Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen

The cookbook, her first, is the outcome of her award winning blog and herdesire to educate people about Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food says Maureen Abood about Lebanese food.
“I want people to learn how to make this adventuresome but easily accessible food.”

Balancing the tangy flavors of yogurt, pomegranate and lemon, zesty spices and herbs such as cinnamon, mint and garlic, the sweetness of molasses and rose water along with grains and nuts is one of the defining factors of what makes Mediterranean cuisine so appealing says Maureen Abood, author of Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen (Running Press 2015; $30).

“And, of course, it’s healthy as well,” she adds.

Abood, who learned to cook from her Lebanese family, was the chief development officer for the St. Jude League in Chicago when a series of less-then-positive life events propelled her to leave her job and move to San Francisco to attend culinary school.

Raised in Lansing, where there is a large Lebanese population, she had spent summers at the family vacation house in Harbor Springs. That’s where she retreated after graduating. Her goal was to write a blog about the foods of her childhood.

“There aren’t many people around during the off-season,” says Abood, “and that was good for my creativity.”

The cookbook, her first, is the outcome of her award winning blog and her desire to educate people about Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food.

“I want people to learn how to make this adventuresome but easily accessible food,” she says.

For those just starting on this culinary journey, Abood suggests starting with Chicken Hushweh (pronounced HUSH-wee), a dish she describes as always a favorite with family and friends.

“You can make a nice Romaine salad with a lemon vinaigrette, maybe topped with some freshly chopped mint to serve with it,” says Abood noting that her recipe for hummus and pita chips would also be a good accompaniment.

Her Pomegranate Rose sorbet offers a light, sweet-tart and refreshing dessert.  

“I like to top it with chopped pistachios, the green and pink look pretty,” she says. “With the Chicken Hushweh, you have a great but easy meal.”

For more information or to visit her online store, maureenabood.com

Hushweh (Chicken Rice Pilaf with Butter Toasted Almonds)

Makes 12 servings

For the chicken:

1 (3- to 4-pound free-range chicken (or if time is of the essence buy a roasted chicken from the grocery store)

1 large yellow onion, quartered

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Few grinds of black pepper

For the rice:

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 pound ground beef chuck or lamb

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Few grinds of black pepper

1 cup parboiled long-grain white rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)

2 cups chicken broth

1 cinnamon stick

3/4 cup Butter Toasted Almonds (see recipe below), divided

Heat the oven to 425°F   

Pat the chicken dry. Place it in a large roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with the onion. Rub a couple of tablespoons of oil evenly over the skin and season the chicken all over lightly with paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Roast the chicken until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced and the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F in the thigh on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour. Baste the chicken every 15 minutes with its juices while it roasts.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 4-quart Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and season it with the ground cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook the meat, stirring constantly and using a metal spoon to crumble it into small pieces until no trace of pink remains, about 5 minutes.

Stir the rice into the meat until it is completely coated with juices. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, tuck in the cinnamon stick, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the broth is absorbed.

Transfer the roasted chicken to a cutting board and when it is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Shred the chicken into 1-inch pieces.

Remove the cinnamon stick and add the chicken, 1/2 cup of the toasted nuts, and the remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the hot rice mixture, stirring to combine. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and serve immediately.

Butter Toasted Pine Nuts and Almonds

½ teaspoon salted butter

1 cup slivered olives or whole pine nuts

Fine sea salt, to taste

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir the nuts to coat them with the butter and continue stirring constantly until the nuts are golden brown. Keep a close watch over the nuts; they can burn quickly once they begin to brown.

Transfer the nuts to a bowl while they are still warm and salt them lightly. When they have cooled to room temperature, store the nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a month or in the freezer for up to one year.

Pomegranate Rose Sorbet

Makes 8 servings

3⁄4 cup granulated sugar

3⁄4 cup warm water

1⁄4 cup light corn syrup

11⁄2 cups   100 percent pure pomegranate juice

Juice of 1 lemon

3 drops rose water

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, heat the sugar with the warm water until the water boils and the sugar melts. Add the corn syrup, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and rose water and simmer for 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl, cool for 10 minutes, and then cover and chill it until it is completely cold. Or, pour the slightly cooled mixture into a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag and immerse it in a bowl of ice water until it is completely cold.

