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Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Cashews, Garlic, and Hot Peppers

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So I have to start this post with what seems to be my mantra when it comes to recipes…This is so easy to make and it’s super delicious and nutritious, too.

But it is.

I really urge you to try this. It can be served as a side dish or if you want to go meatless it would be great as a main course over brown rice. And if you want to make it a carnivores meal add chicken or shrimp.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Cashews, Garlic, and Hot Peppers

Serves 2-4


4 tablespoons olive oil

12-16 Brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced

½ cup cashews

¼ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water if you want to keep it vegetarian)

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then add the Brussels sprouts. Cook the Brussels sprouts for a few minutes until they begin to brown at their edges. Then add the cashews, hot pepper, garlic, and salt. Cook and stir the Brussels sprouts for a couple more minutes, or until they and the garlic are browned. Add the chicken broth, and then the lemon juice. Simmer the broth for a few minutes, or until it is nearly evaporated and the sprouts are cooked and glazed.

Urban Simplicity.

Curried Split Pea Soup!

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Ok, so here’s another recipe that is super easy, really delicious, nutritious, and also satisfying in a cold day. Yellow Split pea soup with curry. The basic recipe is below but you can also add or subtract to it as you like (it’s equally good without curry, for example, but I happen to like the spice). Tonight, in addition to the ingredients listed in the recipe I also added a diced green pepper, a diced tomato, and a bit of tandoori spice. The is also good if mad with red or green lentils rather than split peas. If the recipe is too large cut it in half; this soup freezes well also.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Curry and Caramelized Onions

Makes about 3 quarts

Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil or clarified butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add a diced onion and cook it—stirring frequently—for about five minutes, or until it start to brown, then stir in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Lower the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons (or more) of your favorite curry powder, and add any of your other favorite spices as well (such as extra cumin, turmeric, coriander, or chilies; all of which should be in the curry powder already). Stir the spices for a minute or so in the hot fat to bring out their flavors, then stir in 3 cups of yellow split peas and about 10 cups of chicken broth (if you want to keep this vegetarian use vegetable broth). Season the soup with a teaspoon of kosher salt (being careful if you are using canned broth which is already salted) and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Allow the soup to boil for a minute then turn it down to a simmer. Cook the soup for about an hour—stirring it frequently—and add more liquid if it becomes too thick. Just before removing it from the heat stir in about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon or lime juice and—if you have it on hand and enjoy it’s flavor—also stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

There’s more than one way to cook an egg…

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Eggs. They really are incredible aren’t they. They have so many uses in cooking, and they are of course a food itself. There is a lot of lore behind them, including that of the old fashioned chefs toque…which is said to have 100 pleats in it representing the 100 ways a chef knows how to cook eggs. Well, being a professional cook myself, I don’t know if this is true or not but there certainly are a lot of ways in which one can cook this incredible food. The repertoire of baking them alone is extensive. The most common being quiche, shirred, strata, tortilla espagnola, and of course the frittata (just to name a few). But frittata is the recipe I am focusing on for this post. I made this for my son and I this morning. It is so easy but also really delicious. As with many (most) of the recipes I post on this blog, this is just a suggestion–a guide, if you will–you can really use whatever ingredients you like (within reason) so long as you follow the basic formula.

Broccoli, Sweet Potato, and Two-Cheese Frittata

Serves 2


4 eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, sliced

1/2 green pepper, sliced

1 small sweet potato, par-cooked, peeled, and diced

1 small head broccoli, par-cooked and cut into florets

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat an oven to 375F. Combine the eggs, Parmesan, milk, red pepper, basil, and salt in a small bowl; whisk together and set aside. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet. Add the onion, green pepper, sweet potato, and broccoli; sauté the vegetables for a couple minutes, or until they just begin to brown. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables then top it with the shredded cheddar. Place the skillet in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and set.

Urban Simplicity.

Das Brot!

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Ezekiel Bread. Enough said. This is one of my favorite breads and still one of the most popular reasons people find their way to this little blog. I have a few versions of this recipe but the one below is the one I use most often. For additional directions and pictures of it being made, click here. To read my lay-person’s biblical interpretation of this recipe, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Lebanese Plate (yum!)

