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Sunday, January 25, 2009

sunday night suppers: vaguely lebanese

Tonight, we hosted six of our friends for another Sunday night dinner. This time our friend Arthur, who is a prolific cook himself, wanted a piece of the action. Because Arthur is Lebanese, he suggested we do a Lebanese-inspired dinner.

Little known fact: Mississippi, where we happily reside, has the highest per capita Lebanese population in the United States. At least, that's what all my Lebanese friends tell me.

Arthur came over early, and he and Drew made kibbee, which Drew will have to tell you about later (preview: it was amazing. Arthur's grandmother spoke through him as he worked the allspice and cinnamon into the lamb.) Arthur left me in charge of the side dishes and dessert. Actually, Arthur brought me recipes and ingredients to make certain side dishes, but rebel that I am, I changed them up. I think I can legitimately call these dishes my own.

The picture at the top of this post is of kale. I made kale because Arthur told me to--but the recipe Arthur gave me was incomprehensible. It was for a stew made only of swiss chard stems (um, yuck). Yet he brought me kale, not swiss chard (what?). I did with it what I could, which I was pleasantly surprised with. It was true improvisation, though, so the measurements listed here are approximations. Follow your heart.

Kale with Lentils

1 cup lentils
2 bunches of kale (about 6 cups chopped)
chicken broth
pinch of sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of sumac
1/2 link of smoked sausage
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced

Cover lentils with chicken broth until about an inch of fluid is above the lentils. If you don't have enough chicken broth, which I didn't, use water to make up for what you don't have. Bring the lentils to a boil, and boil for around 20 to 30 minutes. Then, just put the chopped kale on top. Sprinkle it with the sugar, sumac, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Just use a pinch of sugar--it cuts the bitterness of the greens. Cover the pot. As the lentils boil, the kale will steam on top. In a separate pan, saute the onion and garlic and sausage in butter. Once the onions are translucent and the sausage is a little browned, dump those on top of the kale. Stir the kale, lentils, and other good stuff. Cook covered over low heat for another, mmm, 15 minutes or so? I don't know. Cook until it tastes done.

Leeks and Rice
serves 6-8

6 leeks, dark green part cut off, diced and rinsed well
2 onions, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups chicken broth
sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and let soften, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour, salt, and sugar. Stir for about a minute. Add broth. Bring to a boil, stirring vigorously. Add rice and leeks and pepper, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 1/2 an hour. Squeeze lemon over rice and serve.

Now, the last recipe I'll post from tonight is for baklava. I was not told to make baklava. I did that all on my own. No one complained.

It was good, though phyllo dough is one of my least favorite ingredients to work with. It tears, it breaks, it ends up in shreds. But, fortunately, that's good for baklava.


Have Tott crack a large amount of pecans, probably around a pound, while watching How I Met Your Mother. Take those pecans and lightly toast them. Then give them a few swirls in the food processor until they're finely chopped. Add ground cinnamon and a little sugar to your pecans.

Take the phyllo dough out of the freezer. Now, you start to make the syrup that will be poured over the baklava. This makes it sticky and finger-licking good. Put a cup of sugar in a pan with a cup of water. Bring to a boil, and boil until clear. Add 1/2 a cup of honey, a cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 cloves. Simmer for around 20 minutes. Cool.

While the syrup is simmering, melt about a stick of butter in the microwave. Brush a sheet pan with some of the butter. Now take the defrosted phyllo dough. Put a layer of dough on the pan. Brush with butter. Repeat 8 times. Now spread the pecan mixture over the dough. Add 8 more layers of dough brushed with butter. Score the baklava with a sharp knife into diamonds or squares. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350, or until brown. Take out of oven and evenly pour cooled syrup all over the baklava. Let cool, cut, and serve.

As you can see, I was a busy girl. I am exhausted. And I'll post Tott's Cream of Artichoke soup, which was delicious, as soon as she gives me the recipe. (Tott, I am not ignoring your soup. I really did like it.) Drew will tell you more later, I promise.


  1. Yeah for kale!! (And I love baklava... yours looks AWESOME.)

    BTW I laughed out loud at your comment about all the pictures being brown. Why do the best tasting things look so bleh usually? That's one of the reasons I'm starting to love green vegetables again.

  2. your blog is so cute. i came over from food.loves.writing.

    i'll definitely be visiting often. :)

  3. OH, that kale and lentils looks DELICIOUS!!! And I SO want to make baklava some time. My cousin made it at Christmas and it was delicious! Can't wait to hear about the lamb dish. Lindsey enjoyed last week and I benefited from the red velvet cake! :-) I agree with you about the icing.