When ‘Paula’s Kitchen’ is closed my favorite place hands down is the Cedar Café. This cozy little deli style Lebanese café, located in the Rolling Valley Mall in Burke never, ever lets me down!
Meg Wasinger, my “Blog Boss”, and I sat down with executive chef Islam Bakeer for lunch recently and discussed everything from the history of the café, middle eastern cuisine, family, northern Virginia lifestyle, and the importance of cooking fresh, healthy food.
Chef Bakeer credits his late mother for teaching him how to cook and told us that he actually learned more from her after her death. How many of us have strained to read a faded old family recipe wishing we had paid closer attention?
He came here from Jordan at the age of 18 and in 13 years worked his way up to Chef at the Lebanese Taverna. But the commute ate into his time with his growing family, so in search of a simpler life closer to home he opened up the Cedar Café in 2000. He remained with Lebanese cooking because, he notes, Lebanese cooking is “interesting and plays with your taste buds”
The cuisine is made on the premises with simple and fresh ingredients, but the flavors are complex and well balanced. Throughout the Deli the aromas of classic Middle Eastern spices abound: olive oil, garlic, sesame, thyme, parsley, oregano, cilantro, cumin, mint, fresh lemons, and the mysterious zatar (sesame, thyme, oregano, sumac, salt and pepper)
There is no dairy in any of the dishes other than the yogurt salad and cheese pies and all recipes are prepared with soy, olive or palm oil, making for a great variety of healthy and vegan dishes.
Daily soup, often spinach and lentil, and lamb, beef, and chicken sandwiches, such as shawarmas and Kabobs, are reasonably priced. Platters are served with warm, aromatic basmati rice and salad with perfectly seasoned homemade dressing. There are also many other interesting salads to choose from. Two of my favorites are the eggplant salad with chickpeas, onion and garlic, and the yogurt salad with cucumbers, garlic and dried mint. My daughter always gets the avocado salad with scallion, tomato, fresh lemon juice and olive oil and the men in my family love the spicy potatoes! You can also find the classics like Tabouleh, Falafel, Baba Ghanouge, and hummos
To finish off your meal there is homemade pistachio or walnut Baklava, also totally vegan.
The Cedar Café is located in Burke on 6409 Shiplett Blvd. It is open 7 days a week from 11-9 Monday through Saturday and 12-7 on Sundays.
Chef Bakeer’s Hummos:
8-10 oz. of chickpeas (Mexican chickpeas are larger and more tender and can be purchased at the café)
½ tsp. baking soda
½ - 1 small clove of garlic
¼ cup Middle Eastern, light sesame paste (can be purchased at the café)
1 tbsp. salt
Juice of 2 lemons
Dash of citric acid (also available at the café)
1. Soak chickpeas overnight in cold water.
2. Rinse well and place in pot with fresh water, 2-3” above peas.
3. Bring to boil and skim off foam
4. Lower heat and cover, checking frequently and skimming off foam. Cook until chickpeas open up like a ‘flower’ at the stem, approx. ½ hour
5. Add baking soda (helps break skin and soften peas) Watch foam, but don’t remove.
6. Cook 25 – 30 minutes. If water gets low add boiling water, not cool or warm.
7. Strain and cool peas to refrigerator temperature. (DO NOT PROCESS UNTIL COLD)
8. Place the beans in a wide-based food processor and add the garlic, salt, sesame paste and the dash of citric acid.
9. Process until the consistency of toothpaste and add tahini a tsp. at a time if too runny. Finally add the lemon juice but taste as your adding to determine the amount. The consistency will harden over time
Spread onto a platter and place a few cooked chickpeas in the center and a sprinkling of parsley or mint for decoration. Finish off the platter with a drizzle of quality olive oil. Serve with Pita chips, veggies, or the ‘ mysterious’ Zatar chips available at the deli.
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Notify me of follow-up comments
Enter your email address:
Delivered by FeedBurner
Last 3 tweets from DCSuburbia:
Copyright 2011 Wasinger & Co, LLC - Powered By Brightest Strategies