Vegan Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Carob Brownies without the Chocolate

I volunteered to make something for the next sharaka meeting.  I found a gluten-free almond cookie recipe.  Perfect, I thought, for my gluten intolerant comrades.  Half way into the recipe, already in the midst of mixing my concoction, I realize that the gluten-free recipe includes an egg and some honey.  No honey in the pantry.  And one of my comrades is on a 21 day cleansing that calls for no gluten, no sugar, and no dairy (including eggs).  I had to improvise quickly.  It was already 9pm – nearing bedtime. 

 Instead of honey, I used carob molasses purchased from a small-scale producer lady (fallaha) from Azzoun. 

 Then the egg replacement…I had flax seeds in the freezer.  I added one teaspoon of flax seeds to two tablespoons of water.  I stirred until the liquid transformed into an ‘eggy’ texture. 

 I mixed all the ingredients in the food processor creating a homogenous brown goop.  I stuck my clean finger into the batter for a taste.  Yum!  But the batter was too loose.  There is no way that I could roll cookie balls out this batter.  So I baked the mixture in an eight-inch round greased cake pan.

 I peaked as I baked.  The batter was rising.  Success!  But then…as I began to smell the carob-almost-but-not-quite-yet-burnt smell, the cake had collapsed.  Too late to start over.  It was already past 10pm – past my bedtime. 

 To my surprise, these vegan gluten-free sugar-free carob brownies were a hit at the meeting.  Every last morsel, even the stuff stuck to the pan, was scraped up and devoured.  The consistency was loose, kind of like a Mississippi mud pie, but without the crust to keep it together. 

 

Vegan Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Carob Brownies

¼ kilo raw almonds

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup carob molasses

pinch of vanilla

pinch of sea salt – or a bit more if you like that salty sweet taste

1 tsp flax seed mixed with 2 tbl of water

 

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.  Grind the almonds in a heavy-duty food processor, adding the olive oil to create a paste/butter consistency.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix.  Grease a cake pan with olive oil.  Add mixture to greased cake pan.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  Stay alert and smell!  Never let the cake bake to the point of already-too-late-burnt-carob-smell.  Let the cake cool.  Dig in! 

 

 

 

 

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braised goat tongue and spinach soup

My friend is on a 21 day detox.  No coffee, or dairy, or sugar, or gluten…  I can’t do it.  I need my coffee.  But the detox formula calls for meat, especially organs.  Mmmm…I haven’t had organs in a while.  So I bought two goat tongues embedded in the jaw along with the adjoining face meat and two bunches of spinach.  I braised the goat tongues/jaws for a few hours in water spiced with dried lemons, dried ginger, a dash of vinegar and salt.  When cooled, I removed the tongue and face meat from the jaw bone, chopped the meat and returned to the liquid in the pot.  I saved the jaw bones for my dog.  I added the chopped spinach to the pot.  And simmered for another hour.  So satisfying.  And totally compliant with the detox cleanse.

What do you think of organ meat?  

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soup and salad this winter

It’s January – and despite the unseasonably arid and warm weather over the last few days, it is winter and I nearly forgot to indulge in a bounty of hearty soups and green salads that make Palestine’s winter comfortable and manageable.  I was invited to two birthday parties over the last week, and both party hosts served a warm hearty soup and a winter green salad.   At one, we sat around a kitchen table sipping spiced chicken broth and munching fresh winter greens, and the other, we stood around a bonfire under a full moon, swallowing mouthfuls of barley soup and nibbling on parsley. 

Why haven’t I made a pot of soup this winter?  I remembered my mom’s orange lentil soup.  There is no orange in my mom’s orange lentil soup, but we always called the orange colored lentils, orange lentils, to differentiate them from the other green lentils.  As a teenager arriving home late and famished after soccer practice, I was always pleased to find orange lentil soup with all the fixings.  The table was dressed with tiny dishes of sliced radishes, green onion, olives, pickled turnips, and my mom’s homemade flat bread. 

Inspired by my friends’ simple and warm birthday soups, and nostalgic for my mom’s orange lentil soup, I embarked on a winter diet of soup and salad using Palestine’s winter harvest to nourish my body and my friends.

I never measure when making soup and salad.  Eyeball it.  Taste.  Adjust.  Taste until you reach YOUR perfection.  

I also make my own spice mixture made mostly of turmeric, with a bit of these- hot paprika, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and clove. 

 

orange lentil soup

1 mug of orange colored lentils

2 medium onions, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

My spice mixture (optional)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

 In a large pot, sauté onions in olive oil over medium to low heat.  Add salt and pepper.  Add the spice mixture (optional).  Add the lentils continuing to stir.  Add the water (about 1.5 liters).  Cook for approximately one hour until lentils are soft.  Serve with your favorite sides – olives, radishes, arugula, parsley, pickles, and green onion.   Squeeze half a lemon into your bowl of orange lentil soup and top with a few slices of avocado.  Eat.

