Winter Wheat Bowl with Tahini Dressing and Yogurt

We had a really nice holiday in Kentucky with my family, and then in Texas for New Year’s with Garriy’s parents, but we were both relieved to make our way back to home in Knoxville. Too much travel, too much rich food…you know the drill.

The baby is growing by leaps and bounds (he’s around a foot long now!), and I finally felt him kick around in my belly on Xmas eve, which felt like the best Christmas gift ever. Even though it’s frigid in Tennessee right now, our May due date feels like it’s closing in on us already as I near the end of my second trimester. We’re in the process of turning our dining room into a guest room, our guest room into a nursery, and our sunroom into a permanent dining room. Garriy has been working hard to build us a new 10-person dining room table (!!), which is coming along beautifully.

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I’ve been trying to make lunches and dinners easier and more appealing by roasting a bunch of colorful veggies at the beginning of the week. Unfortunately, we tend to gobble them all up before I can get many meals out of them, but I’ve loved having a big bowl of grains with lots of different vegetables on top. This is something I whipped up earlier this week with one of my biggest pregnancy cravings–beets (and plain yogurt? I don’t know why, but I’m thankful for my healthy cravings). It may seem like a lot of separate roasting, but you can do them all on the same baking tray, or do them at the beginning of the week in larger quantities to ease the multiple steps. None of it is supervised cooking though, so I found I could toss them in the oven with a timer while doing yoga and cleaning the house.

Here’s wishing my besties a happy, healthy 2015! Miss you all.

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Winter Wheat Bowl with Tahini Dressing and Yogurt

  • 1 1/2 C. Soft or Hard Winter Wheat Berries (or another whole grain of choice–quinoa, bulgar, etc.)
  • 2-3 beets, beet greens set aside
  • 1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas (or homecooked)
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • ~4  to 5 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tb. Greek Yogurt
  • 4 Tb. feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot Sauce, to serve (optional)

Tahini Dressing:

  • 2 Tb. or more of tahini
  • juice of one lemon (or a few Tb. of cider vinegar)
  • warm water
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil and add the winter wheat–simmer for around 45 minutes, checking at 30 minutes for doneness (should be chewy, but not at all hard). If you’re using another grain, cook it accordingly.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350. Wrap whole beets in foil and place on a baking sheet. Chop sweet potato into small cubes and season with salt, pepper, and 1-1 1/2 Tb. olive oil. Place on baking sheet. Toss chickpeas with 1-1 1/2 Tb. olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder, and place on final third of baking sheet. Test the chickpeas and sweet potatoes for doneness at 15 minutes. Remove them when tender and set aside. Bake the beets for 30-60 minutes, depending on the size, till tender.

Let the beets cool on the side. Chop the beet greens. Heat 1 Tb. olive oil in pan and saute beet greens till tender, seasoning with salt in pepper. While greens are cooking, make tahini dressing. Add the tahini to a bowl or mug and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Beat the mixture until it tightens and turns white. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add a dollop of olive oil, and then slowly stir in a bit of water until the dressing is thinned to salad dressing consistency. Taste for salt, seasoning to taste.

Assemble bowls by placing cooked grain on bottom, and then layering cooked beets, beet greens, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes on top. Drizzle each serving with tahini dressing and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some feta cheese. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Swiss Chard and Chickpeas with Beet-Yogurt Salad


Wow, it has been too long since our last post!

Last night, as we settled in at home with a snow storm blanketing our area, I wanted to make something healthy but hearty. I had a few roasted beets in the fridge that I’d thrown in the oven the night before and so I figured I’d make something with them. Inspired by some recent Russian cooking, I wanted to make a beet salad and put it on top of grains, but I also wanted some protein, so I improvised this chard and chickpea stew to go with it. I only had a bit of Israeli couscous and a bit of bulgar, so I mixed them together in this recipe to stretch them. You don’t need to go to extra trouble to make both unless you want to, but the bulgar adds a nice texture to the softer Israeli couscous.

