Category Archives: Culinary Freedom


This is a simple but classic dish. Make this at home in minutes and save lots of money from what you’d pay in a restaurant (but then you have to wash the pans and dishes). Anyhow, this is really simple and truly flavorful. If you’ve never made this recipe before I hope you give it a try.

Shrimp Scampi

Serves 2-4

12 large shrimp, shells and veins removed but tails remaining
a few ounces flour for dusting
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ lemon, sliced
½ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ bunch parsley, washed and minced

Dredge the shrimp in the flour. Heat a skillet with the butter over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and begins to bubble add the shrimp. Cook it for a minute or so on one side, then turn it over and add the garlic. Stir and shake the pan gently. After another minute add the lemon, wine, and salt. Simmer the shrimp for a couple minutes, or until cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly, then stir in the minced parsley. Serve with rice pilaf or over pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Three Loaves and a Pie…

I haven’t posted this recipe in a while and I made it this morning so I thought I’d re-post it (as it is one of my favorites). It’s my basic whole wheat bread recipe with the addition of oats…delicious and nutritious. And is often the case, after the first rise of the dough (before I cut it into loaves) I pinched a piece off and made a small pizza for lunch (which I baked while the loaves rose and ate while they baked). And the pizza itself is a sort of reflection of this past summer…the tomatoes (which are now sauce) and the eggplant were both grown just outside my front door.

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.

Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Pickles (in just five minutes)

This is a basic refrigerator pickle recipe that can be made in just a few minutes but is really delicious and will keep excess produce for months (if kept refrigerated). I make this nearly every year at summer’s end to store cucumbers still hanging on their vines. You can make it with just cucumbers or (as I do) add other items as well (this really can be made with any produce). I added garlic cloves, onion, hot peppers, dill seed, and a pinch of turmeric for color and nutrition. Anyhow, the basic recipe goes like this:

Slice cucumbers and other vegetables. Layer them in a bowl or crock with garlic and onion, if you like. Make a basic brine using the following measurements: 1 1/2 parts cider vinegar, 1 part sugar, 1 part water, a little salt, and (if you like the color) a little turmeric. Combine all of these ingredients together in a pot, place the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. Simmer the brine for just a few seconds, then our it over the vegetables. Refrigerate the bowl and the pickles will be ready in an hour or so. Simple as that.

Urban Simplicity.

The Mother Loaf…

Ezekiel Bread; a meal in itself. I’ve posted this recipe a few times prior, but not in quite a while. It is my favorite bread (to eat and to make) and in fact is still the #1 reason people visit this blog. More than 500 people find their way to my little page each day for this simple but delicious recipe. As I’ve also mentioned before, while this recipe looks somewhat difficult to make, it is really not (read the directions in steps). One of the biggest difficulties people seem to have is that the dough is too wet (likely from not squeezing out the beans and grain enough). This is not a problem, simply add additional flour. This bread is not only delicious, but also nutritious. If you are a baker, or someone who wants to bake, I hope you try this recipe…you won’t be sorry. There are additional links below.

Whole Wheat Ezekiel Bread
Makes 3 loaves
12 cups water
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons red beans
2 tablespoons spelt berries
2 tablespoons lentils
2 tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
cooked beans and grains
½ cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups cooking liquid
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
3 teaspoons instant yeast

Boil the grains in the water in logical succession according to cooking times: first the white and red beans (about 60 minutes), when they are soft add the, spelt berries, lentils, and barley (about 30 minutes); lastly, add the millet and bulgar (about 10 minutes). The key is that after each addition the previous grain must be soft enough so that when all of the grains are in the pot they will all be equally soft; undercooked grains (especially the beans) can really ruin this bread. And as the grains cook add more water to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of the recipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it’s evaporation). After the grains are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the grains are cooled drain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.

Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained grains with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

For additional directions and photos on how to make this bread, click here.

