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Stick-em-up: Ravioli and grilled veggie skewers

2014 February 9
by taiyyaba

There’s no recipe here, folks, just a simple idea for an excellent party appetizer.

1. Make some veggies – pan-roasted zucchini with herbs, fresh cherry tomatoes, oven roasted mushrooms, roasted red pepper – anything you like!
2. Boil some cheese ravioli till al dente, then give it a quick fry in a pan with some olive oil till they gets some color on them.
3. Platter it all up with some skewers for poking and marinara sauce and pesto for dipping.
4. Nom.

You could even do this autumn style with an autumn squash ravioli, roast winter veggies, and an alfredo sauce for dipping. Yum!

Ravioli skewers

Superhero – My new job, Day 1.

2014 January 29
by taiyyaba

Today is the first day of my new job – being a Superhero (i.e. a Stay-at-Home-Mama). Two months ago, Alhamdulillah, we were blessed with our sweet baby son, Hamza.

It took me some time to decide whether to go back to work after Hamza was born, or whether to become a Superhero. I absolutely love being a lawyer and especially enjoy being a part of the public interest legal community here in the Triangle. After lots of thinking, prayer, and consultation with family and friends, I decided to leave work and be a stay-at-home Mama for a while.

I realize that everyone has different situations. This choice works for me, with total respect to any woman for the choice she makes for herself and her family. Alhamdulillah, after I made the decision, it really felt like the right one. How long will I be away? Don’t know. We’ll play it by ear. Right now, I’m enjoying this on so many levels and I’ll just these blessings as they come!

My goal, because I’m Type-A and always need something to do, is still to be as productive as possible for myself and my family’s sake. My priority is to spend as much time possible kissing, hugging, playing, laughing, teaching, and learning with my baby. Then, I want to take time to improve myself as well. InshAllah this means spending more time on building my faith, strengthening my relationships with family and friends, refreshing my Arabic and learning Spanish, and building my cooking skills (which will hopefully lead to more blogging!). I also want to keep my legal skills fresh and continue learning by taking some contract work. I’ve definitely got a list of things *not* to do in mind – like spend all day on Pinterest. Let’s see how it goes (and how productive I can be during naptime!)


Beef, Cabbage, Mushroom Stoup

2013 June 1
by taiyyaba

I realize …..

that this just looks like a bowl of brown mush. But it is one delicious bowl of brown mush.

When I first made this, it was a throw-together recipe based on what I had in the fridge. Now, I plan meals to have leftover ingredients for this stoup (thicker than a soup, thinner than a stew = stoup). So, I made a batch of my favorite Asian slaw, by Once Upon A Chef, and had a lot of cabbage left over for this delicious bowl of brown mush.

Try it – it’s excellent on a rainy night and it stores, freezes, reheats really well. Serve it carb-free or with white rice.

Beef, Cabbage, and Mushroom Stoup
As with many of my recipes, this is about technique and not exact proportions. the technique here is to cook each thing separately so that you build layers of flavor. this recipe can accommodate different amounts of ingredients depending on what you have in the house. for example – i’ve never tried it, but i think celery would be great in this. make it vegetarian by substituting white beans for the beef!

read more…

Italian Spring Bridal Shower

2013 May 6
by taiyyaba

My dear friend and college roommate Hana is getting married this summer. Hana and Jamaal are going to Italy for their honeymoon, so her sister Mona and I threw her an Italian themed bridal shower. Many thanks also to Jawaad, Mona’s hubby who got roped in to stuff mushrooms, Amna, who made an amazing panzanella and the desserts, and Mahroo for taking the pictures and showing up early to help cook!

So, a bit of background. During my senior year of college, I roomed with three of my best friends: Hana-Mona (2 separate people often referred to as one) and Sumreen. Sumreen and I had been roomies since freshman year and we added the H & M duo later. Hana, Sumreen and I were seniors, and Mona, a junior, was (willingly) dragged along on our escapades.

Shrimp Scampi

The most memorable series of events was actually not skipping class to sit on the quad (ahem) but rather *going* to class (i know!). All four of us took an 8:00 AM (what was I thinking) English class and had to trek all the way up the Craig Hill (know what i mean, Tarheels?) four times a week. It actually turned out to be a fascinating class and that morning walk with three dear friends was a blessing. Most amusing for me (but less amusing for my roomies) was that I never read for class but just picked their brains about the reading on the trek up…and always had figured out something to say for the class discussion. (Yes, I read the books later and still have them!…like I said – great class!)

My patient roomies served as wonderful guinea pigs that year as I practiced cooking…Ameir and I had just gotten engaged and I thought I should enter married life with more in my repertoire than baking. So, of course, I owed Hana for her patient perseverance :).

