Wednesday, January 31, 2007

recipe revisited

i originally spoke about this and gave the recipe in an earlier post but did not have time to get all the information together, so here it is again in its finished pictorial form.

the following side dish is, in my opinion, a good variation of the ashkenazi kasha and bowties in that, instead of buckwheat groats and large bowtie pasta, semolina is used along with mini pasta shells. the recipe is from cookbook author norene gilletz, handed down from her russian grandmother. i was cautious about trying it at first, as i don't necessarily care for semolina in a babyfood cereal form however it looked interesting and was something i wanted to try. i have to say, cooked this way with a savoury spicing, it turns out extremely well.

the original recipe calls for shells but i also liked the idea of replacing them with farfalline, or mini bowties [which have proven harder to find than mini shells at my everyday grocer; they can usually be found in kosher sections of foodstores]. using mini shells are great as they provide little pockets in which to trap the tender semolina and fried onions.

mini shells with toasted semolina


2 c mini shells or farfalline

2 large onions
1 - 2 tbsp oil

1 c semolina [wheatlets]
2 c hot pasta water

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

i also add onion powder, garlic powder, paprika

note that the recipe can be halved


in a dry fry pan, toast the semolina over medium heat until it turns several shades darker like the colour of beige sand.

once toasted, set it aside in a bowl.

in the same fry pan, fry the onion until it is browned and then set it aside also.

boil the pasta until cooked to al dente. drain and reserve a cup of the boiling water. put the pasta aside to cool, covered.

in the same dry fry pan, put the semolina back in and heat it up again. very slowly add the boiled water into the semolina and stir as you add it.

cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes. add the salt and pepper and stir well. use a fork to break up the mixture into smaller pieces. note that i've found it easier to add the salt and pepper to the dry semolina and then add the water. you may want to try it that way rather than after adding the water for easier incorporation. in the end, either method works.

add the pasta and mix well. using a fork, continue to break up the semolina and mix it into the pasta. this make take a few minutes to do.

taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

middle eastern morning goodness

the following flatbread, called mana'esh or manakish, is one which is extremely popular as a morning breakfast snack as is usually flavoured with either the savoury blend of spices called za'atar or some kind of [arabic] melted cheese. the same dough can also be topped with a spicy ground meat mixture and is then called lahm b'ajin. all three preparations are very popular.

za'atar, a type of oregano and a much loved herb and spice mixture, is something which can be bought in more upscale grocery stores these days but it is much cheaper to buy in larger quantities at a middle eastern, and sometimes mediterranean stores. it can also be made at home. see the last 1/3 of my previous post to find recipes and learn more about this herb itself and the spice mix.

the following recipe can be made in a snap and doesn't require hours of proving the dough. it is quite labour un-intensive and can be made in a matter of a few hours leaving you with excellent results. the manousheh can be flattened, spread with the za'atar mix and then immediately frozen and then taken out later to be baked.

these manousheh (plural of manakish) are baked in the oven very quickly at a high temperature. in reality, they are quickly baked on a rounded heated surface which is called a saaj, almost like an inverted wok. you can see examples of it here and here. this site shows how someone is making them on the back of a fry pan! it's in arabic, but you can still get the idea from the pictures.

whichever way you make them, they taste wonderful — especially at breakfast time.

this is a short article about the bread and a vegan* recipe for it [mine uses an egg].

manakish (bil) za'atar مناقيش
lebanese herb flavoured flatbreads


1 c warm water
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar

1 egg* [refer to above link]
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

3 1/2 - 4 c AP flour

for the herbed oil:

6 tbsp za'atar
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp veg or olive oil


add water, yeast and sugar to a bowl and let sit 10 minutes.

add the egg, oil and salt and mix well.

add the flour until you get a soft dough. knead the dough for about 5 to 10 minutes and add more flour, if needed. note that this dough is a little on the sticky side; it is supposed to be that way — though it should not be "wet". . do not add too much flour {refer to "this is a short article" link above in the recipe instructions if you want further confirmation! ;P}.

let the dough sit covered for 40 minutes in a warm spot.

after 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 450 F.

put the dough on a counter surface and shape it into a very thick rough rectangle. cut the dough in half lengthwise and then each half into three equal pieces (sun was going down when i shot these pictures!).