This was pretty great–I wish I’d had some fresh herbs to stir in it, but hey, it’s February, and it was also pretty good without.

Miss you ladies–enjoy the snow! I think at this point it has hit the West coast, the South, and now is headed up to New England, so we’ll all get some snow (except Aya)!

Beet Yogurt Salad

Swiss Chard and Chickpeas with Beet-Yogurt Salad

  • 1 C. coarse bulgar wheat
  • 1 C. Israeli couscous
  • water
  • 2 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas
  • 2 beets, roasted or microwaved till tender
  • 1/2 C. Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 lemons + 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Add 1 Tb. olive oil to saucepan and saute raw Israeli couscous till light brown. Add 1 1/2 C. water and a pinch of salt and cook over low for about 15 minutes, or till water is absorbed. In the meantime, cover the bulgar slightly with water and a pinch of salt in a covered microwaveable dish and microwave for 5 minutes. Let both grains sit and steam in their pans when done.

Saute the onion in remaining 1 Tb. olive oil till soft and brown. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the swiss chard and caraway seed. When the chard is just beginning to wilt, add the chickpeas and salt and pepper to taste and saute over medium heat.

While the greens are cooking, peel and dice the beats. Add the yogurt, 1 tsp. lemon zest, and juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place.

Finish the greens off with juice of 1/2 a lemon and taste for seasoning. Toss the bulgar and couscous together lightly with a fork. Serve the greens and chickpeas atop the grains and top with a bit of beet salad.

Smoky Eggplant and Tomato with Herbed Bulgur

A few weekends ago, I visited my parents in Kentucky while Garriy spent some time with an old friend in Knoxville. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting my Uncle David’s amazing farm, which is practically bursting with produce at the moment. Kale, chard, tomatoes, red and green cabbage, eggplant, corn, peppers, chiles, butternut squash, zucchini–he truly sent me home with a veritable feast.

Our garden is only producing herbs and chiles at the moment, as our swiss chard fades out, and our tomatoes and bell peppers get ready to ripen, so I couldn’t have been happier for the bounty.

I love eggplant, but prefer it smoky and broken down into a silky texture rather than in big chunks. Also, I didn’t want to make an eggplant dip (though that’s one of my favorite things in the world…), but I wanted to use blackened eggplant to get the smoky, meaty flavor that imparts. I came up with this. It’s definitely Paula Wolfert and Yotam Ottolenghi (Naomi and I are clearly on the same page) inspired, but I didn’t use an existing recipe. I thought we’d have leftovers for lunch, but Garriy and I both gobbled it up. This one’s a keeper for sure.

The directions look long, but don’t pay attention to that. It’s easy to roast the eggplant while making the bulgar, and to saute all of the veggies together into a jam-like consistency in a manner of 15 minutes. Also, microwaving coarse bulgar to make sure it’s cooked through is my favorite method, but you can also just follow the simmering or soaking directions here, which are perhaps more traditional methods. If you use fine bulgar, you cut your steps in half–all you need to do is cover the bulgur with boiling water and let it sit till the water is absorbed, as there’s no need to cook it further.

Eggplant with Bulgur

Smoky Eggplant and Tomato with Herbed Bulgur

  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small fresh red chile, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper or 2 small, diced
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 Tb. pomegranate molasses
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 C. coarse bulgur
  • boiling water
  • large handful each of fresh flatleaf parsley and basil, minced

Prick the eggplant several times with a fork, and then put the eggplant over an open flame on your gas stove and patiently wait while it blackens. Turn with tongs until it blackens on all sides (alternatively, you can blacken it under the broiler). I recommend letting it char a lot. When the eggplant is uniformly blackened, place it in a bowl or on a plate to steam for a moment and to let the skin loosen.

