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Fasoulia!

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So a couple things. One is that I haven’t posted in more that a month, one of the longest stretches since starting this blog. My apologies; it has been a hot and busy summer. Thus said, here’s a very simple but really delicious and nutritious recipe for a Lebanese-style bean stew. This normally does not have greens in it, I added kale simple because I like it.

It seems like every culture has some sort of rice and beans recipe in their repertoire, the Middle East is no different. This recipe is often eaten for breakfast (I am told) with a fried egg on top, not unlike Mexican huevos rancheros, I suppose. Tonight I ate this for dinner over basmati rice. Lastly, two words of interest here. The word fasoulia is simply the Arabic word for beans, and the word baharat, means spices. If you do not have or do not feel like making baharat, use what you like or have, and the beans can be interchanged to your liking as well. Enjoy.

Fasoulia
(Lebanese Spicy Bean Ragoût)

Serves 3-6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon baharat (7-spice mix), see below
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
5 ounces baby kale, washed

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot, then add the onion. Cook the onion while stirring for about 5 minutes or until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two while stirring. Stir in the baharat, soked paprika, and crushed hot pepper; cook for just a minute while stirring. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, lemon juice, salt, and kale. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a very low simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Baharat
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.

United Nations on a Plate!

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” 

~James Beard


On the plate:

Fresh Beet Hummusclick here for many different hummus recipes.

Batata Harrar (Lebanese spiced potatoes)…click here for a recipe (which will take you away from this blog, a recipe here soon to come).

Guacamoleclick here for a simple recipe (which will also take you away from this blog).

Asparagus Aglio e Olioclick here for a recipe.

Also on the plate: fresh diced tomato, raw onion, and crumbled feta cheese. 


For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

For additional Aglio e Olio recipes, click here.

Fingerling Potatoes, Salmon, and One More Thing…

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“Rational habits permit of discarding nothing left over, and the use to which leftovers (and their economic allies, the wild things of nature) are put is often at the heart of a cooking’s character.”

~Richard Olney 

So first a couple things. This post is about this recipe, of course, but it’s also about not using recipes at all. Adapting to what one has on hand. What I had for dinner last night, and then lunch this after noon is an example of this. Let’s first talk about the meal pictured above, last night’s dinner.

This is a simple stove-top skillet-roast meal that can be made out of nearly anything. The main thing is to add the ingredients in proper succession…the longest cooking, heartier items first, the more delicate quick cooking items later. The whole process takes about 10 minutes. Here’s how I made this.

I first heated a large cast iron skillet with enough olive oil to glaze the bottom. When it was hot, I added a handful of whole fingerling potatoes, covered the skillet with a lid, then turned the flame down, giving the pan a shake every minute or so for a few minutes. After removing lid I added a handful of large diced onion, the replaced the lid. After shaking the pan a few more times I removed the lid; the onions were just beginning to brown. Then I added a couple diced salmon fillets, a few broccoli florets, a pinch each of whole fennel seed, crushed hot pepper, and sea salt. After replacing the lid I let the pan rest over the low flame while the fish caramelized, the broccoli steamed and the spices perfumed everything. After a few minutes I removed the lid for the last time and added a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, just enough to “loosen everything.” The juice evaporated almost immediately, and after a couple quick shakes of the pan I quickly transferred everything to a large plate.

Mhm…you bet, yes it was delicious. Simple, nutritious, and delicious. But as is my way, I made more than I could eat in one sitting, so this brings me to today’s lunch. 

Some people find leftovers unappetizing, I don’t. Normally I’ll reheat last night’s meal for today’s lunch or another dinner without issue. But when I looked at least night’s dinner in the fridge the first thing that came to mind was pancakes. So that’s what I did. 

I placed the ingredients in a food processor, pulsed them coarse, then transferred it to a bowl and kneaded in a couple eggs and a few tablespoons whole wheat flour. No seasoning was needed as it was already well seasoned. Anyhow, After pan-frying them in olive oil, I ate them with sliced avocado, and a couple tablespoons mayonnaise which I mixed with sriracha; a sliced apple rounded out the lunch. Not bad for leftovers.

