Rediscovering Palestinian Cuisine

Italian Sunday Dinner

Italian Sunday Dinner

We don’t always cook Italian food, but when we do….
it results in a meal far too extravagant for our weekday selves. Weekday Rasha K. is usually prostrate on the couch by 7pm, having eaten leftovers from the prior night’s experiment, while Rasha S.’s weeknight routine is feeding a picky toddler with a surprisingly gourmet palate (Aida is our harshest critic). That being said, Memorial Day, with its three-day weekend, seemed ripe for confining ourselves in the kitchen: it was cloudy, kept threatening to rain, and Sunday was particularly dank and cold. Like any modern, chosen family, we are a melange of culture and ethnicity. Rasha S. is married to a French-Canadian Italian who also happens to be a phenomenal cook, and Rasha K. *thinks* she’s Italian (23&Me says 33% of my genome is born to eat pasta!). As you might imagine, with literally so many cooks in the kitchen, we don’t let the tradition of Italian Sunday Dinner go by the wayside. In our three years of friendship, it’s been an excuse for us to get together, drink wine, binge on carbs, and lie around afterwards. There is always a charcuterie plate in reach. Like Thanksgiving every weekend, except with random Italian slang (cavalo!) and the Spotify “pizza making playlist” blaring in the background. This dreary Sunday, though, meatballs, sausage, and spare ribs in red sauce (Italian Sunday sugo) served with homemade pasta was too tame for our tastes. After getting over the shock of the price of veal shanks, we decided we wanted to tackle something none of us had ever made before: osso bucco alla Milanese. Osso bucco quite literally means “bone with a hole,” but it is also a delicate meal of cross-cut veal shanks braised with fresh vegetables, white wine, and a thyme bouquet until the veal is falling off the bone and feels like velvet in your mouth. We served this over a porcini risotto (traditionally Milanese style is served with saffron risotto), and afterwards dove into a massive tray of THE BEST creamy but airy tiramisu.

We suggest buying your cross-cut veal shanks at your local butcher, but in a pinch, a specialty grocer like Whole Foods or Wegman’s will do. Mayflower Poultry Company in Cambridge is particularly good for specialty meats. Cuts of veal should come from the center of the shank with the most marrow. 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick is appropriate for cooking; any larger and you may have to increase cooking time. When making the sofrito (vegetable base of onions, carrots, & celery) we prefer it to be finely chopped or minced so that the veggies don’t overwhelm the texture of the veal when served.

While this blog was founded to preserve and disseminate Palestinian food traditions, as in life, sometimes it’s enriching to venture into different territory. Whether Palestinian or Italian, the values around nurturance through good food, family, and community remain the same. Enjoy this week’s departure from the norm!

Osso Bucco alla Milanese

4 Cross-cut veal shanks, 2 inch thickness
Flour for dredging shanks
Salt & Pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 cup tomatoes (optional), peeled and chopped (our faves here and here)
1 cup white wine
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied into a bouquet
2 bay leaves

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Pour some flour on a plate and add salt and pepper to the mix. Dredge veal in the flour, shaking off excess flour, then transfer to a plate. In a 6 quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 veal shanks at a time and brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the veal shanks to a plate. Do not clean out the Dutch oven; we want to cook the vegetables in the veal drippings and browned bits to make the sofrito base of the meal. To the Dutch oven, heat a little more olive oil and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Stir them about 10 minutes until soft. While they cook, pluck 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme and tie them into a bundle with kitchen twine. Then add in the tomato paste and stir until combined. To the mixture, gently place the browned veal shanks in the pot, along with 2 bay leaves, the thyme bundle, wine, chicken or beef stock, and 1 cup of water. As you bring this mixture to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, as well as add in the grated orange peel.
Browning the veal shanks
  1. When mixture is simmering, take it off the stove, cover Dutch oven with its lid, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the efficiency of your oven and the thickness of the veal shanks. You may remove the veal shanks and transfer the pot back to the stove over medium heat to reduce the liquid, but we skipped this step. Remove the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Serve the shanks over risotto (recipe is up next), and sprinkle some chopped parsley if you wish.
Yeah, we know the plating and photos are imperfect, but hey, that’s our brand of charm.
Risotto ai Funghi Porcini
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine (use the same wine you used for osso bucco)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 or 3 large shallots, diced, OR half of a red onion, diced
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (find them at specialty stores such as Capone’s in Sommerville)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste
Literally 1-2 drops of truffle oil. It’s potent stuff.
1. Boil 2 cups of water in a small pot. When boiled, add mushrooms, turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes while         mushrooms rehydrate. Remove mushrooms from pot, reserving the liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms.
2. Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add rice and shallots, stirring for about 1 minute until rice grains are coated. Add the wine and cook until it is almost evaporated while stirring frequently. Add chopped mushrooms. Then, add broth mixed with mushroom water 1/2 cup at a time, stirring into the rice until liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the rice is al dente. It should be soft but have bounce, not be mushy. It usually takes about 20 minutes but it could be slower or faster, depending on your range (electric vs. gas, etc.). When rice is creamy in consistency, it is finished.
3. Turn off the heat and add in butter, grated Parmesan, and a couple of drops of truffle oil to the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

*Use real espresso, or, at the very least, strong French press (invented by an Italian) coffee. None of this instant espresso stuff. It’s an abomination.*
2 cups espresso. Yes. Two.
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3-4 tablespoons Port or Marsala wine.
1/3 cup Port or Marsala wine, separate
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese, or about three 8 oz. containers
1 cup heavy cream
36 savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers, 2 packages)

Grated dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1. Mix espresso, 1 tablespoon sugar, and Port OR Marsala (we had Port in the kitchen. It’s a great stand-in for Marsala). Put the mixture aside and let it cool.

2. Prep for the whipped cream: place the bowl you will use plus the attachments for your electric mixer (the whisks) in the refrigerator, and let them chill for at least 10 – 15 minutes. Whipped cream requires cold surfaces.
3. Simmer some water in small pot on the stove. When simmering, place a metal bowl over the pot (or use a double boiler, if you have one). The water should not touch the bowl, but come close. Add egg yolks, 3-4 tablespoons Port, and 1/2 cup of sugar to the bowl. Using a whisk or electric mixer (we prefer the whisk–while labor intensive, there is more control), mix until the mixture is tripled in volume, about 5-8 minutes. Do not overcook the egg mixture. Remove the bowl from the heat, let cool slightly, then beat in mascarpone until just combined.
4. Remove the metal mixing bowl and mixing attachments from the fridge, pour the heavy cream into this bowl, and beat the cream with an electric mixer until it holds stiff peaks. Whipped cream that does not have sugar and does not come from a spray can is a revelation.
5. GENTLY fold whipped cream mixture into mascarpone mixture with a rubber spatula. Your tiramisu filling is ready.
6. Dip both sides of each ladyfinger into the espresso mixture. You want the cookies to lightly absorb the mixture, not be soggy. Line the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with lady fingers, trimming them if necessary. Then spread half of mascarpone filling on top. Dip the remaining ladyfingers in the espresso mixture and arrange over the filling.
7. Spread the remaining mascarpone filling on top. Grate some dark chocolate (this one from Trader Joe’s is excellent) on top, or dust with cocoa powder if you do not have chocolate on-hand. Chill in the fridge, covered, for a few hours.
8. Serve at room temperature and with a glass of Port, which miraculously you will have, or a sweet white wine.
Buon Appetito & Sahtein!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *