Tag Archives: Mediterranean Cuisine

Shakshouka!

So first of all, I have to come clean about something. You may be wondering what a guy like me (one who tries to shop relatively seasonally) is doing with fresh peppers and tomatoes in February…sorry, I had a momentary desire for warmer months and sought it through food…it’s about this time of the year that the constant snow and grey begins to get to me. Thus said, you can use canned diced tomatoes for this, which I have in the past.

Shakshouka is a Mediterranean egg dish that is simple to make, nutritious, and really delicious. There are no hard and fast rules for the recipe other than it usually contains tomatoes and peppers, but one can also add other things they like, such as potatoes or beans (just to name a few). The sauce itself can be a sort of salsa-y type sauce, such as this recipe, or it can be more of a smooth tomato sauce (such as this recipe which I posted last year). It can be either cooked entirely on the stove-top (such as the recipe posted here) or it can be finished in the oven (as with this previous recipe). It is a recipe that is suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. By now you likely get the picture…it’s really up to you how you want to make this and in fact eat it. Anyhow, the recipe which I made today, and the one pictured, is below. 

 

Shakshouka

Serves 2


3 tablespoons olive oil

½ small onion, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon oregano

¼ teaspoon whole cumin seed

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 medium tomatoes, diced

½ cup water

4 large eggs


heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper; saute for a few minutes, then add the jalapeno and garlic. Cook for a few minutes longer, until the vegetables begin to brown slightly, then add the oregano, cumin, and salt; stir for a just a minute to release the flavor of the seasonings, then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Cook the sauce for about five minutes, or until it reduces and becomes somewhat thick. Lower the heat to a very slow simmer, then crack the eggs into the sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook the eggs for about 5 minutes, or until they are cooked to your liking. Serve with crusty bread.

Urban Simplicity.

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.

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

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.

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.

On Starting Anew over a Bowl of Soup

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 to hug and kiss me and my sisters and pinch our cheeks. And on this evening—the last night of 2014—as I stood in 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 and thankful 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 they likely came to this country with 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 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 new 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)

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-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)

2-3 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.

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.

Tofu Souvlaki!

Okay…so first…yup, tofu souvlaki. Don’t mock it ’till you’ve tried it. And also, I have to qualify this by stating that I am not a vegetarian (as people often think I am), it’s just that I do not eat a great deal of meat and find meatless foods just as enticing as those otherwise. This said, I hope you’ll try this. And I have to finish by saying what has become a sort of mantra for most of the recipes I make…it is really delicious and easy to make, too.

Tofu Souvlaki
Serves 2-4
1 (14 oz.) package extra-firm tofu
1 cup virgin olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup water
¼ cup minced parsley
3 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons Greek oregano
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
Drain the tofu and remove it from its package. Set the tofu on a plate with two or three additional plates resting gently on top to release some of it’s moisture. Allow the tofu to be pressed at room temperature for 15 minutes, then cut it first into quarters, and then oblong slices. Lay the slices in a shallow pan the is just large enough to hold them. Make the marinade/salad dressing by combining the remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisking together. Pour half of the marinade over the sliced tofu and allow it to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat an oven to 375F. Remove the tofu from its marinade and lay the pieces on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled. Bake the tofu for 20-30 minutes, turning as necessary, or until lightly browned at the edges and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Kibbet Batata (a variation on a variation)


Okay. So first of all…yum! These are really good, and good for you. They are also really easy to make. Recently someone said to me that I always say my recipes are really easy to make…well they are if you read the directions through. My thoughts on recipes on this blog are that I like to post recipes that are (a) really delicious, (b) good for you, and (c) simple enough to make that you will actually make them. This said, this is a variation of the vegetarian version of kibbeh, which in itself can be served in many forms, but usually contains ground lamb and bulgur wheat mixed together, and is said to be somewhat of the national dish of Lebanon. A vegetarian version is one that replaces the meat with potatoes, and this recipe replaces the potatoes with sweet potatoes. Hence the variation on a variation. Anyhow, this is really easy to make and really delicious (there, I said it again), I hope you try it. Eat it as a snack, an accompaniment to a vegetarian main course, on a salad (as I did with the below dressing), or as a sandwich such as a falafel. For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here. Accompanying recipes are below as well.

