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Posts tagged ‘Middle Eastern’

on pita & filling our pockets

Making your own pocket bread may not be the thing for you. Do you have some leisure hours on one of your weekend days that you might like to spend playing with soft little pillows of dough? Do you find it a thing of pleasure to create something from scratch, something you can easily grab off the shelf, machine-made and already shrink-wrapped for you in plastic? Would it thrill you (just a tiny bit?) to watch flat pancakes fill like hot-air balloons in your oven while the aromas of a bakery fill your house?   hmmm! – well -

then…

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Pita  – from your own oven

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makes 16 pita pockets

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1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 package)

2½ cups lukewarm water

¼ teaspoon sugar

Approximately 6 cups unbleached white bread flour  (or unbleached all-purpose flour)

1½ – 2 teaspoons salt

3 Tablespoons vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil

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 Into a large bowl, pour ½ cup of warm water and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Add the sugar. When the mixture begins to froth (proving that the yeast is still lively) stir in the remaining 2 cups of water. Gradually add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring vigorously. (You may either do this by hand, or with a stand-mixer.) You’ve now made a “sponge”. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, or until it too froths.

Stir in the salt and 2 Tablespoons of the oil and mix together well. Gradually add the remaining flouryou may need less than the total amount specified – once you have a dough that holds together into a ball and isn’t sticking wetly to your hands, you’ve added enough flour.

(Because the flour hydrates gradually – and depends on ambient humidity amongst other things – if you add large amounts of flour all at once, you can overshoot the mark. All would not be lost…just add a bit more water – gradually – to find that happy balance.)  

Knead well by hand in the bowl, or on a floured board, ten minutes or so; or in a stand mixer using the dough hook for maybe 7 minutes. You’re looking for a smooth, shiny and elastic dough that no longer sticks to your fingers when held for several seconds. Dust with a bit more flour occasionally if it proves too sticky. Form it into a ball.

Put the remaining tablespoon of oil into the bowl and roll the ball of dough around so as to grease it all over. (This prevents a crust from forming on it.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a comfy warm place free of drafts for about 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C), placing a large baking sheet in the hottest part. (Generally about ¼ of the way up from the bottom.) Allow it to preheat for 20 minutes.

Punch the dough down and then knead again for several minutes. Divide the dough in half. Divide the first half into 8 “equal” lumps and roll these into balls.

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On a lightly floured surface, using either your hands or a rolling pin dusted with flour, flatten each lump into a “pancake” about 7 or 8 inches across and 1/8 to ¼-inch thick.  Spread a kitchen towel on your counter and sprinkle it with flour. Dust each of the rounds with flour and arrange on the cloth, leaving an inch between them.  Cover these with another flour-dusted cloth and allow them to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. (If your counter is particularly cold, you could leave them to rest them slightly longer.)

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wednesday vegetables thursday

It was bound to happen.

Set an intention, make an appointment, pledge a promise, cross your heart.

But perhaps you’ve noticed -

life isn’t always a respecter of such things…and really, why should it be?

Life is bigger (& thankfully, more mysterious) than that.

But had I been able to keep my appointment with you to bring vegetables on Wednesday,

this is what I would have brought.

You would have really liked it I think…

Spinach with Chickpeas

serves 6

(more delicious by far than the photo can say)

2 pounds fresh spinach

Chickpeas (one 14 oz. can)

4 – 6 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoon ground coriander

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Pepper

Optional: Juice of 1 lemon

Optional, but wildly delicious: chopped preserved lemon

 Wash the spinach, removing only the thick long stems if there are any. Drain excess moisture from the leaves.

In the largest wok or sauté pan you have, add the olive oil.  Turn heat to medium. When oil begins to shimmer warm, drop in the chopped garlic and ground coriander. Stir until the aromas rise. Without adding any additional water, pack in the spinach leaves, place a lid on the pan and reduce temperature to low. Read more

roasted chicken with sumac, za’atar and lemon

I’ve made some promises to you recently and thought with this post I might make good on a few of them at once. I’ve promised bright and fragrant dishes from sunny climates to chase the winter doldrums; I’ve promised a special Sunday dinner, and a wonderful recipe for roasted chicken.  And you clever readers might have guessed too that you’d be seeing still more of Ottolenghi here. And you are. And because we’ve talked so much of onions with the last couple spreenkles, we might as well throw them into the mix as well. This is a veritable shrmorgasbord (how in the world do you spell that word? I’ll google it!) a veritable  smörgâsbord  of promises kept.

I’ve spoken before (in the roasted eggplant with yogurt sauce and pomegranates recipe) of two spices essential in Middle Eastern cooking – you won’t find them at Safeway or Krogers. But I hope you won’t let that deter you! You can find them on line easily (google!) or at a Middle Eastern market if you have one near you. They are Sumac (powdered deep red, tart like a lemon, or cranberries, wonderful!) and a spice blend called za’atar, fragrant and delicious!  Neither is expensive at all and they’ll last you for some time. (You’ll be thinking of sending thank-you notes and possibly even flowers – I love tulips! – for suggesting you add them to your spice cupboard.)

More familiar though to your nose and palate are cinnamon and allspice. Those too become part of the amazing perfume of this dish.

I want you to know – just as an aside – that I never ever put him up to it, but sprees-grateful -guinea-pig may be chiming in on this dish. He’s positively wild for it.

The recipe is very straight-forward and simple to prepare (once you have the right ingredients.) The chicken (free-range, vegetarian-fed is best) will marinate for several hours to over-night. The flavors, other-worldly-good, and the onions, of my gosh, the onions! (You expect this from me now, right? If I love something, you won’t have a moment’s doubt about it.  I   l o v e    t h i s   d i s h !  It’s from Ottolenghi, and he’s an artist and a genius in the kitchen!  Cooking is all about a celebration of ingredients for Ottolenghi, and lucky for us, we’re invited to the party.)

Let’s start with just a little celebration of the red onion, so humble, so under-appreciated and so crazy good when prepared right…

This recipe calls for two red-onions, thinly sliced…

even their mess manages to be pretty...click on the image & you'll see

Roasted Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Lemon

  • 1 large organic or free-range chicken, divided into quarters – breast & wing, and leg & thigh
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 200 ml (almost 7 ounces) chicken stock
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons za-atar
  • 1 generous Tablespoon (20 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1¾ ounces (50 grams) pine nuts – a generous ½ cup
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, or ceramic baking dish, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices (except for za’atar), lemon slices, stock, salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight. Read more

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