Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Harissa is a type of dense dessert cake made in the Middle East. Not to be confused with harissa, the North African chili paste. The Arabic Wikipedia page for harissa mentions both, but the English one does not, which is why I am mentioning this at all.

Harissa is made from semolina instead of flour giving it a dense crumb. As with many Middle Eastern desserts, it's topped with rosewater syrup.

2 3/4 cups semolina
3/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
Roughly 1.5 pounds of yogurt
About 1/4 cup of tahini
1 cup of whole blanched almonds

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tbsp rosewater or orange blossom water

Preheat your oven to 370F.

Measure the dry ingredients. Add enough yogurt to make a dough. It will be have a thick consistency, but should be fluid enough to take the shape of the bowl instead of staying in a ball.

Next, grease the cake pan you are using very well with tahini. I think this recipe makes roughly one 14" diameter cake or two 9" cakes. Whatever, just don't fill it to the brim with cake batter and you'll be OK.

Bake 20 minutes, or until edges are tan. Don't let it brown yet. The cake should be mostly cooked but still white at this point.

Next, press the blanched almonds into the cake pan about three to four inches apart. Finish off the cake in the broiler for 15 minutes, or until the almonds and cake take on a deep golden color. The difference between a toasted almond and a burnt almond can be as little as one minute, so keep a close eye at this point.

Take out the cake and let it cool until it can be handled safely. While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. Add water, sugar and flavoring into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer until dissolved. Pour the syrup over the cake and serve.

Traditionally, harissa is cut into diamonds with the almond at the center.

You can use cream of wheat, but semolina or "smeed" is cheaper in Middle Eastern groceries than cream of wheat in US grocery stores.
It's best to use Arab yogurt, since it has a unique taste. Any full fat, plain yogurt will do.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I think of this as Arabic pie. You can use store-bought or homemade jam. The unique thing about this dish is that the top is made out of grated dough. The consistency is most similar to shortbread, but it is somewhat cakier than shortbread. In August and September, figs become ripe. When I was a kid, my cousins and I would pick figs until our fingers were red and sore. Fig trees ooze a cloudy white sap that can be irritating to skin. My aunts and grandmother would make marba tin, or fig jam. Those preserves usually went into mabroosha. (Desserts are really popular in my family.)

This is my aunt's recipe, translated. I think she is heavy handed with the eggs and the oil, but she is a great cook so I left it as is. When I make it I use three eggs and a teaspoon of baking powder. It's much less cakey that way.

5 eggs
3 c flour
3/4 c margarine
1/2 c vegetable oil
3 packets vanilla powder (about 3 tbsp)
3 tbsp baking powder
3/4 c milk
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
Ground nutmeg to taste

Beat eggs, add vanilla then butter and oil and stir a little, then add sugar, milk and flour a little bit at a time. Finally add baking powder and mix everything thoroughly. Grease a round pan with oil, and press about 3/4 of the dough into the pan. Spread jam over top and add a little cinnamon and ground nutmeg.
Add flour to the rest of the dough until it feels stiff. Using a grater, grate the dough on top until the surface is covered.

Bake with oven at about 350F, until golden brown. Should take about a half hour.


This is how I've made it since my little sister bought me my first cookbook with a pizza recipe in it. I can call it mine because I've perfected it from that version. :-) Makes about three large pizzas.

1 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 c warm water (warm to the touch but not hot)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 c flour

Let first four ingredients sit until the yeast is spongy (shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes). Add flour bit by bit until dough forms. Coat hands with olive oil and mix until the rest of the flour is in. Let rise in a warm place for at least one hour. Spread out with oil or flour and let rise in pan another hour, making sauce or cutting toppings in the meantime.

1 can tomato sauce or 6 skinned, chopped tomatoes
1 onion
5 large chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 clove garlic
fistful thyme
pinch oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin

Sauté onion and mushrooms in olive oil. Add garlic. When translucent, add chopped tomatoes and 1/4 c cold tap water. Stir until the tomatoes get mushy. Add spices to taste. Cumin makes the tomatoes taste less tinny, in my opinion. Once tender, mash tomatoes. Adding tomato sauce from the can also works, although fresh tomatoes are better.

Push down risen dough in pan, cover with tomato sauce, 2 cups grated mozarella per pizza and toppings of choice. Bake at 400 F until dough is crispy and toppings are golden, about 20 minutes.


3.5 c flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp yeast

1.5 c milk
1 tbsp butter
-Make dough

Let rise 1 hour. Punch down. Grease baking sheet and dust with flour. Form rolls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Let rise 30 minutes, and preheat 425F.

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
-Whisk with fork, glaze rolls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or gezha.

Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Anise Biscotti

Yansoon is a really good flavor to have with tea. This isn't the exact recipe, it's a regular biscotti recipe with some anise seeds mixed in.

Set oven to 325F.
Whisk: 3 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
Mix, then add:
2 c flour
1 c sugar
1 tbsp anise seeds
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.25 tsp salt

Press dough into cake pan, bake at 325F to 20-25 minutes. Cool, reheat oven to 300F. Cut into biscotti. Bake upright for 20 minutes, or less, until golden brown. Store in airtight container.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

I totally invented this.

2 eggs
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp molasses
2 c flour
1 c cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 c milk
1 tbsp cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add molasses, pepper and cinnamon and stir until homogenous. Add eggs. Add flour and cocoa and alternate with milk until flour is added and consistency is like cake mix. Pour into pan and bake at 350F until toothpick comes out clean. Takes about 45 minutes.


One bunch fresh parsley
2 tomatoes
four or five large leaves lettuce
three sprigs mint
2 cucumbers, about five inches
3 or 4 green onion stalks (purple onion also works, but don't use too much)
Juice from 1 lemon
about 1 c carrots, grated fine.
Burghul (You can buy this in a box, usually sold as "tabouleh", but make sure there aren't parsley flakes mixed in already).

Chop parsley, onion and other leafy vegetables until very small. A food processor comes in handy, but patience and a double handle knife is better. Tomatoes need to be seeded and chopped fine as well. Ideally, none of the pieces will be bigger than a grain of rice (I'm serious).

Soak burghul in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, stir into vegetables. Add lemon, salt and olive oil to taste.

Carrot Salad

1 lb carrots
4 oz raisins
3 oz flaked coconut
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple
2 tbsp mayo or salad dressing

Peel carrots, clean and grate. Place grated carrots in large bowl. Add raisins, mix thoroughly. Add flaked coconut, mix well. Add crushed pineapple with most of its juice. Mix. Stir in mayo with remaining juice. Refrigerate and serve.

Frozen Fruit Salad

2 (3 oz.) packs cream cheese
1/4 c miracle whip salad dressing
1 c drained, crushed pineapple
1/2 lb marshmallow, cut fine
1/2 c chopped pecans
8 maraschino cherries, cut fine
1/2 pt whipping cream

Mix cheese and salad dressing with a fork until well blended. Add pineapple, marshmallows, pecans and cherries. Mix well. Whip cream until stiff. Fold into mixture. Pour into ice tray and freeze for 3 hours.

Dill Pickles

Makes 6 to 8 qts.

20 to 25 (4 inch) cucumbers
Wash cucumbers. Let stand in cold water overnight. Pack in hot sterilized jars. Add following ingredients:

1/8 tsp powdered alum
1 clove garlic
2 heads dill
1 red hot pepper

In a pan bring to boil:
3 qts water
1 qt cider vinegar

Cover with vinegar mixture. A grape leaf may be added to each qt. (optional). Seal.