Entrees

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 :) 

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! 

Stuffed Onions

Like I mentioned on my instagram (@sweetpillarfood), I'm so excited to have finally tried this after so long!  Growing up I was very accustomed to stuffed grape leaves; 2 kinds, one with meat and one more lemony  (yabraa and yalangee we called them), stuffed zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, artichoke hearts etc.  It always seemed so difficult and time consuming, and it was, time consuming more than difficult.  Especially that the dishes were being made to serve so many people.  There were special coring utensils to use to core the zucchini and a particular way to roll the grape leaves.  It was a full neighborhood affair and it happened frequently.  In fact, I just got off the phone with my mom who said her two friends were over rolling grape leaves together and she's planning on making stuffed grape leaves tonight, hours before she has a flight to catch to come visit me!  I was shocked she was even cooking let alone making grape leaves but she insisted she had fun with her two friends as they talked and caught up, they finished rolling the grape leaves before she knew it. 

Anyway, so here I am, living in my own little stuffed vegetable world, thinking I've tried every vegetable that was to be stuffed when I meet an older Chaldean Iraqi lady that spoke wonders of all these other vegetables she was stuffing.  Chaldeans for those that are not familiar have an extremely rich history that dates back to before Christ.  They are descendants of the Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations and the Aramean legacy or Mesopotamia.  To this day they speak in addition to Arabic, Chaldean which is essentially Aramaic, a slightly different dialect than that spoken by Jesus Christ.  How amazing is that?? To speak the same language Jesus Christ spoke!

So she told me they stuff carrots, onions and potatoes to name a few.  I was so intrigued that I looked more into it and found a recipe floating around the internet that I unfortunately couldn't find again of a Syrian Jewish recipe of stuffed onions with dried apricots.   Syrian Jewish cuisine is slightly different then traditional Syrian cuisine mainly because of religious dietary restrictions.  For example, in Jewish cuisine, dairy and meat are not to be combined so that eliminates some dishes that are common amongst other Syrians. 

I finally decided to give it a go and mixed together my knowledge of stuffed grape leaves and just started creating.  It turned out to be much easier then stuffing any of the other vegetables because the onions were so easy to peel.   In Damascus, it is not common to mix dried fruit in savory dishes so the result of this dish did not taste like any of my mom or grandmothers dishes.  But in other parts of the Middle East, including other parts of Syria like Aleppo for example, mixing dried fruit is very common.  I happen to be a big fan of sweet and savory so I thought it tasted amazing.  The sauce thickened and became a glaze like sauce.  The onion was so soft and tender full of flavor.  I urge you to try this and please let me know how it turns out!!

 Make an incision before boiling them so they're easy to separate

Make an incision before boiling them so they're easy to separate

Sumac Cumin Crusted Salmon

Ok so confession, I didn't necessarily love salmon until recently.  Anyone else feel this way? Anyone?  It used to always taste kinda bland to me.  For a while the only way I would make it, (and the only reason I only did make it is because I knew of the health benefits), was with a touch of olive oil, lemon juice, and rosemary baked in the oven.  It was good but I needed more.  I then did a little Asian switch it up and started adding vegetables and soy sauce and some other flavors and that was good.  Salmon was on its way up for me. BUT then my husbands cousin, who happens to be a male foodie that loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen (lucky wife) told me about this recipe and this has been my go to salmon recipe ever since!  The combination of sumac, cumin and yellow mustard seeds creates this super flavorful crust that is the perfect crunch texture contrast to the melt in your mouth salmon.  It's so good, and it's so easy.  Seriously.

 Sautee the kale in the same sumac, cumin, honey mustard rub for a few minutes

Sautee the kale in the same sumac, cumin, honey mustard rub for a few minutes

Today was a particularly long day for me.  I'm in the middle of production for one of the Sweet Pillar products (can't tell you which one yet :) and there is just so much that goes into producing a product that it's so non stop.  It's like conducting an orchestra, every piece has to be played correctly at the correct time in order for it all to work smoothly and successfully together.  But I digress.  I can talk about this stuff all day I worry I bore people with this food production talk haha. 

I was almost going to pick up take out as it was such a long day AND it was drizzling in Orange County, which means everyone was panicking and it was extra chaotic and busy.  I'm so glad I didn't order take out and made this instead.  I always get my salmon from Whole Foods and it tastes amazing and dinner in its entirety ends up taking 10 minutes from start to finish.

