Unusual ingredients yield tasty results


October 18, 2006|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,Sun reporter

Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon

By Claudia Roden

The Middle Eastern Cookbook

By Maria Khalife

Interlink Books / 2006 / $29.95

The founder of the Arab food network serves up a taste of the Middle East that goes beyond the run-of-the-mill hummus and falafel. Way beyond, in some cases. Take this dish from Bahrain: Raw Meat With Cracked Wheat and Lentils. I'm not sure Americans - wary these days of uncooked spinach - are ready for raw ground lamb.

But this attractive book has plenty of more mainstream fare from across the Middle East, including Chicken With Rice and Orange Peel from Iran, Spiced Beef Shanks from Yemen and Oven-Barbecued Fish from Iraq.

A dessert from Lebanon - Pancakes With Cream - made for an unusual brunch dish: pancakes filled with cottage cheese and topped with ground pistachios and a syrup flavored with orange-blossom water. I'll admit to cheating: I scooped the batter into the pan instead of piping it out of a pastry bag. And I never did find the preserved orange blossoms that were supposed to garnish the dish. But it was still tasty.


Pancakes With Cream

Makes 16 to 18 pancakes


2 cups superfine sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons orange-blossom water


1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/2 cup warm water

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 stick butter


18 ounces Ashta (a thick cream) or cottage cheese

1/3 cup ground pistachios

2 tablespoons preserved orange blossoms

To make the sugar syrup: Add the sugar and water to a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until dissolved. Simmer for 15 minutes without stirring, then stir in the lemon juice and orange-blossom water just before removing from heat. Let cool.

To make the batter: In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl and gradually stir in the milk, beating until smooth. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest in a warm place for 1 hour, until the batter has risen and doubled in size.

Heat a small, heavy frying pan over medium heat and grease very lightly with butter. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Squeeze the batter into the pan and tilt immediately so that the batter spreads into a circle about 4 inches in diameter. The pancake should be about 1/4 inch thick.

Cook for about 1 minute, until golden brown on the underside. Flip over and cook for a few seconds on the other side. Lift out and place on a plate, covering with a damp cloth to prevent drying. Repeat until all the batter has been used, stacking the pancakes one on top of the other.

To make the filling: Place one tablespoon of Ashta or cottage cheese on the pale side of each pancake. Fold over and press together half the edge, leaving the other half open with the Ashta protruding from it. Garnish with the ground pistachios and preserved orange blossoms. Drizzle with syrup.

From "The Middle Eastern Cookbook"

Per serving (based on 18 pancakes): 202 calories, 6 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, trace fiber, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 150 milligrams sodium

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