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Asparagus with oil and garlic…

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

Asparagus Aglio e Olio 

1 pound asparagus  

¼ cup olive oil 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper 

½ teaspoon sea salt 

2 tablespoons water 

3 tablespoons lemon juice 

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

The Eggplant and the Angry Tomato.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Arrabbiata Sauce

(Angry Sauce)

Makes about 5 cups

¼ cup olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper

1 cup red wine

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

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

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

Cookin’ Like Summertime….

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Tomatoes2 (small).jpg

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

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

sauce2

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut

Yield: 4 portions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup red wine

2 cups tomato purée

1 pound diced halibut

1/2 pound penne rigate

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

Urban Simplicity.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup butter

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1¾ cups mini chocolate chips

granulated sugar for garnish

 

Preheat an oven to 350F.

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

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

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

Urban Simplicity.

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli (yum!)

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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.

Falafel!

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

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

Rice and Beans with Chorizo and Kale

Serves 6

¼ cup olive oil

12 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 cup brown rice

3 cups chicken broth, simmering

1 (15 oz.) can red beans, drained

6 ounces baby kale

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

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

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

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