Tag Archives: Home Cooking

Falafel!


I’ve posted variations of falafel various times on this blog (click here to see them), but they all employed the use of cooked chickpeas in the recipe. I’ve seen recipes making this recipe where the chickpeas are not previously cooked, but simply soaked. And I’ve watched my friend Emad, who is from Bagdad, make this version. What’s different about this version and Emad’s is that he seasons in the Iraqi fashion with ground star anise, whereas I used the Lebanese spice mix known simply as “seven-spice,” or baharat in Arabic. what I like about making this with the chickpeas simply soaked rather than pre-cooked, is how crunchy they are. The recipes for baharat, along with taratoor (lemony tahini sauce), are both listed at the bottom of this page. If you do not have the seven spices, or don’t have the initiative to make it, simply substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cumin and a 1/2 teaspoon allspice. Also, while I made my son a traditional falafel sandwich in rolled flatbread for lunch, I ate mine on a salad…sliced summer tomato, avocado, sliced raw onion, feta cheese, fresh parsley and cilantro, and then drizzled with taratoor, hot sauce, and virgin olive oil (yum!). Anyhow, the easy and super-crunchy recipe and pics are below. If you’ve ever wanted to make restaurant or food-truck quality falafel in your home kitchen, this is it. To see other Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.


Falafel 

Makes about 2 dozen small patties
1 cup dried chickpeas
3 cups water
½ small onion, diced
½ bunch Italian parsley, washed and chopped
½ bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Lebanese-style baharat mix
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine the chickpeas and water together in a bowl overnight and leave them at room-temperature to reconstitute. 

  Drain the chickpeas, discarding the water, and combine them with the onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, salt, baharat, turmeric, and baking powder. Mix thoroughly.

Transfer the ingredients to a food processor (in batches if necessary) and process until a mealy consistency. Return the falafel mix to a bowl and mix in the flour by hand. Cover and refrigerate for about ½ hour.

 

Shape into patties, preheat about a half-inch of oil in a skillet, and pan-fry (in batches) on both sides until golden and cooked through. Transfer to absorbent paper and serve with Taratoor sauce.

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix 

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

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

Taratoor 
Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup tahini¼ cup fresh lemon juice¾ cup cold water2 cloves garlic, minced¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper¼ teaspoon sea salt. 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.

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

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.

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

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. 

Employee Meal 4.27.15

One of the great things about being a chef is not only being able to cook for others but also for one’s self. And on slower days–such as today–I do just that, so today I served food that I like to eat. There was salad, of course, and (labneh) thick yogurt, but also moudardara (rice and lentils), and kabees el lift (pickled turnip colored with beet). Yum.

If you would like to make your own yogurt, click here for a recipe.
For the moudardara recipe, click here.
And for the fermented turnip pickles, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Mediterranean-Style "Golden" Rice-and-Beans

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.


Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips…

A few turnips, a beet, some water, and a little salt. That’s it. That’s all you need for this really healthy and bursting-with-flavor recipe. The classic recipe (below) also includes a hot pepper and possible some onion, but I didn’t want that in this one…I wanted the brightness of the vegetable itself. 

It’s interesting in that as I was slicing the beets and turnip I was listening to The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper and one of her guests today was Maureen Abood, the Lebanese-American author discussing her new book of Lebanese food (it’s also on my personal book list). Serendipity, I suppose.

Anyhow, the image above is of the vegetables just added to the saltwater brine; they are not fermented yet. They were just added to the crock, and with warmer temps they should only take about a week to ferment. The single beet will color everything a lovely magenta; I’ll post a pic of the finished recipe. 

Anyhow, if you would like more Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here; for more recipes that are fermented, click here; and if you would like to read an article on fermentation, click here.

Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips

8 turnips, peeled and sliced

1 beet, peeled and sliced

1 small onion, peeled and sliced

2 jalapenos, peeled and sliced

4 cups water

2 tablespoon kosher salt


Combine the turnips, beets, onions, and jalapeno in a container that is wide enough to fit a few small plates. Press down on the vegetables with your hands to release some of their juices. Combine the water and salt in a bowl and pour over the vegetables. Weight the vegetables with plates; they should be completely covered in salt water. Cover and leave at room temperature. Small bubbles will appear within 2 or 3 days, after about a week or so it will begin to smell and taste distinctively sour. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen the turnip will take between one and three weeks to sour completely. 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. 