In the meantime, just cover the bulgur with boiling water and a pinch of salt in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid or a plate. Let the bulgur absorb almost all of the water. Once the bulgur water is mostly absorbed, cover the bowl and microwave the bulgur for 5 minutes to finish the cooking. Set the bulgur aside to sit and steam while you continue to cook.

While the bulgur is sitting, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the chile and the red bell pepper. Stir occasionally over medium heat until the bell pepper is extremely soft. Cut the eggplant in half, and using a spoon or a dull knife, scoop out the flesh. Chop the eggplant coarsely and then add, along with the diced tomato, to the bell pepper. Add some salt and pepper and turn heat to low and simmer. Once the mixture is tender and has melded together, stir in the pomegranate molasses. Taste for salt and pepper.

Stir the herbs into the bulgur, along with a glug of olive oil. Serve the eggplant mixture over the bulgur.

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto, Beet Stems, & Poached Egg

After a month (really?) in our new home, we finally feel like we’re settling in. We’ve painted almost every room in the house, hung new lighting in almost every room, finished a bathroom renovation, and most importantly for me–finished a kitchen renovation (better pics to follow). (And PS, if you ever renovate a kitchen, let me save you some trouble with your appliance/hardware source list…)

New Kitchen

The new kitchen at night

We love the hardworking kitchen counters (leathered granite)–so much better than our past poorly sealed concrete counters that bubbled up at the suggestion of water–and I love the light that streams in through the windows during the day.

Lilies in our back yard

Lilies in our back yard

Our little garden has also taken off, and it has been great to come home after work and weed, haul dirt, and mow. Like yoga, hard manual labor in the yard is a great segway between work and computer time during the day, and the rest of the evening. It forces you to stop. Stop thinking. Just do stuff and enjoy the smells and sounds of the outdoors (including a neighborhood mockingbird that mimics an alarm clock. Seriously. And starts chirping at 2 am. But that’s another story.)

I’m still getting the hang of what to plant in our raised beds. The arugula did well for about a month, but then quickly bolted, so last night I bit the bullet and trimmed off the woody leftovers for pesto and pulled them out by the roots to fill that space with something new. I’m thinking okra, which is perfect for hot weather planting and grilling, but I’m open to suggestions.

As you may know, it is my feeling that there’s little that isn’t made tastier by arugula pesto and a poached egg. So here’s an impromptu dinner made last night with the last of the garden’s arugula (until fall), and other bits and pieces in the fridge. I made this recipe with walnut arugula pesto, but you can see in the past I’ve also made arugula pesto with pumpkin seeds.

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto & Beets

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto & Beet Stems

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto, Beet Stems, & Poached Egg

  • 1 very large bunch arugula
  • 1/2 C. walnuts
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 C. olive oil + 1 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • salt and peper
  • 1 bunch of beet greens and stems, cleaned well, and chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 C. bulgar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 C. feta cheese

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour over the bulgar in a large ceramic bowl, just covering the grains with water. Cover the bowl with a ceramic plate or plastic wrap and cook in the microwave for four minutes.

In the meantime, make your pesto. Make sure the arugula is well-rinsed and toss it in the food processor. Pulse it until it is chopped. Add in the walnuts, lemon juice, and a bit of salt and blend. With the motor going, slowly drizzle in the 1/4 C. olive oil till emulsified. Taste for salt, and then set aside.

Heat 1 Tb. olive oil in a pan, and add the garlic. Cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant and then add the beet greens and stems. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

While the greens/stems are cooking, toss the bulgar with the arugula pesto, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To poach the eggs, either do it on the stove, or as with my favorite method, pull out a mug. Fill 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tsp. cider or white vinegar. Crack a raw egg into the mug and then microwave the egg and water/vinegar for 1 minute. Pull the mug out and drain the cooked egg. Cook the next egg in the same manner. If you’d rather, you can instead soft boil or fry the eggs.

Place some of the pesto bulgar in a bowl and top with the sautéed greens and stems. Top that with a cooked egg, and then sprinkle with feta. Serve with Aleppo pepper flakes or harissa, and enjoy. There should be plenty of bulgar leftovers for a lunch salad the next day.

