Mirna Attar is the chef and owner of the Montavilla neighborhood restaurant Ya Hala. Her menu offers Lebanese food that you might eat in someone’s home, rather than the more standard fare.
With the known health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, Attar is constantly being asked to teach a class on how to make some of her favorites — and I recently had the opportunity to check it out.
The class was super fun. Attar and members of her family set up a classroom, and folks got to pitch in and then sit for a wonderful meal.
Attar cooks and runs the kitchen, as well as oversees the prepared food at her families’ other business, Barbur World Foods, a spectacular place to shop. Right now Barbur has fresh almonds. Before the shells get too hard to eat, buy a pound and eat them, whole, dipped in coarse salt.
Ingredients (8 Skewers)
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons 7-spice blend
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 bunch fresh mint leaves (1 1/2 cups), finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 white onion cut into bite-size chunks
- 1 red bell pepper cut into bite-size chunks
- In a large bowl, combine the meat, oil, 7-spice blend, garlic, mint and salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
- Soak 8 bamboo skewers in cold water for 1 hour. Preheat grill to high (see note). Thread the meat, onions and peppers onto the skewers, making sure not to overcrowd the meat (if it is too tightly packed, the kebabs won’t cook evenly).
- Place skewers on the grill and cook until meat is medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side. Allow kebabs to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Note: To check grill temperature, count the seconds you can hold your hand, palm side down, 2 to 3 inches above the rack, until it feels uncomfortable: 2 seconds for hot.
Ingredients (8 servings)
- 2 rounds pita bread, split horizontally
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 1 small English (hothouse) cucumber, thinly sliced
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch wedges
- 1 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 1 large bunch purslane, or 1/2 head romaine lettuce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pita bread on a baking sheet and toast until golden and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Break into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
- In a large serving bowl, whisk the lemon juice and olive oil together until blended. To the bowl add the bell pepper, cucumber, radishes, green onions, tomatoes, parsley, mint, salt and sumac and toss to combine. Immediately before serving, cut the purslane into bite-size pieces or cut the lettuce crosswise into thin ribbons.
- Cut the ribbons into 2-inch pieces. Add the purslane or lettuce and pita pieces to the bowl, toss with the other ingredients and serve immediately.
Ingredients (2½ Cups)
- 1 cup dry garbanzo beans
- 7 cups water (for cooking beans)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Rinse the garbanzo beans, drain and cover with water to cover by 3 inches. Soak beans for 4 to 6 hours. Drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly.
- In a large pot combine soaked beans, the 7 cups water and the baking soda. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the beans are falling apart, about 1 hour. Stir any foam that comes to the surface back into the beans while they cook. Pour beans and any remaining cooking liquid into a large bowl and cool to room temperature in the refrigerator.
- Transfer beans and liquid to a food processor. Add the salt, garlic, tahini and lemon juice and process until smooth. If the mixture is too thick (it should be the consistency of thick cream), add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the hummus is smooth. Transfer to a medium-serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil.
Ingredients (25 pieces)
- 1 lb spinach leaves
- 1 cup finely diced onions
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sumac
- ½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 3 lbs store-bought pizza dough
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and mix all the ingredients (without the pizza dough) together.
- Roll the pizza dough with a dough roller to ¼-inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles of 6 inches in diameter.
- Scoop 2 ½ tablespoons of the mixed ingredients into the middle of each circle and close it up in a triangle shape.
- Oil a baking tray and place the spinach pies on it leaving 2 inches between them. Let them cool and serve at room temperature.
Ingredients (6 servings)
- 2 cups brown lentils
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ cup corn oil
- 2 cups diced onions
- 1 cup corn oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice
- 5 cups sliced onions
- Cook the brown lentils, water, salt, cumin and ½ cup of corn oil in a pot until lentils are tender but not smashed.
- Heat the rest of the corn oil in a pan and add the onions and salt. Cook until the onions are golden, then add them to the lentils. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, then keep it covered with no heat for 10 minutes.
- For garnish, deep-fry 5 cups of sliced onions until crispy and place them on top of the moujadra.
Ingredients (6-8 servings)
For the Rose Water Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons rose syrup
For the Cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup corn starch
- 4 tablespoons rose water syrup
For the Dough
- 1 package phyllo dough
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons ground pistachios
To Make the Syrup
- In a medium saucepan, boil 1 cup of water, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of rose syrup.
- Cook on medium until the mixture thickens and develops a yellow tint. Turn off heat. Place in the refrigerator until it is very cold, approximately 2 hours.
To Make the Cream
- Mix all the ingredients for the cream together until the starch is completely dissolved. In a medium saucepan, cook the mixture on medium heat until the cream thickens. Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl and cover with wax paper. Place it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Unroll the phyllo dough and lay flat on the table. Separate one layer of phyllo dough (a very thin piece) and lay it flat on the table. Fold it in half lengthwise, then fold it in half again.
- Place ½ tablespoon of the cream centered, about 2 inches from the bottom of the dough. Fold the right corner over the cream and lay it flat on the opposite side. This should create a triangle shape. Take the remaining left corner and fold upwards. The left corner should still be on the left side of the dough. Take the left corner again and fold it to the right. Continue this pattern until you reach the end of the dough.
- Melt 3 sticks of butter and place in a medium size bowl. Dip each piece of the folded Shaibeyet into the melted butter. Place on a cookie sheet 2 ½ inches apart.
- Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven until golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes.
- Place directly onto your serving dish and drizzle the cold rose water syrup over it. Garnish with ground pistachios.