Tag Archives: Homemade

Penne with Salmon, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Spinach

This is a really simple, flavorful, and healthy pasta dish to prepare. But as usual the recipe is not carved in stone. Add or subtract the ingredients you like. I happen to like fish, so I made it with salmon. But this could easily be made with chicken instead, or even vegetarian. The simple recipe is below.

Penne with Salmon, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Spinach
Makes about 2 portions
2 cups whole wheat penne (5 or 6 ounces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces salmon filet, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups spinach leaves, washed and chopped
Boil the penne in lightly salted water, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in large a heavy skillet. Add the diced salmon, cook it until lightly browned, then remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside (leave the oil in the pan). Add the onion to the pan and cook for a few minutes, until it just begins to brown. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, hot pepper, and salt. Cook for a minute or so, then add the broth. Coo the broth until it reduces and concentrates east half. Stir in the spinach and cook it for just a minute. Add the cooked pasta and salmon back to the pan and gently fold it into the broth and other ingredients until heated through. And if you’d like, garnish with grated cheese. 

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli (yum!)

Ok, so first of all…these tasty little nuggets are addictingly delicious. The recipe may look like a lot of steps at first glance but this is really easy to prepare. This is, of course, a vegetarian version of the famous Lebanese dish, kibbeh. I have posted other versions or variations of this recipe here, and also variations of kibbeh here. And yes, before you ask, these can be baked rather than pan-fried, but they wouldn’t be as crispy-crunchy. They are delicious as is, dipped in yogurt, over rice, or as I ate them, over a salad. The dough can be made and cooked when you need it. These really are simple to make, bursting with flavor, and nutritious as well. For additional Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli

Makes a couple dozen patties

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

1 head broccoli, chopped

1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped

1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

1 cup bulgur wheat

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup whole wheat flour

oil for pan-frying

Boil the potatoes until soft, then drain them and set aside.

Combine the onion, garlic, and jalapeno in a food processor and process until finely minced, then set aside.

Combine the parsley and cilantro in a food processor and process until minced, then set aside.

Place the chopped broccoli in a food processor and process until finely minced, then set aside.

While the potatoes are still warm, combine them with the bulgur wheat in a bowl and mash and stir them until thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl and let rest while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

 

 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow pot, then add the onion, garlic, jalapeno mixture; cook until it just begins to brown. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, hot pepper, and salt. Cook the spices for just a minute, then add the broccoli. Cook the broccoli, while stirring, for a few minutes, until it is softened. Add the spiced broccoli mixture to the bowl with the potatoes and bulgur; mix to combine. Add the parsley and cilantro; mix to combine. Then add the flour and mix that in as well. All the mixture to rest for about 20 minutes.

After the resting period, knead the dough for just a minute, then shape into small patties (if the mixture is too loose add additional flour; if it is too crumbly add a small amount of water). Heat about 1/8th inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties in batches on both sides until golden brown and cooked throughout.

 

 

Urban Simplicity.

100% Whole Wheat Bread with Honey, Oatmeal, and Flax (Yum!)


I made this bread the other day; about 4 days ago, actually. I’ve made it before, but I often try to improve recipes. And I’m often trying to make bread healthier as well. This is a classic whole wheat bread with the addition of rolled oats and flax, both of which can absorb a lot of liquid, this is the reason the high ratio of liquid-to-flour (whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than refined flour as well). Anyhow, this is a relatively simple to make bread recipe; it’s pretty straight-forward. And not only is it nutritious, it is also a bread with a lot of character; really delicious. This will make two or three average sized loaves, but I made it into one giant Pullman-style loaf. I’ve been eating it for the past four days.


Whole Wheat Oatmeal-Flax Bread


Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
½ cup ground flax seed
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
4 cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the flax seed, wheat gluten, and 3 cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour (if the dough is too moist you may need to add additional flour; this will depend on how much liquid the oats absorbs). Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus with Caramelized Vegetables…

Firstly, and you may already know this, but I didn’t list the ingredient, chickpea, in the title of this recipe because it is actually already listed…the word hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. Anyhow, I’ll say my recipe mantra again…this recipe is so easy and delicious you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it before (but maybe you have). The sweet potatoes offer not only a bit of sweetness to the recipe but also a certain creaminess. I also topped this with a good dollop of plain yogurt, and vegetables (onion, squash, sliced Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and a bit more garlic) which I caramelized in olive oil in a hot skillet. And rather than using proper utensils, I went slightly feral and used sliced and toasted whole wheat bread (click here for whole wheat bread recipes). Anyhow, and just to be a bit redundant, this recipe is really easy to make, packed full of nutrients, and super-delicious.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus 

Makes about 3 cups

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed
6 tablespoons tahini
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons Frank’s hot sauce



Preheat an oven to 325F. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce the sweet potatoes a few time, then place them on a baking sheet. Bake the sweet potatoes for about an hour, or until very soft. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them. Place the cooked and diced sweet potato, along with all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. If the hummus is too thick add additional water or lemon.