The read my views and philosophy on this bread, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

New Orleans Red Beans-and Rice Burgers

These are a variation of a few different vegetarian/bean burgers I’ve made and posted somewhat recently, and a play on the classic New Orleans red beans-and-rice recipe. While this recipe is equally delicious it is a bit more labor intensive than my other vegetarian burger recipes (but not really) in that you have to cook rice before you make the burgers. Now I know that if you are a native New Orleanian or have Creole/Cajun roots you will disagree with this recipe. But I mean no disrespect and it is–I believe–really delicious. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Crescent City on more than a few occasions and had fallen in love with it at first glance. The first time I was there in the mid 19-80’s I was traveling with a friend and pretty much survived on red-beans-and rice for a couple months (which was 99 cents at a local restaurant), and plenty of Dixie beer, too. Anyhow, I hope you try this recipe; it is easy to make and really delicious.

New Orleans Red Beans-and Brown Rice Burgers

Makes about 10 (4 ounce) burgers

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons black pepper
¾ cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can red beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 bunch green onion, sliced thin
1 cup shredded cheddar (3-4 ounces)
½ cup hot pepper sauce
1 ½ cup bread crumbs (plus extra for dusting)
Olive oil for cooking

Heat the olive oil in a small pot over medium heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook the onion and pepper for about five minutes, or until they just begin to brown, then add the onion and cook another minute or two. Turn the flame to low and stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, turmeric, and black pepper; cook the spices for a minute to bring out their flavor. Stir in the rice, coating it with oil and spices, then stir in the broth. Bring the broth to a boil, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer the rice for 30-40 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked (if too much broth evaporates before the rice is cooked ad more as needed). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the beans. Transfer to a shallow pan and refrigerate until cool. Divide the rice-and-bean mixture into two portions. Place the first half in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarse but not pureed, then transfer it to a clean bowl. Add the remaining half of rice-and-beans to the food processor along with the eggs, salt, green onion, cheddar, and hot pepper sauce; process until a smooth paste. Add this to the bowl with the coarser mixture along with the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Divide the mix into ten balls and shape into burgers, transferring them to platters or a baking sheet that is lightly dusted with breadcrumbs. Heat a large heavy skillet with 1/8th inch olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers for about 10 minutes, turning them as necessary, or until golden, crispy, and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Pasta d’oro con fagioli

This is an easy and delicious variation on the classic pasta dish, pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), which is often meatless but when it does contain meat it is usually pork. In this particular recipe I used smoked turkey which offers some of the smokiness of bacon or other pork products. I also added a healthy pinch of saffron, which gives it its lovely golden hue (hence the d’oro title). As usual, this recipe is not carved in stone and is just a suggestion; use whichever flavor combinations you like. And while this recipe is scaled to serve a crowd it can be halved (or quartered) and freezes well also. But something tells me that after a taste there will be no need to freeze it…


Golden Pasta with Beans and Smoked Turkey

(pasta d’oro con fagioli)

Makes about 6 quarts

1 pound dried white beans

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound smoked turkey, diced

1 small onion, diced

4 ribs celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon basil leaves

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 generous pinch saffron

6 plum tomatoes, diced

4 quarts chicken broth

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound ditalini pasta

Parmesan cheese to serve

Rinse the beans, then place them in a pot or bowl with enough cool water to cover them by two inches. Soak the beans for a few hours, or overnight, then drain them and set aside. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot and add the turkey, browning it slightly. Remove the turkey and set aside. To the same hot pot, add the onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper. Saute the vegetables for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and saute another minute. Stir in the basil, oregano, fennel, hot pepper, and saffron. Cook the herbs and spices for a minute or so to bring out their flavors. Add the soaked beans to the pot, along with the browned turkey, and the tomatoes, broth, and salt. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the beans for about an hour, or until very soft, stirring as needed. If too much liquid evaporates, a water or broth. When the beans are soft add the pasta to the pot and simmer about ten minutes.

Urban Simplicity.

Chop This! (The easiest and likely the most nutritious and delicious salad you’ll ever make.)

Okay. So if you have a garden–or even if you don’t–now is the time to seize summer’s bounty. Whether you grow it yourself or purchase it at the store, the time is ripe for summer vegetables. And when the vegetables are as perfectly ripe as they are right now, eating them raw (or some lightly cooked) with the simplest preparation is the way to go. The below recipe is just a guide. Use whatever vegetables and herbs that your garden or local market has. But here’s how I made mine.
Raw Summer Salad
Dice a perfectly ripe tomato–or two if you’re eating with someone else–and as much cucumber as you think you’ll eat. Combine it in a bowl with a few slices of raw onion, a minced garlic clove, a sliced hot pepper, a handful of chopped parsley, and also basil. Sprinkle the salad with sea salt, then drizzle it with a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil and good quality wine vinegar. Gently toss together and taste summer.

