Category Archives: Lebanese Cuisine

Lebanese Plate (yum!)

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

Urban Simplicity.

Lentil Soup with Vegetables and Lebanese Spices

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

Lentil Soup with Vegetables and Lebanese Spices 

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

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

Lebanese Seven SpiceMix 

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

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

Urban Simplicity.

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.

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.

Kibbet Batata with Broccoli Cheddar Hashwa and Lentil Salsah

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.

Kibbet Batata with Broccoli Cheddar Hashwa and Lentil Salsah
(Potato and Bulgar Wheat Patties with Broccoli Cheddar Stuffing and Lentil Sauce)
For the Kibbeh:
Makes about a dozen patties
1/3 cup bulgar wheat
1 rather large potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large egg
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Lebanese seven spice blend
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup whole wheat flour (or more if needed)
Place the bulgar in a small bowl and cover it with room temperature water. Let the bulgar soak for about 20 minutes. Boil the potato until soft, then drain it thoroughly. Drain the bulgar, squeezing any excess water, then combine it with the cooked potato in a bowl and bash it gently, then set aside. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook it for another minute or two. Transfer the onion and garlic to the bowl with the potato and bulgar along with the remaining ingredients (parsley, egg, salt, 7-spice, turmeric, and flour). Mix together thoroughly, then let rest for a few minutes. At this point the kibbeh can be baked in a pan, shaped into balls or patties (stuffed or plain) and fried, or shaped into balls or patties and braised in a sauce.
For the Broccoli and Cheddar Hashwa (Stuffing)
1 head cooked broccoli
3-4 ounces cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon sea salt
Using a food processor fitted with a grating attachment, grate the cheddar and broccoli (lacking a food processor, hand grate the cheese and mince the broccoli by hand). Add the salt and mix together in a bowl.
To Assemble the Kibbeh
Divide the dough into about twelve balls. Flatten them to about ½ inch. Place a portion of the stuffing onto each piece of dough. Gently lift the dough with the stuffing (you’ll likely need a spatula for this), and with wet hands wrap the dough around the stuffing, sealing it in. Shape the dough into discs, patties, balls, or football shapes. Cook to your preference (fried, baked, braised, etc).
Spicy and Lemony Lentil-Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 small bell pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 (14 ounce can) small diced tomatoes
1/3 cup dried lentils
2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup lemon juice
Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and pepper, then the garlic, cooking them until they just begin to brown. Stir in the crushed hot pepper, salt, and turmeric; cook for a minute or two while stirring. Then add the tomatoes, broth, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil then lower to a very low simmer. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the lentils are soft and the sauce has reduced and thickened. If it becomes too thick, add additional broth.

Shanklish!

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.

 

(Lebanese Yogurt Cheese)

Makes about 2 dozen small balls


3 quarts plain yogurt

1 cup water

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

za’atar seasoning for coating


Combine everything except the za’atar in a heavy pot. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring only a few times. When the curds separates from the whey strain it through a colander that has been lined with cheese cloth. When the cheese is cool enough to handle, shape it into small balls (for a smoother texture pulse the mixture in a food processor first). Dust a plate with za’atar and roll the shanklish in the spice to coat them. Refrigerate before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Two Mediterranean Inspired Recipes

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…

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.

Shawarma Chicken!

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.


Shawarma Chicken Breasts

Serves six


1 cup plain yogurt

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons Lebanese seven spice mix

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon josher salt

½ small onion, sliced thinly

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless



In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, lemon, seven spice mix, turmeric, paprika, and salt; mix to combine. Add the onion and garlic, then mix again. Add the raw chicken breasts and turn them in the yogurt-spice mixture to coat them evenly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least an hour. Grill the chicken breasts for about 10-12 minutes, or until cooked throughout. Or alternately, roast them in a preheated 400F oven for about 20 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.

A Really Easy Five Minute Recipe To Make Cauliflower Taste Delicious

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.

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

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

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.

Chickpea and Haricots Verts Falafel with Spicy Roast Pepper Taratoor Sauce (Yum!)

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.

