Spaghetti and Meatballs

Growing up spaghetti was a meal we had at least every week; it’s an American favorite for sure. You can easily substitute the homemade sauce for your favorite already made pasta sauce if you’re in a pinch for time. Pulsing the ingredients for the meatballs beforehand makes for the perfect meatball with no big chunks of veggies hanging out (one of my pet peeves). The sauce and meatballs also freeze well. Sauce: 1 large onion, chopped 1/2 green pepper, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon olive oil 6 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped 1 teaspoon dried basil 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed 1/3 cup water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon sugar 8 ounces dried spaghetti (cooked) Meatballs: 1 egg 1 slice of white bread 1/2 onion 2 cloves garlic 1/2 green pepper 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon salt 12 ounces ground beef 1. In a sauté pan on medium heat add olive oil. Add onion, green pepper and garlic. Cook until tender. 2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/3 cup water, basil, oregano, marjoram, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a full boil, reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10 to 15 then add parsley. Pre-heat oven to 350F. 3. Meanwhile, in a food processor add white bread, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 green pepper, oregano and salt. Pulse until finely diced. In a large mixing bowl add egg, beef and mixture. Combine well with hands. 4. Shape into small balls then place on a baking pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Place meatballs into sauce. Serve over hot pasta. Yields: 4-6 servings

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

I love the American classic banana bread because you can simply do so much with it, and it’s always great. I use Nestle Menier chocolate for my baking and I easily make chunks by using a small kitchen knife. Toasting the almonds brings out their flavor so be sure not to skip that. 2 cups all-purpose flour 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 eggs, beaten 5 ripe bananas, mashed 1/4 cup yogurt 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup melted butter 1/4 cup chopped almonds (toasted) 1/4 cup chocolate chunks 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large mixing bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in center of flour, set aside. 2. In a medium mixing bowl add eggs, bananas, yogurt, sugar and butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in almonds. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chunks of the top of batter. 3. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to completely cool before serving. Yields: 1 loaf

A Saudi Iftar Menu

 I have got so many emails this Ramadan asking me what foods we have for a Saudi iftar so I thought I would put together a little menu for those who asked. Of course as Muslims we always break our fast with dates, water or milk. The dates we prefer in my home is sukari and we drink laban with those to break the fast. 

The most popular appetizers are Quaker soup and samboosas, these are a must almost daily throughout Ramadan. Of course you will find other various snacks on the table such as pita, hummus and salad.
For the main course we always have traditional meals such as chicken kabsa, lamb kabsa or chicken mandy.
Saudis love to have desserts after a long day of fasting and such desserts as cream kunafa, date balls, chocolate biscuit dessert or harrisa can be found on tables. 

Habek tea or mint tea and always Saudi qahwa will always be made in every home. Saudis usually serve tea to guest when they enter and offer coffee before they leave. Families love to sip the hot drinks and chat.
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about how a typical iftar in Saudi goes.

Koukia

I love the light and fresh taste of this Greek fava bean stew. This would make a great lunch or side dish for dinner. When soaking fava beans make sure to add a pinch of baking soda in the water and allow to soak overnight then remove the shells before cooking. Its also very important to make sure the olive oil you buy is cold pressed. Be weary of a lot of olive oil from Spain as most do not use the cold press method and the olive oil is extremely harmful when heated. 1 lb 2 oz dried fava beans 1/2 cup olive oil 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped 2 tomatoes, finely chopped small bunch of parsley, finely chopped 1 teaspoon cumin 4 bay leaves pinch of salt and pepper 2 cups water 1. In a 2-quart pan on high heat boil the beans for 30 minutes, strain. 2. In a 2-quart saucepan on medium heat add olive oil. Brown the onions, add the tomatoes, parsley, cumin, bay leaves, salt and pepper, cook for 5 minutes. 3. Add the beans to the water and simmer until thickened. Serve. Adapted from mezze Modern

Harira

Harira is the traditional soup of Morocco and a Ramadan favorite through out the Arab world. Many versions of this savory stew can be found however, this is my personal favorite. Serve fresh slices of lemon with each bowl. 1-1/2 pounds cubed lamb 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon paprika & 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper) 2 tablespoons butter 3/4 cup celery, chopped 1 onion, chopped 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped 1 (8 oz) can of diced tomatoes 7 cups water 3/4 cup green lentils 1 (8 oz) can of chickpeas, drained 1/4 cup vermicelli pasta 2 eggs 1 lemon, juiced 1 (4-1/2 ounce) can tomato paste salt to taste 1. Place the meat, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, nutmeg, butter, celery, onion, and cilantro into an 8-quart stock pot on low heat. Stir for 5 minutes. Drain the tomatoes (reserving the juice) and add them to the mixture along with the paste. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. 2. Pour tomato juice, 7 cups water, and lentils into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Let soup simmer covered for at least 2 hours. 3. About 10 minutes before serving turn the heat to medium-high, and add the chickpeas and noodles to the soup. Allow to cook 10 minutes. 4. Beat together eggs and lemon juice. Then stir the lemony eggs into the stock. Continue stirring slowly to create long egg strands and to thicken the soup. Yields: 6-8 servings

Amo Hamza

Amo Hamza is a seafood restaurant located throughout Saudi. My family and I visit it every Ramadan as they have a spectacular buffet for seafood lovers like us. Here are a few pictures but defiantly not as many as I would like due to the fact that a. Saudis are weird about pictures and b. I was HUNGRY after fasting all day.

