Saturday, June 21, 2008

using your lavosh for sandwiches

a few weeks ago, i posted a recipe for lavosh, the commonly used bread of the (eastern) mediterranean region. the advantage of this type of bread over, say, pita, is that it can be made, left to dry out completely and stored for a very long time with the intention of using it later for sandwiches.

the difference between the two is that the standard pita, unless you're buying the gigantic ones, is much smaller and pita cannot be dried out and rehydrated for later use. another difference is that lavosh does not have an interior pocket and is much thinner and delicate. it is used the same way one would a flour tortilla (i.e. rolled). the rehydrated lavosh are also softer in texture than pita.

as a note, i much prefer to dry them out and use them reconstituted as opposed to eating them fresh after they come out of the oven — well, at least just on their own without filling them, that is.

if you do try them, you'll decide for yourself how you like them.


to use your dried lavosh breads:

the best way, i have found for the recipe i posted is to —

1. take paper towels and wet them and wring them so they are moist but not dripping wet;

2. take the whole lavosh, and holding it carefully, run it under the tap water for about 10 seconds making sure all of it gets wet. shake it a bit and let the excess water drip off of it;

3. wrap the lavosh with the paper towels and then carefully put it in a clean plastic bag and lay it flat somewhere undisturbed for a minimum of two hours.

through experience, i've noted that the optimal way is to use a top layer of paper towel and a bottom one so when you make the sandwiches, all you have to do is remove the top towel, making it less likely that you'll get too many rips or tears.

4. for it to soften up, it all depends upon how quickly the water is absorbed by the bread. this make take up to 4 or 5 hours depending on the weather and other conditions;

start to check it after two hours. if it is flexible and soft all over it is ready. don't attempt to use it if there are still any hard spots.

5. don't be alarmed if it tears a bit here and there; that shouldn't make much of a big deal. these usually occur around the edges as seen in the picture above. the surface is large enough that, when rolled up, any small tears will be reinforced.

* * * * * *

making lavosh wraps/sandwiches:

makes 1 large sandwich (enough for 1 or 2 people) / per each lavosh


lavosh bread

use your favourite fillings —


*grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, red and green peppers)
*wild greens (mâche, arugula, etc) or shredded lettuce
*tuna or salmon
*hardboiled eggs or egg salad
*sliced tomatoes
*capers or sliced olives
*herbs: parsley, mint, dill, etc.

salt & pepper (don't omit!)

mayonnaise or thoum (optional)
red pepper paste or harissa (optional)


remove the paper towel carefully (important: i usually just remove the top part to expose it and leave the bottom in place to avoid any possible tearing).

take olive oil and cover the surface of the lavosh (usually about 2 tbsp). you can also take red pepper paste and smear it on instead but be careful if it is very spicy as too much is not a good thing.

place the filling ingredients on the lavosh in the middle of the bread, leaving a border (where you will be folding things). here i used tuna, eggs, tomatoes, capers, etc...

fold the sides over first.

then fold up the bottom (here it looks like the sides!)

.... and then roll it all fairly tightly.

you can now either cut it in half and eat it as is or, as i like to do, wrap it in wax paper and then cut it. it should be fine either way depending on how well you rolled it.

remember the first one you make may not be perfect. try again until you get it the way you like. these make great sandwiches to take to work or for quick lunches or suppers, especially in the hot summers.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


to those of you who view what i post to my blog via one feed or another (aggregate reader), take note that over the next while, i will be fixing dead links and editing.

not to get you confused, look at the original date of the posting — if it is not the current date, it's (obviously!) an old one. you can either reread it or disregard the entire thing.

reruns no. 2 — lebanese garlic (mayo) sauce

in following with the theme of revisited recipes, this one is for the popular and much sought after sauce, or condiment, which goes by its arabic name thoum. thoum is really just the word for garlic however. considering the amount of 'hits' my blog gets for it regularly, since the time i originally posted that recipe, i figured it is time to post the other version. the first recipe, posted over 2 years ago, is eggless. it also uses one whole head of garlic! this one includes the yolk of one egg and few cloves of garlic.

before i give the recipe, i will say that some people don't know or 'get it' that the authentic version of this sauce is made without eggs and quite a bit lot of garlic. in essence, it is a mixture of garlic mashed with salt to yield a purée into which oil is slowly added. it is then finished with lemon juice. making it this way has its faults in so much as it is extremely difficult to do, even for those who are experienced. it is an unstable emulsion which is very tempermental and requires the correct measures and perfect touch of hand, whether made traditionally in a large mortar or by modern methods (blender). the eggless version i posted in 2006, was thickened, as many people do it, with a piece of boiled potato, making a garlic sauce which does not separate and reduces the acridity, or harshness, of the garlic. adding either the boiled potato or a piece of moistened bread to it makes it stable (nothing worse than having all your work separate and fall apart before your eyes!).

