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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread

Avocado & Shrimp Chopped Salad

Garlic bread is a nice addition to go with this salad. Recipe below.

For 2 servings

Dressing
5 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Big pinch cayenne pepper

Salad
8 oz raw shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
Juice of half a lime
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
1 ear of corn, husked and cooked
4 cups chopped green leaf lettuce
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 celery stalk, diced
1 avocado, diced
2 slices crispy cooked bacon, diced

Directions

To prepare the dressing:
Place the apple cider vinegar, cilantro, dill, shallot, garlic, dry mustard, salt, and cayenne in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk and set aside for 15 minutes. Whisk in the oil and then the sour cream. Cover the dish and refrigerate until serving time.

To prepare shrimp:
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add one teaspoon of oil and swirl it in the pan. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Remove to a plate.
Cut the shrimp into thirds and place in a mixing bowl. Add the diced avocado, 2 teaspoons oil, lime zest, lime juice, salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss gently. Cover and chill until serving time.

To prepare the salad:
Boil or microwave corn on the cob until tender, about 3 minutes. Cut the kernels off the cob and place in a salad bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
Add the bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, celery, and bacon. Toss Add the shrimp and avocado, lettuce and dressing; gently toss to coat. Serve in individual salad bowls.

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Ingredients

6 thick slices sourdough or Italian bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 cup shredded Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese

directions
Place the bread on a baking sheet. Preheat the broiler or toaster oven. Or heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the butter with garlic; mix well. Spread the butter mixture on each piece of bread and sprinkle with cheese.

Toast in a toaster oven or broil under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. Or bake in the oven for 5-8 minutes. Serve with the shrimp salad.

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The term “Spanish-American” is used to refer to Americans whose ancestry originates directly from Spain. Spanish Americans are the longest-established European-American group with a continuous presence in Florida since 1565 and are the eighth-largest Hispanic group in the United States of America. The emigration of great numbers of Spaniards from Spain during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century was significant enough to place Spain among the most active migratory peoples of Europe, ranking behind the United Kingdom and Italy and ranking closely with Austria-Hungary and Germany.

Throughout the colonial times, there were a number of settlements of Spanish populations in the present-day United States of America with governments answerable to Madrid. The first settlement was at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, followed by others in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. In 1598, San Juan de Los Caballeros was established near present-day Santa Fe, New Mexico by Juan de Oñate with about 1,000 other Spaniards. Spanish immigrants also established settlements in San Diego, California (1602), San Antonio, Texas (1691) and Tucson, Arizona (1699). By the mid-1600s the Spanish in America numbered more than 400,000. After the establishment of the American colonies, an additional 250,000 immigrants arrived either directly from Spain, the Canary Islands or from present-day central Mexico. These Spanish settlers expanded European influence in the New World. The Canary Islanders settled in bayou areas surrounding New Orleans in Louisiana from 1778 to 1783 and in San Antonio de Bejar, San Antonio, Texas, in 1731.

Like those aboard the Mayflower, most Spaniards came to the New World seeking land to farm, or occasionally, as historians have recently established, freedom from religious persecution. A smaller percentage of the new Spanish settlers were descendants of Spanish Jews and Spanish Muslims. Also coming to the Americas were the Basques (an ethnic group from north-central Spain and south-western France) who excelled as explorers and soldiers. A second reason for their emigration was their region’s devastation from the Napoleonic Wars in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the 1930s and 1940s, Spanish immigration mostly consisted of refugees fleeing from the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and from the Franco military regime in Spain, which lasted until his death in 1975.

Many Spanish Americans still retain aspects of their culture. This includes Spanish food, drink, art, and annual fiestas. The influence of Spanish cuisine is seen in the cuisine of the United States throughout the country. A study published in 2010 by La Caixa found that in Spain, there’s an average of 1 bar for every 129 Spaniards, thus eating and drinking are a very important part of Spanish culture. In Spain most bars are restaurants. These establishments are social meeting places where people can just have fun. A typical bar will always have a variety of tapas that vary from region to region and are usually included in the price of the drink or offered at a discount. Many bars offer a ”menú del día” (a three-course meal offered at a fixed price), “platos combinados”(one plate with different types of food), and “raciones” (large plates of food to share with the entire group). Another popular option, especially for Spanish dinner, is “irse de tapas/pinchos”, which means to hop from one bar to the next, enjoying a tapa at each place until you’re stuffed.

According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were thin slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses with between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners created a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.

