Tag Archives: recipes

On to something else

4 Aug

Well, I think we’ve all had our fil’ of chicken for the moment, so in honor of moving on, Kaukab’s daughter decided to stuff some Khusa squash she found at the Farmers’ Market a few days earlier. This squash is the kind Kaukab used a lot. It’s a small, tender-skinned specimen, with a pretty light-green color.

They’d been sitting on my counter for several days and it was time to do something with ’em, so I took a large tablespoon, and using its handle, plunged and twisted into the center of the narrow top, of which was cut across so the diameter was large enough to worm my way into scraping its innards, eventually making enough room to stuff with the ground beef/rice/onion mixture.

I used roughly one pound of raw ground chuck, a half an onion (finely chopped), and about a cup of uncooked rice. I seasoned the mixture with a little salt, black pepper, and Arabic 5 spice (about 2 Tblsp).

I use my fingers to stuff the squash and then place them (about 8 – 10 squashes) into a large soup pot. I add in two 15 oz. cans of diced or whole tomatoes (squeeze them into the pot to separate somewhat) and a little salt and then add cold water to cover the cute buggars. Put a lid on, slightly tilted to allow for reduction and bring to boil. Once boiling, turn stove down to medium to medium-low and cook for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, or until meat turns brown and rice is cooked.  Eat with some pita bread to sop up the juices.

Trust me, this is too good to boycott. Besides, Kaukab would never hear of it.



27 Jul

Kaukab's Lebanese Squash

Last week, while perusing the farmers’ market, I spotted some cute, minature-sized green squashes. The kind Kaukab relied on to make her tasty Lebanese-style stuffed squashlets. My daughter had a taste for some, just before I left for the market.  So when I found these little jewels, I grabbed a bunch to take home and re-create a new childhood memory.

These aren’t always offered in grocery markets, unless it’s a Whole Foods kind of place. Generally, you’ll have to scour farmers’ markets or small, independent Asian or Middle Eastern shops. Sounds like a running theme, here, doesn’t it?  I’m just the messenger.

Check out my recipe in the Table Menus section, if you’re so inclined. And, remember the pita bread.

Salsa or Chutney?

23 Jul

Last night I made some pork loins and thought they’d like some company, but didn’t want to stick with making my mango salsa. I usually make a sweet little salsa to pair with grilled chicken or salmon, and would’ve thought the same if I had grilled the pork loins. But, I remembered reading about chutneys a while back and thought this might be an interesting twist to the meal. I like the idea of pairing the pork loin pieces with a warmed-up version of traditional salsa.

Here’s what I did: I took some of the basic ingredients of my mango salsa and used them to make the chutney. The pork loins were sprinkled with garlic salt and cracked black pepper and then sauteed in a little canola oil, until browned on both sides and white on the sides; then into a 350 degree oven, foil-covered for another 10 – 15 minutes, tops. I made the chutney while the loins (don’t think it) were cooking through.

Chutney: 3 ripe mangos, cubed

                    1/4 to 1/2 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

                    1/8 tsp. or slightly less of ginger paste

                     1/2  lime for zest; 1 wedge amt. of lime juice

                    pinch of cumin

If the mangos aren’t sweet enough, you can add a drizzle of  honey or a pinch of  brown sugar.

Cut the mangos so that you have two large pieces cut away from the pit. Score vertically and horizontally so that you have lots of squares. Use a teaspoon to scrape all into the small saucepan, so that all the juice gets in there. Add all other ingredients. Slowly heat on low, stirring occasionally. Should take about 10 min. Remove when they’ve started to break down and feels warmed through.

Spoon some alongside or on top of your loins. You decide.


Recipes From My Mother’s Table (with some daughterly tweaking)

20 Jun

So, what of the recipes?  Well, for starters, Kaukab never learned to use them. She comes from a long list of women from the ‘old country,’ which means…there’s no safe, neat list of items–like measurements. No pantry list. No words of encouragement, like “Don’t worry, I’m sure your family will still love you, even if the hummus tastes nothing, nor looks, like the one that we’ve made for generations, harking back to the Phonecians.”

With that in mind, I give you the first of many.  I wanted to make this first one especially special, so I decided to start with the ubiquitous chickpea spread, universally known (and spelled) as “hummous,” “hummus,” or “humous.”  Personally, I go with the middle one. I’ll do us all a favor and not comment on the various pronounciations.

So, the main question I get from my non-Lebanese, hummus-making friends, is: “Why doesn’t mine taste like yours?”  Except for Kaukab.  If you flip the third and sixth words in that lovely question, you’ll have a good idea the relationship for which the perennial ‘mother-daughter’ one refers.

Here’s the secret to “authentic” (i.e., Kaukab’s hummus) hummus-making.  Reserved cooked chickpea water. Now, you may ask, “Where am I gonna find chickpea water?!”