Middle Eastern Dinner

I’ve had an exciting month at work with trips to Uganda, Ethiopia and back to the US. After successful launches of our program in Uganda and New York, I’m thrilled to finally be back home.  Part of what calms me after being away, especially after a month in a suitcase, and makes me feel back home again is cooking. There is something about cooking an elaborate meal and pouring over a new recipe that soothes me. My family and friends, as evidenced by this blog, are all obsessed with food and it’s really how we show our love.  When Naomi came and visited me, she left us with a bounty of goodies because she’s an amazing guest and friend, but one of the most exciting items she left us was a cook book called “Modern Flavours of Arabia” by Suzanne Husseini.  Middle Eastern food is usually not in my repertoire despite or perhaps because of my Morocco stint with Cat (parasite anyone?).

I am coming around and I do LOVE the flavors. So here is a whole Middle Eastern dinner menu, which I adapted from Huseini’s book, that served as a great home coming for me on Friday when I was jet lagged, exhausted, but absolutely happy to finally be home and cooking. Thanks Naomi!

Bulgur Pilaf (great cold as a salad as well)


– Olive Oil

– 1 Onion chopped

– 2 cups of bulgur (I’ve never cooked this, but LOVE it)

– 3 cups of chicken stock

– 1 tsp allspice

– 1 orange for zest and juice

– 1 pomegranate

– 1/2 cup of fresh parsley

– 1/2 cup of almonds

Heat olive oil and saute onion on medium heat.  Once browned add in bulgur and toast slightly.  Then add chicken stock, allspice, orange zest and squeeze orange in it. Once the liquid boils, turn it to low and simmer until all the liquid is gone (15-20min).  Remove from heat and add pomegranate seeds, parsley, and almonds as well as season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tip – the best way to take out the pomegranate seeds is by placing it in a bowl of water and breaking the skin.  The seeds will sink and all the white bits will float up, which you can pick out.



Stuffed Capsicums



– 4 red or yellow capsicums (or peppers…the former sounds so fancy!)

– 2 cups of basmati (cook it before you stuff…my mistake)

– 2 tsp cinnamon

– 2 tsp allspice

– 3 garlic cloves minced

– 1/4 cup of fresh mint – chopped

– 250 g minced lamb

– 1/4 cup of olive oil

– Slices of tomato


– 4 garlic cloves

– 6 tomatoes – peeled (boil them in hot water and peel the skin)

– 1 cup chicken stock

– 4 tbs tomato paste

– 1/2 cup mint – chopped

– 1/4 cup parsley – chopped

– 1 tsp cinnamon

– 1 tsp all spice


Cut the top of the pepper carefully like a jack-o-lantern and hole out the pepper.

Mix the rice, cinnamon, all-spice, mint, lamb and oil together.  Stuff the peppers and place the sliced tomato on the top. Place in a baking dish.



– Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic.  During this time put the tomatoes, mint and parsley in a food processor.  Once garlic is browned add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, and chicken stock. Then add the tomato paste, cinnamon and all spice.  Cook everything for 10 min then pour over the peppers and dish.

Cook everything in the oven for 45 minutes or until the peppers are roasted/cooked.

Yogurt and Tahini Sauce


– 1/2 cup of yogurt

– 1/2 cucumber chopped

– 3 tbs of tahini

– Sumac, salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together


Serve everything together – ta da!

Whole Fish with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds


Hey y’all! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the last few days of my VACATION basking in the glory of my mom’s kitchen, with its new stove complete with 2 ovens (!), her mountains of high quality cooking tools, pleasant lighting, spaciousness, and radio playing NPR. Oh, and a really cute dog… (see my next post: TBA.)