Urban Simplicity.

Flesh on Flesh, the Yam Cutter, and other Photos…

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The above photo is one of mine which will be on view and for sale at this weekend’s one-night-only photography popup. The photo is titled, “Makin’ Bacon,” or alternatively, “flesh on Flesh.” I’m one of 10 or 11 photographers displaying their work. All photos are unframed and for sale at a mere $25.

Here’s a brief description from one of the co-organizers…

“The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo’s mainstream art scene,” says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. “The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people’s art event.Here’s a brief description of the show from one of the shows co-organizers,  “The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo’s mainstream art scene,” says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. “The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people’s art event.”

All the photographers are showing people at work in Buffalo, I chose to do mostly closeups. Here’s a bit of a description describing my series…

“This series is a departure from his usual work in that he shows close up views of kitchen life and the juxtaposition of beauty and grotesque, both of which are present in the image of the butcher preparing a pork belly for bacon. The flesh of his hand is pressing down into the flesh of the pig, restraining it but in a way communing with it. Though you’d likely recognize some of the names of the hands in these photos, Joe has chosen to keep them nameless in honor of all the line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers who often toil unnoticed behind the kitchen doors. For some, who have never worked in a kitchen, they may have the misconception that it’s like a television show and all glamour. In snippets it can be, but mostly it is the day in and day out routine of the job. Some days you’re cutting meat, some days vegetables. It’s always hot. And then some days you’re simply buttering toast, lots and lots of toast, for a Sunday brunch.”

To see the official Facebook page, which describes the popup more fully, click here. To see the show profiled at Buffalo Rising click here. To see the show profiled, along with sample photos, at the Buffalo News, click here.

This should be a fun show, I’m really looking forward to it, and I hope to see you here. Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been told there will be free beer courtesy Community Beer Works.

Urban Simplicity.

Asparagus with oil and garlic…

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Before I begin I have to chant the mantra for all, or at least most, of the recipes which I post on this blog…this is so easy to prepare, and it is delicious and nutritious. Okay, that out of the way, this is a classic recipe for aglio e olio (oil and garlic). Most Mediterranean countries have versions of this, and nearly any foodstuff can be prepared in this manner. The classic, of course is pasta, but it is great with vegetables, potatoes, and even seafood or chicken. The key is in browning the garlic and hot peppers…it should be started in a cold pan then heated slowly until light golden-brown. At that point lemon juice is added, which forms a temporary emulsion and creates a light sauce which is literally bursting with flavor (see the two photos just below. Once you have the sauce nearly anything can be added. In this instance I added asparagus, but as aforementioned, it is applicable with a large variety of foods, especially pasta. For mare recipes cooked like this click here. The recipe which correlates with this photos is below.

Asparagus Aglio e Olio 

1 pound asparagus  

¼ cup olive oil 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper 

½ teaspoon sea salt 

2 tablespoons water 

3 tablespoons lemon juice 

Trim the asparagus of their tough ends, discard the ends, then set the asparagus aside. Combine the olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, and salt in a skillet then place it over medium-high heat. Stir the garlic and peppers in the pan as it heats. Stir and cook the garlic continuously until it is golden-brown, then add the water and lemon juice. Stir the ingredients together then add the asparagus. Turn the asparagus in the sauce, then cover the pan with a lid for just a minute or two. Remove the lid and baste the asparagus with the garlic, oil, and peppers. Cook the asparagus until it changes color but is still crisp, al dente. Transfer to a plate and pour the sauce over the asparagus.

The Eggplant and the Angry Tomato.

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Okay. So this is more about the angry tomato than it is an eggplant. Or, more specifically, the angry tomato sauce. But I’m jumping ahead. 

This past summer I ate at an Italian restaurant here in Buffalo and had a pasta dish with arrabbiata sauce. Oddly–for someone who cooks for a living and who really enjoys Mediterranean food–I had not heard of this sauce. I asked the server about it and they simply said it was a “spicy tomato sauce.” Hmm…I thought. Nonetheless, it was delicious. But I also thought $17 was a bit pricey for a plate of pasta and tomato sauce.


