Friday, April 22, 2016

Levantine Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

I found this delicious and super easy recipe on the Lemon Bowl (, a nice web site that I have mentioned before. 

It is used throughout the Levant and is similar to Greek Tzatziki. My mother used to serve it as a side or dip for many dishes such as stuffed grape leaves. It can be used as a dip for pita bread, or as a filling for a pita bread sandwich, or included in a pita bread sandwich with Lebanese chicken, etc., etc.

Instead of buying yogurt, which is called "laban" in Arabic, my mother used to make her own from starter, which she always had.

This recipe serves a minimum of 6, but could serve 8 to 10 depending on how it's used.


- 2 cups of plain, low-fat yogurt. (I used Greek style.)
- 2 cups of cucumber, finely chopped. (I used the seedless, English cucumbers. Each one equaled about one cup.)
- Juice of one lemon.
- 1 tablespoon of dried mint (The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons.)
- 1 clove of garlic, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (Original called for 1/2 teaspoon.)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper (I used white for color purposes.)


Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Taste, and add any more of the ingredients if desired.

Mujadarra - Arabic Lentils, Rice, and Onions

Mujadarra is a dish that is popular throughout the Arab world. It was a dish that my mother used to serve us frequently when I was a child. It consists primarily of lentils, rice, and onions, and can include a variety of spices. It is easy to prepare, but takes about an hour 25 minutes to complete. The recipe I used was a highly rated one from The original recipe serves 6. I scaled it down to serve 2.  (


a. For first stage of cooking
- 1/3 cup dry lentils, rinsed. (I used green lentils)
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder

b. For second stage of cooking
- 1/4 cup white rice, rinsed
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons olive oil

c. Ingredients for third stage of cooking
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 white onion sliced into 1/4 inch rings


1. Combine the lentils, 2/3 cup of water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cumin, and garlic powder in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low, and cook until the lentils begin to soften - 20 t 30 minutes.

2. Stir in the rice, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and olive oil in with the lentils. Cover the pot and continue cooking until the lentils and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.

3. About 12 minutes before the lentils and rice are done, heat the cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions in the oil until browned, 7 to 10 minutes. 

4. Spread the onions over the lentil - rice mixture, and serve.

Levantine Date, Pistachio, and Almond Ice Cream with Date Syrup

I found this delicious and easy Levantine-flavored ice cream on a Nestle's web site that lists many delicious-sounding Middle Eastern desserts.

The page for this specific recipe is: 

For some reason, they titled this recipe, "Honey and Dates Ice Cream," even though it contains no honey.

This recipe would probably serve 10 people. It can be made several days in advance. It is made with an electric mixer, rather than with an ice cream maker. It's very similar to Italian semifreddo.

While the recipe calls for the ingredients to be put in a 9" x 5" baking dish, the ingredients are almost enough to fill two such dishes. I filled the second one about two thirds of the way to the top.


- 1 14-oz. can Nestle's sweet condensed milk
- 3 cups whipping cream
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla powder (I did not have the powder so I used 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract)
- 1.5 cups toasted almonds
- 1 cup pistachios
- 1 cup dried dates (I chopped them)
- 1/4 cup date syrup (I found this at a Sarasota Middle Eastern - South Asian grocery store called Bismallah. Oasis Cafe said they could get it for me. It's also available on Amazon. It's delicious.)


1. Combine the Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk, liquid whipping cream, and vanilla powder / extract in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until thick and creamy. 

2. Carefully fold in almonds, pistachios, and dates.

3. Pour half of the cream mixture into a foil-lined 9" x 5" loaf pan or dish.

4. Gently sprinkle with date syrup over the cream mixture in the loaf pan. Then spoon the rest of the cream mixture into the loaf pan.

5. Cover with cling film, and freeze for 12 hours until set. 

6. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and cut into thin slices.

Lebanese Avocado Tahini Appetizer - A Levantine Guacamole

One of the appetizers I prepared for a Levantine dinner recently was this delicious and easy Lebanese avocado - tahini appetizer, which I found at I adjusted it a bit to meet our tastes. We and our guests enjoyed it. The recipe below is my version. I served it with toasted pita chips, which I made from good pita slices.


- 3 tablespoons tahini (Available at some Publix stores, Middle Eastern stores, Amazon, etc.)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (Original recipe calls for 4 tbsps)
- 1 & 1/2 cups avocado (Number of avocados needed varies by size. It took me two normal-sized Hass avocados from Publix.)
- 1/4 cup parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of nice Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
(The original recipe also calls for a pinch of Cayenne. I did not use because one of us does not care for Cayenne)


Place lemon juice and tahini in a blender or food processor, and blend for a moment.

Pit and peel avocados, and cut into pieces. 

Add the avocado and remaining ingredients, except paprika, into the tahini-lemon mixture, and blend to a smooth paste.

Put on a flat serving platter or in a bowl. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve as is or chilled. 