 

green lentil, potato, sweet potato soup

½ mug of green lentils

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large sweet potato, chopped

2 medium potatoes, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

My spice mixture (optional)

Olive oil – be generous

 

Put all ingredients into a large pot, and sauté over medium to low heat.  Stir periodically for 7 minutes.  Add 1 liter of water – all ingredients should be underwater.  Allow soup to cook over medium-low heat for about an hour, until lentils are soft.  Squeeze half a lemon or add a few drops of your favorite vinegar into your bowl of green lentil, potato, sweet potato soup.  Eat. 

I usually enjoy a green winter salad with my bowl of soup.  I always have arugula and lettuce growing in my winter garden.  And I dress my winter greens with an almost 100% local salad dressing that meets my tangy and sweet cravings.

 

winter green salad

arugula leaves

lettuce leaves

avocado, sliced

lemon, sliced and cubed

sunflower seeds (optional)

 

Place all ingredients into a large bowl and proceed to making your dressing.

 

almost totally local salad dressing

grainy mustard (imported)

grape molasses (local-I have a bottle from Shifa/Bethlehem area)

red vinegar (local – I have a bottle from Deir Ghassana/Ramallah)

olive oil (very local – my backyard olives)

a pinch of salt and pepper

 

In a small jar (I use the baby food jars), add all ingredients and shake to mix.  The quantity of each item is up to your taste desires, but I usually add 1 tablespoon of mustard, 2-3 tablespoons of grape molasses, 5 tablespoons of vinegar, and fill the rest of the jar with olive oil.    Shake contents of jar to mix.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss just before eating.

 Savor the winter’s warmth.

 

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American Fast Food in Palestine

We now have real American fast food in Palestine…not the fake wannabes, but the actual KFC, Pizza Hut, and Dominoes….check out my commentary on the link below.

 

http://www.thisweekinpalestine.com/details.php?id=4099&ed=222&edid=222

 

 

 

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Post-Eid Vegan

Lightening up after Ramadan and Eid

Ramadan and Eid are over and I am ready to get back to lighter summer eating.  Fasting Ramadan summers for 17+ hours, despite the heat, requires a lavish production for the break fast table.  I need a hardy dish to satiate my fasting belly and face another day of fasting.  And when the month of fasting is over, Eid begins with its deluge of kaak (date filled cookies).  My body is craving summer’s light.  Hardy is for the winter…except during Ramadan.

Simple Baqla Salad

Baqla is available during the summer in Palestine.  It’s thick oval leaves and stem are tart and delicious.  And I learned from my nutritionist friend that baqla contains omega 3 oils, an added bonus.

1 bunch baqla, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds

juice from ½ lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt for taste

Mix ingredients and enjoy.  The recipe can feed 1-2 people.

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Baqla-Beet Salad

The beets in my garden are bulging out of the ground, ready for yanking out of the ground.  I love the delicate sweetness and the sharp color of fresh beets.

1 bunch baqla, chopped

2 large beets, roasted

½ cup walnuts

juice from ½ lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt for taste

Roast the beets in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 1 – 1.5 hours.  Protect your fingers – Give the beets time to cool off.  Halve each beet, and slice thinly.

Mix all ingredients and enjoy.  Tart baqla and sweet beets.  I don’t think it can get better than this.

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Baba Ghanoush

I bought the long, thin, light purply colored Battiri eggplant just before Eid.  The Battiri eggplant, named after the village Battir in which it is grown, is perfect for making mahshi (stuffed vegetable).  I thought that I would make a special meal over Eid.  But then Eid arrived.  And I could not bear to imagine spending half my holiday digging out the insides of each eggplant and stuffing them with spiced rice and meat.  So I removed the stems and tails and placed the eggplants in a baking dish.  I drizzled the vegetables with salt and olive oil and baked them at 200 degrees Celsius for an hour.  When they cooled, I placed them in the food processor along with lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed paste), salt, and olive oil.  I stored the thick paste to be used throughout my holiday to fill my lunch-time sandwiches or as a dip for my many snacking impulses.

2-3 medium eggplants

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice from ½ lemon

2 tablespoons tahini

salt for taste

Adjust the ingredients according to your taste preferences.

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I truly enjoyed the meditative state of fasting during Ramadan.  Really.

But I am happy to move on so I can indulge in summer’s light.

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Baladi Tomatoes Continue… Al Falaha

I grew up with Arabic salad (salata) and all other kinds of salads – taco, garden, bbq chicken, pasta, potato, Italian caprese, cole slaw, and so on.  My mom made salata  to go with any of our traditional dry, non-stewy dishes such as maklooba (an upside down stove top rice based casserole) and mjadara (rice and lentils).  We rated the salata by degree of finely chopped vegetables.  My salata barely passed; too chunky.  But my mom’s was finely chopped.  A definite A+.    I’m not sure how she obtained her technique.  She holds the vegetable in one hand and a knife in the other, and chisels away.  No cutting board.