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Sometimes I just have to cook for myself. I really do. I cook all day for others and sometimes it just feels food to cook for me. Anyhow, this is what I had for dinner tonight (click any of the highlighted words for recipes)…moudardara with lamb (rice with lentils and vermicelli), hummus, labna (yogurt cheese), and kabis malfouf (spicy pickled cabbage). For more Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Cook Like Your Grandmother…how to make tallow or lard

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Okay. I do realize that this is not the healthiest food in the world, but as an ingredient is it very useful and every cook should know how to make it (and it is so easy to make). My cooking fat of choice these days is olive oil. But I’m spoiled. By this I mean that I live in the northern hemisphere far from any olive trees, but I can easily go to the store to purchase olive oil. That said, this wasn’t the case for my ancestors. In that case animal fats would be indispensable for cooking (one needs fat to cook), but also for so many other things, such as soap, candles, and skin care. Anyhow, I hadn’t made this in a while and I had a large prime rib dinner this week where I work so I had a lot of beef fat trimmings. So rather than throw them in the trash I turned it into tallow (this is so easy to make and look at how much you would pay for it if purchased). Tallow, of course, is rendered fat made from beef whereas lard is rendered fat made from pork. But both are made in the same way. Here’s how to do it…

Take any amount of fat with no or at least minimal meat remaining and cut it into chunks, dice it, or grind it. Place it in a pot and add just enough water that it is covered.

Bring the pot to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Then simmer, simmer, simmer. It’ll take a few hours.

After some time the water will have evaporated and the fat will have cleared. You will notice the difference in the way it sounds as it simmers now. It will sound thick; viscous. 

Shut the pot off and let it rest for a little bit, to a llow it to cool slightly and let everything settle. Then strain it twice. First to remove the remaining meat and fat pieces, then a second time trough cheesecloth to remove any small particles.

Transfer it to small containers; it should look crystal clear.

Once chilled it will turn pure white and solid. It will keep for months under refrigeration.

Urban Simplicity.

The day after…

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As I type these words the pot of turkey broth that is pictured above is simmering on the stove permeating the entire house with delicious aroma. If your like me you enjoy leftovers as much as the Thanksgiving meal itself (well, ok, maybe not quite as much, but almost). Anyhow, here’s a few recipes which incorporate leftovers from a traditional Thanksgiving feast. These originally appeared in Artvoice about five years ago; to read that  entire article, click here.

Turkey Broth


1 cooked turkey carcass, and any scraps, juices, and pan scrapings

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, cut into thirds

4 ribs celery, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

10 whole black peppercorns

Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and cover with enough cold water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for a few hours, skimming the surface as necessary. Strain and refrigerate until needed.


Shepherd’s Pie Made from Thanksgiving Dinner Leftovers


Dice leftover turkey and vegetables, combine with enough gravy to moisten. Assemble the vegetable/turkey mixture in an oven-proof casserole and “cobble” it with mashed potatoes and stuffing. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and hot throughout.

Turkey àla King


Combine diced, cooked turkey with enough gravy to moisten it; add whatever vegetables you like. Bring to a simmer and add heavy cream. Serve over mashed potatoes, stuffing, or if you’re feeling particularly decedent, puff pastry.


Turkey Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Chipotle Chilies


Dice leftover cooked turkey, along with fresh celery, onion, and a couple sliced sundried tomatoes. Mix it in a bowl with a few tablespoons mayonnaise and a little Dijon mustard. Add a small amount of either chipotle powder or minced chipotle in adobo. Season it with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Serve over lettuce salad or as the filling for a sandwich.


Turkey Noodle Soup


Dice 1 small onion, 2 carrots, a few ribs celery, a clove of garlic, a cup or two of cooked turkey, and one small turnip. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a soup pot and add the vegetables and turkey; cook, while stirring, for a few minutes. Add enough broth to cover the ingredients by a couple inches. Season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook egg noodles in a separate pot, then add to the soup.


Turkey and Vegetable Stirfry

Yield: 4 servings

3/4 cup broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 thin slices ginger

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1 pound mixed vegetables

8 ounces cooked turkey


In a small bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar and salt, then set aside. Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the ginger and garlic, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the vegetables and turkey; stir fry for a few minutes. Stir the broth mixture and add it to the stir-fry. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the sauce is thickened and the vegetables are cooked.


Turkey Mulligatawny

Yield: 3 quarts.

