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Hill o’Beans: Cannellini

2012 October 25
by taiyyaba

I have a life. So, cooking a good meal can be a challenge sometimes. But, in the “ace up my sleeve” category, I’ve got a few super-fast recipes using one can of beans and a few other things I usually have in my pantry. They make a light meal for one or substantial side dish for two and are quite healthy!

Grilled romaine topped with these delicious canellini beans

Canellini beans with caramelized onions and basil

1 onion, sliced in slivers
1 can canellini beans (or any white bean)
White sugar
Fresh basil leaves, basil pesto, or basil-in-a-tube (basil is my favorite here, but sage or rosemary are great substitutes).
Red pepper flakes
Just a bit of broth
Salt and black pepper

1. Warm some olive oil in a pan and get ready to quick-caramelize the onions.

Start at medium high heat (you can go higher if you’re attentive) and get a quick sear on them. Staying at medium-high, let them get a little brown on the edges and sprinkle with a light teaspoon of sugar. Turn it down and let them cook for about 7 or 8 more minutes.

Real caramelized onions take a long time, and don’t need any sugar. But when you’re tired, you can get an approximation in 10 minutes this way. Do try to leave them to cook on the lower heat as long as possible because they really provide great flavor to this dish.

2. While the onions are caramelizing, add in a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Adding them now helps the heat permeate through the whole dish.

3. Drain and rinse the canellini beans. Shake out the water, but it’s okay if they’re still a little moist. Add them to the pan and toss with the onions. Add salt and just a little bit of black pepper – not enough to overwhelm the light beans.

4. Add in a little bit of broth – about two or three tablespoons – and cover the pan to let the beans soften. (if you don’t have broth, it’s okay, but the beans might get a bit dry, so watch them. you can add a bit of chopped tomato instead).

5. The beans are done when you can mush one with a fork and when they’ve absorbed all the broth. At the last minute, stir in the basil (in pesto, fresh, or in-a-tube form).

I’ve served these in so many different ways as a side dish or as a meal, and each is delicious. Pick one!

As a side dish: They’re great just like this as a side dish to grilled meat.

White Bean Crostini: Puree with a little more broth and spread over crostini. Top with a little more caramelized onion, shredded fresh basil, or sundried tomato.

White Beans with Couscous: Serve over couscous, which takes maximum 10 min to make, so it’s perfect for this quick-cooking meal. Toss some mint or parsley into the couscous if you have it.

Stuffed butternut squash: Hollow out the round part of a butternut squash (unpeeled), drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Roast it at 450F until it’s soft. Fill the hollow with these canellini beans. Serve with a green salad for an amazing vegetarian supper. (this obviously takes longer. i added tomato since i didn’t have broth).

(My favorite way! This is the main picture at the top of the post) Grilled Romaine and White Bean Salad: Heat a grill pan. Cut some romaine lettuce in half, lengthwise (leave the core in) and drizzle it with olive oil. When the grill pan is quite hot, put the romaine on it cut side down and leave it there until you get some delish grill marks on it. Turn and grill the other sides. Plate the romaine and pour the hot basil canellini beans on top. (wait, it gets better!) Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar (aged, if you have it). Oh. My. God. My mouth is watering right now just writing about this.

So many options from just one little can o’beans! Enjoy!


2012 October 1
by taiyyaba

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. We are from God, and to God we return.

Our beloved cousin, Ali, was killed in Damascus last week. Ali went missing on Thursday night, when he went to spend time with some friends and did not return. Yesterday, our family found out that he had been killed. He was buried today in the family graveyard.

Ali was the youngest of seven children. He was one of the kindest and happiest people I have ever known. Ali’s good manners, respect, and love were pervasive, and he spread them to his family and friends.

Ali was always ready with a smile, a joke, and a place in his big heart for everyone he met. He always made me feel so welcome when I visited Syria, even though I knew very little Arabic. Every memory I have of him makes me smile: Ali singing to his nephew, Ali driving like a maniac, Ali singing along to “What’s My Name?,” Ali telling us as we left for home to “Tell Molly I said salaam.” Allah yarhamhu.

Last time we went to Syria, Ali drove us everywhere around the beautiful country, taking time away from his studies to devote to our enjoyment. He was studying to be a lawyer.

Ali with his mom at the Syrian Mediterranean coast

Ali loved his family, and we love him. He will continue to live in our hearts and memories.

