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Stuffed Bread…

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This was delicious. There, I said it. If you notice I also used the past tense as it no longer exists. But yes, it was delicious.

Anyhow, this began as something else. I had a hankering for a vegetarian version of a Lebanese grilled pita sandwich (arayes) but it ended up being more of a calzone or some sort of savory stove-top pie. Anyhow, as stated, it was super delicious. Made with fresh vegetables and 100% whole wheat dough it is healthy, too.  Here’s how I made it…

Start by making a quick bread dough. Any one is fine so long as it is one you like. There are plenty on this blog from which to choose (click here for bread dough recipes). You will not need an entire recipe for a single pie; the rest of the dough recipe can be frozen or baked into a loaf of bread.

While the dough is rising make your filling. The pie can literally be filled with whatever you like; I choose all vegetables but meat is also acceptable. For this filling I sauteed (in olive oil) onion, mushrooms, garlic, hot peppers, kale, beet greens, and sun dried tomatoes. I also added cheddar cheese; I would have preferred feta but had none in house. After the filling is done, transfer it to a plate and allow to cool to room temperature.

Roll the dough very thin to a circle shape. Place the filling on half of the dough and fold it over. Crimp the edges to keep everything in. Heat a skillet to high, then lower to medium. Place the pie in the pan (without oil), press it gently, then cover the pan. After a few minutes turn the pie over and recover the pan. Cook and flip the pie a couple times to ensure it is cooked but the dough doesn’t burn.

The final instruction is the most important. Eat and enjoy.

Urban Simplicity

Fasoulia!

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So a couple things. One is that I haven’t posted in more that a month, one of the longest stretches since starting this blog. My apologies; it has been a hot and busy summer. Thus said, here’s a very simple but really delicious and nutritious recipe for a Lebanese-style bean stew. This normally does not have greens in it, I added kale simple because I like it.

It seems like every culture has some sort of rice and beans recipe in their repertoire, the Middle East is no different. This recipe is often eaten for breakfast (I am told) with a fried egg on top, not unlike Mexican huevos rancheros, I suppose. Tonight I ate this for dinner over basmati rice. Lastly, two words of interest here. The word fasoulia is simply the Arabic word for beans, and the word baharat, means spices. If you do not have or do not feel like making baharat, use what you like or have, and the beans can be interchanged to your liking as well. Enjoy.

Fasoulia
(Lebanese Spicy Bean Ragoût)

Serves 3-6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon baharat (7-spice mix), see below
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
5 ounces baby kale, washed

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot, then add the onion. Cook the onion while stirring for about 5 minutes or until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two while stirring. Stir in the baharat, soked paprika, and crushed hot pepper; cook for just a minute while stirring. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, lemon juice, salt, and kale. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a very low simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Baharat
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.

Maghmour v2 (Smokey and spicy eggplant and chickpea stew)

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 “If my cuisine were to be defined by just one taste, it would be that of subtle, aromatic, extra-virgin olive oil.”
~Alain Ducasse

So I’ve posted another version of this recipe a while back, but this one is more adapted to the summer months using fresh tomatoes instead of canned. This version is also a bit smokier and spicier (I increased the amount of smoked paprika and chili flakes). Anyhow, this is a really delicious and nutritious, but simple-to-prepare, vegetable stew. Eat it on its own, with bread, or over rice, it is delicious and filling (I had it for dinner over turmeric-infused basmati rice). Make a double batch because it tastes better the second day. For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here. The simple recipe is below.


Maghmour v2
(Lebanese Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

Serves 4-6

¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons crushed hot pepper
1 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 cup water
4 cups diced tomatoes (about 4 medium tomatoes)
1 (15oz. can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small bunch mint, chopped (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes while stirring, until the onion just begins to brown.

Add the garlic and the diced eggplant. Initially the eggplant will absorb the oil and begin to stick to the pan, it is for this reason you should stir nearly continuously for a couple minutes.

Once the eggplant softens, begins to brown, and releases the oil, add the smoked paprika, salt, hot pepper, and cumin seed. Cook the spices for a minute or two.

Stir in the water, tomatoes, and chick peas, and lemon. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. If it is too thick add additional water. Simmer the stew for about 30 minutes.

Stir in the mint and remove the stew from the heat. This can be eaten hot, room temperature, or even chilled in the summer months.

Urban Simplicity.

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.

Shorbat Addis! (Syrian-Lebanese Red Lentil Soup)

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So I’ve posted this recipe (or variations of it) a few times in the past but not in quite some time, so I thought I’d re-post. It is so easy to make, really delicious, and nutritious, too. And it’ll make your house smell delicious as it simmers. This recipe makes 2 quarts, but it tastes better the 2nd or 3rd day and it freezes well also. The recipe I use contains chicken broth, but it is just as delicious when made vegan/vegetarian using vegetable broth as a substitute. A bowl of this soup along with a piece of bread and maybe a piece of fruit is complete and filling meal. If you enjoy soup, I hope you make this. You won’t be sorry.

For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

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.

Maghmour!

