Category Syrian

Middle Eastern in Mississauga: Syrian Cuisine at Roman Zaman

Finally, a middle eastern restaurant in Mississauga that matches the quality of middle eastern food we are accustomed to eating in our favourite Montreal restaurants. It’s been a long time coming, baby! Roman Zaman serves delicious Syrian food, in a pleasant atmosphere, with lovely staff. If you like middle eastern, I urge you to try Syrian cuisine: a more refined approach to an already delicious and healthy way of cooking.

When they serve the tea like this you know you are in for an experience #damascenetea #syriancuisine

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Postcard from Montreal: Restaurant Damas

Need ideas for a trip to Montreal this summer? Feasting at Van Horne Avenue’s Damas is like a magical night in a sultan’s tent. You’ll be charmed by this Syrian restaurant’s opulent but modern décor, attentive staff, and lively ambiance but it’s the food that will blow your mind. Damas serves the best middle eastern food that we have ever tasted – and that’s coming from my husband’s family (who have Syrian roots and have eaten middle eastern across the globe).

You come to Damas to eat, so come hungry. Order the tasting menu, a traditional Syrian mezze of small plates; Damas makes it an outstanding gastronomical experience. The chef will surprise you with his choice of course after course of little works of art: refined, traditional recipes with creative touches that will leave you swooning.  Here are a few instagram photos of the tasting menu we enjoyed recently with our brother and sister-in-law. Sorry the photos don’t do the food justice – I was too busy enjoying the food and conversation to focus.

Cold mezzes started with fattouch salad, finely chopped so that every bite was a medley of flavour: romaine lettuce, radish, tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper, and mint, topped with grilled pita and crimson pomegranate seeds, in traditional lemon vinaigrette spiked with Aleppo pepper and sumac. Isn’t beet mutabbal (a puree of roasted beets and nutty tahina paste) so pretty? Mouhammara is seductive dip of roasted sweet red peppers, nuts, tomato, lemon, pomegranate molasses, and Aleppo pepper. I have a recipe for mouhammara on my blog but I wish I knew how Damas makes theirs divine. The hummus is silky smooth and dead-on delicious, the best hummus I have ever tasted. With house-baked pita, served warm and puffy. I should note that this photo shows the portions I put on my plate and not how the chef plated them.

The Arabs have an even better version of steak tartar, called kibbé nayyé: finely minced, top-quality raw beef with bulgur and seven spices. Damas stuffs theirs with mouhammara, mint, and pine nuts, and garnishes with shaved onions and house-made chili puree. A real delicacy.

Kibbeh nayeh… phenomenal

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But we are just getting started. Next in line are succulent proteins grilled over an open charcoal fire.

#youcametodamasyouareheretoeat #syriancuisine #montreal #chargrilled #tastingmenu

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I’ve never been a fan of octopus but Damas chargrills it and serves it with a chickpea salad. My son will be happy to know I now love octopus.

Grilled octopus salad with cilantro puree

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Chargrilled sea bass on a pool of tarator (a sauce made from ground sesame paste, garlic, lemon, and cumin) is already my favourite fish meal but Damas blows it out of the water. Tarator sauce is easy to make at home and pairs especially well with grilled fish but also chicken or beef. I have a recipe for it on my blog (my husband’s family calls it tahina).

The totally unexpected fillet mignon of veal was fabulous: deglazed with lemon, garlic, and Aleppo pepper. Served with confit tomatoes and tiny cubes of crisp potatoes.

Filet mignon of veal. Fabulous

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Lamb chops were dusted with seven spices and chargrilled to sheer perfection, as soft as butter. Served on a drizzle of baba ghannouj (smoky, grilled eggplant mashed with ground sesame paste, lemon, and garlic).

Dessert is not included in the tasting menu but don’t miss the orange blossom baklava ice cream: rich vanilla ice cream perfumed with orange blossom water and spiked with chunks of sticky sweet baklava….heavenly.  And the fresh mint tea is so fresh and minty.

Mint tea how it is mint to be

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Gorgeous glass lanterns are strung across the ceilings. Click the link to the Damas website to see photos of their beautiful interior.

Beautiful ambiance

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There is an outdoor terrace, two rooms, and a bar beside the charcoal grill (which is entertaining in cooler weather but a bit too toasty in the summer). Make reservations well in advance; this place has earned its popularity. The tasting menu is available for entire table only. It’s expensive but so worth it. Make Damas your special night out.

Restaurant Damas
1201 Ave. Van Horne
Montreal, QC   H2V 1K4

Telephone: 514-439-5435
http://www.restaurant-damas.com/

 

 

 

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Olive’s Keep Calm & Carry On Christmas Survival Guide: Make-Ahead Holiday Hors d’Oeuvres

Here is my holiday line-up of make-ahead, easy-assemble, or store-bought hors d’oeuvres, ranging from comforting to exotic, that are so delicious they will make you the talk of the town.

Paneer_Tikka_Stuffed_Mini_Potatoes

Paneer Tikka Stuffed Mini Potatoes

Makes 32 halves

My Paneer Tikka Mini Potatoes are stuffed with an exotic combination of Indian spices tamed by rich coconut milk, tomato paste, and soft paneer cheese. Mmm…cheese, potatoes, and a touch of the exotic in a make-ahead, freezer-friendly recipe – everything I am looking for in a special occasion hors d’oeuvres.

It’s well worth seeking out Arvinda’s Tikka Masala spice blend for this recipe. Based in Oakville, Ontario, Arvinda’s makes artisanal, premium Indian spice blends, using Canadian grown spices whenever possible, like mustard seed and coriander. Their Tikka Masala is a lively blend of all natural ingredients, including fresh organic garlic from Stratford, Ontario and fresh ginger.   It’s hot but the tiny amount in this recipe will blanket you in a pleasant (not painful) warmth with layers of flavour. You can find Arvinda’s finely crafted range of Indian spice blends in fine food stores throughout Ontario. Check their website for a store near you.

Paneer cheese is a mild, fresh, farmer white cheese. It is now widely available in many supermarkets or Indian grocery stores.

Ingredients:

Potatoes:
16 mini Yukon Gold potatoes, uniformly medium-sized
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse salt

Stuffing:
1 cup (scant) finely diced paneer cheese
½ teaspoon Arvinda’s Tikka Masala spice mix
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons tomato paste
½ cup canned coconut milk, well-shaken

Garnish:
Finely chopped chives, green onion, or cilantro

Directions:

Potatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut potatoes in half so that each half will sit upright. Dump on parchment-lined baking sheet. Add oil and salt; toss to coat potatoes evenly. Arrange on baking sheet cut side up and evenly spaced so potatoes aren’t touching each other. Roast in a 375°F oven until just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet.

Stuffing:

  1. Using the pointed end of a vegetable peeler or a small spoon, carefully scoop flesh out of potato into a medium bowl, leaving a thin wall of flesh lining the potato skin. Roughly mash the flesh with a potato masher or fork.
  2. Add stuffing ingredients to mashed potato; mix well. Mound stuffing in potatoes halves.
  3. If serving immediately, arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet; bake at 375°F until hot throughout and cheese is soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle garnish of your choice over top of each potato. Serve warm.
  4. Or place in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature while preheating oven to 375°F degrees. Arrange on parchment lined-baking sheet and bake until hot throughout and cheese is soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle garnish of your choice over top of each potato. Serve warm.
  5. Or place in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, cover and freeze up to 2 weeks. Bake from frozen in a 375°F oven, arranged on a parchment-lined baking sheet, until hot throughout and cheese is soft, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle garnish of your choice over top of each potato. Serve warm.

 

Muhammara

Muhammara: A Seductive Syrian Dip

You’ll find my recipe for a seductively delicious dip, that is festively colourful and healthy. in my post Mississauga Meet Muhammara: A Seductive Syrian Dip. This intriguing little number has layers of flavour and texture: roasted sweet red peppers, crunchy walnuts, acidic tomato paste and lemon juice balanced by sweet and tangy pomegranate molasses, and a warm spicy heat that slowly unveils itself. It’s a breeze to make at the last minute with most items stocked in the pantry, or it can be made ahead and refrigerated for a couple of days. or even frozen for up to 2 weeks. If you would rather purchase ready-made Muhammara, my post tells you where to buy a good one.

