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Maqloobeh is shown here with an Arabic salad of finely diced tomatoes and diced green peppers, cucumber, olive oil, salt and lemon.
Sandy Tolan for NPR /
Maqloobeh is shown here with an Arabic salad of finely diced tomatoes and diced green peppers, cucumber, olive oil, salt and lemon.

"Hidden Kitchen listeners might think my book has a lot of food in it, and they will discover that it is true. But it also gives a larger taste of the Palestinian culture. Maqloobeh (the word in Arabic means upside down, because this meal is cooked in a deep pot then served upside down on a large serving plate).

"My mother cooked maqloobeh at least every other week throughout my childhood and adolescent years. We loved it. Because many people in the past ate it without spoons, just with their hands, the customary saying about Maqloobeh is that 'it's so tasty, one could eat his fingers after he's done eating the meal.'

"Mother varied the vegetables in maqloobeh to suit the tastes of her eight family members. My sister and I liked maqloobeh with roasted carrots and chickpeas or with cauliflowers; my brothers requested it with eggplants, and my dad preferred it with potatoes. But the basic recipe is the same. Since I came to America in 1986, I often bake the vegetables rather than saute them. I use the least amount of oil, and I also don't include meat if I want a vegetarian maqloobeh. In this case I top the meal with plenty of nuts for protein, and yogurt on the side instead of using a vegetable salad as the side dish." — Ibtisam Barakat


1 chicken cut into 8 pieces (best if a free-range chicken)

1 head cauliflower cut into medium-size spears (organic or locally grown will greatly enhance the taste and the nutritional value)

4 cups of basmati rice

2 cloves of garlic

1 sliced tomato

1 onion

3 tablespoons of mixed spices (cumin, garlic powder, ground cardamom, black peppers, cinnamon, curry powder). Feel free to add any other spices you like for different aromas.

1 cup of toasted pine nuts and almonds

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 cups of water

To Prepare:

1) Mince the garlic and chop up the onion

2) In a deep pan, heat the olive oil and sauté both the onion and garlic until golden

3) Add the chicken, then the spices, and add water to cover the chicken and bring to boil

4) Cover the pot and cook on medium heat until chicken is fully cooked (50 minutes).

5) While the chicken is cooking, brush the cauliflower with olive oil and bake them until slightly tender (you can deep fry the vegetable if you prefer).

6) Separate the cooked chicken from the spicy broth. You will use this tasty broth to cook the rice.

7) Layer the tomato slices in an empty pot first (these slices will prevent the rice from sticking to the pot, and when it is turned upside down, the tomato slices will be on top)

8) Now layer the cauliflower, chicken and the rice – alternating vegetables and chicken within the rice so that the final product will have a balanced mix of the ingredients.

9) Add the chicken broth; bring to a boil, then let all simmer until the rice is cooked.

10) Open the pot, letting out the steam for 2 to 3 minutes.

11) Cover the pot with a serving tray much larger than the size of the pot (a pizza pan might be best) and while holding the pan tightly in place with a thick glove, turn the pot upside down. Lift the pot up carefully and slowly. Now the maqloobeh will sit in one mound on the serving tray.

12) Top with roasted nuts

13) Serve with a vegetable salad or with plain yogurt on the side.

Serves 8.

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