Yesterday I got out a lovely cookbook my mom has of Yotam Ottolenghi – an Israeli chef who has had a prolific career in London for the past 15 or so years. His book is full of the kind of recipes we love on this blog: simple concoctions that are easy to make in large or small quantities, and are full of herbs, interesting sauces, and flavors from around the world.

The recipe I based this one off of suggests using sea bream fillets, but I used whole fish. Why? Eh, it seemed a bit more festive and I just kind of felt like it. Why not? (I will answer this question later.)


  •  3-4 whole red snapper (In reality, if recreating this recipe I think fillets would probably be better. I will further explain below. Any mildly flavored white fish will do.)
  • 1/3 C tahini
  • 1/3 C water
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 Tbsp finely chopped parsely
  • Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A bunch of coarsely chopped parsely for garnish
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Set the oven at 400. Heavily season the fish: if using whole, season the cavity and both sides of the skin. If using fillets, season all over. Drizzle olive oil in the cavity and on both sides, or over the fillets.
  2. Bake – the red snapper took ~20 min. Fillets will take less.

  1. Prepare the sauce while the fish is baking: wisk together the tahini, water, lemon, and finely chopped parsely.
  2. When the fish is done, if using whole fish, fillet out the meat of the fish and discard the carcasses. This is basically a huge pain in the butt! Which is why its better to use fillets in the first place. The problem with the whole fish here is that part of the point of the recipe is drizzling the sauce over the fish and garnishing with lemon zest, parsley and pomegranate seeds, and you kind of lose the effect if you deal with the whole fish on your plate and pick it apart yourself (which I would generally consider enjoyable if not dealing with the previously mentioned accoutrements,) dipping each little bit in sauce. Make sense? So that’s my two cents.
  3. Well, I guess I kind of gave it away in #4: drizzle the sauce over the fish, and sprinkle on the lemon zest, pomegranate seeds and coarsely chopped parsley.

A nice thing about this dish (in addition to the wonderful combo of the tahini with the bitter/sweetness of the lemon and pomegranate) is that its super quick! Probably only took about 35 min from start to finish, including cooking the fish, and would be even quicker if using fillets.

Menemen: Or Awesome Turkish Eggs and Veggies

Pide (Turkish wood fired "pizza") with egg, peppers, tomatoes, and local cheese and a "Shephard's Salad" (Chobani Salatsi), Goreme, Turkey, 2011.

Pide (Turkish wood fired "pizza") with egg, peppers, tomatoes, and local cheese and a "Shephard's Salad" (Chobani Salatsi), Goreme, Turkey, 2011.

Hot air ballooning, Uchisar, in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

Hot air ballooning, Uchisar, in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

Turkish food is without a doubt some of my favorite food on earth. They are a culture that likes their meat, for sure, but they also adore vegetables, and when we traveled there last summer, there was no end to the awesome salads, bean dishes, and other vegetable dishes. We also lucked out and were there during fruit season, so during hikes in the Cappdocia region, we frequently picked apricot fruits directly from wild trees, and sampled local cherries and many dried fruits with our breakfasts (which usually included bread, farmer’s cheese, olives, and lots of fruit).

One of our favorite dishes we came across while traveling was “Menemen”–a peasant dish of eggs scrambled in a rough sauce of onion, garlic, tomatoes, and banana peppers, topped with a bit of feta, and sometimes herbs. It was usually served with lots of fresh bread to mop it all up, and it’s one of those dishes that is hard to mess up, and is thus a good bet whenever you’re relying on a rural village restaurant, a tourist trap when other options aren’t readily available, or a train station-type in-transit restaurant. Every time I had it, it was great. Of course, much of this had to do with the fact that the vegetables available in Turkey were incredible: fragrant tomatoes, herbs from the back yard, homemade cheese, and eggs straight from the chicken…. It’s also interesting as a dish in comparison to American egg dishes, in that the eggs are a component, but not the focus of the dish. There are only 2 eggs in a dish that would serve four people, or two people very generously. We especially enjoyed this dish as a post-hiking meal as we trekked around the Cappadocia area of Turkey, where they often served it directly from the fire in individual, tiny little copper pans (pictures of the stunning landscape there from a hot air balloon ride we took there to the left–need I say more?).

