Sunday, May 31, 2020

Maklube - Chicken, Cauliflower & Rice


         Many years ago, more than I would like to admit, while studying abroad in Israel and Jordan, our student group stayed for a month or so in a small hotel in East Jerusalem - the Palestinian sector.  There we studied and ate our meals, my favorite of which was that pictured above.  However, I just knew I liked it but never knew the name or how it was made.  So it remained a fond culinary memory in my mind, of a dish I doubted I would ever encounter again.  
        Upon returning to live in Jordan for many years when my husband was assigned to the US Embassy, I had hopes that I might encounter this mystery dish again and while eating at a Jordanian's home, upon tasting sweet onion, cauliflower and chicken embedded in tender rice and festooned with a cornucopia of nuts, I discovered it again and almost shouted out loud, "This is it!"  I quickly chummed up to the woman who had prepared it, discovered the name was Maklube, which means "upside down" in Arabic and convinced her to teach me and some friends how to prepare it.   She obliged and thus ended my decades long quest for what has been a personal and family favorite ever since.
       The casserole, once turned upside down to serve, should appear as a crown, bejewelled with toasted nuts, and vegetables and chicken layered in amongst the rice kernels.  Well, the crown only happens occasionally but even if it doesn't the dish is still the crown of the meal.  On a more recent trip we took our group to dine at a restaurant where the chef prepared maklube and brought the pot out to each table when it was ready for the "reveal" and even his did have a bit of collaspsing on the side walls of his structure.  While learning to make it again at the Petra Kitchen, a cooking school in Petra, the bit of "haram" (shame), occured again givng us all permission to have a bit of an "oopsy" with the "upside down".  But occasionally, when it does stay intact congratulate yourself with a "Mabruk!" (congratulations) and eat an extra serving as a reward!
          My original instructor told us that traditionally cauliflower most often appeared when chicken was the protein and that eggplant takes its place when the protein is beef or lamb.  By now, that is old-school as most recipes use a combination of various vegetables not only to make the flavors more varied but also for color.   That same instructor also demonstrated adding an entire cup of olive oil to the rice toward the end of the steaming.  When I asked her why, she responded that was just the way they always did it.   But I needed a better answer to bring myself to add the oil and I've noticed that most of the recipes you find today don't do that.  But then there is something to be said for the Arab rice one is served there where every kernel seems to be coated with oil!
     

Maklube (Upside Down):
1 chicken, cut in pieces             
   (or thighs & boneless breasts: 6 - 8 pieces total)
1 large slivered onion
1 ½ teaspoon allspice  
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon salt
pepper to taste  
1/4 cup butter, melted                             
½ cup pine nuts & ½ cup pistachios (shelled)
1/2 cup skinned whole almonds (or slivered)                
1 large cauliflower, broken into 1 - 2 inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled & sliced          
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 1/2 cups white rice (medium grain preferred)
oil for frying
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

-Rinse and soak rice for 30 minutes.  Drain.

-Spread eggplant rounds on plate and sprinkle 
     genersouly with salt.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes
     then rinse salt from the eggplant. This draws out
     the natural bitterness of the eggplant. Set aside.

-Saute almonds & pistachios in melted butter until
     browned.  Remove with slotted spoon. Saute pine 
     nuts until golden.  Remove and set aside with
     other nuts.

-In a large pot, (dutch oven) fry small amounts of
     cauliflower and eggplant slices at a time in ½ 
     inch oil until brown. Drain on paper towels.
      (Alternately, you can roast the cauliflower and
      eggplant by spreading out on a well-oiled cookie
      sheet and dousing liberally with olive oil.  Salt
      vegetables and roast in a 400 degree oven for
      about 20 minutes or until some edges of 
      cauliflower are golden.  Stir and turn vegetables 
      over half way through roasting.)

-In the large pot used to cook the cauliflower add a 
     bit more oil and place chicken pieces and onion
     slices on bottom and sear over high heat, until 
     chicken is browned on one side.  Sprinkle on 
     allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cover pot
     and simmer over low heat with no added liquid.
     Remove chicken when tender, about 30 minutes 
     and set aside.