Anyhow, this past weekend I was in Toronto with family and we ate at an Italian restaurant. I saw the same dish on the menu so decided to order it. Again, it was delicious, but also pricey @ $21. 

I decided to look into it further to recreate it for myself. It turns out that the word, arribbiata, is Italian for “angry,” making reference to the spiciness of the sauce. And the server that waited on me last summer was correct, it is simply a spicy tomato sauce. 


Arribbiata sauce, it seems, is part of a trilogy of spicy Itlian tomato sauces. It is also the simplest. They all contain hot peppers, but of the other two, Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) also contains anchovy, red wine, and usually shellfish, while putanesca (whore sauce) contains anchovy, olives, and capers. Arribbiata sauce, though, simply contains crushed red pepper…it could be, in a way, the base sauce for the others. 

This said, in the recipe I included below I added red wine, which is an option and also makes it closer to a Fra Diavolo sauce. I also added a bit of sugar, simply because I like it, but this is also an option. While the sauce simmered and pasta cooked I also diced and sauteed an eggplant, to which I then added some of the sauce, simply to make a heartier dinner. The recipe below represents just the sauce. 

In conclusion, this is about as simple a sauce as you can get but it is packed with flavor. It can be made in a half-hour or less and can be used for a base for others. Add meat or seafood or other vegetables if you like. If you’d like a recipe for Fra Diavolo, with historical info, read this earlier post.

Arrabbiata Sauce

(Angry Sauce)

Makes about 5 cups

¼ cup olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper

1 cup red wine

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Cook the onion, while stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to brown. Add the garlic and crushed hot pepper and cook for another couple minutes, or until the garlic begins to brown. 

Stir in the red wine and water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the liquids for a couple minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, and salt. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, then add the chopped basil and simmer another 10 minutes or so.

Maghmour!

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So before I begin discussing this recipe I have to mention my usual mantra that is common to most of the recipes which are posted on this blog…this is so delicious but also nutritious and incredibly simple to prepare. Also, this is simply a suggestion, not a blueprint. Meaning add or delete ingredients and seasonings as you like. It is, after all, your food.

That said, this is a Lebanese eggplant and chickpea stew. Some refer to this as a Lebanese version of moussaka but personally I don’t see the connection. This recipe is sort of large but it is one of those foods, like soup, that actually tastes better the second day. What I really like about this recipe–besides everything–is that the eggplant melts into the sauce giving it a sort silken quality. In this recipe I used canned tomatoes but in the summertime I would likely use fresh. This is also a chameleon of a recipe in that not only can it be eaten as an appetizer (on toast points or with flat bead), as a side dish or part of mezze table, but also as a main course over rice or with a fried egg on it (as I ate it the other night). 

For additional Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here


Maghmour
(Lebanese Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

Serves 6-8

¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 cup water
1 (28oz. can) crushed tomatoes
2 (15oz. cans) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small bunch mint, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes while stirring, until the onion just begins to brown.

Add the garlic and the diced eggplant. Initially the eggplant will absorb the oil and begin to stick to the pan, it is for this reason you should stir nearly continuously for a couple minutes.

Once the eggplant softens, begins to brown, and releases the oil, add the smoked paprika, salt, hot pepper, and cumin seed. Cook the spices for a minute or two.

Stir in the water, tomatoes, and chick peas. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. If it is too thick add additional water. Simmer the stew for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in the mint and remove the stew from the heat. This can be eaten hot, room temperature, or even chilled in the summer months.

Urban Simplicity.

Cookin’ Like Summertime….

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Tomatoes2 (small).jpg

Fresh tomatoes. Beautiful aren’t they? But you may be asking yourself what am I doing with fresh tomatoes in January. Well, I work in a grocery store. And as we all know grocery stores portray food as if everything were always in season. But also, one of the benefits of working in the particular store that I do is that food that is culled from the shelves and deemed unsalable (for a variety of reasons) is offered to the employees before being given to various organizations. This said, there were a bunch of packages of fresh tomatoes in which the seals were broken, thus they were not able to be sold. So this is how I found myself in possession of these beautiful tomatoes and cooked dinner with them on a cold, grey, and rainy January evening.

