“Dinner Club Night”
Those three words used to always bring on a flutter of nerves to my stomach and, at the same time, an excited smile to my face. It was a great group of women with very different cultural and culinary backgrounds. Each month we would find a date when we could all meet and share a fabulous meal and catch up on everything that had happened over the past 4 weeks.
Each January we would go out to dinner and plan our meetings for the coming year. We would each choose our months to host. The hostess of the month would develop the menu, and assign a recipe to each of the members (we started out assigning a book to read as well, but quickly realized that was too ambitious!!).
We travelled all over the world at those dinner tables and we were all pushed to try recipes which we may have never considered before (I became a master at filo dough because of this group!)
One of our members (and later her twin sister joined our group) had a middle eastern background. It was always an extra treat when she was the host — we loved exploring and indulging in this exotic cuisine! One of the most amazing things was this beautiful rice cake with a perfectly toasted top — we loved hearing all of the tricks the Arabic women would try to create the perfect crust.
The evening would usually end with a round of belly dancing and white coffee (more on that later).
Over the years, our lives have changed, people have moved on, and that special dinner club is no more. I still have many of the menus, recipes and certainly the memories of some of my favorite meals of all times.
The other night my dinner club friend (I will call her Ms. R) had a group over for dinner. I was expecting a catered affair, but was floored with enthusiasm when I saw she had cooked for us!!
Sadly, I only had my i-phone, so these photos are a little grainy. But the evening was incredible, and it was such a treat to taste my friends wonderful cuisine again. Beyond being an amazing cook, Ms. R has an incredible sense of style. A small example of this are the beautiful glassybaby sipping cups from which the guests enjoyed their wine.
Ms. R generously agreed to share with the Splendid Market readers her recipes for Tabouleh and Kaftah. These recipes are simple to prepare (although these is a lot of parsley to chop — the key to great Tabouleh).
If you try them I’m sure you will be more than pleased with this splendid Arabic comfort food!
4 to 6 servings
4 to 5 bunches of Italian Parsley
1 bunch of mint
4 big tomatoes seeds removed and cut into small cubes
1 bunch of spring onions (scallions) cut into small slices
1 table spoon of Bulgur (cracked wheat) rinsed and squeezed from water
juice of three lemons
1/2 cup of olive oil
a pinch of Sumac (available at middle eastern stores) and cinamon
wash and chop the parsley leaves as small as possible by hand(take as much as possible of the stem out)
wash and chop mint
add tomatoes and onions
add spices and lemon juice
add salt to your taste and top with olive oil.
Try eating your tabouleh with a leaf of letuce .
I liked the wikipedia definition of Tabouleh:
Tabbouleh (Arabic: also tabouleh or tabouli) is a Levantine salad dish. Traditionally a mountain dish from the Eastern Mediterranean, it has become one of the most popular Middle Eastern salads.
Its primary ingredients are finely chopped parsley, bulgur, mint, tomato, spring onion, and other herbs with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings, generally including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice.
In the Arab world, but particularly the Greater Syrian region, it is usually served as part of the mezze, and is served with romaine lettuce. In Iraq, the dish is considered native to Mosul, whose cuisine is tightly linked to that of Syria. The Lebanese use more parsley than bulgur wheat in their dish.
A Turkish variation of the dish is known as kısır, while a similar Armenian dish is known as eetch. In Cyprus, where the dish was introduced by the Lebanese, it is known as tambouli.
Ms. R’s fabulous Kaftah
preheat oven to 400 degrees
1 -1/2 pounds of half ground lamb half ground beef
2 white onions chopped
1 1/2 bunch of parsley cleaned off stem
salt and a pinch of allspice
2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 table spoons of tomato paste and one table spoon of pomgrante syrup mixed with 3/4 liter of water
In a food processor chop onion with all spice then add the meat and salt
add a couple of ice cubes while turning the meat till it becomes a little sticky
add the parsley until well chopped and mixed.
take the mixer and leave in the fridge for a few minutes while preparing the sauce
in a pan spread the meat in a one centimeter.
boil two potatoes half way and slice thin.
spread the sliced tomatoes on the meat and top it with potatoes and add sauce
sprinkle with salt
cook for about 35 to 40 minutes