Mother’s Day Indulgences The Whole Family Will Celebrate

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TasteofBeirut.com chef Joumana Accad’s favorite Lebanese recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables for your Mother’s Day celebration

The traditional way is to start by layering the pita croutons, adding the meat or vegetable stew and topping it with yogurt then the pine nuts. In this recipe, the pita croutons are placed on the top layer so that they stay crunchy.

The second Sunday in May is a special time for Lebanese cuisine expert Joumana Accad. Like other mothers around the country, Mother’s Day is the day she honors the important women in her life. Joumana takes to the kitchen, a place that for many families is the heart and soul of any home. For Joumana the kitchen is where she celebrates the traditional dishes she remembers her teta (grandmother in Lebanese) making. Each dish reminds her of her family and brings back fond childhood memories of life with teta. Through her website, http://www.TasteofBeirut.com, Joumana passes on the traditions and foods of her native country for you to share with yours.

This Mother’s Day Joumana suggests preparing some comfort and love with your own families with these recipes: Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Berries and Fattet al-betenjane (eggplant casserole), using fresh vegetables and fruits from the market or your own garden.

Use Fresh Eggplant to Make this Traditional Eggplant Casserole Dating Back to the Thirteenth Century.
Popular for brunch—especially in the coastal city of Tripoli in Lebanon—fatteh is an ancient dish that can be traced back to the thirteenth century during the Abbasid Caliphate period. Joumana considers it the signature dish of all Middle Eastern cooking, although it is not well-known in the western world.

Fattet al-betenjane (Eggplant Casserole)
4 to 6 servings

"The word fatteh means 'to crumble' in Arabic and crumbling is the idea behind this dish. Bread that is somewhat stale is crumbled, fried, and layered with a variety of ingredients including a delectable yogurt sauce and some fried pine nuts. I toast the bread in this recipe to make it lighter and less fattening.

"This fatteh is an eggplant and minced lamb version. It can easily be converted to a vegetarian dish by omitting the meat and replacing it with coarsely ground walnuts. There are at least ten versions of fatteh in Lebanese cuisine: chickpea fatteh, chicken fatteh, lamb fatteh, kafta fatteh, stuffed eggplant fatteh, lamb feet fatteh, lamb tongue fatteh, etc.

"What matters is the layering. Cooked meat, or vegetable, or both, then garlicky yogurt, then crunchy pita croutons, then buttery pine nuts. The eggplant and lamb are cooked in a light tomato sauce with a strong undercurrent of sweet/sour pomegranate molasses.

"It usually is a bit on the rich side; however, this version is a lighter one. Instead of frying the pita croutons, they are tossed in a Ziploc bag with a tablespoon of olive oil and toasted in the oven until golden-brown and crunchy. The pine nuts are fried in a teaspoon of butter (preferably clarified), to bring out the flavor of the pine nuts. As for the rest, instead of frying the eggplant cubes in gallons of oil, they are pan-fried in just three tablespoons of olive oil. The minced lamb is drained of most of its grease after being browned.

"The traditional way is to start by layering the pita croutons, adding the meat or vegetable stew and topping it with yogurt then the pine nuts. In this recipe, the pita croutons are placed on the top layer so that they stay crunchy."

Do it your way and make this recipe a Mother’s Day tradition!

INGREDIENTS

  •          1 pound of eggplants
  •     
  •     3/4 pounds of minced lamb or beef (meat can be omitted and replaced with ground walnuts)
  •     
  •     1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses
  •     
  •     1 small can of tomato sauce (8 ounces)
  •     
  •     olive oil, as needed
  •     
  •     3 pita breads
  •     
  •     1/2 cup of pine nuts
  •     
  •     Spices: salt, seven-spice, sumac
  •     
  •     1 teaspoon of butter or 1 teaspoon of oil
  •     
  •     3/4 pound of yogurt (full or low-fat)
  •     
  •     8 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
  •     
  •     1 generous Tablespoon of tahini

METHOD:

1.    Peel the eggplants and cut in small cubes. Sprinkle generously with salt and place in a sieve over a bowl; let the salt draw out the bitter juices for several hours, if possible (you will get at least one cup of dark water).

2.    Brown the minced lamb in a skillet. Break it into small pieces with two wooden spoons, add some spices. I added salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sumac and 1 teaspoon of seven-spice mix. Stir and cook until browned. Then transfer to a sieve and let the meat drain its grease.

3.    Cut the pita breads with kitchen scissors into tiny croutons, place in a Ziploc bag, add a tablespoon of olive oil and toss. When the croutons are shiny, transfer to a cookie sheet lined with foil and bake in a 300F oven till dry, golden and very crunchy.

