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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.

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.

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.

Two Loaves; Two Recipes…

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I’ve posted both of these recipes before but not in a while and I made them recently and thought that I would re-post them. They are both two of my favorites, Whole Wheat Maple-Oatmeal Bread and Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf. Recipes are below.

 

Whole Wheat Maple-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 maple syrup

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, maple syrup, 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.
Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

1-1/2 pound ground turkey

1-1/2 pound ground pork

1 bunch parsley, washed and minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 cup breadcrumbs


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté a minute longer. Remove the vegetables, spread them on a clean plate and place them in a refrigerator for 15 minutes. Transfer the cooked and cooled vegetables to a bowl along with the turkey, pork, chili powder, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, eggs, ketchup and hot pepper sauce. Mix thoroughly then add the breadcrumbs and mix again until. Pack the meatloaf into a lightly oiled loaf pan, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it at 350F for about 1/2 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Allow it to cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Two Loaves; Two Recipes…

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I’ve posted both of these recipes before but not in a while and I made them recently and thought that I would re-post them. They are both two of my favorites, Whole Wheat Maple-Oatmeal Bread and Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf. Recipes are below.

 

Whole Wheat Maple-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 maple syrup

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, maple syrup, 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.
Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

1-1/2 pound ground turkey

1-1/2 pound ground pork

1 bunch parsley, washed and minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 cup breadcrumbs


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté a minute longer. Remove the vegetables, spread them on a clean plate and place them in a refrigerator for 15 minutes. Transfer the cooked and cooled vegetables to a bowl along with the turkey, pork, chili powder, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, eggs, ketchup and hot pepper sauce. Mix thoroughly then add the breadcrumbs and mix again until. Pack the meatloaf into a lightly oiled loaf pan, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it at 350F for about 1/2 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Allow it to cool 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.

On Cooking for One’s Self…

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That’s Maxwell and Franklin above staring at me while I cook my dinner. By the look in their eyes you’d think that I never feed them…but they just finished eating their dinner. So what do they have to do with cooking for One’s Self? Well, not much on the one hand, but on the other, a lot. I can have a super stressful day or evening at work and they are always there to greet me with a snort and wag when I arrive home. It’s been a known fact for quite some time that caring for a dog makes a person happier, but in the same way cooking can be a form of therapy, too (cooking can even be a spiritual practice...if you let it). Food, of course, nourishes far more than just the physical body. But, as usual, I’m jumping ahead.

Many of you know by now that I cook for a living. And cooking at work is way different than cooking for myself at home. Work cooking is often stressful for so many reasons; cooking at home is not. When I cook at work it is in large amounts while I am also managing a staff, food costs, etc, etc. But at home it is peaceful. With my son off at college it is just me and the pugs. I’ll often drink wine and listen to NPR. This to me is pure luxury.

I am fully convinced everyone should cook for themselves (and really for themselves). If not everyday, then at least now and again. This is especially true for those in the food-service industry. I can’t tell you how many times I hear a colleague state that after cooking all day or all evening the night prior the last thing they want to do is cook at home. I can’t help but think of what this person is missing out on when they don’t cook just for themselves now and again. A person that serves others on a daily basis (whether it’s food service or any other form of service, such as health care or ministry) really needs to take care of themselves, too. And cooking for myself is a way of tending to myself…physically, of course, but also–at times–emotionally and spiritually as well.

It’s interesting in that while I’m at work and there is so much going on all at the same time cooking is sometimes automatic…I don’t even think about it. I just do it. Sometimes I don’t even smell the air thick with aroma because I am so accustomed to it after all these years. But at home it’s different. I’m aware of everything. I of course cook with all five senses at work (one has to), but at home it’s as if it’s amplified. At work the food I cook is dictated by what the customer (club member) orders. But at home the food that I cook are things that I enjoy. And nine times out of ten this is either a pasta dish or a rice dish. I really love Mediterranean and Near Eastern foods, so this is usually what I make myself. And while I am not a vegetarian I rarely cook meat at home unless my son is here.

The sense of smell and taste are said to be the two strongest memory senses…the aroma or taste of something can quite literally transport you to a different time and place. Tonight, for example, I made a brown rice dish with chickpeas and spinach, and seasoned it with sofrito and Lebanese seven-spice blend. The sweet smell of Lebanese spices always brings me back to my youth, of going to my grandmothers house. It was the first smell that tickled your nose when you walked through the front door.