Urban Simplicity.

The Spice is Right (two super flavorful and delicious recipes)…

Spices really are amazing aren’t they? Not only are some used for food preservation and medicinal purposes (not to mention preventative medicine) they also make even the blandest foods taste really incredible; these recipes are two examples of this. And both of these recipes, while delicious hot from the oven or skillet, are equally delicious at room temperature or even cold from the fridge. The tofu, for example, when chilled makes a great meat alternative on sandwiches.

Tandoori-Style Tofu

Serves 4 

1 pound extra-firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded
½ small onion, diced

3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Black sesame seeds to garnish (optional) 

Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Set the tofu on a plate with 2 or 3 plates on top of it, gently squeezing out some of it’s moisture. Leave the tofu to drain for 10-15 minutes. Combing all the remaining ingredients except the sesame seeds in a food processor or blender (yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, onion, curry, and salt), and process until smooth. Pour the marinade into a shallow pan. Slice the tofu about ½ inch thick (and crosswise if you would like smaller pieces). Lay the tofu slices in the marinade, turning them to coat all sides. Marinate the tofu for ,30-60 minutes. Preheat and oven to 350F. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack, leaving some of the marinade on the tofu. Sprinkle the tofu with black sesame seeds and bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown at its edges. This is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled as a snack or sandwich ingredient.

Aloo Gobi

(Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas)

Serves 4 

¼ cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices ginger, minced
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon whole cumin seed
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped 

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the onion and potato. Cook these for a couple minutes, until they just begin to change color. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Stir in the black mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, cumin seed, and crushed hot pepper; cook for a minute to release it’s flavor and aroma, then stir in the cauliflower, coating it with oil and spices. Add the water, then cover the skillet and cook the potatoes and cauliflower for a couple minutes. Stir in the peas and lemon juice; cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Urban Simplicity.

Chicken-less Fingers…

Okay. So these are really good. These are a play on chicken fingers which of course are a knock off of chicken wings. In my continued effort to eat less meat I made these today as an alternative to the chicken fingers I cooked for staff lunch at work. And rather than tossing them in butter and hot sauce and then dipping them in creamy blue cheese dressing (as traditional Buffalo style wings are) I included the hot sauce and Gorgonzola cheese in the actual mix. The finished product was, if I do say so myself, quite addicting. To read a story with recipes regarding the history and my personal history with chicken wings (originally n Buffalo Spree Magazine), click here. And btw, in Buffalo they are simply called wings.

Buffalo Style Chickpea Fritters

(a.k.a. Chicken-less Fingers)

Makes 24 small patties or fritters

2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 eggs

½ cup Frank’s hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped

1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola (3-4 ounces)

1 cup bread crumbs (plus extra for coating)

Oil for cooking

Combine all of the ingredients except the cheese and breadcrumbs in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the cheese and breadcrumbs; mix until thoroughly combined. Divide the mix into about twenty four small balls, and shape them into patties or tubes. One-by-one, dip them in a bowl of water very briefly then coat them in breadcrumbs, shaking of any excess crumbs. Heat about ½ inch canola or olive oil in a skillet, and fry the fritters—in batches if necessary—on both sides until golden brown, crispy, and cooked throughout. Drain on absorbent paper. 


Ratatouille is the perfect summer vegetable dish. The ingredients are at peak season, and are easily grown in a home victory garden…I in fact grew these. The main ingredients–zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and basil–need very little tending, they almost grow like weeds.

With its tongue-twisting title it may come off as a somewhat intimidating recipe, but on the contrary; it’s a simple and versatile country dish that is based on using seasonal vegetables. Its name is said to come from the archaic French word, touiller, meaning to stir or toss.

It’s a versatile recipe that can be served hot, at room temperature, or even chilled; it will taste better the second day after its flavors are allowed to “marry.” Ratatouille is excellent as a side dish, an entrée, or tossed with pasta. With the addition of a little wine or broth, it also makes a flavorful braising base for chicken or seafood (I ate it for dinner this evening tossed with penne pasta and plenty of Parmesan). It’s really simple to make, very flavorful and healthy, and it keep well also.