3 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 slices ginger, minced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Madras curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1/2 cup flour

1 apple, diced

6 cups turkey stock

3 cups diced, cooked turkey

1/2 cup cooked white rice


Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, add the onion, cel­ery, carrot, and red bell pepper, sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar, curry powder, cumin, black pepper, salt, and crushed hot pepper, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 5 minutes over low heat while stirring constantly. Add the diced apple, stir in the turkey stock and diced turkey, and simmer for 20 minutes. Just before serving stir in the rice. 

Le pain perdu…

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French Toast, Pain Perdu, or “Lost Bread.” I have posted many variations of this dish in the past but not in quite a while. This is a favorite breakfast of my son who is home from college for the holiday. And this is the variation that I made for him today…whole wheat French toast with blue-berry pineapple syrup. This is really easy and fun to make and people will likely be impressed that you made everything–even the syrup–from scratch. Anyhow, for recipes, lore, and “how-to” photos follow this link (scroll down).

Urban Simplicity.

Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

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This is yet another variation of my 100% whole wheat bread recipe…and a delicious one at that. This does entail an extra step (sauteing the onion and sweet potato until caramelized) but it’s worth it. After cooled, they are added to the dough while being kneaded and they melt into the dough offering a soft texture and subtle flavor. Anyhow, the recipe is below.
Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

Makes 2 loaves

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium sweet potato, diced

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3½ cups water, divided

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup honey


Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet then add the diced onion and sweet potato. Sauté for five or ten minutes, or until caramelized.
Add ½ cup of the water to the pan. Simmer until the water evaporates completely and the sweet potato is very soft. Transfer to a plate to cool, using a spatula to include the olive oil as well (as this becomes part of the bread). 
Separate some of the remaining ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Add the caramelized onions and sweet potato along with the oil in which they were cooked. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Crispy Tandoori Tofu!

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I’ve posted a recipe for this tofu–or at least a variation of it–in the past but I made it for staff lunch today and thought I’d re-post it because it is so easy and delicious to make. Sometimes I eat it as a salad component but today I ate it on a sandwich with toum (my chickpea version of Lebanese garlic mayo), vegetables, and whole grain bread. Follow the links in this paragraph for the other components, and the tofu recipe is below.

Crispy Baked Tofu Marinated in Yogurt and Spices
1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Place it between two plates to allow the weight of a plate (or two) to press out additional moisture. Drain the tofu again and slice it into ½ inch slices, then lay it on a baking sheet. To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, lemon, garlic curry, turmeric, hot pepper, cumin, and salt. Mix the marinade, then pour it over the tofu, gently turning it to coat all sides. Preheat an oven to 400F and allow the tofu to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a clean baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack (if you have one, otherwise place it directly on the baking sheet but lightly oil it first). Sprinkle the sesame seeds across the tofu and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until firm and slightly crisp (rotate the pan every 5 minutes or so for even cooking). This is delicious on a sandwich, salad, or as a simple snack; it can be eaten hot, room temperature, or chilled. 

The Simplest Loaf…

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I’ve posted this recipe before but not in a little while. This is for all those people that think that a beautiful loaf of bread cannot be made using 100% whole wheat flour (I used to be a doubter also). This is the loaf I make most often because it is so simple to make. If you want to experiment with whole wheat bread making this is a good recipe to start with. Anyhow, the recipe is below.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3 cups water, divided

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup honey


Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, olive oil, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Whole Wheat Rye…and that’s all

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Whole Wheat Rye Bread

Makes 2 loaves

4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

2 ¾ cups water, divided

2 cups rye flour

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup dark molasses


Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine the 4 cups of whole wheat flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the 2 cups rye flour and remaining ¾ cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, caraway seeds, olive oil, molasses, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes (if the dough is too slack or too firm adjust it’s consistency with more flour or water), then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Polpette di ceci (senza carne)

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So I’ve mentioned before on this blog that while I am not a vegetarian I do not eat a great deal of meat, and there are plenty of days when I simply do not want any. Today was one of those days. These chickpea balls are definitely not a replacement for meatballs because they taste and feel nothing like a meatball that is made with meat. But, on the other hand, these are really delicious and very satisfying. They are also exceedingly easy to make. After searing they can be baked in an oven and served as an appetizer with any number of dipping sauces, or–as I did tonight–they can be poached in tomato sauce and served with pasta. Either way they are simple and delicious. The recipe is below.