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So before I begin discussing this recipe I have to mention my usual mantra that is common to most of the recipes which are posted on this blog…this is so delicious but also nutritious and incredibly simple to prepare. Also, this is simply a suggestion, not a blueprint. Meaning add or delete ingredients and seasonings as you like. It is, after all, your food.

That said, this is a Lebanese eggplant and chickpea stew. Some refer to this as a Lebanese version of moussaka but personally I don’t see the connection. This recipe is sort of large but it is one of those foods, like soup, that actually tastes better the second day. What I really like about this recipe–besides everything–is that the eggplant melts into the sauce giving it a sort silken quality. In this recipe I used canned tomatoes but in the summertime I would likely use fresh. This is also a chameleon of a recipe in that not only can it be eaten as an appetizer (on toast points or with flat bead), as a side dish or part of mezze table, but also as a main course over rice or with a fried egg on it (as I ate it the other night). 

For additional Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here


Maghmour
(Lebanese Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

Serves 6-8

¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 cup water
1 (28oz. can) crushed tomatoes
2 (15oz. cans) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small bunch mint, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes while stirring, until the onion just begins to brown.

Add the garlic and the diced eggplant. Initially the eggplant will absorb the oil and begin to stick to the pan, it is for this reason you should stir nearly continuously for a couple minutes.

Once the eggplant softens, begins to brown, and releases the oil, add the smoked paprika, salt, hot pepper, and cumin seed. Cook the spices for a minute or two.

Stir in the water, tomatoes, and chick peas. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. If it is too thick add additional water. Simmer the stew for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in the mint and remove the stew from the heat. This can be eaten hot, room temperature, or even chilled in the summer months.

Urban Simplicity.

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.

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.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus with Caramelized Vegetables…

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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 cup lemon juice

6 tablespoons cup 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…

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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.

Mediterranean-Style “Golden” Rice-and-Beans

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Okay, so first a couple things. The recipe for this exact dish pictured is at the bottom of this post, but what I really wanted to show here is the method in which to make this; the flavorings and seasonings are interchangeable. Rice-and-beans, of course, are a staple in many cultures around the world. What makes this version truly bursting with flavor is it’s use of sofrito, a sort of seasoning blend made with caramelized onion, peppers, tomato, garlic, and spices. And versions of sofrito can be found in many areas of the world as well, but what makes this Mediterranean are the spices that I used…turmeric, Lebanese seven-spice mix (click here for the recipe), smoked paprika, and saffron. The combination of all of these things gives this dish not only an intoxicating aroma, but also it’s beautiful golden hue. Rice-and-beans on their own are a complete protein, this is how so many people around the world survive of various combinations of this, and this is why this is also a valuable combination for vegans and vegetarians. While the recipe below is not vegetarian (I used chicken broth) it can be if you use vegetable broth. Inversely, one can easily add chicken, seafood, pork, or even lamb to this dish. I also used brown rice rather than white so it contains more vitamins, but this is also why the longer cooking time. Anyhow, here’s how to make it…


Begin by making the sofrito, Heat olive oil in a pot and add diced onion and pepper. Cook them somewhat slowly until they are very cooked and begin to brown slightly. Then add minced garlic and cook that for a few minutes.

Then add whatever herbs or spices you may be using.

Then add tomato. This time of year I use tomato paste because it is already concentrated, but in the summer when my garden is full I often us fresh ripe tomato but have to cook it a bit longer to concentrate the flavors.

Continue to cook the vegetables and spices over moderately low heat until everything is soft and cooked and concentrated. Below is the complete sofrito.

Add the rice and stir it to coat it with the oil and sofrito.

Then add simmering broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 30-50 minutes (depending on the brand). Do not stir the rice. If using white rice, cook it for 18-20 minutes. 

Check the rice, and about 5 or 10 minutes before it is finished add cooked beans or lentils without stirring. After the rice has cooked, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest (without stirring) for about 5 minutes.

Just before serving, fluff the rice and gently fold in the beans.

Golden Brown Rice-and-Beans 

 Makes 4-6 portions

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 red bell pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pinch saffron threads

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown rice

2-3 cups chicken broth (hot)

1 (15 oz) can white beans, rinsed

Heat the olive oil in a heat pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook slowly for about 10 minutes while stirring. When the onion and pepper is very soft and just begins to brown, add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Lower the heat, then stir in the seven-spice mix, turmeric, paprika, salt, and saffron. Cook the spices for just a few seconds then stir in the tomato paste. Cook the vegetables, spices, and tomato paste over low heat for about 5 minutes while stirring. Then add the rice, stirring it into the seasonings, then add 2 ½ cups broth, stirring it in as well. Raise the heat until the liquid boils, then lower it again to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 30-50 minutes (depending on the brand), or until it is almost done. If the rice needs more liquid, add the remaining broth. Without stirring, add the beans on top of the rice, re-cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and allow it to rest for 5 or 10 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the rice and gently fold in the beans.

Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips…

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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. 

Shakshouka!

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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.

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.

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.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

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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

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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…

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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!)

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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.

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