Urban Simplicity.

Red Lentil Soup with Potato and Spinach…

I’ve posted a recipe for this before (a few times no doubt) but each time is slightly different. This soup is so easy to make but at the same time bursting with flavor and super-nutritious. What’s different about this version is I used a sort of slow-cooked sofrito to bring out the flavors of the vegetables and spices. And a sofrito is really as simple as that…cooking vegetables and spices very slowly until they caramelize, the liquid evaporates, and the result is an intense flavorful paste. Anyhow, here it is…

Red Lentil Soup with Spinach 

Makes about 2 quarts
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (15 oz. can) diced tomatoes
2 cups red lentils
8 cups chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups (4-6 ounces) fresh spinach, chopped
¼ cup lemon juice

 

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper; saute slowly until caramelized. Add the garlic, cumin, turmeric, hot pepper, and salt; cook another minute or two. Add the tomatoes, and cook them until the juice reduces and everything forms a sort of paste.

Add the lentils and broth; bring to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 30 minutes, then add the potatoes and simmer another 30 minutes or until the soup thickens and the lentils become very soft. Stir in the spinach and cook another 5 minutes. If it becomes too thick, add additional broth or a little water. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the soup from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Falafel!


I’ve posted variations of falafel various times on this blog (click here to see them), but they all empoyed 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, and 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 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.

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Really simple to make, but it’s as delicious as it looks…

Yup, even in the midst of mini heat wave I still made pizza for dinner…the kitchen was hot but the outcome was definitely worth it. This pizza is made with a 100% whole wheat crust, and is topped with pesto, tomato sauce, four cheese, onion, and broccoli cooked in olive oil and garlic.

Here’s what it looked like just before it went in the oven…

Follow this link for my really simple but delicious whole wheat dough. And follow this link for step-by-step instructions and photos of this pizza being made at a previous time (minus the pesto). Click here for broccoli (and nearly any other vegetable) cooked with garlic and olive oil. And finally, if you are interested in a little history and lore regarding this delectable pie, follow this link.

Urban Simplicity.

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. 

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

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.

Four Ingredients / Four Loaves

It only takes four basic ingredients to make a really good loaf of bread…flour, water, yeast and salt. Everything else is extra. With that said, when I make bread using 100% whole wheat flour (which is pretty much all I do these days) I like to add a couple or few additional ingredients. The first is a couple tablespoons vital wheat gluten as whole wheat flour has a lower gluten content than process white flour. The gluten helps the bread stay risen. I also like to add a splash of olive oil for richness and suppleness, and a bit of honey for flavor and color to the crust. So today when I made this I used seven ingredients and doubled the recipe, hence the four loaves. Anyhow, bread is easier than you may think to make, and it’s so delicious. Don’t be daunted or intimidated, just do it. You won’t be sorry. For more recipes like this click here.

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.

Souvlaki-Style Tofu (version 2.0)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lebanese-Style Lentil Soup (another variation)

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.

Lebanese Chicken-and-Rice (variation on a theme)

Okay. So I’ve posted this recipe–or variations of it–a bunch of time prior on this blog, but I enjoy it so much–and am convinced that you will, too–that I had to post it again. And, yes…this is yet another variation. I made this for staff lunch yesterday and what I did slightly differently is that I added a pinch of saffron to give the rice and chicken a beautiful yellow hue, and I also used a couple tablespoons of baharat, or 7-spice mix instead of those listed in the recipe below (the spices in the recipe are very similar to the seven spice mix, but I had some baharat on hand at work). I also used brown rice (both versions are listed in the recipe below) and organic chicken breast with the wing bone still intact. Anyhow, try this recipe…you won’t be sorry. It’ll make your house smell delicious as it cooks, and you might want to make a double batch because leftovers are just as good. For more Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

Lebanese 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)
2-3cups 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.


Urban Simplicity.