Anyhow, my son came over for dinner last evening and I made us Pasta Fra Diavolo (to read about the origin and etymology of the recipe, read this post). There is a recipe below for this dish, but the one that I made with these tomatoes was slightly different in that I used fresh tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes were first processed and then simmered down to a thick puree. The recipe that is listed is actually more appropriate for this time of year as it uses canned tomatoes. And as usual, this recipe is not carved in stone, it is simply a suggestion. Add or delete or interchange ingredients to suite your tastes.

sauce2

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut

Yield: 4 portions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup red wine

2 cups tomato purée

1 pound diced halibut

1/2 pound penne rigate

.

Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Aloo Gobi…

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Aloo gobi…the classic Indian dish consisting of mostly potatoes (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi). Peas are often included. Spices vary and can be interchanged to your liking. In the version I made for dinner last night (pictured) I also added whole coriander seed. I used dry chilies but fresh can be used as well. Interchange ingredients and seasonings. Eat this as a side or main course with basmati rice. It’s simple to make, super delicious, and healthy. Make it and you won’t be sorry.

Aloo Gobi

(Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas)

Serves 4

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 slices ginger, minced

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon whole cumin seed

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

¼ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice

1 cup frozen peas

1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

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

Urban Simplicity

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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I made these at my job today, mostly because I really like peanut butter and chocolate. But whenever I smell–and then taste–peanut butter cookies it brings me back to my childhood with Rockwellian memories; my mom used to make these (sans chocolate). They were one of my favorite then and still are. These are exceedingly simple to make. The recipe is below.

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup butter

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1¾ cups mini chocolate chips

granulated sugar for garnish

 

Preheat an oven to 350F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Run the mixer on low for a few seconds, then turn on high. Cream the ingredients for a few minutes until light in both texture and appearance. Then add the egg and mix on medium for another minute. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Spoon or scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper (but not oiled). Dip a fork in the remaining sugar and make an ‘X’ pattern in the cookies, pressing them down gently. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the centers are still soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Urban Simplicity.

More bread with stuff on it…

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Ok, so I’ve posted recipes for this in the past. At least variations of it. Many variations. But not in a while. This is the version I made for myself for dinner this evening….whole wheat crust with oats and flax. Spinach aglio e olio, eggplant sauteed in olive oil. Three cheeses. It’s simple to make and tastes even better than it looks in the photo. For the dough recipe (which also makes excellent bread) click here or here. To cook the spinach (or nearly anything else) aglio e olio, click here. For more on pizza (recipes, photos, history, etc), click here. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll go grab a third slice.


Urban Simplicity.

Rice and beans and sausage and greens (and other good things)

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This is a simple variation of any rice-and-beans dish but with other ingredients and spices added. I was going to make a very basic paella with fish and shellfish added, but at the last minute I felt like down-scaling and this was the end result. Anyhow, as usual, this recipe is just a suggestion, not a blueprint. Use whatever ingredients and flavors you like. And by the way…this is super-delicious. Anyhow, here’s the recipe.

Rice and Beans with Chorizo and Kale

Serves 6

¼ cup olive oil

12 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 cup brown rice

3 cups chicken broth, simmering

1 (15 oz.) can red beans, drained

6 ounces baby kale

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook it for a few minutes, until it browns. Remove the sausage to a plate, leaving rendered fat, oil, and crispy pieces in the pot. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper; saute for a few minutes. Then add the garlic, then the chili, cumin, turmeric, and salt; for a few minutes to bring out their flavors. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice. Lower the heat and simmer the tomatoes, vegetables, and spices for 5 or ten minutes until some of the tomato liquid evaporates and forms a sort of sofrito.

 Add the rice, stirring it to coat it with all the flavors. Then stir in the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil then lower it to a low simmer. Cover the pot and simmer it for about 40 minutes.

