Lebanese-Style Lentil Soup (another variation)

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This is one of my favorite soups. It is so easy to make, really good for you (lentils are a really healthy food), and it is of course really delicious. There are a few variations in this recipe compared to previous ones that I’ve posted (click here for other versions). The biggest being that I used French lentils (but any lentil will suffice for this recipe), which are a little firmer, or they at least hold their shape when cooked. And also I used tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes, which gives it a thicker and richer flavor and consistency because of the concentrated tomato. And I also used baharat, or Lebanese 7-spice mix rather than individual spices (because I have a large batch of it at work–where I made this soup–but a manageable sized recipe is listed below). Lastly, I added Aleppo pepper, which can be substituted with another crushed pepper or omitted, and also a bit of turmeric because I like the golden hue that it offers. For additional Lebanese-inspire recipes click here.

Middle Eastern Style Lentil Soup (variation)

Makes about 2 quarts

4 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Lebanese 7-spice mix

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups French lentils

8 cups chicken broth

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

¼ cup lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper; saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Add the tomato paste, 7-spice, turmeric, Aleppo pepper, and salt, then cook and stir the tomato and spices for a minute or so. Add the lentils broth, bring to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Allow the soup to cook for about an 30 minutes, then add the potatoes and simmer another 30 minutes or until the soup thickens and the lentils become very soft. If it becomes too thick, add additional broth or a little water. Stir in the lemon juice a couple minutes before removing from the heat.

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.


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Okay, so first a few things. One thing that I have to get off my chest straight away is that this is not Buffalo-Style Tofu…it doesn’t exist. It seems anything that is fried and spicy these days is tagged as “Buffalo-Style.” But I will say that these crispy little morsels are addictingly delicious. Also, as I’ve mentioned on many previous occasions, I am not a vegetarian but am always looking for non-meat options. Thus said, are these any more healthy than chicken wings? Maybe, but who knows. They are still fried (and before you comment or email to ask, yes these can be baked and would be equally flavorful just not as crispy). But it’s okay to indulge now and again, right? And don’t forget to serve them with blue cheese dressing and celery and carrot sticks (if you want to go all out “Buffalo-style”), or eat them over a salad with blue cheese dressing as I did today (yum!). Anyhow, these are really easy to make–just a few ingredients–and so delicious even a tofu hater will like them.

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.

Some like it hot!

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If you’ve been to this blog prior then you know that I have been somewhat fascinated with the art of fermentation for sometime (click here), so this recipe should not come as a surprise. I initially got the idea when I came across a recipe for brussels sprouts kimchi at the website of Bon Appetite. Intrigued, I tried it but changed it up a bit to fit my tastes. Anyhow, it is really good (and really spicy) and easy to make. If you like fermented foods I hop you try this recipe (which is below).

Brussels Sprouts Kimchi

Makes 1 gallon

 4 pounds brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half

7 ounces kosher salt

4 quarts water


 1 small onion, peeled and quartered

8 scallions

4 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup gochugara (Korean crushed pepper) or Aleppo pepper

½ cup soy sauce

½ cup Sriracha

8 slices peeled ginger

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds


 2 quarts water

1½ ounces kosher salt

Place the brussels sprouts in a large bowl, dissolve the 7 ounces salt in the 4 quarts water and pour it over the brussels sprouts. Allow them to soak for one hour, then drain and rinse them, discarding the water.

Combine in a blender, the onion, scallions, garlic, crushed pepper, soy sauce, Sriracha, ginger, coriander, and fennel. Then puree until smooth.

Pour the spice mixture over the brussels sprouts in a large bowl, combining throughly, then transfer them to a gallon-sized glass jar. Mix the remaining 2 quarts of water and 1½ ounces salt together—allowing the salt to dissolve, and pour it over the brussels sprouts. Gently press the brussels sprouts to release any air pocket, but making sure that the vegetable is covered by an least a half-inch of liquid. Put a small plate or other object on the vegetable to keep them submerged. Cover the jar with a lid. Either leave the lid ajar or poke a small hole in it to allow the release of pressure and bubbles as it the kimchi ferments.

