Tag Archives: Mediterranean Diet

Penne with Salmon, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Spinach

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

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

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli (yum!)

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

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli
Makes a couple dozen patties
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 cup bulgur wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup whole wheat flour
oil for pan-frying
Boil the potatoes until soft, then drain them and set aside.
Combine the onion, garlic, and jalapeno in a food processor and process until finely minced, then set aside.
Combine the parsley and cilantro in a food processor and process until minced, then set aside.
Place the chopped broccoli in a food processor and process until finely minced, then set aside.
While the potatoes are still warm, combine them with the bulgur wheat in a bowl and mash and stir them until thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl and let rest while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow pot, then add the onion, garlic, jalapeno mixture; cook until it just begins to brown. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, hot pepper, and salt. Cook the spices for just a minute, then add the broccoli. Cook the broccoli, while stirring, for a few minutes, until it is softened. Add the spiced broccoli mixture to the bowl with the potatoes and bulgur; mix to combine. Add the parsley and cilantro; mix to combine. Then add the flour and mix that in as well. All the mixture to rest for about 20 minutes.
After the resting period, knead the dough for just a minute, then shape into small patties (if the mixture is too loose add additional flour; if it is too crumbly add a small amount of water). Heat about 1/8th inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties in batches on both sides until golden brown and cooked throughout. 

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli (yum!)

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

Spicy Kibbet Batata with Broccoli

Makes a couple dozen patties

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

1 head broccoli, chopped

1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped

1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

1 cup bulgur wheat

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup whole wheat flour

oil for pan-frying

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Urban Simplicity.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus with Caramelized Vegetables…

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

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus

Makes about 3 cups

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed

6 tablespoons tahini

4 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons 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.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus with Caramelized Vegetables…

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

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus 

Makes about 3 cups

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



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



Urban Simplicity.

Red Lentil Soup with Potato and Spinach…

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

Red Lentil Soup with Spinach

Makes about 2 quarts

4 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed

2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 (15 oz. Can) diced tomatoes

2 cups red lentils

8 cups chicken broth

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

4 cups (4-6 ounces) fresh spinach, chopped

¼ cup lemon juice

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

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

Urban Simplicity.

Red Lentil Soup with Potato and Spinach…

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

Red Lentil Soup with Spinach 

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

 

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

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

Urban Simplicity.

Employee Meal 4.27.15

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.

Mediterranean-Style “Golden” Rice-and-Beans

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.

Mediterranean-Style "Golden" Rice-and-Beans

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…

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. 

Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips…

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. 

Spaghetti con broccoli, aglio, olio e brodo…

I haven’t posted this in a while but I made it for dinner tonight and thought I would. It is so simple but yet so delicious. Substitute any vegetable for the broccoli.  

Spaghetti con broccoli, aglio, olio e brodo 
(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth) 

Yield: 4 servings 

½ pound spaghetti
¼ cup virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 cup chicken broth
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 large head broccoli, chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Garlic and other Good Things

Penne Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Garlic and other Good Things

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon rosemary
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 large head broccoli, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Cook the penne in boiling water until al dente, then drain it and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauce pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook the onion slowly for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to change color. Add the garlic and cook another few minutes, or until the onions and gralic are browned but not burnt. Stir in the hot pepper, rosemary, and salt; stir and cook for a few seconds to bring out the pepper and herb’s flavors, then add the tomatoes and broth. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Then add the broccoli and chickpeas. Simmer the broth for about ten minutes, while gently stirring the broccoli and chick peas. After the broth reduces a bit, and the broccoli is nearly cooked, add the cooked pasta. Gently cook and fold the pasta into the vegetables and broth for a couple minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheese.

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.

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.

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.