Grilled Zucchini with Yoghurt Cumin-Lemon Sauce

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When you belong to a CSA, especially in the Northeast, at some point the CSA goes into overdrive with certain vegetables. In other words… it’s too much of a good thing.

In the beginning of the season, we get so much lettuce that I am thinking to get a rabbit to consume all these leafy greens. Then the next bout of vegetables that come in plentifully are zucchinis. It’s not like we get 2 or three zucchinis, we get 6 HUGE zucchinis at a time. This is the time you may want to fire up the grill and char those greens. That is the simplest thing to do, and when you combine it with a super uber cooling cumin yoghurt sauce, you’ll consume those green squashes in just one sitting. Zucchini has a tendency to be all water. So when you grill it, it shrinks. This is the case where size means nothing. So bring it on zukes and enjoy this deceptively easy dish that speaks volumes in flavor.

Grilled Zucchini with Yogurt Lemon-Cumin Sauce

Serves about 6

Ingredients

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove finely minced
About 6 (each) zucchini, sliced lengthwise
4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
Sea salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
¼ cup chopped mint

Directions

  1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients along with a pinch of salt and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside while making the vegetables.
  2. Heat broiler. Arrange vegetables in a single layer, cut side up on two baking sheets. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. OR arrange coated vegetables on grill rack (over medium-high heat); grill vegetables 8 minutes or until just tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Place vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped mint and dollop of sauce on top.

Afghan Ratatouille

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Might seem odd to call a french dish, Afghan. After all, Ratatouille is a stew of simmered summer vegetables usually with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Interestingly in Afghanistan, and really in the entire Central Asian region there are notorious for stews as well – all utilizing seasonal ingredients, excepting that the spices and herbs rule in the stews. My mother regularly made this version of Ratatouille and always called it Choresh, which basically means in farsi – stew. Probably the closet cousin to this dish is the Persian Eggplant dish called Choresh Badjeman. The emphasis on my dish is on the spices: cumin and turmeric, which gives it more color and more of an earthy, slightly smoky flavor that I love so much. Traditionally the french cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. I use one pot for everything, just like all Central Asian cooks. We cook everything in one pot and let it cook slowly over a low flame.  It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. Generally speaking ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to illicit the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant. I like to serve this over basmati rice so that the rice can absorb the flavors and get soaked into each grain.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers,  (preferably sweet) cut into 1/4-inch slices
on the horizontal
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  5. Then stir in bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.

Fassoulyeh b’Chuderah ~ Syrian Bean Stew with Cinnamon & Tomato

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About a year ago I had the pleasure of having cookbook author and cooking instructor Jennifer Abadi come to home to learn how to make the Afghani Pilau. If you want the recipe, then you’ll just have to buy my book! Jennifer is writing a Sephardi Passover cookbook and she, herself travels all over the tri-state area to people’s homes to learn how to cook their traditional Passover recipes. Here is a photo from that tutorial I gave to Jennifer, who also interviewed me extensively on the history of the dishes for Passover of Afghanistan and Bukhara. We went to the Persian supermarket called A to Z near me and got a full history of the ingredients used in Central Asian cuisine.

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Jennifer, is the author of A Fistful of Lentils, a cookbook memoir about her Syrian Jewish family roots. Obviously, we have something in common. We cook to connect to our past and want the world to learn and taste of these ancient cuisines. Syrian cooking, which is considered Mediterranean and a bit off the beaten track from the Silk Road has certain characteristics that speak Syrian. That is…. beans, tomatoes and cinnamon. Arabs have had a long history with trading spices along the Spice Route. When ever I think of the fall season, for some reason I think of cinnamon. There is something very earthy and warm to cinnamon that just makes me feel grounded and home. Perhaps that is why I ventured out to make this bean stew that oozes cinnamon. The stew falls somewhere between a soup and a stew. It’s completely vegetarian, very satisfying, and–best of all–you may already have all of the ingredients in your pantry!

Ingredients

1 lb (2 1/2 cups) dried cannelini or navy beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups cold water or broth
1 tablespoon lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
cooked rice, for serving

Directions

  1. Cover the beans with cold water and remove any rocks, dirt, or other debris from the surface of the water. Let soak for 12 hours. Drain water and transfer to a 4-quart saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer vigorously until beans are just cooked but not soft, about 45 minutes. Drain water and reserve beans.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onions, stirring, until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute; do not burn. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Return to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until beans are very soft and liquid has thickened considerably, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
  3. Serve in bowls over basmati rice.

