St. George Antiochian Church has been hosting this wonderful day long festival for 40 years!
here’s a link to their facebook event page:
St. George Antiochian Church has been hosting this wonderful day long festival for 40 years!
here’s a link to their facebook event page:
Join a class in NW Portland this week and learn how to make three winter vegan soups with recipes from Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking. The class is inexpensive and you will taste soups and take recipes home so you can make them yourself. To sign up, click this link for Fred Meyer 20th Place Workshop!
i will be presenting a short presentation on my artwork and signing copies of Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking at the Capitol Hill Library in portland on saturday May 7. the event is from 1 till 6 pm, and my presentation is at 3:15 pm. join us if you’re in town!
my last post just before Thanksgiving means i’ve been busy with other things: mainly i do lots of posting on my Alice’s Kitchen Facebook page of photos and there i repost my weekly food and garden column featured Wednesdays at ArabAmerica.com!
i hope you follow me there! there’s photos, sometimes full recipes from Alice’s Kitchen, and other Mediterranean cooking ideas i get from my garden, what’s in season, and what inspires me. here’s a link to my regular FB page, and one for my art FB page!
Arab America’s weekly newsletter reaches over 100,000 people, and this is a great platform for me. i hope you check it out! i will now start posting the same article here on my cookbook blog for you all to read. so here it is for your pleasure!
Mediterranean Cooking from the Garden with Linda Dalal Sawaya—From Mardi Gras to Lent (as published in ArabAmerica.com)
Mardi Gras is today as I write this, which marks the day before the beginning of Lent in Christian traditions, and the last day to feast before the Great Fast.
A day or more of feasting occurs in many parts of the world prior to 40 days of fasting until Easter. Carnival in Rio and Venice, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans and in other parts of the world are times of great festivities, parades, and celebration.
This Eastern Catholic ritual is practiced in Lebanon where my parents were born, by making and eating mjaddrah on the first day of Lent, which is also Ash Wednesday. Yet even these Byzantine Christian rites of fasting may begin earlier in the week and even the previous week if strictly practiced.
mjaddarah with caramelized onions © linda dalal sawaya 2016
Mjaddarah was my favorite dinner entrée during Lent and all year, in fact. On one of my first cherished visits to Douma, my parents village in the north of Lebanon, my cousins invited me for dinner and asked what I would like them to make for me. My response as a vegetarian (nabeti) wasmjaddarah, of course, as none of my ghada or dinner invitations had yet offered this. The surprising thing: after much pleading on my part, my cousin agreed to make it for me on the condition that I told no one.
Her feeling was that it was not “good enough” for me, as it is a poor person’s food. And when I dined in a villager’s home, others seemed to inquiry consistently, “What did they make for you?” in the sweet effort to go all out in hospitality for the guest traveler.
Jesus, I have read, may have eaten mjaddarah as well—”a lentil porridge”. Its nutritious combination of lentils and rice make for a complete protein. The caramelized onions on top are coveted by everyone who tastes them. My cousin’s version had tiny diced caramelized onions for the topping on French lentils. It was excellent. And now I can report that on my most recent trip to Lebanon in 2015, mjaddarah was served and it was not during Lent. It is a well-loved dish year round and not something reluctantly served.
mjaddarah, salata, shourbat addis ou rishta, and french fries served by my cousins for lunch in Douma © linda dalal sawaya 2016
Easy to make, and wonderful served hot, at room temperature, or cold, mjaddarah is an essential Lebanese dish. Two alternate versions of mjaddarah are in Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking: one recipe is made with burghul (bulgar) instead of rice and is equally delicious; the other is called mdardarah, and is less of a porridge than mjaddarah, and is thicker using equal parts lentils and rice, while mjaddarah is 2 parts lentils to 1 part rice.
