Tips: Great Dough Part 1

on Monday, March 4, 2013

Great Dough by

One of the most requested recipes for which I received dozens of messages whether on my Arabic Blog ( or on my English one has been the “Dough Recipe”. Some sent asking me for the pizza dough recipe, others asked about a good bread dough recipe, and many many (especially on my Arabic site) for the muajanat dough recipe. Muajanat is the Arabic word for various types of pastries, not sweet, that are dough based, these include mini pizzas among others. Muajanat are very popular in the Middle East!

For a while now, I have been planning to post the dough recipe, or actually the two dough recipes I use the most. The first is a basic dough recipe without dairy products while the  second one includes dairy products. I use both.  Just as I was about to post the “Dough Recipe”, I remembered my struggles with dough recipes when I started cooking! and by dough I mean “Yeast Dough”.

Yeast dough is the dough that rises, and it is used to prepare bread, pizza crust (both thin pizza crust and thick pizza crust) and is the dough used in many of the Arabic muajanat.

What are the struggles I faced? Probably the same ones many of you face or faced when you started trying to make homemade bread or homemade pizza crust. They are the same challenges that have made bread making and pizza crust making spark so much fear and awe!

I remember one of the things that baffled me the most was why did one recipe work perfectly well one time and the next time it will be flat or mediocre??!!!?? I couldn't figure it! I would toss the recipe labeling it as not trustworthy, and continue my search for the perfect dough recipe.

I must admit that it took me some years to figure out the problem or problems, and pick-up tips and pointers from here and there that helped me get the dough and crust I want. And till this day I continue learning something new every day.

Last month as I was skimming through my daughter’s “All About Food” textbook, I noticed they had a whole section on yeast bread! The methodology they use to teach students how to make the perfect bread or perfect pizza crust is to introduce the dough ingredients and explain what they are, what they do, and how they work. I loved it!!! I remember thinking I hope I had this at hand when I started out!

I knew what I wanted to do next!

Before I post any pizza dough recipe, or muajanat recipe, or bread recipe, I will cover the basics of a great dough in a 2-part tutorial tip. As I learn new tricks and tips will update these two tutorials for all to benefit. Today’s tip covers:

Ingredients of Yeast Dough Recipes and What Each Ingredient Does.

Roasted Peppers Salad Recipe

on Monday, February 18, 2013

Roasted Peppers Salad by

I grew up in a global home; Armenian father, Bulgarian mother, living in Jordan in the Middle East! Needless to say, I grew up with my taste buds adapted to several cuisines. I guess this was the start of my fascination with food and discovering the history and stories behind popular dishes.

Peppers, especially red peppers, are a fundamental ingredient in Bulgarian cuisine. Bulgarians enjoy peppers a lot, and there are numerous dishes that my mom used to prepare using peppers. I remember growing-up, red peppers weren’t readily available in Amman as they are nowadays. So when we went to visit Bulgaria during the summer, red peppers was a delicacy that we heavily indulged in.

Well into my teens, colored bell peppers (yellow and red) started showing up in grocery stores around Amman, and we were finally able to enjoy some of our favorite Bulgarian dishes year-round. Roasted Peppers Salad being a regular one.

Traditionally, Bulgarian Roasted Peppers Salad  is prepared with the long red peppers, not with bell peppers. But this roasted peppers salad is delicious using red and yellow bell peppers. You can also add a few green peppers, the combination of colored peppers makes it an eye-catching salad. Just be careful not to use many green peppers as their taste is a bit bitter!

The traditional way to prepare roasted peppers salad is to grill the peppers from all sides until there are black patches throughout the skin. This gives the peppers a nice smoked/ grilled flavor! But you can also prepare the salad by roasting the peppers in the oven.  

Roasted peppers salad, is not only delicious but quite easy to prepare, especially if you roast the peppers in the oven instead of grilling them. To top that, it keeps well in the fridge for days. better yet, the longer it marinates, the better it gets as the flavors soak in better. So when I prepare this salad, I usually double or triple the portions and we can enjoy it throughout the week.

If you have a party or event, roasted peppers salad is a great addition. It is a big hit with the guests with its appealing colors and yummy taste! Plus you can prepare it a day or two in advance freeing you on the day of the event. Just store it in a glass airtight container in the fridge and forget about it until the day of your event. Just make sure you remember to serve it!!

Unbaked Cheesecake Recipe

on Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unbaked Cheesecake Recipe by

Cheesecake is a universally loved dessert! There are loads of recipes for this yummy cold dessert, some are for baked cheesecake and some for unbaked cheesecake. In the Arab region, the popular version is unbaked cheesecake. Baked cheesecake was recently introduced in our area and has not yet gained the popularity of unbaked cheesecake.

