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Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Crushed Hot Pepper, Sumac, and Chives

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Okay, so a couple things about this recipe. One is that it is so simple and delicious you’ll wonder why you haven’t made these before (and over and over), and the other thing is that you’d better make more than the recipe calls for because they will disappear quickly. On a technical note, don’t be dismayed by a couple of the ingredients. The seasoning listed as “magic seasoning” is simply granulated onion, garlic, black pepper, and salt (the recipe can be found here). As for the sumac it does add a truly interestingly tart flavor; it can be purchased online or at some of the larger supermarkets. If, though, you are unable to procure sumac simply do without. As with all my recipes this is a suggestion and not a blueprint carved in stone.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Crushed Hot Pepper, Sumac, and Chives

 

½ pound quarter sized potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon magic seasoning

½ teaspoon sumac

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 tablespoon minced chives

Place the potatoes in a small pot and boil them for 10 minutes, or until the are cooked but not mushy. Train them and allow to cool for a few minutes, then gently press them (“smash” them) with your fingers or the palm of your hand. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet large enough to hold the potatoes. When the oil is hot add the potatoes; they should sizzle when placed in the pan. Cook them for a few minutes, then sprinkle with the magic seasoning, sumac, and crushed hot pepper. Turn the potatoes over then season them again. Cook the potatoes for 5-10 minutes, or until crispy. Sprinkle the chives in the pan, shake the pan to coat the potatoes, the remove the pan from the heat. These are delicious, hot, at room temperature, and also chilled.

Chickpea Burgers with Basil, Asiago, and Jalapeno

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So a couple days ago I wanted falafel and put some chickpeas in a bowl to soak, then I forgot they were in the fridge. And because I forgot about them I never went to the store for cilantro and parsley. Discovering the soaked peas today I wanted falafel again, but still no cilantro or parsley. So I went out to my garden and picked a bunch or basil and some peppers, I also found some shredded asiago in the fridge. So I used these ingredients instead of the traditional ones. I also made them into full sized burgers instead of nugget sized. Anyhow, this recipe is the result. Really delicious. Healthy. Simple to prepare.

Chickpea Patties with Basil, Asiago, and Jalapeno

Makes about 2 dozen small patties or 8 full-sized burgers

1 cup dried chickpeas

3 cups water

½ small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 jalapeno, seeded

1 bunch fresh basil, washed

½ cup asiago cheese, grated

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons whole wheat flour

vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine the chickpeas and water together in a bowl overnight and leave them at room-temperature to reconstitute. The next day drain the chickpeas, reserve ¼ cup of the water. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the soaked chickpeas, ¼ cup of reserved water, onion, garlic, jalapeno, basil, asiago, salt, turmeric, and baking powder. Process until a mealy consistency then transfer to a bowl. Mix in the flour, cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Shape into patties, preheat about a half-inch of oil in a skillet, and pan-fry (in batches) on both sides until golden and cooked through.

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.

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.

Falafel!

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I’ve posted variations of falafel various times on this blog (click here to see them), but they all empoyed the use of cooked chickpeas in the recipe. I’ve seen recipes making this recipe where the chickpeas are not previously cooked, but simply soaked. And I’ve watched my friend Emad, who is from Bagdad, make this version. What’s different about this version and Emad’s is that he seasons in the Iraqi fashion with ground star anise, whereas I used the Lebanese spice mix known simply as “seven-spice,” or baharat in Arabic. what I like about making this with the chickpeas simply soaked rather than pre-cooked, is how crunchy they are. The recipes for baharat, along with taratoor (lemony tahini sauce), are both listed at the bottom of this page. If you do not have the seven spices, or don’t have the initiative to make it, simply substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cumin and a 1/2 teaspoon allspice. Also, while I made my son a traditional falafel sandwich in rolled flatbread for lunch, I ate mine on a salad…sliced summer tomato, avocado, sliced raw onion, feta cheese, and drizzled with taratoor, hot sauce, and virgin olive oil (yum!). Anyhow, the easy and super-crunchy recipe and pics are below. If you’ve ever wanted to make restaurant or food-truck quality falafel in your home kitchen, this is it. To see other Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

Falafel 

Makes about 2 dozen small patties

1 cup dried chickpeas

3 cups water

½ small onion, diced

½ bunch Italian parsley, washed and chopped

½ bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Lebanese-style baharat mix

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour

vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine the chickpeas and water together in a bowl overnight and leave them at room-temperature to reconstitute. 

  Drain the chickpeas, discarding the water, and combine them with the onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, salt, baharat, turmeric, and baking powder. Mix thoroughly.

Transfer the ingredients to a food processor (in batches if necessary) and process until a mealy consistency. Return the falafel mix to a bowl and mix in the flour by hand. Cover and refrigerate for about ½ hour.