line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. lightly grease the foil, if you are using that.

make the za'atar oil mixture by mixing together the salt, za'atar and oil. [restir it each time you use it to redistribute it as the ground spices will settle at the bottom.]

take a piece of dough, covering the others, and press it down with your fingers spreading it to a very thin 1/4 inch. do this to the others, depending on how many you will be able to fit on the baking sheet. they should be about 6 to 7 inches wide.

you can also cut each of the six pieces in half again and make mini manousheh if you like.

stir the oil-za'atar mixture again well, and spread a full tablespoon on each round of bread dough. using the back of a spoon or your fingers spread the mix all over the dough.

let this sit for 10 minutes to rise a bit.

before putting them in the oven, use your fingers to press down into the dough to dimple it so it doesn't puff up too much in the oven.


bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack.


these are at their best when warm or at room temperature. they are often served with feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumber slices, etc...


Monday, January 29, 2007

great find

just as a matter of interest, i came across a site called the nutrition action healthletter which provides articles [both usa & canadian versions] about important food issues people are talking about or which are making news. while the publication, in full, is a paid one, there are many articles which are available for free which are very informative.

some examples of why i like this magazine is because it gives great info like this which compares lattes from three different big name coffee places [in canada]. again, check the american version for similar comparisons.

this link in the healthletter was also cool, if you want to know how many calories you should be taking in daily based on your height, weight and activity level.

check out the articles and their .

Saturday, January 27, 2007

a most american confection

the following confection is called buckeyes because it resembles the fruit of the ohio state buckeye tree of the united states. they are quite easy to prepare and depending on how many you want to make, you can easily adjust the recipe. they can be made with or without the flour addition but the flour, i find, adds a bit more stability to the fats from the peanut butter and the shortening or butter.

these are a great candy, or "bonbon" for those times when you need a sugar hit.

enough said.


a very american candy, these are hard to resist if you love peanut butter and chocolate. the recipe can be doubled and the fruits of your labour frozen, to be enjoyed over the next few weeks.


2/3 c smooth peanut butter [you may need a bit more]
3 1/2 tbsp shortening or margarine {or butter}
1/3 c AP flour [optional]
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar, at least 500 gm [1 lb]

1 pkg chocolate chips or enough couvreture chocolate to equal that amount
1 tbsp vegetable oil


with an electric mixer, blend together the peanut butter, shortening or margarine {or butter} and vanilla.

when smooth, add the flour and blend.

add icing sugar by the HALF CUP and blend. add enough sugar until you get a mass which is thick like clay and from which you can make a ball which holds together nicely. it is hard to say how much icing sugar as i never really measure the amount; i just add enough until it is the right consistency. the picture below is only about at the half way point and needs more sugar to make a stiffer dough. it will also firm up some upon refrigeration.

when you have a mixture that is quite firm, test one to see if you need more sugar is needed. make a one inch ball and put it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes [refrigerate the dough while you wait]. if it is still squishy once it's well chilled, then you need to add some more icing sugar.

if the ball tests okay and you don't need more sugar, let it sit in the fridge for a good hour or two for it to firm up. make balls by rolling them into 1 inch sizes with your hands. they will not be sticky but feel oily from the peanut butter. place them on a cookie sheet or plate and then return them to the fridge.

note that the dough should have the consistency of modeling clay and will be a light beige [buff] colour. if you added too much icing sugar, you can add some more peanut butter to lighten it up. it is very forgiving.

prepare a cookie sheet to put the chocolate coated balls on.

melt your chocolate carefully and add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. mix well. this is to add a sheen to the chocolate.

skewer each ball with a sturdy tooth pick or some other implement and dip each ball only partially into the chocolate. approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of each bonbon should be covered. place the balls on a cookie sheet and return them to the fridge to solidify.

these can be frozen for longer keeping.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

beigeleh sandwich

feta, tomato and kalamata grilled sandwich

using the recipe for making the pita-like baigeleh, any number of combinations can be used to fill the finished breads.

i used goat's milk feta, tomatoes, kalamata olives & fresh thyme, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. i also drizzled olive oil over the filling before closing it up. as an additional note, i brushed the bread with olive oil but it's not necessary. it browns perfectly well without it.

