This pozole is such a flavorful soup that will satisfy all. Pozole verde is a green Mexican corn soup made with the plump and meaty white corn, known as hominy. The richly flavored broth is layered with the tang of tomatillos, the spice of cumin […]
Tag: gluten free
These are the perfect excuse to indulge in a rich fudgy treat; packed with nutritional carbohydrates, minimal fat, no added sugars, and 7 natural whole ingredients this is the perfect snack to pop in for an energy boost! Try these before starting your Ramadan fast […]
This recipe is so dear to my heart. Hands down, my favorite dish, the one thing I can relish at any given time, and never grow tired of, is a plate of hot, juicy, lemony vine leaves filled with a flavorful, herbed, rice mixture. This recipe is completely vegetarian, and a wonderful plant based meal to add to the menu. An aromatic rice seasoned with several green herbs, tomato paste, garlic and onions is stuffed carefully into a flavorful lemony brined grape leaf. Stuffed grape leaves have a myriad of titles depending on the country they are made in: dolma, sarma, waraq ‘enab, yabraq, dolmades, and our simple Egyptian title- mahshy.
Mahshy in Arabic literally means stuffed, and while we make many varieties of stuffed vegetables, the main ones being peppers, eggplants, baby zucchini, and grape leaves, the simple mahshy refers to the quintessential grape leaf rolled up tight with a juicy filling of aromatic rice tucked gently inside.
As many names there are for this dish, there are also endless recipes and fillings influenced not only by their region of origin but by the grandmas and generations of home chefs who lovingly rolled these and served them up. The Egyptian recipe is usually a vegetarian filling and does not use any meat, although many people now add minced meat as is done in the Levant regions. Sometimes I add meat too, but I rarely do because this dish is perfectly delicious without any meat (not to mention healthier and easier to make). The combination of short grain rice with fresh parsley, dill, cilantro and dried mint is seasoned with cumin, minced garlic and onions, tomato paste, and olive oil. The perfect amount of filling is very carefully tucked into the leaf and then rolled tightly to ensure a juicy result once cooked. I find that rolling these leaves small and tight is half the success of this recipe. If they are loose or large, you do not achieve the juicy stuffing. The cooking liquid is also very important as this marinates the leaves and infuses the entire pot with flavor. I use lots of lemon juice, tomato paste, some spices, chicken broth or lamb broth and let them cook nice and slow.
How to cook stuffed grape leaves
Every recipe involves some method of stacking the rolled leaves in a pot and covering with a flavorful broth. I have experimented so much with broths, meat on the bottom, potatoes on the bottom, vines on the bottom, pressure cooking, simmering with a weight on top, and baking in the oven. Being an avid mahshy eater, from a variety of homes and regions, I can assure you I have a fairly good summary for impeccable results. They are all simply delicious methods, but here is my favorite method and combination of strategies:
- While the Egyptian grape leaves are filled with a vegan mixture, we do cook it in some broth. I either pour on chicken broth into the sauce, or to get extra fancy and to my children’s delight, line the bottom of the pot with lamb chops. The bone is important- it releases flavorful broth in the cooking liquid in lieu of chicken broth. I prefer any cut of beef with bone to lamb, but my kids love lamb. Lamb in the pot is also traditional to the Syrian and Lebanese recipes I grew up enjoying and absolutely LOVE.
- Always line the bottom of the pot with thickly sliced potatoes. Always. These are a favorite for all. They soak up all that tangy sauce flavor, and protect your precious hand rolled grape leaves from scorching. Throw in some tomato slices too for lovely color and extra flavor. The cuts of meat, if using, can go in between the potato slices or underneath them.
- Use lots of garlic. I layer the bottom of the pot with potatoes and meat on top of olive oil that was simmering on low with sliced or minced garlic. Also sprinkle sliced garlic between the layers of grape leaves.
- Simmer the pot of leaves on the stove top (in an oven proof pot such as an enameled cast iron Staub) for a good 30 minutes to get them tender. Then transfer the pot to the oven at 400 degrees (f) for 20 minutes to get everything nicely charred and crispy. Everyone who has tried these absolutely love it. The smoky flavor, the crispy charred leaves, and other vegetables get so perfectly cooked this way.