-In another saucepan, pour 4 cups water.  Add
     turmeric, chicken bouillon and 2 teaspoons salt.
     Bring to a boil.

-Sprinkle a handful of  drained rice on the bottom of
     the pot that the chicken was cooked in.  Layer 
     the cauliflower, eggplant and red pepper slices, 
     then chicken and cover with drained rice.  
     Pour turmeric water over rice.  Water level 
     should be a bit above the rice.  Press mixture
     down solidly with the back of a heavy spoon.

-Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes over medium
      heat (until you can’t see the water).  Place a heat 
      proof plate, glass pie or cake pan over top of 
      rice mixture in pan and press down to compact
      rice.  Leaving the plate in place, turn heat  
      to the lowest setting, cover with lid and let steam
      for 25 minutes more. Remove pot from heat and 
      let rest, covered for 10 minutes.

-Remove lid and plate then invert pot with maklube
      onto large platter.  There should by very little
      liquid.  Leave pot in place 5-10 minutes then 
      carefully remove.
           (Ideally, the rice and chicken mixture should 
            stay upright, creating a crown!  This rarely 
            happens but the pile of rice tends to collapse
            on some sides, which is just fine, but when it
            does stay up, “MUMTAZ”! (excellent).)

-Garnish top generously with nuts and chopped
       parsley.  Serve with yogurt sauce.



Fry cauliflower until brown in 1/2 inch hot oil.


Sprinkle handful of rice on bottom of large pot.


Layer vegetables then chicken into pot.


Add rice and liquid, then place a heatproof plate on top
pushing down solidly


Invert rice/chicken  mixture onto serving plate and garnish



A "Crown" of delicious, tender rice, chicken & vegetables!  Mumtaz!


PERSNICKETY NOTES:
**Yogurt Sauce:  Combine 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (not Greek) 3/4 cup
                                   finely chopped English cucumber, 1/3 cup finely minced fresh
                                   mint and parsley, 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon
                                   lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.   Let chill about 30 
                                   minutes.  Serve as a condiment to meat dishes.

**Some people add a layer of sliced tomatoes on the bottom of the pot before
    adding the other vegetables.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mint Lemonade (Jordanian)


(To print this recipe, click on the the recipe title above and scroll to the bottom of the
recipe to the green print button.)

       Prepare to be impressed and refreshed! If you make no other drink this summer, let it be this one!   Lemonade made with fresh lemons has always seemed so refreshing to me.  But I discovered a version which takes the basics to a whole new, easy and quick level.  I truly don't think I've ever had a drink more refreshing.  This discovery was made while sitting in a small cafe on a side road off of Manger Square in Bethlehem.  I was waiting for a large order of felafel sandwiches and schwarma for a group of twenty people we had taken to the Middle East, who were occupied shopping in the Olive Wood shops.  My sister was out in front with the felafel maker who had let her take a turn scooping the chickpea paste into the felafel press and dropping it into the large wok shaped pan of hot oil.  I couldn't bear to watch my sister who has never cooked! (I suppose he put her felafel balls in our order.)
        I took a seat inside to pay the bill where I observed a green drink being prepared at the counter. It was the green that made me inquisitive and after troubling the waiter, asking what it was and being told it was mint lemonade, I felt obligated to try some.  The instantaneous burst of tart lemon and bold mint sweetened with just the right amount of sugar convinced me that this was the singular most wonderful lemonade I had ever tasted!
        And so, as we continued our journey, at every restaurant, I ordered mint lemonade and eventually had the entire tour group ordering it.  It took another visit with another group back to the Middle East where I finally watched closely to see how it was done.  An obliging waiter prepared a glass at the Dead Sea Marriott Hotel and I was able to witness first-hand how it was created.  I call this Jordanian Mint Lemonade, for though I first tasted it in Bethlehem, we have discovered it everywhere in Jordan among a host of lemonade stand entrepreneurs.


