Monday, April 12, 2010

Egyptian Inspired Dinner

As you may remember yesterday we were having dinner with our friends Walid and Jackie at their new house. We spent the day talking and catching up. As with most of our gatherings there was a bunch of talking and carrying on. We all had a great time.

Walid and Jackie used to live a block down the street from us but moved to the suburbs. Suburbia is a serious departure from where we live. My husband would love to move back to suburbia but we have gotten used to being able to walk to the grocery store. Our friend Walid is still getting used to living in the burbs, but we think he will learn to love it. The burbs are a bit departure from the hustle and bustle of living in Cairo and then in the city here.  Not to mention 5 foot long snakes take a little getting used to.

Since our friend Walid is from Egypt I wanted to make something to take with me that had a familiar flavor and aroma for him. He only goes “home” once a year so anything that I can do to bring a little Egypt to him is a bonus. I combined three different Egyptian recipes to make this dish my own. Here is what I did:

Egyptian Inspired Fava Beans – my way
serves 6


2 cups mini fava beans, picked through and soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
Water to cover beans by double
½ red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup water to sauté onions and garlic
28 ounces diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon cumin
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 small pieces mastic gum (aka mastica), or somewhere between ¼ and ½ teaspoon
½ teaspoon gray salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, zested and juiced
¼ cup parsley, finely minced


Simmer the beans until they are tender, then drain and reserve two cups of the cooking liquid.

Water sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Add the remaining ingredients, except the lime and parsley. Add as much of the reserved bean liquid as is necessary to cook the beans so that they don’t get dry. Simmer for at least 15 minutes to blend the flavors.

I refrigerated the mixture at this point for service the next day. If you want to eat it right away add the lime juice, lime zest and parsley just before serving. I think this would be great with crispy flat bread but we had it with brown rice and a dollop of tofu tahini sauce. Even Walid liked the tofu tahini sauce, and he isn't a fan of tofu.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories -213.37
Calories From Fat (5%) - 11.4

Total Fat - 1.36g
Saturated Fat - 0.19g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 138.36mg
Potassium - 911.97mg
Total Carbohydrates - 39.03g
Fiber - 15.35g
Sugar - 6.77g
Protein - 14.88g


Since I am certainly not an expert on Egyptian food I am going to tell you what Walid thought first. He said the dish was very close to what he would get back home. His only suggestions were a little more garlic (I am going to try double the amount next time) and a slightly thicker tomato base (I am going to add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the next batch). Overall he said it was very good. Since he had seconds I think this assessment was honest.

Dan and I enjoyed this quite a bit. The aroma is so different from what we are used to, but very pleasant and inviting. The aroma from the mastic grains is intoxicating. I had read they were used for their aroma and now I know why. Then add a fragrance that is very distinct but difficult to describe. I think it is lovely. I found mine at “The Mediterranean Bakery” in Alexandria, Virginia. They do a big Middle Eastern business so I thought they would carry them and they did. For those of that are in the area you have to ask the cashier for them. They are kept behind the counter.

This will definitely be something that I make again. Everyone really enjoyed this, included Dan and me.

Next Recipe: Brown Rice with Pine Nuts

To go with the fava beans I made a brown rice. I scoured my Egyptian cookbook and most of the rice dishes used either meat or meat broth. Since that I was out I got creative with some of the ingredients to mimic a meaty flavor. One interesting thing I noticed was that they used vinegar in the rice which I decided to use. Additionally a couple of the recipes used pine nuts so that sounds like a good idea too. Here is what I did:

Brown Rice with Pine Nuts
Serves 6


1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons water to sauté garlic
1 ½ cups brown basmati rice
3 cups water
2 tablespoons date vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (to mimic bitterness since many of the authentic recipes used ghee)
1 large pinch saffron threads, crumbled (to mimic a meaty color)
2 pinches grey salt (any sea salt)
¼ cup pine nuts


Water sauté the thinly sliced garlic until it softens. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the water to a boil. Cook on low covered, for 35 to 45 minutes. The exact time will depend on the cookware and power of your stove you use. When I use my enamel coated cast iron on my high heat burner the rice cooks in 35 minutes.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 216.64
Calories From Fat (21%) - 44.73

Total Fat - 5.2g
Saturated Fat - 0.55g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 101.4mg
Potassium - 143.78mg
Total Carbohydrates - 36.68g
Fiber - 1.84g
Sugar - 0.62g
Protein - 4.48g


The date vinegar adds a wonderful background to the rice. Both Dan and I immediately liked the vinegar addition. Overall the rice has a mild flavor. Next time I may add a little more saffron and nutritional yeast (maybe 50% more). This is definitely a recipe I will be playing around with to be used with other dishes. The vinegar addition will be showing up in future rice recipes.