These make me smile. We had just spent a lovely weekend at the sea. We headed out so early that Ali didn’t have time for his signature hair gel. After some badgering, he let me take these. Afterwards, he applied half a tub of gel, rubbing palmfuls of goop into his hair, laughing heartily with us as we teased him about his style. May Allah give him the joy of Jannat al-Firdaus.

We pray for Ali and all of our brothers and sisters in Syria, those who are still living under tyranny and those who have escaped as displaced refugees. For those who have been killed, may Allah magnify their reward, forgive their sins, and accept them as martyrs in the highest level in Paradise.

Hill o’Beans: Chickpeas

2012 September 26
by taiyyaba

I have a life. So, cooking a good meal can be a challenge sometimes. But, in the “ace up my sleeve” category, I’ve got a few super-fast recipes using one can of beans and a few other things I usually have in my pantry. They make a light meal for one or substantial side dish for two and are quite healthy!

Chickpeas! Yes, you can do more than puree them into hummus.

Pan-roasted chickpea salad

1 can of garbonzo beans
1 lemon
handful of parsley
rough-cracked blacked pepper
olive oil
optional: thinly scallion/red onion/chives, diced cucumber, diced tomato

Before the chickpeas are roasted, they have to be dried well. Open the can of beans, drain the liquid, and rinse off the canning water. You can either place the beans on paper towels and pat dry, or spin them in a salad spinner till all the water is whisked away.

Heat a pan over high heat and drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the pan. When the oil is very hot, drop in the chickpeas and toss to coat with oil. The chickpeas will begin to smell wonderful and will actually start popping and jumping merrily in the pan. Keep tossing so that they get evenly brown all over. This takes about five minutes.

While the chickpeas are browning, zest the lemon. When the chickpeas are browned, toss in some salt and cracked black pepper. While still in the pan, squeeze lemon juice over the chickpeas. They’ll sizzle!

Remove from heat and put the chickpeas into a serving bowl. Add the parsley and drizzle with a bit of fresh olive oil. It’s perfect to eat as a side this way, but you can also add some thinly sliced onions and chunked cucumbers and tomatoes.

Sorry honey . . .

2012 September 17
by taiyyaba


I love you, Ameir.

My friend Sana Anwar taught me to make this! Next step…acquire Sana’s Afghani pilau recipe. (that ish is GOOD).

I made this eggplant with garlic-yogurt sauce for my lovely friend Amy K on her wedding weekend – our suite had a kitchen, and I used it! I served it with a simple tomato-ricotta bruschetta and a light salad.

3 gigantic eggplants
1 big tub whole-milk yogurt
Spice mix: equal parts cumin, coriander, and paprika.
Garlic cloves
Dried and/or fresh mint
Diced tomatoes and/or pomegranate seeds
Olive oil

1. Slice the eggplant into rounds (no more than 1/2 inch thick). Sprinkle both sides with salt and let sit on paper towels or in a colander for an 20-30 min.

2. Pat eggplant dry and sprinkle with the spice mix on both sides.

3. Cook the eggplant.

Option 1: Fry the eggplant in olive oil (or. Just put a film of oil in a nonstick pan, wait till it gets hot (medium-high heat) and put the eggplant in a single layer. Fry on each side till it gets brown, adding more oil if needed.

Option 2: You can also just sprinkle them with the spice mix and cook under the broiler on a baking sheet. This will take significantly less oil.

Option 3: You can also do a combination. Sear on both sides, cook halfway through, on the stove – then put it on a pan in a low oven (300 max) to finish cooking while you do the rest of the eggplant. Poke with a fork to see if it’s soft enough.

Goin’ to the chuppah and I’m
Gonna get married
Goin’ to the chuppah of love

4. Mash a clove of garlic smooth (mortar/pestle, or dice onto a board with a pinch of kosher salt). Mix this into the yogurt & whip till smooth. (Start with half a mashed garlic clove and then see if you want more – it should just be a light flavor, not overpowering). Add just a smidge of the spice mix into the yogurt – just till it shows a bit of color.

5. On a big platter, put a layer of eggplant. Dollop the yogurt all over the top. Repeat. (This recipe makes two platters of two layers each). On the top, sprinkle with mint and diced tomatoes. You can also make it awesomer by sprinkling with pomegranate seeds, and/or drizzling with balsamic vinegar or a flavored olive oil.

6. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Kanafa kanafa kanafa

2012 September 10
by taiyyaba

Maryam and I have a kanafa song. it goes like this:

Kanafa Kanafa
I eat you Kanafa
Kanafa Kanafa
I eat you Kanafa

yeah. we’re cool like that.

my lovely lovely Fatimah makes a fantastic kanafa. seriously. fantastic. crispy on the edges, creamy on the inside, and perfect with a cup of tea. she makes it regularly, and i never, ever get tired of it. i’ve watched her make it so many times, and last time I finally wrote it down. YOU’RE WELCOME, INTERNETS.

Fatimah’s amazing ricotta kanafa
1 15-oz tub whole-milk ricotta
1 regular pack whole-milk mozarella cheese
1 pack shredded fillo dough
2 sticks of butter, melted
Kanafa coloring (an unflavored powdered food coloring you can get from an Arab grocery store. You can leave it out, or substitute any other color you want).

1. mix 1/2 stick of melted butter and kanafa coloring and spread it onto a big nonstick pan (fatimah uses a very large pizza pan). melt the rest of the butter with the fillo dough and spread half the dough on the bottom of the pan.

2. mix the cheeses and spread evenly across the dough.

3. top with the rest of the buttered dough.

4. bake at 400F for 30 minutes and slice quickly when it comes out of the oven. Pour the room-temp syrup over the kanafa while the kanafa is hot. Serve in squares, flipped pink side up.

Syrup proportions
1 3/4 cup of water
3 cups white sugar
juice of half a lime
orange blossom water to taste (about a teaspoon)

cook the water, lime juice, and sugar on a rapid simmer/low boil, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes syrupy, about 15 minutes. add orange blossom water. remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

note on the sugar syrup: you can really change things up here with the flavoring. instead of orange blossom water, you could use vanilla and/or almond extract, or rose water extract. once, Fatima and I accidentally left the sugar syrup on the heat for too long and it caramelized – we just whisked it with some warmed honey, added some orange zest, and made a delicious golden-colored burnt sugar-orange-honey kanafa.

Quick Lemon-Berry Danishes

2012 September 2
by taiyyaba

PG Tips and a danish

I love making these quick danishes for brunch or an afternoon tea, or to take along when a friend invites us for dinner. It just needs a couple hours of forethought to take the cream cheese out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Start to finish, though, the assembly and baking takes less than an hour.

2 packets refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 8-oz packet cream cheese
zest of 2 lemons
dash of vanilla extract
couple big spoons o’sugar

1. let cream cheese sit until room temp. mix with lemon zest, vanilla, sugar (and cinnamon, if you want). one full packet of cream cheese is enough for two packets of dough. (the cream cheese mixture will keep, and you can make a second batch with cold cream cheese straight from the fridge).

a note about lemon zest: in dishes where the flavor will come through (like dips or dairy-based things), I always use zest whenever the recipe calls for the juice. if it would just be a waste to add zest, I zest it anyway and keep it in a little baggie in the freezer, moistened with fresh lemon juice. this way, I can just add zest to things even if I don’t have any fresh lemons.

2. unroll crescent roll dough. cut vertically and horizontally in half so you have four rectangle/squares of two triangles each. break apart the two triangles and then overlay one piece on top of the other, overlapping, and mash the seam together so that the filling won’t spill out.

3. cut each of these in half, so you end up with eight squares. stretch them out into a square-ish shape if they are a little misshapen.

4. for each square – put a teaspoon-sized dollop of cream cheese in the middle, then a dollop of jam. (my absolute favorite is crofters fruit spread).

5. pull up opposing ends of each square into the middle and squish together, then kind of pull at the four corners so you get a little square packet. sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

6. bake at 375 for 17-20 minutes until golden brown. check at 17 – if there is any stuff oozing out, just use a nonstick spatula to kind of scoop it up and back onto/into the danish.

serve with tea!

I love eggplants, but . . .

2012 August 30
by taiyyaba

Ameir does not. Marriage requires sacrifices.

BUT STILL. I make some killer eggplant sometimes. Here’s one of my favorites – not just because of the flavors, but the colors and textures. Everything except the last garnishes can even be done a couple of days ahead, and tastes best at room temperature, which makes it great for potlucks and parties.

Lemon Hummus with Eggplant-Tomato topping

Hummus: Chickpeas, tahini, water, lemon, food processor.
1 Eggplant & 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Ground Cumin & Coriander & Paprika
Garlic (optional)
Sliced almonds
Parsley & Mint

1. Make a batch of your favorite hummus. Choose a recipe that gives you a thicker consistency so it can hold the topping. I’ve had luck with Yvonne’s hummus recipe in the Ramadan Recipes App and with this one from Simply Recipes. For a lighter-tasting hummus, I rarely add garlic or cumin, and always add the zest along with the lemon juice. Also, this works.