And when I rolled out whole wheat flatbread I used my grandmothers rolling pin, which I inherited and is said to have been brought from the “old country” at the beginning of the previous century. I made the bread while the rice cooked and topped it with an herb pesto, which was made from herbs that grew just outside my front door this past summer.

Before the rice was finished I washed and sliced a locally grown apple. After taking a sip of wine and then biting the apple it was alarmingly tart, but in a good way. When I finally sat down to my meal in front of the radio the national news was on. And as usual there was a lot of bad stuff to report. So before I dug in I sat in silence for a minute and looked at all I had in front of me…the beautiful plate of rice, bread with pesto, wine, fruit, and a small plate of spicy fermented cabbage made from cabbage that grew in my garden as well. And I felt almost overwhelmed with gratefulness…that I had so much–too much at times–while some have so little. So I sat for a minute. Then I thanked God (or Spirit, or Universe, or whatever term you identify with) for not only all that I have, but also all that I am given in the desire and ability to cook such a good meal. Then I ate while my dogs looked on, knowing that tomorrow’s meal would be just as good…leftovers!

For a brown rice and beans recipe, click here.
To learn how to make sofrito, click here.
For my version of Lebanese Seven Spice blend, click here.
For a really basic whole wheat bread dough for flatbread, use this recipe.
For a recipe on how to make any herb into pesto, click here.
To learn about fermented foods in general, including spicy cabbage, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

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

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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.

Pasta d’oro con fagioli

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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.)

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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.

Five (or Seven) Quotes from Julia Child

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Julia Child (née McWilliams)
August 15, 1912 — August 13, 2004
“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”
“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
“Everything in moderation… including moderation.”
“Remember, ‘No one’s more important than people’! In other words, friendship is the most important thing–not career or housework, or one’s fatigue–and it needs to be tended and nurtured.”
“To be a good cook you have to have a love of the good, a love of hard work, and a love of creating.”
“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”
More Five Quotes

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

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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.

Two Mediterranean Inspired Recipes

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These two recipes are both easy to make and really delicious (but don’t I say that all the time). And, other than boiling the pasta for the stew and caramelizing onions for the rice, these are both made in a single pot (easy cleanup). The stew (ragu) that is pictured below (second recipe) was made exactly as the recipe is listed and pictured. The lentils-and-rice (mouhardara) had a few changes. Mainly, I added a pinch of cumin, cinnamon, and allspice to the rice as it cooked, and I topped it with caramelized onion and chopped parsley. I hope you try one or both recipes,you won’t be sorry…

Moudardara or Mujaddara
(Lebanese Lentil and Rice)
Makes 8-10 servings
½ pound lentils
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
¼ pound vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups long-grain rice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups hot chicken broth or water
Boil the lentils in plenty of lightly salted water until just cooked. Then drain them and set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook the onions—while stirring—for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the vermicelli to the onions and continue to cook until the pasta begins to change color as well. Add the garlic and cook it for a minute or so, then stir in the rice, salt, and broth. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Stir the rice once, then cover the pot. Simmer the rice for about 15 minutes then add the cooked and drained lentils to the post without stirring. Re-cover the pot and cook the rice for an additional 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Just before serving, gently stir in the lentils and fluff the rice. This dish is delicious hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Lamb, Bean, and Macaroni Ragù

Serves 4-6


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound diced lamb

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons basil leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 ½ cups diced tomato

1 ½ cups cooked and drained white beans

2 cups chicken broth

1 ½ cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)

Parmesan cheese


Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and cook it for a few minutes. When the lamb just begins to brown add the onion, and then the garlic. Cook for another minute or two. Stir in the basil, fennel, salt, and hot pepper. Stir the herbs and spices, then add the tomato, beans and broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the ragù for about twenty minutes, stirring frequently. If it becomes too thick add additional broth a a small amount of water. While the ragù is simmering boil the pasta. Cook it al dent, strain it, and add it to the stew. Allow it to simmer and slowly finish cooking for just a couple minutes. Just before serving stir in Parmesan cheese.

Urban Simplicity.

