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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.

Stuffed Bread…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban Simplicity

Fasoulia!

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

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

Fasoulia
(Lebanese Spicy Bean Ragoût)

Serves 3-6

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

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

Baharat
Lebanese Seven Spice Mix


Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger

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

United Nations on a Plate!

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” 

~James Beard


On the plate:

Fresh Beet Hummusclick here for many different hummus recipes.

Batata Harrar (Lebanese spiced potatoes)…click here for a recipe (which will take you away from this blog, a recipe here soon to come).

Guacamoleclick here for a simple recipe (which will also take you away from this blog).

Asparagus Aglio e Olioclick here for a recipe.

Also on the plate: fresh diced tomato, raw onion, and crumbled feta cheese. 


For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

For additional Aglio e Olio recipes, click here.

Maghmour v2 (Smokey and spicy eggplant and chickpea stew)

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

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


Maghmour v2
(Lebanese Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

Serves 4-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban Simplicity.

Sweet Crispy-Crunchy Cheddar Corn Fritters.

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These are so simple to prepare you’ll wonder why you never have before. And by the way, they are super delicious…bet ya can’t eat just one.

Corn Fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
½ cup milk
¾ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
vegetable oil for frying

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and milk. Add the egg-milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until it forms a thick batter. Add the cheese and corn and mix thoroughly.

Heat a couple inches of  vegetable oil to 350F, then carefully add spoonfuls of the corn batter into the oil. Fry until golden and cooked throughout. Drain on absorbent paper.

Exploring The Morals and Ethics of Eating Animals

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“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.”

~ Isaac Bashevis Singer (née, Izaak Zynger)

This is the first of three papers written as a project for Intro to Ethics class. I’ve chosen to investigate and research what it means to live ethically and how our actions affect others. In this preliminary paper I’m exploring ethical eating, mainly: Is it ethical to consume meat in our modern society?

It is no surprise that when reading The Craftsmen, by Richard Sennett,  I was drawn to the chapter, Expressive Instructions (Sennett, 2009). In this chapter Sennett profiles the work of not only some of my favorite food writers but also those that have influenced me the most. When I was a young chef fresh out of culinary school I was enamored with French cuisine and collected cookbooks the way a sports fan may collect baseball cards. When I traveled I would seek out bookstores that had great cookbook sections. What really interested me were the food writers that didn’t simply publish recipe books, but those who wrote about food. So it’s easy to see how I would have been attracted to such luminaries as Child, Olney, and David.

Once, when in a used bookstore in Fort Erie, Ontario, I came upon a second edition of the two-volume set, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Child et al., 1963). Wrapped in brown paper, the way Canadian bookstores once did, I carried them the two mile walk home and across an international border like sacred texts; the customs officer at the Peace Bridge jokingly asked if they were bibles.

Richard Olney’s recipe for Gigot D’Agneau a la Sept Heures (Seven Hour Leg of Lamb) was often on menus at restaurants at which I presided the stoves (Olney, 1985). It was Elizabeth David’s books that influence me most as I began to write about food. I have every book she has written but it is the first that I came upon which still influences me to this day, A Book of Mediterranean Cuisine (David, 1968).  She writes both with ease and also authority. This is apparent in the very beginning of the book, “The cooking of the Mediterranean shores, endowed with all the natural resources, the colour and flavour of the South, is a blend of tradition and brilliant improvisation. The Latin genius flashes in the pan” (David, 1968).

It’s also interesting that Sennett cites the work of Antonin Carême, whose recipe in the book is the focus of the writers that follow in the chapter. Carême, of course, is the chef who is credited with codifying modern French cuisine; he was also the predecessor of Auguste Escoffier, who streamlined Carême’s methods further and developed the brigade system in the kitchen, which was the forerunner to what we now call “line cooking.”  Escoffier was also the author of a few books, including the seminal, Le Guide Culinaire (The Culinary Guide), in which he devotes no less than fifteen pages at the very beginning of the book to fonds de viande (meat stock). He put them in the beginning because he felt it was the very foundation (fond) of cooking (Escoffier, 1941).  Le Guide Culinaire was bedtime reading for me while in culinary school.

