Tag Archives: salads

A New Season

25 Sep

Well, here we are. A fresh new season and Kaukab’s daughter is ready to turn over a new leaf. Several leaves, in fact.

New school year. New family configurations. New food. New, New, NEW!

Perhaps an update to serve as the appetizer. Violin girl is away at college for the first time, which means no live music while the cook’s busy pounding chickens and plucking fish bones. Drummer boy’s a barista at a cool, little coffee shop nearby (be jealous, Starbucks), while the other kid is busy developing his photography business.

So, where does that leave the mixed-up daughter of one crazy-good (emphasis on c-r-a-z-y) immigrant cook? Indecisive. Lately, the thought has returned to devising a means for developing and selling food products to the masses. Traditional venues of Farmers’ Markets and food shops have visited and re-visited this weary and hectic mind, but this time around something completely interesting has presented itself.

Truck. Food Truck. One has actually posited itself in our small capitol city and it reminded me of the several food trucks at a college town this immigrant daughter used to patronize (Hey, you…truck…Got falafel!?) when looking for something fresh, different, and cheap for a work lunch. My favorite one was run by an Iraqi man making great falafel. The lines were always long, no matter how cold or rainy the weather. Pretty sure it went a long way in paying for his kids’ college.

The thought is brewing at this point, particularly because of a recent event. A dear friend of ours, who’s really into eating healthy and organic came by the coffee shop one day, eating out of a clear plastic container filled with a beautiful salad of cherry tomatoes, parsley, and a tiny, white seed-like grain throughout. Asked what she was eating, she replied sheepishly, “tabouli.” Kaukab’s daughter began to inspect the ingredients, at first willing to acknowledge its psuedo attempt at Lebanon’s national salad–Kaukab’s homeland. But, after years of tasting well-intentioned “tabouli” this Mediterranean knock-off, listing for $7 @ 8oz., was the last parsley sprig. Enough Americanizing an amazingly perfect dish, which takes very little cookery prowess to produce. And, little money. Thankfully, our friend hadn’t brought the salad to Cleveland, because that salad wouldn’t have made it through the side door (only “real” guests enter through Kaukab’s front door).

All of this is to say that the time has come for Kaukab’s progeny to pass along her great recipes, not only here, but to be made and given (for a price) to the masses, who think that authentic foods, like tabouli, can be anything the cook calls it to be.

Anyone have a truck?

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Summertime Memories

21 Jun

Ah, summer! Time to break out the barbeques and bistro tables.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be holding our annual “Fourth” party. It’s amazing how we can fit nearly 40 of our dear friends and family in our postage stamp-sized “yard,” but, thankfully, the Victorians understood the value of wrap-around porches, so we’re good.

I’m still contemplating the main course–last year’s was pulled beef sandwiches w/homemade barbeque sauce. I had planned on grilling chicken but had waited too long to shop, so, instead, had to switch plans, and hence, the beef won out. This year, I’m planning for an earlier chicken hunt. If successful, I’ll accompany them with a large batch of grilled peppers and onions, which I’ve already pre-tested. After grilling the lemon/garlic marinated chicken and removing, I then covered the hot grill with heavy foil and waited a few minutes to regain heat. I then spread out olive-oiled peppers and onions (w/cracked black pepper and sea salt) and hovered over the grill, moving them about as they began to cook. I did this until all were slightly charred and tender. An easy, efficient way to grill veggies on a “massive” scale. Though I wish I had a photog for you (don’t worry, I will, come “The Fourth”), I don’t.

But, I do have some equally-as-nice photogs of some grilled tilapia and homemade salsa that I had prepared some several weeks ago, if that would be acceptable? I’m going to post those below, with skeleton recipes, in honor of violin girl. This has become one of her favorites, and since she’ll be leaving for college in late summer (6 HOURS AWAY), it is the mission of Kaukab’s daughter to fill her head with memories of home. And what better way than through food?

GRILLED TALAPIA W/HOMEMADE SALSA

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The fish was grilled in a lightly buttered/Canola oil combo in a cast iron skillet turned on medium-high. I added a few pinches of ground cumin to the pan, as well. Make sure you pat dry the fillets well, before sauteeing/grilling. Once out of the pan, I squeezed a little lime on them.

The salsa was made with finely chopped tomatoes, shallots, and English cucumbers. You can use pickling cucumbers, as well. I added some finely chopped cilantro to the mix and then squeezed some lime and added a pinch of cumin and some sea salt. Finish off with a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and you’ve got a simple, quick salsa to top off your fish. Oh, and the slightly charred undercover on which the fish is laying is simply a flour tortilla which I lay atop one of my gas stove burners and move about quickly using a tong. You’ll see the tortilla begin to form bubbles about itself and you just move it about to evenly “grill.” You can do the same on the barbeque.

