Syrian Bread, aka Pita

Pita bread isn’t hard, and it’s much better that the kind you can get at the supermarket (but not better than Shore Pita. What’s their secret!?). The photo below is my Syrian bread grilled cheese for dinner Monday, but before that I also used it for hamotzi on Friday night and with eggs for Sunday’s breakfast.

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Lachmagine

Lachmagine is a classic mazza, a “small bite” Syrian Jews often eat before dinner. It’s kind of like a mini pizza, but instead of sauce and cheese we put tamarind and meat on it. It’s a staple in many homes on Shabbat and holidays.

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Veal Yadayim/Grandma Rena’s Veal & Tomato Sauce Pasta

Growing up, we always thought Grandma Rena was the best cook! Our parents still make fun of us that we liked her can of Hunt’s tomato sauce over a box of boiled pasta better than theirs, but what can we say, there was something special about it.

Recently, our dad started buying veal so that our mom could recreate his mom’s veal pasta. We’ve been trying to recreate her recipe, and while it will probably never be as good as grandma’s, we can come close to it.

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Noodles and Kelsonnes, Revisited

A while back, Stephanie posted about kelsonnes, a traditional Syrian stuffed pasta dish. While many people use pre-made dough, making it from scratch is not so hard. It’s pasta that you can make without a pasta maker, so it’s totally worth it. The stuffed pasta is so giant that you get a ton of cheese, which is amazing. We usually eat these with egg noodles baked with butter. The buttery noodles get nice and crispy, mmm.

The recipe said that it yields 60 kelsonnes. I made 50. It really depends on the thickness of the dough. And no, I don’t serve/eat all of them at once. I usually make about 4 per person (of course we serve this alongside other traditional Syrian foods) and freeze the rest for an easy dinner later in the week.

I made individual bowls of noodles and kelsonnes here. You really don’t have to do that, but I like to take advantage of my oven proof bowls, so I do. If doing it this way, reduce the oven time and watch them closely. You don’t to burn the noodles too much!

Kelsonnes, adapted from the red Deal Delights cookbook:

For the dough:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • About 2 cups water

For the filling (I cut the original recipe in half for you – otherwise there is WAY too much leftover cheese):

  • 1 pound meunster cheese, grated finely (I use the grating disc in my food processor), about 5 cups
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

1. Make the dough: combine flour, eggs, and salt. Add the water in a slow stream and mix together until you get a soft dough.

2. Combine filling ingredients, set aside.

3. Split the dough in half and roll out each half of the dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness.

4. Drop a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture every 3 or so inches on half the dough (make sure you have enough room to close the dough between – see picture).

5. Cover the mounds with the other half of the dough.

6. Cut out the rounds with a round cutter (about 2 1/2 inch).

7. Repeat with remaining dough.

To assemble the dish:

For 4 people you will need:

  • 1 pound bag egg noodles
  • 12-20 kelsonnes, depending on how much your eaters like them
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Some salt

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

3. When boiling, add the kelsonnes. Boil for 5 minutes before adding the pasta.

4. Boil according to the time written on the package. Drain.

5. Combine butter, a pinch of salt, noodles and kelsonnes in a large casserole. Mix until the butter melts.

6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, until the top noodles begin to brown and get crispy.

Chicken and Spaghetti

Chicken and spaghetti was always a Friday night staple in our home. Though Poopa Dweck’s book states that it’s a Syrian custom to not eat this dish for Shabbat dinner because it’s a sign of bad luck, my family’s been eating it for years, and I don’t think we’re any less lucky than other people out there. So If you’re superstitious, make it on a weeknight. It’s a good meal with just a small side salad or vegetable. If you’re not superstitious, or just want to make a main course that consists of a carb and a protein (does the tomato sauce count as a vegetable?), then make this for Shabbat dinner. Your guests and family will fight over the crispy burnt edges.

When my mother makes this, she always leaves the chicken pieces whole. This way, it’s easier to eat just the spaghetti, which I often like to do (especially when there’s chili on the table – chicken and spaghetti chopped with some chili is awesome). I sometimes shred the chicken into the spaghetti, so that every bite has a little bit of chicken and a little bit of spaghetti. I find that the chicken also stays more moist this way and soaks up the flavor of the sauce more. Try it both ways and let me know which you prefer. Remember if you’re shredding to be careful to remove all the bones and stuff. No one wants a mouthful of spaghetti and chicken bones!

And Spaghetti!

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 chicken, cut into eighths (bone in, skin on)
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Place chicken on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 – 45 minutes, until cooked. Then let cool and shred, cut, or leave whole. Save the chickeny oil and juice!

3. While chicken is roasting, boil spaghetti in very salty water for one minute less than stated on the package.

4. Drain the spaghetti.

5. Place spaghetti in roasting pan and add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, spices, salt, and some pepper. Mix well.

— Now you have what we like to call “And Spaghetti” which is the BEST Friday afternoon snack ever.

