‘Eid in Houston

A friend posted this on his FB this morning:
Writing Day:
1. Email
2. Laundry
3. Sort Notes
4. Lunch/Netflix
5. Pay Bills
6. Panic/Snack
7. Write (45 mins)
8. Update CV (in prep)
9. Wine

I think that is correct, so instead of writing what I should be writing, I’m writing a new blog post!

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It’s ‘eid tomorrow, al-Adha holiday for Muslims. and thinking about it, I’ feeling very strange. ‘Eid in Houston for the first time! How many ‘eids have I had in new places at this point in life? and why does ‘eid matter anyway? I’m very secular, and ‘eid was never a big deal for me, except it was about family, and sometimes friends (most of my friends don’t care about ‘eid either). But today ‘eid matters for some reason (maybe the need to procrastinate, I wonder?) So for dinner today, I’m going more festive! Luckily, I had already invited friends for dinner so not festive alone! Instead of Friekeh, I’m going to make stuffed grape-leaves, with lamb! (because really, what is ‘eid without lamb?). I usually blog only after I cooked something, but for the special occasion, I’ll write it now and use pictures from before.

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Stuffed grape leaves is a very very special dish for us. It delicious and labor intensive. Any undergrad living away from home knows that, as our mothers made it when we came home for weekends, we got it in care packages (and at some point really didn’t want it any more because we’ve had so much of it that we ate the same thing for 4 days). And for me, it’s been home, nostalgia and my mother’s love. So today, I celebrate home and family.

Ingredients
Grape leaves
You can buy those jarred, but they are never as good. If you can find frozen in an Arab store, or better yet, pick your own. The leaves should be small and tender.

Rice (depending on how much leaves you’re making. One jar takes about half a cup of rice)
Mixed Spices (http://leenaskitchens.blogspot.com/2013/08/my-mixed-spices.html)
Olive oil
Tomatoes
Lamb (ribs or similar)
Salt
Mexican squash/zucchini (optional)

Preparation
1. Mix rice, spices and a generous amount of olive oil together.
• Some people also add lamb to the rice. We used to do it and like it better without. If you want to, use minced lamb or cut to very small pieces, brown that and mix it in with the rice.
2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the lamb on all sides in a pot that will fit the lamb and stuffed grape leaves. My mother uses pressure cooker and so do I!
3. Take lamb out and place slices of tomato to cover the bottom. (the idea is, if you burn something, it would be the tomatoes).
4. Now starts the hard work: rolling the leaves. Unlike the Greek dolma, we roll the leaves small and tight. I will post a video, but here are the steps:
• Lay the grape leave flat, coarser side up. The side with two wings should be on your side. .
• Lay a small amount of rice parallel to you
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• Fold the right and left side, then the bottom, and roll rightly.
• Put aside and repeat with all the leaves you have.
5. If you want to also have kusa (Mexican squash, which can be replaced with Zucchini if you don’t have it):
• Core the squash: This link has a video of how to do it: http://leenaskitchens.blogspot.com/2013/08/kusa-b-laban-stuffed-mexican-squash-in.html
• Stuff with rice mix to about ¾ without pressing rice in tightly.
6. Once you’re done rolling the leaves, neatly arrange them in layers over the meat in the pot, starting with the squash.
7. Cover the top with another layer of tomato slices.
8. Add salt, and juice of one lemon (or more if you like sour).
9. Add water to cover. (a bit less with pressure cooker)
10. Place a heavy plate of top to keep everything in place.
11. Cook. In pressure cooker, it should be about 15 min (once it starts making loud noise, you turn down the heat and time it from that point). Without pressure cooker, it should boil for about an hour.
12. You are ready. Easiest way to serve is to flip the pot into a big serving plate or pan so you reach the meat and squash!
Bon appetite!