Simon Says: Preserving the Summer, Preparing for Fall

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The summer is waning and it is preserving time.

When I was a kid this was a huge family production where my mom and I would get together and devote days to cleaning, skinning, cooking and preserving tomatoes and making apple and quince jam for the winter. Our kitchen was buzzing; I can still remember the sweet smell of it all.
While I could go on forever, tomatoes are my favorite fruit and I feel that this is the best time to enjoy their rich flavour with a little salt and pepper and nice pita triangle and a glass of Arak

Arak is a distilled alcoholic drink commonly used in social settings; the drink is famous for its potency, and the milky-white color it turns when water is added. Arak has high alcohol content, so water and ice are almost always added.
I remember my dad telling me about Arak and the drink’s nick-name being “the milk of lions,”
The grapes are hand-harvested in September and gently crushed in a press to obtain the best grape juice. The traditional method is a 12 to 15 day fermentation period. The juice is put into traditional Moorish lid copper stills for the distillation.

A slow heat is required for the distillation process .The vapors travel through the copper pipes, into a cooling device. Then the vapor from the juice condenses into alcohol, and drips into a vat. The distillation process is repeated a second time, and the third distillation is combined with the very best quality green anise seed
So I ask why three times? The first gives you alcohol, the second distillation removes impurities from the alcohol and the third gives the Arak its purity and distinction.
Tomatoes
Beefsteak tomatoes are my favorite, freshly cut, sprinkled with some Arak and salt and crushed pepper
Lebanese cuisine is loaded with tomatoes like many of our stews and fresh salads such as Tabouli and Fatouch

September is the month when tomatoes are plentiful and therefore less expensive and that is why it was a month of activity in my Mom’s kitchen. Preserving the taste of her garden and stocking her pantry: from tomato ketchup to tomato paste to tomato sauce, along with the abounding availability of jams and jelly, whole grains, and beans for the winter.
Quince (‘spherrjeel’ in Arabic)


When cooked, quince often tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear and sometimes has the aroma of a tropical fruit. Due to their high pectin content, they are perfect for use in jams and jellies. They are ideal for poaching, stewing, or baking as a dessert. There are many ways to use quince but this time it is all about my mom’s kitchen and some of her recipes. She prepared the jam in a very different method allowing the jam to simmer for two hours and the result was an intensely caramelized and gorgeously thick quince jam that perfumed the entire house with its cinnamon aromas

Birthday celebration
Birthdays were a very special occasion and one where no one could stop eating! For dinner kefta kebab on the BBQ, slow cooked eggplant with a whole braised clove of garlic in tomatoes, chickpeas and herbs sauce. A big garden salad and steamed asparagus, watermelon and feta cheese, some garden harvest tomatoes that make this gorgeous and rustic peasant salad ( fattoush salad).
A combination of intense flavours of arugula and other garden greens with fresh mint and crunchy fresh radishes with toasted pita bread that hold their shape and absorb juice from the tomato and the tangy flavours of the sumac dressing. Do yourself a favor and hurry and make this salad now before the tomatoes are gone for the season they won’t be around much longer and I can’t think of a better dish for that final taste of summer.

September weather is also a highlight for me. Why? It is the absolute best time for eating locally. Our markets are still full of tomatoes and zucchini, and the last of the peaches and apricot plums– At this time of year it’s possible to have garden tomatoes on the same plate as root vegetables.

Tomato Paste

Xinjiang-Redelicious-Tomato-Paste
Homemade Tomato paste is really just tomatoes that have been reduced…and reduced…and reduced some more! The results are certainly worth the time! Rich, savory paste with strong, concentrated tomato flavour that is one of absolute essential kitchen ingredients It is used in small quantities to season various foods and sauces.

Ingredients:

-4 pounds of end-of-season overripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
-1-2 teaspoons of sea salt
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Roughly chop Tomatoes into small pieces and process in a food mill, processor, and blender until well pulped.
    Put the tomatoes in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low heat and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. While they’re still at a sauce-like consistency take them off the heat
  3. Strain the mixture using a strainer, suspend it over a bowl. Leave to drain to remove all excess liquid. Reserve all the liquid and discard the peel and the seeds. Return the tomatoes to the sauce pan and add in the salt
  4. The tomatoes have a tendency to burn so keep cooking the tomatoes uncovered
  5. Stirring every so often until they’ve reached a thick, paste-like consistency Lower the heat further if necessary. You should see steam coming off the tomatoes
  6. Spoon into sterilized glass jars, taking care to avoid creating air pockets, and top with 1/4 inch of extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover completely). Store in the refrigerator until ready to use

The perfect relish
There’s nothing like harvesting the tomatoes from your garden. I prefer roasting the tomato then sun drying them.