Even Jackie liked this and she isn’t a fan of brown rice. I definitely think this is a winner and I will be making variations of this in the future.

Jackie's Dishes:

To go with the beans and rice Jackie made a few items these were:

Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Spicy Tomatoes and Onions

Wilted Spinach with Garlic

Steamed Asparagus

Big Green Salad with Tomato, Radish, Green Onion, Carrot and Celery

We definitely got our veggies yesterday.

Unrelated Notes:

After we got the tour of the house I had to take pictures of the wee ones at the house. In this case they are four footed wee ones. Here is a picture of Buddy relaxing on the guest bed.

This is little brother Skipper lounging on the rug in the family room.

They are the sweetest boys. Jackie is the only person I know that treats her animals the way we do. She and I got along instantly from the first time we met.

Today is going to be a bit of mixed bag at our house. There are some errands to run and things to accomplish at home. We have run out of seitan in the freezer so that is a situation I need to correct. I will be back later with a post. I hope you guys are having a good Monday. Talk to you soon.


  1. Oh wow. Everything looks and sounds fantastic. YUM. Great job with the dish creation and Walid's approval! I must say that that zucchini/squash dish closely resembles something I make to go with pasta, adding in chickpeas.

  2. Heather,

    Thanks! I was very pleased that I got Walid approval. It isn't easy to make food when you have no idea what it is supposed to taste like. He offered to try my next version to see if I get any closer. I think that says it all. ;-)

    I will try to recreate Jackie's dish and put that on the blog soon. It was great over the rice with a little tofu tahini dip on top. She added some hot peppers to it.

    I hope you had a great weekend and talk to you soon,

  3. What a great hostess! Your spread looks awesome. I love your kitty salt and pepper shakers, and of course, the real kitties too :)

  4. Sarah,

    I will share the compliment with Jackie. We were at her house, I just made the beans, rice and tofu tahini dip. Those adorable felines (both real and ceramic) belong to Jackie and Walid. They are cute boys aren't they?


  5. Alicia, everything looks amazing. I can't tell what looks the best. I am partial to salads, so the simple salad looks good, and the bean dish looks really good. I like the little kitty shakers, too.

  6. Blessed Mama,

    It was all great. Dan and I really appreciated that Jackie made her dishes without olive oil for us. They are such good friends.

    I liked the salt and pepper shakers too. I will ask Jackie if she bought those recently and let you and Sarah know.


  7. Oh OOPS!! Haha!! I was trying to figure out why they brought their cats with them. Makes a lot more sense now :) I need to read more carefully, oh well it's Monday morning!

  8. Sarah,

    Sorry for any confusion. Sometimes I could be more clear. Plus it is Monday so we will both go with that excuse. ;-)


  9. Everything looks really healthy and delicious...but 5-foot snakes? Yikes!

  10. Rose,

    Thanks! It was a great meal, enjoyed by both vegans and omnis.

    The 5 foot snakes creeped everyone out but my husband who wanted to be a snake rangler. That man is just not right. But as my friend Louis likes to tell me when Dan acts up, "and he is all yours (meaning mine or course)." ;-)


  11. Very nice! I was looking forward to this post and really enjoyed it. I adore middle eastern cuisine. (and the people, music and culture) I'm curious to use mastic gum--never have. I'm glad you had fun!

  12. Megan,

    Thanks! We all had a great time. The mastic gum has the most unusal aroma. I don't know how to descibe it but once you have had it you will recognize it. Sorry I can't give you more details. Dan and I bought thought it added a lot to the dish.

    You would have enjoyed some of the arabic music Jackie put on later in the day.

    thanks again,

  13. What a beautiful spread! Looks delicious, healthy AND festive! And your evening sounded like great fun! Congratulations on creating such a hit with your fava bean recipe. Area 51 triumphs yet again! :-) "His only suggestions were a little more garlic..." Atta boy, Walid... man after our own garlic-pickin' little hearts! ;-) I've never heard of mastica. Sounds intriguing! Next time Country Mouse here visits a big city where such exotic things can be found, I hope to have a chance to try it.

    Have your kitties ever all gotten together for a play-date, or are your social get-togethers limited to you two-leggeds? :-)

    Glad your Egyptian-inspired evening was such a fun and yummy success, Ali!

  14. I recently discovered favas and loved them! I think your take on the rice sounds really good, too. Funny, when we moved here to suburbia, I thought my hubby would never get used to it--but he now hates to go back to the city!

  15. Ricki,

    Thanks I can't wait to see your variation.

    Walid wasn't too keen on the burbs but the snake in the attic pushed him over the edge. Hopefully it didn't have friends. ;-)


  16. Lalo,

    If you want some mastica let me know and I can send you some. It wasn't easy for me to find either.

    Kitties tend to be a little territorial. Play dates probably would turn ugly rather quickly.

    talk to you later,


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