Petulla – Albanian Fried Dough

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Deep-fried alien-looking dough

Yeah, yeah I know….. fried dough doesn’t sound all that inviting…it’s not as pleasant-sounding as doughnut or as exotic as beignet but trust me, Petulla are fried pieces of heaven to our family.  There are many variations in the world when it comes to fried dough.  These petulla can be eaten alone (the way I like them) or with feta cheese or with honey or both as my husband and son like them.  They can also be covered with powdered sugar…to do this I place some powdered sugar in a clean paper lunch bag….toss in a couple of petulla and shake until they are coated with the sugar.   My son and I like to look at the odd shapes and see if we can identify objects in the shapes just like you would do with clouds in the sky.

Three petulla

Three petulla

I grew up on these but my mother didn’t teach me the recipe.  She is old school so she doesn’t measure her ingredients with measuring cups and spoons and I don’t like to cook or bake without those measuring devices.  I came across my recipe in the most unexpected of places….The Sopranos Family Cookbook.  I bought the cookbook because I loved the TV show and I love Italian food….but the recipe I’ve used the most in this book was the Zeppole recipe.   I was floored when I saw the Zeppole picture….they looked exactly like Petulla!  So I tried the recipe but I was slightly disappointed…it was close to my mom’s petulla but something was missing.  I thought back to the way my mom made it and I realized that she put eggs into her batter.  I tried the altered recipe and SUCCESS!  I turned an Italian zeppole recipe into an authentic Albanian petulla recipe.

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How I Sabotaged my Husband’s Diet AKA my Pecan Pie

DSCN0685To help celebrate my husband’s safe return, I made his favorite pie as a surprise.  He was happy and a little upset at the same time.  He loves this pie but he had worked hard over the past year and lost 34 pounds.  I kinda sorta sabotaged his hard work.  Oops!  😉 This pie is great but it uses a homemade crust which means it’s bit more complicated to make.  Yes, I suppose you can buy a pre-made pie crust but I don’t care for them much.  Those refrigerated pie crusts are usually made with lard which is a big no-no for me and the frozen crusts don’t have any butter in the crust which means they lack flavor.  So I make my own….it’s not too too hard…my biggest problem right now is that it’s crazy hot here and my pie dough can melt right before my eyes as I am rolling it.  That’s just what happened to me and that is why you don’t see the pretty, fluted crust I normally make in the picture above.  I wish I could have shared step-by-step photos with you but unfortunately my kitchen has no windows so that means no natural light to take decent pictures.  I found some videos that might help if you are unsure about making your own pie dough.

A video on how to roll out pie dough.

A video on how to move pie dough into a pie plate.

A video on how to crimp the edges.

A video on how to bake blind…pre-bake a pie crust.

Here is the recipe for the pie dough followed by the pecan pie recipe.

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Hummus

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Although I have posted this recipe in my blog before , it seems lost because it shares a post with other recipes.  This Hummus is so good that it deserves a post of its own.

Hummus

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

The hummus can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days. If you do not plan on serving it immediately, refrigerate the hummus and garnishes separately. When ready to serve, stir in approximately 1 tablespoon of warm water if the texture is too thick.

Makes about 2 cups

3             tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons

1/4             cup water

6             tablespoons sesame tahini , stirred well

2             tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling

1             (14-ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed

2             garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press

1/2             teaspoon table salt

1/4             teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of cayenne

1             tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Combine lemon juice and water in small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.

2. Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds.

Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula.

With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube.

Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute.

