I know a beautiful lady that is more than an angel to me. She is the most giving and caring person I have ever met and has a permanent positive spirit that makes everyone happy. Her name is Hanaa and she is my friend.
Hanaa is a wonderful woman from Iraq who volunteers her time to help us around the office translating for Arabic/Chaldean speaking clients. Her presence in the office is a gentle reminder to all of us that giving is as important as receiving. Hanaa says she likes to help people because it makes her happy and that's the main reason she volunteers. She is an angel because she does this from the bottom of her heart and she is always smiling and spreading good vibes among us. Our clients love her, my crew loves her and I love her!
Besides being so generous with her time, Hanaa has taught me a few Middle Eastern recipes. She is a great cook and does not hesitate to share her food with others. She often brings food for us in the office and it's always so incredibly delicious! The following dishes are two things she has cooked for us. I tried to prepare them for her but of course, they were not as good as Hanaa's but they were not so bad, either. She said she liked them and Yvette, one of the girls from Lebanon that works with us said my dish reminded her of her own mom's cooking. As far as I'm concerned, that is the ultimate complement!
Stuffed Eggplants in Tomato Sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 C. each pine nuts and slivered almonds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb. minced meat (I used beef but you can use any meat you like)
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, cumin, cardamom and a pinch of saffron all ground (Hanaa mixes her own spice but she does not use cinnamon for this dish)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C. olive oil to fry eggplant
10 small eggplants, washed and dried
1/4 C. sun dried tomato paste (it doesn't have to be sun dried tomato but this is what I like to use)
2 roma tomatoes, cooked, peeled and seeds removed (or a 12 oz. can of chopped tomatoes)
1 C. of chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt and a dash of pepper
2 Tsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped
Sauté the pine nuts in oil over medium heat. Remove from oil and add the almonds. Sauté and remove from oil. In the remaining oil sauté the meat and onions. Season with spices, add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 of the nuts.
Heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the eggplants until light brown (you may peel the eggplant if you like but I didn't). Remove from oil and drain. When cool enough to handle, slit each eggplant lengthwise to form a pocket and fill with the stuffing. Arrange in an ovenproof dish.
Place sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour over the eggplant. Bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped parsley and the remaining nuts.
Basmati Rice with Vermicelli
1/4 C. olive oil
1 C. broken vermicelli (you can use Mexican fideos)
2 C. basmati rice
5 1/2 C. chicken broth or water, boiling
1 tsp salt
A pinch or two of spice mix used in the previous recipe (optional)
Flat leaf parsley to garnish (optional)
In a large saucepan sauté the vermicelli in the oil until light brown in color, stirring constantly to avoid sticking and burning. Add the rice and boiling broth or water to the saucepan, stirring to mix the rice with the vermicelli. Stir in the salt, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated and rice has cooked through. If using, add spice mix and stir with a fork. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with chopped parsley.