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.
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.
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 you’re likely wondering what’s with the picture. Right? It’s not much to look at, and what is it anyhow. Simple…spaghetti squash cooked with aglio e olio, or with garlic and oil (and a few other things. As simple as this photo looks the squash is bursting with flavor. It’s amazing what a little caramelized garlic, a few hot peppers, a pinch of salt, and some olive oil can do…it makes anything taste great. Well maybe not anything, but most things. Especially vegetables and pasta. To learn how to make this particular recipe (with photos and step-by-step instructions) click here. To learn how to cook nearly anything in this fashion, click here. Try any of these recipes, you won’t be sorry; they are as good as they are simple to make.
So this is a variation of a variation of a variation…but geeze ‘o man is it good. What, you may wonder, am I talking about. Garlic mayonnaise and it’s many variation. The south of France (and Italy and Spain) have Aioli (the French word for garlic is ail), in the Middle East there is the potent Toum (which simply translates as garlic), and in Greece there is Skordalia (not sure of the etymology of this one). And then there’s my most recent version I’ll call beaonnaise [sic]. But I’m jumping ahead. I love to eat a sandwich at lunch, and I also love the flavor of garlic. And in my continued effort to eat healthier (minus the eggs and low grade oil in most mayonnaise) I made this and it is really easy (and super delicious). I just recently found out that beans–and especially chickpeas–contain lecithin, which of course is the same emulsifying agent that is in egg yolks. And we all know that beans in general are really good for you, and so is olive oil, so I replaced the egg yolk with chic peas. Delicious. You can cut down on or increase the amount of garlic as you like, and with the aid of a blender this will take about 2 minutes to make. And because there are no raw egg yolks this will last a while in the fridge…but it likely will not because it is so delicious.
Pesto is similar to sofrito in that it is both an ingredient and a stand-alone recipe. It can be eaten as is–as a dip or spread–or added to recipes as a flavor enhancer. The word loosely translates from the Italian as “pounded,” because this was originally made with a mortar and pestle. But with the aid of a blender this is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. It is classically made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese, but ingredients can be interchanged. Tonight, for example, I made it with basil and parsley (which were still growing in the garden), almonds that I had in my pantry, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and a single hot pepper that was still growing in the garden. I tossed it with pasta for dinner and froze what I didn’t use. Here’s a basic recipe.
1 cup fresh herbs
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nuts
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
Sofrito is both an ingredient, a seasoning, and a recipe all by itself. It is a simple method of simmering onion, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil. But the flavor it imparts can be transformative to a dish. The key here is long slow cooking…it really brings out the flavors. But is often the case, I’m jumping ahead. I’ve often cooked this way but never gave it much thought. That is until this past year when I began a conscious diet to lower my cholesterol count. Luckily for me the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest there is, because it is in fact my favorite way to eat…I just need to cut out the chocolate chip cookies and french fries. So lately I have been doing a bit of research. I had known of sofrito for years but never really gave it much thought as being really good for you, but it is (click here, here, or here). Sofrito can be combined with other ingredients such as rice (it makes a rice pilaf taste great), it can be the base to a great pasta dish, topped over vegetables, or used as a base to braise fish. The simple procedure goes like this…line a pot or skillet with olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add diced onions and peppers and simmer/saute them until they begin to caramelize. Add minced garlic and saute a minute longer, then add fresh or canned tomato. Simmer until the moisture of the tomatoes evaporates and the mixture sort of mashes together and begins to caramelize again. And that’s it. Add other herbs or spices if you like, or not. Anyhow, if you are interested in learning if you are in fact eating a Mediterranean diet, here’s a brief quiz at the New York Times.
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…
Olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, and lemon. Brilliant. Yes, I know I’ve posted this recipe before (and those similar to it), but I can’t get enough of it. It is so easy to make and so delicious I’m going to keep posting it/them until you make a variation of it 🙂
Crispy and super flavorful. So yes, these are as delicious as they look. They are really easy to make, and can be frozen, too. Eat them on a sandwich, place them on a salad, or nibble them straight from the pan…you won’t be sorry if you make this recipe. For a southwestern black bean-cheddar version of these burgers, click here.
