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wild thyme

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زعتر [zaatar]: one of the dearest Arabic words to my heart that refers to either 1) thyme which is a very aromatic and rich herb widely used, fresh or dried, in the Levantine cuisine or 2) a beautiful blend made of dried zaatar, sumac, salt, and sesame seeds as main components yet with different recipes varying from one kitchen or cook to another. You will find zaatar almost in every Palestinian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian household and it is usually, and proudly, served with the finest of olive oil for fresh bread to be dipped into both for breakfast or at anytime of the day, really.

mjaddarah: a taste from home away from home

Mjaddarah (مدردرة – مجدرة), the “hungry man’s food”, is a simple yet very rich dish that is relatively popular in the Arab world and a food enjoyed by everyone. Classically served with yogurt and mint, Mjaddarah is a true delight.

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Reminding me of home, Mjaddarah has always been a favorite dish that I would delightfully have anytime, anywhere. And lately, I have been nostalgic and missing my mum’s cooking and so, naturally, have been craving this dish often. And I’m not ashamed to admit that, despite my love for this dish, I failed to make it a few times before. So being finally able to prepare it not only makes me happy knowing I can enjoy this dish whenever I want, but also give me a certain sense of pride.

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tomato, zucchini and yogurt for three vegetarian mezze dishes

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Rich in some of my childhood flavours, these three vegetarian mezze dishes are incredibly easy to prepare and represent an authentic taste of the Levantine cuisine. And they can be eaten on their own or served with some fresh lebanese pita bread.

So next time you plan a get together, make sure to include these three beautiful vegetarian dishes in your menu.

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fresh coriander meatballs & sauce

Meatballs 1

Fresh Coriander Meatballs & Sauce

Fresh Coriander Meatballs & Sauce

Meatballs in Coriander and Pinenut Sauce
I remember when I was a kid, I used to get confused between fresh coriander (cilantro) and parsley as their leaves look very similar, despite the very distinctive flavour and aroma of coriander. Of course that is no more the case (fortunately!), but now I find it amusing to ask my kids to tell the difference between them when we go grocery shopping.

But the truth remains that till about a decade ago, I was never in love with coriander. And it was only after I met Ali, my husband, that I discovered my hidden love for this most amazing herb. For the way he finds pleasure in adding fresh coriander to different kind of dishes intrigued me and made me want to do my own discoveries.

Now, obsessed with coriander, I not only add it to as much recipes as I can, but I even find myself creating recipes with coriander as its main ingredient. However, it seems I’m not the only to have (or to ever have had) a crash on coriander. Most probably native to the Mediterranean basin, this herb and its seeds seem to have been the obsession of different civilisations, like the Pharaohs and Greeks, for both their culinary and medicinal uses.

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Meatballs 3
For the Recipe:

Ingredients

Meatballs:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
500 g mince meat
2 1/2 tsp sweet spices
Salt & pepper, according to taste

Coriander Sauce:
4 cups fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp pine nuts
Salt & pepper, according to taste

1 cup meat stock
To prepare the meatballs: in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil then sauté the chopped onion for a few minutes stirring continuously till onion has browned a bit and soften. Add the garlic and chopped coriander and sauté for one minute further. Pour the mixture into a large bowl then add the meat, sweet spices and season with salt & pepper. Mix well using your hands, then shape the mixture into bite-size balls (about 32 – 36 small balls). Using the same frying pan, cook the meatballs over medium heat, stirring often, for about 8 – 10 minutes (or till balls are golden brown). Remove the meatballs from the pan and keep in an air-tight container to keep them warm while preparing the coriander sauce.

To prepare the sauce: still using the same pan, sauté the chopped coriander and garlic for a couple of minutes before adding in the pine nuts. Season with salt & pepper and cook further over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
Return the meatballs to the frying pan, add the meat stock and cook further over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Serve right away with plain white rice or with some nice fresh pita bread!

Bon Appétit!