Recipe for Sleek?
I got the basics, kale, black-eyed peas, bulgur, and carmelized onions, but there's something missing. I've tried garlic, black pepper, lemon juice, and fish sauce, but it still doesn't give me that good sleek from the Syrian restaurants of my past. Sesame oil instead of olive oil, maybe?
re: Das Ubergeek
OK. I often use canned or frozen black-eyes, but if Jupiter aligns with Mars I'll make 'em from scratch. The kale I chop coarsely and steam for about eight minutes. Bulgur, if I'm feeling fancy I'll brown it before I boil it. The onions get browned separately, on fairly low heat, to a nice caramelized state; they are chopped coarsely, also.
I use a half cup of cooked bulgur to two cups of cooked blackeyes to, well, I start with a colander of uncooked kale and it cooks down to about half its volume, maybe two-three cups. One medium to large onion, I like yellow or white better than red for this. I toss everything in the oil I browned the onions in. I've tried garlic browned with the onions, not bad, or finely chopped raw, not great.
This is such a great dish when well-prepared, and I've never hit that mark.
Oh, I've used Filipino fish sauce, but Greek or Turkish would probably be better.
So I woke up at three and stayed awake until ten minutes before the alarm, and sleek was on my mind.
1. When I do this again, hoping this weekend, I'll save the pot likker from steaming the kale, and whisk in some unsalted butter, and maybe a little nutmeg, and pour it over the assembled dish just before serving. Some might add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to this, but I wouldn't. One of the primary tastes here is the bitter of the kale, and to add sour would make it a different dish.
2. I've never used meat in this dish, but if I did, it would be bacon, fried crisp and crumbled over the kale before steaming. Which of course would make it unacceptable to any observant Muslim or Jew.
3. This dish is in a category of greens + carbs that I like. A distant relative would be halushki, the Slovak and Polish cabbage and noodle saute. Also ramen, with chopped or shredded greens--usually cabbage, but I've used bok choy, napa, and iceberg lettuce too.
I sympathize with your plight. I love sleek, and it's been at least 15 years since I've had it. Now I'm inspired to try making it myself.
What if the missing ingredient is zatar? Awhile back, somebody posted a site where you can buy the authentic stuff, which I think is made with hyssop. I've heard that the zatar sold by Penzey's is not the traditional blend.
re: La Dolce Vita
What a great idea! Although it's been at least five years, I vaguely remember sesame seeds, now that you mention it.
1. Go by one of West Berkeley's many halal groceries and see if I can purchase zatar.
2. Get my sister, who probably eats Syrian a couple times a month, to ask next time if zatar is in fact an ingredient.
How could it hurt?
HELLO!!! This is so funny...I was looking up recipes for syrian sleek & just happen to come upon your original bolg (way back in 2001) saying you moved from Oakland-Pgh to Oakland-CA & you miss all the Syrian restaurants here in Pittsburgh....! I am from Khalil's Restaurant in Pittsburgh- we just celebrated our 35 anniversary few years ago. We have the very BEST sleek in the world (have you ever eaten at our place?) but since we always had it available, it was never one of those things I bothered perfecting on my own...my sleek is great, mind you, but not like my dads! So I was browzing to see how other people make it, just out of curiousity, and I found you! Did you ever find a good Syrian restaurant? A few tips about sleek- the authentic, mountain-peasant- folks dish that my father is so well known for (many Pgh Post-gazette reviews and articles on his sleek)- Traditionally, it is a pretty basic dish- no garlic, no zaatar, no sumac...just salt & pepper. Use dried black eyed beans- soaked & rinsed of course- and boil them WITH the chopped kale (you want to keep as much nutrients as possible in the mixture)...then add the bulgar at the end, when the kale & bean mixture is draining in a big colander. Set aside (can be frozen in ziplocks once thoroughly drained) & when you want to eat, sautee onions (LOTS) in a wok with olive oil till carmalized, and throw in the greens/peas. Many steps, simple concept, but undoubtedly one of the healthiest, most complete dish on earth!! Never use canned blackeyed peas & frozen or canned kale (doesnt work well- too wet- one of the secrets is to let the greens drain til almost dry so the dish doesnt get soggy when fried with the onions.
This reply is so long after yoour original inquiry & blog, I dont know if you will ever read this. But if you do, I hope you are doing well in your new life in CA, and best wishes from a fellow sleek lover in PGH. (and yes, we are blessed to have so many Syrian restaurants here...most of them are relatives!!). Let me know if you have ever eaten at our place..we know most of our clientele and think of them as friends!
My wife decided to make sleek after not having done so for 10 years, so we go on-line and find your post - it's amazing that you worked at our favorite restaurant - Khalil's. Wish Khalil's was in the DC area!
We moved from Pittsburgh 20 years ago and miss Khalil's so much. Thanks for the info on sleek. The dish we miss the most is m'daumas (sp?). No one from any other restaurant seems to know what it is and we have never had any success in trying to make it ourselves.
BTW, we also miss the spinach pies and cheese pies from Salim's. They are fantastic.
Tami, I learned about sleek at your family's place! Ate there the day you opened, and many times thereafter. What a house of love! Worked at WYEP then, so a shot-and-beer breakfast at Sam & Bernie's, hoagy for lunch at Larry & Carol's, but for dinner always Khalil's.
The salads and side dishes were the most special part, okra in tomato sauce, and the foul maddamas. And the hot bread. And the kibbee nayee. Thanks to your mom and dad and family for making life better on Semple Street.
After reading the postings, I have a couple of suggestions: Use ghee (samna) in place of the olive oil. This, plus the onions and salt and pepper are all you need to season this dish authentically. Don't get zaatar anywhere near this dish!
And, since the Arabic word "siliq" (which Americans have corrupted to "sleek") refers to Swiss Chard, you might want to use chard instead of kale.
I love this stuff. And once you try it with samna, you won't go back to the healthy oils. It's not worth the flavor loss.