Monday, April 30, 2012

Middle Eastern Dinner Deseert

Who knew figs were so freaking delicious? We cooked the figs in  a fruit juice, white wine, spiced liquid. Now we just gobbled these up so fast I didn't get a picture. But they were delicious and believe it or not, this was my first time eating figs. I love that we changed the recipe so much that we made a whole syrup to pour over the ice cream. These figs were sweet and soft and with each bite the syrup burst into your mouth and overwhelmed you with sweet honey fragrance and lovely rich spices. The figs came next with a lovely texture and oh it was just delightful. The perfect dessert to end a spicy, flavorful meal.   Yum!
 Dried Figs

Middle Eastern Spiced Figs

Adapted from

4 cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1/4 cup white wine 
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 lb dried figs
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
vanilla bean ice cream

Combine the water, sugar, wine, fruit juices and spices in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Add the figs and cook for 15 minutes, until the syrup has thickened and  remove from the heat. Remove figs from the cooking liquid and refrigerate in a covered bowl with 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. This keeps the figs from drying out.  

Return the remaining cooking liquid to the stove top and bring to a medium heat. Cook 10 minutes. Then bring to a boil and  cook another 5 minutes or until the liquid becomes thicker and syrupy, about 2 cups.  Let cool and then transfer into a serving container. 

Chill the figs and syrup for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. When cooled cut into 4 pieces.
To serve spoon ice-cream into dessert dishes, place fig slices over the ice cream and spoon syrup on top.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Middle Eastern Dinner Side Dish

Finding this recipe was like finding the most perfect gem ever. It was so easy and absolute everyone's favorite part of dinner. The richness of the rice and oil were soft and delicious on your palate. With the addition of the  rich nuttiness of the browned butter, sweet currents and toasted slivered almonds it was perfect. The saffron took this rice to another level. It was slightly exotic with the saffron and the sweet bursts of currents in you mouth.  Since the meatballs also had cooked currents in them, the whole dinner was delicious but this standard Persian rice was decadent. This is a perfect dish. 

Saffron Rice with currents and toasted almonds
Persian Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Currants
adapted from Food and Wine 
slightly adapted from Lesley Eats
serves 6

2 cups white basmati rice
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt 

½ teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1 tablespoon water

½ cup slivered almonds
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup  and 1 Tablespoon dried currants 
additional salt and pepper to taste

 Bring the four cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and rice, lower the heat and simmer for 5- 10 minutes. Do not overcook. Rice should be slightly “al dente.” Drain the rice thoroughly and return to the sauce pan. Set aside.

 Crush the saffron and then dissolve the saffron in the one tablespoon of water and stir into the rice.
Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F.
 Brown the almonds over medium-high heat in a medium or large skillet. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. When browned, pour the almonds in a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet, reduce the heat to medium and add the butter and oil. Brown the butter and then add the currants and sugar. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has browned a bit more, stirring frequently (just a few minutes). Remove from the burner and set aside.

Spread half the rice in a casserole dish or other baking dish (at least 3 quarts). Pour half the butter mixture over the rice and sprinkle with half the almonds. Then spread the remaining half of the rice in another layer and pour over the remaining butter mixture and almonds.

Cover (with lid or aluminum foil) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is soft and there’s some browning around the edges. Season with salt and pepper to taste when serving.

This rice was so fantastic and it did not last long but the little that did was delicious the next day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Middle Eastern Meal Main Course

This trip was so much fun! I can't believe we made this great meal with out driving to grocery stores hours away, as we do in Indiana.  Milwaukee has this awesome grocery store, not at all like Indiana. So I walked through the grocery store Sendik's with my mouth open so wide my chin rested on the floor. As a foodie, I know how limited our grocery stores are but this market had carrots as wide as the mouth of cereal bowl and a meat and seafood selection that make my local supermarket look like the fresh food section of the gas station.  I loved buying lamb, testing cheese, trying and buying raspberry and mustard pretzel dip and all the wine. Yum

Meat and Spice Mixture
I loved everything from our meal. The internet is a wonderful place to find recipes and we lucked into these middle eastern meatballs. They were a hit and the flavors were wonderful. These delightful meatballs have the most delicious spices and currents in them. The flavor was exotic with hints of sweet from the currents, nutty from the meat and the sesame seeds and just divine  I loved every bite and they were just as delicious the next day. You could serve them with kebabs and vegetables but we just served them in a large bowl with minted yogurt sauce on the side.  The most amazing thing about this dinner was that everything came out at the same time. Even though it was our first time making everything but the hummus. It was awesome and so delicious. Enjoy!
Raw Meatballs rolled in sesame seeds and waiting to be baked

Middle Eastern Sesame Lamb and Turkey Meatballs

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
a pinch cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb 
1 pound ground turkey
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten lightly
4 tablespoons dried currants
1/4 cup black sesame seeds 
1/4 cup white sesame seeds

 Form level tablespoons of lamb mixture into 1 1/4-inch meatballs, arranging on a tray as formed.
In a small non-stick skillet cook onion and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in mint, salt, allspice, and cinnamon. Add lamb, bread crumbs, egg, and currants and combine well.