The rest of the recipe is the same. The crowning element of these lentil dishes is an abundance of caramelized onions topping them. If you don’t make enough, you’ll discover some scooping extra onions from beyond to add to theirs.
mjaddarah and salata © linda dalal sawaya 2016
Typically served with a Lebanese salad on the side, or as I preferred it as a child who already loved gardening, on top—with the lentils representing the soil and the salad representing the vegetables growing from it, this makes a sublime meal. Our typical village salad is composed of lettuce, celery, cucumbers, tomato, parsley, and spearmint, with a garlic, lemon, and olive oil dressing. The secret to the dressing is smashing the garlic with sea salt in a mortar and pestle creating a paste. The salt draws out the garlic’s moisture and when lemon juice and olive oil are added to it, make an irresistible salad dressing, or dressing for spring asparagus, steamed broccoli, spinach, potatoes, beets, and many of the prized vegan dishes in our cuisine.
making traditional garlic paste with sea salt for salad dressing © linda dalal sawaya 2016
Another fabulous favorite Lenten recipe is sautéed spinach with lemon, garlic, and olive oil, drizzled over the top and then topped with crispy caramelized onions. There are three lentil soup recipes inAlice’s Kitchen to add variety to a Lenten menu. One of these I tasted on a memorable monastery visit in a nearby village, Kfar Hilda, during Lent on a trip to Lebanon in the 1990s, where their Lenten practice was so strict they did not eat olive oil in their lentil soup, which I was blessed to taste when they invited me to stay for lunch. It was rich with garlic and lemon, and the addition of fresh chard at the last minute.
When writing Alice’s Kitchen, I had been a vegetarian for most of the previous 25 years, so my focus was vegetarian and vegan dishes that the Lebanese and Middle Eastern people love so much and have developed into a high culinary art. Mother told me that while growing up in her mountain village, meat and chicken were typically served on Sundays as a special meal, rather than an everyday occurrence. So our cookbook has a 30 page chapter just on vegetarian entrées, plus additional pages of soups and salads that are vegetarian and vegan.
The names of the vegetarian dishes are called siyeme, which refers to fasting in the time of Lent, beginning now, but can be enjoyed year round. Muslims fast during the time of Ramadan. Spring fasting in the Christian tradition is a natural time to lighten up, eat greens, and release weight put on during the cold winter months of holiday indulging.
green garbanzo beans to eat raw © linda dalal sawaya 2016
As for my garden, right now there’s chard, kale, Italian parsley, and other greens which add to Lenten salads. Once long ago, I planted lentils and garbanzo beans just to try them out. I found the effort in harvesting them is best left to commercial organic growers, but the plants themselves were lovely. Occasionally one finds fresh green garbanzo beans in the market. In fact, a local, employee-owned grocery store that caters to an international clientele from Latinos to Arabs, sells them practically year round. They’re a special treat for Middle Eastern people who love this as an appetizer—one that is protein rich.
I have just begin to sprout my peas to plant in the garden for June harvest, which makes me very happy!
If you are fasting for Lent, or if you are vegan or vegetarian, you will enjoy these recipe ideas fromAlice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking. Many blessings to you and yours! Happy cooking and sahtein!
Remember, as my mother Alice said, “If you make it with love, it will be delicious!”
story and all photos © linda dalal sawaya 2016
Booksigning with Alice’s Kitchen at Barbur World Foods in Portland from 4 to 7 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2015 the day before Thanksgiving! Pick up last minute items and a signed copy of Alice’s Kitchen with excellent ideas and recipes for holiday appetizers!
I will be sampling my Lebanese fig/sesame cookies! Hope to see you there!
and Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Doesn't this look great?! Check out Linda's column in the link below to learn how to make some yummy fig treats. You can also find new Arabic recipes daily on our homepage! #sahtein #arabamerica #figs #recipes #arabicfood #yummy #treatyourself http://www.arabamerica.com/mediterranean-cooking-garden-linda-dalal-sawaya-figs-figs-figs/
A photo posted by Arab America (@arab_america) on
a month long trip to Lebanon last fall, along with other travel, art deadlines, and life is what it took to prolong my posting here! it’s great to be back with cool news: beginning in April, my weekly food column for a portland, oregon local online website called GoLocalPDX has been published featuring what’s growing in my garden and ideas coming from the Mediterranean and beyond for what to do with what’s in season in the Pacific Northwest.
here’s a link to the article all about Italian parsley, which is thriving in the spring garden and ready to use in these five Lebanese recipes from Alice’s Kitchen: tabbouli, of course, fattoush, potato salad, cabbage salad, and Lebanese omelette (ijhee).
you all know how much i love food, gardening, cooking, and writing and photographing my endeavors. so this is a fine opportunity to share my combined loves with a larger portland audience, many of whom already know and love Alice’s Kitchen!
and then this past week, May 13, i am honored for my food column to be also published nationally in ArabAmerica.com, which reaches over 100,000 arab americans! how cool is that! my column is Mediterranean Cooking from the Garden with Linda Dalal Sawaya. check it out for my weekly cooking ideas and food and garden photos. Ahlan wa sahlan!