Leave the jar at room temperature for about 5 days, or until it is bubbling and tastes slightly sour, then refrigerate. The brussels sprouts kimchi will keep for months in refrigeration.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

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This is just another variation of the seemingly endless theme of hummus recipes. And this one–if I do say so myself–is not only equally delicious but also really simple to make…put everything in a food processor and process until smooth. But technically this is not a hummus after all (I can be such a stickler) because the Arabic word hummus translates as chickpea. This would be ful or fool (beans). Anyhow, this is really good, and really healthy, and really easy to make.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocados, peeled

2 cans (15 oz. ea.) black beans, rinsed

1 cup tahini

4 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup lemon juice

¼ cup water

¼ cup hot pepper sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

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This is such an easy summertime recipe you’ll want to make it all the time, especially if you have your own victory garden. It’s bursting with flavor and it comes from the vine-ripe tomatoes, twice cooked garlic, and herbs. And the best part is that the entire dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes (if you are somewhat organized). I finished the dish with a liberal sprinkling of crushed hot pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (which are not reflected in the recipe).

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water, then drain it and set it aside. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a sauce pot over medium heat and cook the garlic slowly for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the diced onion and pepper to the hot oil. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes. While the onions and peppers are cooking, mince the cooked garlic. When the onions and peppers just begin to brown add the garlic back to the pot and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and becomes slightly thick. Add the pasta to the sauce, gently turning it to coat it evenly and to reheat it. Then stir in the basil and parsley and remove the pot from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Two Condiments…

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Okay. So these two condiments are so easy to make and so bursting with flavor you’ll wonder why you haven’t made them before. The recipes of course are not carved in stone…add or subtract flavors and ingredients that you like. Experiment. Nonetheless, both of these are sure to please.


Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 cup yellow mustard seeds

2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

1/4 cup honey

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon turmeric

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar and allow to soak at room temperature for about two days. Transfer to a blender and puree to desired consistency. Return to the glass jar and refrigerate.

BBQ Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups ketchup

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup yellow mustard

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching.

Urban Simplicity.

The Spice is Right…Two Recipes Inspired by the Near East

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So one thing you likely know about me by now if you’ve visited here before is that I like ethnic food. A lot. Herbs and spices can change everything. The most mundane foods (like chicken and lentils, for example) become something really special when seasoned with exotic spices. Anyhow, I made these for staff lunch today and served it with saffron-infused brown rice…delicious. There is a simple curry recipe at the bottom of this post but a good quality store-bought brand would be fine…or use your own flavor combination. Enjoy.

Tandoori Chicken Stir-Fry

Makes 4 servings

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup plain yogurt

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 small onion, sliced

4 boneless chicken breasts, sliced

oil for sauteing

black sesame seeds for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl (except the oil for sauteing and the black sesame seeds) and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for one hour. Heat a small amount of oil over high heat in a large heavy skillet (cast iron works great). When to oil is hot, add the marinated chicken in a single layer. Allow the chicken to cook for a minute before stirring, Then gently stir the chicken and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and thoroughly cooked. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with black sesame seeds.

Curried Red Lentils with Potatoes and Peas

Makes 4-6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

1½ cups red lentils

3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup peas

Heat the oil in a heavy sauce-pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and green pepper and saute for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and saute a minute longer. Stir in the curry and cook it for a minute or two, and then stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a low simmer; cook the lentils for about 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and lemon juice and simmer another 15 minutes, or until the lentils are thoroughly cooked. Stir in the peas and remove the pot from the heat. 