- I always throw in rolled onions and stuffed zucchinis into the same pot of grape leaves. This started by mistake because I would always have extra rice- but I find that these help hold the grape leaves in place and they don’t unravel! I don’t need to use a weight. The rolled onions also lend to the flavorful broth, of course. Iraqi dolma is amazing and almost always features rolled onions. You can find my method for stuffing zucchinis and other veggies here.
Where do I find grape leaves?
You’ll be surprised to find that grape leaves are readily available on vines for the pocking. Where I grew up in Michigan, they were growing plentiful behind our school, and we would pick some to cook at home. I would be with some friends in the car, and the lady who drove us home would pull over on the road when she spotted a vine to pick some leaves! headed to a vineyard? Ask if you can collect some leaves! I quickly learned how to identify the leaves (see my picture below). You can also simply plant a grape plant in your yard- and it will take off proliferously before you know it! Just pick a plant with a small, smooth leaf. If you aren’t interested in picking your leaves (which you really ought to do at least once in your life!) you can conveniently find a jar of brined grape leaves at an International market or Middle Eastern grocer. Simply rinse and drain them before using.
How do I roll the grape leaves?
If you use leaves from a jar, simply rinse well and let them drain. I used to simmer and blanch, but I find this step to be unnecessary. When using fresh leaves, simply wash, and you may opt to blanch them in boiling salted water with a tablespoon of vinegar. When I say blanch, I mean do not leave them in for more than 2 minutes! If the leaves get too soft, you wont be able to roll them. This blanching of fresh leaves will make the leaves a little bit more flexible and infuse the leaves with the delicious brined flavor.
To roll the leaves, you simply lay the smooth side down on a plate, with the rough vines facing upward. Cut off any thick stems- they are undesirable in the mouth when eating mahshy. Set a small teaspoon of stuffing in the center in a narrow line. The size of this stuffing is generally how large the rolled grape leaf will be. Fold up the sides, then roll up, carefully tucking in the sides as you rollup the wider part of the leaf. If the leaf is particularly huge, cut it in half. All the rolled leaves should come out about the same size. Stack them into the pot (on top of all those potato slices of course!) in a circular fashion until you’ve made a complete layer. Wedge in some garlic slices between a few grape leaves and continue to the next layer. This is a 1 hour long (or more!) project that entails sitting back, turning on your favorite film or soap opera or an afternoon with friends and family rolling and chatting together! I find it therapeutic to sit back and watch my shows while rolling away. It’s the most productive way to binge watch TV 😀
Stuffed Grape Leaves (Mahshy)
- Use of a large cast iron pot is recommended
- 2 lbs grape leaves rinsed and drained
Bottom of the pot
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
- 1 lb bone in lamb chops or beef loin OMIT FOR VEGAN RECIPE
- 3 medium potatoes, sliced 3/4 inch thick
- 2 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick
For the stuffing
- 2 cups short grain rice, washed and soaked for 20 minutes I use Egyptian rice, sushi rice works well too
- 1 bunch parsley, minced stems removed
- 1 bunch dill, minced stems removed
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
- 1 tbsp dry mint
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
For the cooking sauce
- 4 cups water
- 1 c chicken broth if not using meat pieces USE VEGETABLE BROTH FOR VEGAN RECIPE
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 2 fresh lemons, juiced 1/2-1 cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Wash the grape leaves and rinse them clean. Set aside to drain. If using fresh picked leaves, blanch in boiling, salted water with a tablespoon of vinegar for 1-2 minutes. Allow to cool before handling.
- In a large pot, add the oil and garlic slices over very low heat. Allow the garlic to infuse the oil, then gently lay down the meat pieces, if using. Layer the potatoes evenly along the bottom as well.
- Turn up the heat and sear the meat and potatoes on one side. Turn over each piece, and turn off the heat. Place the tomato slices if using.
- Combine all the stuffing ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Take one leaf at a time, smooth side down, and fill the leaf with about 1 tsp of stuffing in a line along the bottom where the stem was removed.