Ingredients:

-500 g (18 oz) cherry tomatoes cut in half
-500 g (2 1/4 cups) caster sugar
-2 lemons, zested and juiced
-3 whole red chillies pepper
-Handful fresh thyme

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl place the tomatoes and cover with the sugar.
  2. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave on your countertop overnight.
  3. Transfer the tomato mixture (lots of natural juices will have extracted over night) to a large pot with the chillies, fresh thyme, lemon zest and juice.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes. It should be sticky jam consistency.
  5. Ladle into clean, sterilized jars. And seal immediately. Lower into the water Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes Remove from water and cool on the counter, then remove jars from the pot and place the jars on a towel-lined countertop.
  6. Let them cool undisturbed for at least 6 – 12 hours. During this time, the lids should seal. Check to ensure the jars have sealed by pushing down on the centre of the lid. If it feels solid and doesn’t move, it is sealed Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.

Apricot Jam -Mourabah el Mishmoush

Of all the jams I make, this one remains my favorite. Letting the fruit and sugar macerate together before cooking mellows the sweetness and helps thickens the final product without the need for long cooking. This preserves the fruit’s naturally vivid flavor and color.

Ingredients:

-4 cups apricots
-4 cups sugar
-2 Tablespoon lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. Wash and Halve apricots and pop out pits
  2. In a bowl, toss apricots, sugar, and lemon juice together in a glass or stainless steel bowl. And let stand Cover with a towel and set aside for about 4 hours. at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator Stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve evenly
  3. In heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot and bring to a boil over medium,
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, Remove scum when necessary Cook for another 8 minutes, until the fruit looks translucent and is beginning to break down it’s easy to scorch it at this stage, so stir frequently and don’t wander off.
  5. Add lemon juice Scoop a small amount of juice onto a clean metal spoon. Tip the spoon sideways and let juice run off the edge.
  6. When juice has reached the jelly point, the last few drops will look thicker and run together into one viscous drop. Remove from heat. Ladle into clean, sterilized jars. Yield: 4 to 5 8-oz jars.

Quince Jam – Mourabah el Sefargal

quince jam

Ingredients
-4 cups quince washed, peeled, cored and cut into cubes.
-4 cups sugar
-2 tablespoons Lemon juice

Preparation
1. Wash, peel and shred quince. In bowl, cover with sugar and let stand for at least 4 hours.
2. In saucepan, over low flame simmer for approx. 30-40 minutes until the quince is soft, occasionally stirring. Constantly remove scum.
3. Cook, until the mixture has caramelized and is very thick, deep orange color
4. When thick, remove from fire and add 2T of lemon juice and pour the thick jam in sterilized jars. Seal with lids.

Kofta kebabs with minted yoghurt and Tomato sweet onion salad

kofta kbabs
Delicious, healthy and quick to make – you really must have these easy kebabs at any barbecue!

Ingredients
-900g/2lb minced lamb
-2 onions, finely grated
-6 garlic cloves, crushed
-2 tsp dried chilli flakes
-1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
-oil for brushing
-Freshly ground black pepper

Minted yoghurt
-200g/7oz Greek natural yoghurt
-2 tbsp chopped mint

Tomato Sweet Onion Salad
-1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
-2 vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
-Salt to taste
-3/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries
-salt & black pepper, to taste
-1cups fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Preparation:
    Preheat a charcoal barbecue 40 minutes ahead of cooking or a gas barbecue 10 minutes ahead of cooking. If using a cast-iron griddle pan, heat it over a high heat, then lower the heat slightly before cooking.
  2. Cover eight bamboo skewers with cold water and leave them to soak.
  3. Put the minced lamb into a bowl with the onions, garlic, chilli flakes, parsley, one teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix together with your hands until bound together.
  4. Divide the mixture into eight and mould it into long sausage shapes around the drained bamboo skewers.
  5. Brush the kofta generously with oil and lightly oil the bars of the barbecue or griddle.
  6. Cook for five minutes, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through.

Minted yoghurt
Mix the yoghurt with the mint, half a teaspoon of salt and some pepper and set aside.

Tomato Salad

  1. Sliced tomatoes and onion & chop parsley sumac salad
  2. Slice the tomato and place on serving plates
  3. Mix the onion parcely and sumac together toss with lemon juice and olive oil place on the top of the tomato Lay the kofta on top, and serve with the minted yogurt.

 

Bon Appetit!

simon

Simon Says: Summer Fun

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Forget-Me-Not!

First an early morning, then a two-and half hour drive to get to a small town called Dorset which straddles the border of Muskoka & Halliburton Highlands. My first weekend trip to the cottage after a cold bleak winter

I really can’t wait!

