Category Archives: Week 2

Dinner: A Traditional Friday Night Meal

Today we decided to fulfill our mother’s requests of preparing a traditional Friday night meal. We took some recipes from each of our families, creating a feast with flavors from many different regions of the world. We started with our homemade kibbe (you can read about the process here: https://sarahandrachel13.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/recipe-kibbe/) and then moved onto the main meal. Hashu stuffed chicken (https://sarahandrachel13.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/recipe-stuffed-chicken/), challah bread (https://sarahandrachel13.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/recipe-challah-bread/), roasted potatoes, and a green salad garnished our table, and we finished off the meal with some bakery purchases. A delicious end to the work week.

Our Reaction:

The foods we made were foods we were comfortable with, used to the flavors and textures, and accustomed to watching them cook. Only this time, there were no parents to help us–tell us when things were done, and how much to make. This didn’t impair us too much, but every once in awhile we doubted our abilities.

Our first task was the challah. Since it takes some time to rise, it was a natural start to our cooking day. It was also one of the more difficult processes. Baking is a science, and so we had to be precise with our measurements, mixing times, and rising times. After we had the dough all prepared, we encountered the next challenge–braiding. Challah can be braided in many ways, but the most traditional for a normal Friday night is a four strand braid, not the three strand most girls are used to. Luckily, we figured it out okay and our challahs turned out beautifully (not to toot our own horns or anything). One of our family members even asked were we bought them.

challah 2     challah 1

We then moved on to our roasted potatoes, which cook for a long time. We didn’t really use a recipe for them. Instead we trusted our instincts, and again had success. Starting off, we cut about 12 medium sized potatoes into small chunks, then coated them in a thin layer of olive oil. We threw on some rosemary, and then put them in a 350 degree oven for an hour and a half (or until sufficiently golden). Yum!

potatoes

Yet another daunting task was the stuffed chickens. The uncooked chickens are utterly disgusting, but in order to cook them well, we had no choice but to use our bare hands to smother them in spices. We also, having decided to stuff the chickens, had to squeeze our hashu (rice, raw meat, and spices) into the pockets of the chicken. Despite the unpleasantry of this process, and the surprisingly long amount of time it took to cook, it was a huge success! Everyone loved the chicken and it was a great centerpiece to our meal.

hashu        chicken 2

The last thing we did was fry up our kibbe. Unlike the long process of actually forming the meat pockets, cooking them takes little time. A few minutes in the hot oil, and they’re ready to drizzle with lemon juice and enjoy. Our kibbe got high praise from the connoisseurs at our table. They were admired for the thin shell, and to be honest, they just tasted delicious.

kibbe

Cooking with a Chef: Kibbe Making

As a continuation of last week’s Middle Eastern week, we adventured to Brooklyn to learn how to make traditional Syrian kibbe, or meat-filled dough pockets. It was a bit of a drive, but when we finally made it, it was well worth the effort.

When we arrived, our chef (Sarah’s aunt), had already cooked the meat for us, because it’s best cooked a day advance. Nevertheless, she gave us detailed instructions on how to sauté it with onions to perfection. We then proceeded to making the dough: an unique combination of Bulgar wheat, flour and matzoh meal. Throughout all of this, we scrambled to write everything down to use again on our own. The outcome– a recipe (https://sarahandrachel13.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/recipe-kibbe/) that despite it’s accuracy, on it’s own would never produce the same results as the experienced chef.

The dough was extremely thick and we had to constantly moisten our hands with water to prevent the Bulgar wheat in the dough from drying out.

kibbe 1

We then pushed the dough through a meat grinder attachment for a stand mixer. The part of the grinder where the dough comes out from was fitted with a small metal plug in order to produce very thin round cylinders of the dough. Although it can be molded into the same cylindrical shape with just our hands, when we attempted it we found it was significantly more difficult and more time consuming, so we opted to use the machine-made ones for the majority of our kibbe.

kibbe 2                 kibbe 3

We immediately closed up one end of the cylinders with our moistened fingers, carefully pressing the dough together into a rounded shape. Then, using a small teaspoon we filled these pockets with the pre-made meat mixture, taking care to fill the pocket as much possible without breaking it. Finally we closed the top off by once again carefully pressing the dough together, but this time instead of rounding it off, we shaped it into a slight point. Each of these kibbe was then place on a large tray to be put into the freezer.

kibbe 4

Once frozen, they could be removed from the tray and placed into bags for storage. For the best results they should be deep fried when they’re actually cooked. Many people of Syrian families have either forgotten how to make them from scratch, or choose not to due to the fact that they’re extremely labor intensive. For these people, pre- formed kibbe can be bought in Middle Eastern stores already ready to fry. Although we have not fried our freshly made kibbe yet, we have full confidence that they will turn out successful and we plan to fry them as part of our traditional Jewish Friday night dinner that we are making this week.

After we had finished the kibbe, our chef took us around to local stores to show us where she gets some of the ingredients, and to allow us to purchase our own Bulgar wheat. We started in an entirely Kosher Supermarket, then stopped in at a butcher and a Middle Eastern bakery, and finally ended up in another Middle Eastern store that seemed to carry everything.

store 1 store 2

store 3 store 4

In addition to a few bags of Bulgar wheat, we decided to purchase a couple of Syrian deserts, also for our Friday night dinner.

bulgar

desert2 kaak           desert1

All in all, it was an extremely successful day!

Dinner: Chilli and Cornbread

Today we wanted to make a classic American dish, so we thought: chilli. And of course, some delicious cornbread muffins to go along with it. This was one of the more entertaining meals we’ve had thus far, because although we had the basic ingredients for the chilli down, we were smelling spices left and right to see what we should add. Our recipe (https://sarahandrachel13.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/recipe-chili/) was entirely based on our guesswork yet it was a huge success!

Our Reaction:

We were a bit skeptical of our handiwork when we started combining all of the ingredients. It felt like we were filling a vat with everything but the kitchen sink. We proceeded onward, hoping that everything would come together. Our next challenge was the spices–how much/what kinds/how many? It felt like we were dumping more and more in, but each time they disappeared, dispersing through the thick tomatoey liquid. After adding more and more, we eventually reached a nice balance of smokey, savory, and spicy. We then let it cook and boil down for awhile. Aside from the chopping of veggies, and the occasional stir, the chili was a pretty easy and hands-off meal. It was warm, and filling, and perfect for any cold and rainy day.

chili 1           chili 2

Baking is a science, not an art, so for the corn bread muffins, we knew we had to use a recipe. We found a recipe we liked, and then, crossing our fingers, adjusted it so that it fit with our dietary restrictions (see note on https://sarahandrachel13.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/recipe-corn-bread-muffins/). We were a bit nervous how the adjustments would turn out, but everything went smoothly. The bread was sweet, but not too sweet, and had a nice corn flavor without being overwhelming. All in all, a   great addition to the chili.

cornbread