- Fold up the bottom sides and slowly roll upward, keeping a tight roll and folding up the sides as you go. Place the rolled leaf in the pot, with the seam side down. Continue with all the grape leaves, creating an even layer of rolled leaves before starting a second layer. Wedge the garlic slices for the cooking sauce in between rolled leaves, and between layers. If using stuffed zucchinis or onions, wedge these in between leaves in the top and bottom layers, as it holds all the stuffed grape leaves in place.
- Once all the stuffing is complete, combine all the cooking sauce ingredients except the olive oil and mix well. Pour evenly all over the pot, covering all the mahshy. Drizzle the olive oil evenly on top.
- Set the pot on the stove on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure to add water, if it dries up or the mahshy will burn on the bottom. Preheat the oven to 400 as this cooks.
- Once the mahshy has simmered for 20-30 minutes, set the pot into the oven, on the middle rack, uncovered. Be sure you can see enough sauce from the top, or it will burn and dry out. Drizzle more olive oil on top, and set some lemon slices as garnish. The lemons look gorgeous once roasted!
- Remove the pot after 15-20 minutes, ensuring it never dries out of liquid. Enjoy hot with yogurt sauce and pita bread!
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If your family loves to go berry picking like mine does, you are likely going to end up with baskets full of of luscious red strawberries, raspberries, or juicy blueberries. This recipe for strawberry preserves will work for any type of berry. It is easy, […]
Egyptian massak’aa is easily one the tastiest dishes out there. In this version, sliced eggplants and peppers are lightly fried and then cooked in an irresistible tomato sauce simmering with garlic, onions, cumin, and vinegar. It’s really a simple dish to prepare with complex flavors […]
This is a wonderful dish I have started making for my family to substitute a hearty and delicious beef sauce. We want to eat less meat, and more veggies, so if you are in the same boat- you will LOVE this dish! This pasta is made with a delicious and hearty vegan tomato sauce full of flavorful mushrooms marinated in garlic, shallots, and balsamic vinegar. This hearty sauce looks like it has actual beef, but it is much more flavorful and heart healthy!
My kids never choose to eat mushrooms, but they asked for seconds with this meal AND thought it was actually beef in there. I broke it to them, and they were at first shocked, but then happy to learn that they got their mushroom superpowers and enjoyed it! I love to tell my children about all the super powers vegetables and fruits give us. Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins and antioxidants such as selenium. These help our bodies fight all kinds of diseases, make our blood cells stronger, and provide us with energy. Mushrooms are also found to improve hearth and brain health, preventing various forms of neurological illnesses as we age. Mushrooms are also the only plant source for vitamin D, so if you follow a vegan or mostly plant-based life-style, mushrooms are very important! Mushrooms are also free of fat or cholesterol so they make for a wise and delicious substitute for meat.
The Flavor Agents
The texture of chopped mushrooms make them perfect to emulate that of meaty dishes. I use a combination of portabella caps and baby bellas, also known as cremini mushrooms. I simply pulse these in my food processor so that they are finely chopped to the consistency of coarse ground beef. If I have them available, I also love including dried mushrooms (such as these) because they often have a strong flavor that gives that unexpected umami that meat can have.
In a hot pan, I sauté the mushrooms in olive oil, salt and pepper until they become golden and all liquid has evaporated (the mushrooms release a bit of water while cooking). I then add some minced garlic, shallots, carrots and sauté them all together before adding the balsamic vinegar. This all simmers together to create an exceptionally tasty mushroom sauce!
Lastly, I add my homemade marinara sauce (any marinara sauce is fine), and allow this all to simmer for about 10 more minutes, for all flavors to combine.
This sauce is perfect for papparadelle pasta, penne, rotini, or whatver is your favorite!
For our busy weeknights, I opt to make this as a one pot meal. I add 1.5 cups of water to the sauce and throw in a pound of pasta to simmer right in the sauce! It really cannot get any easier, and all the flavors combine quite well this way. I have started using lentil pasta as it provides a nutrient dense source of protein. It also only takes about 6 minutes for the lentil pasta to cook al dente in this sauce.