I had also made a quinoa/brown rice salad to accompany the above. Here’s what it looked like:

QUINUA SALAD W/CIDER VINEGAR DRESSING
Ingredients:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Canola Oil
Lemon
Cumin
Raw sugar or brown sugar, or even better, good maple syrup
Dijon Mustard
Sea Salt
Sesame Oil (spicy) and/or hot pepper sauce
yellow and red bell peppers (total 2)
jalepeno pepper (1/2 of one)
small box of quinoa/brown rice blend (cooked and cooled)
shallot or green onion (scallion) (1/2 shallot or one scallion)
English or pickling cucumber (1/4 – 1/2 English cucumber or 1 – 2 pickling cucumbers)

Dressing: While rice/quinoa mixture is cooking, prepare the dressing. I used about a 1/2 C. of vinegar and about 3/4 C. or more of oil, but remember, I don’t measure. Start with about 1/4 C. vinegar and move up as you make it, if you’re unsure. Generally, you’ll use almost double of oil:vinegar ratio. Use a few pinches of cumin, sea salt ( 3 – 4 grinds, perhaps). Squeeze enough lemon to taste, starting with a couple wedges, and a couple small squeezes of mustard, or about 1 Tbl. I used 2 – 3 packets of raw sugar, but I’ve used good maple syrup instead, and that was a few drizzles, which made it taste really good. Also, a few drops of hot pepper sauce, not too much, because you’ll have a bit of jalepeno in it. Whisk all ingredients together, and then whisk in the Canola oil. Adjust flavors. You should taste a sweet/sour product.

Finely chop the peppers, cucumbers, shallot/green onion, and jalepeno pepper and add to the cooled quinoa/brown rice mixture, which you’ve placed in a large bowl. Add in the dressing and mix gently. Store in fridge for a few hours, the longer the better. Use as an accompaniment, or as a main veggie lunch.

That’s it! or “Dat it!…What da big deal?!” as Kaukab likes saying.

Parsley–It’s Not Just For Garnishing

20 May

According to Kaukab, “Americanas” don’t take parsley seriously enough. They waste it on dressing up plates with foods that don’t need it and on people who don’t like it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Unlike Kaukab, I have faith in the American palate. All they need is a little patience and a really good recipe. And I’ve got just the right one–Tabouli!

Tabou-whaat?  Ta-boo-lee. A simple parsley salad, that originated in Kaukab’s homeland of Lebanon.

Tabouli!

 

Now, I have to clarify something here. If I were to have taken a picture of Kaukab’s tabouli and put it next to mine, virtually no one, aside from Kaukab, could have distinguished between them. More importantly, if you were to have eaten from both, virtually no one, aside from Kaukab, could have distinguished between the two. But, because Kaukab didn’t make the tabouli you see pictured above, you would have been lead to believe that my tabouli was not the ‘official’ tabouli. In other words, “It no like mine.”

With that in mind, here’s the ‘official’ recipe. Keep in mind, that I don’t measure. Just. Like. Kaukab’s.

I used portions enough to make a large bowl to serve 8 to 10 people, who would, most likely, go for seconds.

Preparation Time: about 90 min., less if you’re using less parsley.

3 large lemons (used 1/2 to squeeze into the bulghur wheat; the other 2 1/2 to dress the salad)

6 bunches of parsley (leaves picked from stems; stems discarded)

6 to 8 palm-fuls of #1 bulghur wheat (the very finest grain size)

4 – 5 green onions, thinly sliced

5 large tomatoes, finely diced

handful of fresh mint, finely chopped, or 2 -3 Tbl. dried mint

1C or slightly more of extra virgin olive oil

salt

pepper

Note: Before you start on the tabouli, you want to first put your bulghur wheat in a small bowl and squeeze a 1/2 lemon over it, mixing it in with your fingers. Then take the bowl to the sink, and drizzle some warm water into your hand,  making a couple of small handfuls and put into the bowl, as well. Mix around with your fingers to help separate a bit. Then, leave to soften while you work on the salad. By the time you’re done with all the chopping, and such, your bulghur wheat will be soft enough ( al dente) to add to the salad.

The Wheat When It's Ready

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, on to the parsley.

It’s easiest to chop the parsley in the food processor. Process on pulse, giving it quick chops until you get a fairly fine chop. (I fit in 4 average-sized bunches at one time.)

Ready to be processed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nice Fine Chop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dump the chopped parsley into a large bowl.  Process the remaining and put into bowl. Add in the sliced onions, tomatoes, and mint. (It’s easiest and more time efficient to chop tomatoes by first making thick slices, horizontally, then take each slice and make narrow slices vertically, then holding together, make a quarter turn, counter-clockwise, and slice vertically, again. You’ll have nicely even chopped pieces. For the mint, gather all leaves together, stacking them and then roll them, like a cigar, and folding one end over. Make fine slices across. Then make a couple of quick chops across, again.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Once the parsley and vegetables are in the bowl, you can add in the bulghur wheat, making sure to use your fingers or a fork to separate the grains before adding in.
 

Lemon goodness

For the dressing, in a small bowl, squeeze the 2 1/2 lemons, discarding the seeds. If using sea salt, add in about 2 tsp. so it can help soften and dissolve slightly, otherwise sprinkle in salt or grind salt enough to taste. Pour lemon into the salad. Lightly pour in the olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in black pepper (5 or 6 light sprinkles) and mix again. Taste and adjust. It should have a lemon-y flavor and just wet enough with the olive oil.
 
Kaukab usually serves it alongside a plateful of romaine lettuce, which you would be expected to use as a utensil. You would be instructed on proper lettuce formation and filling etiquette. But, trust me. The tabouli’s worth it. No matter who makes it.
 
Oh, and all that lemon squeezing will get you a free french manicure, too.
 
 
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