Yield: about 4 cups

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 medium bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

8 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, bell peppers and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the zucchini and eggplant; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring as needed. If it becomes too dry add more broth. Stir in the basil a few minutes before serving.

Asparagi aglio e olio (and a few other ingredients)

Olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, and lemon. Brilliant. Yes, I know I’ve posted this recipe before (and those similar to it), but I can’t get enough of it. It is so easy to make and so delicious I’m going to keep posting it/them until you make a variation of it 🙂

Stove-Top Braised Asparagus with Olive Oil, Lemon, Garlic, and Hot pepper
Serves four
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of their fibrous ends
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 lemon, juiced
Heat the oil in a large skillet then add the asparagus. Sprinkle the garlic, hot pepper, and salt on and around the asparagus. Gently shake the pan, and using tongs, turn the asparagus in the pan. Add a few tablespoons water to the pan, then lower the heat and place a lid on it for a couple minutes. Remove the lid and add the lemon juice to the pan, gently turning the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to a clean plate and pour the oil and lemon over it, along with the garlic and hot pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Barbe à queue!

Food historians and etymologists generally claim two theories on the origin of the American barbecue. One is that it comes from the French barbe-a-queue, referring to cooking a whole animal on a spit “from beard to tail.” The other is that it’s derived from the Spanish barbacoa, a method they found indigenous Caribbeans using some five centuries ago.Whatever the origin there are likely as many different recipe and methods as there are cooks who make it. But truth be told the sauce is really easy to make, and it makes nearly anything taste great. The sauce featured in this post is a basic but universal one…it is pictured on shrimp in the above picture but I had it on chicken today as well. Anyhow, this is really easy to make (put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer them) and also really delicious. The sauce will keep for at least a week in the fridge and can be frozen for longer periods. 
BBQ Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups ketchup

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup yellow mustard

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching. 

Urban Simplicity.

Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers (yum!)

Crispy and super flavorful. So yes, these are as delicious as they look. They are really easy to make, and can be frozen, too. Eat them on a sandwich, place them on a salad, or nibble them straight from the pan…you won’t be sorry if you make this recipe. For a southwestern black bean-cheddar version of these burgers, click here.


Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers (with sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and rosemary)

Makes 10 (4 ounce) burgers

2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 eggs
¼ cup hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
6-8 sun dried tomatoes, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
½ small onion, minced
½ red bell pepper, minced
1 cup crumbled feta (3-4 ounces)
1 cup bread crumbs (plus extra for dusting)

Olive oil for cooking

Place half of the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse for just a few seconds, until coarse but slightly mashed; transfer these beans to a large bowl. Add the remaining beans to the food processor along with the eggs, hot pepper sauce, garlic, smoked paprika, turmeric, and sea salt; process until very smooth, then add this mixture to the bowl with the coarse beans. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, parsley, onion, and bell pepper to the bowl also. Mix everything thoroughly, then add the cheese and bread crumbs and mix again. Divide the mix into ten balls and shape into burgers, transferring them to platters or a baking sheet that is lightly dusted with breadcrumbs. Heat a large heavy skillet with 1/8th  inch olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers for about 10 minutes, turning them as necessary, or until golden, crispy, and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Tacos Multiculturales!

Okay. So first I have to say this…these tacos were freaking delicious (if I do say so myself). But what makes them so interesting are the ingredients; the finished recipe is like the United Nations on a plate. The main component, or at least one of the main components, is the chicken. It’s a variation of the classic Mexican dish, carnitas, which is usually made with pork. The two variations are that I used chicken thigh meat (which I suppose would make these pollitas) and rather than Mexican seasoning I used Lebanese seven-spice blend (and a teaspoon of turmeric for color). Now this in itself may have stopped you in your tracks…what, you may ask?…Lebanese tacos? Yup, it’s true, there is a specific taco in Mexico that has been influence by Lebanese immigrants there (click here or here to read about it). The other unique item is kimchi, or Korean sauerkraut. Okay, so now you’re probably saying, what?…this guy is really nuts. But I’m telling you this is a really delicious flavor combination. And besides, Korean tacos are all the rage these days (click here). In place of sour cream I used plain yogurt…much healthier for you and the sour flavor added another dimension. And for the spiciness (as this latest batch of kimchi isn’t that spicy) I used–rather than the traditional southwest or Mexican hot sauce–the delicious Thai Sriracha. There’s also diced tomato, shredded lettuce, cheddar, white and green onion, and shredded carrot. Combined, yes, this may seem really complex, but individually each component is really easy to make. These ingredients are just suggestions, of course. Like most foods, the basic recipe is just a guide…