This particular dish is not a Middle Eastern classic that I grew up with although the sumac and cumin are very much staple spices in any middle eastern spice cabinet.  If you're feeling fancy but don't have the time, this is what you should make. 

 Yellow mustard seeds

Yellow mustard seeds

 Ground up yellow mustard seeds

Ground up yellow mustard seeds

 Sumac

Sumac

 Sautee in a tablespoon of olive oil

Sautee in a tablespoon of olive oil

"Eggplant Upside down" Rice, Eggplant, & Tomato dish called "Ma'loubay Betinjan"

Upside Down aka Ma’loubay

The name of this dish, ma’loubay literally translates to “upside down” because of the way it is served by first flipping it upside down like a beautiful cake with layers of rice, meat and vegetables.  

Think about it, isn’t everything better upside down.  I actually can’t think of anything else thats better upside down.  Maybe headstands.  But is that really better?  Okay moving on.

I DO know that a rice, meat and vegetable dish IS better upside down because the flavors all marry each other and the best of the flavors fall to the bottom and when flipped upside down it brings the best of the bottom to the top.  #started from the bottom now we’re here haha

There are many variations across the Levantine (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, parts of Turkey) which include mainly a variety of vegetables usually eggplants, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots.    I’ve seen tons of images, but of course I can’t find a single one to post now, of 2-3 women and men all holding a ginormous pot trying to carefully flip it over.  They’re usually served with yogurt or a simple Middle Eastern salad which includes tomatoes and cucumber.  

I had to experiment with a few pots I own and found one that works perfect for my measurements and I just stick with it.  Usually, every Middle Eastern home has a special straight edged pot that makes it easier for flipping.

This dish could be time consuming because of the prep work required but it is NOT difficult.  Once everything is prepped, its just a matter of layering them together.  Do not be intimidated by how pretty it looks!  And even if your ma'loubay flops when you flip it over it will still be an amazingly tasting and aromatic dish!

Feeds 3-4 people (or just the three of us with just a little bit of leftovers haha)

INGREDIENTS

  1. 1 large eggplant sliced
  2. .3 pounds ground beef
  3. 1/4 diced tomato
  4. 2 tablespoon pine nuts (or substitute almonds)
  5. 1 1/2 cup jasmine rice
  6. 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  7. 3 tblspoon tomato paste
  8. oil for frying or for brushing eggplants for broil
  9. salt & pepper to taste

 

INSTRUCTIONS

1. peel and slice the eggplants 

Lay them on a paper towel and salt them.  

Let them sit for 30 minutes

2. Put the jasmine rice in a bowl and cover with water

Let it sit for 30 minutes

3. Meanwhile, brown the meat with salt and pepper

Sauté the pine nuts with 1 tbl vegetable oil

Combine with meat and set aside

4. On low heat add chicken stock, tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste 

Whisk it all together until paste completely dissolves

5. When the eggplants are done straining wash them off with water and pat dry

Heat up oil and fry eggplants (OR the healthier version is to skip the initial part about straining them and just brush the eggplants with oil. sprinkle with salt and put in a preheated broiler until they are brown on each side).  

6. When the 30 minutes is over for the rice, sauté for 1-2 minutes in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and mix in 1 tablespoon tomato paste (this is optional but I feel it gives the rice a little more flavor and makes the rice more moldable and easier when flipping upside down).

Now that everything is prepped all we have to do is assemble.

  • Start by placing the diced tomatoes at the bottom
  • Add the meat and pine nuts
  • Layer the eggplants (see image)
  • Add the rice inside the eggplants and carefully pour the tomato stock on the rice
  • Bring to a quick boil then lower heat and cover for 15 minutes.  
  • Keep it covered for an additional 5 minutes
  • Uncover, place plate on top of pot, say a prayer and flip that bad boy

This picture was taken right after I flipped it and a lot of the tomato and meat were still stuck to the bottom of the pot.  I fixed that problem by just scraping the pot and putting them back on top.

Middle Eastern Rice and Peas with Cucumber Yogurt {Riz ou bazalaya}

I'm eating this dish as I type this post, and I forgot how much I love it!  Miss no appetite ever Ayla is asking for more and I'm sitting here wondering why I don't make this more often!