After that long drive, reaching the cottage involves all means of transportation. You have to wait for the ice to go out on the lake as it is the only way to the cottage.

 

The first trip of the season is by water taxi as our boat is on shore at the cottage, anchored to the dock standing at point of Jackson’s bay. Wow, it is paradise!

 

Staring at the lake I stand outside because it clears my mind. Not just being outside but the whole cottage experience. It makes me feel so relaxed, so at ease, so at home. I sleep like the proverbial log here. The food tastes better; even cooking a meal is more fun.

We watch for shooting stars as there are so many stars to see in the night sky up north!

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Hope!

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words
and never stops – at all.” Emily Dickson

 

As I am listening to loons call for rain, as the sweet smelling wind blows around my head with last year’s leaves rustling under my feet, I rake the pathway to the cottage and the outside fire pit. The Barbeque is fired up!

 

All ready to go!

 

The story of this cottage goes back 30 years to when my friend fell in love with this house

Not even a teenager yet, he always asked the late owner if he would sell him the cottage.

He grew up with the determination that one day he will buy the property!

 

The cottage sat empty for long time!

A few years ago the owner of the cottage died leaving the cottage to his daughter who was not interested in cottage life.

So my friend jumped in and approached the daughter and made her an offer to buy the cottage.

Her response was what took you so long?

I do remember you at a very young age telling my dad that one day you will look after his cottage. I am glad that you are going to do so. I had so many other offers but I would not sell it to anybody else.

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Paradise!

When I first stepped onto this tiny island, I immediately asked myself, “He was not kidding me?

My first encounter at the cottage was The Four Elements (Air, Fire, Earth, and Water)

This completely blew my mind. The trees in the forest, the smell of woods, the sound of the lake the sense of nature, (Process these fragment of nature are hand embroidered and illustrated seen of god in beautifulmuted colours!)

 

The nearest store is Robinson’s general Store; it involved a boat and a car ride so you only go if absolutely necessary

 

Without disappointment there is no better place to enjoy!

 

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 Ontario Rack of Lamb Crusted with Pistachio

 

From taste to texture and even color, Lebanon is the inspiration for this multi-faceted dish.

While the flavors are traditional, the approach is modern

Ingredients

  •  2 lamb racks, trimmed, 2-21/2lb each
  • 1tbsp harissa paste
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup finely ground Sicilian pistachios
  • Salt & ground white pepper

 

Directions 

  1. In a shallow container, coat the lamb racks with the harissa, oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Marinate, covered, overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Puree the pistachios in a food processor until powdery and set aside
  3. Remove the lamb from the marinade, and wipe off excess oil; season all over
  4. Preheat the BBQ to 350″F or a medium-high heat
  5. From the marinade remove the bay leave and in a blender blend in garlic and herbs to use for basting
  6. Place the lamb on the BBQ and sear on one side for approximately 4 minutes, while basting Turn the chops over and sear on the Second side continuing to baste for another 4 minutes or until medium rare
  7. Remove from BBQ then coat with the grounded pistachio and let it Rest for 4 minutes before cutting and serving

 

roasted eggplant

Roasted eggplant with garden vegetables and minted yogurt sauce

 

Ingredients

  • 6 mini sized or medium sized eggplants, halved
  • Salt for drawing out any bitterness
  • 6-8 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 red pepper (capsicums) (I used one red and one orange), diced
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon harissa (or more, to taste – I used a heaped teaspoon!)
  • 2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Small bunch parsley leaves picked and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Trim the stems from the eggplant, and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the pulp from the center of each half, leaving about 1⁄2-inch shell of flesh
  3. Remove the flesh from the eggplant using a sharp knife being sure not to cut through the skin. I found it easiest to cut around the edge of the eggplant and then make a few vertical cuts and then use a knife to remove the flesh. Chop the eggplant flesh into small cubes and place it in a colander
  4. Sprinkle salt over the chopped cubes of eggplant and over the eggplant skins and leave for 30 minutes to draw any bitterness
  5. Brush the eggplant halves inside and out with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Roast in a hot oven (200C/390F) for 15 minutes while you make the filling.
  6. Heat the remaining oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a frying pan over high heat add the garlic, the onion and chopped eggplant and stir constantly until starting to brown (5-6 minutes).
  7. Add the mushrooms and cook until wilted (5 mins). Add in the dice peppers Allow any moisture that is released to evaporate and then toss in the diced tomato. Stir to combine until the tomatoes have softened slightly (2 mins).
  8. Take off the heat and mix in the harissa and parsley leaves. Season with cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste
  9. Place the eggplant skins on the lined baking tray and brush with oil. Fill with the vegetable mixture and top Drizzle some more oil on top and around the sides of the eggplant and bake for 35-40 minutes or until very soft. Serve with extra parsley

 

yogurt

 Minted yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 Directions 

  1. Mix all ingredients together with the yogurt. Place a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl,
  2. Strain overnight, in refrigerator adjust the season and serve with eggplant.