Spaghetti con broccoli, aglio, olio e brodo…

I haven’t posted this in a while but I made it for dinner tonight and thought I would. It is so simple but yet so delicious. Substitute any vegetable for the broccoli.  

Spaghetti con broccoli, aglio, olio e brodo 
(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth) 

Yield: 4 servings 

½ pound spaghetti
¼ cup virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 cup chicken broth
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 large head broccoli, chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Garlic and other Good Things

Penne Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Garlic and other Good Things

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon rosemary
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 large head broccoli, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Cook the penne in boiling water until al dente, then drain it and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauce pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook the onion slowly for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to change color. Add the garlic and cook another few minutes, or until the onions and gralic are browned but not burnt. Stir in the hot pepper, rosemary, and salt; stir and cook for a few seconds to bring out the pepper and herb’s flavors, then add the tomatoes and broth. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Then add the broccoli and chickpeas. Simmer the broth for about ten minutes, while gently stirring the broccoli and chick peas. After the broth reduces a bit, and the broccoli is nearly cooked, add the cooked pasta. Gently cook and fold the pasta into the vegetables and broth for a couple minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Salade d’hiver…

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.

Salt Cod and Potato Fritters!

I don’t have a lot to say about this recipe other than the fact that it is really easy to make and really super delicious. Okay, I lied, I do have a couple things to say about it. This is another recipe I’m testing from this book which I’m currently reviewing. This is the Middle Eastern version of a recipe that is universal nearly the world around. There are versions of salt cod-potato fritters in all of the Mediterranean countries, Central and South American, and much of the Caribbean. Yup, it’s that good. Being the Middle Eastern version, I ate this with cucumber-yogurt sauce and spicy red pepper puree, but any of your favorite dip would work. But to be honest, they are delicious as is or just with the squeeze of a lemon or lime.

 

Salt Cod-Potato Fritters

Makes about 3 dozen small fritters

1 pound salt cod
1 pound cold unseasoned mashed potatoes
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch fresh dill, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, fine diced
½ small onion, fine diced
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup all-purpose flower, plus extra for dusting
vegetable oil for pan-frying

Soak the cod in plenty of cold water for 4-6 hours—changing the water a couple times—to remove the saltiness. Dice the cod, and then shred it with your fingers, then place it into a bowl with the potatoes. Mix the potatoes and cod together, then add the remaining ingredients and mix together until thoroughly combined. Scoop small amounts of the mix onto a sheet-pan that has been lightly floured, and shape them into small patties. Heat about ¼-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties for a few minutes on each side—in batches, if necessary—or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the fritters to absorbent paper and serve while hot.

Urban Simplicity.

Pasta for a winter’s eve…

If you’ve been to this blog before then you know a few things about me. One is that I like one-pot meals such as rice or pasta…especially pasta. And this is a good example. I’ve been ill for the past few days (a cold) and actually took the day off work yesterday, which is unlike me. But while being self-sequestered at home had difficulty doing absolutely nothing, so I did something that nourishes both body and soul…I cooked, and also baked bread. Checking my fridge I came up with the ingredients for this dish and it turned out to be just what I needed…perfect comfort food for a winter’s evening. And as usual, this recipe is simply a guide and not a blueprint…it is really just a sort of elaborate variation of the many aglio e olio recipes posted on this blog. Add or remove whichever ingredients you have at hand or suit your taste.

Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Kale
Serves 2-4
½ pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups kale, coarsely chopped
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
2 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Boil the spaghetti al dente, drain, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and sautes them until they begin to brown, then add the garlic and hot pepper and saute another minute or two. Stir in the kale and sun-dried tomatoes, coating it with the oil and seasonings, then add the broth and salt. Bring the broth to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Simmer the broth for 5-10 minutes, or until it reduces by two-thirds and is concentrated in both flavor and viscosity. Add the cooked spaghetti and simmer it while stirring gently for a minute or two, allowing flavors to permeate the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Urban Simplicity.

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad (Yum!)