2. Cut the eggplant into small cubes. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle just a bit of cumin, coriander, and paprika (maybe 1/4 tsp each) and toss. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat and toss in the eggplant into a single layer (do a couple batches if necessary – the sear really makes the dish). When the eggplant is seared, add a couple of cloves of diced garlic (optional, for a stronger and more savory flavor) and salt to taste. Meanwhile, cut a pint of cherry tomatoes in half.

3. Once the eggplant is soft, which takes about five minutes, move the eggplant to the side of the pan & turn the stove up to high. When it’s hot, add the tomatoes and cook until they get charred and release some juice. Mix it all up and let it cook together on medium heat for another couple minutes. All of this takes about 7 or 8 minutes – don’t overcook the vegetables. You want them to hold their shape, not be mushy. Remove all that deliciousness from the pan and let it come to room temperature.

4. When you’re ready to serve, get a big, beautiful platter. Spread the hummus all the way around, and then spoon the topping over it, leaving a border of hummus.

5. Last touches: Put the sliced almonds in a cold pan with a couple glugs of olive oil, then heat the pan and toast the almonds until they’re golden brown. Sprinkle these nuts and the oil all over the topped hummus. Cut up a small handful of parsley and mint and sprinkle on top. Serve with pita bread.

Back to Blogging! (and check out Ramadan Recipes!)

2012 August 26
by taiyyaba

Whaaaaa? Where have I been? A combination of business, laziness, and technical issues that have resulted in this blogging lapse. This was a serious problem – not just because I couldn’t share recipes with you all, but because my blog is like my own personal recipe box that helps me remember how to make Shakriya. My very thoughtful husband Ameir fixed it up for me as an Eid present, and I’m really looking forward to blogging again, InshAllah! I’m still working on fixing some of the pictures in older posts, but the text is all there for you to browse. (Please don’t slack off at work. It’ll still be there in the evening).

For my first post back, I’d like to tell everyone about Ramadan Recipes, if you haven’t heard of it already!

This awesome iPhone/iPad app came from Batoul Apps and Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen. It has more than 100 recipes from many different cuisines, with pictures and step-by-step instructions for every one. One of my favorite features is the “Recipes of the Day” option that suggests a full set of meals for you to try – Suhoor (Breakfast), Iftar (Appetizer), Entree, and Dessert. I’ve got my Favorites all starred so I can go back to them quickly. The app is universal – in non-nerd terms, that means the app works on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Ramadan Recipes

I’ve cooked from this all Ramadan and am really looking forward to continue using it, especially with updates that Batoul Apps and My Halal Kitchen are working on. Look for new recipes and features from Ramadan Recipes throughout the year!

{methi paratha}

2011 September 8
by taiyyaba

griddle-fresh parathas with fresh fenugreek leaves


2011 May 11
by taiyyaba

There are protests going on all over Syria right now. As we all watch and pray for peace, I wanted to share some pictures from our recent trip to show you all how beautiful the country is, and how delicious the food is. Today, a dinner we had at Ameir’s Amto Shukriya’s house.

Amto Shukriya invited us to an incredibly delicious dinner at her home in Damascus. It was almost entirely made of stuffed things – which, as you can imagine, takes hours of skill and patience to do.


Malfouf – cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and ground beef. They’re braised in a broth flavored with lamb or beef bones, garlic, onions, and lemon. The garlic cloves are left whole so they braise with the stuffed cabbage and turn out soft and sweet. The lemon makes the broth slightly tart, but is balanced out by the smoothness of the beef broth. This is actually one of my favorite Arab dishes of all time. Look at the beautiful tomato rose Amto Shukriya made for the middle!


Mah’shi – vegetables stuffed with the same rice and ground beef mixture. In this case, Amto has made a kousa mah’shi (stuffed zucchini) and baitinjaan mah’shi (stuffed eggplant). Mah’shi is braised in a tomato broth.


The cooking broths are served alongside the Makdous and Mah’shi so they can be poured over the rice.


This is called Balti – Amto Shukriya says it comes from the Gulf Arab countries, but I think it has Persian and/or Indian-Pakistani roots. The chicken is roasted in curry-flavored spices. It is served on top of curried pilau flavored with nuts and raisins – a classic Persian technique.


As you can imagine, we overate until we were as stuffed as the kousa.