 

panisse

Chickpea Panisse with Tahini Sauce 

 I Pan fried my panisses in my cast iron skillet

You can use vegetable oil, or olive oil but I find that olive oil add to the flavour of the panisses

Ingredients

  • 1 quart (1l) water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 1/4 cups (285g) chickpea flour
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • coarse salt and freshly-cracked pepper, for serving

Directions 

  1. Lightly oil a 9-inch (23 cm) square cake pan, or similar sized vessel.
  2. Heat the water with the oil and salt in a saucepan. Once hot but not boiling whisk in the chickpea flour
  3. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about three minutes.
  4. Switch to a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes until very thick and the batter holds its shape.
  5. Scrape into the oiled pan and let cool.
  6. Cut into batons about as wide as your fourth finger and as long as your middle one. To fry the panisses,
  7. In a heavy-duty skillet, heat 1/4-1/2 inch (1-2 cm) of olive oil. In hot oil fry the panisses in batches, not crowding them in the pan until golden brown on each side
  8. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels, Continue frying the rest, heating more oil in the pan as needed sprinkling them very generously with sea salt and pepper. Don’t be stingy with either. Served warm
  9.  Makes about 30, more or less

 

Tahini Sauce 

 Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions 

  1. Mince garlic, then mash to a paste with sea salt.
  2. Whisk together garlic paste and remaining ingredients until combined well.

smores

 S’mores

A favorite treat at bonfires

S’mores is a sticky gooey treat made of marshmallow, graham crackers and chocolate. They are wonderful!

You will need: Sticks (live, green sticks) long enough to hold the marshmallows in the fire without burning yourself and shaved off at the end to take off the bark and make a point.

A fire with lots of red coals

Ingredients for each S’more:

  • 1 whole Graham cracker
  • ¼ of a chocolate bar where ¼ is 4 pieces
  • 1 marshmallow

Making the S’mores

  1. Take ½ of the Graham cracker and lay the chocolate piece on it ready to go.
  2. Take 1 marshmallow and jam it onto the end of a stick.
  3. Cook the marshmallow until golden brown.
  4. Take the cooked marshmallow still on the stick over to the prepared Graham cracker.
  5. Carefully lay the marshmallow down onto the graham cracker and chocolate.
  6. Place the other Graham cracker on top and remove the stick from the marshmallow
  7. Note (When the S’mores is fully assembled, let it sit for a few seconds. The heat will somewhat melt the chocolate and you won’t burn your mouth!
  8. Now smooch together and eat it. Make sure to lick the “marshmallow goo” that slides out the sides!!

Enjoy the gooey mess!

Bon Appetit!

simon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Says: Easter Around The World

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Easter for me is considered the most important Christian celebration!
My family took us to church making sure that we were wearing new clothes or, if they couldn’t afford a total new outfit, at least we had a new pair of shoes.

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For the Shanineh (Palm Sunday) celebration church bells were ringing and the crowds waved olive branches as they made their way in a procession around the church. Children carrying candles decorated with olive branches and flowers tied with ribbons, are carried on their parents’ shoulders, traditionally in our house the most exciting activity was preparing the eggs which we colored for egg-cracking games on Easter morning.

My mom would decorate the house before Easter with Branches and painted eggs, spring flowers in the centre of a table with nests made out of moss and leaves filed with multi-coloured chocolate eggs.

Chocolate is an essential component when celebrating Easter. In many patisseries, chocolateries, great attention to detail results in chocolate eggs looking more like pieces of art than anything edible.

Easter Sunday is spent visiting relatives and friends, usually for a short time and children playing the egg-cracking games. In each household we visited we were offered Maamoul and Easter holiday cookies along with other delicacies and of course Chocolates!!!

I especially like Easter in Canada when it corresponds with maple syrup season.
This past Saturday a group of maple enthusiasts gathered at the lake of bay cottage to make maple syrup. Although I have no previous experience, I was keen to try it out. It was a long day collecting sap and boiling for hours to produce Real maple syrup. A treat that can be enjoyed year round thanks to my friend in Lake of Bay who harvests this sweet sap from his maple trees.

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In the late winter and early spring when temperatures begin to rise during the day, but still fall at night, is when sap can be harvested.

This sugaring season is when trees are tapped, using a drill, to make a hole that’s small enough to hold a Spile.

