Sunday, December 25, 2011

Khubzit Howsh--Homemade Bread

As much us Libyans love our pasta, we equally love our bread. So much so that often we eat bread WITH our pasta. As far as I can remember my mother always baked her own bread. Grocery loafs were rarely purchased. During community picnics or gatherings my mother was always responsible for making the bread. All bias aside, my mother (MASHALLAH) makes the best bread. This technique and recipe is hers. I learned from the best. Having said that, you'll notice that my mothers bread isnt all white. She is staunch about her ''healthy'' bread, making it 50% whole wheat. Depending on preference the ratio of wheat to white may increase or decrease.
      While super easy, it is time consuming and takes a bit of upper body strength. Kneading dough is a work out, but its one that pays off! The secret for fluffy bread is kneading the dough multiple times. 

What you'll Knead:
  • 8 cups bread flour
  • 8 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tlbs + 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbls + 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3cups (warm) + 6.5 cups (water room temp) 
  • Olive oil 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mahshee-- Stuffed Bell Peppers

Although stuffed bell peppers is not a uniquely Libyan dish the mixture of this stuffing has all the hallmarks of Libyan cooking. Olive oil, tomato paste, parsley, and the blend of spices makes it ours. This recipe is awesome in a number of ways. First, its delicious. Second its flexible in that once you have the mix you can stuff anything you'd like, not just bell peppers. I love to use the same mix and stuff onions, zucchini and even tomatoes! You'll note this recipe calls for Cilantro. I know there are a lot of people who do not like cilantro and believe it to have a soapy taste. Although I disagree with you, feel free to omit it--it will still taste great. Two final notes: First-- In the recipe I used 3 bunches of parsley and 2 bunches cilantro. After chopping I measured the cup value. Second-- make sure you wash your herbs VERY well to avoid grit from sand and soil.

What you'll need:
- 12 bell peppers
-12 oz small cubed lamb
- 5 cups chopped parsley
- 3 cups chopped cilantro
- 12 chopped green onions
- 1/2 diced onion
- 2 medium sized tomatoes diced
- 12oz can tomato paste
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Bzaar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 cups water (Differs depending on pot).
- Deep bowl to mix

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sharba Libyia--Libyan Soup

Sharba Libyia will always remind me of Ramadan. At least in my family, it is mandatory all 30 days. If we dont eat Sharba Libyia our fast is incomplete. This soup is so delicious and flavorful. Its incredibly close to the Tabeekha or sauce we use in every other dish. When I first learned to make it, I was afraid thinking I had messed it up and created sauce not soup. Sharba Libyia is defined by its fresh parsley and dried mint added at the end. This soup is a crowd pleasure, I have never in my entire life met a person who didnt love it!

What you'll need:
- 9oz medium cubed lamb +bones
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon Tomato paste
- 1 cup garbanzo beans
-1/2 onion petite diced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Bzaar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup Orzo pasta
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons dried mint
- 10 cups water (divided)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


This thin unleavened bread is similar to an Indian roti prata. I love Ftaat more than most people. It makes me happy and I mentally hug my cousin in Libya who showed me how to make it every time I whip up a batch. I have to warn you, this recipe is seemingly easy, the catch with it is: as with any dough recipe, its about consistency. There are two tricks with ftaat. 1. You knead the heck out of it. I dont think its possible to over knead it. 2. Let it rest. The longer it rests, the yummier it is.

What you'll need:
- 3 cups All Purpose Flour. (Tip: Use Pillsbury) 
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups PLUS 1 tablespoon water
- Olive oil 
- Piece of paper
-Flat skillet


Whenever my mom gets a bunch of meat, she always picks a few choice pieces and makes us Glayit Laham. Its super simple but so delicious. Its great for a quick and simple dinner. It can be used as a filling for sandwiches  as well!

What you need:
- 12oz meat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 Jalapeño


This salad is a Libyan essential. It can compliment a meal or stand alone as a meal with some fresh hot bread. I hesitated to post this recipe as simple as it is, but I think it wont hurt to standardize the salad that all us Libyan girls are forever forced into dicing. Having said that, from the years of chopping I make a tiny request when you chop this salad: Please petite dice (Jalapeno is the except so people can fish them out if they want to avoid the heat). It makes it look so nice and it can be scoped up with a spoon making it so much easier to eat. My OCD and peace of mind thank you in advance!

What you need:
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons Salt
- 1 small onion
-1 cucumber
-3 tomatoes 
- 1 Jalapeño (Deseed if you want to lessen heat)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Macroona Imbakbaka

This is the most QUINTESSENTIAL Libyan Dish. Heavily influenced by Italian cuisine, this Libyan dish is Pasta in a tomato stew. Any type of pasta can be used but more often than not its either Ditalini or broken up Spaghetti. I learned how to make this dish in only one quantity: A lot. The recipe below is for an entire pound of pasta, which really is on a box. It may seem like a lot, but it will go go go.

What you'll need:
- 1 Onion, diced
- 2 garlic gloves
-1 chicken cut and quartered.
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
-2/3 cup tomato paste
-1 tablespoon salt
-1 1/2 tablespoons Bzaar
-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-11 cups of water (will be used in parts)
- 1lb Pasta of your choice

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Libyan Kitchen

When I was a kid I remember being in the school cafeteria and seeing the other students pull out Lunchables or turkey sandwiches on white bread for lunch. My lunch would be more....Libyan. I would pull out a cheese sandwich made from my mom's hearty and healthy wheat bread or some left over rice with a pea stew (Tabikhit Bazalya). While I was once ashamed of bringing my Libyan food to my American cafeteria, as an adult I can't get enough of my cultural cuisine.

