I have a photo of me and my twin sister displayed in my mother's place in Egypt, wearing that very dress along with a giant frown on my face. (I rarely smiled in photographs when I was a kid, my twin compensated with an ear to ear smile though. We're all about balance, you see)
Due to the tiny little green flowers--the dress was called (by me of course) 'The Molokhiyya dress'. What is Molokhiyya you might ask (if you're not Egyptian, or Syrian, or... who else makes Molokhiyya? educate me please)
(photo credit : Miro)
Molokhiyya was also a favorite... food that is. It looks like mint leaves only larger, and it comes in bunches too. We (meaning Egyptians) have a special kitchen gadget designed especially to chop our beloved vegetable. It looks like a boat shaped steel knife with wooden handles on both ends. We call it "Makhrata". One can by all means use a food processor to save some time, but ask my mom and she will tell you, that if you take that short cut, you won't get the perfect texture, that is sure to make the perfect dish. So a big chunk of my growing up memory, entails the five of us-- me, my mom, and my other sisters-- taking turns in chopping a big heap of leaves, while watching Egyptian black and white movies. A pretty good memory if you ask me, nothing wrong with that.
So without further adieu, I give you my favorite childhood food :: Molokhiyya
...to place yourself in the car and find the nearest middle eastern or Arab food store near by, and buy yourself one frozen Molokhiyya packet (since they don't grow it in the land of the free, I buy the frozen finely minced Sultan brand, if you can find fresh Molokhiyya buy a big bunch.)
5 cups or more chicken broth (If you want the authentic taste buy yourself a rabbit and make broth with it-- Egyptians make it with Rabbit broth.)
2 (fat) garlic cloves minced.
1 tbsp butter or ghee or vegetable oil.
2 table spoons dried coriander. (I like my coriander, you can use only one)
salt, pepper, sweet paprika to taste.
If you're from the lucky ones and can find fresh molokhiyya, and bought yourself a bunch, here's what you'll need to do:
Cut all the leaves from the stems one by one by snipping them off with your hands just like how you would a flower. then rinse them well, and dry them very well (you want your leaves fully dry) then either pulse them in a food processor (sorry mom!) until the texture is very slimy and the leaves are very fine. Or if you have a 'makhratta' and you're not afraid of the extra work--get busy!
1.Make your chicken (or rabbit) broth by covering a chicken with boiling water with an onion, salt, pepper, two to three all spice corns and a couple of arab gum (mistekka) if you can find it. Boil for an hour, take the chicken (rabbit) out and continue boiling down until your broth is almost halved. or just buy your broth.
2. place you frozen Molokhiyya packet in your boiling broth and let thaw by reducing the heat to medium and covering, stir occasionally until your packet is thawed. (If you're using fresh kind, place it with the cold broth, and let cook on medium-low heat until it almost boils then reduce the heat to very low)
3. In a cast iron or non stick skillet, place your butter or oil, garlic and coriander. Stir fry until garlic is golden and everything is aromatic.
4. Scoop a spoon from your molokhiyya soup, and put it in the garlic mix skillet (it'll sizzle.) Then place it back in your soup. Turn your heat up and let boil quickly for a couple of seconds, then turn off your heat and cover. Let it rest for five minutes.
5. serve over rice (I used short brown rice, but Egyptians use white short grain rice) or alone in a bowl with pitta bread. And don't forget your boiled chicken or Rabbit. You have yourself a full meal.
Don't over boil, or the soup will loose it's texture, and the leaves will fall to the bottom on the pot. Take off the stove as soon as you mix the garlic in.
The texture is a bit tricky (slimy) for this dish. I have made it to several novice Molokhiyya eaters. They either loved it, or hated it. No in-between. Just like Egyptians!