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The Iraqi Family Cookbook

The Iraqi Family Cookbook
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Feta Cheese Spread

Feta cheese is a staple in my house. I use it for salads, sandwiches and in pastas. You need to preserve it in salt water and store in the refrigerator. It is often salty cheese.To serve, soak it in cold water for 20 minutes and drain it before slicing. In the following recipe, I added cottage cheese to the crumbled feta to cut down on salt. There are different varieties of feta that are imported or domestic that you need to try until you find the brand you like to purchase.

1 pound feta block
½ cup low fat cottage cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint or zaatar
In a bowl, crumble the cheese and stir in the cottage cheese. Sprinkle mint and drizzle olive oil and stir.
Serve in a small salad bowl and garnish with mint or black olives. Serve with pita chips or crackers.

For this recipe, you can add 1 clove of crushed garlic to the spread if you desire.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Baked Butternut Squash

This is an autumn vegetable that we use in so many dishes, such as soups, stews with lamb and others.
I purchased butternut squash whole, peeled it with a potato peeler, scooped the seeds out and sliced it.
You can purchase the squash already cubed in 1-inch size.
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup cranberries
¼ cup walnuts
Preheat oven 400 degrees F.
Put the squash in a bowl and drizzle olive oil. Season with salt, spices and stir. Spread squash on a baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tender. Allow to cool, and arrange in a deep dish. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, cranberries and walnuts.  
This makes a good side dish with chicken or lamb.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tahini Cookies

Tahini is a sesame paste that I use for making hummus, and other sauces. I decided to make these delicious cookies that resemble sugar or peanut butter cookies using tahini. You can use almond butter if you do not have tahini. You can find tahini in the Middle Eastern isle of the grocery store.

This recipe makes 20 cookies
¼ cup tahini
4 ounces butter, melted (1/2 stick)
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bow, put the butter, tahini, sugar, egg and whisk until sugar has melted. Add flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom and stir using a wooden spoon.
Take a small ball of the dough the size of a walnut. Roll it in your hands, and put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. When done rolling, make an indention in the middle of the cookie dough and put a few sesame seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove from oven and leave the cookies to cool before removing from pan. Store them in a Tupperware container lined with wax paper.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fig Jam


Figs are in season in mid August when they ripen and ready to pick. They are perishable, and plan to eat them within one day or store in the refrigerator for two days. You can also freeze them whole or cut in a half. Just arrange them on a parchment paper lined tray and put in the freezer for 3 hours. Then remove from the tray and store them in a freezer bag for later use. Use them for a smoothie, or cook them for making fig sauce to pour over goat cheese, cream cheese or plain yogurt.
I was fortunate enough to find purple figs in the Farmer’s Market. I purchased a few pounds for consuming and canning. I usually keep the figs whole before cooking them, but you can chop them and cook them for a spread.
2 pounds whole figs, rinsed and drained       
1 ½ cup of sugar
6 cloves cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
¼ cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
Place all the ingredients in the pot and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam that develops on top. Simmer the figs on low heat for 50 minutes. When figs are cooked, remove from heat and spoon in jars and seal the top. When the jars cool off, store in the refrigerator.

Whole green or yellow fig jam

Monday, June 30, 2014

Purslane Vegetarian Stew-Edible Weed Stew

This is an edible weed that grows wild in the yard. People unfamiliar with it weed it,
but we eat it. It makes very nutritious salads. The flavor is lemony and the leaves are meaty and delicious. It looks like the jade plant.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper or mixed spices
2 cups purslane, chopped (use leaves and thin stems)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Heat oil in a deep pan, and sauté the onions for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes and water, and stir. Bring to a boil. Add purslane, and season with salt and spices and stir. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

Serve as  soup with bread or with plain white rice.

Purslane Salads Recipes-Edible Weed Salads

This is an edible weed that grows wild in the yard. People unfamiliar with it weed it, but we eat it. It makes a very nutritious salads. The flavor is lemony and the leaves are meaty and delicious. It looks like the jade plant. 

During my weekly visits to the farmers market looking for purslane,  I was unable to find it. I mentioned my disappointment at work, and one pf my colleague surprised me with a big bag of purslane from her yard. I was so thrilled and promised to share the dishes I make with her.
This is a popular Summer green that we consume in Iraq, and we call it Berbeen.
Rinse it well, and make sure it is pesticide free. Use the stems as well as the leaves for these recipes.
Purslane Tomato Salad

1 cup purslane, chopped (use the thin stems and leaves)
1 large tomato, diced
2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
¼ cup of onion, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
 In a salad bowl, pour the olive oil and lemon and add salt, and stir. Add all the vegetables and stir. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
You can sprinkle 1 teaspoon of ground summac on it if you prefer. You can top the salad with feta cheese too.
Purslane Onion Salad
For this recipe, use sweet Vidalia onions.
1 onion, sliced
2 cups purslane, sliced
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Put the onions in a small bowl and sprinkle salt and sumac over it and stir. Cover, and set aside for one hour to wilt and change color. Strain it (do not rinse it), and set aside.
In a salad bowl, put the purslane and add the onions. Pour the lemon juice and olive oil and stir. Sprinkle more ground sumac over it if you prefer.
Decorate with slices of tomatoes, and serve with chicken or kufta  kabobs.
Purslane Yogurt Salad

2 cups purslane, chopped (leaves and stems)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put purslane in a salad bowl. In another small bowl, pour the yogurt, and add salt and garlic, and olive oil and stir. Pour the yogurt over the purslane and stir. Cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator. Serve with rice dishes

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stuffed Eggplant (Sheikh Mahshi)

Traditionally, we purchase small eggplants, cut them in half and core them to stuff them. Italian eggplants are medium side, meaty  but a little too large for stuffing.  I decided to cut them lengthwise and top them with meat filling.

2 Italian eggplants, cut lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
½ pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Arabian spice (Seven Spices,Syrian Spice)
1 tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
Heat oil in a pan. Put the eggplants cut side down. Leave it to cook for 10 minutes on medium heat until half way cooked. Turn eggplants to other side and add more olive oil to cook for five more minutes.( you could oil them and put the under the broiler of 10 minutes if you prefer).
In another pan, sauté the meat for 5 minutes and add onions, salt and spices. Cook for 5 minutes and add the tomato and tomato paste, and stir the mixture. Add water and simmer for 10 minutes.
In a deep Pyrex pan, pour ½ cup of water in the bottom of the pan. Scoop one tablespoon of the eggplant flesh and  arrange in the bottom of the dish. Arrange the eggplants. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of the meat filling on each half. Spoon some sauce in the Pyrex pan, and around eggplants.
Cover the pan with foil and bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 40 minutes.
Serve with plain white rice.