Enjoying food served as tapas at home or in restaurants has become popular in the U.S. A tapa is a small portion of Spanish food. Tapas may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as battered, fried baby squid). Tapas can also be combined to make a full meal. Here are a few recipes for tapas that you can easily make at home. The recipes make large portions, so I cut the amounts in half for our small family.

Stuffed Dates

Ingredients

24 Medjool dates
1/2 cup cream cheese
12 strips bacon, cut in half (not thick-cut bacon)
Sturdy toothpicks

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.
With a small sharp knife, make a slit in one side of each date and remove the pit.
Stuff about 1 teaspoon of cheese into the cavity.
Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each date. Secure with a toothpick.


Place on a rimmed baking tray lined with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, turn each date over and bake for 8 minutes. Repeat this step one more time, or until all the bacon is cooked. Cook longer if you prefer crispier bacon.
Drain on paper towels. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Refrigerate leftovers.

Tortilla (Spanish Egg and Potato Omelette)

Ingredients

2 pounds of potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
8 large eggs
1 onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with some salt and pepper.

Slice the onion as thin as possible and fry in a large skillet with a tablespoon or two of olive oil for about 10 minutes until they begin to caramelize (stir often).
When the onions are caramelized, drain off any excess oil and add to the egg mixture.

Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Slice the potatoes into thin slices.
Pat the potato slices dry and put them into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt, and mix well.

Heat a ½ inch of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan at medium-low heat.
When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and add more oil if necessary until all are covered by the oil.
Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes over low heat. When the potatoes have been frying 20 minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon into a strainer and allow to cool off while any excess oil drips away. Save the oil to use for cooking.

After a few minutes, add the potatoes to the egg mixture and stir well. Let the egg mixture sit for about 20 minutes.
Reheat the pan where you fried potatoes over medium-low heat and add the egg mixture.


Over low heat, cook the eggs for about 6-8 minutes per side.
When you are sure that the bottom is cooked and you want to flip the tortilla, take a large plate and put it over the pan and flip it over quickly! When the second side is cooked, slide the omelet out of the pan onto a serving plate and let cool before serving.

Pan con Tomate (Spanish-Style Grilled Bread With Tomato)

Ingredients

2 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes
Kosher salt
1 loaf ciabatta, split in half horizontally lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch slice
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, split in half
Flaky sea salts, such as Maldon or fleur de sel

Directions

Split tomatoes in half horizontally. Place a box grater into a large bowl. Rub the cut faces of the tomatoes over the large holes of the box grater, using the flattened palm of your hand to move the tomatoes back and forth. The flesh should be grated off, while the skin remains intact in your hand. Discard the skin and season the tomato pulp with kosher salt to taste.

.Adjust rack to 4 inches below the broiler and preheat the broiler to high. Place bread, cut side up, on a cutting board and drizzle with olive oil. Season with kosher salt. Place bread, cut side up, on a rack set in a tray or directly on the broiler rack and broil until crisp and starting to char around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.

.Remove the bread from the oven and rub with the split garlic cloves. Spoon tomato mixture over bread. Drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil and season with large flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.

Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)

Ingredients

12 cloves garlic
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch red pepper flakes or a 1-inch piece dried guajillo chili
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Finely mince 4 garlic cloves and place in a large bowl. Smash 4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet. Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.

Add shrimp to the bowl with the minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and baking soda. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.

Add shrimp shells to the skillet with smashed garlic and add remaining olive oil and pepper flakes. Set over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until shells are deep ruby red and the garlic is pale golden brown about 10 minutes. Oil should be gently bubbling the whole time. When ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, tossing and pressing the shrimp shells to extract as much oil as possible. Discard shells and garlic.

Return flavored oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Add reserved shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through about 2 minutes. Add sherry vinegar and parsley and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.


Sub/Po-Boy Rolls

I like to make these sandwich rolls ahead and keep them in the freezer to make sandwiches for dinner or for company. Of course, you can use store-bought rolls also.

Makes 6 rolls

Ingredients

3 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon dry active yeast
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable shortening( I use Spectrum)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook combine the flour, yeast, sugar, shortening, and water. Mix on low speed until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add the salt and increase the speed to medium; knead for 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a ball. Lightly grease the inside of the mixing bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free space to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into 6 (about 4-ounces each) balls. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. Form each ball into a 6-inch long roll. Place the rolls onto a large parchment-lined baking pan, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside in a draft-free space to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375º F. Bake the rolls until light golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Freeze in ziplock freezer bags for future use.

Grilled Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches

Serve with a mixed green salad.