The secret to a flavorful hummus is to cook the canned chickpeas (for the more adventurous cooks with plenty of hand-time, who start with the dried ones, you’ll already have the cooked “pea” water).  This will achieve two important things. One, it will provide you with the sacred pea water, and; two, it will soften the pea skins enough for you to remove them so that your hummus will be nice and smooth. Let’s get started!

For a party of up to 15

3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 lemon

garlic, 3-4 lg. cloves (peeled, of course)

3-4 T. tahini (Mediterranean equivalent of American peanut butter)

1C. reserved, cooled pea water

salt to taste (I prefer sea salt, although Kaukab used regular, old Morton’s)

Olive oil (Xtra Virgin, preferrably)

In medium pot, put in chickpeas and cover with cold water. Cook chickpeas on med. to medium high, lid partially tilted. Cook to boil, then turn down to medium and cook another 15 minutes.  Remove from stove and pour 1C of liquid into measuring cup and let cool. Drain the cooked peas. Rinse with cold water, until cooled. Pick off any thin, clear pea skins and discard.

Into food processor, put chickpeas, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2-3 T. tahini, 1/4 C. reserved, cooled pea water and pulse until fairly mashed. Pause, and scrape down. Add rest of garlic, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. more salt, tahini, 1/4C. cooled pea water, 1/2 lemon, and pulse enough to make smooth, loose paste. Add more lemon, tahini, garlic to correct taste. You should taste the tahini in it. Use more pea water, if needs loosened. Kaukab’s hummus isn’t thick, like peanut butter. Pour finished hummus onto platter, or in bowl, and add finely-chopped parsley, a sprinkling of paprika, and a few whole chickpeas–barely inserted. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread, cut into small triangles.

 A word about adding spices, like cumin. I tend to avoid any discussion about this with Kaukab, since her usual response goes something like this: “We don’t do this. Only Americans do this. We don’t do it!” Personally, I like cumin. But, not in my hummus. In black bean or mango salsas? For sure.

Kaukab’s Green Beans w/Tomatoes

20 Jun


2lbs. fresh green beans (as fresh as supermarkets can provide)

1 lg. onion, finely chopped

2 whole cloves; peeled, of course

a small wedge or two of lemon

1 28oz. (or close to) can whole or crushed tomatoes. (4 or 5 med. fresh tomatoes, skinned and quarted, will also do effectively)

cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp., depending upon amt. of green beans and taste

salt, 1/2tsp. to start, a bit more as cooks down and to adjust taste

cooking oil (I prefer Canola oil; you can use any veg. oil, but don’t use olive oil)

Water, to cover.

I think I should have stated earlier, but now’s as good a time as any…Take my measurements as estimates, only. Kaukab never measured (as stated earlier), and so, I learned to ascribe to her cooking method, as well. Cooking something new takes rehearsal. Eventually, you do it, relying on all your senses, rather than waiting for a bell to ring (much like Pavlov’s dog) to tell you when the food is done. Plus, my taste buds are home-grown. By that I mean, they were acclimated to my mother’s cooking, as yours was to your’s, so when you taste the “same” recipe, is it ever going to taste exactly as Kaukab’s? Not really. Not at least, according to Kaukab. Mine gets very close–an assertion mildly grating to my mother. But I’ve learned to compromise, and let her have her win. For a woman who defines herself by the extraordinary food she prepares for friends and family, it would be self-serving, and impish of me to grant her anything less. This conciliation (and confession, of sorts) has only come my way in recent years, and I believe I’m the better for it. Now, on to the green beans.

So, now that you have all the ingredients, let’s start.

Wash and string green beans. Drain and paper-towel dry. Snap beans in half.

In pot, pour enough oil in bottom of pot to just come up the sides. Heat oil over med. high heat. Throw in the chopped onions and cook until nearly transluscent. Toss in the green beans and cinnamon, stirring with the onions until green beans begin to turn yellowish–up to 5min, maybe. (This is where you’re going to start learning to use your eyeballs.) Then add tomatoes. If whole, or fresh, break them up in the pot. Stir around.

 Add water, enough to cover beans about an inch, or so, above them. Add salt.   Cover with lid, partially tilted. Once boiling, stir, and then return lid (partially tilited, of course) and turn down heat to medium. Let cook about 30 min. and check for liquid reduction. Stir. Add more salt, if needs. Turn down heat to med. low. Squeeze a wedge or two of lemon, for a bright note of flavor. Continue cooking until tomato liquid is rich red and somewhat thickened–usually an additional 20 -30 min.

In Mid-Simmer


Serve with pita bread. Of course.  As an aside: These beans are really good served cold, or at room temperature the next day. With pita bread.

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