Friday, April 8, 2011

Mtabal (Lebanese baba ghanoush)

Mtabal is an eggplant dip (like how hummus (a.k.a. msabaha) is a dip). In parts of the world and especially here in America baba ghanoush is the name given to this dip but in Syria baba ghanoush is an eggplant dip made with lemon, parsley and pomegranate. This is known as Mtabal and is eaten usually with kibbeh and mashawi (grilled meat). This is extremely simple to do and anyone can make it. Confession: i have never eaten mtabal because i am not a HUGE fan or eggplant but I make it for my husband and he loves it (most people do). I tasted it for the first time after making it for the blog and it is good i just don't like the texture of eggplant. Anyways here is how I make it.

Ok so usually you would use the big eggplant (according the the eggplant expert, my husband the big ones have the best flavor) but I didn't find any in the store so these work fine. I would not suggest using the really small ones (the ones for makdoos)
Poke holes in them with a fork
Place them on the stove if it is a gas stove, if not them stick them in the oven on broil. Rotate them as they burn or crinkle.
Nice roasted eggplant.
Cover them in foil and close it well so they steam and finish cooking on the inside, also it will make it easier to peel the skin of the eggplant.
After you peel stick them in a bowl. The only difference I can see with these small eggplant is that they are not white like the big ones. Like i have mentioned before, Arabs care about the way their food looks and don't like their food dark. My MIL, for example, won't even add spices to food so that is won't get dark.
Chop the eggplant in big chunks (some people puree it in a food processor but authentically there should be chunks in the mtabal) Add some yogurt
Add tahini
Add salt and garlic and mix
Serve in a bowl chilled or at room temperature. Decorate with smoked paprika, turnip pickles, and parsley and olive oil (or whatever you want really)
Serve with pita bread

Written Recipe:
1 big eggplant (or 5 small long ones)
2-3 crushed garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of yogurt
1 tablespoon of tahini
salt to taste

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken Kibbeh

Ok so today we have a guest blogger...RANYA O.!!!! The other day I received an email from Ranya and she told me about a new way to make kibbeh that her mom learned in Syria and her mom taught her and now she taught me!! Personally I find this type of kibbeh much easier to make then the meat ones so if you haven't made kibbeh before and want to try I would definetly try this type first. I found very very little taste difference, if at all. My husband is a very picky eater and he said he would rate it a 8/10 (because he doesn't want me getting cocky about my cooking...ya). The nice thing about this recipe is that it can be used with any type of kibbeh: kibbeh miqliyeh (fried), kibbeh labaniyeh (kibbeh in yogurt), kibbeh mishwiyeh (grilled kibbeh), and kibbeh bisayniyeh (kibbeh in a tray).

So this is pretty much the exact same way you would make normal kibbeh (using meat) except we are using chicken here. There are some rules to making kibbeh that people use to decide whether or not you are good at making kibbeh (pretty much this is how my tete would grade me on my kibbeh skills....or lack there of...but hey its only the 3rd time I've made kibbeh in 5 years). Rule:

1. The thinner the kibbeh the better

2. The smaller the kibbeh the better (kibbeh in yogurt should be really small and the other kibbehs shouldn't be too big)

3. Don't skimp on the meat (I think this applies to all Syrian dishes according to my tete)

4. The lighter in color the kibbeh the better (this applies more to meat because the chicken is very light)

5. Kibbeh should be crunchy on the outside but not dry (my kibbeh is only crunchy right when it comes out of the oil, it doesn't get soggy but isn't really crunchy)

So grade yourself on your kibbeh! Anyways here is how Ranya and I made chicken kibbeh (I have a disorder where i can't follow a recipe 100% so I will note things I changed a I will also note things Ranya told me she changed.

Measure 1 pound of fine bulgur wheat. There is a light color bulgur and a dark...both work but if you refer to the rules it would suggest you use the lighter one.

wash and rinse the burgul ( I washed it twice) and then squeeze it dry.

It should double in size

Take 1 pound of chicken breast (about 2 chicken breasts) and cut all visible fat and other nasty things off and then cut into big chunks.

A little over 16 oz

Grind the chicken in a food processor.

Add an onion to the chicken and grind really well.

I had to do mine in two batches because my food processor is so small but here is Ranya's...pretty much the same thing.

MMMMMM chicken mush

Here is the burgul

Run it through the food processor as well.

Add the chicken/onion to the burgul

Mix it with your hands as well as possible.