Making the tomato sauce for menemen.

Making the tomato sauce for menemen.

I couldn’t resist making this a few days  ago for lunch, even though the tomatoes available in the grocery stores in Chicago in April are pitiful, flavorless things in comparison with summer Turkey tomatoes. However, it was still delicious, and I look forward to making this in the summer with produce from the farmer’s market. As a side note, down South where I’m from, banana peppers are usually only fried or used for pickling, and so it was inspiring to see them used in so many ways in Turkey in their fresh form. I strongly encourage you to try them out in your Mediterranean dishes!

Menemen--it may not look pretty, but it tastes delicious!

Menemen--it may not look pretty, but it tastes delicious!

Menemen (Turkish Eggs, Tomato, and Pepper Dish)

recipe adapted from this one at The Kitchn, by Cenk of Cafe Fernando

serves 2 to 4 people

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 long Banana peppers, seeds removed and sliced thinly
  • 3 tomatoes on the vine (or Roma tomatoes if others aren’t available)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley 

Optional: harissa, pita bread

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until softened, stirring occasionally, for about 4-5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another minute.

In the meantime, dice the tomatoes finely. Do not discard the vine; it will add extra tomato flavor to the dish. Add the tomatoes together with the vine and salt. Turn the heat up to medium-high, cover and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, for about 5-8 minutes.

Turn off the heat, take the lid off and discard the tomato vine. Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk them, and then add to the tomato sauce. Stir with a spatula while the heat from the sauce cooks the eggs slowly, for about 2 minutes. Add the crumbled feta cheese, give it another stir, cover and let the cheese soften for a minute.

Serve with pita or slices of toasted crusty bread on the side. Sprinkle with chopped parsley right before serving, and serve with harissa at the table so people can make it more spicy at will.

Savta’s Sambusek

This was probably the #1 signature dish of my paternal grandmother, Savta. Actually, it probably only garnered that level of superiority for the grandkids, who were less interested in her flavorful vegetable dishes like stewed okra, and traditional Arab roast chicken with rice (tbit) that seemed to enthrall the adults. Just a smell of these little fried packets of salty chickpea mush was enough to expand our little bellies to accommodate a quantity of food that was utterly shocking to our relatives, and probably garnered images of the rumored plenty in America that contrasted starkly with their own childhood memories of living in a small Iraqui immigrant community in the early years of the state of Israel.

Savta was not a woman of recipes. She never really learned to read, and preparing food to her was as automatic an activity as getting dressed in the morning. So when my mom and I decided to start making sambusek on our own, we were thrilled to have a videotape of the three of us making it together from when I was probably 6 or 7 years old. From that we gleaned approximate proportions and ingredients, and remembered the special way Savta used to prepare food – enjoying the feeling of the food in her hands, the smells filling the house, the banter between women, and the traditional preparations that had brought together and nourished her family and community for generations.

I thought making this dish for Aya and Kileken in Basel would be a nice hommage to Savta and the togetherness that her food always inspired. It made a great centerpiece for a middle eastern meal with Israeli salad and babaganouj. Though Savta always fried her Sambusek (which is the traditional way its made) my mom and I both opt for the healthier and less messy option of baking them. Either way is deeeeelish though, so try whichever way you please!

Savta’s Sambusek


  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C chickpea cooking liquid (or can liquid if using canned)
  • 3/4  C dried or 1 can canned chickpeas
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbsp cumin – half seeds,  half ground if you have seeds
  • 1 tbsp chicken powder (bullion or other)
  • ¼ C Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

If using dried chick peas, soak ~12 hours with a tsp of baking soda. Drain and rinse the beans, then boil them in water for ~1 hour or until soft. Retain the water for the dough.

If using canned chick peas, drain well, retaining the liquid for the dough. Rinse the chick peas once drained.