Ian Karn and Sue Barker said the tree is like a thermometer. Spring temperatures warm the sap in the root of the maple tree and the sap begins to travel up the tree toward the buds. Snow on the ground helps cool the sap so that it rises slowly to a perfect condition to extract the sap before it reaches the buds
It’s a slow and steady process that sees countless drips of sap drop into the bucket before being collected and taken into the sugar house.

easter 3

Then the sap is poured into an evaporator that quickly boils off the sap’s water,
If using a large outdoor pan, you may not have enough syrup to maintain the depth needed to prevent scorching. Always have at least 2.5 centimeters of sap in the evaporating pan.

As you boil, keep adding more sap to maintain this level. If you are boiling the sap on an outdoor fire, then move it to an indoor stove for the final stages. Using The Hydrometer for measuring the density of maple syrup the syrup needs to have a temperature less than 20°C, to concentrate it into thick syrup.

Then we strain the hot syrup through a felt filter to remove the sugar sand this sand can also be settled out in the jars, The syrup can then be poured into hot sterile jars and sealed The sugar content preserves the syrup. If the sugar content is too low, the syrup may spoil. Syrup that grows mold can be filtered and re-boiled with no damage to the flavour. So for every 43 L sap that we collected we made 1L syrup.

easter 5

It was worth every drop!

Maple-glazed meatballs with pineapple

meatballs

Ingredients For the meatballs:
Makes about 24 meatballs

  • 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 Cups gluten free oatmeal

Ingredients For sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, drained

meatballs 2

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To make the meatballs, use your hands to combine all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until just incorporated.
  2. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 20 minutes or until golden and cooked all the way through.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the ketchup, syrup, soy sauce, allspice and mustard and bring to a boil
  4. Turn the temperature down and let cook 5 minutes Stir the mixture to avoid sticking to the saucepan Carefully add in the pineapple chunks and meatballs and cook for 10 minute to warm through , and to glaze them in the sauce.
  5. Serve with toothpicks

Eggplant And Yogurt (fatet batinjan)

eggplant yog

Ingredients:

  • 1lb Ground beef
  • 2 whole onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes,
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice,
  • 1tsp.black pepper,
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 large eggplant,
  • 1 pita bread
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1 garlic, finely chopped
  • Toasted Sliced Almonds and pine nuts for garnish
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying the eggplant

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of yogurt and salt and finely chopped garlic set aside
  2. Peel eggplant then cut in cubes and heat the oil and fry the cubes of eggplant to nice golden color drain on paper towel set aside.
  3. Cut the pita bread into square pieces toasted until golden crisp set aside.
  4. Sauté the Chopped onion until soft and golden Add ground beef and cook about 5 minute stirring frequently
  5. Add spices and chicken stock then stir again until meat is cooked about 10 minutes
  6. Or until mixture is dry and not too wet
  7. Into a serving dish layer the fried eggplant, Top with meat mixture then toasted bread.
  8. Cover with the yogurt mixture.
  9. Garnish with toasted almonds and pine nuts

Serve immediately.

Easter cookies

easter cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg flour
  • 450 g almonds
  • 400 g icing sugar
  • 400 g butter
  • 4 tbsp. water of rose
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Almond paste: Boil almonds. Peel them then dry them in the oven.
  2. Finely chop almonds. Mix them with sugar and water of rose. Roll dough like a long rope as thick as a pencil.
  3. Main dough:
  4. Sift flour with a dash of salt then put it in a bowl.
  5. Make a hole in the middle of the flour then pour in melted butter and knead well.
  6. Gradually add warm water until soft dough is formed.
  7. Boil water in a pot Take a small portion of dough, dip it for a few seconds in that water then roll it out as thinly as a paper on a greased surface.
  8. Cut dough in 15cmx7 cm rectangles. Fill every rectangle with almond paste and roll it and form it like a ring
  9. Bake in a hot oven at medium heat for 25 minutes approximately.

Bon Appetit!

-Simon

simon

Simon Says: Family Style is In Style!

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April always reminds me how important it is to share and give back to the community. Sharing is caring and that is the spirit in which we base our upcoming gala on in support of children’s education! I enjoy the art of food sharing which is an essential part of my Lebanese heritage and enjoy sharing it with guests.

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I also love getting a few plates to share. It is always exciting to try a few small bite of new cuisines while dining out.

My Mom used to say sharing the loaf of bread with others, brings you closer together. Through sharing a meal in a Family –style dining guests can make an instant connection in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

Family-style dining nonetheless has its challenges. How do you arrange a table when food is shared rather than simply plated and served? Its presentation!

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I admit that the downside to family-style dining is that food inevitably looks messy after a few servings.

My suggestion is choosing a cultural theme to bring some order to the table without quashing the convivial atmosphere at the reunion.  Use innovative dishes that comprise a fresh and sophisticated bite so you can enjoy sharing with your family and friends.  Organize the tableware and timing to keep the presentation simple, and choose the number of serving dishes depending on the number of guests and table size. For a long table, you may divide the same type of food into two plates to allow people to serve themselves simultaneously.  Don’t be afraid of mixing and matching dinnerware combining the old with the new and the formal with the casual.