As with anything else, I have my favorites. Braak (stuffed grape leaves) and Roushda Emgata3a (a homemade pasta) are of course top contenders. My friends and I often ''rank'' the best Libyan cooks we know based on who was best at making which dishes. We constantly get together for coffee and dessert as is the social norm for Libyans. We have monthly, if not weekly, dinners together. We love food. In particular we love Libyan food. After constant nagging to our mothers to make our favorite dishes we thought it was high time we learned to make the dishes we loved so much by ourselves so that we could enjoy them when we wanted.

The biggest problem with Libyan cuisine is that more often than not the person cooking does NOT measure anything or any ingredient. As our mothers always say عينك ميزانك or ''your eye is your scale.'' Of course this is impossible for a new or unexperienced cook. So I made a list of all the Libyan foods I can think of and will create a recipe for them.

 I am in no shape or form an expert cook, I just love food, cooking and being Libyan. Hopefully those three things will be enough to gain your trust in using my recipes for your dinner table. I am a first generation Libyan American who has a mother who can cook your pants off MashaAllah. I want to be as good as her one day and I will be, inshaAllah, one can of tomato paste at a time.


Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is the most vital ingredient to Libyan cooking, only second to olive oil.

Tomato paste are not equal opportunity. Some can be very bitter and others almost tin tasting from the can. Its important to pick a tomato paste that is good quality. Personally, I like using Contadina.

Olive Oil

You CANNOT make Libyan food without......

Well, I guess technically you could not use Olive Oil but it just IS NOT the same. Libya is lush with Olive trees in its mountain regions, especially in towns like Gheryan and Zintan. Olives are collected during the winter months and send to a local press to be squeezed and the essential oil is bottled. Fresh olive oil is bitter, it is aged for months before use.

You will never find a Libyan dish that does not call for it. Its important to use good quality oil. Typically its Extra Virgin Olive Oil that is used. At least in the United States, its generally been found that the brand Pompeian has the best taste.

Olive oil can be pricey. So while quality is important, this ingredient is used heavily so dont break the bank.


Libyan food finds its unique flavor in the combination of 3 or 4 main seasonings/spices: 'Bzaar', 'Hararat', salt and cayenne pepper.

Upper Left hand: Hararat. Upper Right hand: Cayenne Pepper. Lower Left: Bzaar. Lower Right: Salt
They are essentials. You may be able to operate without Harrarat but without Bzaar you cannot. The drawback to Libyan food is, Bzaar is not something you can find in your local grocers spice aisle. It is more often than not a roasted, milled, and combined at home-- and by home I mean in Libya. 

Whats in Bzaar:
A mixture of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, turmeric, cloves, coriander, and caraway

Whats in Harrarat:   
A mixture of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, all-spice, nutmeg, and white pepper

The exact mixture and measurements of each spice in each mixture is beyond me and I think a bit more advanced than what this blog can offer. I dont think there is any Libyan lady who has actually measured how much of each goes into Bzaar.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shakshooka-- Eggs in tomato stew

For me, Shakshooka means Saturday morning breakfast. Other families got pancakes on the weekend as a treat. My family made a huge tray laden with cheeses, olives, my mothers bread and of course Shakshooka.    This recipe is pretty flexible and has some variations in terms of how its spiced. This recipe is the way my mother makes it, the way I learned to make it and one that I find is pretty basic and well liked. You'll note it calls for Cumin. Some people arent a fan of Cumin but in this recipe it disguises that ''egg'' taste aka Zifraa sometimes associated with eggs.

What you need:
-3 medium sized tomatoes
-2 Jalapenos
-2 pieces of garlic
-2 Tbls Olive oil
-5 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
-1/2 teaspoon Cumin

What to do:
1. Dice tomatoes and quarter Jalapeno. If you would like to lessen the spice factor, deseed your pepper.
2. On medium-high heat, in a deep pan, put in olive oil, let it warm and drop in your peppers and let them sear a bit in the oil to infuse it with flavor. CAUTION: Seeds may pop in hot oil. 
3. Add tomatoes to the pan. Allow them to cook in the pan for about 3 mins before you add salt and cumin. (You want to wait because salt brings out the liquids and they will burn out too quickly. You need them for later. 

 4. Allow the tomatoes to cook for 4-5 mins, till they soften and make a stew.
5. Taking a spoon to push aside the tomato giving a ''resting spot'' for the egg, crack eggs into the pan, spacing them apart.
6. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pan with a lid till eggs cook to the desired consistency. Try not to remove the lid till needed.  When cooked, it should look like this.
7. Plate up and ENJOY!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Imsayir-- Pickled Carrots and Peppers

I love Imsayir. Its an essential if you're eating something imbowkha and frankly even just to crunch on. Its a pretty straight forward recipe and adjust according to how much or little you need to make. I make mine in Mason Jars because it makes storage easier when its in smaller containers than in massive jars as the Libyans make it. When I measured the ingredients, I did it PER mason jar. Hopefully that will be easier

What you need:
- 12 Mason Jars
- 2lbs Carrots (washed and peeled)
-4lbs Hot Peppers (I use Jalapeños)
- White Vinegar
-Hot water