 Then—without stirring—add the beans and kale, and re-cover the pot and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for another 5 or 10 minutes. The carefully fold in the beans and kale while fluffing the rice.

Chicken and Cheddar Burgers with Green Onions and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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So as you can imagine these are seriously good. I made them for staff lunch at work today. Simply mix all the ingredients together and cook them. Rather than having it on a sandwich, I diced mine and tossed it into a salad. Anyhow…really, really delicious (did I mention how good these are).

Chicken and Cheddar Burgers with Green Onions and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Makes about 10 burgers

2 pounds ground chicken

2 cups shredded cheddar

2 large eggs

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch green onions, sliced thin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Combine all of the ingredients together and mix thoroughly. Let stand 5 minutes, then mix again. Divide and shape the burgers, then saute, grill, or bake them until cooked throughout.

Urban Simplicity.

Souvlaki-Style Tofu (version 2.0)

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Okay. So this tofu recipe is so delicious even a dedicated “tofu hater” will like this. Seriously. This is a slight variation of this original version where the tofu was baked. What’s different with this version (and is not represented in the printed recipe below), is that I added a couple teaspoons of smoked paprika to the marinade, diced the tofu (instead of slicing it, and after marinating it I rolled each piece in cornmeal. Then instead of baking it I pan-fried them in olive oil to crunchy deliciousness (yum!). And yes, before you ask, this recipe can also be baked but it will not be as crispy (I tried it both ways). Anyhow, try this recipe and I dare you to try to just eat one.

Souvlaki-Style Tofu

Makes about 6 servings

1 pound extra-firm tofu

souvlaki marinade (recipe below)

Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Set the tofu on a plate with 2 or 3 plates on top of it, gently squeezing out some of it’s moisture. Leave the tofu to drain for 10-15 minutes. Slice the tofu about ½ inch thick. Lay the tofu in a pan and pour enough of the marinade over the tofu to cover it, turning it to coat all sides. Marinate the tofu for at least 30minutes. Preheat an oven to 350F. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack, leaving some of the marinade on the tofu. Bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown at its edges. For firmer tofu, turn it over and bake another 10 minutes. This is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled as a snack, on a sandwich, or salad.

 

Roast Garlic Souvlaki Marinade

Makes about 2 cups

12 cloves garlic

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon sea salt

½ small onion, diced

1 small bunch parsley, washed and course chopped

Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small skillet and place it over a low flame. Heat the oil until the garlic begins to simmer. Cook the garlic very slowly until it is golden brown, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool in the oil to room temperature. Once the garlic and oil are cooled, combine them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Mediterranean-Style “Golden” Rice-and-Beans

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Okay, so first a couple things. The recipe for this exact dish pictured is at the bottom of this post, but what I really wanted to show here is the method in which to make this; the flavorings and seasonings are interchangeable. Rice-and-beans, of course, are a staple in many cultures around the world. What makes this version truly bursting with flavor is it’s use of sofrito, a sort of seasoning blend made with caramelized onion, peppers, tomato, garlic, and spices. And versions of sofrito can be found in many areas of the world as well, but what makes this Mediterranean are the spices that I used…turmeric, Lebanese seven-spice mix (click here for the recipe), smoked paprika, and saffron. The combination of all of these things gives this dish not only an intoxicating aroma, but also it’s beautiful golden hue. Rice-and-beans on their own are a complete protein, this is how so many people around the world survive of various combinations of this, and this is why this is also a valuable combination for vegans and vegetarians. While the recipe below is not vegetarian (I used chicken broth) it can be if you use vegetable broth. Inversely, one can easily add chicken, seafood, pork, or even lamb to this dish. I also used brown rice rather than white so it contains more vitamins, but this is also why the longer cooking time. Anyhow, here’s how to make it…


Begin by making the sofrito, Heat olive oil in a pot and add diced onion and pepper. Cook them somewhat slowly until they are very cooked and begin to brown slightly. Then add minced garlic and cook that for a few minutes.

Then add whatever herbs or spices you may be using.

