This little dish is part condiment and part salad. It is often served alongside grilled meats, providing a sharp and tangy contrast to the rich meat flavour.
2 large sweet onions (If you are using a sharper onion, not to worry. The salt mellows out the sharpness of the onion.
Salt to taste (As the salt is one of the only 3 ingredients in the dish, you really should use a good quality sea salt or Himalayan salt.)
3 to 4 heaping tablespoons sumac
1. Cut the onions in half and then thinly slice the halves, so that you have onion threads.
2. Add the salt and taste. Let the onion and salt sit for a few minutes, so that the salt mellows out and softens the onion. It is optional to give the onion a quick rinse from the salt at this point. It’s best to add the salt in small increments, until you achieve the desired salinity.
3. Add the sumac and mix through.
-by Diana Ghazzawi
Kifta (or kafta, kefta, kofta, or kufta, depending on your dialect and spelling preferences), is a basic Arab recipe that is eaten, in its simplest form, either grilled, broiled, baked, or fried. Additionally, the same kifta mixture is used in dozens of more complex dishes which include vegetables and/or sauces.
Once you have this basic recipe down (and it truly is very simple), you have the basis of quite a few other dishes.
If you’re baking, broiling, or grilling the kifta, as I did here, you’ll want an 80% to 85% lean beef, so that it stays moist. If you will be using the kifta in a dish that requires a sauce or other similar preparation, you may want to go for a leaner mix, so that the sauce isn’t overwhelmed by the fat that will come out of the meat.
As is often the case, the amounts of these ingredients aren’t set in stone. You can adjust the amount of spice or vegetable to your liking.
2 pounds or 1 kilo ground beef (or ground lamb)
1 large onion
1 medium-sized bunch of parsley
1 tablespoon (approximately) salt (preferably a good quality sea salt or crushed Himalayan salt)
3 to 4 tablespoons Arab seven-spice mixture (or, if you can’t find it, the same amount of ground allspice)
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1. Dice the onion into fairly small pieces.
2. Mince the washed parsley leaves.
3. Combine all the ingredients together. Mix well, but don’t overmix, as the meat will get tough if you do so.
4. Decide how you want to shape it, finger-like pieces being the most common shape. Of course, you can make the kifta into meatballs, small hamburgers, or even spread the entire mix into a pan and slice it into squares after baking.
5. Cook your kifta! Again, times and temperatures depend on the method, but obviously, grill, bake, or fry until cooked through.
-by Diana Ghazzawi
Baba ghanouj, also called mutabbal beitinjan (or, properly, bathinjan), is so easy to find in Arab restaurants in the Middle East and abroad, it’s practically become a cliché. But there is a reason it’s so ubiquitous: it’s delicious! It’s hard to resist the combination of sharp garlic, earthy tahini, fragrantly smoky eggplant, and bright lemon juice.
First, the name. “Baba ghanouj” (as it should be spelled; no “ganoush” or “ghanoush” which are not real words), roughly means “dad is spoiled,” or “dad is coy,” or, even, “dad is mildly flirtatious.” Who is this dad? No one knows. Perhaps it’s the person being lovingly spoiled when served this tasty dish. Or perhaps it refers to the eggplant itself, often given a place of honor (“the father,” if you will) among vegetables in Arab cuisine. Its other name, mutabbal beitinjan, is so much more straightforward: it simply means dressed or marinated eggplant (beitinjan or bathinjan means eggplant). Though, to a lesser extent and depending on where you are eating this dish, each of these names can refer to a similarly dressed eggplant dish that doesn’t include tahini. But for our purposes, it’s baba ghanouj. Onward....
Second, I’m including measurements, but they mean little in this case. Why? Though this dish always has the same 6 or 7 ingredients, each person usually has preferences on how their baba ghanouj should taste. I like mine well-balanced, but garlicky and with a good dose of tahini. Others prefer a more lemony version or like a lot of the tart pomegranate syrup. And so on. You must taste and adjust to your liking as you go. You may even want to use a little less garlic or tahini (and thus less lemon, which is used to balance the tahini) than I prescribe here, and add more in increments until it’s to your liking.
3 large eggplants, with shiny, tight skins
3/4 cup tahini
1/2 to 3/4 cup lemon juice
6-8 cloves garlic
salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil
optional: pomegranate syrup (also called pomegranate molasses) *Note: Use a product that is 100% pomegranate, and not doctored with glucose or other substances.
optional: pomegranate arils and/or chopped parsley for garnish
1. Using a fork, poke some holes in your eggplants. Place them on a baking sheet or in a pan lined with aluminum foil (which will make clean-up so much easier). Setting the pan either on the lowest oven rack, or even on the actual “floor” of the oven, and roast them at about 375 degrees F. They should cook through until soft, but also should char a bit and caramelize. Flip them midway through cooking for maximum caramelization. Alternatively, you can grill them (directly, without use of a pan or foil) on your charcoal or gas grill, achieving the same result. When the eggplant has cooked, let it cool to room temperature.
2. Once cooled, use a spoon to scoop out the eggplant from its skin. See those darker parts nearest to the skin? Those have the best flavor; make sure to include every last bit of them.
3. Combine the tahini and lemon juice. Any time you combine an acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) with tahini, it will first “break,” looking like it’s curdling; you’ve done nothing wrong. Some more stirring will yield a smooth, medium thick paste. You’ll have to taste to see if you like the balance of lemon and tahini, and adjust as necessary. Crush the garlic and add it to the tahini mixture.
4. Combine the tahini with the eggplant and season with salt to taste. You can also add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and/or a couple tablespoons of pomegranate syrup. Again, taste the baba ghanouj and adjust it to your liking.
5. Top with the pomegranate arils, parsley, and a good amount of the olive oil.
-by Diana Ghazzawi