Alice’s Kitchen and my food writing adventures premiering locally in GoLocal PDX and nationally in Arab America.com!

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).

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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!

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Alice’s Kitchen goes to Lebanon!!!

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!

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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!

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imagehere’s the amazing Goodies store in verdun neighborhood of beirut, where the phenomenal displays are a feast for the eyes: alice’s kitchen fits in well.

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summer vegan lebanese grape leaves—waraq ‘inab siyeme

 

vegan grape leaves

vegan grape leaves

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.

vegan rice and garbanzo filling

vegan rice and garbanzo filling

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!

ready to roll!

ready to roll!

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!

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voila! one rolled grape leaf, dozens more to go!

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.

first layer

first layer

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!

many layers!

many layers!

plate-weighted grape leaves in pot

plate-weighted grape leaves in pot

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.

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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! 

The secret to making Lebanese turnip pickles—Lifit!

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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.

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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.

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.

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Chop them into strips, wedges, or however you like, and salt them in a colander, leaving them to drain for a couple of hours.

saltedturnipsPat 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!

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Day 2, more color!

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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.

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