Monday, September 7, 2009

Gedo's/Jido's Spinach and Chicken Delight

This a much loved recipe that has been served by Gedo to many friends and over the years has become one of his signature dish.  Not only is it tasty, but it is also extremely healthy.   The combination of chicken and spinach with the zestiness of the lime is a delight to the taste buds.  Add a little red rice or any rice and you are ready for dinner. 


  • 4 pieces of boneless chicken breast (about 2 lbs)
  • 2 medium onion
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 1 lime
  • One 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 20 oz can of chick peas or 1 cup of dried chick peas soaked until soft - about 1 hour)
  • 1 lb of spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp of allspice

  1. When making this dish, I prefer to use the dried chick peas that I soak until they are soft.  This takes about an hour.  I prefer this version of the chick peas because they have not been cooked and  they retain their firm texture which is a nice complement in the dish.  The dish is still great using the can chick peas.  To soak the chick peas, place them in a large bowl and rinse with hot tap water.  Add more hot water and soak.  The chick peas should double in size.
  2. Clean and trim the chicken breast.  Rinse and cut into bit size.
  3. Coarsely chop the 2 onions.
  4. Trim and thoroughly wash the spinach.  There is nothing worse than finding gritty sand from the spinach.  Spin the spinach dry and coarsely chopped it.
  5. Clean and trim the cilantro.  Rinse and dry.  Coarsely chop.
  6. Finely minced the garlic
  7. Peel 4 strips of the rind on the lime.   The best way to do this is to peel the rind lenghtwise on the lime.  What you are trying to do is to only partially peel the lime.  Then cut the lime in half.  Set one half a side for later.  With the other half, chopped it into small chunks.
  8. Heat a large pan on medium heat.  When the bottom of the pan is hot, add the chicken and steam the pieces in its own juice.  Continue cooking until all the juices are absorbed.  It will take about 5-10 minutes.  Keep stirring the chicken during this process.
  9. Once the chicken juices are absorbed, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the chicken until golden brown.  It should take about 3-5 minutes.
  10. Now add the chopped onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  Cook until golden brown and fragrant.  It may be necessary to add more olive oil at this point.
11. Stir in the dice tomatoes and the lime pieces.
12. Drain the chick peas and stir them in.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
13. Stir in the spices.
14. Stir in the spinach and cook on low heat for an additional 20-30 minutes.
15. Just prior to serving, squeeze the juice of the 1/2 remaining lime.
16. Serve over rice.  Generous serving for 4-6.

Copyright © 2009, All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Okra with Lamb Shanks : Moza b'il Bamia

Even though there are many famous Egyptian dishes, this one is truly one of the signature family meals that people really enjoy on a regular basis. The combination of vegetables, meat and tomato sauce served with rice is a recurring theme in Egyptian cuisine. Traditionally the in-season vegetables are used in dishes similar to this one, different types of meat are substituted as well. This particular dish is made with lamb shanks, but  both the meat and vegetable can be substituted based on availability. It is common to make similar dishes with green beans, turnips, peas, cauliflower, or even spinach.  For example, see our Mediterranean Home-Style Chicken which is a very similar dish, but used chicken and green beans.

In preparation for labor day, where I was going to repeat my Spring Grilled Feast; I was preparing a leg of lamb. Lizabetti wanted me to reserve the shank for another dish,  so I cut off the shank and removed the bone from the leg of lamb. We decided to make okra for a change.

We served the dish with saffron rice and a healthy tabouleh as the salad. The tabouleh and okra both have lots of fiber. The dish is loaded with anti-oxidants in the tomato, onion, and garlic. So even though it has some meat it is also very nutritious. I also used some turmeric in the dish for its anti-inflammatory benefits.


  • Lizabetti;s Mediterranean Dry Rub
  • 2 Lamb shanks, about 2 lb's (1 Kilo) total weight before cooking.
  • 1 lb (.5 kilo) of lamb leg meat, cut into cubes. You can use any lamb meat, or  any meat for that matter. There is no rule against using chicken instead.
  • 2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 lb of okra. The smaller okra is better tasting and more tender. We use frozen okra from Market Basket because it is generally higher in quality than we can buy fresh in New England.
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, chopped.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped.
  • 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped.
  • 1 Tbsp dry Oregano.
  • 1 Tbsp cumin.
  • 1 Tbsp dry parsley.
  • 1/2 tsp dry coriander.
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric.
  • 1 cup red wine.

  1. Coat the meat with Lizabetti;s Mediterranean Dry Rub. It is best to do this 1 day in advance and keep the meat in the fridge over night. This will allow the flavor to permeate the meat.
  2. Thaw the okra if frozen. Rinse with cold water and drain. You can just pull the okra out about the time you start cooking because it gets added later in the process.
  3. Preheat pan. I used a heavy Croisette pan. If you use one make sure to not exceed 5 out of 10 on your stove temperature setting. If you use a regular pan, use medium-high heat.
  4. Add some olive oil, once the oil is hot add the onions.
  5. Cook the onions until light brown, then add the garlic. Mix in thoroughly.
  6. Once the garlic is light brown, push the mixture aside and add the shanks.

  1. Brown the shanks on all sides.
  2. Mix the onion, garlic and shanks thoroughly.
  3. Add the cubed lamb meat and brown on all sides.
  4. Add the fresh parley and stir in.