Cheddar_Cayenne_Cookies

Cheddar Cayenne Cookies

Makes 4 logs (about 24 cookies in each log)

Adapted from www.chatelaine.com Cheddar Crisp Appetizers

These savory cookies have a rich, cheddar flavour with a bit of a spicy kick. They are delicious on their own but spoon on Rootham’s Tangy Red Pepper Jelly or Yummies in a Jar Apple Sage Jelly and they become extra special. Make the dough ahead, roll it into logs, and freeze for up to 1 month; then simply take the dough out a few minutes before slicing and baking to serve your guests freshly baked cheddar cookies with pizzazz.

I’ve adapted a Chatelaine recipe by adding a touch of cream for moistness and a cup of grated old cheddar cheese for even more cheddar flavour. I use Stirling Creamery European-Style Churn 84 Salted Butter which has a rich butter flavour from 84% butterfat. Stirling also makes an unsalted version of Churn 84 but it’s hard to find in our region – you might find it in Sobey’s. If you would prefer to use unsalted butter, increase the salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp table salt
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (250 g) container MacLaren’s Imperial Cold Pack Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Stirling Creamery European-Style Churn 84 salted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons 35% cream
1 cup grated old cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and cayenne; stir with a wire whisk until evenly distributed.
  2. Break up MacLaren’s Imperial Sharp Cold Pack Cheddar Cheese with a fork before dumping it into the large bowl of a food processer; pulse a few times to break down to large crumbs. Add butter, mustard, and cream; process until smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add grated cheese and flour mixture; pulse, occasionally stopping machine to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula, just until mixture comes together.
  3. Scrape dough on to a large piece of parchment paper. Gently form into a ball by kneading gently once or twice. Divide dough into 4 equal sections. Place 1 section on another large piece of parchment paper. Roll dough section gently to form an evenly shaped log, about 1-1/2 inches wide by 6 inches long. Wrap in parchment paper then twist ends to seal. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Or wrap logs in aluminum foil and seal in a resealable freezer bag, label with baking instructions, and freeze up to 1 month; remove from freezer for a few moments before slicing and baking.
  4. When ready to bake, place oven rack on bottom shelf; preheat oven to 400°F. Slice one well-chilled log into 1/4-inch thick rounds; arrange (evenly spaced) on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake one sheet at a time, on the bottom rack, just until edges are slightly golden brown, about 8 minutes; immediately remove cookies from cookie sheet and place on rack to cool. Repeat with remaining logs, removing 1 log at a time from the fridge.
  5. Best eaten the day you bake them but still good within a few days after baking, if placed in a sealed container and refrigerated. Serve at room temperature with apple sage or red pepper jelly. Look for Rootham’s Tangy Red Pepper Jelly or Yummies in a Jar Apple Sage Jelly at gourmet food shops such as The Shop For All Reasons in Streetsville, gourmet grocery stores such as Cousin’s Market in Port Credit, or fine cheese shops such as Mill Street Cheese Market in Georgetown (see my Grocery Store Directory). Or click on the product link to go directly to the product website for store locations.

 

Cheddar_Dip

Sorry about the cheesy photo. I got a little carried away with the deer.

Hot Cheddar Dip

Enough to feed a crowd.

Adapted from Hot Cheese Spread from Best of Bridge

I’ve amped up the Hot Cheese Spread recipe from Best of Bridge to replicate the flavours of a dip I served in the ‘80s and loved, but lost the recipe. Artery-clogging but so delicious, I only serve this decadent dip at Christmas.

Make it ahead and store in the fridge for a few days. It makes enough to feed a crowd, so sometimes I split one batch into two if I have two smaller gatherings to attend. I have even frozen it, which isn’t ideal because the oil separates while baking, but once you have drained off the oil, you are still left with a ton of flavour, a lot less fat, and a bit of a stringier dip.

