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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a contemporary version (fusion?) of traditional Lebanese kibbeh (pie or patties made with meat or vegetables and bulgar wheat). Most often this is made with meat (and sometimes eaten raw), but there are plenty of vegetarian versions out there as well, and this is just one of them. The vegetable recipes are usually eaten during Lent, but in my opinion are just as good any time. Potato is one of the traditional recipes, but what makes this nontraditional is the hashwa (stuffing)…it is made of broccoli and cheddar. Anyhow, this may look complicated at first, but it’s really not. Each recipe is really simple to make. And as always, these are just suggestions, use whatever seasonings or ingredients that suits your needs or tastes.
Okay, so you’re going to love this. It’s a type of homemade Lebanese cheese that is easy to make and super flavorful. It is different from labneh (which is simply strained yogurt) in that it is cooked. It’s more along the lines of a homemade Italian ricotta or Indian paneer, only instead of being made with just milk it is made with yogurt…and this is what gives it such a lovely tangy flavor. Herbs and spices are often added to it either as it cooks or shortly thereafter (smoked paprika is my personal addition, and if you do not care for spicy food omit the crushed hot pepper). And then after it is formed, the balls are rolled in an herb and spice blend known as za’atar (which is usually available at most Middle Eastern or ethnic grocers. Anyhow, the resulting cheese is truly addicting. It can be eaten as is, or also as a salad topped with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, parley and a liberal coating of good quality olive oil.
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…
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.
So of course I always say how easy and delicious the recipes that I post are (at least most of them) but this time I really mean it. This is a play on the classic shawarma chick (or beef or lamb) that you find at any Middle Eastern or Turkish restaurant. It is basically chicken marinated in spices and yogurt and then grilled (or roast). And geeze o’ man is it delicious. Classically it is sliced thin and eaten in a pita with tahini dressing, but today I diced it and ate it on a Greek salad with feta and vinaigrette (yum!). Anyhow, the really easy recipe is below.
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.
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
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.
So yes, these little vegetarian/vegan nuggets are as good as they look (bet you can’t eat just one). And yes (as usual) they are really simple–exceedingly simple–to make. They are not only a play on the classic falafel and taratoor sauce (chickpea fritters and sesame-garlic sauce), they are actually a variation of an earlier post for this recipe (broccoli falafel, click here for that recipe). This, of course, is only a guide (as usual, as well). You can add or delete whichever vegetable you have at hand or like (haricots verts, by the way are just fancy words for a French-style green bean; though any will do in this recipe). And the taratoor sauce is a play on the classic Lebanese tahini-garlic sauce. In this version I added a couple roast red peppers (I used canned this time of year, but in the summer months I’d use fresh; click here to learn how to roast a fresh pepper). For the spice in the taratoor recipe I–being from Buffalo–used Frank’s Hot Sauce (the same sauce that goes into chicken wing recipes), which is a rather mild sauce; if you choose a spicier sauce you may consider to reduce the amount. Anyhow, as mentions, these are really easy and super-delicious (addictingly delicious). Recipes are below.
This is a variation on traditional American-style fried chicken in a few ways. Firstly, there are no bones in the chicken legs (they cook quicker with the bones removed and are much more flavorful than the breast). Also, the chicken is first marinated in yogurt, herbs, and spices, then dredged in whole wheat flour, which offers added texture. Anyhow, this is not a greasy chicken recipe (if the oil is hot enough) and it is super delicious. You can eat it as is (as an entree with side dishes), on a sandwich, or with any number of dipping sauces. I diced it and rolled it in taco shells with salsa verde (here’s that recipe). If nothing else, I do know one thing about this recipe…bet you can’t eat just one.
This is a really colorful, fragrant, and delicious rice dish. In the recipe I used lamb, but it could just as well be made with beef or chicken (or vegetarian). The only difference(s) from the recipe pictured and the one listed below is that I also added a pinch of turmeric to the rice with the other spices, and a handful of green beans a few minutes before it was finished cooking. I hope you try this; it is really easy to make and super-delicious. For additional Lebanese/Middle Eastern inspired recipes, click here.