For a (grilled) chicken shawarma recipe, click here.
For a Lebanese seven-spice recipe, click here.
For a carnitas recipe (pollitas) recipe, click here.
For kimchi and homemade yogurt recipes, click here
For a homemade tortilla recipe, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Cool as a cucumber (and avocado) soup recipe…

This soup is really delicious and really easy to make. I know…I say that all the time, right? Well, all you have to do is put the ingredients in a blender and puree them. Seriously. Easy, delicious, and healthy…what’s not to like. This is also a great recipe for the crazy heatwave that has gripped much of the country. I hope you try this…you’ll be glad you did.

Chilled Cucumber-Avocado Soup

Makes 6-8 cups

1 English cucumber, seeds removed

1 ripe avocado, skin and pit removed

¼ small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

2 cups orange juice

2 teaspoons sea salt

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper (optional)

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

Ice Ice Baby


Ice is back with my brand new invention.”
Vanilla Ice
So I’m not sure what part of the world you are viewing this from, or what your local weather is, but the forecast for Western New York is–as it has been and will continue to be for some time–is hot and humid. Thus, these recipes seem appropriate. They are of course really delicious, but they are also exceedingly easy to make…just a few ingredients, minimal steps, and you can make them in your own home freezer. These recipes are part of an article I recently wrote for Artvoice. To view the entire article, with additional recipes and info and lore, click here. I hope you try these because they are so good and so easy to prepare. In the meantime…stay cool.

Sangria Granita
Makes about 5 cups
3 cups water
2 cups red wine
1 cup sugar
2 slices lemon
2 slices orange
2 slices lime
1 cinnamon stick
Combine all of the ingredients in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for a minute or two. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand at room temperature for about five minutes. Strain into a a shallow pan and freeze, stirring as necessary. If it freezes too solid, remove it from the freezer and allow it to warm for a few minutes at room temperature. Then break it into pieces and spin if in a food processor for a few seconds and re-freeze it.
Orange-Rosemary Sorbet
Makes about 6 cups
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 cups orange juice
t tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil; simmer for a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange juice, lemon juice, orange rind, and rosemary. Allow to stand at room temperature for about five or ten minutes. Transfer to a shallow pan and freeze, stirring as necessary. If it freezes too solid, remove it from the freezer and allow it to warm for a few minutes at room temperature. Then break it into pieces and spin if in a food processor for a few seconds and re-freeze it.

Rice-and-beans (#1); a few thoughts on a very humble dish…

Rice-and-beans (yum!)…what is not to like about this dish. It’s simple to make, it is made using one single pot, it is really inexpensive to produce even large quantities, variations are seemingly endless, and it is really good for you…some say it carries complete nutrition (this is an interesting but brief article at NPR). For many peoples around the globe this is a mainstay in their diet. Indeed, for a brief period way back in the mid-1980’s I pretty much survived on a 99¢ red beans-and-rice lunch special while living a vagabond life in New Orleans. Rice and beans also fits nicely into the Mediterranean diet, which I love and have pretty much eaten for years without trying. Rice dishes and pasta dishes are the two main dishes that I eat at home. And over the years I’ve slowly migrated to using whole wheat pasta and brown rice in the recipes, which of course tastes just as good but are so much better for you. Anyhow, because I eat this dish so often–or variations of it–I thought I’d start recording some of the recipes and sharing them. The recipe below is the basic formula for this recipe and the one on which most of my rice pilafs are based. I used canned beans in this particular recipe–which I sometimes do–but to use dried beans simply soak, then cook and drain, a little more than 1/2 cup dried beans, which will yield about the same as a 15 ounce can. The difference between the recipe below and the one pictured is subtle. I added a half teaspoon of turmeric to the recipe (as I do with most my rice recipes because I like the yellow hue and also because turmeric is so good for you). I also added a diced jalapeno, and a handful of chopped parsley and basil that I had growing in my garden. With meat or without (or even with seafood) this recipe is delicious and really good for you. And leftovers taste really good, too…

Brown Rice-and-Beans
Serves four
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown rice
2 ½ cups broth
½ teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can beans, rinsed
Heat the oil in a small sauce pot. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic and cook it for another minute or two. Stir in the rice, then the broth and salt. Bring to a boil then lower to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and simmer simmer the rice for about 30 minutes. Add the beans (just lay them on top of the rice; do not stir at this point). If it looks as if too much liquid has evaporated add more. Cover the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat—leaving it covered—and allow it to rest for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the lid and gently fold in the beans.