Pan-Roast Spiced Chicken with Golden Beets, Potato, Asparagus, and Orange…

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There really is nothing more satisfying to me when I cook at home than being able to do it all in one pot or skillet. This (pictured) is something I made for my son and I for dinner this evening. And this post is really more about a method rather than it is an actual recipe. Because using this method–pan roasting–you can use nearly any food ad it will turn out delicious, trusting that you cook things in proper order. What I mean by this is placing the sturdier items in the pan first, and the lighter ones thereafter. And even more importantly do not pile things in the pan; one layer, maybe two, is about all you can afford if you want the food to caramelize (which translates to flavor). Other key steps are to have a heavy oven-proof skillet (I prefer cast-iron, as I do with most cooking these days), and to have the oven preheated to about 400F. If you’d like to learn a bit more about roasting, here’s a link to an article I wrote some time ago. Anyhow, here’s how I made this recipe.

I first marinated a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a couple tablespoons of Lebanese seven spice mix and a pinch of salt. While the chicken was marinating and the oven was preheating, I peeled sliced/diced the rest of the ingredients. In addition to the chicken I also used golden beets, asparagus, a potato, onion, and whole garlic cloves. When the oven was hot I heated a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with a few tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil was hot I added the chicken first and browned it on one side. After turning the chicken over I pushed it to one side of the pan and placed the beets, potato, onion, and garlic in the available space. The I placed the asparagus and sliced orange on top (the image below is the recipe just prior to going in the oven). After a small sprinkling of salt and pepper over everything, I placed the pan in the preheated oven. After about ten minutes I looked in on it and it looked fine but wasn’t done yet, so I cooked it for another ten minutes. At this point everything was thoroughly cooked and caramelized. Intensely flavored and cooking in their own juices, this recipe was so delicious a sauce was not necessary.

Urban Simplicity.

A Really Easy Five Minute Recipe To Make Cauliflower Taste Delicious

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Okay, so maybe this will take more than five minutes, but not more than ten. And while I made this with cauliflower this could easily be adapted to other vegetables as well. The key factors are onion, garlic, spices, and caramelizing the vegetable. It is really easy, and this is how I made it.

Slice as much cauliflower as you’ll eat about 1/4″ thick. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat with a few tablespoons oil (I used olive oil). When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the cauliflower in a single layer; it should begin to sizzle a bit when it hits the pan; if it seems too hot reduce the heat. While the cauliflower is cooking, slice a small onion. Turn the cauliflower over (it should be browned on one side) and sprinkle the onion in the pan. As the cauliflower and onion cooks, mince a clove or two of garlic and add it to the pan with a teaspoon or two of curry (or whatever spices you like) along with a pinch of kosher salt. Shake the pan to toss everything in the spices and garlic, allow it to cook for another minute, then shake the pan again. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze its juice over the cauliflower and shake the pan again. Transfer everything to a plate and eat it as a healthy snack, a component to a salad, or as a side dish (I ate it as a side to Lebanese-style lamb and brown rice; click here for recipes). The cauliflower is delicious hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Urban Simplicity.

How to Make a Really Flavorful Vegetable Soup in Twenty Minutes (seriously!)

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Okay, so it may take longer than twenty minutes to cut all the vegetables, but if you have them cut (or in my case–being the chef–have someone else cut them for you), this is a really quick and simple process. What is a soup anyway? Just some chopped up stuff cooked in broth, right? Well, partially, but it’s more than that. The modern English word comes from the Middle English sup or sop, referring not only to the dish but also the act…to sup is to eat; this is also from where the word supper arose. It also referred to the practice of placing a stale piece of bread in a bowl prior to pouring a thin or meager soup, giving the meal more substance. Anyhow, the way to make any vegetable soup taste really good takes three things…lots of vegetables, a good and flavorful broth (read this article on broths), and the method or sweating the vegetables; meaning covering them and letting them sort of stew or sweat in their own juices prior to adding broth. Soup is without doubt one of the world’s great comfort foods (and one of the oldest). For an actual recipe for this soup, read this post. For many other soup recipes, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Spicy Lebanese-Style Whole Wheat Spinach and Toasted Walnut Pies (Yum!)

