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  • Mai


Musakhan is one of the most popular and traditional Palestinian dishes. I have eaten my share of it especially during the olive harvest season. It was made to celebrate the freshly pressed golden olive oil. I remember as a teenager doing volunteer work at the villages nearby during the olive harvest season. As a reward for our help in picking and sorting the olives we were served Musakhan. Loaves of freshly baked taboon bread that the ladies in the village had just made over open fire in the taboon oven*. The taboon bread is then loaded with ruby onions that are slightly tangy from the sumac that had been sautéed in the golden olive oil and the topped with roasted chicken. The smell was so good it was so hard to work. Musakhan consists of humble yet glorious ingredients. Golden Palestinian olive oil, tangy sumac, spices, sweet caramelized onions and chewy charred Taboon bread.

Palestinian olive oil is extra virgin, and has a robust pungent flavor when its first pressed. The slightly peppery bite, is a sign of the oil's high quality and natural antioxidants. So when the fresh peppery olive oil is paired with the taboon bread, its a match made in food heaven.

Musakhan is a dish that is typically eaten with one's hands just like you would a pizza. If you are invited over for Musakhan don’t expect a fork and a knife. It is usually presented with a generous amount of chicken on top of the bread, and could be served with a simple broth based soup, a simple chopped salad and thick yogurt. The word "Musakhan" literally means "something that is heated or warmed". Which refers to the fact that the components of this dish are made separately and then are assembled and heated together.



*Taboon bread gets its name from the oven it’s baked in. The "taboon" oven, which is a stone oven that resembles a small room. It is roofed with huge sticks of olive branches, and clay to prevent rain water, and in the middle of its floor is a taboon mold made of clay, and polished round pebbles. The dough is placed straight on top of the hot pebbles creating charred and delicious dimples in the bread.

Taboon bread is made of simple ingredients; often white or wheat flour, a little salt, sugar and warm water. The dough gets divided into small round balls, and rolled thin with a little flour to avoid sticking. Although you can find taboon bread all over Palestine and now often made in commercial ovens. But it’s the pebbles, mud and olive branches that gives the taboon bread its distinct taste and texture.

Eating taboon bread in the country side in Palestine, where the blue skies meet top of the hills, and the air is crisp and loaded with the intense smell of the olive harvest it’s there where you will find the best taboon and the best muskhan.


Serves: 4

Total cook time: 60 minutes

Prep time: 40 minutes





Ingredients


Sumac

  • 1 chicken fryer cut up into 4- 6 pieces ∗

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • 14 onions, thinly sliced ∗∗

  • 2 medium taboon bread ∗∗*

  • 1/3 cup good quality ruby sumac plus 1 tablespoon

  • Pine nuts to garnish

  • Salt

  • Black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • A pinch of ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions:


The chicken: You could boil the chicken first with aromatics to make a broth, then strain it, and then roast the cooked chicken in the oven. I however just drizzle the chicken pieces with olive oil, rub spices all over the chicken, and bake in 375°F/ 190°C oven for 40-50 min until cooked through and the skin is crispy and browned.



The onions:  In a heavy large pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onions until completely soft not browned. This process takes time, up to 30-45 minutes depending on how deep or shallow your pot is. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Off the heat, add the sumac saving 1 tablespoon for the garnish.




The Bread:  Taboon bread is made of simple ingredients; often white or wheat flour, a little salt, sugar and warm water. The dough gets divided into small round balls, and rolled thin with a little flour to avoid sticking. If you cant find Taboon, you can use any flat bread.


To Assemble: Dunk the chicken in the olive oil and onion mixture. Generously scatter the caramelized onions over the taboon bread. Add the chicken pieces on top. Sprinkle with pine nuts and the rest of the sumac. Return to a pre-heated oven at 350°F/180°C for 10 minutes until the bread crisps up and soaks up all the flavors.


To eat: Serve each person either a whole loaf or half based on the size of your bread. With a piece of chicken on top. Cut pieces with your hand making sure every bite has lots of onions and chicken. Serve with lots of napkins and don’t be scared to get messy.

∗ The USDA defines a fryer chicken weighing between 2-1/2 and 4 -1/2 pounds.

∗∗ You want enough onions to generously cover the taboon bread.

∗∗∗ Use your judgment because taboon comes in various sizes

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  • Mai


Minestrone is a thick Italian soup made with vegetables, often with the addition of pasta or rice. The name minestrone means "big soup" thanks to the amount of veggies that are stirred in one pot. Minestrone was traditionally made to use up leftover vegetables, and ingredients that you often have at hand such as beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock, tomatoes and pasta or rice. so feel free to use any seasonal vegetables and greens you have on hand. I used sweet potatoes and kale for the soup and it was absolutely delicious. Use a hunk of parmesan cheese in the tomatoes broth (just the Rind) it will add richness and depth to the soup plus more cheese shavings on top. This is a soup I make almost once or twice a month when the weather gets cooler. It’s loaded with veggies and plant based protein, it’s made in one pot and tastes even better the next day, my kids really love it. A big bowl of soup, a hunk of bread and back to the tv to watch more election news, I might need extra cheese and maybe some red wine.