Simple Madras-Style Curry Powder

Makes about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons ground cumin 

3 tablespoons quality chili powder

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground fenugreek

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all the spices thoroughly and store away from direct sunlight in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

When Buffaloes Fly…recollections of chicken wings

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By now most of you reading this know that I was born, raised, and in fact still live in the great city of Buffalo, NY. I moved away a couple times but have always found my way home. And while we (as a city) have an incredibly rich culinary tradition, we are—for better or worse—known for chicken wings. In Buffalo they of course are not known as “Buffalo wings,” just simply wings. I didn’t think of them as a regional specialty until I was in my early twenties when I had moved away and someone first referred to them as such. You may have heard these stories before—in person or in print—as I’ve previously told them, but I made wings for staff lunch a couple days ago and I thought of this again.

Anyhow, the first time I had heard of them referred to as Buffalo wings I was in a music store in Nashville, TN. It was the mid-1980’s and I was buying a cassette (remember them?). Noticing my “yank accent,” the clerk asked me where I was from. When I told him Buffalo his eyes lit up and he asked me two things: if I was familiar with the band The 10,000 Maniacs and if I liked Buffalo wings. It sounded odd to me because I had never heard of them referred to as such. I’m sure I was smirking a little when I told him that I did. It hadn’t occurred to me that chicken wings—as a fried food—were unique to our region. I just assumed everyone ate them, like fries or hot dogs or hamburgers.

A couple years later I landed a job as cook at a French restaurant in New Orleans. One day the house butcher brought me a bowl of raw chicken wings. Normally they went into the chicken stock but this day he had saved them upon the sous-chef’s request. The sous-chef, who I feared more than the chef (primarily because the chef never spoke to me, or screamed at me like the sous chef), wanted me to make the staff wings for lunch. He knew I was from Buffalo. Most of the kitchen crew were Cajun and loved the spiciness of the sauce.

“Take some to the chef, he’s in his office,” suggested one of the cooks. Terrified, and with hands shaking, I walked into the office with the sous chef and set down a plate of steaming wings, complete with celery, carrot, and made-from-scratch blue cheese dressing. I rarely had the opportunity to talk to the chef let alone feed him. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” he inquired. The sous-chef told him in his native French that I was from Buffalo and that these were our delicacy. The wings, he told him were tossed with sauce piquante monté au beurre (spicy sauce mounted with butter). He also warned that they were trés piquant. Speaking in English (a language, I was told, he detested and spoke only in necessity) the chef told me he’d been to Niagara Falls, then picked up a drumstick and bit in. About 10 seconds passed before he pushed the plate away, and in what seemed like desperation, chugged the remainder of his ever-present glass of wine. Panting, he questioned “Shit, why so #!&¢!# hot.” Hey, I thought, he was warned they were trés piquant, and I only made them medium.

At any rate, I feel I don’t need to mention the origin of this simple food as it has been in the media countless times, but the recipe for them is about as simple as one can get…simply deep fry some chicken wings (no flour nor seasoning required) and toss them in a mixture of melted butter and Franks Hot Sauce. Sure there are going to be people who claim to have a “secret recipe,” but there really is no such thing…butter and hot sauce are all that are required (though additions of garlic or onion powder or a plash of vinegar are tasty enhancements).

Traditional Wings

Preheat enough vegetable oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit to fry as many wings as you see fit. While the wings are frying melt a good sized piece of whole butter in a large bowl and swirl in Frank’s Hot Sauce. When the wings float and are crispy and cooked throughout, remove from the hot fat. Drain them and toss with the butter and hot sauce.

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus (yum!)

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This is another one of those recipes that is so easy to make and so delicious that you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often. You can use fresh peppers—as I did for this recipe—or jarred ones which you rinse. I cooked the peppers over the grate of my stove at work, but this time of year it is fun (and flavorful) to cook them outside on a charcoal grill. And as with most my recipes, this is just a suggestion…add whatever flavorings or seasoning you would like. You’ll also note that when I say this is easy to make, it truly is one step. Once the peppers are roasted you simply combine everything in a food processor and puree it. The hummus will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator…but it is so delicious it will likely be eaten straight away.


Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 (15oz) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed

2 roasted red peppers

1 cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce (optional)

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process to a smooth puree.


How to Roast a Pepper

Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium. Using a set of tongs turn the pepper ever couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. Immediately place the 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.

Urban Simplicity.

The Miracle of Controlled Spoilage (bis)

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“Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson…
When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”
—Willa Cather, “Death Comes for the Archbishop” (1927)

Fermented foods still amaze me. Not only are they bursting with flavor and so incredibly good for you, but they basically make themselves; you simply provide the proper conditions and let nature take it’s course…salt some food, put it in a bucket and wait. Yup, it’s that simple. Kim-chi, or spicy Korean sauerkraut, is my favorite. I’ve posted this recipe many times before but not in a while. I was prompted to re-post the recipe after tasting my latest batch of the good stuff (pictured). Being as hot as it has been it didn’t take long to ferment and geeeze o’ man is it delicious…bubbling and bursting with flavor and nutrients in each bit. This is so easy to make; I hope you try it. If you’re interested to read more about fermented foods (and would like a bunch more recipes) here are a couple articles I wrote for Artvoice on the subject a few years ago (click here and here). If you’d like to delve deeper into fermented foods, I recommend this book.

Kim Chi

(Korean-Style Sauerkraut)

1 head Napa cabbage, cut into two-inch pieces

1 small daikon, grated

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small piece ginger, minced

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to a container that is wide enough to fit a few small plates inside it. Press the cabbage down and weight it with plates. Cover the container and leave at room temperature. After a day it should release enough liquid that it is submerged, if not, add a little salted water. After about 2 days small bubbles will appear, after about a week or so it will smell and taste distinctively sour. Taste it as often as you like and when the flavor is to your liking transfer the container to the refrigerator to slow its fermentation.

Urban Simplicity.

How to make tofu really flavorful and chewy in three simple steps (yup, it’s this simple)

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This is really easy and the outcome is so delicious that I’ve even had a devout “tofu hater” say it was really good. Eaten as a snack, on a salad or sandwich, or as a component to a stir-fry or rice dish, it delicious, healthy, and versatile. I seasoned this with Cajun seasoning and sea salt but the flavors are really up to you (herbs, curry, smoked paprika, Mexican…it’s really limitless) but what you want to take away from this post is the simple method in which it is prepared, not specific ingredients..

(1) To start with, purchase extra firm tofu, then–after removing it from it’s package–place it between a few plate to gently squeeze out some of it’s moisture; leave the tofu like this for about 20 minutes (continued below).

(2) Slice the tofu and coat it with whichever seasonings you prefer. Then place it on baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack. Having the wire rack is important because air need to circulate under the tofu as it bakes.

(3) Bake the tofu in a preheated oven (350F) for about 20 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another ten. Allow it to cool before serving.

For multiple actual printable tofu recipes click here.

Urban Simplicity.


Lebanese-Style Chicken-and-Rice (yummm!)

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So yes, I have posted this recipe before, but not in quite a while. Personally I have not actually eaten meat in about two months, but then I started craving this…it’s a recipe that is derived from one my sitti (grandmother) used to make. It is really (really) delicious, and simple to make, too. One of the differences with the recipe that I grew up with and the one I make for myself today is that I generally make it with brown rice (both brown and white rice are reflected in the recipe). I also (sometimes) add a pinch of turmeric, as I did this time, which gives it a lovely yellow hue (which is not reflected in the recipe below). Nonetheless, the smell of the sweet aromatic spices will fill your house as it cooks. This recipe can easily be multiplied into larger batches (leftovers taste just as good). And did I mention how delicious this is…

Lebanese-Style Chicken and Rice

Makes 4 servings

4 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken breasts or boneless thighs

1 medium onion, diced

2 ounces vermicelli or spaghetti, broken into pieces

¾ pound ground beef or lamb

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon allspice

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup rice (white or brown; see below)