Ingredients

Sub (Hoagie) Rolls, homemade or store-bought
10 Italian Sausage links (any type)
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
4 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow and green) seeded and sliced
2 sweet onions, peeled and sliced into rings.
Crushed red pepper
Salt

Directions

Pour 2 tablespoons oil into a large saute pan and add the garlic. Heat the oil and then add the peppers, onions, salt, and crushed pepper to taste, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and let the mixture cook while the sausages grill.

Heat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan. Brush the sausage links with olive oil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and grill the sausages for 20-30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature is 145 degrees F. Split the rolls, brush with oil and lightly grill the cut sides.

Place the grilled sausages in the skillet with the peppers and onions. Heat for a few minutes.
Serve a sausage link in each roll and top with some of the onion and pepper mixture.

Brisket Sandwiches

This sandwich uses leftover BBQ brisket and coleslaw. See the recipes on this post.

Corn-on-the-cob is a great side dish for this sandwich.

Ingredients

BBQ Beef Brisket
BBQ Sauce
Red Cabbage Coleslaw
Sub Rolls
Cheese Slices (white American, white cheddar, or your favorite

Directions

Shred some of the leftover brisket and reheat it, adding additional BBQ sauce.
Lay the bottom of the rolls in a single layer on a baking sheet. Top with sliced cheese and broil until melted, approximately, 1-2 minutes.
Place the desired amount of shredded brisket on top of the cheese covered bread half and add a layer of coleslaw. Place the top half of the bread on top and serve with plenty of napkins.


This classic Italian sauce is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance, the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the Lazio version. Spices are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic). It is usually served with spaghetti but we like it with seafood.

Seafood in an Italian Spicy Tomato Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 fish fillets,(I used sea bass) (about 1 1/2 inches thick 4 ounces each)
4 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
26 oz container finely diced Italian tomatoes (I used the Pomi brand)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread brushed with olive oil and grilled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

For the sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet.
Add the anchovy paste and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and continue to stir.
Pour in the tomatoes, oregano and basil and heat to a simmer. Add the olives and capers and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

For the fish
Season the fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Lightly flour the fish shaking off extra flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Brown the fish fillets and shrimp on both sides.

Pour a cup to 1 ½ cups of sauce over the fish in the small skillet and cover the skillet. Heat for 2-3 minutes. Save the remaining sauce for pasta.

Place a piece of grilled bread in each serving bowl. Divide the fish evenly and place it on top of the bread. Spoon the sauce over each portion and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.


Italian Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Greens with Grilled Garlic Bread

This dish is versatile. It can be vegetarian by leaving out the sausage (or use a veggie version) and vegetable broth instead of chicken. You can simplify the process if time is short and use canned beans and broth. Just be sure to add the same seasonings. The dish will be almost as good!

Homemade Chicken Broth

Ingredients

1 whole chicken carcass (leftover from roasting or use chicken bones)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion (about 6 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of parsley and a bay leaf

Directions

Add enough cold water to submerge the chicken carcass (about 5 quarts) in a large stockpot. Add the carrots, celery, onion, 1 1/2 tablespoons. salt, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Cover the pot, with the lid slightly ajar. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours If at any time the water level drops below the solids, add water to cover and return to a simmer.
Remove the carcass from the broth and discard. Strain the broth through a fine sieve set over another pot or a bowl large enough to hold the broth. Gently press on the solids with a large spoon to squeeze out any remaining broth. Measure out 6 cups of broth and set aside.

Use the remaining broth for other recipes or freeze in small containers for future use.

Cannellini Beans

Ingredients

1 ½ cups dried cannellini beans
Pinch baking soda
1 large carrot or 2 medium, diced
1 large celery stick or 2 medium, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Water

Directions

The night before serving, rinse the beans picking out any bad ones and place them in a large bowl. Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.

The next day, drain the beans, rinse and drain well. Place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables, garlic, and Italian seasoning, cover with water about 4 cups and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender about 60-90 minutes. Add salt to taste. Measure out 3 cups of cooked beans with their cooking liquid and vegetables and set aside. Save the remaining cooked beans for other recipes.

Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 lb (6 links) (3 hot and 3 sweet) Italian pork sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Cut the sausage into ¼ inch thick slices. Cover the bottom of a Dutch Oven with olive oil and brown the slices of sausage.

Finishing the dish

Ingredients

3 cups cooked escarole or swiss chard
2 cloves garlic,  one chopped and one whole
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Parmesan cheese rind
6 cups homemade chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked cannellini beans

Italian bread or use the recipe below

Directions

Chop the greens into small pieces and add the greens to the Dutch Oven with the browned sausage. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir. Add the reserved beans, salt, and chicken broth. Stir gently and add the cheese rind.
Bring the ingredients in the stockpot to a low boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until all the ingredients are hot, about 20 minutes

Slice the bread (See recipe below) and grill or toast lightly. Rub the peeled garlic clove over the surface of the grilled bread and serve with the stew.