Cheesecake is a very old dish. There is historic evidence that baked cheesecake was prepared in Greece more than 4000 years ago! When the Roman Empire occupied Greece, they adopted several Greek dishes into the Roman Cuisine including cheesecake. With the expansion of the Roman Empire they spread their cuisine and cooking methods in the regions they occupied; cheesecake being one of them. Of course each region adapted the dish to its taste and cuisine, giving way to many different versions and techniques for preparing cheesecake.

Greeks prepared cheesecake baked using feta cheese or yogurt. Italians also baked it and used ricotta cheese, while the Germans used cottage cheese. The use of cream cheese in cheesecake came much, much later after cheesecake was discovered in America in 1872, and they started using it to prepare cheesecake.

In our region, we prepare the unbaked cheesecake using cream cheese and gelatin. Many recipes, including mine, also uses “Labaneh”. Labaneh is a very popular Middle Eastern cheese spread that is prepared from Greek yoghurt. You can prepare Labaneh at home by mixing Greek yoghurt with some salt and straining it through a cheese cloth. I am planning to post how to prepare Labaneh sometime soon.

Unbaked cheesecake is usually creamier, and much, much faster to prepare! Both versions of cheesecake - baked and unbaked - are delicious and rarely would I be at an event or party where cheesecake is not one of the prepared sweets.

Today’s cheesecake recipe, is the basic unbaked cheesecake recipe used in our region. By basic I mean it is without any additions or added flavors (such as chocolate) and you can easily use it as a base for developing different flavors of this cold dessert. If you are looking for a baked cheesecake recipe, try my Baked Cheesecake Recipe.

Pickled Turnips Recipe

on Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pickled Turnips Recipe by

Arabic and Middle Eastern food is famous for its wide selection of appetizers, what we refer to as “Mazzes. Pickles are a major corner stone of our mazze tables. There are various kinds of pickles that are very popular in our region including pickled turnips. In Arabic, Pickled Turnips are called “Mukhalal Lift” or “Kabees Lift”, “Lift” is the Arabic word for turnips.

Turnips are very beneficial as they are part of the vegetable family that help fight several types of cancer, especially lung and colon cancers (hopefully none of us will experience any of these illness).

Pickled Turnips have a very sharp taste that distinguishes it from the other varieties of pickles. You either love this sharp taste or hate it! Our household is divided on pickled turnips!! My husband and eldest daughter LOVE IT, while my younger daughter and I, don’t care for it that much - we prefer pickled cucumbers, pickled cauliflowers and carrots.

In the Middle East, our method for pickling turnips is quite different that the method used in the West. First, we chop our turnips and don’t rind them, then there is the lovely pick color of our pickled turnips. The pink color is a must! Some use food color dyes for the pink color, but I prefer to color my turnip the traditional, natural way using beets.

I normally pickle 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds), and this is enough for about two to three weeks…. Once you start nibbling pickled turnips, there is no stopping!! If you want to pickle a smaller portion you can always half the recipe.

Note: when pickling remember that every half kilogram of turnips will fill a 1-liter (34 ounces) glass jar. So for pickling 2 kilograms we need jar capacity of 4 liters (135 ounces); and if we are pickling 1 kilogram (202 pounds) we need jar capacity of 2 liters (68 ounces).

Vospov Kufta (Red Lentil Patty) Recipe

on Friday, January 18, 2013

vospove kufta or red lentils patty by and

Vaspov Kufta is a traditional Armenian dish. The word Vospov means Lentils, and Kufta (or Keufta) means Patties. So in English this dish is called “Red Lentil Patty” and in Arabic “Kebbet 3adas” whereby “3” stands for an Arabic letter similar to “A” but deeper.

Vospov Kufta is a mouth watering, refreshing yet filling meal, that is served cold with pita bread. Generally Vispov Kufta is a summer time dish. I learned this traditional recipe for Vospov Kufta from my Great Grandma.

Vospove Kufta is not only a vegetarian dish, but a vegan one as well. In our Armenian culture we are bred to eat vegetarian and vegan dishes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This culture came from Churches, whereby for centuries it was required that people fast during these three days. Fasting not only nourishes the soul, but also allows the body to rest. These days, many people still adhere to this schedule by eating only vegetarian dishes although many may not know why.

Due to this practice, the Armenia cuisine is full with delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. This version of Vospov Kufta is served with salad, but there are other recipes of Vospov Kufta that have minced meat stuffing.  The portion below serves 4 people.