Ingredients:

1 cup slivered almonds
3 cups grated old cheddar cheese
2/3 cup finely chopped green onions (5 or 6 green onions)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ teaspoon curry powder
Dash cayenne powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise

Accompaniment:

Baguette crisps such as Ace Bakery Olive Oil & Sea Salt Mini Crisps

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread almonds out in a single layer on baking sheet and toast lightly, just until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix cheese, onion and garlic together. In a separate bowl, combine curry powder, cayenne powder, and salt. Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise; blend thoroughly with a whisk. Fold into cheese. Add almonds. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Pack into an oven-proof serving dish. Bake immediately, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for a few days. Bring to room temperature before placing in a 350°F preheated oven. Bake just until hot throughout, about 15 minutes. Wonderful served with Ace Bakery Olive Oil & Sea Salt Mini Crisps.

 

Tomato_Bocconcini_Skewers

Tomato Bocconcini Basil Skewers

If you can get your hands on some really good cherry tomatoes and real buffalo mozzarella mini cheese balls, this festively-coloured hors d’oeuvres is easy-assemble and healthy. Click on my post Easy Breezy Summer Apps and scroll down for the recipe and details.

Keep calm and carry on. Love, Olive.

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Mississauga Meet Muhammara: A Seductive Syrian Dip

Mississauga meet Muhammara, a seductively delicious dip originating from Aleppo, Syria but common in Lebanese cuisine. This intriguing little number has layers of flavour and texture: roasted sweet red peppers, crunchy walnuts, acidic tomato paste and lemon juice balanced by sweet and tangy pomegranate molasses, and a warm spicy heat that slowly unveils itself. A breeze to make with most items stocked in my pantry, it’s my favourite appetizer of the moment.

Muhammara

The type of dried, crushed chili peppers you use is important here. The classic recipe uses dried Aleppo chili peppers, originating from Syria. Regular grocery store dried red chili peppers are fiery hot and lack the fruity flavour of Aleppo pepper but Aleppo pepper can be hard to come by. The Spice Trader in Toronto carries Aleppo pepper, available in their store on Queen Street West (in Trinity Bellwoods) or from their website (they just received a new shipment on Friday November 1, 2013 and are in the process of updating their website). I use Armenian pepper, sold at Adonis (under the Cedar brand in plastic packets in the spice aisle). Cedar brand Armenian pepper flakes have a fruity flavour, like raisins, and a gentle heat.

Muhammara_ingredients

You’ll find pomegranate molasses in Middle Eastern grocery stores or in the international section of some supermarkets. If you live in or close to Mississauga, a drive to Adonis will be worth the trip. You can stock your pantry with Armenian pepper, pomegranate molasses, and small jars of roasted sweet red peppers. Don’t forget to pick up a package of freshly baked Adonis pita bread from the racks under the window of their in-store bakery.

There are many versions (and spellings) of muhammara. Adonis sells a good store-made version, available ready-made in mild or spicy hot (they spell it Mouhamara). My recipe is somewhere in between the Adonis version and Claudia Roden’s version (from her book The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which is an extensive collection of good, authentic Middle Eastern recipes).

Please visit my Grocery Store Directory for information on The Spice Trader and Adonis.

Olive’s Muhammara

Makes about 2 cups.

Adapted from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Perfect for holiday entertaining, this dip is colourful, healthy, and exotic. Make sure you don’t over-process; you want the slight crunch of the walnuts and tiny hits of different flavours coming at your taste buds. Alternatively, if you add a garlic clove and puree to a smooth paste, you’ll have an outstanding and healthy sandwich spread that I like to call Muhammara Mock Mayo.

Ingredients:

1 cup shelled walnuts
4 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
1 jar (250ml) grilled/roasted sweet red peppers, drained
1 slice whole wheat bread, lightly toasted, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (also called “syrup”,“glaze” or “concentrated juice”)
3 teaspoons Armenian pepper or Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon sea salt or coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor; pulse several times, stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor with a rubber spatula when necessary, until mixture is processed into a rough paste; avoid over-processing.
  2. Serve immediately with toasted pita points, pita chips, or endive spears. For longer storage, seal in a plastic container and store in fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks; defrost before serving.
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