* * * * *

the other way to make thoum stable is to use an egg yolk, an ingredient which makes a thick unctuous product. this creamy off-white coloured garlic sauce is also the one, i believe, the majority of people are looking for and the one which they are accustomed to finding in (fast food type) lebanese restaurants.

the best way to prepare this condiment is in a blender or with a hand held immersion blender. if you choose the latter route, make sure you have someone helping you to hold the vessel/cup in which you blend the ingredients, as it becomes difficult, even next to impossible, to keep it from wobbling around while blending and trying to add the oil all at the same time.

the most important thing when making this is NOT to rush. if you're one of those people who are impatient, then you are better off getting someone else to make it or just to buy it. while making this sauce is pretty straightforward, it still requires attention to detail and a steady hand.

the sauce is good for 1 to 2 weeks if well refrigerated. only use mild olive oil or a blend of vegetable and olive oil. remember this recipe is more like a mayonnaise (and therefore highly caloric) while
the other has a different texture. that one, i'd say, is more like a sauce than a mayonnaise. it also uses less oil and is more pungent.

lebanese garlic mayonnaise sauce

makes approx. 1 cup


3 large cloves garlic + 1 smaller one
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp (no more than that!) water*
1/4 tsp salt

1 c (8 oz) regular olive oil or blend of vegetable and olive oil

white vinegar mixed with water to equal 3 tbsp OR,

juice of 1/2 small lemon

*the water is there to help blend things easily. DO NOT omit it.


have your mise-en-place ready first. you don't have time to run around the kitchen grabbing ingredients.

*i am using an immersion blender here; you can use a regular one. do NOT use a food processor.

place the garlic and egg yolk in the mixing bowl (or tall sided immersion blender jar). if you don't trust your blades are sharp enough, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic to a fine purée with the salt and then add it to the blender with the egg yolk and continue from that point.

blend it for a minute just to break up the garlic. it will further break down as you progress.

add the salt and the water and mix it for 2 or 3 minutes (pulsing) until is is broken down and blended.

this part is where you need to keep an eye on things. i can't say exactly how long it will take as it depends upon your ingredients and your method.

add the oil now in DROPS and blend in completely after each one, pulsing as you go.

continue to do this until your mixture looks creamy and emulsified. this is the sign of when to add the rest of the oil, slowly in more of a steady stream.

add the oil, in trickles and keep blending as you go. it will take some time, maybe up to 10 minutes. have someone hold the emulsion jug if that is how you're doing it or to slowly pour the oil as you blend and hold on to the jar.

once all the oil is incorporated, it should look like a whitish very thick mayonnaise.

taste it to see if you need more salt. add a tiny bit if necessary.

now add the lemon juice or vinegar and water mixture in a slow stream until it tastes right to you. you may not need it all, so taste test along the way.

refrigerate and use as wanted.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

fermented things — no. 1 {beet rossl}

before refrigeration, food was mainly preserved in one of three ways: it was either salted, dried or fermented — the exception to this being those who lived in extreme northern climates who were able to keep items frozen. that method, however, was not as stable as the aforementioned. as refrigeration became commonplace, the need for some of these practices of food preservation decreased or become unnecessary. on the other hand, many of the foods we love can only be prepared by those methods — the most important being fermentation.

fermentation, the complex chemical conversion of carbohydrates involving temperature and microorganisms, can be either intentional or accidental (ummm, what's that growing in the jar in the back of the fridge??), turning sugars into acids. some cultures seem to have more forms of (everyday) fermented foods than others; the most obvious seen in both chinese and japanese cuisines. there is also the belief, by some, that fermented foods are good for us.

in jewish cuisine, one of the oldest and most ubiquitous forms of fermentation is done with vegetables. besides pickling cucumbers, east european jews, like the people in the countries in which they lived, also fermented beets which resulted in something called rossl. in eastern europe, this was always prepared in homes around the holiday of purim, exactly four weeks before passover. the resulting beet rossl, a dark red and sour mixture of beet and beet juice, was (and still is) used to make soups, in addition to other things.

