Month: February 2013

Lahmajoon a.k.a. Armenian Pizza

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lahmajoon

Believe it or not, hubby made this pizza one night for dinner.  I was working late one night and didn’t think I would have enough time to make dinner since I was already starving my brains out. And we didn’t feel up to eating dinner at 9:00 pm. Despite his hesitation and reluctance, I managed to convince him to make lahmajoon. I provided him with a recipe and he made it. And it was lip smackin’ good. Not just because I was hungry. Sometimes you have to give someone a little push in order to help them discover their inner talents and confidence. And in hubby’s case, a little wifely nagging paid off  ;-). In all seriousness, however, I am going to dedicate this recipe to hubby. He was the culinary star and deserves the utmost credit for this scrumptious dinner.

Lahnajoon is basically an Armenian meat pizza. This favorite Armenian snack is the Middle Eastern version of the pizza but it has a much thinner crust, more like flour tortilla. I used some Lavash breads. I had to go with what I have. Don’t worry though; I wasn’t cruel enough to force hubby into making Lavash bread.  A mixture of ground lamb or ground beef with parsley, garlic, green pepper and, onion gives the lahmajoon its distinctive taste. Unlike pizzas that are large and shared, the smaller lahmajoon is usually served individually. I couldn’t find ground lamb so I used ground turkey instead. You can use lean ground beef or chicken. For a vegetarian version (which I carefully thought about), you can use ground soy meat.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 garlic cloves minced
  2. 1 onion roughly chopped
  3. 2 green peppers chopped
  4. 1 lbs of ground turkey
  5. 1/3 cup of tomato paste
  6. 1  16 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  7. 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  10. Dash of turmeric
  11. Salt and pepper for taste
  12. Lavash bread

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Pulse the garlic in a food processor to mince it. Add the onion and pulse to chop, then add the green peppers and pulse to chop. Add the turkey, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, parsley, cumin, paprika, turmeric and salt and pepper; process until everything is very well chopped. The consistency should be wet and pasty, like hummus. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture onto flour tortillas all the way to the edge. Bake directly on the oven rack for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the meat is cooked through. If the tortilla begins to inflate in the oven, pop it with a fork from the top. To serve,  fold the pizza into quarters, and eat out of hand.

 

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Lavash/Laffa Bread

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laffa

Lavash or Laffa bread is a traditional flat-bread served in the Middle East and can be used to make a sandwich or wrap. It’s a lightly baked bread that can be served with dips, as an appetizer or enjoyed as a healthy snack. Whenever I tire of pita, Laffa bread is always my other option.  I spread some hummus and dab it with a bit of hot sauce.  Then I layer it with various cut-up vegetables. If I have leftover turkey or chicken, I simply cut them into shreds and add it to my rolled-up sandwich (for a lack of a better term). If I’m in a mood for something sweet, I will smear some nutella or chocolate spread (not very healthy but I could think of worse). I’ve once even made a personal pizza out of these flat-breads and they were awesome. If I don’t have pizza dough on hand or don’t have the time to make one, Lavash is the next best thing.   While tortilla bread is generally made from corn flour, Laffa/Lavash is normally made from wheat flour.  I used a mixture of bread flour and whole wheat flour.  Like a tortilla wrap, you can stuff Laffa with virtually anything you want and roll it up afterwards. If you had fun with my pita recipe, I hope you’ll enjoy making Lavash bread as well.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  2. 2  1/2 cups of bread flour
  3. 1 package of yeast
  4. 2 cups of warm water
  5. 2 tablespoons of sugar
  6. 2 teaspoons of salt
  7. 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  8. 1 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

Prepare the bowl. Coat the inside of a metal mixing bowl with oil, and set aside. Mix the yeast, water, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Make the dough. Slowly add the flour 1/2 cup at a time to the yeast mixture. Add the salt and sesame seeds and knead for at 10 to 15 minutes by hand. Dough will become firm and have a stretchy consistency. Let the dough rise. Shape the dough into a ball and place in oiled bowl. Cover with a dishcloth, and let rise in a warm area for 45 minutes until dough doubles in size.  Let the dough rise. Shape the dough into a ball and place in oiled bowl. Cover with a dishcloth, and let rise in a warm area for 45 minutes until dough doubles in size. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare baking sheet. Lightly oil a 12×15 baking sheet and set aside. Separate dough into eight equal-sized pieces. Roll each one out onto the baking sheet to resemble large strips. Create holes in the dough. Lightly puncture the surface of the dough 1/2″ apart. Bake bread for 6 to 8 minutes until top is lightly brown. Remove bread from oven and let cool on wire rack.

