Sunday, July 24, 2016

Maqluba - Palestinian Eggplant, Lamb, and Rice Stew

Maqluba is a delicious eggplant, lamb, rice, tomato. and onion stew that my mother used to make for the family when we were growing up. I finally decided to give it a try and was happy with the results. It's easy to make. This version serves four to six and takes about 90 minutes to prepare. 

This version is made with ground lamb, but it can also be made with ground beef or cubed lamb or chicken. There are vegetarian versions as well.

The name "Maqluba" means, "upside-down" because you're supposed to flip it over onto a serving dish when finished. I chose not to do that because of the size pan I used. The recipe calls for a 3-quart pan, but I used a 6-quart instead because of the amount of ingredients.

I served it with pita bread and yogurt sauce for the pita bread.

I found this recipe at Needless to say, there are other versions on the Internet.


- olive oil - 1/4 cup
- eggplant -1, sliced into 1/4" rounds
- onion - 1 minced
- ground or cubed lamb or beef, or cubed chicken - 1 lb
- allspice - 1 teaspoon
- cinnamon - 1/2 teaspoon
- nutmeg - large pinch
- salt and pepper - to taste
- tomato sliced into 1/4" rounds - 1
- water or stock, well seasoned with salt - 2 cups (I used beef stock)
- rice, soaked in water for 1/2 hour to cover. then drained - 1 & 1/2 cups


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté eggplant slices on each side to lightly brown. Remove to a plate.

2. Add more oil to the skillet if needed, and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the meat, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and sauté until cooked through. (If the meat is ground, break it up after putting it into the pan.) Drain off excess oil.

3. Coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 3-quart sauce pan with butter or olive oil or lard. (As I said, I used a 6-quart pan.) Lay the tomato slices to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the drained rice over the tomatoes. Spoon the meat and onion mixture over the rice. Lay the eggplant slices to cover the meat and onion mixture. Press down well to compact all the ingredients. Add the rest of the rice and seasoned water or stock.

4. Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then quickly reduce heat to low. Cover tightly and simmer for 45-50 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking time, check to see if more water is needed.

5. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Remove lid and invert a serving plate over the pan. Turn upside down and carefully slip the pan off the rice. Serve hot.

If rice sticks to the bottom when you cook it, the next time, try covering the bottom of the saucepan with a round of parchment paper. (I had no problem with the rice sticking, probably because I coated the bottom with a generous amount of olive oil.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mattison's Forty One - Terrific As Always - Savor Sarasota

Paul Mattison is an extraordinary chef. He currently operates three restaurants in Sarasota - Manatee:
- Mattison's Forty-One
- Mattison's City Grille
- Mattison's Bayside

His menus are always creative and the cooking superbly executed. This evening, we enjoyed a Savor Sarasota Dinner at Mattison's Forty-One. It was exceptional. The three-course dinners with bread were $29. Every bite was mouth watering.

My wife's first course was Summer yellow pepper gazpacho with shrimp salsa. Mine was a lump crab cake with pickled vegetables and mandarin-habanero remoulade. Yum-yum-yum-yum.

My wife's main dish was short rib with gribiche oil, smashed fingerling potatoes, and Sweetgrass Tokyo Bekana Grape Slaw.

My main dish was Seafood Paella with Gulf Shrimp, Chorizo Sausage, Grouper, Snapper, Salmon, Mussels, and fresh saffron rice with Saffron Broth.

Her dessert was warm Chocolate Espresso Torte, and mine was White Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse.

The wine I chose was a type of Spanish red wine that I have never had - Bierzo, made of grapes I have never had - Mencia. It is from the northwest of spain. There are only 22,000 acres planted with this grape. The make was Losada and the vintage 2010. The cost was only $37. It was very enjoyable.

Our server, Robert, was a consummate professional.

The Savor Sarasota menu at Mattison's Forty-One continues through September 30.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Persian Chicken, Pomegranate Syrup, Walnut Stew - Khoresh-e Fesenjan

A popular dish in Persian cuisine is Khoresht-e Fesenjan. It's primary ingredients are chicken, walnuts, pomegranate syrup, and onions. It is easy to make, and is served over rice. It is from northern Iran and was originally made with duck. Like so many other recipes, there are many variants, including vegan.

The types of rice used for the most authentic versions are Persian white or yellow rice (polo or chelo), which are prepared with Basmati rice. On this occasion, I prepared the Basmati rice in the normal manner because my recent first attempt at chelo was unsuccessful. I will try again.

I found this version at, at a blog which has many interesting-sounding Persian recipes. I recommend looking at the URL above because the author has pictures and commentary. The author of that article comments that, when pomegranate fruit is in season, she sprinkles pomegranate seeds on the finished stew.

The recipe below serves 5 to 6. Total prep and cooking time is close to 2 hours. Prep is really easy.

I found the pomegranate syrup (aka pomegranate molasses) at Bismallah Grocery on 17th St. at Lockwood Ridge in Sarasota. It carries Middle Eastern and South Asian groceries. They carry two varieties. I bought 17 oz. Cortas brand which is from Lebanon and which the store owner said is the most popular. It sells for $6.50. Pomegranate syrup is available on 


One and a half large yellow onions, sliced thin

2 pounds of skinless chicken drumsticks or thighs (4 -5 pieces). I used 1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless thighs, cut into large pieces.

8 ounces walnut halves (about 2 cups). 8-ounce bags are sold in supermarkets

1/4 cup cold water

1 cup pomegranate concentrate

3 to 4 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp cracked black pepper

Pomegranate seeds for garnish (if available)


Pick through the walnuts for shells, then put in a food processor and process until the walnuts become a tan-colored paste.

With the food processor running, add the cold water through the feed chute. Continue processing until the paste becomes uniformly beige in color.

Put the vegetable oil and onion in a 6-qt stockpot and fry until golden brown. Then remove the onion from the stockpot.

Add the chicken to the stockpot and top it with the fried onions.

Spoon the walnut paste over the fried onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the pomegranate concentrate over  all the ingredients.

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Avoid high heat because the pomegranate concentrate tends to stick and burn fairly quickly. (I had no problem.)

Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for an additional 75 minutes, or until the chicken is fork tender and falls off the bone. Stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure the sauce does not stick to the pot. If at the end of this period, the sauce has not thickened enough, leave the pot uncovered on low heat for about 10 more minutes. 

Transfer the Fesenjan to a serving dish and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top for garnish. 

Serve over white steamed Persian rice.