Serves 6 to 8

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME: 60 min minutes


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 yellow onion finely chopped

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Two sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 3 stalks celery chopped

  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds

  • 1 sweet potato diced

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans

  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (not traditional but extra protein) rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup short pasta (I used orzo)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • salt, and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 (2x3-inch) Parmesan rind

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes or a can of diced tomatoes

  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth or just water there’s lots of flavor in the soup

  • 4 cups chopped kale or spinach

  • Parmesan cheese and crusty bread, for serving

Directions




To a soup pot or a Dutch oven add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to sizzle, add the onion and a sprinkling of salt, and hot pepper flakes if using, and sauté until softened about 3 minutes. Add the diced carrots and celery and cook for a few minute 4to 5 minutes. The caramelized veggies will add a nice depth and flavor to the soup.

  • Add the sweet potato and garlic and sauté until slightly softened.

  • Add the bay leaf, Rosemary sprigs, tomatoes, and broth. Add the Parmesan rind, crushed tomatoes, 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or even water, and the beans. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

  • Stir in 1 cup dry short pasta, during the final 6 to 8 minutes of cooking

  • Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Remove the Parmesan rind, the rosemary stem, and the bay leaf.

  • Stir in the 4 cups of kale and simmer until combined and the greens wilt. About 5 more minutes. Adjust your seasoning.

  • Serve the soup with more Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread.



RECIPE NOTES

Vegetable and bean variations: feel free to use whatever in season or what you have at hand. If you don’t like kale use spinach if you don’t have sweet potatoes, add regular potatoes. Add zucchini or bite size broccoli florets. Experiment and have fun.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Soup thickens in the fridge, add more water or broth when reheating or as needed.

This soup freezes real well for up to 6 months in freezer safe containers.


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Blue skies and landscapes crowned with olive trees, branches hanging heavy with this years olives crop. A festive season where families, men, women and children of all ages come together to harvest the olives. They pack a picnic and head early in the morning to their olive groves scattered all over the hills of Palestine. The olive groves are often passed on through generations. Not only the olive trees have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy but the ancient trees with their tough branches and deep roots are a powerful symbol of resilience, culture and the Palestinian identity.

It’s a family affair and it takes few days to gather all the olives depending how many trees the family owns. Children reach up toward the branches of the olive trees, piles of purple and green olives are collected on top of a large tarp, spread out on the ground right beneath.


Zeit zaytoun is the Arabic word for olive oil which is at the heart of the Palestinian cuisine. It’s used for dressings, marinades, and for sautéing vegetables and meats. Morning ritual in most Palestinian homes consist of two ceramic bowls at the heart of the kitchen table, one for olive oil and one for za'atar. Warmed khubez (pita bread) gets first dunked in the oil then in the Za’atar. To me this tradition is my Palestinian communion.

Fall is the time when olives are harvested and mostly made into olive oil, while some of it is used to make pickled olives that are pretty much enjoyed with every meal. But fall is also the season to celebrate new vegetables that are the main ingredient of many Palestinian dishes. With green beans and spicy peppers still growing in the garden it means one thing. Tetas carrot and green beans spicy pickles preserved in olive oil. My teta would prepare jars and jars of this delicious mixture for her mouneh cabinet “pantry”. This mixture is delicious with Labaneh, on top of hummus, in a sandwich or with grilled meats and veggies.

And I really enjoy the taste of the olive oil after, as it sits and gets infused with all the chili’s, vegetables and garlic flavors, its get richer and more delicious with time. #الزيت_عماد_البيت

#itsoliveoilseason

#simply_oliveoil

Yield: 3 to 4 cups

Time: 30 min active time


Ingredients






1/4 cup sea salt

2 cups carrots diced small about 6-7 carrots

2 cups fresh green beans trimmed and chopped into small rounds about 1/2 a pound

4 to 8 serrano peppers or jalapeños, diced or thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups olive oil

Directions



  • Combine 2 cups water and the salt in a glass bowl. Mix until the salt is dissolved. Add the carrots, serrano's, and green beans to the salt water and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  • Day 2, drain and rinse the vegetables. In a clean sterilized jar add the vegetables, add the minced garlic toss well to combine and cover with the two cups of oil or until the vegetables are completely submerged in the olive oil. This Palestinian style Giardiniera will only get better with time. It can keep in the fridge for months. Or if fully submerged in olive oil it can stay in a dry place in the pantry.



Why the salt soak?

  1. Soaking the cut veggies in a salt water solution allow for some of the moisture in the vegetables to be drawn from the tissues, which helps to preserve crisp texture through the pickling process.

  2. Soaking in a saltwater brine allows the correct bacteria to ferment and break apart the sugars in the vegetables


Serving suggestions:

This is delicious eaten on top of Labaneh, hummus, in a sandwich, with roasted or grilled meats. I just love it with warm pita bread.

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