 

Shape into patties, preheat about a half-inch of oil in a skillet, and pan-fry (in batches) on both sides until golden and cooked through. Transfer to absorbent paper and serve with Taratoor sauce.

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix 

Makes about 4 tablespoons

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

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

Taratoor 

Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup tahini ¼ cup fresh lemon juice ¾ cup cold water 2 cloves garlic, minced ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. If too thick or too thin, adjust the consistency with water or tahini.

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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.

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad (Yum!)

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This recipe is a variation (my interpretation) of a recipe from the book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. I was recently offered the book to review and am pretty excited about it (and it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new cookbook these days). I am not really that familiar with the cuisines of Persia, or modern day Iran (which is one of the oldest cuisines in the world), but I am familiar with the flavors in these recipes…very fresh and bright flavors. And while the recipes may be simple the flavors are complex and multi-layered. At any rate, this recipe is really easy to make and also really delicious…it is definitely one I will make again (and likely again and again). Plus it is a lot of fun cooking the eggplant over an open flame.

 

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad

Serves 8

4 large eggplant

½ red bell pepper, diced small

½ green bell pepper, diced small

¼ red onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Cook the eggplant by placing them directly over an open flame of a gas stove. Turn the eggplant as needed. The skin will blister and blacken; it will look burnt. Continue to cook and turn the eggplant until it is very soft and heated throughout. Transfer the eggplant to a clean surface and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel away the blackened skin while placing the flesh of the eggplant in a colander over a sink to drain any excess moisture. Coarse-chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to a bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Gently stir and fold the salad to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Serve warm or chilled with toasted garlic bread or wedges of pita.

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 Chicken-and-Rice (variation on a theme)

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Okay. So I’ve posted this recipe–or variations of it–a bunch of time prior on this blog, but I enjoy it so much–and am convinced that you will, too–that I had to post it again. And, yes…this is yet another variation. I made this for staff lunch yesterday and what I did slightly differently is that I added a pinch of saffron to give the rice and chicken a beautiful yellow hue, and I also used a couple tablespoons of baharat, or 7-spice mix instead of those listed in the recipe below (the spices in the recipe are very similar to the seven spice mix, but I had some baharat on hand at work). I also used brown rice (both versions are listed in the recipe below) and organic chicken breast with the wing bone still intact. Anyhow, try this recipe…you won’t be sorry. It’ll make your house smell delicious as it cooks, and you might want to make a double batch because leftovers are just as good. For more Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

Lebanese Chicken-and-Rice

Makes 4 servings

4 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken breasts or boneless thighs

1 medium onion, diced

2 ounces vermicelli or spaghetti, broken into pieces

¾ pound ground beef or lamb

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon allspice

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup rice (white or brown; see below)

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

1 small bunch parsley, minced

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


Urban Simplicity.

Caramelized Butternut Squash and Onion with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemon!

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This simple and really delicious and healthy squash recipe is really a variation on “all things aglio e olio.” I had this for dinner this evening as as side to moudardara. Often when I cook squash or potatoes like this I add a few cumin and coriander seeds along with the hot pepper to give it a Near East flavor (but had neither in the house this evening). Nonetheless, this is really easy and delicious, and it can be made using many other hard winter vegetables.

Caramelized Butternut Squash and Onion with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemon

Serves 2-4, depending on the size of the squash

4 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced thinly

1 small onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

¼ teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet that is large enough to hold the sliced squash in a single layer. When the oil is hot add the squash and saute it for a few minutes. Then add the onion and saute a few more minutes. When the squash and onion just begin to brown add the garlic, hot pepper, and salt; saute another minute or two. Stir in the lemon and remove from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Basmati Rice with Saffron…

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Here is another very easy but delicious rice dish. And again–as I say with most my recipes–this is a guide and not carved in stone…interchange ingredients as you like them; it is the method that is important. Speaking of variations, the difference between the recipe pictured and the one typed below is that below there are raisins in the recipe whereas the one pictured has carrots. Both are equally delicious, but just variations. The recipe typed below was featured in this cookbook somewhat recently. It’s a good book featuring local Buffalo chefs, I just wish they would have used a different photo of me (no kidding). Anyhow, this is a very easy recipe and really delicious.

Basmati Pilaf with Almonds and Raisins

Makes about 6 cups

 

2 tablespoons clarified butter

1/2 cup diced onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups Basmati rice or other long grain rice

3 1/2  cups hot chicken broth

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup toasted almonds

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and garlic; sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the saffron, salt, and pepper; sauté another minute. Stir in the rice and broth. Cover the pot and for 15 minutes. Remove the rice from the stove and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins and toast­ed almonds.

 

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.