Turn the oven on to ~350 and grease a large cookie sheet. Start out by frying the cumin seeds in a small amount of oil for a few min. Once they start to get darker, they can be crushed with a mortar and pestle and returned to the skillet, or just left as is. Add the onion and fry in plenty of oil until they start to carmelize – at least 15 minutes.

Puree the chickpeas, not too fine though. Add to the skillet with the onions and cumin. Add chicken powder, ground cumin, and seasoning and let the mixture heat up and soften further, another 5ish minutes. Then blend the whole thing until the mix is a kind of chunky thick paste. Use lots of olive oil. And I mean lots.

To make the patties, add the flour and chick pea water together, with some extra pepper and cumin (lets say around a teaspoon each and a pinch of salt. Knead until smooth and sticky. Roll out until ~ 1/8 -1/4 in thick. Cut into rounds about three inches in diameter, and dab a heaping spoonful of chickpea mix into the middle. Fold in half and secure the edges by pressing down with a fork. Place on the oiled cookie sheet, and paint the tops of the sambusek with olive oil. Bake in the oven ~30 minutes or until the crusts are golden.

Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots

This stuff is like crack. Seriously. Pomegranate molasses, which is made by boiling down the juice of a tart variety of pomegranates, is one of my favorite secret ingredients. I have heard of it for some time, but had been a bit shy about using it. My friend Holly, who is a food scholar, researcher, and cook extraordinaire who has spent much time cooking in the Middle East, introduced me to it, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Similarly to tamarind concentrate or paste, pomegranate molasses has an addictive tang that’s hard to replicate with any other substitute.

Paula Wolfert, Middle Eastern cooking guru, says the following about the ingredient: “Pomegranate molasses is an essential ingredient…has a wonderful flavor and a heady aroma, and its thickness and dark color make food look very appealing. It keeps almost indefinitely. The uses for this thick, tangy, piquant syrup are many. It blends well with walnuts, adds a tart and pungent flavor to beans, sharpens the taste of poultry, gives a clean, tart taste to fish, gives an astringent edge to salads and vegetables, and is a great tenderizer for lamb and pork. It can also be diluted and used for sharp drinks and tart sorbets.”

I’ve used it in a lot of things lately: champagne cocktails, the addictive Turkish bulgar salad kısırsalad dressings and marinades . . . the list goes on and on, and I can even eat it off the spoon.

Anyway, while browsing through one of my favorite cookbooks, Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean: 215 Healthy, Vibrant, and Inspired Recipes I came across a recipe for kibbe accompanied by a lamb stew with carrots and pomegranate molasses. I’m not a meat eater, but the pomegranate molasses glazed carrots really appealed, so I figured I’d try out the recipe. Cooking with carrots is also a favorite thing of mine since carrots are: 1) cheap! 2) the organic ones are also cheap and 3) almost always readily available and not bad out of season–when I was unemployed and my husband was a grad student, carrots were always in our refrigerator because of their affordability.

I followed the recipe directions and slightly overcooked the carrots for my taste, so I’ve cut the cooking time down below and modified the recipe slightly to my tastes. I’m always looking for exciting new vegetable side dish alternatives to my same old go-to dishes like steamed or roasted broccoli, and so I think that this one is a keeper.

Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots

adapted from Paula Wolfert’s recipe, “Kibbeh with Glazed Carrots and Pomegranate”

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tb. butter or olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp. dried mint
  • 2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
Cut the carrots on the diagonal into thin slices. Heat the butter or oil in a skillet over medium. Add the carrots, shake to coat them with butter or oil, and cover. Cook over medium to medium high for about 7 minutes, until they color in spots and are tender. Add the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another 3 minutes, or until “al dente” or cooked to your liking. With the cover on, you shouldn’t have to add any water to keep them from sticking. Add the pomegranate molasses and the mint and cook for another few minutes until glazed and aromatic. Serves 4.