Many duas and love for Hana as she begins the next chapter in her life. I love you, roomie!

Spring Melon Salad

Hana’s Italian Spring Bridal Shower

Though I make a mean lasagna bolognese (which I’ll certainly tell you about sometime), I wanted to keep this light with a series of salads and hot appetizers. We did a mix of store-bought and super-easy stuff and homemade stuff. I also did as much ahead as possible so that morning, we could just assemble and cook. Even then, it does take several hours so divide up the work and get help on cooking day (thanks Mona, Jawaad, Amna, and Mahroo!). It’s all worth it for a lovely lady like Hana!

Here’s the menu: I’ve got some recipes, tips, and techniques after the jump!
– Bruschetta with ricotta, basil, and sundried tomatoes
Spring Panzanella by Smitten Kitchen (made by Amna!)
– Tortellini with basil pesto
Stuffed Mushrooms by Pioneer Woman.
Chicken Meatballs by Smitten Kitchen (my variation)
– Shrimp scampi
– Spring melon and arugala salad with ricotta salata
– Tiramisu (Amna!)
Lemon-Mint cake (Amna!)
– Italian Soda

read more…

mushroom meatball stew

2013 April 29
by taiyyaba

remember my new obsession with mushroom stems? here’s the result!

these meatballs are so, so soft from a combination of fresh breadcrumbs, eggs, and savory onions and mushroom stem mixed into the meat. it also helps that it simmers slowly for an hour. sorry I don’t have any real pictures of the dish – I made it for a big family dinner and didn’t get a chance. it’s delicious, though!

this could also very easily be adapted for a slow cooker – just sear the meatballs and toss it into the cooker.

Mushroom Meatball Stew

3 pounds ground beef
3 packs white button mushrooms
5 or 6 medium sized onions
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
Any kind of stock (I used mushroom)
Black pepper
cumin or what Arabs call “meat spice”
Fresh parsley
2 pieces of white toast
1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a can)
3 large eggs
1 large (family size) can of cream of mushroom soup

Meat mixture
1. In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and fry two or three diced onions. Meanwhile, wash three boxes of mushrooms and take the stems off. Whizz the stems in a food processor so they get diced finely. Put those in with the onions and sauté until everything is brown. Add a bit of salt, about 1/4 tsp or so.

2. Purée this in a food processor or add it as is into your 3 pounds of ground beef. Also add to the ground beef one handful of chopped parsley (maybe half the bunch).

3. Beat together three eggs, one or two teaspoons of meat spice (or one teaspoon of cumin) and a bunch of black pepper, and about one or 2 teaspoons of salt. Pour this into the meat mixture.

4. Make breadcrumbs out of the bread in the food processor (untoasted bread, so the breadcrumbs come out soft) and add those with the handful of Parmesan cheese into the beef.

Make the meatballs and stew!
1. Make these into small meatballs (I took a quarter cup of meat mixture and divided that into two meatballs each). Sear them in a hot pan with some olive oil; don’t cook them all the way through yet. Once they are seared, take them out and put them into a large pot where you will simmer the stew.

2. Don’t clean the pan that has been used to sear the meatballs. Instead, add two or three sliced onions (depending on how much you like onions) and chopped garlic; sauté until they are brown. Once the onions get good and brown, add sliced mushroom caps. Sauté for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms break down and get soft, but they don’t have to be totally cooked. Add all of this to the pot with the meatballs in it. The mushrooms may have released a lot of liquid, and that is a good thing.

3. Now add to the pot of meatballs one large can of cream of mushroom soup, and the amount of broth it calls for thinning out the soup. It will be liquidier than normal soup because the mushrooms released liquid.

4. Stir everything up, cover and cook on medium low heat for an hour and a half to two hours, until the meatballs are soft.

5. Turn off the heat. Cut up some spinach and just drop it into the pot of stew and cover the pot for about a minute until the spinach wilts in. Add as much spinach as you like (I used one whole bag of baby spinach), and the rest of the parsley. Taste and adjust for salt and black pepper.