This recipe is a variation (my interpretation) of a recipe from the book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. I was recently offered the book to review and am pretty excited about it (and it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new cookbook these days). I am not really that familiar with the cuisines of Persia, or modern day Iran (which is one of the oldest cuisines in the world), but I am familiar with the flavors in these recipes…very fresh and bright flavors. And while the recipes may be simple the flavors are complex and multi-layered. At any rate, this recipe is really easy to make and also really delicious…it is definitely one I will make again (and likely again and again). Plus it is a lot of fun cooking the eggplant over an open flame.

 

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad

Serves 8

4 large eggplant

½ red bell pepper, diced small

½ green bell pepper, diced small

¼ red onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Cook the eggplant by placing them directly over an open flame of a gas stove. Turn the eggplant as needed. The skin will blister and blacken; it will look burnt. Continue to cook and turn the eggplant until it is very soft and heated throughout. Transfer the eggplant to a clean surface and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel away the blackened skin while placing the flesh of the eggplant in a colander over a sink to drain any excess moisture. Coarse-chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to a bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Gently stir and fold the salad to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Serve warm or chilled with toasted garlic bread or wedges of pita.

Urban Simplicity.

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad (Yum!)

This recipe is a variation (my interpretation) of a recipe from the book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. I was recently offered the book to review and am pretty excited about it (and it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new cookbook these days). I am not really that familiar with the cuisines of Persia, or modern day Iran (which is one of the oldest cuisines in the world), but I am familiar with the flavors in these recipes…very fresh and bright flavors. And while the recipes may be simple the flavors are complex and multi-layered. At any rate, this recipe is really easy to make and also really delicious…it is definitely one I will make again (and likely again and again). Plus it is a lot of fun cooking the eggplant over an open flame.

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad
Serves 8
4 large eggplant
½ red bell pepper, diced small
½ green bell pepper, diced small
¼ red onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Cook the eggplant by placing them directly over an open flame of a gas stove. Turn the eggplant as needed. The skin will blister and blacken; it will look burnt. Continue to cook and turn the eggplant until it is very soft and heated throughout. Transfer the eggplant to a clean surface and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel away the blackened skin while placing the flesh of the eggplant in a colander over a sink to drain any excess moisture. Coarse-chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to a bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Gently stir and fold the salad to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Serve warm or chilled with toasted garlic bread or wedges of pita.

Urban Simplicity.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût!

This is a basic ragoût recipe, or a main dish stew. Like all of the recipes that I post, this is not carved in stone but should serve more as a guide. The ingredients and seasonings can all be interchanged–added or deleted–to suit your personal tastes. This is perfect middle-of-the-winter comfort food. It’s delicious and packed full of nutrients…and the best part is that it will only use one pot to prepare.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût

Serves 6

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

¼ head green cabbage, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 turnips, diced

1 bunch kale, diced

1 medium potato, diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced

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

¼ cup lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and cabbage; cook and stir for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted and just begin to brown, then stir in the grlic and cook another minute or so. Lower the heat and add the spices: cumin, turmeric, coriander, hot pepper, and salt. Stir the spices into the vegetables, then add the turnips, kale, and potato; stirring to coat with spices and oil. Then add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer the stew for 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and vegetables are tender, then stir in the beans and cook for another minute or so. Lastly, stir in the lemon juice and remove the pot from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût!

This is a basic ragoût recipe, or a main dish stew. Like all of the recipes that I post, this is not carved in stone but should serve more as a guide. The ingredients and seasonings can all be interchanged–added or deleted–to suit your personal tastes. This is perfect middle-of-the-winter comfort food. It’s delicious and packed full of nutrients…and the best part is that it will only use one pot to prepare.
Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût
Serves 6
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
¼ head green cabbage, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 turnips, diced
1 bunch kale, diced
1 medium potato, diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
1 (15 oz) can red beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup lemon juice
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and cabbage; cook and stir for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted and just begin to brown, then stir in the grlic and cook another minute or so. Lower the heat and add the spices: cumin, turmeric, coriander, hot pepper, and salt. Stir the spices into the vegetables, then add the turnips, kale, and potato; stirring to coat with spices and oil. Then add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer the stew for 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and vegetables are tender, then stir in the beans and cook for another minute or so. Lastly, stir in the lemon juice and remove the pot from the heat.