after 4 weeks of fermenting, the beets and its juice is ready to make (passover) borshcht. this is the real {i.e. authentic} ingredient used in this soup; those who didn't have it just added either sour salt (citric acid crystals) or lemon juice. at the moment, i'm not posting a recipe here for borshcht (see here for something similar) — i'm just showing you the easy way to prepare this beet rossl which some people still make today. though not nearly as popular as it used to be in years gone by, people do really annually prepare it as they have for centuries to this day. it's really no work at all; the fermentation does it all for you!

beet rossl

after a few weeks of slow fermentation, the result is a tangy deep magenta liquid and its pickled pieces of beetroot. both the liquid and the beets are used in a variety of ways — mostly, however, for soups like borshcht, be it a vegetarian or meat version.

makes enough for 2 or 3 soups


3 very LARGE beets or 4 to 5 medium ones
9 c cold water (little more than 2L)


*you need an impeccably clean glass jar and lid; make sure it's dry before using.

peel the beets under running water, taking care not to get splashed as the beet juices stain terribly. remove each end first.

cut the beets into chunks.

place them in a sterilized and immaculately clean glass jar (~ 10 c / 2L + size).

fill the jar with water to cover. i usually fill it up so i will have quite a bit of liquid. the water must, at the very least, cover the beets by 2 inches (5 cm).

let the beets sit on a kitchen counter with the lid just sitting on top of the jar. DO NOT SCREW IT ON as the gases that form have no place to go. within a day, there should be foam on the surface. this is the fermentation process in progress. if you have a very warm kitchen, it could start as early as 8 to 12 hours.

remove this and discard it. you MUST use a completely clean spoon to do this each and every time so as not to contaminate (the fermentation of) the beets.

keep removing anything that you see on the surface on a daily basis.

eventually the fermentation will stop after a few days.

usually within 2 weeks, the beets and the juice will start to taste noticeably more sour. this is what you are aiming for — it should be sour (in a good way!). you can taste it to see, it's perfectly safe.

the juice and the beets will be ready to use after four weeks.

to use the results:

for the beets:

grate the beets by hand or do it in a food processor. you can just dice them up too — follow the directions of your recipe. be careful, it stains!

for the beet juice:

this is used in place of some, or all, of the liquid content of the recipe. because the liquid is soured already, you won't need to add lemon juice ..... unless, of course, the results are not sour enough for your taste.

most likely, you will not find any recipes which call for "rossl" specifically unless you are using a very old cookbook or a family recipe. this shouldn't deter you from making this and using it!


red hot ..... or not

routinely used in turkish cooking, and also in some other mediterranean cuisines, this potent bright red paste packs quite a punch in terms of flavour. while it can be bought in jars from (middle eastern) grocery stores which carry it, the paste is quite easy to make at home and stores well for several weeks in the fridge as long as it is covered with oil, as you would do for harissa. depending upon the brand you buy, it will vary in degrees of heat level however with a homemade one you can control the spiciness.

different people make this different ways. one of the "real" ways to make this involves cutting, seeding & blanching the peppers {some people salt them to extract excess water}, grinding them and then leaving the finished mixture to dry outdoors. over a few days in the hot summer sun, it will lose moisture and then darken to a thick reddish maroon colour. i'll be honest — while i prefer making foods the proper and authentic way, the idea of the potential for insects colonizing the prepartion is a big deterrent for me for a variety of reasons, in addition to the "yuck!" factor. i digress....

i make it a much quicker way, one which my aunt's friend showed her — almost in the same manner which i saw, several years back, in a book by author, p. wolfert. doing it the way i show here takes 30 to 45 minutes, preparation and cooking time factored in. it is very straightforward and uses everyday red (capsicum) peppers. most of the work, if you can call it that, comes in reducing the mixture over the stovetop. the only drawback to this method is the 'spitting' of it while it cooks down. i suggest putting either tea towels or newspaper (safely weighed down!) around the stove top and counter.

so what does one do with this paste? well, we used it to add to either bulgur or rice dishes. it was mixed with the water or broth and then this was added. since it has a lot of flavour, very little salt or pepper, if any, was necessary. that, LOL, is about all we ever did with it; i'm sure there are many other dishes it is used in.