Ranya also runs it through the food processor until the dough comes together in a ball. I had to do mine in about 5 batches because again...I have a small food processor. When this is done then put the dough in a ziploc bag and freeze it over night (I just put it in the fridge overnight because I didn't have time to defrost it the next day but I do recommend freezing it the next day)

Ok so the next day take out the dough and let it defrost while you make the stuffing. Ranya told me her Mom uses crisco to fry the onions in, Ranya uses mazola oil and I use samneh (arabic clarified butter) whatever you want to use will obviously work. When the onions start to cook add in the ground meat and cook.

Once the meat is done cooking add in salt, pepper and mixed arabic spice.

Add in the chopped walnuts (My mom also adds almonds and pine nuts so I added almonds (Pine nuts at the store weren't good))

Ranya's stuffing is more traditional, it has much less nuts and only walnuts

So when the dough is defrosted all the way add in spices: red pepper (cayenne), salt, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (something new to me but I follow the experts), chicken spice (Not sure what it is exactly so I used some shish tawook spice), cardammon and 2 tablespoons of flour.

Run it through a meat grinder, I just put it in the mixer and let it mix like a normal dough or you can do it by hand). If you have a meat grinder run all of the dough through and then run a small batch through, form kibbeh with it and then run another small batch through and so on and so forth until all of the dough is the dough goes through the meat grinder twice total. Like I said before though, if you don't have a meat grinder then use a food processor and if you dont have a food processor then use your hands...Arabs have been making kibbeh way before machines were invented.

Tools you will need to Kabkeb (form the kibbeh): I used a cookie/ice cream scoop to make uniform sized kibbeh, a bowl or water with cornstarch, a bowl with a small teaspoon to add the stuffing and the kibbeh dough.

First scoop out the dough and then with water/cornstarch mix on your hand roll the dough into a nice ball.

Take your index finger and poke the dough in the middle, but not all the way through. Keep moving the dough in a circular motion to widen the hole and make the walls thin.

Try to make the top as even as possible because it will make it easier to shut the kibbeh.

Add in the stuffing, as much as can fit.

Add more water/cornstarch on your hand and squeeze the top of the kibbeh shut slowly while moving it in a circular motion.

Kibbeh, I have big ones in the back for frying and the small ones in the front will be used for kibbeh in yogurt.

Ranya's kibbeh...of course perfect..which is why she is my role model for perfect wife/cook/mom/everything

Ok so when you are ready to cook take a skewer or a match or a toothpick and poke about 3 holes in the kibbeh that will be used for the kibbeh in yogurt. DO NOT POKE THE KIBBEH FOR FRYING!!!

In a pan add in yogurt and whisk

Add in water and stir, as well as some cornstarch

Once the yogurt starts to boil turn it down (so that there are no more bubbles) and add in the kibbeh

They will float to the top when they are done cooking. Try to stir as little and as gently as possible so that you don't break them.

This is just showing the difference in size between the frying kibbeh and the yogurt kibbeh.

This is how I test the oil to see if it is hot enough to fry. Add in a wooden stick or spoon and if bubbles form then the oil is hot enough.

Add the kibbeh in slowly because they will stick if they are just dropped in.

Serve the kibbeh labaniyeh warm, room temp or cold. In Syria it is usually served with fresh tarragon in the yogurt (I HATE tarragon so I never add it)

I cooked up some cilantro with some olive oil and garlic and topped my kibbeh labaniyeh.

Here is a picture of the fried kibbeh...looks just like the meat ones until............. bite into it and you see how white it is. Very very good...Thank you Ranya soooo much for your recipe and of course thank you Khaleh Ghada for bringing back and sharing such a good recipe.

Written Recipe:

3ajeeneh/Kibbeh Dough

1 pound of chicken breast

1 pound of fine bulgur wheat

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda




chicken spice (All spices are added to taste)

2 tablespoons of flour

1 tablespoon of red pepper (I added less)


1 pound of ground meat

2 medium onions finely chopped

handful of walnuts (about 1/2 cup)

handful of almonds (optional)




mixed arabic spice

Yogurt for Labaniyeh

3 cups of yogurt

1 cup of water


1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Ranya makes her yogurt differently here is how she does it:

Ranya boils a spoonful of rice in a cup of water and adds it to the warmed yogurt (which she adds an egg and cornstarch too the same way I showed in my Shakriyeh post) with salt and pepper. She then adds the poked kibbeh the same way I do.