My Favorite Kitchen Project Yet

Habibis! First thing first, sorry for the hiatus. I just got back from a trip to Italy, plus a bunch of other excuses that you don’t care about.

But I know what you do care about. Food! And I applaud you for your interest in eating. That’s why you’re here after all, right? And speaking of food, I have this to share with you today: slow roasted pork loin!

By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you how much I love meat. But what I absolutely love is slowly cooked meat. I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of cutting meat with a spoon? In Iraq, almost all meats are cooked low and slow. I grew up learning that you should respect the fact that making a delicious homemade meal cannot be rushed. Waiting makes your food tastes so much better.

That is why I decided to make this wonderful pork loin, slowly roasted for five hours!

Let’s get to it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion cut into 4 quarters.
  • 1-2 lbs pork loin
  • 1 tb turmeric
  • 2 tb black pepper
  • 1 tb kosher salt
  • 1 tb garlic powder
  • 1 tb onion powder
  • 1 tb red chili power
  • 1 tb all spice
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 container of beef, chicken, or vegetable broth

Directions:

Step 1

Preheat oven to 300 F degrees.

Step 2

Dry the pork loin with paper towels and let it sit for few minutes in room temperature.  Oh make sure the meat is not cold, please. Once dried, rub all the spices to both sides so the meat is evenly coated.

Step 3

Sizzle time! Place the pork loin in a hot cast iron pan and sear both sides till golden brown, about 5 minutes each side. This step is crucial because it will add so much flavor to the meat later on.

Step 4

Take the meat out of the skillet and place it aside. Add the broth in with the onion, bay leaves, and cloves.

Step 5

Grab some heavy duty foil and tightly seal the top of the skillet so you trap all the juice at the bottom and you don’t lose any steam. Then with a knife, make very small cuts in the foil to allow steam to come out. Make sure you make enough holes in the center, but you don’t need to poke the entire foil. We will cook the meat with steam! 

Step 6

Place the pork on top of the holes that you made in the foil. Now place two layers of foil to cover the meat and the skillet. Make sure it is nice and tight so you trap all the steam inside. It should look something like this:

Step 7:

Place the skillet into the oven, grab a beer, and go watch your favorite TV shows. I personally recommend watching The Office. The meat will now sit for 5 hours.

Step 8

After 5 hours, take the skillet out, and just let it sit for about 30 minutes. This is also a very important step as it will allow all the juices to distribute evenly throughout the loin.

Step 9

Carefully unwrap all the foil and very gently grab the pork with kitchen tongs and place it on a large plate or trey. The meat should be extremely juicy and tender. Let it sit for another 5 minutes. In the meantime, put the skillet on the stove to make a sauce. The broth now at the bottom of the skillet is going to taste incredible. Heat till boil, then reduce to low and let it simmer for a little bit. Once thickens, remove from heat and pour in a saucer.

Step 10

Best part!  Grab two forks and gently shred the meat. It should basically fall apart at this point with 0 effort. Once it’s all shredded, serve with your favorite side of roasted veggies, pour some of the sauce on top, get yourself a nice and well earned glass of red wine, and enjoy your meal!

Hope you like this recipe. If you like We the Habibis, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, and follow me on social media at @wethehabibis!

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Steak Biryani with Fried Potatoes, Peas, and Carrots

Steak biryani, a classic Iraqi dish.
Steak biryani, a classic Iraqi dish.

If you are in Iraq one day, which I hope many of us will be able to visit sooner than later, you will eat this biryani at least once before your trip ends. That is a promise.

Although I am not exactly what the origins or biryani are, being the Iraqi that I am, I’m going to go ahead and make a big claim which might cause an uproar among all the biryani aficionado out there: this is an Iraqi dish god damn it!

No I do not have facts to back this up, and there is a good chance I’m wrong. But how can you learn if you’re always right?

Long story short, biryani (chicken or steak) is a very common meal in Iraq. So, I decided to share this recipe with all ya’ll habibis out there. Let’s get right into it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Basmati rice. Don’t cheap out on rice now
  • 1 lb cubed beef
  • 1 cup cubed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamon pods

Directions:

  1. Prepare the rice first. For every cup of rice, add 1 & 1/4 cup of water. Add 1 cardamom pods, 1 clove, and the turmeric. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer until done. Check on it every once in a while to make sure if it needs a little bit more water. You want the rice to look fluffy, not too soft and not too hard.
  2. While the rice is cooking, go ahead and start preparing the meat. We want the meat to be nice and tender. This means you will need to be patient. First, sear the meat in large pot. Use your biggest pot, you will thank me later.
  3. Once the meat is looking nice and brown, add a little bit of water, just enough to cover a quarter of the meat. Add the other cardamom pod and the clove.Bring the water to boil, reduce heat to very low, cover the pot, and let it sit for at least 45 minutes.
  4. While the meat is cooking, prepare your potatoes. Add some oil in to your skillet, make sure it’s nice and hot, then add in your potatoes. Once they’re golden brown, take them out and set them aside.
  5. After 45 minutes, take the lid of and make sure you boil off any remaining water. Once everything is dry, take the meat out of the pot and set it aside. Feel free to hit it with some salt now if you want to. I didn’t use any.
  6. Now, in the same pot, add in some olive oil, your all spice, and black pepper. Then add in your peas and carrots. Stir them in well and let them cook until the carrots soften up a little bit.
  7. Now you have the rice, meat, potatoes, and veggies done, all you have to do is to mix them all up together in the pot. See why I told you to use a large one? You’re welcome.
  8. Add the meat first, then rice, then the potatoes. Put the lid on, and reduce heat to low. Let everything sit for 15 minutes. This will allow all the flavors from the meat, cardamom,   cloves, and spices get mixed up together.
  9. Now gently stir everything together. You don’t the rice and potatoes to get mushy. Just take your time and stir all the ingredients so they’re nicely mixed. Let that sit for another 15 minutes on low heat.
  10. And Bon Appétit!

Give this bad boy a try and let me know how it is. If you enjoy my recipes, please share them on social media with your family and friends. And if you’re new here, please hit the subscribe button and join the Habibis Family!

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Chicken Stir Fry with Coconut Brown Rice

What’s up Habibis?! Sorry it’s been a minute since I last posted a recipe. Been hella busy with work. You know I have a full time job so give me a break would you?

Lot’s of folks have asked for this recipe, and because I’m super nice, I was like “why not?!”

This a super easy, quick, and healthy meal that anyone can make. So let’s dive right in:

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium size chicken breasts
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 clove
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • 1 cup of red bell pepper
  • 1 cup of yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded onions
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Whip it up!

  1. Cook the brown rice first because it takes a while. In a medium size pot, add your brown rice, coconut milk, 1 cup of water, coconut flakes, cardamom, and clove.
  2. Bring everything to a boil, put the lid on, and turn the heat to medium low. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes or until all the liquid is gone. The cardamom and clove will make your place smell amazing!
  3. Cube up the chicken, and hit it with some salt, pepper, and red pepper action. Then transfer the chicken to a hot and oiled cast iron skillet and cook until golden brown.
  4. Transfer the chicken into a bowl and drizzle the pan with olive oil.
  5. Add your vegetables in and cook until they lose all their water.
  6. Add your soy sauce, a pinch of red pepper flake, a pinch of black pepper, and stir all the veggies together.
  7. Then toss your chicken back in the skillet with all the veggies and mix everything together.
  8. Serve! I prefer adding the rice at the bottom of your plate/bowl then add the stir fry on top. But you can also just mix the rice together with everything.

If you enjoy this recipe, share it up!

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March 19: Never Forget the Invasion of Iraq

US invasion of Iraq
US military tanks in the streets of Baghdad after the invasion.

 

They say that the US invasion of Iraq started on March 20th, but I heard the missiles on the 19th.

Today, March 19, 2018, marks the 15th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. On this day fifteen years ago, I was 13 years old sitting on my bed when I heard the first missile flying over the roof of our house. The rumbling sound of that missile will resonate in my ears forever. Seconds later, that missile would detonate, shaking our entire home, and marking a new and a very bloody chapter of lives in Iraq.

Because of that invasion, I lost my father, my home, and got separated from the rest of my family members who are now scattered all over the world.

However, this post is not intended to point fingers and say that invasion was a mistake. We, people who lived through the invasion, lost those most dear to us, and dealt with all of its unfortunate circumstances, understand that the invasion was not just a mistake, it was a crime against humanity.

It is important for us to be reminded that the US-led invasion of Iraq was devastating, and that devastation is lasting. We cannot move forward if we choose to forget and pretend nothing happened. It is not despite this, but because of this, that we need for a new and healthier relationship between Iraq and the United States.

I remember in early 2004, three American military Humvees stopped by my school one day. The soldiers walked in to deliver many boxes of school supplies. One of the soldiers approached me, and handed me some notebooks, candy, and two packs of MRE peanut butter. It was the first time i tried peanut butter and it is the one good thing that came out of the invasion.

I am a firm believer that Iraq and the United States can benefit so much from one another. From trade and economic prosperity to the security of the region and the world, these two nations must start forging new partnership based peace and long-lasting positive change.

So many people ask me today: “how do you feel about living in America, the country that invaded your home?” My answer is simple: the American people did not invade my country. They welcomed me in their homes.

America opened its doors for me, sheltered me, provided me with excellent education, and helped me rebuild my life once again. America is my home today and I love living here. At the same time, Iraq still remains my country of origins and I am very proud of that. That is where I learned to walk, talk, and read and write.

I hope you can join me today in remembering all of those who sacrificed their lives in that war, both Iraqis and Americans, and look forward to a brighter and stronger relationship between those two great nations.

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Dear Mom

Mom back in the days. Time and place are unknown.

Thank you for everything.

I was browsing through some of my old pictures from Iraq, and I came across this picture of my mom: a beautiful, elegant, fashionable, and most importantly, fierce Iraqi woman.

This International Women’s Day, and as we all celebrate the amazing women in our lives, I want to celebrate and thank my mom: a woman who did the impossible to help me get to where I am today. She truly defines what it means to be the best mom anyone could ask for.

I want to share one story about her.

In 2008, I was a refugee living with my mother and one of my brothers in Damascus, Syria. We had been living there for nearly two years after we had left Iraq in late 2006. And one day, I received the happiest news of my life: that I was going to the United States.

I had just received my acceptance letter to attend Union College in Schenectady, New York and also my student visa. I could not believe it at first, and I was so excited to go home and tell mom about it.

As I was climbing up the stairs to our fourth-floor apartment, with an acceptance letter in one hand and a visa in the other, it suddenly hit me: how am I supposed to leave mom alone in Syria?

My brother at that time was working in France, and so it was just mom and I for a few months. She was my best friend and support system. Her health wasn’t the best, and I knew it would be difficult for her to wave goodbye to her youngest child.

But I didn’t want to let these thoughts overtake my excitement, and I was so eager to tell mom about the great news I got.

It’s hard to put into words and describe the happiness I saw on mom’s face once I told her that I was going to finish my education in America. She saw her youngest child with an opportunity to receive the best education of his life. She was proud—and that made me even happier.

However, as we sat down to talk about it, I was starting to feel guilty that I might leave mom alone. So I asked her a very blunt question: “What do I do? Whatever you decide, mom, I will happily do it.”

And here’s why I said earlier that my mom is the best mother anyone could ask for.

“Throughout my entire life, I have worked so hard, and sacrificed so much, for you and your siblings to be successful. All I want for all of you is to finish your education and have a prosperous future. I give you my full blessings to go to America,” my mom told me with teary eyes.

Today, after nearly 10 years since the day I had that conversation with mom in our little apartment in Damascus, I am proud to say that I have made it in America.

After 4 years of separation, mom came to my my graduation from Union College in 2012.

But none of my successes in life would have been possible with you mom, and for that I say thank you.

 

 

 

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