Sheikh al-Mahshi

Baked eggplant stuffed with lamb and pine nuts

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS / SERVES: 6

This is the king of stuffed food and one of my favorites. Use the smallest eggplants available (very small ones are cooked whole, while medium ones, preferably on the small side, are cut in half lengthwise). Serve with long-grain brown rice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium eggplants (or 10 small)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground lamb meat (boned leg of lamb, fat removed, ground at butcher or using a coarse blade on a food mill)
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut in small chunks
  • 8–10 cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 2 cups lamb broth
  • 6 servings long-grain brown rice

Sheikhal Mahshi

PREPARE THE EGGPLANT
Wash and trim stems from medium eggplants.
Partially peel in alternating 1-inch strips, leaving half the skin on. Cut medium eggplants in half lengthwise (leave small eggplants whole) and steam over medium heat in a covered saucepan for 15–20 minutes until the skin is soft enough that you can indent it with a poke.

Spread thin layer of olive oil onto a 9" x 13" x 2" pan. Place steamed eggplants in the pan. If using small eggplants, cut each lengthwise. Let the eggplants cool before stuffing.

PREPARE THE STUFFING
Thoroughly combine the ground lamb and onions (or grind them together in a food mill). This should make about 2 3/4 cups.

Cook the lamb and onions in a saucepan with cinnamon, salt, and pepper over low heat, stirring to avoid sticking. Add pine nuts after 5 minutes. Cook for 10–12 minutes, until the pink is gone from the lamb. Remove from heat.

PREPARE THE COMPLETED DISH
While the stuffing is cooking, gently boil the fresh tomatoes in an uncovered saucepan with 2 cups of lamb broth 10–15 minutes, until soft and juicy.

(Optional: For a decorative effect, cook the cherry tomatoes in the tomato/broth mixture to sit on top of the stuffed eggplant. Strain and set aside.)

Firmly stuff lamb filling into eggplant boats until full.

Place a generous portion of tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes, on top of each eggplant boat. Spoon tomato/broth mixture around the eggplant boats, filling pan but not overflowing eggplant. Reserve some of the liquid to add while the eggplants bake.

Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 30–50 minutes. Add reserved broth mixture as needed.

SERVE THE EGGPLANT
Remove boat from pan and serve on a bed of long-grain rice. Top with pan drippings as desired.

Macaroon Kashab

Glazed Sesame Seed Macaroons

TIME: 4 HOURS / MAKES 90 MACAROONS
Although macaroons may be considered sweets, they serve as nourishment also. These macaroons themselves are not sweet, but the glaze balances the subtle tastes in the body of the macaroon.

INGREDIENTS FOR MACAROONS

  • 1 or 2 .6-ounce cakes of yeast (2 for quicker results)
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 10 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 cups sesame seeds (optional: slightly toast in oven)
  • 2 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 5 eggs, whisked
  • 4 tablespoons anise seed
  • 1 tablespoon mahlab

INGREDIENTS FOR SYRUP

  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom
  • water

Macaroon Kashab

PREPARE THE MACAROONS
Dissolve yeast cakes in milk.

In a large bowl, mix flour and sesame seeds. Thoroughly combine anise seed
and mahlab in a blender together and add to the flour mixture.

Add olive oil and whisked eggs to flour mixture.

Knead all the ingredients well (but not hard) for about 15 minutes until the bowl is clean on the sides. The dough should be a little loose.

Cover and let the dough rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

After the dough has risen, form 2 handfuls into a big, long, rounded shape on the worktable, about 2 feet long. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces.

To form a macaroon, gently press each 1-inch piece against the grain on a flat cheese grater to create a pattern. Carefully roll the dough off the grater in one motion with the back of your fingers, forming a macaroon about the shape of a forefinger. Place onto a cookie sheet with the overlap facing down.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The macaroons are finished when slightly brown.

PREPARE SYRUP FOR GLAZE

While macaroons are baking, dissolve sugar and water. Add lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 3–4 minutes. Add orange blossom water.

With a slotted spoon, dip cooked macaroons in hot syrup to glaze as soon as they are removed from the oven. Remove from glaze and place in a colander sitting in a larger bowl to permit the macaroons to drain slightly before being placed on a platter.

If macaroons are being stored for future eating, use wax paper between layers to prevent them from sticking to each other.