It is with great delight that I have returned to visit Lebanon, the birthplace of my parents for the first time in 16 years! after one busy and happy week in beirut making new and old connections, i arrived in my family village of Douma in the northern part of the country.
when i brought my beloved mother alice here in 1998 for her first visit since her immigration with sitto in 1926 at the age of 16 (photo on cover of alice`s kitchen), we found the house where she was born. this is it!
i am posting many photos of this culinary and family journey on facebook, instagram, twitter as well as here on my blog as i am able so please do follow along with me! Ahlo sahla!
it is a great honor and delight that Alice`s Kitchenis now being sold in Beirut and Byblos, and no doubt will be available in Douma. here’s photos of Gibran’s Lebanon bookstore in Byblos (the ancient city where the word “book” originates!)! i know my parents and grandparents would be so proud! and the owner is wonderful Alice Edde, who has another shop in the Old Souk. all beautiful and a blessing!
summer time wouldn’t be complete without fresh grape leaves to make either meat and rice or vegetarian rolled grape leaves! lebanese people all over the world plant grape vines just for the leaves to use in making this classic eastern mediterranean dish, and mine were planted years ago! only the freshest, tenderest leaves are to be used, and only those with a shiny, green back rather than concord type grapes that have a rather fuzzy, whitish back.
since the season is short for the perfect leaves, it is customary to freeze or can extra leaves—a fine substitute come winter time. extra, too small, or torn leaves are used to line the bottom of the pan in the vegan version, while leaves and lamb bones are used for the pan bottom of the meat and rice stuffed rolls. both recipes are in Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking and are simpler to make than one might imagine, especially if you have a friend to help you roll them and share conversation: a tradition in itself!
the fresh vegetarian/vegan filling is bright with flavors of parsley, mint, lemon, onion, and tomato, zipped up with salt, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper.
fresh leaves are slightly steamed or left out to wilt for ease of rolling, and the stem/vein side is placed facing you on your work surface. add a small amount of filling, and the fun begins!
first step is to fold the bottom two sections of the leaf up and over the rice mixture. then the left and right sides in towards the center, followed by rolling it up from the bottom as if you are rolling up a carpet!
gently place each roll, parallel to each other in the bottom of a deep pot lined with a couple of layers of leaves, to keep them from sticking.
the second layer is placed on top of the first layer, perpendicular to them, and this continues until you have used up all of the leaves or filling!
mama used a heavy kitchen plate on top of the stack of rolled grape leaves to keep them from expanding out of shape during the stove top cooking. water or stock is added to the pot along with garlic cloves, lemon juice, and a bit of olive oil with water for the rice mixture to cook.
when the cooking is complete, the plate is removed and a serving platter is placed on top of the pan, and carefully flipped out with a slice of lemon garnish making a beautiful food mandala for serving.
in arabic, rolled grape leaves have various names besides waraq’ inab such as yabra, and waraq’ arish! i hope you make a lot of them as you and yours will enjoy these for days: warm, cold or at room temperature! sahtein!
Homegrown turnips just harvested from my garden are the perfect size for summer pickled turnips—Lebanese style—called lifit.
Turnips can be easily grown in spring, summer, or fall—even winter depending upon your location.
Lifit are traditionally served with falafel or along with other pickles in mezza as one of many appetizers. This photos shows some dilly beans I also made from the garden harvest, using crisp, young borlotti beans.
The secret of their glorious color is in the use of one big beet in a jar of sliced white turnips, which impart their sumptuous magenta color to the entire batch of turnips.
Wash and thoroughly clean turnips removing the tips and the greens, which can be used in juicing, green smoothies, salads, or sautéed with onions, garlic, and olive oil.
Chop them into strips, wedges, or however you like, and salt them in a colander, leaving them to drain for a couple of hours.
Pat dry with a clean towel or paper towel and place into a sterilized jar along with one chopped beet. Add brine of salt, white vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, and red pepper and let sit for a week to ten days. Here’s how they look on the first day!
Day 2, more color!
Lifit can be eaten a couple of days after they’re in the brine, and need to be refrigerated after a week or 10 days. They will stay crips for a couple of months in the fridge. Enjoy adding this amazing colorful pickle to your table, along with the health benefits of eating fermented foods.
Full recipe is found in Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking on page 31.