Fish Kabsa

Fish kabsa is a dish coming from the cities that border the sea and gulf in Saudi Arabia. Any white fish fillet that you may like would work well in this recipe. I used Najil which is a common fish in Saudi that came from the Persian Gulf. I also used Uncle Bens rice instead of the regular Basmati. This is my new favorite rice because it is clean and does not need to soak. And I have found that it does just as well if not better in my Middle Eastern and Eastern dishes.

1 kg (2 pounds) fish fillets, cut into small large pieces
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 large white onion, diced
2 cups rice (I used Uncle Bens)
3 cups water
1 vegetable bullion cube
1/2 tablespoon Arabic spice mix
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pine nuts, fried
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1. In a large saute pan on medium heat add butter, onions and garlic; cook until tender. Add Arabic spice mix, mix well. Carefully add fish and allow to cook halfway on each side until lightly pink-white. About 1 minute or less on each side. Set fish aside.

2. Add rice, water, tomato paste and bullion cube to saute pan. Carefully place fish into sauce. Raise heat to high and allow to come to a full boil, cover and reduce to low. Allow to cook until rice and fish are thoroughly cooked. About 30 minutes. Arrange fish kabsa on a serving platter and decorate top with cilantro and pine nuts.

Yields: 4 servings

Al Eqaili

Eqaili is the adjective of Uqal, which is the round shaped woolen rope used to hold the Qhutrah on the head. The name of Eqaili is derived from the round shape of the cake. In older days, due to unavailability of ovens, the Eqaili used to be baked in a covered pot placed on charcoal. When the Eqaili was almost baked, some of the hot charcoal was placed on the pot to brown the top of the Eqaili. This small golden treat may look simple but it is anything but. Jam packed with classic Gulf flavors this dessert will be gone before you blink being not only being a great sweet but perfect for breakfast and brunch as well.

1 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons rose water
Pinch of saffron threads
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2cup dates, stoned and cut in half
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a small bowl add rose water and saffron, allow soaking.

2. In a large mixing bowl add eggs, cardamom, vanilla and sugar. With a hand mixer beat until fluffy. Add flour and rose water mixture. Continue to mix until thoroughly combined. Add dates, stir.

3. Grease a round cake pan (15 cm). Carefully add cake batter into pan. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. To make top golden place under broiler for a VERY short time until color is obtained.

Yields: 1 cake

Al Roz Al Zerbian

Zerbian chicken is a wonderfully fragrant Saudi dish. Turmeric and cilantro give the dish a fresh look and taste while the simple spices keep up with Saudi traditions. This dish is usually created using a whole chicken but really my family and I enjoy the breast so that is usually what I use. Please remember when cooking Arabic rice NEVER remove the lid once you place it on the pot. The steam is what actually cooks the rice as it sits. Once the rice has finished small holes will appear all over the top of the rice, this is why I use glass lids.
4-6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 large white onion
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/3 cup yogurt
4 cardamom greens, bruised
1 tablespoon fresh ginger sliced
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1. In a 4-quart saucepan on high heat add 1 tablespoon oil, rice, cilantro, 1/2 of onion and water. Bring to a full boil then reduce to low and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle some parts of rice with turmeric, cover and allow sitting for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan on medium heat add remaining oil. Add chicken and remaining onion allowing to fully cooking until chicken is no longer pink and onions are tender. Add cardamoms, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and cumin, mix well.

3.Add rice and yogurt into the sauté pan, combining all ingredients well. Allow to cook on low for 10 minutes covered. Place al roz al Zerbian on a serving dish and sprinkle pine nuts on top.

Yields: 4-6 servings

Okra with Olive Oil

This has been a family favorite in my home for as long as I can remember. The one thing I have always adored about Lebanese cuisine is the way they make beautiful and delicious dishes using all things fresh. Lebanon is a beautiful country filled with greenery. Most dishes do not even use many spices, they do not have to as the freshness speaks for itself.

1/2 kg (1 pound) okra, cleaned and heads removed
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon all-spice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup water

1. In a 9-inch skillet on medium heat add oil. Add onion, garlic and fresh coriander. Cook until tender.

2. Add okra cooking for 5 minutes, stirring at times. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, all-spice, salt, pepper, ground coriander, vinegar and water, cover pan.

3. Cook until okra is soft about 10 minutes.

Yields: 4 servings