Serve with toasted pita or arrancas (a crispy Arabic bread - with which I am not familiar)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How to Make Pita Chips

The following is a fast and easy method for toasting pita chips:

1. If possible, buy high quality pita from a Middle Eastern store. It's far superior to supermarket pita.

2. Cut pita slices in half, then in half again, then in half again. (In other words, cut into eight pieces.) Then separate top from bottom - to make two separate pieces. So for each whole slice of pita, you will end up with 16 chips.

3. Preheat oven to 375°

4. Place pita chips on cookie sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. (If you'd like, you could use spices like za'atar or any combination of spices that suits your fancy.)

5. Bake for 4 minutes. Chips should be crisp. If not, add a minute or two.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Creamy Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus

I found this fast, easy & delicious recipe on the McCormick spice web site ( I had to change a couple of things for our available ingredients and to reduce the servings from 6 to 2. The original recipe calls for linguine, but we only had spaghetti. I changed the seasoning from Tuscan to Italian.

Below is my version of the recipe, which serves 2


- 6 oz medium shrimp
- 4 oz. spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 pound asparagus, sliced diagonally into 1 & 1/2" pieces
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt


1. Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. (I forgot to reserve the water. Not sure how much of a difference this made.)

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large, deep skillet on medium heat. Add asparagus and garlic. Cook and stir 5 minutes, or until asparagus is tender crisp.

3. Add cream, seasoning, lemon juice, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir shrimp into skillet. Reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes, or just until shrimp turn pink. Add pasta and reserved cooking water; and toss to coat well. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Raspberry & Chocolate Ripple Semifreddo

This delicious recipe serves 10 and takes a bit of work, but it is well worth it. One nice thing about it is that it can be made a couple of days ahead of time. It is a nice, different dessert to add to an Italian meal.

The recipe below started with a recipe I found at I changed it by adding a couple of ingredients that I use in a Frances Mayes semifreddo that I love and have described in a previous post. I also added instructions and changed some instructions, on the basis of my own experience and the additional ingredients. 

The ingredients I added to the original recipe were Mascarpone cheese, milk, and additional raspberries.

Semifreddo is a type of soft Italian ice cream. The name means, "half cold."


- 4 oz. dark chocolate morsels
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 oz. raspberries - 8 oz. for puree and 4 oz. of whole raspberries to top when serving. (Raspberries at our Publix come in 6 oz. containers.)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1/2 cup of Mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla exract


1. Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan or dish with plastic wrap, leaving a 2" overhang on each side. The purpose of the plastic wrap is to allow you to easily remove the frozen semifreddo from the pan.

2. Place chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted and everything is combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Place 8 oz. raspberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender or food processor, and pulse until pureed. When the puree is finished, push it through a sieve into a bowl. This will remove the raspberry seeds from the puree. Scrape the bottom of the sieve with a small spoon to get additional puree into the bowl. Set aside.

4. This next step is one that requires a bit of care to avoid cooking the eggs. Place eggs, egg yolk, milk, and remaining sugar in a bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture for 10-15 minutes until it is pale or thick, or until the mixture thickens and forms trailing ribbons. Then remove from the heat and either cool the mixture by placing the bowl in an ice bath or continue stirring for 4-5 minutes to let the mixture cool. (When I was stirring the mixture over the simmering water, it only thickened slightly after about 15 minutes. This may have been due to my adding the milk.) If you see the slightest sign that the eggs are starting to harden and cook when stirring over the simmering water, immediately remove from the heat and keep stirring. After a minute or two, place the bowl back over the simmering water, and stir until mixture thickens. 

5. When the egg mixture is finished, let it cook in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half. When the mixture has cooled, stir in the Mascarpone cheese.

6. Place the heavy cream in a mixing bowl and use a mixer to mix it until it thickens and soft peaks form. Then add the vanilla and mix to combine. (Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer to whip the cream.) 

7. Now use a spatula to fold the egg-Mascarpone and the whipped cream mixtures together.

To Assemble

Pour a 1/2 cup or more of the semifreddo mixture into the loaf pan, and spoon stripes of raspberry puree and chocolate on top. Continue to layer until all the ingredients are combined. (I reserved a bit of the puree to spoon on top of each serving at serving time.)

Place in the freezer for 4-6 hours or until set.

When ready to serve, turn the loaf pan upside down over a cutting board, and remove the semifreddo. Slice, and top with puree and fresh raspberries.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Pork Tenderloin with Orange Juice - Delicious & Easy

This pork tenderloin recipe is from the Italian cookbook, Silver Spoon. It's delicious and really, really easy. The Italian name is Arrosto all'Arancia.

It serves 6 to 8. You can easily change the serving size by changing the size of the tenderloin.


- 2 & 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 & 1/2 cups orange juice, strained
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 garlic clove, diced
- pinch of chili powder
- pinch of oregano
- salt & pepper


1. Heat oven to 350°

2. Melt butter in a pan, and add orange juice, orange zest, garlic, chili powder and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

3. Let the meat set outside the refrigerator for half an hour, then rub with salt and pepper, and place in a roasting pan. (If you use a ceramic dish, you may have to change the cooking time.)

4. Pour in the juice mixture and baste the tenderloin. 

5. Roast the tenderloin for about 1 & 1/2 hours, basting frequently.

6. Carve and serve with the cooking juices.