Rice-and-beans (yum!)…what is not to like about this dish. It’s simple to make, it is made using one single pot, it is really inexpensive to produce even large quantities, variations are seemingly endless, and it is really good for you…some say it carries complete nutrition (this is an interesting but brief article at NPR). For many peoples around the globe this is a mainstay in their diet. Indeed, for a brief period way back in the mid-1980’s I pretty much survived on a 99¢ red beans-and-rice lunch special while living a vagabond life in New Orleans. Rice and beans also fits nicely into the Mediterranean diet, which I love and have pretty much eaten for years without trying. Rice dishes and pasta dishes are the two main dishes that I eat at home. And over the years I’ve slowly migrated to using whole wheat pasta and brown rice in the recipes, which of course tastes just as good but are so much better for you. Anyhow, because I eat this dish so often–or variations of it–I thought I’d start recording some of the recipes and sharing them. The recipe below is the basic formula for this recipe and the one on which most of my rice pilafs are based. I used canned beans in this particular recipe–which I sometimes do–but to use dried beans simply soak, then cook and drain, a little more than 1/2 cup dried beans, which will yield about the same as a 15 ounce can. The difference between the recipe below and the one pictured is subtle. I added a half teaspoon of turmeric to the recipe (as I do with most my rice recipes because I like the yellow hue and also because turmeric is so good for you). I also added a diced jalapeno, and a handful of chopped parsley and basil that I had growing in my garden. With meat or without (or even with seafood) this recipe is delicious and really good for you. And leftovers taste really good, too…
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.
It has been more than ten years since I tore up my teeny front lawn and planted a teeny vegetable garden which yields big results. And over the years it–the garden–has spread to other areas around the house; the side and rear, mainly. But this year–because of various reasons–I have only planted the front yard garden…sort of getting back to basics. It’s doing well and tonight was the first significant haul of the season…broccoli. It is so satisfying picking the broccoli and cooking it just feet from where it grew and remembering when you planted it (I could go on). At any rate, I’ve posted this recipe numerous times prior but it is one f my favorite. It is simple, nutritious, and really easy to make. If you haven’t made this yet I hope you give it a try.
Penne alla aglio e olio con broccoli in brodo
(Penne with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)
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.
This is a continuation of a previous post regarding garlic confit…here’s an example of a recipe in which I used it. I made this for staff lunch at work yesterday. At first glance this may look complicated but it is really very simple…and really delicious. Other than the chicken broth this recipe is meatless but it would go really well with seafood or poultry. This is also a restaurant-quality recipe that can be made in your home kitchen for a fraction of the cost. If I were only allowed one word to describe this dish it would be: Flavor (and the accompanying sound would be: Mmmm…)
The French name for this two-ingredient but flavor-packed recipe translates simply as preserved garlic, but what it is in the literal sense is garlic that has been slowly simmered in olive oil. And this has many great outcomes. The most obvious is that it removes the garlic’s sharpness (but I like that, too). It also makes the cloves as soft as butter (literally). Once cooked in this fashion the garlic can simply be spread on toast points (if you’re not planning any close tête-à-têtes). But where this really shines is an ingredient in other recipes. Mash it into the pan when making pasta recipes, puree it with sauces or dips, and use it in soups or stews (I use this garlic method when making Lebanese lentil and lamb soup/stew). And while I keep mentioning on what to do with the garlic, a bi-product of this recipe is the oil. Initially this recipe was likely meant as a confit (a way of preserving the garlic) by packing it in oil. Today, of course–with modern refrigeration–this is no longer necessary. But the oil itself is delicious. Use this garlic-infused oil to saute vegetables, chicken, or fish for added flavor, or simply dip bread in it. I could go on about this simple recipe but I’ll stop here with just one more simple comment…this is good stuff; try this, you won’t be sorry.
Pizzas Pictured (from front to back): Za’atar and shanklish; Margherita; boursin cheese with smoked trout and smoked salmon; pesto and portobello mushroom (click the image for a larger view).