In a small bowl roll half of meatballs, 1 at a time, in black sesame seeds until coated, transferring to a rack set in a shallow baking pan. Coat remaining meatballs with white sesame seeds in same manner, transferring to rack. Meatballs may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered loosely.

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Bake meatballs in upper third of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and just cooked through. Serve with Minted Yogurt Dip.

Cooked meatballs 

Minted Yogurt Dip

2 cups plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

To make the yogurt dip:
In a fine sieve set over a bowl drain yogurt, covered and chilled, 3 hours. Discard whey in bowl and transfer yogurt cheese to bowl. Yogurt cheese may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.
Into yogurt cheese stir mint and salt. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Next time I will share with you the delicious Persian Saffron Rice with Toasted Almonds and Currents. Its my new favorite rice. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Birthday Wish

Have your read the book, Eat, Pray, Love? In this Elizabeth Gilbert sends out a birthday request to family and friends to raise money to build a home for a friend in need. This year, as we are starting to recover from the economic crisis I would like to put out a request for my birthday gift. Despite all, we have so much to give thanks for, while others are starving, dying and suffering we have shelter, food and our health. So instead of sending me gifts or sending me a Happy Birthday message through email, texts or Facebook, I ask you to reach deep into your pockets for just $10 and donate it to Heifer International. This money will be used to give families in need animals for food, products to sell and babies to share with their village. For instance, a cow can produce 4 gallons of milk a day, thats plenty for the family to drink and to sell. Each cow can produce a calf yearly and those calves can be sold. This gives the family milk, meat and money to become healthy and self dependent. When the family can, they will pass on these gifts to other families in their village and so on and so forth. Soon the whole village with be healthy due to your contribution on just $10.

I joined Team Heifer to help raise donations for Heifer's programs to end hunger and poverty around the world. Check out their website to learn more at

Please go to or the Heifer International link to donate in my name.

Thank you all for your love and support, Kate Kaplan
Donate animals to poor countries through the Heifer International charity! Support an international non-profit, a world hunger organization, which has offered tangible, effective and long-lasting ways to make a real difference for more than 60 years

Monday, April 2, 2012

Middle Eastern Meal Appitizers

Well now that I am a school girl (again), I got to enjoy a fabulous spring break. Everyone made fun of me since I was heading north to cooler weather but it turned really warm and I had a blast. I loved visiting my Aunt Nancy and Aunt Fran in Milwaukee. We all love to cook and bake so we just had the most fun in the kitchen.  Aunt N and I sat down to plan our weeks baking schedule. Unfortunately we didn't make too much of a dent in our list but it means I'll just have to go back for another week of cooking.  

We decided to make a special dinner for 8 people on the second night. Aunt Nancy and I planned a middle eastern feast for fun. It was so delicious that we were so glad that we made too much, since we almost finished it all.  We served hummus, babaganoush with homemade pita for the appetizers. Dinner was middle eastern lamb and turkey meatballs with a minted yogurt sauce and dessert was spiced figs with vanilla ice cream topped with a spiced fig sauce. It was perfect! 

I love hummus and this recipe makes a light and fresh tasting hummus with lots of lemon and parsley. We added in too much lemon juice so it was rather runny but still delicious. I have had hummus with organic chickpeas and I find that I like hummus better with regular old canned chickpeas. The texture is much smoother with non-organic chickpeas.  Enjoy!

Barefoot  Hummus
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa
4 garlic cloves

2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas
8 dashes hot sauce
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Turn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until it's minced. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature. This hummus is better the next day. 

I have never made babaganoush before, so I was shocked how easy and delicious it was. This babaganoush is very spicy and delicious. We served this and the homemade hummus with homemade toasted pita and it was a great way to start our Middle Eastern dinner. This recipe originally called for parsley but since we ran out of the parsley I added in the mint. It was delicious and simply perfect!


Adapted from Ellie Krieger

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound) 
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint 
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Prick eggplant with a fork and place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake the eggplant until it is soft inside, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, grill the eggplant over a gas grill, rotating it around until the skin is completely charred, about 10 minutes. Let the eggplant cool. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid, and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process the eggplant until smooth and transfer to a medium bowl.

On a cutting board, work garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt together with the flat side of a knife, until it forms a paste. Add the garlic-salt mixture to the eggplant. Stir in the mint, tahini, and lemon juice. Season with more salt, to taste. Garnish with parsley.

Next week I will share with you the delicious and easy sesame lamb and turkey middle eastern meatballs with currents.