Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nano's butternut squash lasagna

Ok so this isn't REALLY Nano's lasagna but when I had the family over for thanksgiving i put Nano in charge of putting the lasagna together so I told her I would say it's her lasagna. The original recipe of from Giada DeLaurentis but i changed it a bit. I made this many years ago (ok maybe it was 4 years ago) and O and I loved it so i remembered it and made it for Thanksgiving this year. During the recipe i will say when i changed the recipe.
Peel butternut squash and cut into cubes.
In a pan with olive oil saute some onions (not in original recipe)
When the onions are translucent add the butternut squash
Some salt and pepper and mix so that everything is covered in olive oil. Cover the butternut squash until it is tender (it depends on how big the pieces are)
In a mixer puree the mixture and flavor it with salt if needed. In the original recipe Giada added amaretto cookies.
Mixture after it is pureed.
Next make the béchamel sauce. In a pan melt butter and add flour. Cook the flour a little just to get rid of the flour taste but don't brown the flour.
Add the milk and whisk until thick. Season with salt and nutmeg.
In a food processor add the béchamel sauce and fresh basil leaves and process so make a green sauce.
In a lasagna pan ladle a couple spoonfuls of the butternut squash sauce then add the noodles and then a couple more spoonfuls of the butternut squash sauce.
Spread some of the basil flavored béchamel.
Sprinkle on some shaved Parmesan cheese.
In the original recipe she used regular mozzarella but i used fresh mozzarella because it is what i had at the time but next time i wouldn't use fresh because it doesn't spread as it melts.

Repeat until there is no more sauce left or you have 4 layers of noodles. I am using here the noodles that don't need to be boiled first. On the final last layer pour the rest of the basil béchamel sauce.
Sprinkle more Parmesan and some fresh mozzarella. Bake the lasagna until heated through.
Before the lasagna is done cooking i sprinkles some pine nuts on top (arab flare)
and Serve. This dish is really good, my Dad and Laith especially liked this dish however if i make it again I will add pine nuts in between layers as well as either chunks of the butternut squash (rather then a fine puree) or some other vegetable or chicken even.

Written Recipe:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Sprinkle of nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Shiekho/ Koosa bi laban

I love this dish so much, i am a huge fan of yogurt and koosa (the arabic squash). Every time i hear shiekho i start laughing because i remember when we were younger in Syria and one of my siblings had a tutor to learn arabic and we would call her teacher shiekho because he smelled like it. I don't know how you can smell like shiekho but i thought it was hilarious and it stuck. Anyways this dish is really easy to make it is just a little time consuming if it is the first time you are making this. I am proud to say that the other day I had this dinner ready from start to finish in a little over an hour (including the rice). This is a great dish to make for guests or just for your family. My Mom made this in a healthy way and later on in the post i will describe how exactly she made it, the healthy version tastes the exact same but it just looks different. My MIL also makes this in a healthy way but that involves boiling the koosa which i refuse to try. Anyways this is how i make Shiekho
When you find koosa try and pick out really small ones, this dish doesn't work with big ones.
Cut off the top part and the bottom brown part but try not to cut too much off.
Next you just empty out the inside of the koosa. I have this new cool gadget that i just spin and it removes almost all of the inside.
See it all comes out in one big curl
You want to remove the seeds but don't make it too thin because this dish is best when there is still koosa "meat" unlike mahashi where we try and get the koosa as thin as possible.
Fry the koosa in hot oil. This is where i think i should explain how my mom makes here healthy shiekho. She cuts the koosa in half and with a spoon removes some of the seeds but like barely she then roasts them in an oven with some olive oil and then she spoons over the meat and yogurt. It tastes the exact same but is healthier (I actually prefer it but we are going traditional over here).
Don't overcrowd the pot i usually do 4 at a time.
Remember the inside of the koosa that we scrapped out....DON"T THROW IT AWAY. This may be the best part of making a koosa dish. Syrian (and I am sure some arab countries) make 2 dishes with this one of lib (which is what we call the inside of the koosa) and the other is ajeh which is like a hush puppy but with spices and koosa instead of potato.
Drain the koosa on a paper towel to remove as much oil as possible and let them cool down until your able to handle them.
In the meantime cook some ground meat
Add in pine nuts
Add in arabic mixed spice and salt
When the meat it done cooking let it cool and work on the yogurt. In a big pot with a strainer over it i add yogurt and egg and cornstarch.
Once everything has gone through the strainer i add some water and let it come to a boil.
This is the yogurt boiling, when you see the sides starting to boil then whisk it together again and let it cook. I try not to let it boil too much but if it does it is not a big deal because it wont curdle because you added the egg and cornstarch which stabilizes the yogurt.
While the yogurt cooks stuff the koosa with the ground meat and pine nut mixture. be gentile because the koosa are soft and you don't want to break them. I fill the koosa up but i dont pack the meat it.
Once the Koosa is stuffed then gently put them in the cooked yogurt (make sure the yogurt is on low because if it starts boiling at this point you wont be able to whisk it up because the koosa are so soft)
Place the open end up
Slowly cover the koosa with yogurt and let it relax for about 15 minutes for the yogurt to take the taste of the koosa. Again try not to let it boil but if it does then before you serve place all the koosa in the serving dish and whisk the yogurt and then pour it over.
Done. I serve it with rice and a sprinkle of black pepper.
Some people use any left over ground meat to sprinkle on top of the yogurt or rice so don't worry if you have any left over.