Two Chickpeas; Two Recipes

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 salt 

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.

Der Kuchen…


This story, recipe, and photos was first published at ChefTalk.com. To view it there please click here

Der Kuchen 

It’s 8:15 on a chilly November morning and I’m standing in a large empty kitchen stirring flour, yeast, and water in a small bowl and feeling a little stressed. I’m also thinking of my mother. She, of course, is not the reason I am feeling stressed; it’s because of the busy day ahead of me. Though my mother has been gone for many years the thought of her still comforts me. The recipe that I’m making—kuchen, or German coffee cake—is hers, and this is the reason I think of her at this moment.
Whenever I make this recipe I also cannot help but think of Christmastime; this is the traditional time to eat this pastry, at least it was and still is in our family. And when I think of the Christmases of my youth I remember them through rose colored almost Rockwellian glasses. We were poor, that’s for sure (not that I realized it then), but there was always plenty of food on the table…especially homemade baked goods.
My mother was of German decent and grew up on Buffalo’s East Side. She took pride in her baking skills, and even though she had a houseful of kids and worked full time she still managed to bake mountains of cookies and trays of kuchenfor the holidays. Kuchen (pronounced kooken) is the German word for cake, and is more closely related to coffee cake than traditional cake or flaky pastry. I’m sure there are as many variations as there are those who make them. This is about the one I grew up with.
What’s distinctive about kuchen, or at least this kuchen recipe—opposed to some of the other coffee cakes—is that it’s made with yeast-leavened dough rather than a chemically-leavened batter. And though the dough is rolled flat, filled, and rolled into a log or crescent, it’s not a strudel because strudel utilizes a buttery unleavened flaky dough that more close resembles phyllo.
The recipe that I make is one that my mother learned from her mother who learned it from her mother and so on. And while I suppose one could say that I learned the recipe through osmosis—absorbing it at my very core while I played in the kitchen as my mother kneaded the dough and the sweet smell of yeast wafted in the air—but that’s not how it happened. Years ago I inherited a small notebook that was hand-penned by my grandmother, my mother’s mother. There are only a dozen or so recipes in the slim volume and one of them is for “foundation dough,” which is the basic sweet yeast dough that is used for not only kuchen but also the delectable German doughnuts fastnachts kuekles, which are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday just before Lent.
I can still picture the brown terracotta bowls resting on the radiator with towels shrouding the pillow-like dough. I was told not to touch the bowl or leave the kitchen door open too long, lest it become drafty and the dough fall. It was such a mystery, seeming almost magical, how the dough would grow. I can only speculate that this recipe—and being in the kitchen as a child while my mother made it—is in fact the basis for my fascination of yeast-leavened doughs.
I tweaked my grandmother’s original recipe for foundation dough. The most obvious changes are accurate measurements, meaning rather than a pinch of this or a handful of that I added measured ingredients. I also replaced the shortening in the original recipe with butter. But another less overt change was in the method in which it’s made. Rather than using the traditional straight dough method for this—which of course has yielded a delicious kuchen for generations—I incorporated a pre-fermet, or mixing together a portion of the flour with the liquid and yeast and allowing it to ferment prior to mixing the dough. This, in my opinion, offers a dough that is both more supple to knead and also one with a bit more flavor. And I also generally mix the dough in an electric mixer with a dough hook, I can still picture my mother kneading the dough on our flour-covered kitchen table.
So this morning after mixing together the pre-ferment, and after the rest of the kitchen staff had arrived, it bubbled away for an hour or so as our day began. Then as the day bustled along I mixed and kneaded the pre-ferment into a dough and it silently rose through the busy lunch hour. Then, a bit later, after rolling the dough flat I filled and shaped it, and then—after letting it rest a bit—baked the kuchen. After it cooled some, I drizzled it with a simple sugar icing. Then I sliced it and offered it to the staff in the calm of the afternoon that follows a busy lunch.
It is said that the sense of smell and taste are the two most powerful memory senses. And on this day—while standing in the midst of a bustling commercial kitchen lined with stainless steel—when I bit in I was still just that little kid in my mother’s tiny home kitchen in a public housing project with steamed up windows…and I was full of anticipation because I knew that Christmas was just around the corner.