6. Add the chicken (pieces, shreds, whatever you decided) and the chicken juice and mix well.

7. Cover and roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, until the edges are crusty and the middle is soft.

Meatless Mondays: Ades (Red Lentil) Soup

You already know we like to transform boring lentils into yummy meals. Here’s one of our favorite recipes, delicious and filling for a Meatless Monday!

Ades soup is a classic Syrian dish. These red lentils turn yellow when boiled, and often confuses people who’ve never seen the soup before (“Wait, I thought you said RED lentil soup. This is yellow!”). It’s an easy and comforting dish you can make on a chilly winter evening and that you can enjoy for lunch the next day. The first time I made this dish was in college, and my roommates were not to keen on tasting it (I don’t know why!). Lucky me! I ate a lot of soup that week.

It’s flavored with coriander and cilantro, one of my favorite flavors. If you don’t like cilantro, just use parsley instead. Or leave it out, this soup has enough flavor on its own. To add some extra flavor, use vegetable or chicken stock in place of the water.

Ades Soup, or Syrian Red Lentil Soup, adapted from here and some family traditions:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions:

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add oil.

2. When the oil is hot, add the coriander and let cook for about one minute.

3. Then, add onions and garlic. Add some kosher salt. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes, until onions soften.

4. Add the lentils to the pot. Mix and coat them with oil.

5. Add 5 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, mix flour with the remaining cup of water to make a paste. Add to the lentils.

7. Stir in the lemon juice and some more salt. Continue stirring over high heat until the mixture boils. Then, cover and cook another 15 minutes.

8. Add the cumin and cayenne. Mix well. Taste for salt and add more if needed.

9. Then add the cilantro. Serve with some lemon wedges and more chopped cilantro on top, if desired.

Grandma Sally Makes Keskesoon

Here’s something you should definitely put on your Shabbat menu for tonight: Keskesoon is not a complicated dish. In fact, it’s really just a pasta dish with chick peas in it. But no one makes it better than Grandma Sally, which is why we invited her to our kitchen JUST to make her specialty.

As you will see, the ingredient list isn’t so extensive. You probably have everything on hand, except maybe the teeny pasta, which you will find in most supermarket pasta aisles. Never seen it before? You probably just glanced over it because you prefer little stars in your soup than these crazy peppercorn shaped pastas. These are much better. The secret to this dish is toasting the pasta before adding the water. It adds a nutty flavor that you don’t ever associate with pasta, but just works. It also makes some of the kernels browner than others, which makes it prettier on the plate, of course.

Keskesoon was always a Friday night and holiday staple in my Grandma’s house. We ate in in our chicken soup instead of rice. We put sauce and meatballs (and eggy-surprise!) over it. We used it as a base for our Hamud, peas and kibbe, and kibbe mushroom. Basically, you won’t run out of ways to eat this stuff. Some people even enjoy it plain, and why not?

My family really only eats this with meat meals. We always make it pareve, and with oil. When I consulted Deal Delights (the red one) for the recipe, I was surprised to find how different their recipe is from ours! Theirs calls for about 6 tablespoons of butter, and baking it in a dish with grated cheese on top – keskesoon, mac and cheese style, sounds awesome. They also spell it keskasoon. I guess since it’s not an English word there is no one proper way to spell it. One day I will have to try that version, but for now I’m sticking to our traditional way of eating and spelling. How does your family make keskesoon?

Keskesoon, recipe adapted from Grandma:

Ingredients:

  • 1 box acini di pepe pasta, #44
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • Salt

Directions:

1. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil.

2. Open the can of chickpeas. Drain and rinse.

3. When the oil is hot, add the pasta. Swirl and mix, making sure each piece is coated in oil. Stir constantly until toasted.

4. Add the water and the chickpeas.

5. Bring to a boil, then lower, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed.

Keftes, or Syrian Meatballs

These little Syrian meatballs are totally different from the ones we eat on top of spaghetti. Keftes tend to be smaller and are cooked in a sweet and sour tomato-based sauce and are eaten over rice. They’re one of my favorite Syrian dishes, and though they’re usually served as part of a whole spread of meats, salads and vegetables (sometimes they’re not even the only serve-over-rice dish), I like to make them the main event on a weeknight!

Keftes, or Syrian Meatballs

Ingredients:

For the keftes:

  • 1 lb chopped meat
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal
  • salt and pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 (14 oz.) cans tomato sauce
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients for the keftes together and form into balls, about 2 tablespoons in size.
  2. Brown the meatballs in a little bit of olive oil in a pot.
  3. Add all of the sauce ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower the fire, cover and let simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, making sure the keftes are cooked through.
  5. Serve over rice.

Oh, and happy birthday Rebekah!

Meatless Mondays: Spanach Jibben

We just hate all those commercials about how gross vegetables are that they have to hide them in gross fruit drinks! We love vegetables, so here’s a traditional Syrian way to eat them. It’s an easy way to get spinach into your diet, even for those picky eaters, and a great Meatless Monday dinner! Continue reading