In Memory of Dad

Today marks the 13th anniversary of dad’s disappearance. However, in this post, I wanted to celebrate my father’s life and honor his legacy by telling the world a little bit about who he was.

His name was Suhail Jany Alnashi, and he was born on November 12, 1944, in the Province of Maysan in southern Iraq. In the late 40s, dad and his family relocated to Baghdad, where they lived in the western shore of the Tigris river, also known as Al-Karkh.

Dad grew up in a big household. He was one of eight children, and he was the second youngest in the family. Dad was in the first cohort of students to attend the University of Technology in Baghdad, where he studied electrical engineering. Right after graduation, he got his first job as an electrical engineer at General Company for Mechanical Industries in 1973, in Al-Eskandaria city.

My dad stayed at that company for the rest of his life. To put it simply, dad loved his job. He was promoted several times, and for a while he was the Director of the Electrical Division at his company. In early 2000s he was awarded the title of an “Expert in Electrical Engineering” which to be honest I’m a little bit jealous of.

Suhail Jany, Baghdad, Iraq

My dad was recognized nationally and abroad for leading several projects to design several agricultural tools and machinery. He led many delegations to train engineers in England, Switzerland, Germany, and India. So yeah, he was a pretty big deal.

Work aside, dad was a very sociable Habibi. I always remember him being surrounded by friends and relatives. His smile was infectious, had the best dad jokes, and absolutely loved helping others. He was motivated by the act to helping people live a better life. This reminds me of a quote by Will Smith in which he says “If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.” Dad fully believed in that and made it his mission in life to make a difference in the lives of those around him.

Dad and Mom, in Baghdad, Iraq.

His number one priority, however, was us: his family. The love that he showed us was unparalleled. Well, maybe he loved my sister a little more and maybe my brothers and I were a little salty about it. Above everything, he loved my mother. Their relationship was something I will forever look up to. The level of support for one another, and passion to nurture their household, is something I truly have never seen in my life.

Dad was a pretty handsome fellow, elegant, smart, always well-dressed, calm, funny, kind, loyal, and trust-worthy. He loved listening to classical music and Um-Kulthum, a legendary Egyptian singer. He was also a great cook, and loved to eat. I guess I got that from him.

So to sum it up, my dad dedicated his life to his family, his community, and his country. Your memory is a blessing to so many around the world. We love you, dad and we miss you.

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Let’s Shawarma and Chill

Chicken shawarma

I was rewatching The Avengers for the 5th time the other night and I realized that probably my favorite scene of the entire movie is the post-credit clip of all the heroes eating shawarma. Think about it: THE AVENGERS are habibis!

But you know, not all heroes wear capes. Some wear aprons. Yes, I convinced myself I was a hero by not only wearing an apron, but also making chicken shawarma. Take that Iron Man!

Best part about this meal is that it is super easy and quick to make. Yalla habibis:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 -2 lbs chicken tenders
  • Naan bread. Pita is okay, but naan is better for this
  • Hummus
  • Tahini
  • Mayo
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 6 freshly grated garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Mix all spices in a bowl. Add your olive oil and squeeze half of the lemon in. Then add the chicken in and make sure it is coated evenly. Set aside.
  2. Thinly slice your cucumber, tomato, and onion. Set that aside.
  3. Now heat up some vegetable oil in a frying pan. Let the oil come up to temperature. You will know it’s ready when you see a little bit of smoke.
  4. Add the chicken in and let it sear. Avoid flipping the chicken often. You want to get a nice sear on each side. It usually takes 5-7 minutes per side. Once one side is nice and brown, flip the chicken. Chicken tenders are thin and cook quickly, so keep an eye on them.
  5. Once chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Slice the chicken evenly.
  6. Grab your naan bread. Spread a teaspoon of mayo and a spoonful of hummus. You can adjust these portions as you like.
  7. Add some chicken, then toss in some cucumbers, a few slices of tomatoes, and some onions.
  8. Final touch: drizzle some tahini and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice.