Chickpea Meatless Balls
polpette di ceci (senza carne)
Makes about 2 dozen small balls
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon whole fennel seed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
olive oil for pan-frying
Combine all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until nearly smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and knead in the bread crumbs. Allow it to rest for a couple minutes, then knead it again for another minute. Shape the dough into small balls. Heat the a heavy skillet with a thin layer of oil and cook the chickpea balls until golden. Finish cooking the meatless balls on a tray in a preheated oven, or transfer them to a pot of tomato sauce and poach them for about 10 minutes.

Urban Simplicity.

Lentil Soup with Vegetables and Lebanese Spices

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This is a variation of my more traditional Lebanese Lentil Soup recipe; in this version I added many more vegetables. This is super easy to make and yes it tastes as good as it looks. The vegetables I added are simply suggestions (it’s what I had on hand), use whatever you like. This is easily a meal in itself, and if you reduce the liquid and make it thick enough you can serve it over rice. And while it is a large-ish quantity, this soup freezes well. This soup is delicious and appropriate year-round but is especially fitting during the colder months.

Lentil Soup with Vegetables and Lebanese Spices 

Makes about 12 cups
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cups diced cabbage
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Lebanese seven spice mix
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup lentils
1 (15oz.) can diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 cups (about 5oz. Fresh spinach, chopped
½ cup lemon juice

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat then add the onion pepper, carrot, and cabbage. Sweat the vegetables for a few minutes then add the garlic; cook the vegetables a couple minutes longer. Stir in the seven spice mix, turmeric, and salt; cook for a minute or so, then add the lentils, tomatoes, chicken broth, and potato. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it becomes too thick add additional broth or water. Stir in the spinach and cook it for about 5 minutes. Then stir in the lemon juice and simmer another five minutes, or until the lentils are very soft.

Lebanese Seven SpiceMix 

Makes about 4 tablespoons
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container, or use as needed.

Urban Simplicity.

It’s amazing what a little oil and garlic can do…

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Okay. So you’re likely wondering what’s with the picture. Right? It’s not much to look at, and what is it anyhow. Simple…spaghetti squash cooked with aglio e olio, or with garlic and oil (and a few other things. As simple as this photo looks the squash is bursting with flavor. It’s amazing what a little caramelized garlic, a few hot peppers, a pinch of salt, and some olive oil can do…it makes anything taste great. Well maybe not anything, but most things. Especially vegetables and pasta. To learn how to make this particular recipe (with photos and step-by-step instructions) click here. To learn how to cook nearly anything in this fashion, click here. Try any of these recipes, you won’t be sorry; they are as good as they are simple to make.

Urban Simplicity.

Toum! (an interpretation)

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So this is a variation of a variation of a variation…but geeze ‘o man is it good. What, you may wonder, am I talking about. Garlic mayonnaise and it’s many variation. The south of France (and Italy and Spain) have Aioli (the French word for garlic is ail), in the Middle East there is the potent Toum (which simply translates as garlic), and in Greece there is Skordalia (not sure of the etymology of this one). And then there’s my most recent version I’ll call beaonnaise [sic]. But I’m jumping ahead. I love to eat a sandwich at lunch, and I also love the flavor of garlic. And in my continued effort to eat healthier (minus the eggs and low grade oil in most mayonnaise) I made this and it is really easy (and super delicious). I just recently found out that beans–and especially chickpeas–contain lecithin, which of course is the same emulsifying agent that is in egg yolks. And we all know that beans in general are really good for you, and so is olive oil, so I replaced the egg yolk with chic peas. Delicious. You can cut down on or increase the amount of garlic as you like, and with the aid of a blender this will take about 2 minutes to make. And because there are no raw egg yolks this will last a while in the fridge…but it likely will not because it is so delicious.

Beaonnaise

Makes about 1½ cups


1 (15 ounce can) chick peas, drained and rinsed

2-4 cloves garlic

¼ cup lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup virgin olive oil


Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a blender and puree. While the blender is running add the olive oil in a thin stream. Continue to blend for 30 seconds, or until the beaonnaise is light and fluffy.

The Anatomy of a Healthy but Really Delicious Pizza…

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Okay. So this pizza was delicious. I say “was” and not “is” because I ate more than half of it for dinner and I’ll likely eat the rest before the night is out. Anyhow, this post is more about the crust than what is on it (because you can really put whatever you like on a pizza). In an ongoing effort to make healthier bread and pizza dough I not only used 100% whole wheat flour (which I usually do) but I also added beans to the dough. This last step isn’t that unusual for me either as Ezekiel bread and its many variations are one of my favorite doughs. But what is a bit unusual is the amount of beans-to-flour ratio…the dough is made up of about 50% beans. I added just enough water to the beans to allow them to puree smoothly. Pictured below.

