Lemon-Semolina Almond Cake

Lemon-Semolina Almond Cake

I recently came across Ottolenghi’s Semolina-Lemon Syrup Cakes, and it reminded me of my grandmother’s semolina cake; she used to make it for me all the time when I was growing up!

Inspired by Ottolenghi's recipe, I added rosewater to simple syrup for a Middle Eastern touch to this cake. The cake, paired with candied lemon slices and drizzled with rosewater simple syrup, has a coarse texture, making it a wonderfully versatile dessert. Whether you want to eat this with a scoop of ice cream or with a cup of coffee for breakfast, this lemony cake will be your new favorite!

Total Time: 1 hr 30 minutes
Serves: 8 - 12 slices

INGREDIENTS

Lemon-Semolina Almond Cake:

  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal

  • 1 cup semolina flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 lemons

  • 3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Rosewater Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 2 tbsp rosewater

Candied Lemon:

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

Lemon-Semolina Almond Cake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.

  2. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Sift together the almond flour, semolina flour and baking powder on a medium bowl. Add salt to the mixture and whisk everything to combine.

  3. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk oil, sugar, and lemon zest from 2 lemons together, about 3 minutes. With motor running, gradually add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate, about 1 minute. Add dry ingredients and juice of 1 lemon and whisk everything to combine, about 1 minute.

  4. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Place the cake on the middle rack, and bake until golden brown, approximately for 60 minutes. Lightly press the top of the cake to test — it should feel lightly springy when done. Let cool for 20 minutes or so in pan before removing and transferring to a cooling rack.

Rosewater Simple Syrup & Candied Lemon:

  1. In one easy step, combine water, sugar, juice of 1 lemon, and rosewater in a pot. Cook it over medium-heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, for 4-5 minutes.

  2. Add thinly-sliced lemon to the simple syrup, and cook it on medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes until the lemon is tender.

  3. Transfer candied lemon to a wire rack.

Assembly:

  1. Drizzle rosewater over a cake. Garnish the cake with candied lemon slices on top.

Sesame Kibbeh + Beet Yogurt

Sesame Kibbeh + Beet Yogurt

Kibbeh is an essential dish to lebanese cuisine. There are various different forms, and techniques used to make kibbeh. You can bake it, fry it, or grill it. Make it into balls, stuffed and baked, or crispy and flat. During my last trip to Lebanon I learned how to form the kibbeh balls. They look like footballs - I might not be an expert yet but I tried!

The beet yogurt steals the show - it is refreshing and delicious, complimenting kibbeh so well. Use it as a dip for your next mezze spread! 

Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 5-6 people

Kibbeh:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur

  • 1 onion, peeled

  • 2 tbsp buharat-7 pepper seasoning (cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper)

  • 1 lb lamb, ground

  • 1 lb beef, ground

  • 1/2 cup white sesame seeds, roasted

  • 1.5 tbsp kosher salt

Beet Yogurt:

  • 2 cups greek yogurt

  • 3-4 roasted or boiled beets

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Kibbeh:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450F. 

  2. In a medium size bowl, soak the bulgur with lukewarm water for 10 minutes.  

  3. Place the onion and 1 tbsp of buharat in a food processor and pulse for 60-90 seconds or until well-minced.

  4. In a large bowl mix the ground beef and ground lamb with the onion mixture, the remainder of the buharat, salt, drained bulgur, and sesame seeds.

  5. Mix well and until fully combined. 

  6. Drizzle olive oil on a sheet tray and form footballs with the meat mixture, by pinching the ends. Put the finished, football-shaped mixture on the sheet tray.

  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

  8. Serve with the beet yogurt dip.

Beet Yogurt:

  1. In one easy step, add all the ingredients into a food processor and mix well until well combined! Taste for salt – and adjust seasoning.

  2. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds.

  3. Cheers!

Ultimate Mediterranean Summer Menu

Ultimate Summer Menu

What are you cooking this Labor Day weekend? Use my ultimate summer menu to spice up your table. From an appetizer to a dessert, I got it covered. 

Start off your party with my refreshing Cucumber Thyme Fizz and Olive Hummus to get the party started!

Get the grill craking and charr up the corns to make this Charred Corn & Halloumi Salad.

Get your sheet tray for the branzino! Papilote Branzino is the easiest way to cook fish without drying out. 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad complements Mediterranean branzino.

Finish your Mediterranean feast with my Rosewater Grilled Peaches

Photos by Lauren Zaser

Rosewater Grilled Peaches

Rosewater Grilled Peaches

I am not much of a dessert person, so I decided to combine salty and sweet flavors. After grilling peaches, they get caramelized, and the sweetness from the caramelization goes so well with salty rosewater-infused ricotta. 

This recipe takes no time to assemble, and it's a healthy alternative dessert!