  1. Add the dry ingredients, mix in thoroughly.
  2. Add the wine, stir in. Let the wine simmer until it changes to a nice brown color.

  1. Pour in the tomato sauce.
  2. Bring to a simmer, cover and turn down to low heat. If you are using a Croisette pan, set your stove to 2.5 out of 10. Otherwise set your stove to medium-low heat. 
  3. Check periodically to make sure that the mixture is not boiling hard, it should just be simmering. If it is boiling, turn down the heat.
  4. Cook for 1 hour or until the shanks are tender. A fork should penetrate the shank down to the bone without too much resistance. You will know because the bone starts to protrude from the bone as shown below.
  5. Add the okra and mix in.
  6. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the okra is tender, but not mushy.
  7. Serve with white rice or saffron rice. We did it with saffron rice because our daughter loves it so much.

Copyright © 2009, All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 5, 2009

You Can Build an Improved Stone Pizza Oven : Stone Pony II

The Stone Pony is the nickname for my beloved home made stone oven. I use this to make anything from pizza to barbecue, including my annual Thanksgiving turkey. I have measured temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (390 degrees Celsius) before my oven thermometer self-destructed.

This is a follow up project to You Can Build a Stone Pizza Oven. Which was posted in December of 2007.  Before reading this article you should read You Can Build a Stone Pizza Oven
first. I have since updated that article with pictures of the cement creation process.

The oven is shown below with the electric rotisserie attachments. Also note the added warming rack above the oven. The picture on the right is a roast in cooking in the over in a rotisserie basket. 

I have been using the oven for almost 3 years now and I must say that I am very happy with it. For one thing it cooks food with an absolutely phenomenal flavor. Also, it can be used in any weather and it is very versatile in terms of the foods that can be cooked in it. The following recipes have been made using the Stone Pony for this site.

Anything that you can make on a grill can also be made better using this oven. I regularly make steak, barbecued ribs, and chicken. I usually cook with apple wood because it is a mild smoky taste, also I live in Apple Country.

Like I said before, rocks vary widely in size, so this set of instructions gives you the general idea, but your own creativity is the key to building an oven.

As any technologist would tell you; there is always room for improvement. Rustic stone ovens are no exception. I wanted to increase the capacity of the oven and also be able to cook things at different temperatures simultaneously. The changes to the oven all center around the chimney area:

  1. Increase the size of the Chimney. Even though the diagram does not show it, I also made the chimney taller, as well as wider. 
    1. A taller chimney gives you a greater temperature gradient between the top and the bottom of the oven. This will result in an improved draft. 
    2. An improved draft will add a convection effect which will cook food faster and more evenly.
  2. Take advantage of the increased chimney volume and create a secondary cooking chamber inside the top of the over. 
    1. This gives a good place to cook things that you want to cook with slightly lower heat. 
    2. I use this space for baked potatoes and corn on the cob. The great thing is that these can be cooking at the same time as the main dish in the main cooking chamber.
  3. Take advantage of the increased surface area on top of the chimney to create an external cooking surface.
    1. This is great for things you want to grill slowly on low heat such as sausage, ribs, or natural casing hot dogs
    2. I sometimes use a grill cover on the top if cooking sausage in cold weather to give more even cooking.

The extra cooking space has been great. For example while cooking the Thanksgiving turkey inside the main chamber, I can be making extra wings on top of the Chimney while baking potatoes inside the secondary chamber. Also since I can cook everything at once, I end up using much less wood for cooking.


  1. I removed the old chimney leaving the back of the oven open. You have to be careful to not remove anything structural, but my old chimney was just stuck on to the back of the superstructure.
  2. The second picture below shows you the plan for inserting a grill to create the secondary chamber. I took this pictur while measuring it.

  1. Mix up a batch of fresh mud based cement, see You Can Build a Stone Pizza Oven for illustrated instructions.
  2. Lay down a generous layer on the stone that forms the base for the chimney. 
  3. Spread evenly to a thickness of about 2 inches (5 cm).

  1. Place a layer of carefully selected rocks
  2. Fill the gaps between the from the top with cement. Push the cement in between the rocks.
  3. Cover the rocks with another generous layer of cement.
  4. Keep repeating this process until it is time to add the grill for the secondary cooking chamber.

  1. Now it is time to add the grill, which will be structurally supported by the chimney on 3 sides.
  2. Lay down a generous layer of cement on top of your last layer of rock 
  3. Press the outer end of the grill into the cement. 
  4. Add more cement on the 3 sides of the grill that correspond to the chimney walls.
  5. Add a layer of rocks above the grill.
  6. Continue to build up layers of rocks until you reach the desired height for your chimney. For me this was about 6 feet (~2M)  above the ground. This way I can stand on a large rock when I am cooking on the top.

This is what the finished chimney looks like with and without a top grill.   

Now that I have  near perfect stone oven, I would really like to start from scratch and build a really great one. For example I would point the firebox in a different direction from the cooking chamber. I would also make a larger cooking chamber. Of course any change would force me to re-design the electric rotisserie that built for this oven.

Again, this is only a rough guideline. I encourage you to use these ideas, but you will have to solve many problems yourself, depending on the type of material you have in your area. For example, in Morocco they build ovens completely out of mud. They are able to cook an entire lamb in such an oven.

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