Moutabel

moutable

Grilled eggplant with sesame paste and lemon juice. Moutabel is a dip like hummus, but it is a completely different experience. Like hummus, moutabel is regularly found on my mom’s table. In this recipe the eggplants are grilled, however they can also be baked. I can remember my mother assigning me the task of crushing garlic

Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)

  • 2 eggplants
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 3 ounces plain yogurt
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate paste (optional)

For garnish

  • Paprika
  • Sweet red peppers
  • Parsley
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions

 

  1. Grill the eggplants.
  2. Stick the eggplants on a couple of skewers and grill on BBQ over an open flame (I place them on the naked flame of my gas stove). This is the best way to obtain that great smoky flavor (you can put them under the grill if you like). The skin will blacken and wither with the heat, keep turning them until the eggplants’ skin is soft all over to the touch and a skewer can easily cut through the vegetables.
  3. As soon as this happens, take them off the flame and put them in a pot filled with cold water (this will help to cool the eggplants and make it easier to peel them).
  4. Peel the eggplants (I find it helps also to peel them under cold running water).
  5. Discard the burnt skin and put the pulp in a strainer to preferably leave overnight in the fridge. This will ensure that the excess water is removed.
  6. (Instead of grilling, you can deep or shallow fry your eggplants until golden. Then continue on with preparation. Using this method however, you do not get that smoky taste which is so typical of this dish.)
  7. Cut the eggplants into small pieces and then pound to a rough pulp (you don’t want it too smooth, it’s good to have some texture left).
  8. As you add the other ingredients make sure you incorporate them one by one into the mixture.
  9. First, add the tahini, then the yogurt if you wish (yogurt will help take some of the bitterness of the vegetables away, but if you like that bitter taste don’t add any yogurt).
  10. Now add the lemon juice and the salt (to taste).
  11. If you prefer a sweeter taste I found that adding pomegranate paste works very well.

 

Serving Moutabel

Place the mixture in a dish and smooth it out to cover the dish. Garnish with paprika, parsley leaves, wedges of sweet red pepper, pomegranate seeds and walnuts (walnuts go extremely well with this dish). Finish off with a dash of olive oil. Like hummus, moutabel will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Don’t forget to cover with plastic wrap.

Mom’s Addas bi Hamod- lentil and Swiss chard soup   

lentil soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green Swiss chard washed and chopped (1 1/4 pounds),
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup or 1 medium potato cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or 2 lemon)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

 

Yield: 6 Servings

Note: If you’re not a cilantro lover, feel free to omit it.  I’ve done so a couple times and it’s still a great soup.

Directions

 

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and potato with the water, and vegetable stock and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the lentils and potato are barely tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  4. Add the onion, crushed pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and cilantro and cook for 1 minute. Then add to the lentils
  6. Add the chard to the lentils, cover partially, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls, season with pepper and olive oil and serve.

 

Bemieh bi Zayt (Okra stew)

okra stew

Okra, stir-fried in olive oil and cooked till tender in a stew of onions, tomatoes and garlic  is  served  at room temperature with a side of pita bread.

Ingredients

 

  • 2 lb (1kg) fresh okra (tender)
  • 4 medium-sized onions chopped
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 lb (1 1/2 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground, dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice

 

Direction

  1. Cut off the stems of the okra then wash and drain.
  2. In deep skillet heat ½ cup oil and Sauté the okra, a few at a time, until almost golden, then drain and set aside. Repeat until all finished.
  3. Peel and finely chopped the onions, peeled and crush the garlic bulb in the same skillet sautéed the onion until lightly browned. Then add the crush garlic.
  4. Return the okra to the skillet and add in the diced tomatoes, salt and allspice.
  5. Crush and add the dried coriander, and the chopped green coriander.
  6. Pour half a cup of water over the okra and allow boiling over low heat and lemon juice cook for half an hour without stirring.
  7. Garnish with some more chopped coriander then serve cold with pita bread

For more information on the Waladi Child Education gala, please visit http://www.waladi.ca 

Bon Apetit

-Simon

simon

Simon Says: February is a matter of heart

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In February, cellar cupboard onions come in handy, while braising leafy Savoy cabbage with chestnuts, pancetta and juniper berries or wilting some finely sliced cabbage as wonderful winter salad adding baby arugula pomegranate seeds, crumbled goat’s cheese and radicchio leaves with citric lemon dressing.