2-3 cups hot chicken broth (depending on which rice you use)

1 small bunch parsley, minced

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté the chicken on both sides until golden brown, then remove it from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and vermicelli to the pan and cook until golden; using a slotted spoon remove it and set aside. Add the meat to the pan (and a little water and/or oil if necessary) and cook until the meat begins to brown. Drain any excess fat, then add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Add the cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and salt; sauté two minutes while stirring. Add the onion 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. If using white rice, add two cups of broth to the pan; if using brown rice add three cups of broth to the pan, then cover the pot with a lid. Bring the broth to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 18 minutes if using white rice and about 30-40 minutes if using brown rice. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

Black Bean-Cheddar Falafel with Avocado Taratoor (yum)

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So this is just another version of the classic Middle Eastern chickpea fritters known as falafel. You likely know by now that when I enjoy a particular recipe I end up with multiple versions of it (for other variations on this recipe, click here). Anyhow, this is just a suggestion…interchange any bean or cheese you like; herbs and spices as well. And for the taratoor sauce I included a couple avocado which not only accented the flavor nicely but enriched it a bit as well. These are really simple to prepare, but be forewarned…they are super addicting.

Black Bean and Cheddar Falafel

Makes about two dozen falafel

2 (15oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons Frank’s hot sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ 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 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.

Avocado Taratoor Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocado, peeled

1 cup tahini

¾ cup water

½ 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.

Pizza Pie…yet another (really delicious) variation

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Yes this is yet another pizza variation I made for dinner tonight (click here to see other versions). As is often the case, when I was making bread today I took a third of the dough and turned it into pizza…two meals in one, or at least two things in one, I suppose.

Anyhow, this variety of course had 100% whole wheat crust (click here for the recipe), but I also sprinkled the edge with sesame seed which gives it a nice crunch and interesting flavor. As for the topping: tomato sauce, four cheese, spinach which I first cooked aglio e olio (click here for recipes), and pickled hot peppers. Yum! I home you try this recipe…you’ll be glad you did.

Urban Simplicity.

Bean Curd Souvlaki!

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A couple comments on this recipe.the first is that I could go on and on about how much I love the flavors of this simple marinade–which can be used on any meat, poultry, or fish–but I won’t. You’ll have to experience it. The other is that this recipe–just as my recipe of tandoori tofu–is another example of how delicious tofu can be…and simple to prepare as well. Eat this as a snack, on a salad, or in a sandwich. Anyway you try it it is delicious.

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.

Urban Simplicity.

Asparagus and Roquefort Soup (Mhm, that’s right)

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This is so easy to make and so delicious that I hope you try it. And asparagus is just coming into seasons. And before you ask, or at least wonder to yourself, here’s how you can alter it to a diet specific recipe…Yes you can use milk instead of cream but it will not be as rich; simply add it at the end. If you are lactose intolerant leave out the dairy completely (use oil instead of butter in the beginning) or use soy milk. To make it vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. To make it vegan, do the same but omit the dairy or replace it with soy milk. If you have a gluten allergy omit the flour and thicken the soup with cornstarch at the end of simmering.

Cream of Asparagus and Roquefort Soup

Makes about 4 cups

1 pound asparagus

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 small onion, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort Cheese

Trim the asparagus of their fibrous ends and slice the remaining portion into 1/2 inch lengths; reserve the asparagus tips separately to use as a garnish in the soup. Heat the butter in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in the flour, lower the heat, and cook the flour for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Add the sliced asparagus (not the tips), salt, thyme and pepper; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and return to high heat. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the soup for 10 minutes, skimming as necessary. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. Add the reserved asparagus tips and bring it to a simmer and stir in the Roquefort cheese. Serve while hot.

Urban Simplicity.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses (yum!)

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Okay. So this is really delicious. How delicious is it, you may ask? Well if you notice in the servings I wrote that it makes either four small or two large portions. When I first put it in the oven I looked at it and thought it would easily serve four, but when it came out it was so delicious I ate half of it.

