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Lebanese-Style Chicken-and-Rice (yummm!)

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So yes, I have posted this recipe before, but not in quite a while. Personally I have not actually eaten meat in about two months, but then I started craving this…it’s a recipe that is derived from one my sitti (grandmother) used to make. It is really (really) delicious, and simple to make, too. One of the differences with the recipe that I grew up with and the one I make for myself today is that I generally make it with brown rice (both brown and white rice are reflected in the recipe). I also (sometimes) add a pinch of turmeric, as I did this time, which gives it a lovely yellow hue (which is not reflected in the recipe below). Nonetheless, the smell of the sweet aromatic spices will fill your house as it cooks. This recipe can easily be multiplied into larger batches (leftovers taste just as good). And did I mention how delicious this is…

Lebanese-Style Chicken and Rice

Makes 4 servings

4 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken breasts or boneless thighs

1 medium onion, diced

2 ounces vermicelli or spaghetti, broken into pieces

¾ pound ground beef or lamb

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon allspice

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup rice (white or brown; see below)

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

1 small bunch parsley, minced

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

Black Bean-Cheddar Falafel with Avocado Taratoor (yum)

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So this is just another version of the classic Middle Eastern chickpea fritters known as falafel. You likely know by now that when I enjoy a particular recipe I end up with multiple versions of it (for other variations on this recipe, click here). Anyhow, this is just a suggestion…interchange any bean or cheese you like; herbs and spices as well. And for the taratoor sauce I included a couple avocado which not only accented the flavor nicely but enriched it a bit as well. These are really simple to prepare, but be forewarned…they are super addicting.

Black Bean and Cheddar Falafel

Makes about two dozen falafel

2 (15oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons Frank’s hot sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup whole wheat flour (more as needed)

sesame seeds for garnish

oil for frying

Combine everything except the flour in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the flour by hand. 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.

Avocado Taratoor Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocado, peeled

1 cup tahini

¾ cup water

½ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce

3 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon sea salt

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

Pizza Pie…yet another (really delicious) variation

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Yes this is yet another pizza variation I made for dinner tonight (click here to see other versions). As is often the case, when I was making bread today I took a third of the dough and turned it into pizza…two meals in one, or at least two things in one, I suppose.

Anyhow, this variety of course had 100% whole wheat crust (click here for the recipe), but I also sprinkled the edge with sesame seed which gives it a nice crunch and interesting flavor. As for the topping: tomato sauce, four cheese, spinach which I first cooked aglio e olio (click here for recipes), and pickled hot peppers. Yum! I home you try this recipe…you’ll be glad you did.

Urban Simplicity.

Anatomy of a Pizza

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As is often the case, when I make bread I sometimes take a small piece of dough and make a pizza for lunch or dinner.And is also often the case, I usually put on it whatever I have in the fridge or freezer at the time. For this one there was homemade tomato sauce, pesto, broccoli aglio e olio, and four cheeses on a whole wheat crust. Here it is in photos; recipe links follow.

For the whole wheat dough recipe, click here. For a really simple 20 minute tomato sauce recipe, click here. For the pesto recipe, click here. For the broccoli aglio e olio recipe, click here. And finally, to see a multitude of other pizza recipes–in words and photos–click here.


Urban Simplicity.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Asparagus Aglio e Olio!

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So this is yet another rendition of cooking vegetables (and usually pasta) aglio e olio, or with garlic and oil (and hot pepper and chicken broth). The recipe below contains broccoli but today I made it with asparagus (’tis the season). Substitute whatever vegetable(s) that you like or have at hand. This recipe is so delicious and so easy to make. And to make it completely vegetarian simply replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. For other variations on this recipe, click here.

Spaghetti alla Aglio e Olio con Broccoli in Brodo

(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

Makes 4 servings

3/4 pounds spaghetti

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups chopped broccoli florets

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano 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.