Some years ago while on sojourn in Paris, I enrolled in a four-day class at Le Cordon Bleu. On the first day I remember watching the chef as he slipped slivers of truffles and cold butter under the skin of a Bresse chicken with the tip of his small knife with such articulate precision the accompanying translator was not needed.

So, what, you may be wondering, does this have to do with ethics? The correlation is not only to the books which we are reading, regarding pride and craftsmanship, but also with the subject of the recipes themselves: Meat.

While I have flirted with vegetarianism for years, I have to qualify that I am not a vegetarian. Though I do plan on abstaining from meat for the duration of this course and likely thereafter. When thinking about ethical and altruistic living, this is one of the first areas that comes to mind. The world has changed since the I first read the aforementioned books, and in many ways I have also.

It’s interesting that when I read the recipes in Sennett’s book, whereas once I would have been smitten by them, they now seem more like the description of a surgical procedure, “Sever the attachment of each shoulder blade at the wing joint and, holding it firmly between the thumb and the forefinger of the left hand, pull it out of the flesh with the other…Force the flesh loose from the breastbone, working along the crest with the tip of a knife and forcing that at the sides loose with fingertips” (Sennett, 2009).

Now I’ll get straight to the point: There is no reason we need to eat meat, we can easily consume all of our nutritional requirements with a plant based diet. We simply eat meat for our own pleasure, and in doing so we kill a living animal which was likely raised in horrendous conditions for its entire life.

According to Peter Singer in his book, The Most Good You Can Do, How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically, in 2012 there were 164 million dogs and cats as pets in American households (Singer, 2016).  I personally am a dog lover, and have been my entire life. Currently two beautiful pugs cohabit my home with me. I bring this up because it was while thinking of my pets that that I first began to correlate the absurdity of eating some animals but not others. I was on a silent retreat at a center in the Hudson Valley and they raised animals. Passing the animals one day little piglets came rushing up to the fence to greet me. I was struck at how much they resembled my pugs.


Singer goes on to say that the amount of personal pets in the United States is dwarfed by the number of animals that were raised and then slaughtered as food; in 2012 this number was 9.1 billion (Sennett, 2009). Mylan Engel Jr., in his paper, Between the Species, The Commonsense Case for Ethical Vegetarianism, states that not only is the number of animals raised and slaughtered in the US closer to 10 million, he also goes into detail of the horrific lives 95% of them lived, from birth to slaughter (Engel, 2017). While the images I’ve read about how the animals are kept is terrible enough, it’s the descriptions of the slaughterhouse that are straight from a horror film.

“Once inside the slaughter house the animals are hung upside down [pigs, cattle, and sheep     are suspended by one hind leg which often breaks] and are brought via conveyor to the  slaughterer who slits their throats and severs their arteries and jugular veins. In theory, animals covered by the Federal Humane Slaughter Act are to be rendered unconscious by electric current or by captive bolt pistol (a pneumatic gun which, aimed properly, renders  the animal unconscious by firing an 8-inch pin into the animal’s skull). Chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese are not considered animals under the Act and receive no protection at all. In practice, the Act is not enforced, and as a result, many slaughterhouses elect not to use the captive bolt pistol in the interest of cost efficiency. A consequence of the lax of  enforcement of the Federal Humane Slaughter Act is that in many cases (and all kosher cases), the animals are conscious throughout the throat-slitting ordeal” (Engel, 2017).

