RECIPE #26 - #37: 12 recipes from my favorite vintage Middle Eastern cookbook

Almost a year ago, I bought a quirky vintage cookbook at a thrift store for $1. It's become one of my favorite cookbooks to date. It's a cookbook printed in 1950 called Good Food from the Near East: Five Hundred Favorite Recipes from Twelve Countries by Joan Rowland. Although I'm listing 12 recipes, I'm not going to give you a recipe from every country but some of my personal favorites I've made from it. 

from Israel
(Ryan's favorite!)

6 bunches firm grapes
3 T butter
 1/2 C boiling water
1/2 t salt
1/2 C sifted flour
2 eggs
fat or oil for deep frying
powdered sugar

Wash grapes carefully, drain and set aside to dry. Mix butter and boiling water in once quart saucepan. Bring to boiling, add salt and flour, stirring continually until the mixture does not stick to the pan, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, beat one of the eggs in, add the second egg, mix and use at once. Thin with a little milk if too thick. Dip bunches one at a time in the batter and then put immediately into deep, hot oil/fat. Fry till the batter is cooked, about 3 minutes. Drain on thick paper towels. Serve plain or sprinkled with sugar. Yield: allow 1 bunch of grapes per person.

FUSTUQ MUSAKKAR (Sugared Pistachio Nuts)
from Syria & Lebanon

4 egg whites
2 1/2 C sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1 1/2 lb pistachio nuts

Beat the egg whites stiff and add the sugar, cinnamon & cloves, beating slowly. Add the nuts and mix well. Line a cooky (yes, that's the way the spelled it in the cookbook.) sheet with greased paper. Drop the mixture by teaspoon onto the sheet. Bake in an oven at 300 degrees, about 10 minutes or till the cookies are set and golden. Yield: 5 dozen or more.
(This reminds me of divinity.)

SHAI B I-NA'NA' (Arab Tea)
from Lebanon
(My family LOVES this when I make it.)

1 bunch fresh mint
1/2 C sugar
Juice of 3 oranges
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated peel of 1 lemon
6 C fresh hot tea

Wash the mint and shake off the water. Reserve 8 sprigs. Spread the rest on a plate and sprinkle with sugar. Let stand 30 minutes. Then bruise (or muddle) and partially mash it with a spoon. Mix with the orange and lemon juice and the lemon peel in a 2 quart bowl. Pour over this the hot tea. Let stand 10 minutes. Strain and put aside to cool. Half fill tall glasses or a serving pitcher with ice and pour in the tea mixture. Serve with a sprig of mint in each glass. Yield: about 2 quarts or 8 servings.

MAJEDRA (Esau's Pottage/Stew)
from Turkey
(Look in Genesis 25.)

1 C lentils
1 large onion, sliced (I diced.)
1/2 T butter
1 lb cubed lamb or beef
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 C rice
2 C water

Wash the lentils, cover with cold water and let soak overnight in 2 qt saucepan. Then drain. Brown the onion in the butter and add the lentils. Then add the meat and water to cover, salt and pepper. Cook slowly. When the lentils are almost tender, about an hour, add the rice and the 2 C more of water, simmer, stirring only a few times until the rice is coked, 20-30 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

TIP: Leftover Majedra may be shaped in patties or croquettes, rolled in cracker crumbs and fried.

Baluck Keofteh (Fish Cakes or Balls)
from Armenia

3 C minced cooked fish (I used cod)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 C minced parsley
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 C bread or cracker crumbs
2 T butter or oil
mint leaves
1 lemon, sliced

Mix the fish with the eggs, parsley & seasonings. If the mixture is too thin to be shaped, add a few crumbs. Form into balls, cakes or finger lengths; dip in the remaining crumbs. Saute in butter or oil till browned, about three minutes for each side. Serve hot, garnished with mint leaves, parsley and lemon slices, and with any preferred sauce -- mayonnaise or tomato (I made tartar sauce). Yield: 6 or more servings.

SARMI (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
from Bulgaria
(These are a twist to the Greek dolmas or dolmades I've had and made.)

3 lb cabbage
1 1/2 t slat
2/3 C fat (I used lard - I never said this was healthy :)
2 large onions, chopped
3/4 C rice, washed & dried
1 t paprika
2 T tomato juice
1 t chopped fresh or dried mint
1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 lb lean ground veal
2 - 3 slices bacon
1 C tomato juice

Wash cabbage and cut around stem end with sharp knife. Put head, stem end down, into a kettle (pot) and cover with boiling water. Add salt. Boil uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove, drain & let cool.

Heat fat in frying pan and cook onions in it till golden; stir in rice and cook till rice is slightly yellow. Mix in paprika, the 2 T tomato juice & mint. Add pork and veal, mix well and remove pan from heat.

Separate cabbage leaves and cut out the heavy section of each rib. Reserve 6 or 7 leave for the bottom of the casserole. On the center of each of the remaining leaves put a spoonful of the meat mixture. Roll the leaf around the filling and fold over the ends to keep the stuffing in.