Not to miss the mighty leek! Leek,  a favorite of the ancient Egyptian, and Greeks is packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins, can help you to stave off winter’s chill. From a bowl of hearty leek and potato soup or the perfect side dish of deeply satisfying leek and goat cheese au gratin. 

Leeks are a great addition to the nutritional diet; known to reducing cholesterol and helping combat the offset of diabetic heart disease, and to help lower blood pressure.

Along with being nutritious, delicious and endlessly versatile, potatoes a good source of complex carbohydrates , vitamin C and folate. They contain the minerals copper, potassium and manganese and the skin provides dietary fiber. They are ingredients of many winter stews and soups including Mom’s hearty potato and leek – the ultimate comforting classic soup!

Usually eaten hot, but it’s also surprisingly delicious eaten cold with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of natural yoghurt.

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Potato & Leek Soup 

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sliced leeks, white and tender green parts
  • 3 cups peeled and diced potato (like russets)
  • 2 small carrot peeled and diced
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 3 table-spoon olive oil
  • 6 cups vegetable water or chickens stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Wash Peel and fine roughly dice the carrots,
  2. Peel and finely chop the onions cut the ends off the leeks , quarter them lengthways ,
  3. wash them under running water and cut them into 1cm slices ,
  4. Peel and thinly slice the garlic
  5. Place a large pan on a high heat and add 3 tablespoons o f olive oil
  6. Add all your chopped and sliced and diced ingredients and mix together with a wooden
  7. spoon
  8. Cook for around 10 minutes or , until the carrots have softened, but are still holding
  9. their shape, and the onion and leeks are lightly golden
  10. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1cm dice add the potatoes to pot
  11. Add in the stock and bring to boil over high heat cover partially
  12. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to minute until all the vegetable are tender
  13. Correct the seasoning to taste
  14. Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkling of fresh chives.

Not to forget February is Valentine-Red. We tend to think o f Valentine’s Day as “owning” February, but I would say otherwise. Don’t let one day of red satin candy boxes limit your celebration when there are other month-long festivities. Using time-honoured and honed skills! February is artisan chocolate, just like any product—jewelry, furniture , haute couture, is A handmade Art. You will find chocolatiers innovators of flavour in the kitchen preparing and packing small batches no assembly line  of Simon Truffles – they are to share for the love of Chocolate!

Truffles

Simon’s Chocolate Truffles
Twenty years ago my brother came to visit Canada from Lebanon. Chocolate being one of his favourite foods , I was inspired to create something wonderful for him . What better a treat for a chocolate lover than a pure chocolate truffle? This time I decided to share what has been favourite for so many social gatherings

Ingredients for Truffles Mixture:

  • 1/4 lb. Milk chocolate 125g
  • 1/4 lb. Dark chocolate 125g
  • 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind 2 ml
  • Pinch salt pinch
  • 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream 125 ml

For Dipping Chocolate:

  • 1/3 lb. dark chocolate 170 g
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil 5 ml
  • Cocoa powder for coating

Method

  1. In a blender or food processor grate milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Add orange rind and salt.
  2. In a saucepan heat 1/2 cup (125 ml) cream. Do not let boil. Pour into processor .
  3. Process with an on/off motion until mixture is smooth and all chocolate has been
  4. melted.
  5. Remove mixture from processor. Put into a container and freeze overnight.
  6. With a teaspoon and your hands, shape truffles one at a time in the shape of a rough
  7. ball and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
  8. Place back in freezer 1 hour, until truffles are firm .
  9. To make dipping chocolate: In the top of a double boiler over boiling water melt dark
  10. chocolate.
  11. Add vegetable oil to the melted chocolate and blend in.
  12. Remove truffles from freezer and dip each one into melted chocolate and put once
  13. again on a cookie sheet. Let stand 1 to 2 hours , until chocolate coating is firm.
  14. Roll truffles in cocoa powder to coat
  15. Makes 24 truffles

So why don’t you make it your own. This recipe is simply rich and sinful …….Enjoy.

February also is my birthday month – oh the Celebrations! As much I welcome valentine day, it is the perfect time to reflect and focus on healthy food so no matter what your age, Your awareness of what you are eating and how you are moving needs to be considered. Sure, you can trim excess fat from our diet by cutting red meat, drinking less
coffee and more tea. But if you really want to keep up a healthier heart you need to start eating more foods naturally designed to nourish and protect our heart.

