Roasted Game Hens on Sumac-Onion Bread (Mousakhan)
Serves 6


3 game hens, cut in halves
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons ground sumac
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 large onions, chopped
3/4 cup pine nuts
6 rounds thick pita bread
(such as the Middle Eastern brand Aladdin)


Preheat the oven to 350°.
Rub the hens with 1/2 cup of the olive oil and the lemon juice.
Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sumac, salt and pepper to taste, and the paprika.
Cover with foil and place in a baking pan with 1/2 cup of water.
Bake for 45 minutes, then uncover the pan and turn the heat to broil. Broil for 10 minutes, until the hens are browned.
Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a skillet, then add the onions, and the remaining 2 tablespoons sumac. Season with salt and pepper.
Saute until the onions are soft.
Heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet and brown the pine nuts in it. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pine nuts and set on paper towels to drain.
Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.
Remove the hens from the baking pan and set aside.
Dip the pita into the broth in the pan and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheets, 3 per sheet.
Place a layer of the onion mixture on each pita.
Transfer the cooked hens to the top of the pitas.
Top with more onion mixture.
Place under the broiler and broil for 5-8 minutes, until the bread is crispy.
Sprinkle the hens with the pine nuts and serve.
Skim the fat from the juices, then pour into a gravy boat and pass at the table.

Per serving: 765 calories, 49 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 45 g fat (9 g saturated), 125 mg cholesterol, 772 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Palestinian Hummus
Serves 6

This traditional Palestinian dish can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even as a snack with pita bread.


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice or to taste
1 clove garlic, or to taste
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
Paprika, for garnish (optional)
Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)


Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.
Place the chickpeas with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, jalapeno pepper and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add some of the reserved chickpea liquid until it reaches the desired consistency.
Melt the butter in a skillet and brown the pine nuts in it.
Place the hummus in the center of a large flat plate and spread it toward the edges with a spoon. Sprinkle the buttery pine nuts on top. If desired, garnish the edges with dashes of paprika and chopped parsley.
Serve with pita bread.

Per serving: 215 calories, 7 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat (4 g saturated), 10 mg cholesterol, 366 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.

Rice with Minced Lamb
Serves 6

Georgette Nassar uses converted rice in this dish. If you want to substitute regular long-grain rice, decrease amount of water by 1/4 cup.


Georgette Nassar uses converted rice in this dish. If you want to substitute regular long-grain rice, decrease amount of water by 1/4 cup.

1/4 cup + 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds coarsely ground lamb
2 cups converted rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup pine nuts


Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 4-quart pot.
Add the lamb and saute until browned.
Add the rice, salt, pepper and allspice.
Add 3 cups water and stir to mix well.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the rice mixture is tender and fluffy.
Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a skillet. Add the pine nuts and saute until they turn golden brown.
To serve, spoon the rice into a serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top, including any oil left in the pan, if desired.

Per serving: 490 calories, 28 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 28 g fat (9 g saturated), 75 mg cholesterol, 790 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.

Easter Cookies with Dates (Kaak bi Ajwa)
Makes 30-35 cookies

Traditionally, these cookies are made only during the Easter holiday. The date cookie, in its circular shape, represents the crown of thorns that was placed on Christ’s head.


The Dough

1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups semolina
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon powered gum arabic (see Note)
Pinch mahlab (optional, see Note)

The Filling
2 pounds pitted dates, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Powdered sugar


To prepare the dough:
Melt the butter and let it cool to room temperature.
Add to the semolina and mix thoroughly.
Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
Mix together 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a measuring cup.
Cover and set aside in a warm place for about 5 minutes.
Add yeast mixture to semolina, along with nutmeg, gum arabic, optionalmahlab and 1/2 cup room-temperature water.
Knead by hand until thoroughly mixed.
To prepare the filling: Mix dates with olive oil and cinnamon.
Form date mixture into 1 1/2- inch balls and roll into 4-inch logs.

To assemble:
Position a rack in middle of oven.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease 2 cookie sheets.
Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, then roll into 4-inch logs.
Flatten dough with your fingers and place a date strip in the center.
Crimp edges of dough to seal date mixture inside.
Shape dough into a ring and crimp ends together.
Using a fork or wooden skewer, indent surface of cookie, taking care not to puncture dough.
Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to racks to cool completely.
Dust with powdered sugar.

Note: Mahlab and gum arabic are available at Middle Eastern stores.

Per cookie: 180 calories, 2 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (3 g saturated), 14 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.


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