It's SO easy.  

Is everyone sick of me saying everything is SO easy haha.

But seriously,

It is.  

Like if you can boil water you can make this dish.  But the best part about this meal is the cucumber mint yogurt served on the side.  

SO FRIGGIN GOOD and SO FRIGGIN EASY.

On a separate note, I took a personality test today.  I know it sounds like I'm a weirdo lol but it was one of those emails that every one of my friends took and we talked about the results and the analyzation and mine was so accurate, actually all of them were creepily accurate!  My analysis said I like to inspire people and I couldn't agree more.  

I really hope my recipes and dishes inspire someone, anyone, to explore Syrian and Middle Eastern cuisine.  I was always so intimidated because I saw my grandmother spend allllll day cooking and I assumed it was such a time consuming style of cooking but its actually not that bad!  My grandmother and mother were just cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for an entire tribe basically!  Anyway if anyone wants to take the test its at www.16personalities.com and mine is ENFP.  If you take it please comment and let me know what you got, it's so much fun!  I feel like I know myself a lot better now, and who doesn't want that.

INGREDIENTS FOR YOGURT SAUCE

  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber shredded (1/4 cup)
  • 1 T dried mint
  • A lot of salt ( cucumbers are very watery and they'll water the sauce down so compensate by adding more salt than usual)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Mix all the ingredients together! As simple as that

INGREDIENTS FOR RICE & PEAS {Riz ou Bazalaya}

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb chicken (I used boneless chicken thigh for this one)
  • 1 cup sweet green peas
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or substitute slivered almonds)
  • 1 t olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Boil chicken in water covered for 35 minutes (I also add bay leaves, onions, cardamon, cloves, black whole pepper, salt and cinnamon stick.  Feel free to add all or some for more flavorful chicken stock)
  • In the meantime sauté the green peas and pine nuts in oil until pine nuts are golden brown and set aside
  • Take 2 cups of the chicken stock and let it come to a boil
  • As soon as it boils add the rice, reduce heat to low, cover and set timer for 15 minutes
  • Let it sit covered for another 5 minutes before removing the cover
  • I like to brown the chicken by broiling it in the oven for several minutes
  • To serve; put rice first, chicken, and top with peas and pine nuts
  • Serve immediately with cucumber yogurt
  • Enjoy!

Dawood Basha (Syrian Meatballs in tomato pomegranate sauce

I feel so proud of myself that I actually motivated myself to take step by step photos and upload and write this post!  It takes twice as long to make a dish when photographing step by step because I had to continuously stop, wash my hands, take the photograph etc.  Def challanging when the dish is actually on the stove.  But anyway, this dish is called Dawood Basha which translates literally to Pasha David.  I'm not sure how accurate this story is as its been told to generations and generations.  There was a nobleman aka a Pasha in the Ottoman empire that invented this dish in his kitchen and would eat it all the time because he loved it so much.  It is confirmed that there was a Dawood Pasha governor of Lebanon in the late Nineteenth century but that's all I could find. 

This dish is such a comfort food for me.  It can be eaten with rice or bulgar but I prefer rice.  People of Damascus like to add chickpeas but that is an optional ingredient.   If I have it on hand i'll add it, if not my life goes on.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 medium sized onion
    • 1/4 cup minced
    • remaining sliced
  • 1/4 cup bulgar
  • 1/2 can of 8oz tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
  • 1 Tbl pomegranate molassas
  • salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Soak the 1/4 cup of bulgar in water
  2. add the bulgar, minced onions, salt & pepper to the ground beef and form into 1 inch balls
  3. sauté the meatballs in deep pan, do not cook all the way through or else they will be dry
  4. set meatballs aside
  5. in same pan sauté the onions
  6. add the tomato sauce, water (or chicken stock), pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper
  7. Let the flavors cook together for a few minutes
  8. Add the meatballs and cook for roughly 10-15 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through
  9. If adding chickpeas add 5 minutes before the end
  10. Serve over rice or bulgar

Tips:

  • Add more tomato sauce if it's too diluted
  • Add 1 teaspoon of flour if the sauce is not thick enough
  • Add more water (chicken stock) if the sauce is too thick