Here are some tips to help you through:

  • Barley – known to reduce the risk of heart disease lowing cholesterol you can use it instead of rice as side dish
  • Avocado – Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados have an abundance of heart-healthy nutrients — vitamin E, folate and vitamin B6. Avocados are a good source of potassium that helps control blood pressure by lowering potassium. Avocados are excellent toppings for salad
  • Tomatoes – one of the highest sources of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Studies show a high intake of lycopene is linked to a lower risk for heart attacks. Tomatoes contain other substances that may help prevent plaque from clogging arteries.
  • Carrots – packed with nutrients for a healthy heart. Unique to carrots is the rich content of vitamin A and beta-carotene. Studies show those who eat one serving a day of carrots or other food rich in beta-carotene (think squash) decrease the risk of a heart attack by 60 percent

Many of my favorite winter vegetable on their way out although you’d never know it as they are in store all year around. Savoy Cabbage Pleasingly wrinkly to the touch and nutty to the taste, the Savoy makes a mighty fine addition at any meal, sautéed finely sliced cabbage with crushed garlic, ginger and a little sesame oil – this works brilliantly and delicious also a great companion to Yukon gold and leek. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. It also contains significant amounts of glutamine, an amino acid that has anti- inflammatory properties. Cabbage can also be included in dieting programs, as it is a low-calorie food.

Bubble & Squeak

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (about 7 medium) Russet or all-purpose potatoes
  • 2 cups chopped washed leek
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 large head o f Savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch dice .
  2. Place in a saucepan or Dutch oven and cover with cold water .
  3. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and let potatoes cook until tender (as tested with a sharp knife).This takes about 20 minutes .
  4. In another saucepan, combine milk, butter, add a washed and chopped leek chopped
  5. cabbage, salt and pepper.
  6. Bring to a simmer and let cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Drain potatoes , add butter then mash. I like a rustic mash, with just a few chunks .
  8. Gradually add the cooked ribbons cabbage and leek to the buttery, creamy potatoes
  9. stirring until mixture is well combine in flavour and texture.

Bon Appetit!

-Simon

simon

Brian’s Musings: AIDS awareness and what it means to us

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a la Carte is a company that has been there, done that, seen it all, done it all, could and should write a book. 

With AIDS Awareness month here, and World AIDS day approaching, we were asked to document our support of the cause and the organizations that work so tirelessly to eradicate their own need. 

Here are some of Brian’s thoughts on the matter in his own words….

O lordy!!. How long and why??

Well. was told to be involved actually. LOL!! it’s true .By dear Dinah Koo . She said, Bri , we have to do something. everything was so new then . No one knew anything but , we knew we had to do something.

~

Food for thought year one.  I was on steering committee with all the oldies but goldie’s . Bluma Appel ,Diana Koo dear robert many. Roger bullock and the wonderful  and generous , overly so Susan Davidson and the great Salah Bachir . Sidney Krelstein and Skippy and Lynn and Deena and Michael Siegel!!! Ah .  it really was the best of times and the worst of times.

~

a brave lot then as so many people’s wanted nothing to do with AIDS. It was the curse  and  the boys  who contacted it were made to feel like lepers. But . this wonderful people took the bull by the horns and CANFAR was born and Food for Thought was the first of many many wonderful fundraisers. Wacky and wonderful and caring home owners gave their places over to wacky wonderful caring caterers and florists , like dear Richard Hayter and Lydia  Tacconelli and others . rental companies such as Chairman Mills and Exclusive gave all free .

~

We would do the dinner s, maybe 6 or 8 at a house and then , Susan Davidson ,the most  generous and philanthropic would invite all and sundry to her house on Ava as a thank you . Staff . chefs waiters. Valets,  florists and guests all rolled together . Those parties were so much appreciated after doing the dinners and , well, I could go on , but . diplomacy , lol , and the law advises me not to do so . and .

~

WHY?. Cos . We were losing our friends and sometimes  family . They dropped liked flies then…

~

All I have to do is to go read the Names at the AIDS memorial in Cawthra Park and , I know why .

-bjk

 

Accompaniment: Labneh (Lebanese dip)

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LABNEH

lebneh 1

Ingredients

  • 750g whole fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Method

  1. Combine the yogurt and salt together and mix well,
  2. Set colander over bowl and let it drain in the fridge for 24-36 hours
  3. Line a colander or other large strainer with pieces of cheese cloth then place the mixtures into the centre of the cheese cloth

lebneh 2

  1. Check in a few hours to make sure the liquid doesn’t overflow and empty bowl if necessary
  2. The yoghurt is ready when most of the liquid has drained out and the remaining yogurt is thick with a firm texture.
  3. Remove the Labneh from the cloth transfer to an air tight container to refrigerate until ready to use (should last 1 week refrigerated.)
  4. You can scoop the Labneh into balls with an ice-cream scoop
  5. Place the balls of Labneh into a sterilised jar along with fresh herbs, garlic cloves and a sprinkling of sea salt.
  6. Then fill the jar with olive oil.
  7. Serve it simply with olive pesto and crusty bread.

lebneh 3

Makes approximately 2 cups