Then add tomato. This time of year I use tomato paste because it is already concentrated, but in the summer when my garden is full I often us fresh ripe tomato but have to cook it a bit longer to concentrate the flavors.

Continue to cook the vegetables and spices over moderately low heat until everything is soft and cooked and concentrated. Below is the complete sofrito.

Add the rice and stir it to coat it with the oil and sofrito.

Then add simmering broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 30-50 minutes (depending on the brand). Do not stir the rice. If using white rice, cook it for 18-20 minutes. 

Check the rice, and about 5 or 10 minutes before it is finished add cooked beans or lentils without stirring. After the rice has cooked, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest (without stirring) for about 5 minutes.

Just before serving, fluff the rice and gently fold in the beans.

Golden Brown Rice-and-Beans 

 Makes 4-6 portions

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 red bell pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pinch saffron threads

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown rice

2-3 cups chicken broth (hot)

1 (15 oz) can white beans, rinsed

Heat the olive oil in a heat pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook slowly for about 10 minutes while stirring. When the onion and pepper is very soft and just begins to brown, add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Lower the heat, then stir in the seven-spice mix, turmeric, paprika, salt, and saffron. Cook the spices for just a few seconds then stir in the tomato paste. Cook the vegetables, spices, and tomato paste over low heat for about 5 minutes while stirring. Then add the rice, stirring it into the seasonings, then add 2 ½ cups broth, stirring it in as well. Raise the heat until the liquid boils, then lower it again to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 30-50 minutes (depending on the brand), or until it is almost done. If the rice needs more liquid, add the remaining broth. Without stirring, add the beans on top of the rice, re-cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and allow it to rest for 5 or 10 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the rice and gently fold in the beans.

Buffalo-Style Tofu Nuggets!

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Okay, so I have posted this recipe before, but not in quite a while. Anyhow, I made this for lunch at work the other day and was reminded how good this is and was prompted to post it again. This is so easy to make, and yes (before you ask) the nuggets can be baked rather than fried (I’ve tried it both ways), the nuggets will be equally delicious just not as crispy. They can be eaten as a snack hot, cold, or at room temperature, or on a salad or in a sandwich. But you’d better make a double batch because they won’t last long…

Buffalo-Style Tofu Nuggets

1 (14 oz.) extra firm tofu

1 cup Franks hot sauce

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons granulated onion

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

oil for pan-frying

Drain the tofu and remove it from its package. Place the tofu between two plates and allow it to gently press out some of its moisture for about twenty minutes. Then dice the tofu and place it in a shallow pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the hot sauce, cornstarch, onion, and garlic, making sure that the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Pour this mixture over the tofu and gently lift and move it to insure that is fully coated. Allow it to marinate for about 20 minutes. Then remove the tofu from it’s marinade to a clean plate. Heat about 1/2” vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. And when the oil is hot carefully add the marinated tofu. Fry for about 5 minutes, turning as necessary, or until golden and crispy. Transfer the crispy tofu with a slotted spoon to absorbent paper.

A photo, a quote, and some recipes…

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“Rice is a beautiful food. It is beautiful when it grows, precision rows of sparkling green stalks shooting up to reach the hot summer sun. It is beautiful when harvested, autumn gold sheaves piled on diked, patchwork paddies. It is beautiful when, once threshed, it enters granary bins like a (flood) of tiny seed-pearls. It is beautiful when cooked by a practiced hand, pure white and sweetly fragrant.”

~Shizuo Tsuji 


For rice recipes, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Salade d’hiver…

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So just because it is the middle of February and one of the most frigid nights of the year it doesn’t mean you can’t eat a salad. This is great as a side or hearty enough as a main dish. And with saffron-poached potatoes, French lentils, and a cumin-coriander vinaigrette, what’s not to like. While this may look complicated at first, if you look at each step it is really simple.

Salade d’hiver

Serves 8-10

For the vinaigrette:

1 cup virgin olive oil

½ cup white balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed

2 teaspoons whole coriander seed

2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and whisk together. Combine the cumin, coriander, and Aleppo pepper in a small dry skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Cook the spices for a couple minutes—until they begin to smoke and pop—and then stir them into the vinaigrette. Set the vinaigrette aside while you prepare the salad.