Photos by Lauren Zaser
 

Serves: 6 - 8 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 peaches, riped
  • 12 -16 oz fresh ricotta
  • 3 tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Honey
  • Dried rose petals (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your grill on high.
  2. Cut the peaches in half. Carefully remove the pits.
  3. Spray your grill with nonstick spray.
  4. Grill the peaches, face-side down first for 4 -5 minutes. Then, flip and grill for 2 additional minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk ricotta, rosewater, and salt until well combined.
  6. Let peaches cool. Scoop ricotta into the grilled peaches.
  7. Drizzle honey and garnish with dried rose petals.

Kalamata Olive Hummus

Kalamata Olive Hummus

You guys! I've been feeling very HUMMUSexual lately ;) I've been playing around with hummus, adding all sorts of different toppings. The crowd has spoken! Salty, Greek olives have won! They add a perfect Mediterranean bite to the smooth hummus. 

You can play around with the flavors. I often top my hummus with beets, pine nuts, and even some chopped herbs! Make this crowd-pleasing dip for your next gathering! 

Serves: 4 - 6 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 15-oz cans chickpea, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp cumin, ground
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ cup ice water
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil to garnish 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add chickpeas, garlic, cumin, tahini, and salt to a food processor and pulse on low for 30 seconds. 
  2. Add lemon juice and pulse on medium for a minute.
  3. Accelerate the speed to high and add ice cold water slowly until it's fully corporated. Pulse the hummus for 2 minutes or until it becomes a smooth consistency.
  4. Fold chopped olives into the hummus.
  5. Plate and garnish by drizzling more olive oil. 
  6. ENJOYY!!
 
 

Papillote Branzino

Papillote Branzino

Branzino is the Mediterranean sea bass. I grew up eating lots of charcoal-grilled Branzino in Lebanon, but now that I live in Brooklyn without a grill, I found a way to cook this salty fish. 

When I was in college, I learned this "papillote" method, cooking in parchment envelops. It's an easy way to cook fish without drying it out. Keeping the moisture within the papillote locks in all the Mediterranean flavors of Branzino. You can cook any fish using this foolproof method.

Make this impressive dish with minimal effort for your next dinner party!

Photos by Lauren Zaser

Serves: 4 - 6 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel head
  • 6 fillets branzino
  • 3 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup olives, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt & pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. 
  2. Slice fennel on a mandoline. If you don't have a mandoline, thinly slice the fennel.
  3. Cut out a parchment paper that is 6 inches larger than your sheet tray. 
  4. Line the sheet tray with the parchment, and drizzle with olive oil. 
  5. Scatter sliced fennel and salt.
  6. Place the filleted branzino on top of the fennel and season it with salt and pepper, followed by capers, olives, garlic, and thyme leaves.
  7. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  8. Layer the lemon across the fish.
  9. Pour the white wine around the fish. 
  10. Cover the fish with a parchment paper, and fold the ends of parchment papers tightly to make an envelope.
  11. Place the sheet tray in the preheated oven, and cook it for 14 - 16 minutes.
  12. Remove the sheet tray from the oven, and let it sit for 1 minute before removing the top parchment paper. 
  13. ENJOYY!!

Mediterranean Orzo

Mediterranean Orzo

My clients rave about this orzo salad! It's the perfect appetizer or a side dish. The saltiness of the capers and olives is the secret to this dish. This salad will bring colors and flavors to your table. Have fun with this salad! You can add herbs, cheese, or different seasonings like paprika, black peppers, and even red pepper flakes. It goes perfectly with grilled chicken or any flaky fish. 

Photos by Lauren Zaser

Serves: 4 - 6 people  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb orzo
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 3 tbsp capers
  • 1 pint cherry tomato
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pistachio, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  2. Clean and chop asparagus into thirds. 
  3. Drop the orzo and cook for 7 minutes, then add chopped asparagus and cook for additional 2 minutes.
  4. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  5. Drain the orzo and asparagus. Let them cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. 
  6. Combine cooled orzo, asparagus, olives, capers, and cherry tomatoes. 
  7. Toss with lemon juice, reserved pasta water, and olive oil until well combined.
  8. Garnish with chopped pistachio.
  9. ENJOYYY!

Charred Corn & Halloumi Salad

Charred Corn & Halloumi Salad

This is as seasonal as it gets! Tomatoes are at their pick right now. And, so are sweet and juicy corns. What a better time to throw all these seasonal vegetables together to make a delicious salad! I added a little Middle Eastern flair to the salad by adding grilled halloumi. Halloumi is the only cheese you can grill, and once you grill it, it changes its texture and flavors completely, which goes so well with the rest of the salad. Make this super simple, but a super flavorful salad for your next party!

Photos by Lauren Zaser

Serves: 3 - 4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pints Campari tomato, clean and sliced in quarters
  • 8 oz halloumi cheese
  • 4 corn on the cobs
  • 1/4 cup mint
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Husk and grill the corn for 3 minutes on each side, a total of 8-9 minutes or until charred.
  2. When corn is cool, cut kernels from cobs into a bowl. Reserve.
  3. Slice the halloumi into 1-inch slices.
  4. In a large saute pan on high heat, sear the halloumi for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the quartered tomatoes, grilled kernels, and seared halloumi. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
  6. Garnish with mint leaves. 
  7. ENJOYY!!