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This is a variation on the classic Middle Eastern fatayer (savory pie). These are slightly different in a few ways. One is that rather than using white refined flour for the dough I used 100% whole wheat (delicious). I also used an egg wash on the dough and added sesame seeds. And in the filling I added a bit of crushed hot pepper to give it a slight spiciness. I also made them small(ish) appetizer size, but if you’d like they are equally good when made much larger. These are delicious on their own or with a dip (yogurt-garlic dip is great). Eat them hot straight from the oven, at room temperature, or even chilled; they are healthy and delicious either way. But one thing is for sure…you won’t be able to eat just one

Spicy Lebanese-Style Whole Wheat Spinach and Toasted Walnut Pies
Makes about 2 dozen small pies
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 tablespoon seven spice blend
8 cups firmly packed spinach, washed and stems removed (about 1 ½ lbs.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 large eggs, mixed with a couple tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
½ recipe whole wheat dough (see recipe below)
Preheat and oven to 400F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and garlic. Cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes while stirring, or until they just begin to brown. Add the hot pepper and seven-spices and cook for another minute. Stir in a portion of the spinach and—using tongs—turn it in the oil and spices. As the spinach wilts add more spinach to the pan, in batches, stirring to coat it, until all of the spinach is in the pan. Stir in the salt and lemon, remove the pan from the heat, and add the walnuts. Transfer the spinach to a bowl or large plate and refrigerate until cool. Roll the dough out until very thin and—using a 4” cutter—cut 24 circles of dough (reserve or freeze the remaining dough for future use). Squeeze any excess moisture from the spinach mixture, and divide it in small clumps amongst the 24 dough circles. Brush the edges of the circle with a small amount of the egg, and lifting the edges of the dough, form each circle into a triangle, pinching the edges together. Brush each pie with the egg mixture, and sprinkle them with sesame seeds. Transfer the pies to one or two baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until golden.
 
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 roate 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.

Hummus with Fresh Herbs, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Seven-Spice Chicken

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This is something I made for an employee meal today. It is really, really delicious (I ate so much I wished I had a bed to take a nap afterwards) and of course really simple to make. It is basically a hummus recipe layered (loaded, actually) with all sorts of good things. But the prize, or the topper, is the seven-spice chicken. Seven Spice blend is a common Lebanese spice mix and there are as many versions of this as there are people who make it. The Arabic word for this blend is baharat, which simply means spices. In addition to the hummus and chicken, I also layered in raw, thinly sliced red onion, sun-dried tomatoes (I would use fresh in the summer months), and whole leaves of both flat-leaf parsley and cilantro (fresh coriander). And just before serving I drizzled the entire platter with a liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil (yum!). I hope you try this recipe…you’ll be glad you did.

Hummus bil Tahina
Makes about 3-1/2 cups
3 cups chickpeas, cooked or canned and rinsed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup tahini
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
Shawarma Chicken with Seven Spices
Serves 6
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 tablespoons seven spice blend
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
olive oil for sautéing
Trim the chicken of any fat and slice it very thin. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and add the seven spice blend, 4 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, salt, hot pepper, and salt. Mix everything together to coat the chicken evenly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least an hour. Heat additional olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add the chicken and cook it until moisture has evaporated, it is thoroughly cooked, and it is slightly browned. 
Lebanese Seven Spice Mix
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.

A Recipe for Spring (whether it feels like spring or not)

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So yes it is officially spring, but no–like much of the country–it does not feel like it. Nonetheless, I’m cooking as if it is. This is a really simple and really delicious recipe for stove-top braised asparagus. It’s really just a variation of any of my aglio e olio recipes…but with a couple more steps. But it is still exceedingly simple and really delicious (did I mention that this was delicious?). Being Good Friday, I ate the asparagus with fish meatballs (here’s the recipe). The asparagus was done before the meatballs and pasta were cooked and I ate most of it before I sat down for dinner. Anyhow, here’s how to make 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.

How to Make Edible Parmesan Cheese Baskets in Three Simple Steps with just One Ingredient (the Cheese!)

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These are so easy to make. They take just a few minutes and you will add the “wow” factor to a salad. The only ingredient you need is the Parmesan cheese, and only three basic tools are required: a pan (I used non-stick, but steel or cast iron would work as well), a spatula (either metal or a latex spatula that is designed for high heat), and a mold (I used a roll of aluminum foil, but an inverted cup or glass works just as well).

So here’s how to make them. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle a liberal amount of cheese into the pan and wait until it melts, bubbles, and the bottom begins to brown. Then gently slide it out of the pan and onto the mold. After the cheese cools it will retain the shape of the mold and can be filled with salad. Simple as that.





Urban Simplicity

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