|Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta|
According to Betty the name of her space is a tribute to her mother, who is no longer with us. The name Saj means a flatbread, or pita bread, that is made in the traditional Lebanese way. She grew up enjoying this pita made by her mothers hands. The common part refers to the fact that the fully equipped, approved commercial kitchen can be rented by anyone needing a kitchen space to create his or her products, prepare food or hold an event.
Betty is both a caterer and cooking teacher, who was inspired to create this space for people just like her who had struggled in the past to find a commercial kitchen to create their magic. In British Columbia health and safety rules regulate that you need to prepare items for sale in a commercially approved kitchen. SAJ Common Kitchen targets farmers market food vendors, event and corporate caterers, teachers needing a space to hold cooking classes, chef trainers, and food artisans to make their dreams become a reality.
Saj is all kitchen, with brightly painted walls, multicoloured sectional sofa, and shiny stainless steel appliances creating a cheerful ambience. With practical state of the art commercial stove tops and ovens, sinks, prep tables, an enormous walk-in refrigerator, and seating for 20 the kitchen is equipped with everything you would need to recreate your vision.
Betty also offers cooking classes where, for a very reasonable fee, you get the whole place to yourself while you and your friends or a group of soon-to-be-friends learn Lebanese Cooking 101. She was born in Lebanon and grew up in a family where they gravitated around the kitchen table. Friends and neighbours would gather, whether it be for breakfast,"sabhiya" lunch or dinner where her mothers' cooking was loved and enjoyed by so many. Betty learned the art of Lebanese cooking at a very young age at her mothers side.
When cooking in my own kitchen I gravitate towards Mediterranean flavours like tart lemon, sweet basil and oregano, and heavy doses of heart-healthy olive oil. Lebanese cooking satisfies all of this and more. Throughout the cooking class Betty took us through the preparation of bold tasting Lebanese Cuisine 101 with demonstrations on preparing basic appetizers like sinfully creamy, lemony hummus, baba ghanoush (which means “spoiled father”) graced with mint, and then moving on to marinated chicken with notes of citrus, exotic sumac, and chilies. We made a "tried and true" tabbouleh salad from precious grains of bulgur wheat prepared by hand by her mother ( a rare treasure indeed), and a satisfying rice pilaf.
“Sahtayn!” “Good health to you many times over,” exclaims Betty as we tucked in to our Lebanese feast. It all ended with a not too sweet baklava. Join Betty for a step by step cooking class, in small intimate groups, where you can participate and share not only her passion for Lebanese cooking, but share a few stories, laughs and a cup of Turkish coffee. Be immersed in the flavours of Lebanon and take a little piece of Lebanon home with you.
2270 Tutt Street
This salad was inspired by one we made in class. I enjoyed the addition of chopped romaine lettuce for extra crunch, and added a can of chick peas and sassy feta cheese for good measure. At the last minute I found myself devoid of bulgur wheat so substituted quinoa. A happy outcome.
**Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta and Chickpeas**
1 cup (6 oz./185 g.) quinoa, preferably multi-color
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into 1/4-inch (12- mm) pieces
1 can (15 oz./470 g.) chickpeas, rinsed and well drained
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch (12-mm.) pieces
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup (1 oz./30 g.) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, juice and zest
1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped
In a large bowl zest 2 lemons. Squeeze juice from same two lemons into bowl. Add 1/2 cup olive oil and freshly ground black pepper and mix.
Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan. Rinse with cold water, drain; Repeat rinsing 3 more times, and then drain the quinoa and return to the pan. Add 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml.) water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to the large bowl with the lemon juice mixture. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers, green onions, romaine lettuce, parsley, mint and feta, (if using). Add to the cooled quinoa mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with romaine hearts for scooping if desired.
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