Jewish Book Council reviews Silk Road Vegetarian

Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook by Dahlia Abraham- Klein | Jewish Book Council.

Rice & Kale with Yoghurt Za’atar

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I have been avoiding writing on my blog lately. I just did not know how to start again….
My father passed away on August 9th, while I was in London. I flew to Israel to bury him, and met with the remainder of my family as we sat shiva there for seven days. I felt whirl-winded to say the least.
A very sullen feeling came over me.
My father was the ultimate trooper and was an eternal optimist. I could hear his words in my ear, lingering… “Dahling, carry on with your life” AKA as darling, carry on with your life. Imagine that in an Afghan/Indian accent.
I am doing exactly that, and exactly what he showed me and how he lived. Nothing lasts forever, but cherish what you have and live to the fullest. He did just that.

The gift, and there are many, is that my family and my father’s family from Italy and Asia were all in Israel, coincidentally. We could share in stories of my father. He was a one of a kind – gentleman, leader, mediator, and always opened up his pocket and business to help anyone in need.

Now that I have left my father in his final resting place in Israel, there is a craving for Israel.
Interestingly, my son, who flew in from Thailand to be at the burial in Israel has decided to move to Israel for now. My niece and nephew who flew in from Miami for the burial wished they could study in Israel. I like to think that the grandkids are clinging onto my dad – his essence– but I know that I have his essence where ever I am.

While I am still in full CSA season mode, I received a bunch of kale. To bring some Mediterranean influence into a well known European vegetable, and a little feeling of my father in Israel into my food , I decided to use some za’atar and greek yoghurt for this Rice and Kale bowl. Love the hearty crunch from the kale, that almost has a charred feeling to it and pairs perfectly with the yoghurt, capers and za’atar.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

olive oil
1 bunch of kale, destemmed and chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice or any grain you prefer

To serve:

capers, rinsed, dried, and pan-fried until blistered in olive oil
sunny side-up egg
dollop of salted greek yogurt
drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil
za’atar, to taste
toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the kale and a couple pinches of salt. Saute until the kale softens a bit and darkens.
  2. Stir in the cooked rice, and cook until the rice is hot. If your rice is on the dry side, you might have to add some water.
  3. Serve the kale rice topped with (preferably) all of the following: the capers, egg, yogurt drizzled with olive oil, and plenty of za’atar.

 

Tom Kha Kai – Thai Coconut Soup

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Since I was ten years old, I have been traveling to Bangkok to visit my parents, who were once living there. We usually ate at home with the cooks preparing a dish that my mother taught them in Central Asian style, usually made vegetarian, because kosher meat was hard to find. Being so young, I did not venture out on my own in Bangkok and just ate what was served at home.

In my late teens, when I returned to Bangkok to visit my parents, I had more of a social circle and would go out with my father’s clients. My father operated a vast gemstone business where he would broker deals between the miners and purchasers. At that time, the Holiday Inn on Silom Road opened up, and looking to try some Thai foods, I ventured over there. There was a restaurant overlooking Silom Road on the top floor of the hotel. I caught my eye on the Thai Coconut Soup called, Tom Kha Kai. It’s a coconut broth soup with seasonal vegetables, that is spicy with lime and usually made with seafood or chicken.

I explained to the waitress that I would like this soup made vegetarian, since the menu stated “with chicken”. It’s very standard for Asians to put fish broth in almost everything they cook. So when I explained to her that I was vegetarian, (because Thai think that fish broth is vegetarian), I also told her that I am allergic to any fish and meat, and I will choke and need hospital care if there is any flesh in the soup. I had to make this point clear, even though I over dramatized it. She obliged and told me, “no problem”.

Twenty minutes later, came out this lemon scented coconut rich soup that was permeating the surrounding air. I had a sip, and it was AMAZING! I loved the juxtapositions of flavors that just worked. Spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time. Years later, being now, I have replicated this soup. It is so easy to make and so flavorful.  It will impress all your friends. Trust me. Since I am in full fledged CSA season, I have just added the vegetables that I had available. You can add any vegtable like, even tomatoes work.

A note about the noodles and lemongrass. You may have heard of Zero Noddles, which is the same as Tofu Shiritake. It’s a traditional Japanese noodle made from the konjac plant, which contains high amount of fiber and zero carbs. It has no taste and like tofu, absorbs the flavors of the surrounding ingredients. You can find it in any Asian supermarket or health food store. Lemongrass is prevalent in Thai cooking, and is optional in this recipe, but if you have it or can get your hands on it, it makes the difference and adds more of a citrus zing to the soup, which also is great for colds and flu.

