Every semester I promise myself that this is the semester I’m going to take it easy and every semester I don’t do that even a little. This semester, for example, I was supposed to accomodate 35 work hours a week by taking easy classes, but that was before I showed up to day 1 of the most amazing and demanding classes I’ve ever taken in my life. The unexpected final addition to the schedule was a positively life changing class on Shari’a, Islamic law. I decided to indulge my inner nerd, and last night I ended up making baklava at 1:30 in the morning.
While it might be ever so totally true that this wasn’t even kind of a class assignment, we WERE assigned a mock divorce court last week (complete with costumes and props) as an in-class exercise and – what do you know? –the mock plaintiff just so happened to own a baklava company! Unfortunately we were representing her mock husband and bringing in baklava for the other side was too time consuming to be justified. But I didn’t have homework last night and so for class tomorrow I will be setting the mood in style.
Besides, baklava is secretly a perfect fall food. With walnuts, honey, cinnamon and thin sheets of phyllo that could easily represent falling leaves, you could not possibly get more seasonally appropriate. I can’t lie, phyllo is a pain in everyone’s butt to work with, but I can promise the results will be well worth it. I may or may have nibbled on a store bought substitute while I waited for this to be ready and I can assure you, there’s truly nothing like homemade.
Do you have any unexpected fall recipes? Or stories of classwork-turned-recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
During my time in Morocco, I lived with a mother and daughter who cooked as well as they broke out in song while cooking. One of their favorite ingredients to prepare was what we know as couscous in its numerous forms; on Friday afternoons, we had our communal tajine of couscous, and occasionally, we started lunch with a small dish of Palestinian maftoul. One of the best feelings in the world is running your fingers through a bag of maftoul fresh from the marketplace on a sunny Saturday afternoon – mostly because it is not as small as couscous to get stuck between your fingernails!
So what on Earth is maftoul? Maftoul originated from the Palestine/Israel area as hand-rolled bulgur wheat the size of uneven peas. You most likely know the close sister of maftoul: the pearl Israeli couscous, or ptitim in Hebrew. Maftoul is rarely mass produced and almost always handmade, thus only available in Middle Eastern grocery stores. In most recipes, maftoul can be replaced with the mass-produced Israeli couscous. Regardless of whichever one you cook with, I cannot stress how important it is that food has absolutely no political affiliations.
You can make your own hearty dish with maftoul in your own kitchen. This Levantine cuisine-inspired dish is easy to cook and takes some time to simmer on the stove, meaning you have the time to clean your counters and stick your utensils in the dishwasher before even finishing cooking! Or if you are me, try to beat the incredibly difficult Level 50 of Candycrush and again, fail miserably.
Be warned! This dish calls for saffron and white wine. A tiny bunch of saffron can be replaced with one teaspoon of turmeric. White wine can be replaced with white grape juice or chicken stock. My alcohol intolerance is personally a big fan of the white grape juice substitute. Final fun fact for all: alcohol actually remains in large percentages in foods unless it has been cooked for at least 3 hours. SCIENCE!
Israeli Couscous with Chicken, Tomatoes, and Lemon
1-1/2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add couscous, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl, and return skillet to heat.
Cook chicken, smooth side down, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate, reserving drippings in skillet.
Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, lemon peel, and saffron, and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes.
Return chicken to skillet. Add wine, and cook for 4 minutes. Add stock, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and couscous, and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until couscous is tender and chicken is cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in peas, and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with lemon.