Enjoy, from my kitchen to yours!
Mushroom Bolognese PastaNoha ElSharkawy
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb mushrooms (portabellas), diced
- 1/2 c dried mushrooms, diced (optional)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2.5 cups marinara sauce
- In a large pot with a wide base, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms first, followed by the dried ones, if using.
- Once the mushrooms have caramelized and the water has evaporated, add the shallots, garlic, carrots, and bell pepper. Mix over the heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and taste to see if you want more salt.
- Add the marinara sauce and simmer for ten minutes before serving over your favorite pasta noodles.
- For the one pot meal variation, add 1.5 cups of water to the marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Add an extra tablespoon of olive oil and one pound of pasta and allow to simmer for 6-8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes so that the pasta doesn't stick.
While most of my recipes are clean and wholesome, I wanted to make sure I have a few solid desserts that I can count on that are both sugar-free (refined cane sugar, not the carbohydrate) and grain-free. I am preparing for a Whole 30 type […]
It has been a frequent complaint when we go out to eat at Middle Eastern restaurants: “they just don’t make falafel like they do back in Egypt.” We have tried countless places, and although it still may taste good, it doesn’t ever taste the same. Oh, how I miss my Egyptian falafel. The memory of waking up in our Alexandria vacation home and finding my cheery grandfather walk into the dining room with some hot and fresh falafels wrapped in a greasy newspaper, along with some hot-out-of-the-oven pita bread is one of my best childhood memories. I can almost smell it.
Here, in the U.S., it is easy to find falafel everywhere. It is even in our local grocery stores. Falafel is such a loved favorite by all because it is a healthy, flavorful, vegetarian and vegan protein based dish. In metro-Detroit where I grew up, and in Chicago where I currently reside, it is even easier to find a wide variety of falafel dishes in endless cafes, restaurants, and diners. But why can’t I still enjoy that same nostalgic scent and flavor of falafels in Alexandria?
I finally figured out what is different. The falafel so well known here is that which hails from the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine) and it is primarily made with chickpeas. Now don’t get me wrong, these chickpea based falafel recipes are still delicious with all their variations and spices from each chef. But that is why it always tasted so different to us.
Egyptian falafel is not made with chickpeas, it is made with fava beans! Ah hah! Here is the key difference and why it has never tasted the same to me. We also load it up with greens for flavor such as cilantro, parsley, and leeks. So there you have it; it wasn’t a special oil, a pan, or even certain contaminants from the Egyptian cooking environment as we have often joked :D. The Egyptian falafel is greener, crispier, and flakier. In Cairo they call it T’aamiya, but if you are in Alexandria they still call it falafel. My dad and his family is from Cairo, and my mother’s side is from Alexandria so we use both names, interchangably. That is the beauty of blending cultures; you have a richer experience and vocabulary 🙂 And this here, is the best falafel recipe out there, demystified.
To make falafel, we do not use the brown fava beans as used in my ful mudammas recipe. Instead, you need peeled, large fava beans. These are sometimes labeled habas beans. I was lucky to find some in the bulk section at Whole Foods. Bob’s Red Mill also sells the correct larger, peeled bean. They should look like this:
The beans need to soak in water for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The beans do not get cooked soft, but only pulsed in a food processor before frying or baking. So the soaking is very important. The soaking also helps remove some of the unwanted by-product in the beans that our bodies do not digest well and may cause bloating. So, step 1: soak the beans!
The greens used in the recipe give this falafel a really fresh and flavorful bite. It is crispier and lighter than the chickpea variation. Because there is a lot of liquid from the onion and fresh herbs, you need some type of flour to bind the falafel together. I love using garbanzo bean flour, which is really just ground chickpeas. The flavors combine perfectly, and keeps the recipe gluten-free. You can also find ground chickpea flour from Bob’s. Some chopped white onion, cilantro (with stems), parsley, and leek go into this falafel dough for a fresh and green patty. It is fine to add the cilantro and parsley leaves along with garlic into the food processor with the beans, but it is better to finely chop the onion and leek so that the mixture does not get too much water.