Spicy Avocado Hummus with Roast Garlic and Jalapeno (yum!)…

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This is another variation of hummus that I’ve posted in the past. This is, as usual, really easy to make and super delicious. If you like hummus, if you like avocado, and if you like spiciness…try this, you won’t be sorry.

Spicy Avocado Hummus with Roast Garlic and Jalapeno

Makes about 4 cups

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 jalapeno, split lengthwise and seeded

6 cloves garlic

2 ripe avocado

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

½ cup lemon juice

1 cup tahini

¼ cup water

¾ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat an oven to 350F. Combine the olive oil, garlic, and jalapeno in a small skillet and place over medium heat; toss or stir to coat with the oil. When it begins to sizzle transfer the pan to the oven. Roast the peppers and garlic for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and refrigerate it until the ingredients are chilled. Once chilled, transfer the cooked garlic and jalapeno to the bowl of a food processor along with the remainder of the ingredients. Process the hummus to a smooth puree.

Urban Simplicity.

Macaroni al forno con cavolfiori…

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I posted this recipe about a month ago but made it again for dinner yesterday. It is so easy and delicious I thought I’d re-post it. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll go have some leftovers.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses

Make four small or two large servings

1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ head cauliflower, sliced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 cup tomato sauce

2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

2 ounces grated Parmesan

Preheat an oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni al dente, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, then add the cauliflower and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper; cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in the tomato sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer it for a minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fold in the macaroni and most of the cheese. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese across the top of the macaroni, then bake it for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the macaroni is thoroughly heated and the top is brown and crispy.

Bean Curd Souvlaki!

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A couple comments on this recipe.the first is that I could go on and on about how much I love the flavors of this simple marinade–which can be used on any meat, poultry, or fish–but I won’t. You’ll have to experience it. The other is that this recipe–just as my recipe of tandoori tofu–is another example of how delicious tofu can be…and simple to prepare as well. Eat this as a snack, on a salad, or in a sandwich. Anyway you try it it is delicious.

Souvlaki-Style Tofu

Makes about 6 servings

1 pound extra-firm tofu

souvlaki marinade (recipe below)

Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Set the tofu on a plate with 2 or 3 plates on top of it, gently squeezing out some of it’s moisture. Leave the tofu to drain for 10-15 minutes. Slice the tofu about ½ inch thick. Lay the tofu in a pan and pour enough of the marinade over the tofu to cover it, turning it to coat all sides. Marinate the tofu for at least 30minutes. Preheat an oven to 350F. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack, leaving some of the marinade on the tofu. Bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown at its edges. For firmer tofu, turn it over and bake another 10 minutes. This is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled as a snack, on a sandwich, or salad. 

Roast Garlic Souvlaki Marinade

Makes about 2 cups

12 cloves garlic

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon sea salt

½ small onion, diced

1 small bunch parsley, washed and course chopped

Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small skillet and place it over a low flame. Heat the oil until the garlic begins to simmer. Cook the garlic very slowly until it is golden brown, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool in the oil to room temperature. Once the garlic and oil are cooled, combine them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Urban Simplicity.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses (yum!)

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Okay. So this is really delicious. How delicious is it, you may ask? Well if you notice in the servings I wrote that it makes either four small or two large portions. When I first put it in the oven I looked at it and thought it would easily serve four, but when it came out it was so delicious I ate half of it.

Anyhow, as usual this is just a guide…use different ingredients or interchange them. I just happened to have some cauliflower in my cooler I needed to use up. You can also multiply this recipe, or make extra because leftovers are equally good.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses

Make four small or two large servings

1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ head cauliflower, sliced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 tomato sauce

2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

2 ounces grated Parmesan


Preheat an oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni al dente, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, then add the cauliflower and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper; cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in the tomato sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer it for a minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fold in the macaroni and most of the cheese. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese across the top of the macaroni, then bake it for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the macaroni is thoroughly heated and the top is brown and crispy.

