A Summer Dinner Party With Arab Dishes
By: Waverly Nohr / America Contributing Writer
As the days begin getting hotter and COVID19 guidelines loosen, an outdoor dinner party with friends and family is a fitting antidote for prolonged social distancing. The following is a collection of suggested recipes for a three course summer dinner. The three parts (starter, main course, and dessert), range geographically from Syria, to Lebanon, to Egypt. To start, guests can sip on qamar al-deen juice, an apricot beverage that originated in Syria, but is a popular drink across the whole Arab world, specifically during the month of Ramadan. Kafta, a Lebanese kabob, is the perfect choice for a summer dinner party main dish, as it can be cooked on a grill. The kafta can be served with a variety of vegetables and rice. Finally, Egyptian Ghorayebah are small butter cookies that are easy to make for a crowd, without sacrificing any taste.
Recipe from Amira’s Pantry
1 package (400gm) of Qamar Al-deen or home made apricot leather.
3 cups tap water.
1/3 cup sugar.
Cut the apricot leather into small pieces, something like 2 inch squares.
Put in a deep bowl and cover with water.
In your blender blend the apricot with water and sugar until no lumps are visible.
Strain if you like, I do not strain mine.
Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until serving time.
Qamar al-deen is a compressed sheet of dried apricots. Apricots are so abundant in the middle east that it makes sense to concentrate their flavor into lower volumes.
The sweetness of the Qamar al-deen can be adjusted to one’s taste, either by adding more sugar or diluting it with ice when serving.
Recipe from Simply Lebanese
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 cup Chopped Onions
½ bunch Parsley
2 tsp. 7 Spices
1½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper
1 tb. Vegetable Oil
Finely chop a medium/large onion and ½ bunch of parsley.
Put the ground beef in a large bowl for mixing. Add chopped onion, parsley and remaining ingredients. Mix well using hands.
Form Kafta into patties or fingers.
If grilling, grill on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Make sure to keep flipping the kafta to get grill marks on all sides.
If cooking in a skillet, Saute in a large skillet on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Flip the Kafta over and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the Kafta and a large sliced onion and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes until the onion is tender. Lastly, add a sliced tomato and cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.”
A popular Lebanese spice is a mixture of 7 spices (hence the name). It consists of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, fenugreek, allspice, pepper, and cloves.
Kafta can also be made with lamb, but this specific recipe calls for beef. This can be adjusted depending on preference.
Wetting your hands before forming the kafta into patties or fingers makes the process easier.
Mixing the kafta by hand is the traditional method, and helps make sure all of the spices/flavors are well incorporated.
Recipe from The Mediterranean Dish
1 cup/195 g ghee (highly clarified butter like this kind)
½ cup/ 63.77 g powdered sugar, sifted, and more for later
scant ⅛ tsp/ 0.5 g baking powder
2 cups/ 240 g all-purpose flour, sifted
Handful slivered almonds (optional)
Place ghee in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer, mix on low until ghee is whipped.
Add powdered sugar, then mix again using hand mixer. Start mixer on low and then increase speed as needed to medium until the ghee-sugar mixture is whipped (should look smooth and fluffy.)
Set the mixer aside. Add baking powder, then add 1 cup flour. Knead with your hand to work flour in, then add the remaining 1 cup flour. Knead again until flour is well incorporated into a super soft dough.
Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes so that the dough will firm up a bit. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (see tip #2). And prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
When ready, remove dough from fridge. Take small portions of dough (heaping ½ tablespoons) and form into small walnut-sized balls. Ever so lightly press the top (do not flatten). Arrange on prepared baking sheet, about 2 to 3 inches or so apart.
Lightly press a slivered almond on each or some of the cookies.
Bake in heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or so (cookies should firm up and gain a bit of color on the bottom. But should remain pretty light in color on top.)
Remove from oven. Do NOT touch cookies until cooled (they will fall apart). Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Enjoy!”
Ghee in this recipe can NOT be replaced with butter! The different water content of butter will make a very different cookie.
Ghorayebah can be decorated with any kind of nut, including almonds, cashews, pistachios, and even pine nuts.
Food is a tool that can be used to unite and bring us closer together with our friends and family. Making these three recipes from the Arab world and sharing them with loved ones would be a wonderful way to start the summer.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!