Serve over rice!

current cooking quirks

2013 April 15
by taiyyaba

gratuitous unrelated cat picture

i go through phases of obsessions, skill-building, and other various and sundry cooking quirks. i think i’ve overcome my chipotle fixation and i managed to get through this fall without butternut squash.

zest: i know i’ve mentioned this before, but i’d like to reiterate it. never, ever, ever use a lemon just for its juice. you can zest it right in to whatever you needed the juice for. or, freeze the zest with a bit of juice to keep it moist. if you’ve got zest in the freezer, you can make danishes like this in a flash.

warm plates: i don’t remember where i picked this up from, but i think it was alton brown or mark bittman in an old minimalist video. my forgotten teacher said “nothing leeches heat from hot food like cold plates.” this is so true. by the time i set the food down, grab drinks and silverware, and ameir and i both get to the table, the food starts to cool down. especially eggs – hot from the frying pan and straight onto a cold plate. cold eggs are not good (except in egg salad).

the idea was really seeded by my dad, who pours boiling water into an empty mug to warm it, then empties it and adds a teabag and fresh boiling water. also, abbu drinks his tea at near-boiling. the family theorizes that his mouth and throat are coated with some sort of heat resistant material.

now, this only works if you’ve got sturdy plates, of course. i’ve started warming serving dishes in the oven and eating plates in the microwave for 45 sec. it really makes a difference in keeping our food warm all the way through the meal.

keeping food warm in the oven: i’m also learning how to balance between timing and keeping food warm until serving. i hate serving cold food. when i’m making individual batches of things, like pancakes, i set my oven to the lowest it will go (170F) and put cakes in there until all the batter is done. if dinner is ready before we’re ready to eat it, whether it’s just the two of us or we have guests, i cover it and put it in the oven on 200F. [and if i can clean up while things are staying warm, all the better so i can just lounge after eating!]. of course, some things will dry out or overcook, and i’m still learning how to manage that, but this has largely made my life easier and my food tastier.

mushroom stems: real talk. the good part of mushrooms are just the caps, right? the stems have a weird woody, fibrous texture to them when cooked. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

if you chop them up finely [whizz in a food processor if there are a lot] and saute them over medium heat until they’re evenly browned, they turn into flavor oomphing caviar. [they’ve got umami. not unagi.] especially if you add finely chopped onions and diced garlic. now, whenever i’m cooking with mushrooms, i always de-stem them first and cook this down into the sauce. i’ve also added this into ground beef for meatballs with great success. [fyi i got this idea from pioneer woman’s amazing stuffed mushrooms. if you have any filling left over, roll it into some chicken breast. yeah.]

i’d like to experiment pureeing the cooked stems, onions, and garlic into a paste and keeping it in the fridge or freezer, and add spoonfuls into marinades or sauces or soups.

that’s all for now!

a citrusy craving and a dressing in progress

2013 April 8
by taiyyaba


seriously y’all. this month, i’ve wanted nothing more than a big bowl full of oranges. juicy, bright, tart, sweet, orange. mmmm.

i don’t know if this is a sign of some nascent vitamin c deficiency, or if i’m working out a mild jealousy that my parents are in pakistan during citrus season and have been drinking fresh-squeezed kino juice every morning. but here’s the result.

step 1: i bought a couple of every kind of orange (and a grapefruit) available at food lion. blood orange, cara cara, and one whose name i can’t remember.

step 2: wash and dry very well. zest each one into a small bowl with a microplane grater. the grapefruit really gave me some trouble but overall the zesting was well worth it.

step 3: grab a serrated knife. slice off a bit off one end of the citrus so it sits flat on your board. then, run your knife roundly down the sides, cutting off the rind as you go.

step 4: segment the fruit – hold each one in the palm of your hand. you see the lines running up and down? that’s the membrane that can be kind of fibrous and chewy in some varieties. not so great in a fruit salad. again using a serrated knife and working over your serving bowl (not the zest bowl), cut diagonally inwards between each membrane line. you’ll get little triangular segments and a bunch of juice falling into the bowl. when you’re done, you’ll have a mass of membranes left with some fruit stuck to them – just squeeze over the bowl and discard the rest.

step 5: EAT.

can we just marvel over these colors for a second? subhanallah.

wait, taiyyaba, what do i do with the zest? OMG i’m so glad you asked.

so, a couple of weeks ago (still during my citrus craving), i had dinner with friends at Zaytinya. it was super amazing (except for the snail kibbe….yeah you read that right), particularly this citrus salad with bright fruit, slightly bitter greens, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and a soft salty cheese. well, naturally, after i’d cut up all that citrus, i had to try it with the bits and pieces i had on hand.

i’m kind of humble-proud about this vinaigrette. i need to keep working on the proportions but the flavors are really great.

citrus salad

vinaigrette: citrus zest from several fruits; probably about 1/2 cup of mixed citrus juice, 1/2 cup of strong earl grey left over from making honey cake, half a tablespoon of honey, and a couple of capfuls of apple cider vinegar. whisk with some olive oil and a pinch of salt.