Lebanese Flavored Brown Rice with Chickpeas and Vermicelli

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This is a recipe that is not unlike moudardara, I suppose, and it is a good example of how a recipe is basically a thought or an idea and not necessarily a blueprint or carved in stone. Anyhow, this is really delicious and easy to make, and it’s also a one-pot recipe so cleanup is easy. This can be eaten as a side dish or a main. It’s also delicious with a fried egg on it. To make it vegetarian simply replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Lebanese Flavored Brown Rice with Chickpeas and Vermicelli

Makes about 4 servings

3 tablespoons cup olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 ounces vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

¾ cup brown rice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups hot chicken broth

1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook the onions—while stirring—for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the vermicelli to the onions and continue to cook until the pasta begins to change color as well. Add the garlic and cook it for a minute or so, then stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and allspice; cook for a few seconds, then stir in the rice, salt, and broth. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Stir the rice once, then cover the pot. Simmer the rice for about 30 minutes then add the chickpeas without stirring. Re-cover the pot and cook the rice another 5 minutes minutes. Check the rice, if it is still hard and needs additional liquid and another ½ cup broth or water. Cook the rice 5 more minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Just before serving, gently stir in the chickpeas and fluff the rice.

Urban Simplicity.

Taboulé d’hiver

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Okay, so yup…this is as refreshingly delicious as it looks. Sometimes I need the brightness of summer in the middle of winter. Anyhow, this is a variation of traditional tabbouleh recipe but with more heartier ingredients…mainly lentils and turmeric-poached potato; tomatoes were omitted because of the season and I opted for canned roast peppers for the same reason. Anyhow, this is really easy to make and super delicious and healthy (and if you close your eyes while eating you might just remember summer).

Taboulé d’hiver

(Winter Tabbouleh)

Makes about 3 quarts

1 cup lentils (about 8 ounces)

1/2 cup bulgur wheat

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon turmeric

4 bunches flat-leaf parsley, washed and chopped

2 bunches mint, washed and chopped

1 can (28 oz) roasted red peppers, rinsed and diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small red onion, diced

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon juice

Cook the lentils in boiling water, drain them, and set aside to cool. Soak the bulgur in warm water for for about 30 minutes to soften it, then squeeze it dry and set aside. Cook the potatoes in boiling water with the teaspoon of turmeric, then drain them and set aside to cool. Once the previously mentioned ingredients are cooked, drained, and cooled, combine them—along with the remaining ingredients—in a large bowl. Using two spoons gently toss the ingredients to combine.

Urban Simplicity.

Spicy, Baked, and Cheesy (Yum!)

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So here is another recipe that is super easy to make but bursting with flavor. It’s really just a sort of Mediterranean-style macaroni-and-cheese. The key flavor techniques are browning the vegetables (making a sort of sofrito), reducing the chicken broth for concentrated flavor, and allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce so it absorbs flavor as well. If you want to make this vegetarian you can replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. This makes a great main course or side dish. Anyhow, here’s the recipe in words and pictures.

Spicy Baked Whole-Wheat Macaroni with Caramelized Vegetables, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Two Cheeses

Makes two large portions or four side dishes.

1 cup whole-wheat macaroni (about 4 ounces)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 small carrot, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

8 sun dried tomatoes, diced (about ½ cup)

1½ cups chicken broth

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)

Preheat an oven to 425F.

Cook the pasta al dente in a pot of salted water, then drain it and set it aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Cook the vegetables, while stirring or tossing, for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in the hot pepper and sun dried tomatoes; cook for another minuter or two.

Stir in the chicken broth and salt, bring it to a boil, then lower it to a simmer.

Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes, or until it has reduced by about half.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and cook it in the sauce for a couple minutes while gently folding it with a spoon to allow flavors to absorb. Fold half of the cheddar and Parmesan into the pasta and sprinkle the remainder over the top. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the top is crispy and lightly browned.

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