Popular personalities Paul Cullen and Bob Yesbek cook up good times along with some of their favorite holiday dishes
During holiday time, Jews will often mark the event with a stuffed cookie called hamentaschen. The French love their fruit-stuffed galettes when they celebrate, and Greeks revel in special occasions with fig-or walnut-stuffed cookies. Farther to the east, the Chinese celebrate autumn with the ancient moon cake stuffed with meats or dark bean paste. Holiday partiers in Lebanon indulge in a stuffed cookie called ma’amoul (mah-mool). The shell is made of buttered semolina flour infused with orange and rose flower waters and cinnamon. The filling can be walnut, pistachio or date, each identified by its particular shape. The traditional shapes are created using hand-carved, wooden molds that can be purchased online. Ma’amoul is time-consuming but well worth the extra work. Give this recipe a try! It’s sure to please around the holiday table and is a great substitute for that plain ol’ hard sugar cookie in the shape of Santa that you found on your desk at work.
Shell (make the day before)
¼ cup solid shortening
¾ cup salted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cup semolina flour, fine grind
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp rose flower water
1 Tbsp orange flower water
7 Tbsp water
Walnut or Pistachio filling
2 cup walnuts or pistachios, finely chopped
2 Tbsp orange flower water
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 cup chopped dates
6 Tbsp butter
Cook the dates with the butter over low heat, mashing occasionally until the dates are pureed. Cool completely before filling.
Gently melt the shortening and the butter together. Mix together the flour, semolina, salt, baking powder and semolina, then rub the slightly cooled butter mixture into the dough with your fingers. It should be like soft meal. Cover and let it rest, unrefrigerated, overnight.
Combine the flower waters with the 7 tablespoons of water and sprinkle over the rested dough. Toss lightly with a fork to distribute the liquid evenly. Mix until just combined, like pie dough.
Lightly flour the appropriate ma’amoul mold. Tap gently to remove excess flour. The round design with the star shape on top is for the date filling. The oval shape is for the pistachio, and the round design with the little circle shapes is for the walnut. For this article we used the walnut and pistachio shapes.
Make a ball of dough in the palm of your hand a little smaller than a ping-pong ball. (You can also use a ¾ oz round disher for the walnut and a 1 oz oval disher for the pistachio.) Flatten slightly and hollow out a little “nest” in the center and insert a good tablespoon of the walnut or pistachio filling. Close the dough around the filling and pack it into the mold. Level off the filled dough, so it is even with the lip of the mold. Be sure to cover all the filling with the dough.
Invert the mold; hold it level and rap it firmly on a floured cutting board. It might take a couple of firm taps (this is a noisy cookie!). The ma’amoul will fall out of the mold in perfect shape. Using a spatula, transfer to a Silpat on a baking sheet. Dust the mold with a little flour and repeat, adjusting the amount of shell and filling mixes to make sure the cookie is even with the top of the mold.
Bake in a preheated oven for 18 minutes at 315°. The cookies will not change color but will become firm. Remove to a cooling rack with a spatula. After they cool, dust with powdered sugar. This recipe should yield about 17 cookies.
Paul's Tuscan (Delmarva) Chicken Liver Paté
1 lb chicken livers (local)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
4-5 fresh sage leaves
1 shallot, rough chop
¼ cup Italian white wine
1 Tbsp capers
3 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper
Crusty baguette, thinly sliced
Gently sauté the garlic, shallots and sage leaves in the oil, until the garlic begins to brown. Add the chicken livers and sauté for
10 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. After chicken livers have cooked through, add white wine and reduce (about 10-15 minutes). In a food processor, add the liver mixture from the pan, capers and anchovies until you have a paste.
To serve: Toast crostini in oven or stove top with a little olive oil, then in a small fry pan on medium heat, add liver pate with a knob of butter. After the butter has melted, slather on the toast. You can serve chicken liver crostini warm or at room temperature. The liver paste can be made in advance, gently reheated with a knob of butter; in fact, I think it’s tastier that way.
Bob's Traditional Middle-Eastern Homemade Hummus
2 large (approx. 18 oz each) cans, or 4 small (approx. 10 oz each) cans chick peas/garbanzo beans. I suggest Goya brand.
5 large cloves of garlic
8 oz (or more) of Beirut tahini paste.
Stir well to mix the settled tahini paste.
7 fresh lemons, juiced, or approx. half a container of Minute Maid Premium 100% lemon juice (available in the frozen juice section). Let the juice thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
1.5 Tbsp salt
Medium-dark olive oil
Curley parsley, rough chopped
Pita, lavash or naan bread, warmed and cut into dipping-friendly triangles
Fresh lemons for garnish
Boil the beans for 10 minutes. Drain through a colander or mesh sieve and retain the juice. Return the drained beans to the saucepan. While the beans are boiling, mull the garlic cloves and the salt together using a mortar and pestle. Use force to break up the garlic until the mixture is a smooth, shiny paste.
Add the garlic mixture to the beans and mash with a potato masher. Slowly add back some of the juice to keep the mixture moist. After all the beans are mashed and the mixture resembles a loose dough, add approximately 8 oz of the Beirut tahini. Continue to mash the mixture, adding small amounts of the water to keep is workable. Add about a quarter of the container of the lemon juice, mixing and mashing after each addition. Continue to adjust the tahini and lemon mix until the product is nutty tasting with a slight zing of garlic and lemon. Consistency should be firm, not runny, and can be adjusted by adding
the bean water as needed. Keep the bean water.
Spread the mixture about ¼-inch thick onto a flat or oval platter. Drizzle with the dark olive oil and garnish with the roughly chopped parsley and lemon slices. Serve as a dip with the warmed pita triangles. Refrigerate what you don’t use, and bring to room temperature before serving again. Add a small amount of the refrigerated bean water to return to the original consistency.
For a light and delicious meal, serve alongside sharp feta cheese and Kalamata olives.
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