Written Recipe:
12 - 14 small mexican squash (koosa)
1 cup of ground meat
1 teaspoon of mixed arabic spice
oil to fry
handful of pine nuts (a little less then 1/4 cup)
1 container of yogurt (about 3 cups)
1 egg
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/2 to 3/4 cup of water
salt to taste

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. I have never tasted stollen before but it is really good and Laith loved it so that means something. Traditionally stollen is made and served during Christmas so i decided to make this stollen an Arabic version. Usually the dried fruit inside is maraschino cherries, citrus peel and marzipan but i made mine with dried figs, dates, apricots, raisins and walnuts....yumminess.
In a bowl i mixed yellow and brown raisins
I had some dried figs so i cut the stem off and then cut them into quarters
The traditional recipe asks for rum to plump up the dried fruit but i used orange juice.
In a saucepan melt butter with milk, you don't want to boil the milk but when the butter is almost melted and the milk is warm turn off the heat and let the butter finish melting from the residual heat.
Zest three lemons and 2 oranges. My zest here was big so i chopped it up really finely.

In a bowl crack three eggs and whisk
Add in vanilla
In a separate bowl sift the dried ingredients.
Add in the cinnamon and citrus zest
In the bow with the eggs add the yeast and milk and butter
slowly add the dried ingredients
The dough will be really sticky so let it sit in the bowl for about an hour and let it rise.
The dough will still be sticky but you will be able to work with it easier now. Add in the dried fruit and i added in dates and walnuts.
Put the dough (after the dried fruit and walnuts and fully incorporated) in a really big bowl and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight
Take the dough out of the refrigerator 2 hours ahead of when you want to work with it to let it come to room temperature.
Roll the dough out thin. At this point some people add marzipan (almond paste) but i chose not to.
Roll the dough up and pinch the seam closed tightly

Bring the two end pieces together and pinch them together so it looks like one big wreath
Which kitchen scissors cut slits into the dough and then let it rise (under a towel) until it has risen and bake it in an over until golden brown.
When the stollen comes out of the over rub some melted butter over top and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Repeat this step a couple of times.
MMMM seriously it was really good, I was amazed that the citrus zest and cinnamon could have such a wonderful flavor.

Written Recipe:

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 3 lemon and 2 orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup dried figs and dates
1 cup firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons orange juice for the dried fruit
1 cup chopped walnuts
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath
Here is the written steps for making stollen i was given for the daring bakers:(some ingredients may be different but that is because i changed the recipe.

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.

In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.

Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.