1/2 small bunch mint, minced
This is yet another variation of my Lebanese chicken-and-rice recipe. The reason I say “sort of” in the title of this post is that I didn’t use ground lamb–which is in the original recipe–and I color/slightly flavor the dish with turmeric (along with the other spices), which is not normally in this recipe. In addition, in the recipe pictured I used a whole split chicken (which I poached in chicken broth before using the broth and the chicken in the recipe); the recipe listed below utilizes just the chicken breast. Anyhow, if you’d like more Lebanese inspired recipes, or to see this one being made, click here.
Heat the olive oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté the chicken on both sides until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and vermicelli to the pan and cook until golden, then add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Add the cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and salt; sauté two minutes while stirring. Add the onions and pasta back to the pan along with the rice, stirring to fully coat it with with the oil and spices. Then add the chicken breasts to the pan, pushing them gently into the rice. Pour in the broth and cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
Kibbeh and Kafta are two Lebanese meat recipes that are somewhat similar yet at the same time a bit different. While they are both often made with lamb they are equally good when made with beef (as the recipe pictured is). And the recipe can take on many forms, this is just one example. I made this for staff lunch today. If you’d like to read more about what Kibbeh and Kafta are, and how they relate to me, read this post (which contains more photos, a variation on this recipe, and links). At any rate, this is really easy to make a super delicious.
1/2 small bunch mint, minced
A couple things before I start. Firstly, the title to this post should actually read, How to Make a Deliciously Flavorful and Healthy Rice Dish So Easy and Simple and Hearty and Truly Good Flavored That You Won’t Even Notice it Doesn’t Contain Meat, but it of course is too long of a title. And secondly, this post isn’t about an actual recipe but more so about how to season rice or nearly anything.
I made this today for employee lunch today and started out make a meatless version Lebanese Chicken-and-Rice (click here for pics and recipes), which of course is a sort of homemade Rice-A-Roni (click here for history, recipes, and pics).
Anyhow, the key to any rice dish (to making it flavorful) is to add flavor to it. Rice by itself is not really that flavorful, unless of course it is Basmati, or Jasmine, or other naturally flavored rice. But I’m jumping ahead slightly. In this recipe I used brown rice. I’ve migrated over the years to using brown rice mainly for health but also for flavor…generally speaking a grain that is whole and in tact (as is the case of brown rice) is more flavorful than its stripped cousin, white rice.
The next thing to consider is what liquid to use as a cooking medium. If you want flavor add broth. Plain and simple as that. If you cook rice in water there is no flavor being added. But when you use broth or stock the rice absorbs the flavor as it cooks. I used chicken broth in this recipe but if you’d like to keep it vegetarian use vegetable broth.
Other things to consider are herbs and spices. In this recipe I used turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and smoked paprika. Lots of garlic and onions are a given.
One of the things I think that makes this, and variations of it, really interesting is using toasted pasta. Simply break spaghetti into inch-long pieces and toast it in a skillet with olive oil. When used as an ingredient it adds not only an interesting look and texture, but also a subtle flavor.
Then the other key thing is technique, and adding ingredients in proper succession. After sauteing any vegetables (besides onion, I also used carrot and pepper) and garlic, then the spices to bring out their flavor. Then add the rice, then the pasta, then any cooked beans (I used chic peas and lentils)…and don’t forget a pinch of salt. After adding the ingredients stir it once, bring it to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer it until the liquid is evaporated and the rice is cooked. Do not stir the rice until it is cooked. For brown rice the ratio is generally 1 part rice to about 2-3 parts broth. Cooking time is anywhere from 30-40 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes. When you remove the lid the colors and aroma will be intoxicating…and wait until you taste it….
If you want to add meat to this of course you can. Nearly any type would be delicious, but these seasonings are especially suited for chicken or lamb. Simply brown it and cook it in the rice as it simmers. For printable recipes with “how-to” photos, click here.