Churn the pomegranate mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Chill the sorbet in the freezer in an airtight container for at least 12 hours and up to several weeks.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small mixing bowl, prepare the topping by whisking the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, working the mixture until it is coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl or in the stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until they light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and rose water and mix until they are incorporated and the batter is smooth. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture just until they are combined. Mix in half of the milk, then alternate mixing in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the remaining milk, and the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter the raspberries over the top of the batter and gently press them in, just by about 1/2-inch. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the raspberries.

Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a plate. Turn the cake over onto another plate to have the top facing up.

Reprinted with permission from Rose Water & Orange Blossoms © 2015 by Maureen Abood, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Raspberry Rose Crumb Cake

This recipe is adapted from SmittenKitchen.com, where it is a blueberry coffee cake.

FOR THE CRUMB TOPPING

5 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

FOR THE CAKE

2 cups minus 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rose water

3 cups fresh raspberries

1/2 cup milk, whole or 2 percent

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small mixing bowl, prepare the topping by whisking the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, working the mixture until it is coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl or in the stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until they light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and rose water and mix until they are incorporated and the batter is smooth. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture just until they are combined. Mix in half of the milk, then alternate mixing in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the remaining milk, and the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter the raspberries over the top of the batter and gently press them in, just by about 1/2-inch. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the raspberries.

Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a plate. Turn the cake over onto another plate to have the top facing up.

Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness

Finding a sense of peace and contentment in her life by eating healthier and follow a menu of plant basedblissfulbasil_frontcover of Vegan meals, Ashley Melillo began blogging while earning her graduate degree in school psychology.

Eating whole food helped Melillo deal with the anxiety and stress of her life. And she shares her food philosophy and the recipes she’s created not only on her blog, Blissful Basil, but also in her new cookbook, Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness (BenBella 2016; $21.95).

It’s not easy, says Melillo who also earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
.

“There are no quick fixes,” she says about incorporating both physical exercise and a wide variety of plant-based foods into our diet.

Indeed, one wholesome smoothie such as her Energizing Carrot Cake Smoothie, Get Glowing Strawberry Mango Chia Pudding or her Cheesy Herb or the Sun-Dried Tomato Good Morning Biscuits, won’t turn our lives upside down health-wise. But it’s all a step in the right direction to achieving physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“I think it’s tempting for many of us to want to think otherwise but it’s necessary to build up good habits,” she says. “It’s a matter of making small but good choices every day. It’s a way to taking care of all aspects of your health—cognitive and physical.”

Of course, as a psychologist, Melillo recognizes that it’s most difficult to make these changes at those times in our lives when we most need to do so.

“It’s when some of these emotions are most at their peak and when you feel almost too overwhelmed to try taking the steps to move forward, that’s when it’s the hardest,” she says. “But it’s the hardest things that push up forward and end up being the best things for us. But it’s important to make ourselves do so–to start chipping away at our anxiety or stress or depression. By taking that one step, oftenswift-sweet-potato-coconut-curry-srgb we can go on and take another and another and ultimately alleviate some of those overwhelming feelings.”

For Melillo, sticking with a whole foods plant-based diet doesn’t mean not allowing herself a little flexibility. But there are also other fixes too. Want something sweet? Try a vegan dessert such as her Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars, Enlivening Lemon Bars, Peanut Butter Cookies and Cosmically Fudgy Cacao Tahini Brownies. Hankering for a pizza? Melillo has a variety
of pizzas such as her White Pizza with Garlic Herb Oil, Mozzarella and Puffy Potato Crust.

“I think it’s important to have an element of self-compassion and understanding,” she says. “If you know you’re craving something that’s maybe not the thing that makes you feel greatest, but it just is what you’re feeling that you want to eat in that moment so like a vegan cookie or more processed vegan pizza something like that.”

Realizing that many people aren’t ready to go totally plant-based or Vegan or know much about, Melillo offers a glossary of terms, recipes for pantry items to keep on hand and helpful symbols—colored circle noting whether recipes are free of gluten, grain, soy, nut, oil, refined sugar and if they’re raw.

Melillo asked meat lovers to taste test the recipes in her book because she wanted them to be appealing not only for those already committed to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle but to all those who pick up her cookbook or read her blog.

“I really want everyone to love the recipes in this book,” she says.

Ifyougo:

What: Ashley Melillo talk and book signing

When: Thursday, February 16, 7:00 p.m.

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com

 

 

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