More dumplings! This was a class on Lebanese home cooking, with a focus on festive dishes for the holidays. Nahla Gholam, one of the owners of the fabulous store Mediterranean Specialties in Bellingham, demonstrated three recipes: sheesh barak, beet salad and roasted seven-spice chicken.
Sheesh barak, lamb dumplings in yogurt soup, is a very old and traditional dish. It incorporates some of my favorite flavors in the whole world, so there was basically no chance I wouldn’t like it. Making the dumplings was a little tricky, but Nahla insisted it was almost impossible to mess them up (ha!). The dough was just flour and water and very stretchy, which helped us recover from our mistakes.
The filling, or hashwee, was ground lamb, onions and pine nuts with seven-spice powder. To make the dumplings, we patted out little rounds of dough, added more filling than seemed possible, pinched the dough into a half moon around the filling, then brought in the edges to make little tortellini shapes.
The dumplings get baked until just crispy, then simmered in a rich broth of goat milk yogurt with rice. At the end there’s a hefty addition of butter, mint and garlic.
The end result was a bowlful highly resistant to glamourous food photography, but really delicious.
While everything else was going on, Nahla had several large beets wrapped in foil roasting in the oven. She skinned and sliced them, dressed them with sherry vinegar and olive oil, and presented them on baby salad greens with pomegranate seeds. The combination of beets and pomegranate is so good, I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before.
And then, a batch of small chickens roasted for an hour and a half. They were rubbed with Moroccan seven-spice powder before roasting, then dressed with pounded garlic and lemon and given five more minutes in the oven. The chicken was amazing – so tender it was falling apart, aromatic, garlicky and lemony.
Dessert was a little birdsnest of shredded phyllo, baked in the oven and topped with a spoonful of creamy bread sauce, a handful of pistachios and a drizzle of syrup. We got a lot of clean plates back after this one.
The food from this class was just the sort of thing I like: tasty, straightforward, comforting, and just difficult enough to give a sense of accomplishment and festivity. And the leftovers were amazing.