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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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Employee Meal 4.27.15

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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.

Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips…

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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. 

Two Chickpeas; Two Recipes

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

Spicy Avocado and Roast Garlic Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

¼ cup olive oil

8 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed

2 ripe avocado, peeled

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

½ cup lemon juice

1 cup tahini

¼ cup water

¾ teaspoon sea salt

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

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

Spinach and Feta Falafel

Makes about two dozen falafel

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

1 cup cooked spinach, squeezed of excess moisture

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

½ small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons 7-spice mix

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup whole wheat flour (more as needed)

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

sesame seeds for garnish

oil for frying

Combine the chickpeas, spinach, cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lemon juice, 7-spice, salt, turmeric, and baking powder in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the first the flour then the feta cheese by hand, keeping small pieces of cheese visible. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes; if it feels too moist add more flour. Shape into small balls, then flatten them slightly while pressing them into sesame seeds. Preheat a skillet with about ½ inch of vegetable oil and fry the falafel about two minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden on the outside and cooked throughout. Remove the falafel from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. 

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

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

Taratoor

(Tahini-Garlic Sauce)

Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup tahini

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup cold water

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon sea

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. If too thick or too thin, adjust the consistency with water or tahini.

For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

On Starting Anew over a Bowl of Soup

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And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust in the magic of new beginnings.”

This year began differently for me. Not by choice, but it did. Normally I enjoy having New Years Day off of work to contemplate the year just past and the one ahead. In all the years working as a cook I cannot remember working this day…the private club of which I’ve been employed for more than a decade is closed on this day, and all the restaurants I’d worked prior were closed on this day. And even when I did a short stint at a whole foods co-op as kitchen manager I arranged the schedule so I had off. But this year—on New Years Day—I worked, not at any of the jobs aforementioned; I worked my part-time job which I started just a few weeks ago. Initially I didn’t want to do this but my supervisor asked if I would and I said yes. I’m trying to say yes to more things in my life these days, but I’m jumping ahead as I often do.

The night prior I had a date with my two pugs, Netflix, and a bottle of red wine and hoping to make it until midnight (I did). I made lentil soup for dinner, and in trying to live more in the moment (something else I’m attempting to do lately), I really focused on what I was doing. At my full-time job, where I am in charge of a full kitchen, this is often difficult for me because of multi-tasking (which is actually an illusion). But at home I can really focus on just one thing and really appreciate the moment. So as I slowly sauteed the vegetables and garlic in olive oil I was fully aware of all of my senses. And when I added the fragrant spices they filled the air with an aroma that I remember from my youth.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog prior that I am partially of Lebanese decent; my dad’s family was from the “old country.” I have very fond memories of my youth and on this evening as the spices tickled my nostrils I was transported back to the smell of my sitto’s (grandmother’s) house. It was the same aroma I would smell when we would enter her house on a winter’s day and the windows would be steamed up and sitti and my aunts—who were busy in the kitchen—would stop long enough the hug and kiss me and my sisters and pinch our cheeks. And on this evening—the last night of 2014—as I stood my tiny home kitchen with my pugs at my feet while I made lentil soup—I was not alone, at least not entirely…I could feel the presence of my ancestors as if they were standing before me in the flesh. I felt comforted, and I thanked them aloud. I thanked them for all the hard work they did and all the love that they gave, and for making me the person that I am.

The next morning, on New Years Day, I awoke pre-dawn to the sound wind. My old Allentown house shook and creaked as the wind and snow howled outside. Ugh, I thought…I really wished I could just climb back under the covers. But I bundled up and rode the smaller of my two cargo bikes to work, the one fitted with studded snow tires. And it was to my fortune that the wind was to my back…I was quite literally pushed to work. What a gift. And in an attempt at being present I welcomed the wind rather than dread it (this no doubt would have been more difficult if the wind were at my face rather than my back). And as I blew past the new and half-built medical campus on Main Street the tarps billowed and howled and the outstretched arm of the crane swayed as if waving to the clouds. There was not a car or person in sight and it was beautiful, it really was.

My part-time job is working in a home where people have nowhere else to go. The juxtaposition to my daily full-time job is easily apparent. And it is humbling on so many levels. It’s just a few hours a week and I work alone in the kitchen, so rather than having a full staff to do things for me I do it myself (which I enjoy). But the best part is being able to serve people a good meal who may need it the most. Food can nourish far more than the physical body.

So what does any of this have to do with soup and a new year? Nothing and everything, I suppose. I, like a lot of people, had a whole list of resolutions—things to give up and things to take up—most of which will be forgotten by the end of the month. And as I rode to work just after dawn on the first day of the new year it came to me that changing my thoughts changes my reality, and that my resolution(s) can be distilled into that one thing. The wind howled and at points almost pushed me off my bike, but by welcoming it—being in awe of it—I enjoyed the ride rather dreaded it.

It is a proven fact that when one changes their thoughts they change their outlook, and that happiness truly can be a choice, even in the most difficult situations. I personally know this, but that alone does not always make it easy. When I remain positive I have positive things happen in my life; and living positively also means (for me) living compassionately. And when I live with a compassionate heart the world blossoms before me. Inversely, when I live in fear (or with negative thoughts) it’s as if I have blinders on and can only see my own problems (which seem paramount but in reality are not problems at all when it comes right down to it).

So after serving lunch I sat down to my own lunch of another bowl of soup, flat-bread, and an orange which I carried with me to work that morning. Again I thought of my ancestors and how when they came to this country they likely and nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few things that they could carry. And as I sat and ate to the hum of the refrigerator, I thought to myself that while I may not have everything I want I most definitely have everything I need…way more than I need, actually. And as I sat there I banished the list of resolutions that I had planned and just stuck to one…to change my thinking. Because if I do this I know that everything will work out. Will it be easy. Nope. Not likely. But is it possible? Yes, without doubt…I can start over everyday if that’s what it will take, not just New Year’s Day. And if I do this I know that I can be of more service to others—even if it is just little interactions throughout the day—because isn’t that what we are really here for, to help one another along in this journey we call life.

And I don’t know if I was imagining it or not, but as I ate the soup it tasted good…really good. Better than the night before, in fact. And this is what I thought about while eating lentil soup in a large kitchen lined with stainless-steel while the wind whistled and howled outside on the first day of the year.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world be be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Red Lentil Lentil Soup with Spinach

Makes about 2 quarts

4 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

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-high heat. Add the onion and carrot; saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Add the tomato paste, cumin, turmeric, coriander, hot 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 spinach and simmer for just a couple minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the soup from the heat.

For additional Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

Lebanese-Style Lentil Soup (another variation)

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

Middle Eastern Style Lentil Soup (variation)

Makes about 2 quarts

4 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Lebanese 7-spice mix

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups French lentils

8 cups chicken broth

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

¼ cup lemon juice

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

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

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

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

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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)

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

1 small bunch parsley, minced

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


Urban Simplicity.

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