dress some strong, dark greens (i used arugala) with this yumminess. bowl it. top with various and sundry citrus segments and some slivered almonds (if you have more wherewithal than i did, toast them first). nom it. some feta or ricotta salata would be awesome on this as well.

honey cake and pinteresting aspirations

2013 April 1
by taiyyaba

my friend and colleague at work, bethan, has a theory about pinterest – namely, that it is a purely aspirational device for people to obsess about stuff they want to do but never will. i think she’s mostly right. Lord knows i never do any of the stuff i pin on my “neat and clean” board and unfortunately own only one of the awesome things on my “serveware” board. but, bethan, i’ve proved you wrong today!

for a couple of days, i’ve been craving the process of baking and eating a cake. so, of course, i went on a pinterest spree (no one was injured, amy/donny). one really caught my eye – smitten kitchen’s majestic and moist honey cake. so i made it today, bethan! (of course she’s still right….i pinned 10 and will probably won’t make any of the rest of them….)

smitten kitchen’s stuff never fails – she really knows how to develop a recipe. this is a spicy and super soft cake to which i will very quickly become addicted. follow smitten kitchen’s directions. i modified her recipe for size and substituted some ingredients. here’s what i did!

sk’s honey cake

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg [i didn’t have cloves]
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey + a bit extra
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 capful vanilla extract
1/2 cup strong earl grey
1/4 + a couple of tbs 100% apple juice [unsweetened]
slivered almonds

as you can see from my ingredient list, i decreased the sugar a bit, substituted apple juice for the whiskey [cuz muslim] and orange juice [cuz i’m not a big fan of anything orange-flavored except oranges] and cloves [cuz i didn’t have any]. i chose earl grey instead of coffee [cuz i thought it would go better with the spices].

i made this in a 9 or 10-inch round springform pan, baked at 350F for 41 minutes. immediately after it came out of the oven, i brushed the top with warmed honey. i served it with a dollop of cream cheese, whipped till fluffy with vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, and lemon zest. (whipped cream would be lighter, of course, but i had some of this left over from making danishes).

to make bethan proud [and my tastebuds happy], i’ll hopefully make my “sweets” board more than just an aspiration. we’ll see.

saturday morning

2013 March 30
by taiyyaba

it’s saturday morning. i fell asleep early last night after a deposition (by which i mean i was sitting on the couch, watching star trek with the hubs, when the cat came to snooze on me, and suddenly it was two hours later and the hubs was saying “you really should go to bed, honey.”)

but now, it’s saturday morning. my biological clock still wakes me up relatively early on saturday mornings, so now i’m sitting in the sunroom watching the aforementioned cat chatter at birds on this lovely “still a bit too cold for NC but we’re getting there” spring morning.

my favorite (non-fruiting) tree is blooming, a white bradford pear that doesn’t have a strong fragrance but looks like an explosion of cotton balls. our backyard “grass” is really just a collection of clover flowers, which may be considered weeds but which i love. and, there are little nibs of color starting on our peach tree, which starts me down the path that leads to an insane amount of lovely fruit. i’ve got work to do, but have decided that i can put it off till tomorrow. when the hubs wakes up, i’ll make pancakes and then meet some friends for lunch at a favorite restaurant in chapel hill. so, all in all, this saturday morning is a very big alhumdulillah moment.

oh, and now the cat has arrived to knead biscuits on my lap.

why so long since my last post? laziness, mostly. but also resistance to doing anything that requires thinking after a long day of lawyering. the next few months promise to be as busy as this one is as i traverse through my first litigation experience. it’s a lot of fun and/but a lot of work and/but i’m learning a lot and enjoying it.

so right now, i’m enjoying my saturday morning. i’ll come up with some real posts soon.

Quick Tip: Cini-Minis

2012 November 9
by taiyyaba

i rage a constant war against my sweet tooth. i can’t help it. it’s genetic. inherited a double whammy from both sides of my family, but especially from my mother. my naana (paternal grandfather), used to start eating sugar right at the dinner table if dessert was not yet on hand.

on days where i’m feeling particularly truthful with myself, i admit that it’s a losing battle, and i make a pan of brownies. on days where i’m deceiving myself into thinking one sweet bite is enough, i make these cini-minis.

(and if i eat four of these, i promise myself to start my diet tomorrow).

pop a roll of cinnamon rolls and cut each roll into halves, thirds, or fourths (depending on how truthful you’re feeling). place each into a lightly greased mini-muffin cup. bake at the package-directed temperature for 7-10 minutes, or until they’re just done. watch ’em. since they’re so small, they can overbake quickly. dollop with the frosting that comes with the packet. in addition to shame/ful/less snacking, these are really great for quick party snacks.