Brownie Hamantaschen with Cream Cheese Filling

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brownie hamantashcen

I know that Purim has long passed but I promised some of my readers that I would publish a hamantaschen recipe that is a bit more hubby-friendly. What I mean by that is a cookie without nuts, poppy seeds, prunes, or any kind of fruit filling for that matter. I baked another batch exclusively for him. Well, I had my share of those too. After all, you can’t tell a cook/baker not to eat his/her own food.  On a previous blog post, I provided several creative ideas and suggestions for making hamantaschen. Just because a certain dish/dessert is traditionally eaten on certain holidays doesn’t mean the  ingredients need to be traditional as well. I’ve made brownie cookies before and I decided to use a similar recipe to make hamantaschen. Only this time, I made a cream cheese filling as well. If you want to take a shortcut and save some time, you are more than welcome to use a brownie mix. When it comes to making chewy cookies,  I always find them easier to handle with when chilled.  As I mentioned before, you don’t have to wait till Purim or even be Jewish to appreciate these cookies. And you can shape them in anyway you want. Besides, why not enjoy them one more time before I have to turn my house upside down for another upcoming holiday? 😉

For this recipe, you will need:

  1.  1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  6. 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips melted
  7. 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  8. 1 tablespoon of water
  9.  3/4 cup of sugar

Cream cheese filling:

  1.  1 8 oz. tub of reduced fat cream cheese
  2. 1/4 cup of sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions 

Whisk all the dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl. Fold dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Do not over-mix. Cover dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove dough from refrigerator, form them into thin patties, and place them on a greased baking sheet. Mix all the cream cheese filling ingredients in a bowl.  Place a teaspoon of  the cream cheese filling in the center of each patty and fold sides to form 3 corners. Pinch the corners for extra security. Do not overfill the pastries. Bake for 10 minutes.  If Hamentashen lose triangular shape gently reshape them with a spatula or the side of a fork. Cool Hamentashen completely before removing from pan.

Yields approximately 2 dozen cookies

Sugar-Free Almond Milk

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almond milk

I’ve been guilty of using soy milk in a lot of my non-dairy dishes and desserts. Although soy milk has its purposes, I sometimes prefer other non-soy vegan options. I sometimes opt for rice milk and almond milk but they are expensive where I live. Plus, when I learned that making your own almond milk is not as cumbersome as it looks, I decided to try making it myself.  Like anything homemade, making almond milk from scratch is a cheaper and healthier alternative to buying container milk contains a ton of  unrecognizable ingredients.  While the process to making this milk is simple, the almonds most be soaked overnight. Soaking them overnight makes them easier to blend. This method also releases enzymes in the nut that makes them easier to digest and releases healthful nutrients.

I particularly like almond milk because of  its nutty flavor ass well as being a great break from soy milk.  A little touch of vanilla goes a long way. While there are many variations of flavors for almond milk, I will just be providing you with a basic  sugar-free recipe.  I may consider making rice milk and will gladly publish a recipe sooner or later.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of almonds
  2. 4 cups of water
  3. 1/4 cup of honey or agave syrup
  4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  5. Pinch of salt

Instructions

Soak almonds overnight with a pinch of salt in a blender. Add honey or agave syrup with vanilla. Blend on high speed for a minute or 2.  If you prefer a thicker consistency without the almond grit, then drain the milk using a sieve or a cheese cloth placed over a pitcher. If you don’t strain the milk, give your pitcher a good shake or stir before pouring, since the liquid and pulp will have separated a bit. This recipe would also work well with cashews,hazelnuts or even sunflower seeds.  For an almond milk variety, you can adjust the flavors using spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, more vanilla extract, or a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder for a rich chocolate milk. Now you can enjoy almond milk  in soups,smoothies,coffee,cereals, or oats. Don’t discard the almond grits yet. You can set them aside to make more almond milk again or a almond filling for cookies,cakes, pies, and other desserts!

Vegetarian Curried Carrot Zucchini Chowder

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vegetarian-chowder

Chowder is a thick soup or stew made from seafood such as clams, fish,or vegetables with potatoes, onions and other ingredients and seasonings. Chowder is usually thickened with flour, milk or cream. Most Americans refer to it simply as clam chowder or corn chowder. Manhattan chowder is made with tomatoes and New England chowder is made with clams. The word chowder comes from the French word meaning “chaudiere” meaning pot. Although there are other meanings for chowder. In New England the word comes from Newfoundland referring to a Breton fisherman, who would throw his catch of the day in a pot with other ingredients. Another older meaning of the word chowder comes from old England meaning “jowter.”

I’ve decided to recreate a healthier and vegetarian version of this soup. This vegetarian chowder  makes a wonderful winter soup  that is rich in flavors and very filling. While this particular soup is made from carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, and corn, other vegetables can be added as well such as such as sauteed mushrooms or fennel, chopped tomatoes or cubes of roasted winter squash. This recipe makes more Cream Sauce without the Cream than you’ll need for the chowder. Refrigerate or freeze the extra sauce and use it in place of heavy cream in any sauce or soup that calls for cream. I added a bit of curry powder and ginger for that extra pizzazz. Why the heck not?

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  2. 1 onion chopped
  3. 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  4. 1 teaspoon of minced ginger
  5. 2 large potatoes peeled and diced
  6. 1/2 cup of diced zucchini
  7. 1/2 cup of diced carrots
  8. 1  cup of corn
  9. 5 cups of low sodium vegetable broth or fish stock
  10. 2 tablespoons of flour (you can use gluten-free) dissolved in  1 1/2 cups of skim or non-dairy milk
  11. 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
  12. 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  13. Salt and pepper for taste
  14. Chopped chives for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes.  Add teaspoon and minced ginger and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetables. Season with curry powder,nutmeg,salt,and pepper. Add a dash of cayenne pepper if you prefer.  Saute  for another 5-10 minutes. Pour in the milk. Gradually stir in the broth with the vegetables and milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Even though I didn’t, you can throw in some shredded skim cheddar cheese or vegan cheese if you decide to. Using a hand blender, puree vegetables till smooth.  Season and/or garnish as desired.