Cherry, Raisin, and Walnut Kuchen

Yield: 3 kuchen 

For the dough: 
1 cup water (room temperature)
1 cup milk (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
6-7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt 

For the filling: 

melted unsalted butter
granulated sugar
ground cinnamon
maraschino cherries, rinsed and chopped
dark raisins
chopped walnuts 

Topping: 

1 egg mixed with a little milk
poppy seeds
powdered sugar
milk

To make the dough, combine the water, milk, sugar, yeast, and two cups of flour in a large bowl. Allow to rest for 1 hour, or until the yeast is fully active. Transfer to an upright mixing bowl with a dough hook. Add the eggs, melted butter, salt, and 4 cups of flour. Run the mixer on low for 1 minute (if the dough seems too sticky add the remaining cup flour) then turn to medium and knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature for about an hour, or until double in size. 

Preheat an oven to 350F. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and cut into three pieces. Shape into balls, cover and let rest 20 minutes. Roll into large ovals about 1/4 inch thick. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle with cherries, raisis, and walnuts.
Roll into logs then shape into crescents. Transfer to baking sheets lined with oiled parchment. Brush the with the egg/milk mixture and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Make small slices about every two inches.
 Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer pulls out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 15 minutes. Mix powdered sugar with just enough milk to make an icing the consistency of heavy cream. Drizzle over the kuchen and let dry for 15 minutes before slicing. 

Bouillon de dinde…

Nearly every year after the Thanksgiving feast at my sister’s house I lug the turkey carcass home, leave it on my porch overnight (as my fridge isn’t large enough to accommodate it), and make broth with it the next day. The simmering broth makes my house smell delicious and drives my two dogs nuts (but I do put some on their food as a treat). After packaging it in increments I freeze it and use it for a few weeks–or months–thereafter for whatever recipe calls for chicken broth. It’s so easy to make and offers a really delicious flavor. The simple recipe for broth is below, but if you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice sometime ago regarding other Thanksgiving leftovers, click here; and here’s a link to an article on broth itself.

Turkey Broth 

1 cooked turkey carcass, and any scraps, juices, and pan scrapings

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, cut into thirds

4 ribs celery, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

10 whole black peppercorns 

Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and cover with enough cold water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for a few hours, skimming the surface as necessary. Strain and refrigerate until needed.  

Urban Simplicity.

Bouillon de dinde…

Nearly every year after the Thanksgiving feast at my sister’s house I lug the turkey carcass home, leave it on my porch overnight (as my fridge isn’t large enough to accommodate it), and make broth with it the next day. The simmering broth makes my house smell delicious and drives my two dogs nuts (but I do put some on their food as a treat). After packaging it in increments I freeze it and use it for a few weeks–or months–thereafter for whatever recipe calls for chicken broth. It’s so easy to make and offers a really delicious flavor. The simple recipe for broth is below, but if you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice sometime ago regarding other Thanksgiving leftovers, click here; and here’s a link to an article on broth itself.

Turkey Broth 

1 cooked turkey carcass, and any scraps, juices, and pan scrapings
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut into thirds
4 ribs celery, cut into thirds
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns 

Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and cover with enough cold water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for a few hours, skimming the surface as necessary. Strain and refrigerate until needed.  

Urban Simplicity.

Caramelized Butternut Squash and Onion with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemon!

This simple and really delicious and healthy squash recipe is really a variation on “all things aglio e olio.” I had this for dinner this evening as as side to moudardara. Often when I cook squash or potatoes like this I add a few cumin and coriander seeds along with the hot pepper to give it a Near East flavor (but had neither in the house this evening). Nonetheless, this is really easy and delicious, and it can be made using many other hard winter vegetables. 
Caramelized Butternut Squash and Onion with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemon
Serves 2-4, depending on the size of the squash
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced thinly
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet that is large enough to hold the sliced squash in a single layer. When the oil is hot add the squash and saute it for a few minutes. Then add the onion and saute a few more minutes. When the squash and onion just begin to brown add the garlic, hot pepper, and salt; saute another minute or two. Stir in the lemon and remove from the heat.