And by now you should have a shawarma sandwich that is to die for.

Enjoy

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One Pan Dinner: Braised Chicken and Butternut Squash

Shako mako habibis! Really excited to share this new recipe with ya’ll. Also, sorry for being MIA all this time but I’m back, so stop complaining.

Lately, I have been really into braising food. It has become one of my favorite techniques to learn and develop new flavors and dishes. It all started when I made my first coq au vin dinner back in February of this year, which I probably need to write the recipe for. Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in.

Braising simply means you fry something in a pan first, then you add some liquid and let it cook slowly under low heat. It does two things: One it builds incredible flavors, and two everything comes out fork-tender.

A lot of friends have asked me to share the recipe for above braised chicken that I made a few weeks ago. It actually was one of the best chicken dishes I have ever prepared. So I hope you can give it a try! You won’t regret it…unless you don’t eat chicken. Then you’ll be really missing out.

I can’t believe I’m saying this again, but if you don’t have a cast iron pan, GO GET ONE. No need to spend hundreds of dollars, just get whatever you can afford. But cast iron pans are ideal for this dish.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken drumsticks or thighs (as many as you can fit in your pan)
  • 1-2 cups of cubed butternut squash
  • 1-2 cups of mushrooms
  • 1 sliced medium onion
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tsp of all spice
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
  2. Heat your cast iron pan on medium-high, add some vegetable oil and let it come up to temp. Then add the chicken and let it fry until the skin is nice and brown. Remember, if you see things stuck to the bottom of the pan, that’s great. Don’t panic. You want that!
  3. Take chicken out of the pan and let it rest on a plate. Now saute the onions until golden brown. Then add the squash and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the red wine and chicken broth and make sure you scrape off all the things that got stuck at the bottom. This will create an incredible sauce.
  5. Add the chicken back in. The liquid needs to cover 3/4 of the chicken. So if you need to add in more broth/wine, feel free to do so. Let everything cooks for 10 minutes until the liquid reduces by about half an inch.
  6. At this point transfer the pan into your oven. Pour you some wine, and go play Mortal Kombat 11 while you wait for 45 minutes.
  7. After a few glasses of wine, and getting irritated by some troll on Mortal Kombat online, your timer goes off! Take the pan out and let it rest a little bit. And that’s it!

Serve this over rice, couscous, pasta, or with salad on the side. You can even just eat it without anything else.

If you liked this recipe, please share it using #habibisknowbest. And if you haven’t already, make sure you follow me on Instagram @wethehabibis.

Older recipes.

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Spicy Beef Ragu with Homemade Chili Oil

Spicy beef ragu with homemade chili oil

Aside from steak, is there anything better than pasta? That is a question I struggle with all the time. However, until I find the answer to that, I will continue to eat both whenever I freaking please.

I was watching this video by Eater recently where they interview the CEO of Xi’an Famous Foods, a really popular Chinese food joint in NYC where I intend to eat there soon. The video highlights an amazing spicy noodles lamb dish that they make at the restaurant. The second I saw the final product, I knew I had to make that dish at home. Or at least something similar to it.

So I went to the grocery store, checked the meat section, and unfortunately I couldn’t find lamb. It is 2019, and some grocery stores don’t have lamb on them. I mean, wth?! This was after a long day at work, so I definitely wasn’t in the mood to make fresh noodles.

Then BAM! I was struck by the lightening of beef ragu! I told myself: “Habibi, why don’t you get yourself some good quality ground beef, some organic pappardelle, and make beef ragu with homemade chili oil?”

Myself responded: “Habibi, that’s a brilliant idea. Let’s do it!”

Once I posted the process of me making that dish on my Instagram story, a bunch of my habibis were asking me to share the recipe with them. So here I am!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of ground beef (85% lean is ideal)
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup of sliced onions
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped garlic
  • sliced scallions for garnish.
  • 1 cup of ground chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp of cayenne pepper. If you want less spicy, use less cayenne
  • 1 tbsp of black pepper corns
  • ground black pepper
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 2 cups of oil. I used olive oil, but you could use vegetables oil.