if you are making the sandwich in a frypan, use something to weigh it down. you can use a pot filled with water halfway on either side making sure it doesn't tip or a brick of some sort if you have one. lodge even sells a cool preseasoned cast iron sandwich press.

fill the sandwich.

over medium heat, in dry fry pan toast the sandwich for a good 5 to 7 minutes, making sure it's weighted down.

flip over and repeat process.

cut in half and serve alongside a soup or a salad.


this is a recipe as per author, maggie glezer. baigeleh are a type of pita bread which are often seen in israel and made into all sorts of sandwiches.

this recipe results in a sesame covered pita-like bread which can be cut horizontally, filled with whatever you like, and then cooked panini style, weighted down, in a dry fry pan or panini press, if you have one. of course, it can be eat as is. it makes a substantial sandwich once filled and toasted, enough for two people or one hungry person.

unless they are baked closer to the element [heat coils], they will be somewhat white as they cook in only 4 to 5 minutes. they will brown nicely once toasted.

this bread is made in several stages:
  • yeast slurry
  • mixing the dough
  • proving of dough
  • scaling the dough
  • formation of rings
  • seeding the rings
  • reproving I
  • rolling out the rings
  • reproving II
  • baking the rings
this is something you should make when you have several hours to play around with, not to be made if you are in a hurry or have little patience. you can make the dough the night before and refrigerate it and then restart it the next day. you have two stopping points that you can take advantage of which should cut some of the time off and lessen the workload.


the following amounts makes 5 baigeleh but the recipe can be doubled to yield 10. make sure you have space as they take up a lot of space for the rising!


slurry mixture:

3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/3 c warm water

1 tbsp vegetable oil

dough ingredients:

2 1/4 c flour
1 1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 c sesame seeds



make your slurry, mixing together the yeast, flour and water.

it will seem gloppy at first.

after about 20 minutes, in a warm place, the slurry will have activated and puffed up.

add the oil to the slurry and mix well until it is incorporated.

add the rest of the flour along with the salt and sugar and knead until you have a cohesive ball. correct with a bit extra flour or water, if necessary. the dough will be slightly sticky. cover and set aside to rise until doubled.

at this point, before rising, you may also refrigerate the dough. if so, remove it the next day and let it come to room temperature and then continue.


later that night [in my case].....

carefully deflate the dough and place it on a floured surface.

separate [scale] the dough into 5 equal portions.

roll out each portion into a long thin rope about 12 inches long.

form the rings as i show in the following photos, bringing each end together and then rolling the joined ends together to seal them:

moisten the rings with a water mister or a brush.

coat both sides of the rings completely with the sesame seeds. i used much less than called for in the orginal recipe. better safe than sorry, however. you can put the seeds in a pyrex type container and dip them on both sides in it that way, too.

once the rings have all been coated with the seeds, place them on a floured surface with a generous amount of space between each. they will ise and may stick to eachother if they are too close. cover the rings with plastic wrap well so they do not dry out.

note that you can stop here, too [ignoring the previous stopping point], and refrigerate them now and continue the next day. if done that way, let them come to room temperature. that will take an extra hour most likely, so 2 1/2 - 3 hours.


let the dough rise again for another 1 1/2 hours or until doubled. after resting, they will have proved nicely, as seen below.

taking a rolling pin, flour the surface if needed and then roll out each ring until it is approximately a 1/4 inch thick.

again, making sure the surface is floured, place the rolled out baigeleh well spaced. cover them and let them rise again for yet another hour or so.

the baigeleh will rise again but this time not as dramatically as the first time.

while they are rising for the last time, turn the oven to its highest heating, about 550 F degrees. let the oven heat for the full hour. move the rack up to the upper 1/3 of the oven.

place the baigeleh rings in the oven and bake for 4 to 5 minutes. using flat baking stones is recommended as they do the best job to conduct the heat in such a short cooking time. if you don't have them, don't worry, your baking sheets will work also. do not overcook or they will dry out. keep them close to the top element if you want them browned. i baked mine in the center as i was using them for sandwiches and they would brown when grilled.

place the baigeleh on a rack to cool.