Homemade Italian Country Bread

Ingredients

2 teaspoons SAF (instant) yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add honey. Mix until the honey is dissolved.
Add the 4 cups of flour and salt and mix. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour.
Using the paddle attachment on number low speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and continue kneading for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is soft but supple.
Shape the dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 60 minutes.

Place a sheet of parchment paper in a 9 or 10-inch pan or shallow dish. Turn the dough out onto the parchment pan or dish. Gently shape the dough into a round and cover with greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more.

At the same time put a covered Cloche pan or Dutch Oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Do not grease or spray the Cloche pan or Dutch Oven.
After the dough has risen for 30 minutes and the oven temperature is at 500 degrees F, open the oven and take the lid off the cloche pan.
USE A THICK POTHOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!

Transfer the dough while on the parchment to the bottom of the hot cloche pan. Cover with the cloche lid.
Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid.
Bake 15 minutes more, or until the bread is crusty and brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bread on a wire cooling rack.


Mushroom Bisque

Ingredients

2 pounds mushrooms (button/cremini), roughly chopped
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts homemade or store-bought beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning blend, recipe below
3 tablespoons butter
5-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Homemade Croutons, recipe below

Directions

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Add in the minced garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the chopped mushrooms and the thyme Cook until the mushrooms release some of the water content, stirring frequently about 10 minutes.

Next, add the beef broth, all-purpose seasoning blend, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. Cook this mixture for an additional 15 minutes then reduce the heat to low. Remove the thyme sprigs. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat over low. Serve with croutons.

All-Purpose No-Salt Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/4 teaspoons dried savory
1 1/4 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Mix garlic powder, basil, parsley, savory, thyme, mace, onion powder, black pepper, sage, and cayenne pepper in a bowl; store in a sealed jar.

Homemade Croutons

ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch salt
6 slices day-old bread, cubed

Directions

In an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan, combine the butter, oil, and seasonings. Heat in a 300° F oven until butter is melted. Remove from the oven; stir to combine.


Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Cool. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Ham Salad

Ingredients

3 cups finely diced leftover baked ham
2 hard-boiled eggs finely chopped
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Ground black pepper or cayenne pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream and Dijon in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined. Cover and chill until serving time.

Serve on a salad plate over shredded lettuce or on a sandwich made with pumpernickel bread.


Arab immigrants began coming to the U.S. in sizable numbers during the 1880s. Today, it is estimated that nearly 3.7 million Americans trace their roots to an Arab country. Arab Americans are found in every state, but more than two-thirds of them live in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York are home to one-third of the population.

Arab Americans are as diverse as their countries of origin, with unique immigration experiences that have shaped their ethnic identity in the U.S. While the majority of Arab Americans are descended from the first wave of Christian Arab immigrants, Arab American Muslims represent the fastest growing segment of the Arab American community.

Contrary to popular assumptions, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens. While the community traces its roots to every Arab country, the majority of Arab Americans have ancestral ties to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq.

Arabic-speaking immigrants arrived in the United States in three major waves. The first wave between the late 1800s and World War I consisted mainly of immigrants from Greater Syria, an Arab province of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I. Following the breakup of the Empire, the province was partitioned into the separate political entities of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan. The vast majority of immigrants in this wave were members of Christian minorities. Although some writers claim that these immigrants left their native countries for religious or political reasons, the evidence suggests that they were drawn to the United States by economic opportunity. Like many economically motivated immigrants during this period, Arabs came to the US with the intention of earning money and returning home to live out the remainder of their lives in relative prosperity. The major exception to this pattern was a small group of Arab writers, poets, and artists who took up residence in major urban centers such as New York and Boston. The most famous of the group was Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), author of The Prophet and numerous other works.

Unlike the earlier influx, the second wave included many more Muslims. It also included refugees who had been displaced by the 1948 Palestine War that culminated in the establishment of Israel. This period also witnessed the arrival of many Arabic-speaking professionals and university students who often chose to remain in the United States after completion of their training. Immigrants of the second wave tended to settle where jobs were available. Those with few skills drifted to the established Arab communities in the industrial towns of the East coast and Midwest, while those with professional skills headed to the suburbs around the major industrial cities or to rural towns.

A mural inside the lobby of ACCESS that depicts the story of many Arab-Americans making their way to build a community in Detroit.

