend, Deana, a creative genius that collaborated with me endless hours as we talked about all the cute fun Middle Eastern things we would put together. 

Granted, I'll take any excuse to get friends together and have a themed event but this was extra special because of how important I think motherhood is.  Mothers raise the children of our future and I genuinly believe they should be celebrated every day.  I hope this spread inspires you and please share if it does! 

 

I sliced cucumbers paper thin and then rolled them to form roses

I sliced cucumbers paper thin and then rolled them to form roses

spells "Mama" in arabic

spells "Mama" in arabic

This fruit is a staple in Damascus during the summertime.  The beautiful thing about Damascus is its pretty much all farm to table.  Everything is local and in season.  Seasons are marked by the fruits that are consumed.  Early summer is marked by this fruit which is called "sour plum"  served with a little bowl of salt on the side so one can dip in the salt first and then bite into.  

Muhammara deviled eggs

Muhammara deviled eggs

Semolina date mamool cookies

Semolina date mamool cookies

http://www.maeceseirafi.com

http://www.maeceseirafi.com

Zucchini Soup {Koosa Soup}

ALERT.  This. tastes. so. good!  And Ayla, my 2 year old loved it and we all know how she's a little food snob!  Don't try to feed her something that doesn't taste amazing or any leftovers.  Sigh.

So it's been a little chilly in Southern California, you know 60 degrees haha.  Sorry, everyone living in cold places :) There was light drizzle the other day and its as if I iimmedietly forgot that I was raised in New Jersey and my body is supposed to be able to handle all types of cold weather conditions being that I dealt with rain, snow and freezing weather.  But nope, my body pretended it was the first time experiencing rain and I immediately pulled out my umbrella, winter jacket, boots, forgot how to drive in the rain, and made soup.  It actually felt quite nice and cozy! 

Every time I make another dish from my childhood I am amazed at how healthy and well rounded the dishes are.  The core of every dish is vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables.  And this is no exception.  Zucchini and eggplant might be tied in Middle Eastern cuisine as the most commonly used vegetable.  Let me know if there is another one.  We do so much with zucchini, most famously core it and stuff it with rice and meat and cook it in a tomato broth called Koosa Mahshi which translates to stuffed zucchini, so original right haha.  Among the many things we make with zucchini, this might be one of my favorites even though I'm not really a soup kinda girl.  But the flavor of the zucchini as it caramelizes with the onions and simmers in the chicken stock is just so good!  My mom never made it with chicken but I happened to have some cooked chicken so I threw it in there at the end and it automatically made the dish dinner worthy.  

I didn't intend for the milk drizzle to look like a strange looking Pac Man, but hey, art at its finest :) 

I didn't intend for the milk drizzle to look like a strange looking Pac Man, but hey, art at its finest :)