Urban Simplicity.

Onion, Pepper, and Garlic Confit

This is really a play on the classic confit d’ail, or preserved garlic (find that recipe here). It’s a simple recipe that–especially in the case of these peppers–really packs a punch. What it boils down to (yes, the pun was intended) is that you slowly poach the vegetables in olive oil until soft as butter and lightly browned. You can store them in the oil (as was originally intended) as a for of preservation, or you can eat them straight away (as is often the case). You can also incorporate them and the oil into another recipe for a flavor boost. Anyhow, this is really easy to make. For a full description read this post.

Urban Simplicity.

Chicken and Vegetable Ragout with Lebanese Seven (or Eight) Spice Seasoning

Okay, so this is good. Really good. Delicious (if I do say so my self). It’s easy to make (about 30 minutes once the vegetables are cut) and it’s likely pretty healthy, too. It’s a basic braised chicken and vegetable dish with Middle Eastern seasoning. This, like most of the recipes on this blog, is just a suggestion and not carved in stone. I used the ingredients I happened to have at hand; if you have or like other vegetables or meats use them. As far as the seasonings go I love this combination…sweet spices mingling with seared vegetables and meat and then simmered together. Your house will smell amazing while it cooks (if you live in an apartment building neighbors may stop by). I didn’t have any lemon on hand, if I did I may have finished it with that and a bit of parsley. And if for some odd reason it doesn’t all get eaten…leftovers will taste even better.

Chicken and Vegetable Ragout with Lebanese Seven (or Eight) Spice Seasoning

Serves four

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 medium potato, washed and diced

1 small onion, diced

1 small carrot, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons seven spice mix

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

1 medium eggplant, diced

2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 ½ cups chicken broth

Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet or a medium kettle over high heat. Add the chicken and brown it on both sides, the remove it to a plate. Add the potato and brown it slightly, then remove it to a plate or bowl. Add the onion, carrot, and green pepper. Cook these vegetables for a few minutes—until they begin to brown—stirring and scraping up any bits of crispy chicken that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic first, then the seven spice mix, the turmeric, and finally the salt; cook for just a minute or two. Then stir in the eggplant, tomatoes, and broth. Add the seared chicken and potatoes back to the pan, bring it to a boil then lower it to a low simmer. Cover the pan and simmer the ragout for 20-30 minutes.


Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup

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.


Before I talk about the recipe I have to make a few other comments. You may be wondering why on earth this guy would be posting  a recipe for soup in the middle of summer, or at least early summer. Nonetheless, it’s hot outside. Well, the answer to this is twofold…one is that it was on the menu where I work (so I had to make it), but also because I really enjoy this soup. But the less obvious reason (to most, I think) is that even though spicy food is often thought of as “warming foods” for cold weather, spicy foods originate in hot climates and are naturally eaten there. Spicy foods, in fact, act as a natural air conditioner of sorts…they make you sweat which cools you off. Spicy foods are also known to stimulate the appetite, which may be lacking during steamy weather (interesting how nature takes care of us). Anyhow, mulligatawny is a curried chicken and rice soup of British-Indian origin. It is really easy to make and really delicious (it freezes well also, in the even you make too much of it). The recipe below is a basic one; when I make it for myself I add more hot pepper or a splash of hot pepper sauce. It is, without doubt, a meal in itself.

Makes about 3 quarts.
3 tablespoons butter
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 curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
4 tablespoons flour
1 apple, diced
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
1/2 cup cooked white rice
Heat the butter 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, cumin, pepper, salt, and hot pepper, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 5 minutes over low heat while stirring. Add the apple, stir in the chicken broth and chicken; simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the rice just before serving.