Tom Kha Kai

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces tofu shiritake
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can water (use the coconut can to measure)
1-2 stalks minced lemongrass, optional*
2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 large minced shallots
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Lots of seasonal vegetables, for example this pot had:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
16 ounces shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions, sliced
Garnish with squeeze of fresh lime juice and handful of fresh cilantro into each bowl

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, bring the coconut milk, water, lemongrass (if using), ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes and salt to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  2. Add the seasonal vegetables to the simmering coconut milk, and cook until just tender. Depending on the vegetables used, it can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles from the bag and mix into the soup. Cook an additional 7 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a generous squeeze of lime and lots of cilantro.

* You can find fresh lemongrass in most Asian food and grocery stores. It is usually located with the other fresh produce, and is often sold in bundles of 2 or 3 stalks. When buying fresh lemongrass: Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk (near the bulb). The softer, fleshier part of the lemongrass – which is what you want to use in your cooking – is located under the tough outer leaves. Peel away these layers with your fingers and discard. What you will uncover is a pale yellow stalk that is softer and easier to slice. Cut off two inches from the bulb and make thin slices up to 2/3 of the stalk. Stop slicing when the stalk is no longer yellow and “fleshy”. Because lemongrass is so firm and fibrous, it helps to process the slices a little further. Place the lemongrass in a food processor (or chopper) and process well on “high”, OR pound for a minute or two with a pestle & mortar. Now it’s ready to use in your cooking. You can store leftovers in freezer bags and store in the freeze for up to six months.

Book Giveaway For Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook

Now is your chance to win a free copy of my cookbook. It’s so easy. Just follow the link below to goodreads and enter the contest.

The contest opens on June 6th and runs all the way until June 30th.

Good Luck!

  • Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein

    Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook (Goodreads Contest Giveaway)

    by Dahlia Abraham-Klein (Goodreads Author),

    Release date: Jun 17, 2014

    “All I can say is WOW! You’ll be eating your veggies, I guarantee it!”—Levana Kirschenbaum, celebrity chef and author of The Whole Foods Kosher Kitche…more

Inside Silk Road Vegetarian – my cookbook

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Drum roll please………. For those of you whom are anxious to see the inside of my book, it’s up on Amazon!!! I took most of the photos myself and am so proud of this book. This book of mine has been in the making for at least three years. I could have had 2 children by now. Instead, I birthed a book. You will get a big sneak peak into all the recipes I have been working on for the last three years. You can even start cooking now, as some of the recipes are available to see.

On the cover is a Moroccan Tomato Soup called Harira, which was photographed by Jennifer Jagusak. When I told my mother in law who lives in South Africa that I was writing a cookbook, she sent me this Moroccan recipe that she received from her Muslim neighbors. It’s typically eaten during Ramadan, because it is so hearty. It has everything I love in a soup – filling, sweet, tangy and spicy. A little like me, I think.

Please share this with anyone you know that would appreciate my ancient Central Asian heritage cuisine that I have geared to my vegetarian lifestyle and mindful way of living. I believe what you eat becomes part of the cellular building blocks of your ineffable essence. When food is grown, cultivated and prepared with mindfulness, you become aware of how we are all connected and connecting.

Shirin Polo – Persian Orange Peel Rice Video


I present Friday night mayhem at my parent’s house, in two parts. On Special occasions in my family, it’s customary to make  Shirin Polo – a sweet rice for a sweet life. It’s a basmati rice dish that is traditionally adorned with candied orange peels and toasted almonds.

In my mother’s usual fashion, she went all out with this rice dish, and look how beautifully she decorated the rice with strips of candied slivered orange peels, almonds, pistachios and currants.
Watching my mother prepare this rice dish, is like watching a contestant on Top Chef frantically scurrying to complete this dish before the clock goes off. Mom, calm down. You are not on a show, just this video, and all but five people watching (hope more, maybe six).

There is a special technique to making these dried orange peels. In the last ten years, dried orange peels are sold ready made by Sadaf. My mother is old school so makes them herself. First, you have to peel off the orange rinds, then further peel away at the pith, because it is bitter. Then you sliver the orange peels, real thin and leave them out on a baking sheet to dry. It can take a couple of weeks. I could remember as a child, growing up in my parents home, when ever my mother made Shirin Polo, weeks prior there were orange peels laid all over the entire dinette table, and for weeks it smelled like orange blossoms in the kitchen.

Once the orange peels are dried, then you have to soak them in water and boil it, and drain out the water, three times!! All this to remove the bitterness from the rinds. Once that’s done, you then add the sugar to the orange rinds and a splash of rose water in a sauce pot to to cook them into candied orange rinds. This particular recipe will be in my forthcoming cookbook, Silk Road Vegetarian. You can pre-order your copy now at an extraordinary price.

There is nothing comparable to Shirin Polo. Once you make this dish, it will become part of your family festivity meal. In fact, my Ashkenazi Cuban sister in law has converted into a full fledged Bukharian Baboushka!
She is the one that is holding the pot and arranging a platter of burnt rice, known to Bukharians as Tardegih made with eggs. Persians know it as Tadig and prepare it without eggs. That recipe will also feature in Silk Road Vegetarian, although everything in my cookbook is made with brown basmati rice, which has a nuttier consistency. So that’s my little teaser for what’s to come in my cookbook. The price will go up once it’s published in May.

Matboucha – Israeli Roasted Tomato Salad

Cooking a medley of tomatoes and red peppers for the Matboucha

I miss Israel. I was there this past summer for many happy occasions in my family. The main attraction was that my Italian cousin Jonny got married to Leor, whose an English Israeli. The common ground location for a wedding was naturally…. Israel.

Among the guests were my cousins from around the globe who came for the wedding – Thailand, Hong Kong, Italy, England, Los Angeles… and the list goes on. Seems like when God commanded his people to be fruitful and multiply, they took it literally. My family thought it meant to multiply in every part of the world, but what ever…. I digress.

A small fraction of my family that could fit into this photo. By the sunset. I am the one whose hand is on the man on the ground (my husband)

The other attractions were that we celebrated many big bash birthday parties in August. Seems like everyone was born in August. Again another reference to be fruitful…. There was my Italian cousin Suzanna’s Birthday party on the beach, then there was my Italian cousin Ronen’s Birthday party in a Hall where he pulled off a show for us. Like what I mean is that, he was the SHOW! He entertained us and sang to an audience of 200 people for 1 1/2 hours. And not to mention my Dad’s Birthday, or so we think. Back when he was born there were no birth certificates, so most likely his parents just made up a day. Sure, he was born in August. Why not, the weather is nice, nice time for outdoor parties. So…

The Ronen Show

With all this movement, the common meeting ground every morning for us 60 cousins that were OCCUPYING HILTON, was the Hilton Tel Aviv Breakfast. I promise you that you have never seen anything like this. Gourmet food – buffet style – non stop. There were every single kind off egg concoction you could think of, waffles, pancakes, seasonal fruits, granola, Israeli yogurts and cheeses, croissants…. got the idea. There was a lot of food.

Honey for breakfast… honey?

Among the list was my breakfast staple… Matboucha. May sound like throw up, but it’s actually so not. Matboucha is a mezze dish usually found in a plate with chummus and techina – Middle Eastern staples. Through out the years, Matboucha has become known as an Israeli dish of roasted red peppers and tomatoes. It is served cold and is considered a salad although I use that term loosely. It can be a base for many other dishes… like Shakshuka – another Middle Eastern favorite, Tomato Sauce, spread for a sandwich… just use your imagination.

So when my husband and I came back from Israel, nostalgic,  my good dutiful husband brought Israel to me. He fired up the gill and made us a matboucha. You can forgo the grill and just use the stovetop to grill the tomatoes and red peppers. The roasted caramelized flavors of the two just bring out the sweetness for this matboucha salad.

Ingredients

2 lbs Tomatoes
1 lb red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, quartered
3 dried chilies (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Place bell peppers on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 350°F until the skins have browned. Alternatively grill them or use the stovetop and place them on the grills.
  2. Submerge tomatoes in boiling hot water for 10 minutes or until the skin falls off.
  3. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice and seeds.
  4. Cut tomatoes in chunks.
  5. Peel the skin from the bell peppers and remove the seeds and stem.
  6. Cut bell peppers in chunks.
  7. Add all ingredients to a soup pot and pour oil over top.
  8. Bring contents to a boil, then turn down to a medium heat.
  9. Cook covered for 2 hours.
  10. Remove cover and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  11. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  12. Refrigerate and serve cold.