Chickpea and Haricots Verts Falafel
Makes about two dozen falafel
2 cups cooked or canned chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked green beans, chopped (about 8 ounces)
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ cup whole wheat flour (more as needed)
sesame seeds for garnish
oil for frying
Combine everything except the flour in a food processor and process until relatively smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the flour by hand. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes; if it feels too moist add more flour. Shape into small balls, then flatten them slightly while pressing them into sesame seeds. Preheat a skillet with about ½ inch of vegetable oil and fry the falafel about two minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden on the outside and cooked throughout. Remove the falafel from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.

Spicy Roast Red Pepper Taratoor Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
2 roast red bell peppers
1 cup tahini
½ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Middle Eastern Inspired Fried Chicken

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.

Middle Eastern Inspired Fried Chicken

Makes about 4 servings


1 cup plain yogurt

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, sliced

2 jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 pounds boneless & skinless chicken thighs

½ cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for dredging

canola oil for frying


In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lemon, turmeric, and salt; stir together. Add the chicken and mix until thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for about a half hour. Stir in the ½ cup of flour and allow it to rest another 10 minutes. Layer a baking sheet or large plate with extra flour and dredge the chicken in it allowing the onions, cilantro, etc to cling to the chicken. Transfer the coated chicken to a clean plate, shaking loose any extra flour. Heat about ½ inch of oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. The oil should reach about 350F; you can also tell it’s hot enough when a piece of chicken is dipped in the oil and it sizzles immediately. Fry the chicken (in batches if necessary) for about 10-12 minutes, turning as needed. The chicken is cooked when the thickest piece is cut and there is no pink and its juices run clear. Drain on absorbent paper.

Urban Simplicity

Lebanese-Inspired Brown Rice Pilaf with Lamb, Vermicelli, and Green Beans

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.

 

Lebanese Lamb-and-Rice

Makes 4-6 servings

3 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound lamb, diced

4 ounces diced onion

2 ounces vermicelli, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups long grain brown rice

3-4 cups hot chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced parsley


Heat the olive oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté the lamb then remove it 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 lamb back to the pan along with the broth. Cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced parsley.


Urban Simplicity.

Broccoli Falafel with Taratoor (Yum!)

Falafel is of course that awesome and healthy snack food that can become an entire meal when served over a salad or wrapped in flat-bread. And when paired with taratoor (tahini-garlic sauce) it is nothing short of culinary genius (in my humble opinion). This is a variation on the classic chickpea falafel in that it also has an equal quantity cooked broccoli. This really is delicious…and of course easy to prepare. Basically, you simply put everything together, grind it in a food processor, shape it into balls or patties, and pan-fry it. Anyhow, the recipes for both the falafel and taratoor are below.

Broccoli Falafel

Makes about two dozen falafel


2 cups cooked or canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

2 cups cooked broccoli, squeezed of excess moisture

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeno, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ cup whole wheat flour (more as needed)

sesame seeds for garnish

oil for frying


Combine everything except the flour in a food processor and process until relatively smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the flour by hand. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes; if it feels too moist add more flour. Shape into small balls, then flatten them slightly while pressing them into sesame seeds. Preheat a skillet with about ½ inch of vegetable oil and fry the falafel about two minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden on the outside and cooked throughout. Remove the falafel from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.



Taratoor

(Tahini-Garlic Sauce)

Makes about 1 cup.


1 cup tahini

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup cold water

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon sea


Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. If too thick or too thin, adjust the consistency with water or tahini.

Urban Simplicity.

Kibbeh (Lebanese Meatballs)

