Category Archives: Middle Eastern

An Edible Mosaic Virtual Book Launch

A fellow blogger, Faith Gorsky of An Edible Mosaic, just had her first cookbook released!  With the release of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair, I’m excited to participate in her virtual book launch party, and share a recipe from her book!

About 2 years ago I came across Faith’s blog when searching for a Middle Eastern dish for my book club.  With her help I made the Beef & Rice Stuffed Zucchini, and the Golden Red Lentil Soup.  Since then, I have continued to read her blog and have had many opportunities to try out her recipes.  Many of them are inspired from when she lived and visited the Middle East right after she got married, and from her mother-in-law Sahar.

Faith’s book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, which focus mainly on dishes from the Levant.  Throughout the blog and in her book, Faith explains complicated dishes and approaches them in a modern way.  Her book is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble! (so if you’re looking for a good holiday gift, definitely check this one out!)

Head over to her blog to check out the virtual book launch party to see other bloggers who are participating!  She is also hosting a giveaway- be sure to check it out all of the items up for grabs!

Below is one of Faith’s recipes, which I’ve made a few small changes to, based on what I had on hand in my kitchen.   The original recipe is Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts.  This recipe is vegan, so it can easily be incorporated into a vegetarian meal, but will be just as delicious served with some beef, chicken, lamb or seafood.

Fifth Floor Kitchen Recipe Changes: When making this dish I used vegetable broth, rather than water, when cooking the rice to give it some extra flavor.  If you’ll be pairing this with beef/chicken/lamb then you can also use that specific broth as well.  Also, I did not have any raisins on hand, instead I used dried pomegranate seeds- it was a great variation!  Another tasty alternative would be dried cherries or cranberries.

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves: 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
  4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.

Book Club Pt 5- Beef in Tomato Sauce

This is the last of the Book Club posts, and I think equally delicious to all the other one’s.  This can actually be just a meal on it’s own, especially if you add some vegetables on the side.  As mentioned with the other dishes, it can be made ahead.  I had put everything together a day before, and just re-heated it in the oven (350 degrees) for about 45 minutes the day off.  By giving it the extra time, the flavors blend much better. 

Beef in Tomato Sauce
Adapted from: Halal Mama Blog

*note: this recipe was for a larger group, feel free to half it, and therefore it won’t make a giant pot of this*

2 large onions, diced
8 cloves of garlic, diced
2 lbs stewing beef, cut into cubes
1 32 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp curry
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 cups of water

Heat olive oil in a large pot (or Dutch oven), then add the onions.  Let them saute until almost translucent, and then add the garlic.  Add the cubed meat to the pot, and sear it.  Allow each piece to be cooked on each side.  Finally, add all of the spices, crushed tomatoes, water and bouillon cubes.  (Instead of using water and bouillon cubes,  you can switch out for beef broth)  Let it boil, and then turn down the heat.  Allow to stew for about 1 hour.  The meat should be tender, and the sauce has a great blend of flavors. 

*I served this dish with some basmati rice.

Book Club Pt 3- Beef & Rice Stuffed Zucchini

Book Club dish #2!  This was actually a lot easier to make than I had envisioned.  The thought of hollowing out all of those zucchini worried me just a bit.  But armed with a teaspoon (we don’t have a melon ball spoon), I did it!  Once I got the hang of it, and didn’t break any chunks off, it was done quicker than I thought.

Once again Faith, from An Edible Mosaic Blog, gave me the idea which I pushed a little further.  She had learned this recipe from her mother-in-law who is living in Syria.  This is a very similar recipe that many people use for stuffed peppers.  I added some more flavor to the sauce since I was using canned sauce (tomatoes are not yet in season here in DC, and the one’s from the grocery store taste awful!).  Instead of beef, ground chicken or turkey can be used. 

This would be another dish I’d try out for a dinner party, the sauce can be made a day ahead- and the prepping of the zucchini did not take long.  I’d say 2 pieces of zucchini per person, especially if there was other food (appetizers, dessert, etc).

Beef & Rice Stuffed Zucchini
Adapted from:An Edible Mosaic Blog

6 zucchini
1 1/2 cup rice (uncooked)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
3 oz tomato paste
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp curry
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 bay leaves
1 lb ground beef
3 tbsp butter, melted

Wash the zucchini, and cut off the ends.  Then cut each zucchini into 2 or 3 equal pieces (this will be determined by the zucchini size), about 3-4 inches long.  Using a melon ball spoon (I used a teaspoon) hollow out each piece of zucchini, but be careful to keep the walls intact.  *the leftover zucchini insides can be used for zucchini bread!*

Then, in a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, saute for 6-8 minutes or until soft.  Remove 3/4 of the onion-garlic mixture and put in separate bowl.  Add a can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, allspice, cumin, curry, bouillon and bay leaves into the pot.  Also add 1 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of pepper, as well as 1 cup of water.  Heat this sauce over low heat.

Meanwhile, add the ground meat (raw), rice (uncooked), melted butter, and the rest of the salt and pepper (1 tsp each) to the onion-garlic  mixture in a bowl.  Mix this together, and then begin stuffing each zucchini with the meat-rice mixture.  Pack it in tight, leaving about a 1/4 inch gap between the top of the zucchini and the mixture.  (the rice will expand when cooking)

Once complete, add the stuffed zucchini into the simmering tomato sauce, trying to submerge most of the zucchini into the sauce.  Cook on medium to low heat, covered for about 1 hour.  The zucchini will be soft once it’s cooked (I took one out to double-check and tested the softness with a fork).

Book Club Pt 2- Golden Red Lentil Soup

Book Club this month met at our house, so there was a lot of food to be cooked!  In the next couple of posts I’ll be sharing what I had put together.  

The March book had been Girls of Riyadh, so I wanted to have a Middle Easter theme for the meal.  It was a little challenging- there aren’t that many recipes out there specifically focusing on Saudi Arabia, but it was fun searching for some inspriation.

I’ll start with the soup!  The reason I named this Golden Red Lentil soup is because once the lentils are cooked, their beautiful red-orange color disappears!  Instead, the soup has a golden-yellowish tone.  I had actually made it 2 days before, and just reheated the soup the evening of book club, it was just as delicious- if not more.  When I did reheat it, I had to add more water since the soup thickened.

Golden Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from: An Edible Mosaic Blog

2 cups red lentils
2 onions, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken bouillion cubes
3 bay leaves
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp curry
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups water

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onions.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened.  Then add the lentils, bouillon cubes, bay leave, cumin, garlic salt, curry, cinnamon, black pepper, salt and water.  Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it cook for about 30 minutes.  The lentils should be cooked and soft.