Grease a 2 qt baking dish or heavy metal pan and spread reserved cabbage leaves over the bottom to make a thick layer. Pack the sarmi in lightly, one next to the other, with all the ends carefully folded under. Lay slices of bacon on top and pour the tomato juice over all. It should reach the top of the rolls, but not cover them. Cover the dish with an inverted plate to hold the rolls down. Set the dish on very low heat (I let it simmer on the stove top in a large skillet.) and let the sarmi cook for 2 to 3 1/2 hours. At the end of 2 hours remove one roll and test for doneness. The rice should be tender and the meat thoroughly cooked. Serve hot from the casserole with hot pilaf or rice. Yield: 6 servings.

ARNI SOURLAVIA (Roast Lamb on Skewers)
from Greece

1 shoulder of lamb
1/2 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
juice of 3 lemons
1/2 C olive oil
3 mint leaves, chopped

Wipe meat with damp cloth. Rub it lightly with garlic. Place on a spit or skewers or in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Combine lemon juice, oil and mint and rub it on the lamb. Baste every fifteen minutes until the meat is cooked. If using a roasting pan, do not cover. Cook on 350 degrees. For broiling on a spit or on skewers slowly turn the roast, basting every few minutes. Either way allow twenty minutes per pound. Yield: allow 1/4 to 1/2 lb for each serving.

AJJAT EL QUARNABIT (Cauliflower Fritters)
from Iraq

1 head cauliflower
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 T minced parsley
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 C sifted flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 C milk or water
olive oil or fat for deep frying

Cook cauliflower in salted boiling water until tender; cut or break into small pieces. Season tomato and onion with salt and pepper. Mix parsley with eggs and stir in the tomato and onion. Make a batter with this mixture and the remaining ingredients. Add flour, sifted with baking powder and gradually add enough milk or water to pieces into the batter, lift and fry until golden brown on both sides. Serve hot. Yield: 6 servings.
TIP: You can do the same thing with potatoes.

CHROOST (Fried Crullers)
from Iraq

5 egg yolks
1 T sugar
2 T rum
1/4 t salt
4 1/2 C sifted flour
olive oil or other oil for frying
sugar or salt

Beat egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is practically white. Add rum and salt and just enough flour to make a firm dough. Roll it very thin and cut into pieces five or six inches long and two inches wide. Cut a hole in one end of each strip and pull the other end through it, making a loop. Heat oil until smoking hot in a deep pan and fry the looped strips, being careful not to let them touch each other. Turn them over frequently. When done, drain on thick absorbent paper. If these are to be served at tea or for dessert, sprinkle with powdered sugar. If they are to be used with soup or cocktails, sprinkle with salt. Yield: 12 to 24 servings.

LAHM AJOUN (Meat-Bread)
from Syria

4 slices toast
1/2 lb lamb, ground or chopped
2 or 3 tomatoes, peeled & chopped OR 1 cup canned tomatoes
1 green pepper, chopped
8 stalks parsley, chopped
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
Leban or yogurt (plain or Greek)

Here's a recipe for Leban yogurt:

Lay toast in a flat greased baking pan just large enough to hold it. Mix the rest of the ingredients (but yogurt) well together and spread over the toast. Set the pan in an oven on 350 degrees till the meat is cooked, 30 minutes or longer. Serve hot, with leban or yogurt. Yield: 4 servings.

SHAYKH-UL-MAHSHI (Stuffed Eggplant)
from Lebanon

3 small eggplants
2 T fat or shortening (I used olive oil.)
1 lb chopped beef or lamb (I used ground.)
1 large onion, sliced
1 C pine nuts
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 1/2 C condensed tomato soup
1/2 C water

Peel and quarter eggplants, or if they are very small cut them in half. Brown in fat and remove from pan. Cut a lengthwise slit or pocket in each piece. Cook the onion in the same pan, add the meat, and when it is brown, add the nuts and salt and pepper, and cook about one minute. Stuff the mixture into the eggplants and put them in a casserole. Mix the tomato soup with the water and pour over the eggplants. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes. Yield: 4-6 servings.

TOMATES DOLMASI (Baked Stuffed Tomatoes)
from Turkey

8 tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1/4 clove garlic, chopped
4 T olive oil
1/2 lb ground lamb or pork
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/2 t cinnamon
2 springs fresh marjoram OR 1 t dried oregano
1/2 C cooked rice
1 egg, beaten

Slice top off each tomato and scoop out some of the pulp. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil for 3 minutes; add meat and salt and cook till meat is lightly browned. Add the pepper, spice, herbs, rice and tomato pulp and mix well. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the beaten egg, mixing well. Arrange them in a greased baking dish. Add 1 or 2 T of water to the bottom of the dish. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, till tomatoes are tender and browning. Serve hot or cold. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


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