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Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Meat, Pasta & Rice, Poultry, Side Dishes

Cinnamon Raisin Rice

Cinnamon Raisin Rice

Cinnamon Raisin Rice with pine nuts and chicken

Originally titled Lebanese Chicken and Rice with Pine Nuts, Raisins and Feta, this recipe comes from Nutrition Consultant Jeannette Turner, but I couldn’t find exactly what was Lebanese about it. Maybe if you swapped cinnamon for 5 spice.

1 lb. skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. honey
crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Optional step I enjoy: Soak raisins in 1/2 cup of cool water, set aside.

In a large skillet or frying pan on medium high heat, cook rice in 1 Tbsp of oil until well browned. Cook rice with 2 cups of water, salt, cinnamon, bay leaves, and honey according to the directions on the package (hey, I use a rice cooker, so you’re on your own).

While the rice is cooking, fry chopped onions in 1 Tbsp of oil in the same skillet or pan 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Add chopped chicken pieces and cook thoroughly (about 10 minutes). Drain raisins and add them with the pine nuts to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Remove bay leaves from rice. Combine rice and chicken mix into a large baking dish. Top with feta and broil for 5-8 minutes (or until the feta melts and starts to brown on top). If you’re using feta cheese, this broiling is vital because it changes the smell and taste of the feta.

I served mine with butternut squash, but I hear it goes well with green vegetables, too. This recipe is easily converted to vegetarian/vegan, for either main course or side dish.

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Side Dishes

Greek Roasted Potatoes

Greek Roasted Potatoes

Greek Roasted Potatoes (about half a batch)

Total time: Approximately 1 hour.

4-5 potatoes
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp ground or crushed thyme
1 tsp ground or crushed rosemary
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp pepper, or to taste

Gallon size plastic bag or similar container.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Wash and pat dry potatoes.  Cut each potato into 6 pieces lengthwise.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in your plastic bag.  Add potatoes and coat well.  Dump the whole lot into a 9×13 or larger baking dish or roasting pan.

Bake uncovered 45 minutes or until tender.

At the 30 minute mark, you could add feta on top! 

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Formal Occasions, Pasta & Rice, Side Dishes, The Daring Cooks' Challenge

Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves

Vegetarian Dolma

Vegetarian Dolma

Total time: 3 hours

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food (a Borzoi Book by Claudia Roden, published by Alfred A. Knopf).

40 – 50 preserved or fresh grape leaves.
1¼ cups long grain rice
1 large tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon dry dill weed
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more


If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.

If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.


Army of Dolmas

Army of Dolmas

1. Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain.
2. Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, garlic, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up.
4. Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.
5. Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.
6. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag, place back in the freezer.)
7. Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.
8. Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, if needed, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.

I used the given recipe and somehow ended up making 64 dolmas. I didn’t measure out 2 teaspoons every time, but it looked close enough to me. If you have two cups of filling, you should be able to make 48 dolmas.

I found it was best to cook them for an hour if I did my large pan (approximately 30 dolmas), but only 35 for my small pan (an even dozen). Then I let them sit in the pan for 30-40 minutes afterward before serving them warm. I like them warm, but they were still great cold the next day.

For use the next day, just leave them in the pan when you put them in the refrigerator. Heat on low for 15-20 minutes or serve cold. I froze uncooked dolmas and cooked them straight from the frozen state with great success.

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Pasta & Rice, Side Dishes, The Daring Cooks' Challenge




Total time:  Approximately 1.5 hours.

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale. Potatoes are local to me (my state ranks “first in per-acre yield of potatoes, far above other potato-producing states and countries, and 57 percent more potatoes per acre” than Idaho), but I thought I’d go with spinach (which my region has 2000-3000 acres dedicated to seed growth alone).

Dough Ingredients
2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup lukewarm water

Filling Ingredients
1 bunch of spinach, cleaned, rinsed, separated and drained
1/2 c feta cheese
1/2 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until golden brown
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt (optional)

Spaniko-pierogi in the toaster oven

Spaniko-pierogi in the toaster oven

Chop spinach leaves into “salad size” pieces. Place in a large, microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. The spinach should wilt to about 1/4 of the original size. You may want to drain in a colander. Let cool 3-5 minutes. Scoop your wilted spinach up in one clump if you can and cut it into bite sized squares. Transfer to a towel (or a pair of paper towels), and attempt to squeeze the remaining water out or let it drain in the towel for 5-10 minutes.

Mix together with remaining filling ingredients and chill completely before use.

Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little water at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough and let it rest 20 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or as thin as you can go) cut with a 4-inch round or glass. Spoon a portion (tablespoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

Deep Fried Spaniko-pierogi

Deep Fried Spaniko-pierogi

Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, in a single layer in the pan. Return to the boil and reduce heat to medium. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more (usually about 5 minutes), until they’ve started to puff out.

Toast in a toaster oven at 375F for 10 minutes or until puffy and light brown.

I find phyllo dough to be expensive if purchased and a real pain to make from scratch. This works for me, and it’s awesome.

There’s a difference in using fresh spinach versus frozen spinach, and that difference is mostly moisture and texture. If you’re not sure how to clean fresh spinach, check out this vegancoach tutorial.

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Meat, Poultry, Side Dishes, Soup and Salad

Lemon Chicken and Bulgur Salad

Bulgur Chicken Salad

Bulgur Chicken Salad

Total time:  20 minutes, plus chicken cooking time

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine (March/April 2010).

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cubed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup fine-grain bulgur wheat
1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Place bulgur in a small-medium bowl. Add chicken broth to bulgur and let set for 5-10 minutes, until most or all of the broth has been absorbed.

In a medium bowl, mix together oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Add shredded chicken, and mix well to coat. Add almonds and mint, toss to coat. Add bulgur and mix well.

Serve cold or room temperature.

Breads and Desserts, Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, The Daring Cooks' Challenge

Pita Bread

My mezze consisted of olives, piyaz, hummus, pita bread, cucumber raita, and tabouli.

Olives, piyaz, hummus, pita bread, cucumber raita, and tabouli.

Total time:  Approximately 5 hours.

The 2010 February Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to present a mezze table. The required recipes were pita bread (here) and hummus.

Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
6 cups all-purpose flour (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for 90 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Let the dough rest 10-15 minutes.
3. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
4. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

Pita Bread

Pita Bread

5. Lightly flour the top of the dough and both sides of your hands. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
6. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Makes 16 large pitas.

Shown here with kalamata olives, Almost Turkish Piyaz, hummus, cucumber raita, and tabouli.

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Sauces and Dips, The Daring Cooks' Challenge




Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml/6 Tbsp)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (2 tsp)
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
2 tsp ground sumac

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

I normally like to edit the Daring Cooks recipes to make them more understandable outside the DK, but in this instance, I thought I’d keep all of the extra notations in the ingredients. Really, if you’re using dried garbanzo beans, your directions are different than if you’re using canned beans. And sometimes your canned beans are too firm and need to be boiled anyway. It’s something you’ll just have to decide each time you try to make hummus. If you’re lucky like me, you have a pressure cooker that does all the work for you, in 30 minutes or less.

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Side Dishes, Soup and Salad, The Daring Cooks' Challenge

Almost Turkish Piyaz

Almost Turkish Piyaz

Almost Turkish Piyaz

Total time:  Approximately 15 minutes.

Adapted from Burcu’s Antalya Bean Salad (Antalya Usulü Piyaz) on Almost Turkish Recipes.

2 cups of cooked northern beans
1/2 onion, cut finely in half-moons
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp crushed pepper
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or diced

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Mix together dressing ingredients, set aside.

In a small bowl, knead onion slices with 1 tsp salt. Rinse and drain.

In a medium large bowl, mix together beans and onions. Stir in dressing, coat well. Fold in parsley and eggs. Sprinkle with crushed red peppers.

Serve chilled or room temperature.

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Side Dishes, Soup and Salad, The Daring Cooks' Challenge

Mama Fatima’s Tabouli



Total time:  35 minutes.

Adapted from Holy Land Brand’s website.

2 cups dry bulgur wheat
2 cups very hot water
1 cucumber, chopped and blotted with paper towel
1-3 small tomatoes, chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 cups fresh chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

In a small bowl, mix together dressing ingredients, set aside.

Soak the wheat in the hot water until the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Drain any excess water, if necessary, and squeeze dry.  I normally take this time to chop up all my vegetables.

Combine the salad ingredients, including wheat, in a large bowl. Gently stir dressing into the salad.

Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes about 8 cups, 12 to 16 servings.

This made a whole lot of salad. We ate it for almost 4 days, with lots of help from friends, in pita bread with other assorted yummies. I’ll definitely be halving this recipe in the future (I don’t think quartering it will work very easily).

Cuppylicious!, Eastern Mediterranean, Ethnic Foods, Sauces and Dips, The Daring Cooks' Challenge

Cucumber Raita

Cucumber Raita

Cucumber Raita

Total time:  15 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh cilantro, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix in the cumin, garlic and coriander leaves.
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne. Chill before serving.