With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle reserved chickpeas and parsley over surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

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Fattoush – Lebanese Bread Salad

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with a slice of Feta

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My favorite salad

I was lucky enough to grow up in the Metro Detroit area…..an area rich with cultural diversity.  In school, there were kids of Italian, Polish, German, Hungarian, Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and Balkan descent.  There were more but I can’t even name all of the backgrounds…there were so many.  For me, it was the best of America……a true melting pot.  One thing I really miss is all the wonderful and delicious Lebanese food that can be found there.  It’s colorful and healthy.  Lots of salads and vegetables.  Just before my husband arrived this weekend, I talked to him on the phone and I asked him what he wanted to eat first when he came back…”Fattoush,” he said, “I miss your awesome Fattoush.”  I had not made Fattoush in awhile because it can be a bit time consuming……not complicated but there is a bit of prep work.  What I do to make it more worth my while is make enough to last for several days.  I clean and cut all of the vegetables, mix them together but without the dressing and then store this salad mixture in zippered plastic bags in the refrigerator.  This way the salad mixture will last much of the week.  I toss in the chopped parsley, pita bread and dressing just before serving.  This salad mixture is adaptable….instead of Fattoush you can make a tasty Greek salad by adding feta cheese, olives and Greek dressing instead of the pita, parsley and Fattoush dressing.  Or you can leave it as is and use it with your favorite dressing.  I don’t have precise measurements for this recipe because it should be to your taste, so you may add or remove as much of each item as you like.  A tip for the moms out there:  When my son was younger and would not eat spinach, I would sneak it into this salad by chopping it up….he didn’t know it was in there for the longest time and ate this salad blissfully unaware.

Fattoush & Feta

Fattoush & Feta

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Salad in a Sandwich

Caesar Wrap

Caesar Wrap

Once, sometime last year, I remember ordering a dish at one of those family chain restaurants which we don’t frequent much anymore.  I had a sandwich similar to the one in the photo and I knew it had to be easy to duplicate at home.  It was a Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap.  I don’t have a detailed recipe for this sandwich but you don’t really need one.  I didn’t use chicken this time but I normally do.  This sandwich makes a great light lunch.

Here’s what you’ll need for your wrap:

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Black Bottom Cupcakes

Cupcake Trio

Cupcake Trio

Guess who had a chocolate craving today.  Once again I turned to my favorite baking book:  America’s Test Kitchen Baking Book for something new to bake in order to satisfy this insatiable sweet tooth.  I found this recipe for Black Bottom Cupcakes that fit my needs which were as follows:  it had to be for only 12 cupcakes not 24 like most recipes; I had to have the ingredients on hand and it had to be uncomplicated.  This recipe fit all of my requirements.  Before proceeding, I did a little research online for black bottom cupcake recipes so I looked at other foodie websites and blogs and I found that all the recipes out there used vegetable oil in the cupcake batter.  The recipe I used had melted butter which is so much more flavorful than oil.  My son and I really enjoyed these cupcakes.  He tried his warm while I like mine cold from the fridge because of the cheesecake texture of the center.  These cupcakes are more humble than pretty but they taste wonderful.

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Napoleon’s Dynamite

Napoleon

Napoleon Dyn-O-Mite!

Yes, it’s dessert time again.  I wanted to make something that I haven’t made before and I wanted it to be appealing to look at.  So it was back to my trusty American’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. In the pastry section I came across this recipe for Napoleons.  It’s been years since I’ve eaten one and my son has never tried them before.  Napoleons are a bit challenging to make.  I made the pastry cream filling from scratch but I found the puff pastry in the freezer section at the supermarket.  My baking book had a recipe to make puff pastry from scratch which I would have preferred however it’s way too warm this summer to work with a butter-rich dough.  The store-bought puff pastry is not made with butter so it isn’t as flavorful as I would have liked it but it was a suitable substitute.  The pastry cream was made from scratch which helped make up for any flavor deficit.  I found these Napoleons to be quite rich.  The recipe makes 6 servings but can be cut in half to make 12.  If you are short on time or are still a novice cook, you can substitute vanilla pudding for the pastry cream.  This recipe really needs some step-by-step photos however I don’t have any windows in my kitchen so there is no natural light to take decent photos.  To help make up for the lack of photo steps,  here is a video of a Martha Stewart recipe that you can use as a template for this recipe if you are brave enough to tackle this pastry recipe.  😉

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