Yesterday’s Lunch – also, one of the reasons Syrian food is so good.

Ridiculously simple yet amazingly delicious.  That was yesterday’s lunch.  And I’m going to tell you how to make it and show you a couple of pictures too!

I had some leftover yukon gold baby potatoes in the fridge, so I had a head start.  But if you don’t, here’s what you do (it’s a long explanation, but doesn’t actually take more than 30 minutes, start to finish):

Clean (but please don’t peel) some potatoes (you can decide for yourself what kind and how much, it doesn’t really matter). Poke each one with a knife, cover them completely with water, add a tablespoon of salt and boil them. While they are boiling, peel 6-8 garlic cloves (garlic powder or garlic salt really isn’t gonna cut it here).  You won’t use all of it now, but you’ll put what’s left over into the fridge for later and be super glad that you did! If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, turn down the heat on the potatoes, get into the car and drive to the store.  No wait, don’t do that, but seriously, a mortar and pestle really is what you need.  If you don’t have one, you’ll have to do the best you can with a chef’s knife. So, back to the mortar and pestle, put the garlic into the mortar and pestle with a good sized pinch of salt. And pound it. Pound it more. Now some more. Keep pounding.  No, you’re not done yet. . . . . it’s getting there.  And ok, and yeah and a a a a. . . . . . it’s . . . . . . done.  It actually only takes about five minutes, but after a minute or so, you’ll think you’re done because the garlic will be kinda chopped up.  But you’re REALLY done when the garlic and salt have been crushed down to within an inch of their lives.  They will form a liquid-y paste. This is what you want.  Now, put it into a container (if you have one with a lid, this is good – you can cover what’s left and put it in the fridge).  Add olive oil.  Not just enough to cover. Much more than that.  You’ll have a tablespoon or two of garlic and salt and you can add a cup of olive oil.  This totally mashed up garlic/olive oil sauce is one of the reasons Syrian food is so good! When the potatoes are nice and tender, drain all the water.  Now, toss the potatoes with some of the oil. Don’t go overboard, but coat them nicely. Add some salt if you think it needs it. (The potatoes will take about 20 min. to boil, the garlic oil takes about 6 min. to prepare.)

While the potatoes are boiling, but after you make the garlic oil (it’s great to let the garlic and oil and salt hang out together and meld a bit while the potatoes finish boiling), slice a carrot into thin slices, on the diagonal. Then, cut up some chives into itty bitty pieces. Now, if you don’t have chives, that’s ok. You could also use diced onion or green onions, but I had just trimmed the chives in my garden and had a handful of them.  They are yummy. (The carrot and chives will take up the rest of the potato boiling time).

OK, potatoes are boiled and drained and tossed with some garlic oil.  The carrots and chives are sliced and diced and ready to go. So you put some potatoes into a small skillet that you’ve heated up on medium, and you smash em down and kinda push em into a pancake-like item. Salt em a little, sprinkle in some cumin seeds and leave em alone.  Heat another pan, medium to medium high.  When it’s hot, add a teaspoon of olive oil. Then add the carrots. Saute and add a little salt and toss em and leave em alone.  After about five minutes, turn the little potato pancake over and brown the other side. Toss the carrots a few times and when they’re brown at the edges, a little soft, but still a little crisp, add the chives and saute a minute more.

Put the potato cake and the carrots and chives on a plate, and if you happen to have a slice of good bread lying around, like a wholewheat sourdough, for instance, you can brush it with some garlic oil and put it in the still-hot pan to crisp a little while you pour a beverage. If the potatoes are waiting for you in the fridge and are ready to be a pancake, then lunch only takes 10 minutes!

My meal and the book I read while enjoying my lunch:

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About Leila

I am a wife and mother. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a Syrian American with family living in Syria. I am a also a yoga teacher and freelance writer. I recently described myself in a job pitch as "a person who's lived in Portland, Oregon for over 20 years with a passion for writing and a passion for all things Portland. I'm a foodie, knitter, wine and beer lover, bee-keeper (yep, I said it), mead and fruit-liqueur maker, organic gardener, home-canner, hiker, biker, runner, and occasional skinny-dipper. I’ve camped all over the state, I sail a sailboat that’s moored on the Columbia (o.k., I'm the first mate), and I spend a large percentage of my time at our beach house in Seaside." That about sums it up.
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2 Responses to Yesterday’s Lunch – also, one of the reasons Syrian food is so good.

  1. Brigette says:

    Looks wonderful Leila. I still want your mom’s Hoagie recipe. I will share this with the chef. He always takes over recipes anyway.

    • Leila says:

      I will send you my mom’s hoagie “recipe” as long as you don’t mind if it says “some” of this and a “handful” of that! Mmmmm, hoagies.

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