In the mid-1960s, the third wave of Arab immigration began which continues to the present. More than 75 percent of foreign-born Arab Americans identified in the 1990 census immigrated after 1964, while 44 percent immigrated between 1975 and 1980. This influx resulted in part from the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 which abolished the quota system and its bias against non-European immigration. The third wave included many professionals, entrepreneurs, and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. These immigrants often fled political instability and wars engulfing their home countries. They included Lebanese Shiites from southern Lebanon, Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Iraqis of all political persuasions. But many professionals from these and other countries like Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and unskilled workers from Yemen also emigrated in search of better economic opportunities. Had conditions been more hospitable in their home countries, it is doubtful that many of these immigrants would have left their native countries.

Arab Americans have a distinctive cuisine centered on lamb, rice, bread, and highly seasoned dishes. The Middle Eastern diet consists of many ingredients not found in the average American kitchen, such as chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, ground sesame seed oil, feta cheese, dates, and figs. Many Arab dishes, like stuffed zucchini or green peppers and stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, are labor-intensive but delicious and healthy.

Arab Americans are probably most known for their restaurants and cuisines found across the country. Many classic dishes coming from the Arab World have become popular dishes for Americans. The dish most famous, of course, is hummus. This simple puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic is served as an appetizer or as a side to grilled meats and vegetables. Sometimes called “street meat” in the U.S., shawarma is another national hit thanks to Arab Americans. Wrapped with garlic and pickles in Arabic bread (pita bread), shawarma has become a great alternative sandwich. Tabbouli, falafel, grape leaves, and kebabs are part of the American cuisine today.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1/4 cup fresh minced mint
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
50 large jarred grape leaves
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and olives (for garnish)

Directions

Place the pine nuts into a skillet and lightly toast them over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.

Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a medium pot and heat it. Add the minced onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté for another minute. Pour in ¾ cup of vegetable broth and lower the heat; simmer the rice uncovered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the minced dill, mint, toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to the pot of rice. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As the water is heating, trim the grape leaves by cutting the stems off flush with the leaves. Trim any large, hard veins from the leaves. Place the leaves in the boiling water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes until they become pliable. Drain, then cover the leaves with cold water. Drain the leaves again and pat them dry.

Place a grape leaf shiny (smooth) side down, vein (bumpy) side up, on a flat surface like a cutting board. Place 2 tablespoons of rice filling at the base end of the leaf, near where the stem was. Fold the stem end up over the filling. Fold the edges of the leaf inward. Continue rolling the leaf till it forms a neat rolled package. Squeeze the roll gently to seal.

Repeat the process with the remaining leaves until all of the rice filling is used.

Place the stuffed leaves in the bottom of a deep saute pan. Pack the leaves snugly; as this will help keep the leaves intact as they cook. Make a single layer on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan is full, make a second layer on top.

Pour 1 cup of broth, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves. Heat the pan over medium until it begins to simmer (don’t boil, or the leaves will start to fall apart). Cover the pot. Let the grape leaves cook for 30-40 minutes. The leaves are finished cooking when they are fork-tender.

Hummus

Ingredients

3 cups (200 grams) cooked chickpeas, drained
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ice cubes
1/3 cup (79 grams) tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Hot water (if needed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sumac

Directions

Add chickpeas and minced garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until a smooth. While the processor is running, add the ice cubes, tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Blend for about 4 minutes. Check, and if the consistency is still too thick add a little hot water. Blend until the mixture is a silky smooth consistency. Spread in a serving bowl and add a generous drizzle of olive of and a sprinkling of sumac.

 

Kofta

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill
Flatbread or pita, for serving

Tzatziki sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated cucumber squeezed dry
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh mint or dill (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

To make the tzatziki sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the kofta: Mix the beef, onion, garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 6 roughly even balls. Mold each ball around the pointed end of a skewer, making an oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before threading them.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare an outdoor grill. Brush the pan or grill grates lightly with olive oil. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and cooked through about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki sauce and flatbread.

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush is a salad of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, toasted pita bread, and a sumac dressing. Since I was serving pita with the kofta, I did not include it in my salad.

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

Pita
2 large pitas
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Dressing
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad
1 head romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1-pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 English cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced and separated into 1/2 circles
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves torn into small pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut pitas in half. Separate the top from the bottom and tear into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and season with kosher salt. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl to keep from over browning. Set aside.
To make the dressing. In a small bowl combine the first 6 dressing ingredients (garlic through black pepper); whisk until combined and honey has dissolved. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle pita over the top and serve.

 



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