Kibbeh is a Lebanese recipe that comes in many shapes and forms, but if you’ve ever discussed food with a Lebanese person you know that the discussion always comes back to kibbeh. I’ve mentioned before that I myself am Lebanese-American (half, actually, on my dad’s side) and grew up eating this dish. It is basically a Middle Eastern meatloaf mix that is usually made with lamb and instead of breadcrumbs the meat is “stretched” by adding bulgur wheat. There are also vegetarian versions, such as pumpkin kibbeh or potato kibbeh, which are commonly eaten during lent. Today I made meatballs for staff lunch but served them as mini kofta kebobs at a small appetizer party this evening. When I was growing up, though, we didn’t eat any of the fore-said versions, our family ate it two ways (that I recall)…baked and stuffed, sort of like a flat meatloaf, or raw, which is called kibbeh nayyeh. Yup raw. Sounds gross to some but my mouth salivates now as I recall it (think of a lamb version of steak tartar). But sadly, in the age in which we live, I haven’t had raw kibbeh in years and I’m not sure I would eat some if it were offered to me. Below is a basic recipe, as is a recipe on how to cook it into rice to make a complete meal. But of course I deviated form the recipe when I made this today (don’t I always). Today, in addition to the ingredients listed in the recipe (for kibbeh) I also added a bit of cumin, cinnamon, cooked and chopped spinach, and a handful of crumbled feta, simply because I had it on hand. Once the basic recipe is made you can use it for meatballs, skewers, burgers, or add it to sauces, soups, or rice…you get the picture. Anyhow, if you like simple-to-make but super-delicious foods, then try this recipe. ….you won’t be sorry, and likely hooked on first bite.
To read more about Lebanese cuisine click here (it’s an article I wrote for Sally’s Place some years ago…you can tell it’s dated by the picture; my son was a toddler and I had a full head of hair).

Kibbeh Meatballs
1/2 cup medium bulgur wheat
3/4 pound boneless lamb, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 small bunch mint, minced
Place the bulgur in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the bulgur along with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for another 20 or 30 seconds, or until a smooth paste. (You can also use ground lamb and mix the ingredients together for a courser texture.) Stir in the mint, remove the meat from the bowl, shape into small balls and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Bake, fry, saute, or poach the kibbeh and serve with yogurt sauce.

Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce
1-1/2 cups
1 cup yogurt
1 small cucumber, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch mint, minced
 1/4 small onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a small glass or ceramic bowl, cover securely and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
Lebanese-Style Rice with Vermicelli and Kibbeh Meatballs
Yield: 4 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 ounces vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups long grain rice
3 cups hot chicken broth
1 recipe kibbeh (recipe follows)
1/4 cup minced parsley
Yogurt sauce for garnish

In a heavy skillet combine the olive oil, onion, and vermicelli. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, while stirring, until the onion and vermicelli begin to brown. Add the garlic, cinnamon, allspice, cumin, and salt; cook another minute, taking care not to burn the pasta or garlic. Stir in the rice, coating it with the oil and spices, then the chicken broth. Add the kibbeh, submerging them in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley just before serving, and garnish with yogurt.

Urban Simplicity.

Lebanese Chicken-and-Rice (sort of)

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.

Lebanese Chicken-and-Rice
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoon olive oil
4 chicken breasts
4 ounces diced onion
2 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup long grain brown rice
3 cups hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced parsley

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.

Urban Simplicity.

Kibbeh wa Kafta

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.

 
Kibbeh Meatballs
1/2 cup medium bulgur wheat
3/4 pound boneless lamb, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 small bunch mint, minced

Place the bulgur in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the bulgur along with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for another 20 or 30 seconds, or until a smooth paste. (You can also use ground lamb and mix the ingredients together for a courser texture.) Stir in the mint, remove the meat from the bowl, shape into small balls and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Bake, fry, saute, or poach the kibbeh and serve with yogurt sauce.

Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce
1-1/2 cups
1 cup yogurt
1 small cucumber, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch mint, minced
 1/4 small onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a small glass or ceramic bowl, cover securely and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Lebanese-Style Rice with Vermicelli and Kibbeh Meatballs
Yield: 4 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 ounces vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups long grain rice
3 cups hot chicken broth
1 recipe kibbeh (recipe follows)
1/4 cup minced parsley
Yogurt sauce for garnish

In a heavy skillet combine the olive oil, onion, and vermicelli. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, while stirring, until the onion and vermicelli begin to brown. Add the garlic, cinnamon, allspice, cumin, and salt; cook another minute, taking care not to burn the pasta or garlic. Stir in the rice, coating it with the oil and spices, then the chicken broth. Add the kibbeh, submerging them in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley just before serving, and garnish with yogurt.
 

How to Make a Deliciously Flavorful and Healthy Rice Dish

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.

Urban Simplicity.