Mint Lemonade (Jordanian)
1  cup simple syrup  (see below)
1/2  cup fresh lemon juice
1  cup loosely packed mint leaves, cleaned and picked
           from stems
2 cups ice chips or cubes

Simple Syrup:  In a small saucepan, combine 2/3 cups sugar with 2/3 cups water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and allow to boil for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a blender, pour simple syrup, lemon juice and add mint leaves.  Blend on high speed for about 2 minutes.  While running blender, add ice through top feeder and blend another minute or so until ice is blended and mixture is frothy.


Serve immediately with sprig of mint and lemon slice, if desired.  Makes 4 cups lemonade.

 (Serves 4-5)



              4 simple ingredients: simple syrup,
                        lemon juice, mint & ice

 Mix ingredients in blender until smooth and frothy

                                                                                                            
                                                                     
                                                                   Serve immediately with lemon slice 
                                                                 and mint sprigs

 PERSNICKETY  NOTES:
**The lemonade should be served immediately while it is still frothy and slushy for the very best experience.

**Now for the super quick, not quite as tasty method (a Susan Coon inspiration)   Mix 1 large can of frozen lemonade with 4 cups water.  Add lemonade, a handful of mint and ice to blender and blend until frothy.  Taste for mint and ice and add more of either to taste.

**This is a great recipe if mint has taken over your garden.  You can hack it back and use it as quickly as it grows all summer long!   Did I mention herbal mint tea?  Also, Jordanian, when you want something warm, and often served at the end of big meals.  Place 2 -3 cups water in a pan, add 2 - 3 bushy sprigs of fresh mint and allow to boil for 2 -3 minutes.  Turn down heat to low and allow to steep for another 5 minutes.  Strain out the the mint leaves and sweeten with sugar to taste.  (to my grandchildren, it's all about the sugar)


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Bruschetta Mechouia



Bruschetta Mechouia
(To print recipe, click on the post title name at the top of the page and then scroll down
to the end of the post where you will find a green "printer friendly" button.)


(A very popular first course dish from Tunisia, a little country in North Africa that appreciates spiciness somewhat more than its Moroccan neighbors.  The salad from which this appetizer is created is called Salade Mechouia which means grilled salad. )

2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 little red chilies, thin narrow variety
1 anaheim chile pepper
2 tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp. tabil spice mix
     (3 tab. coriander seeds, 1 ½ tab. cumin seeds, 1 tab. 
      caraway seeds,  ½ tab. red pepper flakes – 
      combine in food processor or spice grinder)
1 fresh tuna steak
1 tab. lemon zest
1 tab. tabil
One dozen nicoise olives
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds (about 24 rounds)

-Seed bell peppers, place on cookie sheet along with onion quarters  under broiler for about 15 minutes, turning as each side becomes charred, roughly 5 minutes on each side.  Ten minutes into the bell pepper broiling time, add the tomatoes to the pan. 
15 minutes in to the broiling, ad the hcilies and garlic cloves to the pan.  Remove vegetables from the pan once they are blackened
and place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap.  Ten minutes into the bell pepper broiling time, add the tomatoes to the 
pan. 15 minutes into the broiling, add the chilies and garlic
cloves to the pan. Remove all vegetables from the broiler and let vegetables cool, at least 10 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

-Next, carefully peel any charred skin off the tomatoes, bell peppers and chilies. Once peeled, and cooled enough to handle, place on a cutting board and roughly chop to a chunky-puree consistency.  Place in a bowl and season with salt and pepper, 1 tab. olive oil, lemon juice and tabil.  Place in serving bowl.  Drizzle olive oil all over the surface so that there is a thin film of oil atop the mechouia. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for about 20 minutes.

-Rub the tuna steak with spice mixture of 1 tab. tabil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Place 1 tab. oil in heavy frying pan and heat to high.  Add tuna steak and sear on one side for 1 minute.  Turn steak and turn the heat to medium and sear on other side for 1 minute.  Set aside for 5 minutes.  Slice thinly.

-Grease a large sheet pan generously with olive oil.  Place
 the bread rounds in a single layer on the sheet and brush 
 the top of each with olive oil.  Sprinkle lightly with garlic 
 powder.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden and crunchy. 
 Let crostinis cool.

-Top each crostini with a round spoonful of the pepper
 tomato mixture.  Top with a small portion of tuna.  Place 
 sliced olives around the edges and garnish with paprika 
 and parsley.  Place on a serving tray and drizzle each 
 crostini with olive oil.

-Makes about 24 bruschettas.



Place cut veggies on cooking sheet pan


   Roasted veggies should be blackened under broiler



                             Serve bruschetta chilled or at room temperature.

PERSNICKETY NOTES:

**The directions given in the recipe for charring the peppers, is a great way to peel peppers. 
Follow these directions whenever a recipe you're preparing calls for peeling peppers.

**If you prefer making a salad (Salade Mechouia) follow the same directions.  Cook 2 eggs to hard boil, cool in pan of cold water and peel.  Cut the eggs into 6 slivers.  Line a salad bowl with romaine lettuce and place pepper/tomato mixture in the center.  Place the egg slivers and olives around the edges of the salad and garnish with roughy chopped parsley.
Arrange the tuna steak slices on top of the center of the salad and drizzle oil over the entire salad then sprinkle with paprika.  Serve with lemon wedges and crusty French bread.  (The most common bread of Tunisia is French baguettes due to it being a French colony for many years.  We never saw pita bread or American bread during our time in Tunis.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Chicken Almond Soup w/ Wild Rice


     Most Sundays were "soup and scones" day when our children were growing up.  There was no debate over the scones.  Fried and puffy homemade bread dough was always welcome as long as the butter, honey and jam were served as condiments.  But the soup???   A matter for debate between distinct and differing palettes.  So to make it less of a tedious task of talking one child out of her favorite soup and convincing another that mulligatawny is delicious, I gave in.  Yes, I gave in and made two soups, sometimes three to keep peace in our home.  Perhaps that's what it takes - soup for peace.

     As one of my husband's duties as an attache in the Middle East, we hosted various political and military leaders for dinner and social events.  One of our visitors with a colorful, dubious past, (let's just say, he was once thrown out a second story window) adored one of the easiest soups I made - a simple roux based, chicken broth and cream with boursin cheese melted in. We still call this soup today by this man's name.

      I'm glad he wasn't included in the weekly conference as to which soups we should have, because with his influential political clout I would defintely have to make it (forget what my children wanted.)  Suffice it to say that on every visit to this man, my husband took a package of Boursin cheese for him, which definitely wasn't available in the markets of his community.

      This following soup is one I would have chosen, had I ever had the chance to suggest one.  Creamy and velvety with a rich chicken flavor base,the crunch of the almonds adds a nice contrast to the texture, and the chewiness of the rice adds a third note, creating a simply satisfying melody!

Chicken Almond Soup w/Wild Rice
1/4 cup butter
1 medium shallot, finely diced
4 baby carrots, finely diced
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups whole milk, or half and half
3/4 cups wild rice, cooked until tender
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts and/or thighs
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cups toasted almonds
1/4 cup corasely chopped parsley

     -Melt butter in medium-sized saucepan.  Saute shallot and carrots in the butter until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour with a whisk and cook another minute. Slowly add chicken stock whisking as you add stock until soup base is smooth.  Add milk or half and half and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil.  


    -Stir in wild rice and shredded chicken.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, being aware that chicken stock is salty.   Bring soup back to boil for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.


    -Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup almonds.


    -Serve soup in separate bowls garnished with the additional almonds and chopped parsley.  Serves 6




A fried scone is a delicious accessory to this soup!


PERSNICKETY NOTES:
     *If the addition of fried scones to your soup selections, appeals to you, check out my post on making scones.  Type "Navajo Tacos" in the search bar and there you will find the recipe.

     *As I always note for my soups, when using chicken broth or stock or bouillon, I suggest the following scale for the best flavor in your soup.  And boy, can a natural chicken flavor make a huge difference!

            #1 - Home made chicken stock
            #2 - "Better than Bouillon" stock paste
            #3 - Boxed chicken stock
            #4 - Canned chicken broth
            #5 - Magi Chicken bouillon cubes
            #6 - Knorr's chicken bouillon cubes
            #7 - Other chicken bouillon cubes

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cinnamon Toffee Scones



      I owe a lot to the British - my freckles, my ancestors, my fascination with 
British history, my penchant for Celtic music, a castle in Scotland by the same name...but... if I'm being honest, I never felt indebted to them for the British scone.  
     A scone in my western U.S. culture was a piece of fried bread dough topped with butter and honey or jam with, when executed correctly, a hollow in the middle where the dough bubbles up in the oil, oh, and most importantly, irrestibly delicious, akin to a doughnut! My family was allowed to eat them as our dinner accompanied with a bowl of soup - doughnuts for dinner!  No one ever complained.
      When I first tasted what I thought I must have heard wrong, the British scone, it was dry, sandy feeling in my mouth and sent me looking for something to wash it down with.  That impression lasted for many years  and it was one pastry I could easily resist (unless served with sweetened clotted cream in which case, I ate the cream.)  Then I discovered Tyler Florence's recipe for Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze and once again I owned up proudly to my British heritage.
      Now this is a scone of a different color, flavor and texture and wouldn't you know it, an American chef developed the recipe but it is one I can relish, Running with the basic recipe, I tried several variations, this one being a favorite.

Cinnamon Toffee Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons  butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup toffee bits or crushed Heath bars

   Glaze:
      2 cups powdered sugar
      2 tablespoons melted butter
      1/4 cup milk or cream
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

         -Beat ingredients above until smooth and
          creamy. Stir in a small pinch of salt and
          vanilla extract.  Set aside.

        -Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

        -Mix together in medium bowl, flour, salt, 
          baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar. 
               Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the butter 
          into the mixture until well incorporated and no
          chunks of butter are visible. The mixture
          should look like sand. Stir in 1/2 cup of the
          toffee bits to the mixture.

        -Make a well in the center and pour in the
          heavy cream. Fold everything together gently 
          just to incorporate or until you can press it 
          into one large lump.

        -Press and gently roll the cough out on a
          lightly floured surface into a 12 by 3 inch
          rectangle. The dough will be about 2 inches 
          thick.

        -Cut the rectangle in half widthwise, then cut 
          the pieces in half again, giving you 4 (3-inch) 
          squares. Cut the squares in half on a diagonal
          to create triangle shaped scones. (To make 
          smaller scones cut each triangle in half again
          to create two smaller triangles. Place the
          scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush
          the tops with a little heavy cream or milk. 

       -Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until browned.  
          Allow the scones to cool about 5 minutes 
          before drizzling the glaze in a zigzag across
          the top of the shones, using a squirt bottle or 
          a spouted cup. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup
          toffee bits on top of the scones.

       -Makes 8 large scones or 16 small scones.


                                 Pour cream into flour/butter mixture


                      Roll dough into rectangle and cut into triangles.


Drizzle baked scones with glaze.




PERSNICKETY NOTES:

*Be careful not to overwork the dough, just mix it lightly once the cream is added then
push the bits of dough together until it adheres in a roughly shaped ball or lump.
I prefer to use my very clean hands for this task. (The trick with pastry is that you can
mix it and handle it as much as you want before you add the liquid but then, handle
it as little as possible to bring it all together.  Overworked pastry at this point will
result in a heavy, non-flaky texture.)

*Try to be as precise as possible when patting, rolling out your dough so that you create
neat triangles for your scones.  I use a ruler and try to sqaure of the ends as much as
possible.