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When blending the ingredients slowly pulse the beans until they are like a grainy texture, with no large chunks. Be careful not to puree it into a paste. It won’t hold together into a patty if you do. Once everything is blended, you may begin to combine all ingredients for the dough. Add the spices: cumin, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper. Cayenne is a great addition if you want some kick, but I keep the heat down for my kids.
Once all the ingredients are combined (except for the baking soda), you may either pack away the falafel “dough” into freezer bags for later use, or if you are ready to fry them, prepare for shaping the patties.
When the falafel will be shaped into patties to fry, you need to add 1 tsp of baking soda per 1 cup of dough. Use about 2 teaspoons of dough to roll into a ball and then flatten into a patty. Roll in sesame on both sides and set onto a plate until ready to fry. I fry mine in a combination of sunflower, grapeseed, and olive oil, but you could use any frying oil you like.
It is basically compulsory to eat falafel with tahini. The sauce smothers the falafel with the right amount of juicy zest, and makes any sandwich better. Tahini to falafel is like ketchup to potato fries. My cilantro tahini is perfect for falafel. Simply whisk the lime juice into the tahini. Add the minced garlic and cilantro, and whisk in the water until the tahini is the desired consistency. For some reason blending the tahini makes it get hard. So only use a whisk. Drizzle over your falafel sandwich, or simply dip the falafels in and enjoy. :p
- 3 cups habas beans (peeled and soaked overnight)
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped (1.5 cups)
- 1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 bunch of parsley leaves
- 4 large cloves of garlic (or more to taste)
- 1 leek
- 2 tsp salt (more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
- 1.5 cups chickpea flour
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp of baking soda (for frying only)
- 3 cups of sunflower or canola oil (or any oil you prefer for frying)
- sumac for garnish
- pita bread to serve
- 1/2 tahini paste
- 1/4 c lime juice
- 1/4 c water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp minced cilantro
- After soaking overnight, rinse the fava/habas beans with cold water and drain well.
- Thoroughly wash the parsley and cilantro. Remove the parsley leaves from the stems, and discard the stems.
- Trim off the bottoms of the cilantro stems and discard, but keep the tops of the stems near the leaves.
- In a food processor, combine the beans with the parsley, cilantro, and garlic cloves.
- Peel the outer leaves of the leek and wash well. Roughly chop the leek and add to the bean mixture. Pulse in a food processor until the bean and herb mixture is grainy like sand. You will likely need to pulse in a few batches to fit it all, so that you do not process parts of the beans too much. Be careful not to puree to a paste.
- Stir in the spices and chopped onions.
- Slowly stir in the chickpea flour so that you have a moldable dough with no excess water. If it is too watery, add more chickpea flour.
- Separate the dough into baggies to refrigerate or freeze for later, or you may fry it all at once to yield several dozens.
- Only use the baking soda right before cooking the dough, not for storage. Stir in 1/2 tsp of baking soda for every cup of falafel dough you will cook. Roll into balls, then flatten lightly. Roll the patty in a plate of sesame seeds and set aside on a platter until ready to fry.
- Heat the oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat. The oil is ready when you drop a crumb of dough into it, and it sizzles and turns golden quickly. Once hot, turn the heat down to medium and place about 6-8 falafels into the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and set onto a towel to drain. Serve hot and eat immediately!
- Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Dip the falafels in tahini and enjoy! Bil hana wil shifaa!
- Like potato fries, falafel tastes best served immediately. It is best to only fry a small amount that will be consumed immediately, and store the rest in the fridge or freezer. Store in the fridge for 3 days maximum.
- When using a frozen bag of falafel dough, allow it to thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.
- Serve the falafel with the tahini sauce, sliced tomatoes, green onions, and cucumbers, and of course, with some pita bread.
- Bil Hana!
Bruschetta has lately become one of my favorite appetizers and sides to share for dinner parties or casual gatherings. It is easy, healthy, delicious, and serves beautifully as an hors d’oeuvre (or an appetizer if you want to keep it ‘cas’). I make my bruschetta with […]