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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Best Homemade Pita!

As an Arab, one of my absolute favorite things to eat is freshly baked pita. It’s soft, it’s fluffy, and it’s delicious. 

I do have to say, though, baking intimidates me. I like to cook a lot and experiment with different dishes and spices and all that. But when it comes to baking, I’m usually like “nope!”

But the other day I was craving fresh pita and tzatziki (AKA “Jajeek” in Iraq.) Anyways, I didn’t want to buy pita at the store. I really don’t like those. 

So here I was craving pita, don’t want to buy it from the store, what do I do?!

Thankfully, there is Chef John from Food Wishes! Food Wishes is one of my favorite YouTube channels and Chef John’s dishes are incredible! You definitely have to check it out.

Chef John’s pita recipe is so easy, and the results are so good! The pita really tastes just like what I used to eat in Damascus back when I lived there. You can watch his full pita video here.

And that’s why I wanted to share this awesome recipe so you can make pita at home today!

So grab your flour, yeast, and a mixing bowl:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1+1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (original recipe doesn’t have sugar, but I thought it added some balance…but what do I know?)

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, toss in the yeast, water, and 1 cup of flour. Whisk that very well and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Add olive oil, salt, sugar, and another cup of flour. If you have one of these fancy dough mixers, use it. I didn’t have one, so I just used a wooden spoon and my hands.
  3. Mix in everything and keep adding the rest of the flour gradually until the dough is soft and not too sticky.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a flour-dusted surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top and start kneading. If you feel the dough is still sticky, add a little bit of flour and knead away. Keep doing that until you get a nice and smooth dough.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, add some olive oil in another mixing bowl, throw the dough in and coat it lightly with oil.
  6. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise for 2-3 hours until it doubles in size.
  7. Take the dough out and place it again on a flour-dusted surface. Cut into 8 small, equally sized balls. Cover them again and let them rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Take one loaf at a time, roll it out to about a quarter of an inch thick, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Make sure you keep the rest of the loaves covered so they don’t dry up.
  9. Heat a cast iron skillet (kind of a must) to medium high. Gently place the rolled out dough in the skillet.
  10. Enjoy the show! the dough will start puffing up and your kitchen will smell amazing! Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side. If you’re lucky, you would get a nice balloon and that’s when you know you’re a master pita maker!

And that’s it! Eat it with you favorite dips, make sandwiches, or just do what I did and eat a few plain. I promise you this will be the best pita you will ever have!

Special thanks to Chef John for this recipe. Definitely brought up a lot of memories!

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Keto Double Cheeseburger

Keto double cheeseburger
Keto Double Cheeseburger

So, like everyone else around the world, with every new year comes new resolutions. My resolution for 2019 is to eat more than I did in 2018. I also joined the Ketogenic diet train.

I’m no expert in diets, but if you’ve never heard about this diet before, it’s basically a high fat, moderate protein, low carbs, low sugars one. The goal of it is to put your body under a metabolic state called “ketosis” in which your body starts using fats for fuel. But if you want to learn more about it, I made it easy for you here!

I decided to do the “Keto” diet for no particular reason other than I wanted to try something new. Also, by the end of last year, I was eating carbs and sugary stuff like there is no tomorrow. Needless to say, my body didn’t feel good, and I needed to do something about it.

How long am I going to do this for? Who knows. It’s been only two weeks since I started this diet and I miss my potatoes so freaking much! I’ll keep you posted when I decide to call it quits, but for now I’m going to keep at it.

Trying the keto diet has been pretty challenging for me in terms of cooking. However, I find that this diet pushes me to be more creative in the kitchen. This might be simply because I have to substitute my rice, pasta, and potatoes (my three favorite carbs) with, well not so carby stuff.

The good thing about this diet is that it allows meats and butter!!! What else do you need, habibi?

And what better way to start things off than with a keto doube cheeseburger! What makes this burger keto? Fried eggs patties!

Let me show you how it’s done:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef (80% lean)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 thinly sliced tomato
  • 4 whisked eggs
  • A couple of fresh onion rings
  • Some fresh spinach (you can use lettuce, arugula, or whatever leafy green you’re into)
  • Sliced eggplant (about a quarter inch each)
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Your favorite cheese (I used cheddar)
  • Cooking oil

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, add the ground beef, chopped onions and parsley, and all the spices. Use your hands to mix everything together and make sure the meat is evenly coated with everything else.
  2. Cut the meat in half, and make two 1/4 lb patties.
  3. Feel free to make the patties however thick or thin you like. Just remember that they will shrink significantly once cooked.
  4. Now grab your cast iron (please tell me you have one. If not go buy one. Walmart got some cheap ones that work really well.) Also grab another non-stick pan.
  5. Heat each pan on medium heat. We will cook the burgers in the cast iron, and everything else in the non-stick pan.
  6. Place the patties in the cast iron pan. Wait until they get nice and brown on one side before you flip them over. As soon as you flip them, place the cheese on top.
  7. “Experts” say in order to cook a burger to medium rare, you need an internal temperature between 130-135 degrees. I usually just feel the patty with my fingers. If it feels nice and juicy with a little bit of resistance when I press down on it, I know it’s done for me! But you cook your burgers however you like.
  8. By now cheese should be melted all over the patties. Once cooked, take the burgers out of the pan and let them rest.
  9. In the other pan, add about two inches of cooking oil. Let it come up to temperature and add in your eggplants. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan, so cook about 3-4 slices at a time. Let the eggplants get nice and golden before you take them out. FYI, you only need about 6-8 slices for this recipes.
  10. After the eggplants, toss in your mushrooms and cook them until golden brown.
  11. Time to make the eggs patties. Pour in half of your whisked eggs in the pan and cook to form a nicely round patty. Once you notice the bottom starts to give, flip on the other side. Do the same for the second half to make the other patty.
  12. Now all you got to do is assemble the burger!
    • Place one egg patty at the bottom of the plate
    • Add your leafy green
    • Add one burger patty
    • Add a slice or two of tomatoes
    • Add a slice of two of fried eggplants
    • Add some mushrooms
    • Add some fresh onions rings
    • Add the other burger patty, and top with tomatoes, mushrooms, and eggplants.
    • Place the second egg patty on top and you got yourself a keto double cheeseburger habibi!

I placed some chopped avocado onto because I felt like it. Not mandatory but it tastes really nice with everything else.

These recipes take a long time to put together, so if you enjoy them, I would really appreciate it if you could share them with your habibis!

 

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