the amount here only makes about 1/3 of a cup (or maybe a little more). if you want, you can adjust the amounts as you need. if you don't like very hot things, reduce the amount of red chili peppers you use but don't omit them! make sure to keep the paste covered with oil at all times to create a seal so no mold will develop. as i said earlier, made this way it's good for quite a few weeks (which is why i only make a small amount at a time). use about a heaped tsp per 2 cups of liquid or to taste.

quick (turkish) red pepper paste

makes ~ 1/3 c paste


2 very large red peppers
1 to 2 dried red (cayenne) peppers
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil (not extra v)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil, extra (not extra v)


before starting:

reconstitute the red cayenne peppers in 1 cup of boiling water and let sit for 1 hour until softened. with rubber gloves or under running water, remove the hard stem end and the seeds. leaving a few is ok. if you're into intense heat, then just the stem ends. i don't suggest it. cut the chilis into several pieces

continue on:

take the red (capsicum) peppers and wash them well. cut them in half and seed them and then cut them in strips.

place the red peppers, the chili peppers, 2 tbsp water the salt and sugar and 1 tbsp of olive oil.

blend it for about 4 to 5 minutes (depends upon your blender) until fully puréed. it will be foamy and bright orange.

place the mixture into a dutch oven or wok and bring to a boil, stirring, over high heat.

reduce heat to medium high and let the mixture cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.

reduce heat again to medium low and let cook until it is visibly thickened. when you pull the spoon through the mixture, you will see remain separated for a bit before coming back together again.

at this point, add 2 more tbsp of olive oil (only use regular as extra v is too strong). mix well and keep cooking.

you will know the mixture is ready when it has lost most of its liquid and comes together in a single mass.

let the mixture cool completely on a plate.

place it in a jar and pour mild olive or vegetable oil over it and refrigerate. make sure oil is covering it before putting it back in the fridge.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

summer soups — no. 1

the past several days, where i live, have been miserable. with the humidity factored in, we reached 40 C — conditions completely unbearable and leaving one feel as though s/he was about to melt. being on an island, surrounded by water, only makes things worse during our summer heat waves. for all you people who think canada doesn't get hot, think again! the only antidote for horrendous weather like this is cold food. iced coffee, popsicles and ice cream, now there's a good diet!

on the more healthy end of things, the following is a light soup, perfect for the warmer weather of the now-upon-us summer days. this pleasingly green hued purée of zucchini and leek can be served either hot or cold. excuse the air bubbles created by the blender while puréeing in the picture below, the weather was too hot to wait for them to dissipate!

cream of zucchini and leek soup

serves ~ 6 to 8 people


4 small zucchini (~ 5 to 6 inches)
1 leek (or medium onion)
1 small potato - floury kind, not waxy
1/2 apple, peeled and cubed *optional
2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp coriander powder, heaped
1/4 tsp dill seeds
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
salt to taste (depends on your stock)
1/2 tsp sugar

2 to 3 tbsp regular olive oil

4 c stock (chicken or vegetable) or 4 c water + 2 tbsp stock powder


1 c milk, cream or soymilk -- or more stock
chopped herbs of your choice: italian parsley, coriander or dill


vegetable prep:

cut ends off zucchini, keeping the peel on. cut the zucchini lengthwise and then again in half to equal for pieces. cut these pieces into small (1/2 inch) chunks.

clean the leek well and then slice it in 1/8 inch pieces. use the white and light green portion only and discard the dark green part. if using onion, cut it into thin slices.

peel the potato and cut to the same size as the zucchini pieces. if using, cut the peeled apple to the same size. mince the garlic

cooking part:

heat a soup pot on medium heat and add 2 - 3 tbsp of the olive oil. add the zucchini potatoes & apple and sauté for 10 minutes. keep stirring to prevent sticking.

after 10 minutes of cooking, add the leek and garlic. add the pepper, coriander powder, and dill seeds.

sauté for another 8 minutes or so.

add the stock, or water and stock powder. bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium low. cook uncovered for 20 minutes. stir as necessary.

taste the mixture and add salt and sugar as necessary. i can't really say how much as it depends on what your stock is like.

let cool for about 15 minutes and then place in batches in a blender and purée until smooth (i've tried this before with an electric hand (wand style) blender and the consistency is not fine enough).

taste again and further adjust, if needed. at this point, you can add the 1 cup of milk or cream or soymilk if you like a finer texture. you can thin it with a bit more stock also.

garnish with chopped herbs. dill is a good choice.