Yields 4 servings

Vegan Spelt Hamantaschen

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hamantashenPurim is the festival that commemorates the breathtaking victory over the murderous designs of Haman. It is observed on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Likewise, Hamantaschen are triangular shaped cookies that are traditionally served on Purim. Ingredients usually consist of flour, butter/margarine, oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, sugar, and a filling. Hamantaschen are generally made by rolling the dough thin, cutting it into circles (of various sizes), placing filling in the center, and folding in three sides. The dough is generally a cookie dough, usually made with non-dairy products, with orange juice and/or rind added. Sometimes a yeast dough is used instead. The Hamantasch symbolizes the three-cornered hat that Haman wore. It is thought that they were originally called mon-taschen (Yiddish “poppy seed pockets”) but modern legend has it that Haman, the villain of Purim, wore a triangular hat. In Israel, they are called Oznei Haman (Hebrew for “Haman’s ears”).  Because of the Yiddish meaning,  traditional fillings are poppy seeds (Yiddish mon) or prune, but they are made with many different flavors, including date or  figs which I’m not particularly keen about about.  I decided to stick with my favorite fillings which are apricot and strawberry fillings.  While Hamantashen is a traditional holiday dessert, I’ve seen people incorporate their own variations using non-traditional ingredients. Fillings don’t have to be limited to fruit, poppy seed, or prune. Last year, I made  chocolate version Hamantaschen with a dulce de leche filling. Others have used nutella and other nut fillings as well.  Like most cookies, there is always room for creativity with Hamantashen.  They don’t necessarily have to be sweet.  I’ve seen people make a triangular bread with onion, vegetable, cheese or meat fillings. Lastly, they don’t have to be triangular either. You can shape these cookies any way you like.  While these cookies are traditionally served on a Jewish holiday, I believe that people from different faiths, religious, political, and cultural backgrounds can enjoy these cookies as I enjoy different ethnic cuisines.  I decided to take a vegan and a healthier route with these cookies. Rather than using eggs and all-purpose flour, I used spelt flour and a bit almond butter as well. And it case you were wondering about my hubby’s nut allergy, don’t worry. I will make a special batch exclusively for him with his help of course 🙂 I will publish a recipe on that soon.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 1/2 cup of spelt flour
  2. 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  3. 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  5. 1/2 cup of canola oil
  6. 2 tablepoons of margarine at room temperature
  7. 1/4 cup of almond butter
  8. 1/2 cup of orange juice,non-dairy milk or low-fat milk
  9. 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  10. 1/2 cup of sugar
  11. Lemon zest
  12. Fruit filling (or any filling of your choice)

Instructions

In a bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together.  In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients including sugar, zest and almond butter until well combined.  Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients to form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the dough in half. (Refrigerate the other half.) Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut the dough into circles using a 2 1/2-inch-diameter cookie cutter. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each circle. Bring the edges together to cover the filling, forming a 3-cornered cookie. Pinch the corners together to seal. Place the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops are golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Notes: The filling and the dough can be made up to 1 day ahead. If you should have leftover scraps of dough, you can use it to make more hamantaschen, pie crust, or other cookies.

Yields 2 dozen cookies

Roasted Eggplant Chili Pepper Dip

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eggplant-dip

Eggplant is the quintessential Mediterranean vegetable. It is often used in most Southern European and Middle Eastern dishes. Truth be told, my taste buds have recently adjusted to the flavor of eggplant. Before then, it was never a particular favorite item of mine. I never cared for Eggplant Parmigiana and Moussaka. And I was really repulsed by Baba Ghanoush, especially the store-bought container kinds mainly because they were drowning in mayonnaise.  Only when I’ve learned the technique to get rid of the bitter aftertaste was when eggplant gradually grew into me.  My hubby once shared my taste aversions for eggplant until I converted him with this eggplant dip. This dip was practically gone in 2 days after I made it and it was only the 2 of us. The moral of this story is that any dip you replicate at home is not only healthier but the taste and flavors rival anything you buy at your supermarket.  But  I must warn you that this dip is a bit on the spicy side. I was hoping to get the most microscopic chili pepper  but I had to grab the smallest one that I found which was a medium-small chili pepper. And I forgot to discard the seeds after roasting it. You can always adjust the level of spiciness to your liking. You can also neutralize the spiciness with lemon juice which I did. Roasting the eggplant along with onion, garlic, and chili pepper add an extra dimension of flavor.  This eggplant dip serves well with sliced raw vegetables, crackers or pita bread.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 medium eggplant
  2. 1 large onion
  3. 4 garlic cloves
  4. 1 small chili pepper
  5. 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  6. 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  7. 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the eggplant, chili pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking.  Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste and lemon juice, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper.