Turkish Salad

In Israel, this salad is known as Turkish salad and is sold in every supermarket under this name. I’m not sure that this salad actually originated in Turkey, since I haven’t found any supporting evidence for it when looking for recipes. However, I don’t know what else to call it, so I’ll just go with the name I know.

We make many different salads at home on a regular basis but Turkish salad wasn’t one of them. For no good reason, really. But we did eat it every time we dined in Middle Eastern grill restaurants in Israel. And my kids loved it. So I decided to look for the recipe and make it at home. As I’m sure you know, as with any recipe, there are so many different versions and I wasn’t sure which one to try. And then I met this Israeli woman who owns a bakery/grocery store in Boca Raton, where I buy really good pita bread. She also makes her own salads, one of them was this Turkish salad. When I asked her how she makes it, she gave me the recipe without hesitation, which I thought was very nice of her. And this is the recipe I use. It tasted pretty good to us, so we stuck with it. It is a salsa-like salad, and is a great accompaniment to main dishes or on sandwiches. We especially enjoy it with good pita bread or a fresh homemade challah. Hope you like it, too.

Ingredients:
4 tbs oil
3 red bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
½ cup water
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup thinly chopped cilantro
½ cup thinly chopped parsley

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the peppers for 3 minutes on medium high heat.

Add the garlic and keep sautéing for 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, mix it in well and cook for 1 minute contently stirring it so that it doesn’t burn.

Add the water and the spices, lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the onion, cook for 2 more minute, then remove the pot from the heat.

Add the cilantro and parsley and mix well.

Eggplants and Bell Peppers in Vinegar

This dish is a Moroccan salad served as part of a mezze table. It is one of my favorite salads ever! The combination of eggplants (my favorite veggie) and peppers with garlic and vinegar is divine! In our house we eat it as a side dish or on a sandwich. It is best to make it a day before you plan on serving it, to let the flavors combine.

Ingredients:
3 eggplants, cubed
oil spray
4 bell peppers, grilled
5 sprigs parsley, chopped thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons oil
Salt

Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 400F.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with oil spray. Spread the cubes of eggplant on the baking sheet in one layer and spray on top with the oil. You may need more than one baking sheet to accommodate all the eggplant. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is turning golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Peel the grilled peppers, discard of the stem and the seeds, and cut the flesh into ½ inch strips.

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In a large bowl, combine the strips of peppers, roasted eggplant, parsley, garlic, oil, salt and vinegar. Mix well and let sit for a few hours to a day before serving. This salad tastes best the following day, after all flavors are absorbed.

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Tuna Pockets (Empanadas)

Recently, thanks to my daughter, I got hooked on The Great British Bake-Off show, on TV. I’m not much of a TV person and I don’t usually have the patience for all the drama around cooking competitions, but this show is different. I consider myself a pretty good baker, yet I learn so much about baking from this show. The show covers all the classic baked goods, whether it’s breads, pastries, quiches and pies, cakes, or other baked desserts. There are tips and techniques for baking that the judges actually go over and explain, something I haven’t seen in other shows, and to me, this is the added value of the show. It is both entertaining and educational, without all the drama that you find in American cooking competition shows.

Anyway, one of the crusts I was kind of introduced to in the show was hot-water crust. This crust is used for savory dishes like pies and empanadas. With this crust, instead of cutting cold fat into flour and then adding cold water, boiling water is whisked into fat (usually lard) until it forms an emulsion. This lard mixture is then added to flour. The result is an extremely pliable dough that’s easy to work with since it doesn’t crack or tear. I’ve never worked with lard or shortening, but I did bake with margarine ages ago, before it turned out that it was very bad for our health. Here, I chose to use shortening for religious reasons, although I’m sure that lard would be a tastier and healthier choice.

The filling is something my daughter, who also got inspired by the show, came up with. The result was delicious.

Dough:
½ cup (120 ml) oil
100g shortening or lard
¾ cup (180ml) water
1 tsp salt
3 ½ cups (500g) flour

Filling:
1 7oz cans of tuna in oil, drained
1 small onion, thinly diced
1 roasted bell pepper, diced
1 tsp salt
4 tbs romesco sauce
1 egg

Filling option 2 (shown in the pics):
1 7oz can tuna in oil, drained
1 small onion, diced
1 roasted bell pepper, diced
2 heaping tbs olive muffalata (I found it at Costco)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg

In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Add the oil and shortening and stir until melted.

Place the flour in a mixer bowl with the hook attachment. Turn on the mixer on low and while the engine is running, add the hot liquid gradually. Knead only until the dough comes together. Over kneading will result in a hard and less flaky dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 20 minutes. This allows the gluten to rest and will prevent the dough from shrinking when you roll it out.

In the meantime, make the filling. Place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.

Heat your oven to 360F.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on parchment paper to ¼ inch thick circle. You don’t need to flour the paper. The dough is oily and doesn’t stick to the paper. Using a cookie cutter or the rim of a cup, cut 8cm diameter circles.

Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle and fold it in half. Pinch the edges together to seal and using your fingertips create decorative dimples along the edge. Alternatively, press the edge using a fork.

Arrange the dough pockets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until dough turns lightly golden.

Chickpea Sambousek

Once I heard an acquaintance lament that while Christmas is always associated with pleasant aromas of wintery woods and spices, Chanukah always smells like frying oil, which takes away from the charm of the holiday. Well, I agree to a certain point. Every year during Chanukah, every Jewish home you enter smells of oil. But I love it! During the year, you will hardly find me frying anything because the smell of the fried oil reaches every corner of the house, no matter what we do to prevent it from spreading, and I hate going to sleep in a bedroom that smells like a restaurant kitchen. During Chanukah, though, it’s different. First, the association of the smell with the holiday brings warm memories from my childhood and adolescence. Second, we usually fry sweet things, so the house actually smells sweet. And I try to fry everything as early as possible during the day, so by the time we entertain and later on go to bed, the house actually smells good.

I love many of the fried foods we make for Chanukah and I’ll share a few recipes in my blog. The following is not one of the foods we usually make on Chanukah, but I thought that since it is fried and delicious, it could actually be a nice addition to the holiday repertoire.

Originally a delicacy served in Iraq by Iraqi Jews during the holiday of Purim, chickpea sambousek made it to Israel with the Iraqi Jewish immigrants and became a hit. Other Arab cultures have their own version of sambousek, usually filled with meat or cheese, but the chickpea sambousek is my favorite. In Israel, you’ll find it sold in every open market all year round. The dough is a little different than the dough given here and is usually deep fried. The dough in my recipe includes yeast which makes the dough less crispy and more bread like. The recipe was given to my mother many years ago by a friend who immigrated from Iraq to Israel, and this has been our home version sambousek ever since. My mom is considered ‘the queen of sambousek’ in our family, and in every family gathering this is what she is assigned to bring. So it’s only natural that I chose to show underneath pictures of my mommy making the sambousek :).

Ingredients:
Dough:
3 1/2 cups (500g) flour
1tbs dried active yeast
1 tbs salt
1 ¼ cups water

Filling:
4 tbs oil
1 14oz can chickpeas, drained
1 large onion, diced
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
Salt
Black pepper

Oil for frying

Preparation:
Place all the dough ingredients in a mixer bowl, and using the hook attachment knead into a pliable dough. Move the dough to a slightly greased bowl and proof, covered, until the dough doubles in size.

In the meantime, heat 4 tbs oil in a large pan and saute the diced onion until golden.

Add the drained chickpeas. Using a potato masher, slightly mash the chickpeas. Alternatively, you can pulse the chickpeas 2-3 times in the food processor, until coarsely chopped, before adding to the pan.

Add the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Cook the chickpea mixture on medium heat, for about 15 minutes, stirring it occasionally to combine all the flavors. Set aside to cool.

The filling can be made in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

Divide the dough into small pieces, the size of ping pong balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball to a 5 inch circle, using a rolling pin.

Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the circle, fold the dough in half and pinch-close the edges. Set the sambousek aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat the process until you run out of filling or dough. If you have leftover dough, you can fill it with other things like cheese, meat, potatoes, tuna, etc, or just fry it as is. It’s delicious!! Any leftover filling would be immediately gone in my house. We would just eat it with a spoon straight from the pan…

In a large pan, heat the frying oil (about ½ inch deep) on high heat. Once the oil is hot, place some of the sambouseks in and fry for 30 seconds (or up to a minute), until the dough lightly browns. Turn the sambouseks over and fry  for 30 more seconds. Do not over fry the dough or it will get tough and chewy. Remove to a plate or a bowl covered in paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

The sambousek is best served warm. You may serve it as part of a buffet or as an appetizer. You can also freeze it and warm in the microwave before serving.

5 Minute Homemade Hummus

I have to start by saying that the day I wrote this post, after I took the pictures to add to it, I came across a different blog with exactly the same recipe with the same title, referring to the same chef I do in my post. It was unreal. So bizzare! I was a little upset and even felt defeated, as if I was competing against someone and they beat me. And I kept my post unpublished. But after a few weeks I’ve come to change my mind and decided to post it anyway. After all, not everyone visits every blog, and I’m sure that there are people who can enjoy this recipe, who wouldn’t come across it otherwise.

We make hummus at home frequently, and eat it in sandwiches and as a spread served with our Israeli dinner which is usually composed of vegetable salad, some kind of egg, homemade bread, and some spreads like canned tuna or sardines, cheese, avocado, tahini, or hummus. There are many other dinner options as well, and I’ll write more about them in a different post.

In the home I grew up in, we never bought ready-made hummus. We always made it at home. It was good and we liked it and this is how I made my hummus in my own house, until I came across a recipe by chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav Restaurant in Philadelphia. I fell in love. And this has been our hummus recipe for over 10 years.

The only problem with the recipe, though, is that you have to plan ahead of time. You have to soak the chickpeas in water overnight. And then you have to cook them for about 40 minutes with garlic cloves. After that the recipe is a breeze. But sometimes, we want to have the hummus made at the moment we think about it, so we can eat it right away. For that to happen we made a few small changes to Solomonov’s recipe. And we love it.

1 14 oz can cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup liquid from the hummus can
1/4 cup raw tahini paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste

Drain the chickpeas, and keep the liquid on the side. Place the drained chickpeas in a food processor equipped with the blade feature.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until the mixture becomes a cohesive paste. You can adjust the smoothness to your liking. The longer you process, the smoother the hummus becomes.

That’s it. 5 minutes work and you end up with a delicious hummus. Serve it fresh with some good bread or as a condiment. It can also be refrigerated up to a week.


Tuna Salad, a Little Different

Tuna salad is one of the foods I like to have in the fridge on a regular basis. It goes well as the protein portion of a meal when we are too lazy, too tired, or too hungry to cook something. It also goes great on a sandwich or in a salad. And now, that school is back in session, we will be making it even more often as it is one of my son’s favorite sandwich options.

But eating always the same thing can get a little boring, so we try different spice and ingredient combinations to give the tuna salad a fresh twist. Here are a few of variations we like to make:

The common American tuna salad, as you may know, calls for canned white tuna in water, mayonnaise and celery. We don’t usually love white tuna in water because it’s very dry and not so flavorful. But thanks to the mayo added in here, it actually tastes really good. Just don’t go overboard with the mayo, because then you’ll only taste the mayo and nothing else. Try to be generous with the celery, though. It lightens up the salad and freshens it.

Another tuna salad I like to make uses canned dark tuna in olive oil (also known as Italian tuna), thinly chopped onion, chopped parsley, fresh lemon juice, very little mayo (enough to ‘glue’ the ingredients together), salt and black pepper. Very simple, very easy, and very refreshing! Tuna goes very well with lemon!!

One of my son’s favorite variations is what he calls the Israeli tuna salad, which consists of canned dark tuna in olive oil, chopped onion, sweet corn kernels from a can, chopped Israeli pickles (dill pickles will do, if you can’t find the Israeli ones), and a little mayonnaise.

As school has just started a couple of weeks ago, I needed to make sure there was food to take, so I opened three tuna cans and started making the Israeli tuna salad. Only instead of regular onion, I chopped some scallions, and instead of opening a can of Israeli pickles, I used some pickled muffaletta olive salad that we had already open in the fridge. It came out a little different, obviously, but not less yummy. In fact, we just had it for dinner and enjoyed the combination of flavors so much that I got inspired to write this post and let you all know that you should try it too.

I do not usually measure my ingredients, I do it by eye, and I taste to adjust the flavors. So there is no recipe this time, just the list of ingredients above. Have fun playing with it and be creative. And if you come up with some other fun combinations, I would love it if you shared them with me.