While my mom got an A for her refined chopping skills, she definitely failed in diversity.  Salata to my mom was the traditional Arabic salad; a finely chopped salad made up of tomatoes and cucumbers, and flavored with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Sometimes my mom would chop onion and garlic into the medley – when she was feeling like going all out.

And then I moved to Palestine, and realized that there were many types of salatas in Palestinian cuisine.  Fatoush. Grilled eggplant.  Grilled cauliflower.  Salata in tahini.  Grilled/smoked sweet pepper.  Tabouli.  Al falaha.  It turns out that Palestinian cuisine masters the art of pre-meal appetizers and salads.  The mezza; an array of salads and other starters including hummos, falafel, baba ghanoush, olives, pickles, and grilled or fried seasonal vegetables.  I can’t believe that I was missing out on all this for over 30 years.

I love them all, except the garlic paste.  I’m not a big fan of garlic.  But my favorite is al falaha.  The peasant salad.  I love it for its simplicity and wonderful flavor when prepared with seasonal heirloom tomatoes.  And now that it is Ramadan, I usually prepare an individual sized falaha to go on the table with my break fast.

 Salatat Al Falaha

1 large or 2 small heirloom tomatoes, finely chopped

1/8 onion, finely chopped

a small piece of spicy pepper, finely chopped

juice from ¼ lemon

salt for taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix all ingredients and enjoy.  You can add fresh herbs such as peppermint leaves.  You can follow tradition and finley chop the vegetables.  But I’m lazy .  Most of my falaha salads consist of larger slices rather than finely chopped bits.  The flavor is equally good to me.

 

 

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Baladi Tomatoes – worth the wait

They have finally arrived.  I’ve waited eleven whole months just to have them.  I’ve refused the out of season frauds.  Sure, the frauds are produced all year long and come in a perfect round shape.  But they are flavorless, and injected with industrial pesticides and fertilizers.  And they are grown in plastic houses in the winter, completely against Mother Nature’s will.  It was early July in Palestine, and there they were at the farmers market.  I picked up an entire bucket of the ripe, heterogeneously shaped fruits.   I should probably pick up another bucket or two this week before the harvest is complete.  Baladi (local and heirloom) tomatoes are a treat in today’s Palestine.  Although baladi tomatoes were the only kind of tomatoes available in Palestine twenty years ago, they are becoming more rare.  The influx of industrial agriculture in Palestine has transformed much of our food production from a family-run-seasonal-and-organic-baladi operation to a non-seasonal-using-non-organic-fertilizers-and–embracing-foreign-seeds agri-business.   Thank goodness that there are still farmers who maintain traditional Palestinian farming saving seeds each year, respecting the land by feeding her natural organic waste and cultivating crops according to their season.   I try to buy as many baladi tomatoes as I can get my hands on.  I eat some fresh, and I dry the rest for eating during the rest of the year.

 

Tomato-Onion Salad

1 serving

1 medium tomato, sliced

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

chopped basil (as much as you want)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon of your favorite vinegar

a pinch of salt for taste

Mix all the ingredients and enjoy!

 

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Roasted Tomato and Zucchini

Sliced Tomatoes (as much as you want to roast)

Sliced Zucchini (as much as you want to roast)

Olive oil to cover all the vegetables

Salt for taste

 

Mix olive oil and salt with sliced vegetables.   Lay tomatoes and zucchini on a baking tray.  I like to place the tomatoes on top of the zucchini so that the tomato juices meld into the zucchini.  Bake for 1 to 2 hours at 190 degrees Celsius.  The vegetables should be golden.  You can eat these roasted vegetables all week long.  Store them in the refrigerator.  Toss them with pasta for a light vegetarian dinner.  Stuff some in a pita for a healthy vegan lunch.  You can even add humus (chickpea dip) or labaneh (yogurt cheese) in your sandwich.   For breakfast, you can add them to scrambled eggs.  Or you can just eat them as they are!  Roasting these vegetables intensifies their delicious flavor.

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Sun-dried tomatoes

Baladi Tomatoes

Salt

Olive Oil

Cut the tomatoes either in halves or quarters, depending on their size.  Remove the liquid and seeds from each half/quarter.  I save the seeds in a container for planting the next year.   Place the tomatoes on a tray.   Sprinkle tomatoes with salt.  And then place tomatoes in direct sunlight.  I take the tomato tray up to the roof of my home in the morning as it is extremely sunny on my roof.  I always bring the tomato tray indoors before sunset as I don’t want Palestine’s nighttime dew to dampen my tomatoes.  In the morning, I return the tomato tray to the roof.  It may take 3-4 days of placing the tomatoes under direct sunlight until they are completely dried.  Once the tomatoes are dry, place them in a glass jar and cover with olive oil.  Seal the jar and store in a cool place in your pantry.  I use sun-dried tomatoes in my cooking when fresh baladi tomatoes are no longer available.

 

Eat baladi tomatoes always!  Say no to the frauds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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