Anyhow, as usual this is just a guide…use different ingredients or interchange them. I just happened to have some cauliflower in my cooler I needed to use up. You can also multiply this recipe, or make extra because leftovers are equally good.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses

Make four small or two large servings

1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ head cauliflower, sliced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 tomato sauce

2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

2 ounces grated Parmesan

Preheat an oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni al dente, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, then add the cauliflower and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper; cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in the tomato sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer it for a minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fold in the macaroni and most of the cheese. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese across the top of the macaroni, then bake it for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the macaroni is thoroughly heated and the top is brown and crispy.

Rice with Fish and Other Good Things…

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Okay. So this is good. Really good. Delicious, if I do say so. It’s also relatively easy to make. And of course this recipe–like most that I post here–is not carved in stone. It’s intended to be more of a guide. Interchange, add, or delete ingredients or seasonings that you like, don’t like, or happen to have on hand. It’s more of an idea of how to make a really delicious one-pot meal. Anyhow, if you like fish, try this. You wont be sorry. Did I mention it was delicious?



Tilapia and Brown Rice with Asparagus, Black Beans, Hot Pepper, Lemon, and Saffron


Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 small carrot, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 pinch saffron threads

1 cup brown rice

2 ½ cups simmering chicken broth

½ cup lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 (15oz can) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 ½ pounds tilapia, diced

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook the vegetables for a couple minutes while stirring, then add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Stir in the hot pepper and saffron, cook for a minute, then add the rice. Stir the rice to coat it with the oil and seasonings, then stir in the simmering broth, lemon juice, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer the rice untouched for about 30 minutes. After thirty minutes check the rice. It should be nearly done. If it is not add additional broth. Then layer the beans, tilapia, and asparagus on top of the rice without stirring and re-cover the pot. Cook the rice for another ten minutes and remove from the heat. Allow the pot to sit for five minutes. Gently fold the beans, asparagus, and fish into the rice just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Seven is the lucky number…

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This is one of my favorite loaves of bread and it is so easy to make. The beauty of it is that it only has seven ingredients, and–unlike most supermarket breads–all of the ingredients are easily recognizable and understandable. If you want to get real bare-bones you can pare this recipe down to just four ingredients (click here for that recipe) but with the addition of honey, olive oil, and gluten the yield is much more to my–and likely your–liking. Anyhow, the easy and delicious recipe is below.

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 rotate 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.


Urban Simplicity.

A well educated beet…

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This is a really simple recipe that is really bursting with flavor…it’s basically a sweet-and-sour vegetable recipe. The beets, after being peeled and sliced or diced, are cooked in a water-vinegar-sugar solution, and then the liquid is thickened with cornstarch. There’s a couple interesting theories on the name of this recipe. One is that it was a common New England recipe and that the deep crimson color of the dish resembled the color of the jerseys of the Harvard football teem.Another is that it is a dish that was served by a Russian immigrant in his tavern outside Boston during the mid-1800’s. The name of his tavern was Harwood’s, and this recipe was so popular that they became known as Harwood’s beets, but with his thick accent they may have come across as sounding like Harvard Beets. Whatever the story, they are easy to prepare, nutritious, and delicious. The basic recipe is below.

Harvard Beets

Peel as many beets as you’d like to prepare, then slice or dice them. Place the beets in a pot with just enough cold water to cover them. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Add a small amount of sugar and vinegar to the pot along with a pinch of salt. Taste the liquid and adjust the sweet/sour flavor to your liking. Simmer the beets for 15 minutes or so, or until they are soft. In a small bowl, dilute a small amount of cornstarch in cold water, then stir it into the simmering beets. The liquid should thicken shortly after the starch has been added. If too thin, ad additional starch; if too thick, dilute with more water/vinegar. Simmer the beets another couple of minutes and taste/adjust seasoning as necessary.

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