Busy-Day Cake

The name says it all in this simple recipe. Some days we may want something sweet without all the fuss or maybe we just are pinched for time. This is a delicious golden cake that takes minutes to whip up and bake. A perfect partner for this dessert is fresh berries and whip cream. I went with the creamy homemade whip cream although I opted for powdered sugar in this picture. 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 2/3 cups sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 2/3 cup milk 1/4 cup butter softened 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-1 ½ inch round cake pan; set aside. 2. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, butter, egg and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Spread into the prepared pan. 3. Bake about 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack about 30 minutes. Yields: 8 servings Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Lasagna

My mom always made the best lasagna growing up and it was and still is a favorite comfort food for me. This is the same recipe my mom always used so it’s most defiantly tried and true. My pasta sauce of choice is Prego chunky garden in tomato, onion and garlic. I just find Prego to be a nice overall quality compared to other sauces. I love serving garlic bread, salad with homemade dressing alongside this meal. 12 ounces lean ground beef or lamb 1 white onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 lb (24 ounces) pasta sauce 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped No bake lasagna noodles (approximately 6) 1 egg, beaten 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for topping 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 1. For sauce, in a sauté pan on medium heat add meat, onion and garlic until meat is brown. Pour 1/2 cup of sauce into small bowl and pour remainder into meat. Bring to a full boil; reduce heat to low and cover cooking for 15 minutes. 2. Pre-heat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl add egg, ricotta, parsley and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; set aside. 3. Spread 1/2 cup of pasta sauce over the bottom of a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Layer half of the noodles in the dish, breaking any as needed to fit. Spread with the ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese and meat mixture. Continue until you end with the meat mixture. Sprinkle top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. 4. Place baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes until thoroughly heated. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes before serving. Yields: 8 servings

Mamounia

This semolina pudding hails from Iraq and is a favorite Ramadan favorite throughout the country. Despite the easiness of this recipe the flavors pack quite a punch. Many people use 1 tablespoon of rose water and another of orange water when making this dish but as you can see I choose to use only a bit of one. I am personally not too keen on to much flavored water I much rather have a slight taste of it that lingers on. Fine Semolina is used in making this traditional pudding. 3 cups water 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup semolina 1/2 tablespoon orange blossom water 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus more for garnish Blanched almonds for garnish 1. In a 2-1/2 quart pan on high heat add water and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low for 15 minutes; set aside. 2. In a separate pan, melt butter and add semolina. Stir constantly for 5 minutes or until mixture is golden. Carefully add sugar syrup into semolina mixture. Add orange blossom water and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Bring to a boil them reduce heat to low. Stir constantly until mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes. 3. Pour into serving dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with almonds. Yields: 4 servings

Al Maslli

This Bahraini Gulf dish has many names and many versions such as Fi Ga'ateh or Mashwi Al Jeder. I have taken an old recipe and made it much easier to make and healthier. In the end you will have the same exact taste and flavors. You will find this recipe being one of the favorites that you will ever cook, its just that type of dish. A beautiful golden roasted leg of lamb with juicy meat, flavorful rice and crispy potatoes and tomatoes all topped with fried onions (Al Farqaah) and sauteed nuts; what is not to love? Give yourself time to cook this recipe about 3-1/2 hours to be exact as the lamb needs to roast for awhile. small lamb leg meat paste: 1/4 teaspoon black pepper dash of ground cinnamon pinch of turmeric 1 clove 1 teaspoon ground cardamom 1 small white onion 1 green chili 5 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1 beef bullion cube 2 large potatoes, sliced 1 tomato, quartered 1 medium white onion 1/4 cup nuts (almonds and pine nuts) 1/4 cup sunflower oil 3 cups basmati rice, washed 1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. In a food processor add pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, clove, cardamom, onion, chili, butter, salt, lemon juice and ginger. Pulse until paste is formed. Cut small deep incisions into lamb. Place into a roasting pan and rub spice paste all over lamb pushing into slits. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. 2. Place lamb into oven for 15 minutes. Cover top with foil, reduce heat to 350F and allow to cook for one hour. Remove foil, reduce heat to 300F and cook for two more hours. When lamb has only one hour remaining place tomatoes and potatoes into pan mixing with juices. Baste lamb every once in awhile all through the cooking process. 3. In a 9-inch saute pan on medium heat add oil. Slice onion into small strips and add into hot oil allowing to fry until golden. Drain on a paper towel. Fry nuts in remaining oil until golden. Reserve pan oil. 4. In a 2-1/2 quart sauce pan add 3 tablespoons of oil from lamb roast and 2 tablespoons from fried onion oil. Add rice and enough water that comes 1-inch over top of rice, add bullion cube. Bring to a full boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes until rice has holes on the top, do not uncover while cooking. 5. Add rice into serving platter, place lamb roast on top, add potatoes and tomatoes around the roast. Spoon leftover lamb juice on top of roast and rice. Sprinkle the fried nuts and onions around the rice. Serve. Yields: 4-6 servings

Custard

This is my go to custard recipe every Ramadan. Cold Custard is a favorite in my house but you can also use this recipe hot for pouring onto other desserts. Fragrant rose water and fresh orange saffron give this dessert its Middle Eastern appeal. You can make this recipe the night before or the morning of the evening meal and its great alongside a cup of freshly made chai nana. 1 pint milk 55ml/2fl oz heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 4 eggs yolks 30g/1oz sugar 2 teaspoons cornstarch 2 teaspoons rose water pinch saffron 1. In a 4 quart pan bring the milk and cream to simmering point slowly over low heat. 2. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl until well blended. 4. Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a whisk. 5. Return to the pan, add vanilla extract, rose water and saffron over low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened. 6. Pour the custard into covered serving dishes and decorate tops with nuts. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.