Directions:

A- First thing first, prepare the chili oil:

  1. Get you a nice jar to store the oil in. You can use it many times in the future.
  2. Add the oil in a pan/pot. To it, you will add the black pepper corns, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves. Heat oil on medium heat until you see a tiny little bit of smoke. Don’t make it too hot otherwise it will burn everything you put in there. Take your pan/pot off the heat.
  3. In the jar, add your chili flakes, cayenne pepper, and salt.
  4. Add your now flavored oil in the jar and stir a little bit. Set the jar aside and let the oil cool off.

B- Prepare the beef:

  1. Heat up your cast iron pan (or any pan) on medium high. Add about 2 tbsp of your chili oil and let it come up to temperature.
  2. Add your onions and garlic and saute for just a few seconds. Then add in your beef and cook until golden brown.
  3. Take off all the meat and place it on a separate plate. In the same pan, add a little bit more chili oil and your mushrooms. Cook until they lose all their water.
  4. Mix the beef + mushrooms together and set aside.

C- Prepare the pasta:

You know how to cook pasta. Follow the instructions on the back of the bag. I like my pasta al dente, so I usually cook it a minute or two less than what the package suggests.

D-Mix Everything together:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add your beef, mushrooms, and pasta.
  2. Add some more chili oil on top. I added about 3-4 tbsp. Make sure you get chili flakes in these spoons!
  3. Mix everything thoroughly so that all ingredients are coated evenly.
  4. Optional: if you would like extra heat, just sprinkle some cayenne pepper on top.
  5. Garnish with some scallions and you’re all set.

I hope you give this dish a try because it is absolutely delicious and easy to make.

And if you do give it a try, post your results on Instagram with hashtag #habibisknowbest. I want to see how it turns out for you and whether you liked it or not.

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Easy Grilled Kabab

One dish from Iraq that I constantly crave is grilled kabab. The kabab that you would eat in Iraq is just absolutely delicious. In my opinion, it is by far the most delicious kabab of all the kababs out there! Boom bold statement, fight me!!!

Unfortunately, again, I can’t get any Iraqi food in the Washington, DC area. It’s quite a bummer. I know that my American habibis would love the Iraqi cuisine.

So, when I crave Kabab, I have to make it. So what do you say if we jump right into it?

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef + 1/2 lb ground lamb. Feel free to use 1 lb of either beef or lamb. The most important thing is to get the fattiest meat you can find. 75-80% lean is ideal.
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 2 medium size tomatoes
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 eggplant
  • Pita bread: grab my recipe here. Or be lazy and go buy it at the store.

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat, chopped onions, chopped parsley, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix everything together very well so it’s coated evenly.
  2. Grab a handful of the mixture, and shape it however your delicate soul desires. See how I shaped mine above for illustration.
  3. Fire up your grill. If you have charcoal grill, use it. It tastes better. I used a gas grill and it was pretty good too.
  4. Place the tomatoes, onions, and eggplant on the grill. Make sure you poke a few holes in the eggplant. Cook for 20-30 minutes. They will take longer to cook than the meat so grill them first.
  5. After about 15 minutes from grilling the veggies, place the kababs on the grill. Please please please do not over cook these beautiful kababs. After 30 seconds on the grill, flip them on the other side and grill for another 30 seconds. Keep flipping every 30 seconds. until the meat get a really nice sear on the outside but still feels soft to touch and not firm.
  6. Check on the veggies and make sure they’re nice and soft, especially the eggplant.
  7. Take everything off the grill, and place the kababs on your pita bread and let them rest.
  8. In the meantime, peel off the skin from the eggplant, mush it up, and add some salt and pepper to taste.

And that’s it! To serve, I recommend getting a little bit of everything in each bite.

Enjoy.

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