4.    Dry the eggplant with paper towels. Pour two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and when hot, pan-fry the eggplants, stirring from time to time until they release their flavor, get soft and browned a bit. Transfer the eggplant to the skillet with the minced meat and add 1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses and a cup of tomato sauce. Cook the mixture over medium heat for 20 minutes or so, and let the sauce reduce by one half until the remaining mixture is moist but not too soupy.

5.    Melt a teaspoon of butter and one of oil (if using clarified butter, don't bother with the oil) and fry the pine nuts until caramel-colored. Drain on a paper towel.

6.    Mix the yogurt with a generous tablespoon of tahini (optional, but adds a nice nutty taste) and 1/2 teaspoon of mashed garlic (mash the garlic with a dash of salt in a mortar).

ASSEMBLY:

Place the meat and eggplant mixture on a platter while still warm. Cover with the yogurt, then top with the croutons and pine nuts.

Desserts in Lebanon - There are two types of desserts in Lebanon, the ones that are made by specialists who have been in the trade for hundreds of years and the homestyle desserts. Baklavas, for instance, are made outside the home by pastry makers but puddings are homemade. Homemade puddings are traditional fare in the Middle East for celebrations such as a birth or a religious holiday. So go ahead and indulge yourself with this delicious rice pudding for Mother’s Day.

Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Berries
(4 to 6 servings)

"There are myriad puddings in Lebanese cuisine and most are thickened with starch (corn or wheat) or flour (rice or wheat) and garnished with nuts. They have no eggs and have a creamy, delicious texture. Enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon (or as a homestyle dessert) your guests will love this exquisite treat."

What better way to say I love you mom on Mother's day than to make this simple, light yet luscious rice pudding studded with pistachios and resting on a cool and tangy layer of berries?

INGREDIENTS
    

  •     1/2 cup of sushi or Egyptian rice (or Arborio or any medium-grain rice)
  •     
  •     1 1/3 cup of water
  •     
  •     1 1/3 cup of milk (or a mixture of milk and half-and-half or cream)
  •     
  •     3 Tablespoons sugar
  •     
  •     1 teaspoon of rose water
  •     
  •     1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
  •     
  •     1/2 cup of chopped pistachios
  •     
  •     2 cups of blackberry or cherry juice
  •     
  •     1/4 cup of sugar
  •     
  •     1 cup of blackberries
  •     
  •     1 cup of raspberries or cherries
  •     
  •     1/3 cup of cornstarch

METHOD
To make the rice pudding:

1.    Place the rice in a saucepan and cover it with water.

2.    Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the water has almost evaporated.

3.    Add the milk (or milk and cream mixture) and the sugar, stirring a bit to dissolve the sugar. Let the rice mixture simmer gently until the rice is soft, silky and the milk mixture has melded into a thick cream clinging to the rice. Add the rose and orange blossom and stir to combine. Add the pistachios and stir to combine evenly.

4.    Transfer the rice pudding into a one-quart charlotte dish (spray the dish with butter first). Let it cool, cover and refrigerate.

To make the berry jelly:

1.    Pour 1 1/2 cups of juice into a saucepan. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve over medium heat.

2.    Take the remaining cup of juice and pour the cornstarch into it. Stir to dilute the cornstarch.

3.    As soon as the steam starts to appear in the saucepan, add the cornstarch mixture and stir continually until the mixture thickens.

4.    Add half the berries to the mixture and stir to distribute evenly.

5.    Place the remaining berries on the surface of the rice pudding, covering it entirely. Pour the juice mixture gently over the berries. Let it cool and gel for several hours uncovered in the fridge, then cover until serving time.

6.    When ready to serve, flip over the rice pudding onto a serving platter. Place a towel soaked in very hot water over the top of the dish to dislodge the rice pudding. You may need to help it by inserting a knife all around. Do this several times until the pudding pops out onto the platter. Garnish with extra berries and serve cold.

Recipes may be reprinted with the following credit: Copyright Joumana Accad

To create other traditional Lebanese dishes for your Mother’s Day feast, go to http://www.TasteofBeirut.com.

About Joumana Accad

Joumana Accad was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She left the Middle East in 1975 and began an international journey. She moved to Paris in the mid-‘70s where she finished her formal education. She returned briefly to Beirut before moving to the United States in 1979. Widowed at a young age, Joumana moved to Dallas, Texas in 1987, remarried and raised two children. She couldn’t resist the call of cooking as she entered the Pastry Arts program at El Centro College in Dallas. Upon graduation, Joumana became a pastry chef for a German restaurant, worked as a caterer, and sold her decorated cookies and cakes. Whole Foods Markets asked her to teach classes on Lebanese cuisine at several of their local markets. Today she runs the popular food blog http://www.tasteofbeirut.com where she explores the cuisine of the Levant as well as the Middle East.

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