And then added enough flour to the bean puree (with a few other basic ingredients) to make a dough. Delicious. I’m not sure this would make a good bread, or should I say light bread, because of the high ration of beans, but it did make a fine pizza dough. On the pizza–as pictured below–I also added a thin coating of pesto (click for a recipe), a thin layer of tomato sauce (click for a recipe), a layer of broccoli aglio e olio (click for multiple recipes), and of course cheese (Ok, so the cheese is not the healthiest ingredient, but it is good and I cannot eat pasta or pizza without it). Anyhow, the recipe for the dough is listed after the photos.

Whole Wheat and Bean Pizza Dough


Makes enough dough for a 12-inch pizza


1 (15oz. can) beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup water

————————

1/3 cup bean puree

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

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2/3 cup bean puree

1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

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3 tablespoons virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (if needed)


Combine the beans and water in a blender and puree until smooth. This should make about 1 cup of puree. Divide the puree into two bowls; 1/3 in one bowl and 2/3 in another. In the first bowl (the one with 1/3 puree) stir in 1 teaspoon yeast and 1/4 cup flour. It will be thick and sticky; almost dough-like. In the second bowl (the one with 2/3 puree) stir in 1 tablespoon wheat gluten and ½ cup flour. This will also be dough-like. Cover the bowls with plastic and allow them to rest and ferment for 1 hour. Then combine the contents of both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Also add to the bowl the olive oil, two teaspoons of instant yeast, the honey, and the salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes. If the dough is too wet or sticky add the additional 2 tablespoons of flour. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for an hour or two. Use with any pizza recipe.


Bread!

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I made this bread tonight. Made the preferment while I took a nap after work, mixed the dough before I went to the health club, and baked it while I ate dinner. Beautiful, delicious, and easy to make. And it is, of course, made with 100% whole wheat flour. Honey-oatmeal. I’ve posted this recipe–and variations of it–before but not in a while. It’s one of my favorites and one I make often so I thought I’d re-post it.

Whole Wheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity

Pesto!

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Pesto is similar to sofrito in that it is both an ingredient and a stand-alone recipe. It can be eaten as is–as a dip or spread–or added to recipes as a flavor enhancer. The word loosely translates from the Italian as “pounded,” because this was originally made with a mortar and pestle. But with the aid of a blender this is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. It is classically made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese, but ingredients can be interchanged. Tonight, for example, I made it with basil and parsley (which were still growing in the garden), almonds that I had in my pantry, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and a single hot pepper that was still growing in the garden. I tossed it with pasta for dinner and froze what I didn’t use. Here’s a basic recipe.

Pesto

Makes about 3/4 cup
.

1 cup fresh herbs
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nuts
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Urban Simplicity.

Sofrito!

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Sofrito is both an ingredient, a seasoning, and a recipe all by itself. It is a simple method of simmering onion, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil. But the flavor it imparts can be transformative to a dish. The key here is long slow cooking…it really brings out the flavors. But is often the case, I’m jumping ahead. I’ve often cooked this way but never gave it much thought. That is until this past year when I began a conscious diet to lower my cholesterol count. Luckily for me the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest there is, because it is in fact my favorite way to eat…I just need to cut out the chocolate chip cookies and french fries. So lately I have been doing a bit of research. I had known of sofrito for years but never really gave it much thought as being really good for you, but it is (click here, here, or here). Sofrito can be combined with other ingredients such as rice (it makes a rice pilaf taste great), it can be the base to a great pasta dish, topped over vegetables, or used as a base to braise fish. The simple procedure goes like this…line a pot or skillet with olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add diced onions and peppers and simmer/saute them until they begin to caramelize. Add minced garlic and saute a minute longer, then add fresh or canned tomato. Simmer until the moisture of the tomatoes evaporates and the mixture sort of mashes together and begins to caramelize again. And that’s it. Add other herbs or spices if you like, or not. Anyhow, if you are interested in learning if you are in fact eating a Mediterranean diet, here’s a brief quiz at the New York Times.

Urban Simplicity.

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