  Sweet Potato Kibbeh

Makes about 2 ½ dozen 1-ounce patties

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup medium bulgar wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sauteing
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon seven spice mix
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup whole wheat flour
pine nuts for garnish

Place the diced sweet potato in a small pot with enough water to cover it. Boil it for about 10-15 minutes or until very soft. Drain the sweet potato and transfer it to a bowl. Add the bulgar wheat to the bowl and mash it into the hot sweet potato. Cover the bowl and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet, when it is hot add the onion and saute for a few minutes or until it is lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then stir in the seven spice mix, turmeric, and Aleppo pepper. Cook the spices for about thirty seconds, then add this mixture to the bowl with the sweet potatoes along with the sea salt and whole wheat flour. Mash the spices and flour into the sweet potatoes and bulgar wheat, cover the bowl again and allow it to rest for another 10 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat is soft. Shape the kibbeh into 1-ounce portions, pressing pine nuts into the patties. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the kibbeh to the pan—in batches if necessary, and cook on both sides until lightly golden brown and cooked throughout.

 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.

Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce and Dressing

Makes about 3 cups

4 cloves garlic
2 cups Greek yogurt
½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 1½ cups)
½ bunch Italian parsley, washed, stems removed
½ bunch mint, washed, stems removed
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

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

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocados, peeled

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

1 cup tahini

4 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup lemon juice

¼ cup water

¼ cup hot pepper sauce

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

Urban Simplicity.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

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

 

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocados, peeled
2 cans (15 oz. ea.) black beans, rinsed
1 cup tahini
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup hot pepper sauce

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

Urban Simplicity.

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

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

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

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

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


Urban Simplicity.

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

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

Serves 4


½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped


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


Urban Simplicity.

Another Pie…

So yes, this is another variation on a theme. I made bread today and is often the case I took a small piece of dough and made a pizza with it while the bread was rising. For this one I used a whole-wheat sesame dough, tomato sauce, pesto sauce, broccoli and spaghetti squash aglio e olio, hot peppers, and four cheese (yum!). Links to recipes are below.

For dough recipes using 100% whole wheat flour, click here.

For a really simple 10 minute tomato sauce recipe, click here.

For pesto recipes, click here.

If you want to know how to cook nearly anything “aglio e olio,” click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Another Pie…

So yes, this is another variation on a theme. I made bread today and is often the case I took a small piece of dough and made a pizza with it while the bread was rising. For this one I used a whole-wheat sesame dough, tomato sauce, pesto sauce, broccoli and spaghetti squash aglio e olio, hot peppers, and four cheese (yum!). Links to recipes are below.

For dough recipes using 100% whole wheat flour, click here.
For a really simple 10 minute tomato sauce recipe, click here.
For pesto recipes, click here.
If you want to know how to cook nearly anything “aglio e olio,” click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus (yum!)

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

 

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

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

2 roasted red peppers

1 cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce (optional)

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

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

 

How to Roast a Pepper

Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium. Using a set of tongs turn the pepper ever couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. Immediately place the pepper(s) into a small paper bag and seal it closed. Allow the pepper to rest for a couple of minutes. The steam that naturally occurs loosens the skin. Remove the pepper, and while holding it under cold running water gently rub of the blackened skin (it’s wise, but not essential, to do this over a small colander to catch the skin, which may clog the drain). After the skin is removed gently tear the pepper in two and remove the stem and rinse the seeds.

Urban Simplicity.

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus (yum!)

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

 

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

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

2 roasted red peppers

1 cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce (optional)

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process to a smooth puree.
 
How to Roast a Pepper
Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium. Using a set of tongs turn the pepper ever couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. Immediately place the pepper(s) into a small paper bag and seal it closed. Allow the pepper to rest for a couple of minutes. The steam that naturally occurs loosens the skin. Remove the pepper, and while holding it under cold running water gently rub of the blackened skin (it’s wise, but not essential, to do this over a small colander to catch the skin, which may clog the drain). After the skin is removed gently tear the pepper in two and remove the stem and rinse the seeds.

Urban Simplicity.