For the salad:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 pinch saffron threads

½ pound French lentils

4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

½ small red onion, sliced

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped

Combine the potatoes and saffron in a small pot with just enough cold water to cover them. Place the pot over medium high heat and boil the potatoes until they are cooked but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes (reserve the liquid for a soup or discard it), spread them on a plate, and allow to cool to room temperature.

 In another pot, boil the lentils for about 20 minutes, or until cooked but not mushy. Drain the lentils, spread them on a plate, and cool to room temperature.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, pour simmering water over the tomatoes, and let them rest for five minutes, then drain and dice them.

 Roast the red pepper over and open flame, and then—after letting it steam in a bag—remove its skin under cool running water. Then dice the pepper. (Click here for step-by-step directions on how to roast a pepper.)

To assemble the salad, combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette and pour it over the salad. Gently fold the dressing into the salad ingredients. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

How to roast a pepper…

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So it’s February and one of the coldest nights of the year and I am thinking about peppers. Maybe I am thinking about summer…this is what I start to do this time of year. Roasted peppers are readily available in cans and jars but they are about as simple as things can be to prepare yourself and the flavor that it adds to a dish is worth the few minutes it takes. This is an ancient technique of cooking vegetables where the peppers are not actually roast in the oven but are “roast” over an open flame. The skin becomes charred black as night. With a little steam the skin just about falls off the pepper leaving only the tender cooked flesh with a light smoky flavor. This can be done outside over a grill or directly over the open flame of the burner on your stove.

The first time that I had seen this done was while I was at culinary school in the mid 1980’s. The chef-instructor had a thick German accent and when he told me to put the pepper over the flame of the burner I thought I had heard him wrong and instinctively reached for a skillet. After telling me again he became frustrated and grabbed the pepper from my hands and put it–almost throwing it–onto the bare flame. At the time I thought he was nuts, but when I tasted the resulting product I knew that he wasn’t. Okay, maybe he was a bit crazy. Anyhow, to roast a pepper do this:

Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium (as pictured above). Using a set of tongs turn the pepper every couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. 

Place the blackened pepper(s) into a small paper bag and seal it closed. Allow the pepper to rest for a couple of minutes. The steam that naturally occurs loosens the skin.

Remove the pepper, and while holding it under cold running water gently rub of the blackened skin (it’s wise, but not essential, to do this over a small colander to catch the skin, which may clog the drain).

 After the skin is removed gently tear the pepper in two and remove the stem and rinse the seeds. The pepper is now suitable for eating straight away, marinating, or to be used in any recipe that calls for such.

Urban Simplicity.

Two Chickpeas; Two Recipes

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I have posted variations of both these recipes before but these are two recent additions. Both are really simple to make, super delicious, and healthy…chickpeas are really good for you. And yes, the falafel can be baked rather than pan-fried but they would lack the crispy outer shell.

Spicy Avocado and Roast Garlic Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

¼ cup olive oil

8 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed

2 ripe avocado, peeled

2 cans (15 oz. ea.) chickpeas, rinsed

½ cup lemon juice

1 cup tahini

¼ cup water

¾ teaspoon sea salt

Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small skillet and place over low heat. Simmer garlic in the oil until golden brown and soft, turning it as necessary. Add the Aleppo pepper, cumin, and coriander to the skillet and remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Transfer the olive oil with the cooked garlic and spices to the bowl of a food processor along with the avocado, chickpeas, lemon, tahini, water and sea salt. Process the hummus until very smooth. 

Spinach and Feta Falafel

Makes about two dozen falafel

1 (15oz) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked spinach, squeezed of excess moisture

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

½ small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons 7-spice mix

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup whole wheat flour (more as needed)

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

sesame seeds for garnish

oil for frying

Combine the chickpeas, spinach, cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lemon juice, 7-spice, salt, turmeric, and baking powder in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the first the flour then the feta cheese by hand, keeping small pieces of cheese visible. 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. 

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.

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.

For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

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