Archive for the ‘Mediterranean’ Category

Dinner at Azar’s

(This one’s for you, Eric 😉 )

My friend Barbara and I had dinner at Azar’s tonight, our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant with the attached market. Need some fabulous feta? Terrific tabouli? The best baklava? This is the place to find them.

I had a kefte wrap – a hotdog-shaped piece of hamburger mixed with spices, cooked, and wrapped in a pita with pickles, hummus, tomato, and Azar’s famous Mama Lina Sauce. I also ordered an appetizer of stuffed grape leaves, to bring home to Dan for his dinner, along with half of my sandwich (they’re huge!). Barbara had seafood kebab, beautifully grilled and served with saffron rice. Great meal. We skipped the baklava, since I, at least, overindulged a bit during our vacation to Michigan last week.

Eating there reminds me of my trip to Turkey in 2001, with my mom, aunt, uncle, and two couples who are friends of theirs. Our tour guide in Istanbul said that, because the Ottoman Empire covered practically all of the Middle East and parts of Europe and Africa, for hundreds of years, most modern-day countries in those areas claim lots of the same recipes, such as hummus and tabouli, as their own. In fact, the recipes came from the Sultan‘s kitchen and were spread by the Ottoman army throughout its territory. For example, stuffed grape leaves in southern Europe became stuffed cabbage.

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A couple more notes about Azar’s…

Forgot to mention, about our dinner at Azar’s:

  • I don’t really care for the salad dressing there. They call it Mama Lina’s – it’s a mustard-based dressing, not a vinaigrette, as I would expect in a Mediterranean place. They have very good hummus, though. In fact, it’s sold in grocery stores around here.
  • We had tiramisu for dessert – it’s not classically prepared, but it was excellent nonetheless.
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TNT Dinner: Azar’s

Tonight the TNT dinner group gathered at Azar’s Natural Foods and Mediterranean Specialties, a local Middle Eastern restaurant/market in the Ghent area of Norfolk. It’s a nice little restaurant with a small market in the front where you can buy Middle Eastern spices, olives, cheeses, desserts, hummus, coffees, and lots of other goods. The staff is always friendly and the portions ample.

  • I had a combination platter – kibbi, kefta and lamb kebab with rice, grilled vegetables and yogurt garlic spread. It was quite good, and was more than I could eat in one sitting. I usually get a kefta sandwich on pita when I come here for lunch.
  • Corey had a seafood linguine with tomato sauce – she ended up trading it with Susan because Susan’s choice, the salmon stuffed with spinach and feta, was too salty for her taste. Both enjoyed the plates they ended up with 🙂
  • Barbara had the lamb shank with curried rice/vermicelli pilaf, which was also very good.
  • Karen had the vegetarian platter, which included a great tabouli salad, three grape leaves and a wrap, with pita bread and olives. She says it was excellent and the price was reasonable.

Kibbee is something new for me. When we were visiting Dan’s brother Eric and his wife Jennifer in Michigan a few weeks ago, they gave me a Lebanese cookbook from a local Lebanese restaurant that catered a celebration party for their son’s christening, and it has a recipe for kibbi (spelled kibbee in the cookbook). So here’s the recipe for kibbee:

Raw Kibbee (kibbee nayee)

2 cups fine bulghur
1 medium onion
1 1/2 teaspoons kibbee spice (below)
5 teaspoons salt
2 lbs. finely ground beef or lamb

Kibbee Spice

1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tbsp. dried mint, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. pepper

Rinse the bulghur twice in cold water, drain and cover to 1/2 inch with fresh water to soak. Grind the onion in a blender or food processor until fine, add kibbee spice and salt, stir to blend. Add the mixture to the ground meat and knead thoroughly by hand.

Squeeze any unabsorbed water from the bulghur and add the wheat to the meat. Knead until well blended, adding ice water as necessary to keep a very soft consistency.

To Serve

Place raw kibbee on a plate and shape into a round with a slightly flat top. Drizzle with butter or olive oil. Spread on yogurt or kibbee filling (housie) as an appetizer (mezza) with pita triangles or crackers, green onions, and olives.

No, I didn’t eat raw kibbee 🙂 I ate baked kibbee, as follows:

Kibbee meat filling (housie)

1 large onion
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 lb. lean beef or lamb, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. each allspice and cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

1 recipe raw kibbee

Dice the onion and saute with the pine nuts in butter until onion is tender and nuts are golden brown. Add ground meat and cook until no longer pink, stirring and mashing to remove lumps. Add pepper, allspice, cinnamon and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside to cool.

Divide raw kibbee in half. Pat one portion evenly in the bottom of a buttered 8×12 pan; layer the housie over it. Shape the remaining half of the raw kibbee into thin patties (hamburger style) and place these next to one another over the filling. Press the edges together, using a little water, to make a smooth top layer.

Cut into squares of two or three inches and score the top of each with an X from corner to corner. Dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until bottom is done and top is browned. Serve with hot baked chicken and Lebanese salad.

Both kibbee recipes from “Kibbee ‘n’ Spice and Everything Nice” by Janet Kalush

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