I created my recipe blog, The Little Ferraro Kitchen, nearly 10 years ago to share my love for world cuisine and to share my diverse cultural background. All of the places I’ve lived constantly inspire me in the kitchen and I like to showcase that with the foods I cook and the recipes I create.
Growing up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, I wasn’t eating the same foods that my classmates were. Instead, my Sephardic mother taught me to roll meat stuffed grape leaves, and my Ashkenazi grandmother on my father’s side would make homemade challah and rugelach.
Years later, we moved to Hawaii and it was there that I fell in love with “eating from the land,” appreciating where food comes from, and also experiencing flavors I have never had before, such as passion fruit and papaya.
Then it was onto the mainland, California, and finally our home in Washington state, where I proudly share the melting pot that is my background in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Sharing my love for cooking and bold flavors is my love language. I love teaching and getting someone excited to try a new flavor or spice. These days, you can find me cooking all over social media, where I inspire the home cook to create bold and fresh flavors any night of the week!
Cardamom, Date, and Rosewater Challah
Persian flavors of rose water, cardamom, and honey are some of my favorites. They are bold, aromatic, and perfumed and go well in a number of recipes. Here, I took traditional challah and added a sweet and floral mixture inside the braids. Once you cut into this challah, you’ll see a beautiful design full of dried fruit and pistachios. For more multicultural recipes, visit LittleFerraroKitchen.com.
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 packet yeast (¼ ounces)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil + more for greasing bowl
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour + more for kneading
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups chopped dates
- 1 cup pistachios
- 2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoon rosewater
- 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 egg + water for egg wash
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Rose petals
- Chopped pistachios
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 cup warm water, yeast, and sugar. Mix lightly with a fork to get all the yeast in the water and set aside for about 10 minutes. It should begin to foam up and you should see little bubbles.
- Add eggs, oil, and honey and whisk together.
- Using a dough attachment on your mixer, gradually add flour and salt (about 1/2 cup at a time) with the mixer on low. Continue to mix until everything is incorporated. The dough should begin to pull away from the bowl and come to one large ball of dough.
- Turn the dough onto a very well-floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, pour a bit of oil in and place your dough ball in the bowl. Turn it around so the entire dough is covered with a thin layer of oil. Cover with a clean towel and place bowl in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a medium sized pot, add all of the date mixture ingredients and place on medium heat and cook until dates are softened. Turn off heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then transfer mixture to a food processor and puree until a thick paste forms. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- When dough is ready, punch the dough down and divide dough in half— these will be your challah. Cover 1 ball of dough as you work with the other.
- Divide dough into 3 pieces (or more if you’re making another braid)— these will be your braid strands. Take 1 of the strands and roll, making a long snake (about 12-15 inches long). It should be thick enough to stuff (about 1-2 inches thick). Use a rolling pin to flatten the strand.
- Next, use a teaspoon to fill each strand with the date filling and press the mixture gently in the dough. Bring the strand together by pinching with your fingers and making sure no filling peeks out (but it’s okay if some does). Once sealed, gently roll the strands and begin braiding.
- Line 3 strands together and pinch at one end. Braid a 3-strand bread and pinch the bottom ends together.
- Place on baking sheet and cover challah with a towel to let rise for another 30 minutes.
- When done, brush challah with egg wash and honey. Sprinkle rose petals and pistachios on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until the challah is a light golden brown color. Let cool before cutting.
Cheese Borekas with Wilted Greens
Borekas are a very popular treat in Turkish and Jewish cuisine. Borekas come in a number of ways, with different fillings, shapes, sizes, cooking methods, and pastry. But the basic theme is a buttery pastry that is filled with something delicious. I’ve made them a number of ways, with cheese and spinach or a sweet version filled with local blueberries. But truth be told, there is nothing like a savory cheesy boreka.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1/2 cup olive oil, separated
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 1 bunch of kale, hard stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
- 1 bunch of Swiss or rainbow chard, hard stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 4 ounces shredded mozzarella
- 1 bunch of dill, hard stems removed and roughly chopped
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 roll of phyllo (a package usually comes with 2 rolls), defrosted
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Aleppo pepper
- Parmesan cheese
On the Side
- Labneh or Greek yogurt
- Lemon wedges
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
- Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute shallots for a few minutes until softened. Add chopped greens and saute for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Add to a bowl and cool for a few minutes.
- Add the feta, mozzarella, dill, and lemon zest to the greens and mix to combine.
- Roll out phyllo and place a damp towel over the sheets not being used yet.
- Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a clean surface and brush with olive oil all over. Repeat with 2 more sheets, stacking them on top of each other.
- Take about 1/2 cup of filling and place filling alongside the longer end of the phyllo. Roll phyllo up so it looks like a long snake, then curl one side in so it’s coiled into a round boreka.
- Continue with remaining phyllo and mixture until you have 6 borekas.
- Whisk egg wash and milk together and brush egg wash all over boreka and sprinkle with za’atar, Aleppo pepper, and an extra dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.
- Place phyllo rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. The outside should be golden brown and crispy.
- Let cool for a few minutes and serve with yogurt or labneh and an extra squeeze of lemon juice.
Tex-Mex Falafel with Heirloom Salsa
Before we moved to Washington, we spent a good number of years in Southern California and it was there that I fell in love with bright flavors of chiles and warm cumin in Latin cuisine. Even though I grew up on Mediterranean flavors, I love to have fun blending cultures and incorporating other twists onto Mediterranean recipes.
Here I took inspiration from Mexican cuisine and incorporated it into classic falafel. The warm cumin goes so well with black beans, and when topped with a cool salsa and creamy mint yogurt, the layers of flavors are explosive.
Black Bean Falafel:
- 1 1/2 cups dried black beans
- 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans
- 1 onion cut in quarters
- 4-5 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt + more for after frying
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Heirloom Tomato Salsa:
- 1-2 small heirloom tomatoes, chopped small
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 4-5 fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 of a small Persian cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak dried black beans and chickpeas for at least 8 hours or overnight in a large bowl filled with water.
- The next day, drain the chickpeas and pulse in a food processor until they are crumbly and there are no whole beans left. Transfer to a large bowl.
- In the same food processor, pulse the onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and flour until mixture forms a paste. Add parsley mixture to beans and stir in baking powder and baking soda. Mix everything well.
- Heat a large skillet with vegetable oil and bring oil up to about 350 degrees.
- Use a large tablespoon and form batter into balls, about 2 tablespoon’s worth, and carefully place the falafel in the hot oil. You can fit 4-5 in at once. Fry on 1 side until you can see it browning on the sides, about 4-5 minutes. Then flip over and fry other side.
- When done, place falafel on a paper toweled–lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt.
- To make the salsa, add chopped tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice together. Season with salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
- To make the yogurt-mint sauce, add Greek yogurt, chopped mint, lemon juice, and chopped cucumber in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil on top.
- Assemble falafel by spreading the mint yogurt sauce on the pita, then falafel, and top with heirloom tomato salsa.
For more multicultural recipes from Samantha Ferraro, visit Samantha at LittleFerraroKitchen.com.