Print the Recipes

An Iraqi Family Menu

Serves 12-15
total cooking time: 4 hours

Red Lentil Soup
Iraqi Dolmas
Fattoush salad
Eggplant in red sauce

As a woman from Baghdad, Iraq, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine, October 2011.

Active time: 2 hours
Total time: 4 hours
1 16 oz jar of grape leaves
and/or: fresh chard leaves, de-stemmed and dipped in boiling water
red onion skins, boiled for 5 minutes
white onion skins, boiled for 5 minutes
2 lbs beef or lamb minced
1 cup uncooked Basmati rice
¾ cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried lemon (available in middle-eastern markets)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup Canola oil
4-5 carrots, peeled
Drain grape leaves. Rinse in fresh water. Boil for 10 minutes in water to soften. Peel and slice carrots into planks and line bottom of the pot (prevents dolmas from sticking). Soak rice in hot water for ten minutes and drain. In a large bowl, combine rice, beef, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and all spices. Place each grape leaf vein-side up so that smooth side is on the outside of each roll. Cut off any stem. Place 1 Tbsp of the mixture on leaf near the stem end. Roll top over once, fold ends in, and continue to roll away from you. Repeat with remaining leaves. Arrange rolled grape leaves in a pot, seam side down, tightly packed. Place each layer in opposite direction of previous layer, in a criss-cross fashion. For even cooking, try to have no more than 4 layers. Combine lemon juice and oil and pour over grape leaves. Top with water until approximately 1” below top layer. Place large plate on top, and a heavy weight on plate (a foil-wrapped brick works great). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes until rice is thoroughly cooked. Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes. To remove from pan, get serving platter out, drain off any remaining liquid if any, remove plate from pot, and turn over pot onto platter in one fluid motion so the packed dolmas sit like an overturned cake on the platter.
Red Lentil Soup
Active time: 1 ½ hrs
14 oz red lentils
10 cups water
1 whole onion, de-skinned
1 or 2 carrots, peeled
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 potato, peeled
juice form ½ lemon
(or citric acid)
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp salt
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
Rinse lentils and soak in water. Make a quick vegetable broth by bringing to a boil and simmering for 30 minutes: 10 cups water, celery, carrot, whole onion and potato (you don’t even have to chop these if you have a blender to finish the soup) and salt. After 30 minutes is up, drain lentils and add to soup. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and cover, cooking until lentils lose their definition about 40 minutes. While you wait, in a small frying pan, saute garlic in a little olive oil with cumin, paprika and turmeric, stirring constantly until cooked by not browning. Remove from heat. Once lentils are cooked, add spice mixture, lemon juice, cilantro. Puree with hand blender, leaving some texture. Taste soup and add salt, hot pepper, and citric acid (called lemon salt or LEYmone DUZie in middle-eastern markets, all to taste.
Eggplant in tomato sauce
Tepsi Baytinijan
2 large eggplants
2 large tomatoes
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
¾ lb ground beef
2 medium potatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
corn oil
1. Peel eggplant in wide stripes and cut off stem. Slice eggplant in circular pieces (not lengthwise) about 1 inch thick, and put it in salty water.
2. Peel and slice the potatoes in 1 inch thick round slices, set aside. Slice the onions same way. Peel the garlic and crush it useing one o those little garlic contraptions. Slice the tomatoes.
3. Heat about ½ cup oil in a non-stick pan. Take eggplant slices out of water, drain on paper towel, then fry until each piece is light golden. In the same oil lightly fry th epotoate. They don’t have to cook all the way. Set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion and set aside. Drain the fried pieces on some paper towels.
4. Mix the ground beef, half the crushed garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Make small meatballs and fry them. Set aside.
5. Mix about 2 ½ cups of water with 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, the remainder of the crushed garlic, salt (about 3 teastpoons), and pepper (preferably white pepper) and set aside.
6. Inside the cake pan/baking dish, arrange the eggplant pieces all touching each other and layered if necessary. On top of th eeggplant, arrange the potato slices, then the onion, then the slices of tomato on top (these aren’t fried). Arrange the meatballs in between the tomato slices. Pour the tomato paste mixture on top of all this.
7. Cook this “tepsi” on stovetop for 40 minutes on medium, covering the top with a lid or steel tray and allowing it to simmer and bubble until tomato sauce thickens, or stick in the oven for about an hour – careful to not let it dry or burn.
8. Serve with Basmati or ‘Ammbar’ rice.
Fattoush Salad
Cooking time: 15 min
2 cups romaine lettuce, torn
2 tomato
2 small cucumbers, peeled
1 green pepper, or combo of green, orange, and yellow
3 green onions, minced
15 mint leaves chopped roughly
¼ cup parsley chopped roughly
1-2 cups pita bread, toasted until crispy and broken in pieces
Classic Lemon Vinaigrette:
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
salt to taste
1-2 Tbsp sumac
pinch Aleppo pepper
Cut vegetables into bite size pieces and put into large bowl. Toast or dry pita in oven. Prepare dressing and toss all together. Decorate edge of serving plate with lettuce leaves and lemon slices.
Recipes courtesy of the Iraqi woman and Catholic Charities Maine Refugee & Immigration Services. Thank you!
Where to get spices
Lemon salt (Citric Acid), sumac, grape leaves, dried lemon, red lentils, and if you're lucky aleppo and great handmade Iraqi bread to go with the soup can be found
In Maine: Ahram Halal Grocery 630 Forest Ave., Portland, ME 04103 207-772-9464.
In MA: Sevans, 599 Mt. Auburn St. Watertown, MA, 617-924-3243
Arax Market, 585 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA, 617-924-3399
copyright Lindsay Sterling 2010