If this weren’t enough, Peter Singer states that hundreds of millions of animals never even make it to the slaughterhouse because they simply suffer to death (Singer, 2016).  In other words, there are multitudes of animals that do not get the “benefit” of humane slaughter because they parish before it is granted. Some succumb to there own species aggressive behavior, which is likely the result to their captivity, others (chickens mostly) are said to collapse under their own weight because they were bred to grow so quickly that their immature legs cannot support their full-grown bodies, others unable to reach their feed in the overcrowded conditions simply die from starvation or thirst. Many more parish en-route to the slaughterhouse because of the magnified conditions they’re exposed to during travel.

So with the above graphic descriptions, this question is the elephant in the room: If we could not consider our own pets enduring this horror how do we justify it to other animals simply for our own satisfaction? At this point I have to reiterate that while I haven’t eaten meat in a couple weeks I do not consider myself a vegetarian, so I ask myself the question just posed.

If you’ve ever had a beloved pet injured in most cases you would do anything to alleviate their suffering. Peter singer takes this to the next level and equates animal suffering with human suffering, “In Animal Liberation (Singer, 2009) I argue that to give less consideration to the interests of non-human animals, merely because they are not members of our species, is speciesism and is wrong in much the same way that the crudest forms of racism and sexism are wrong” (Singer, 2016).

It’s easy to disassociate the meat that you cook with the living animal it once was, to forget that the neatly wrapped cellophane packages in the supermarket were once sentient beings. Here’s where my own ethical dilemma comes into play. Even if I don’t eat meat I still cook it every day, my occupation dictates that I must. For decades I have worked as a cook or chef, and currently as a supervisor in the commissary kitchen of a school district in the second largest city in New York State. I see the end result of factory farming everyday as chicken nuggets, beef riblets, and cooked ground beef comes through the back door by the truckload. Sometimes I’ll look at a pallet of cases of pre-breaded and fried chicken legs and try to imaging the room full of live chickens they once were. At the very least, I’ll say a silent prayer, both for them for them and me. Until I choose another occupation or find work in a vegetarian restaurant, this is my cross.

There are, of course, many arguments against vegetarianism. One of the most common is that we as a species have always eaten meat. I’ve heard people cite passages in the bible where there are descriptions of slaughtering meat for food.  There’s also the argument that not all animals are factory farmed, that some are raised in humane conditions and “slaughtered humanely.” My response to the historical aspects of humans being carnivores is this: It’s only been in the past century (or less) that there have been large supermarkets packed to the hilt with foods. In ancient times, such as those biblical, eating was a very different thing; people ate what they raised, including meat. Likely it was considered sacred and a gift from God. In regards to the argument of animals being raised/slaughtered humanely: Yes, this is better, but in my view their humanly lived lives still ended with their throats being slit simply for our dining pleasure.

There’s yet another, if not extreme, side to this argument as well: That plants themselves are sentient. According to Andrew Smith, assistant professor of English and philosophy at Drexel University, this is true. In an interview at the website, Munchies, he discusses his book, A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism (Swerdloff, 2017). When asked if he felt why there was a disconnect between plant-based life and sentience, he responded:

“There are historical reasons, cultural reasons, and philosophical reasons that go all the way back to philosophers like Plato and Aristotle—particularly the way they classified animals, plants, humans, and the gods. Today, that still reverberates. We look at the grass of our lawn and the trees outside our windows and we see beings that are clearly alive, but passive and largely inert. That’s simply not the case. These beings are aware and very active in their environment. In some respects, they are far more aware of their surroundings than animals are.”

Despite his critique,  professor Smith has been a vegetarian for more than two decades and a vegan for more than 6 years. His reasons, he says, are complex but largely philosophical and emotional (Swerdloff, 2017).

Another argument against vegetarianism is that it is elitist and arrogant. Examples are that, according to the website of World Hunger, of the 7 billion people of the world 800 million, or 11 percent of the world’s population, is hungry (World Hunger, 2017). On a smaller scale, there are food deserts in every major American city where the residents of such neighborhoods do not have access to fresh produce (American Nutrition Association, 2017). Yet, I can pick-and-choose as to what I want to eat.

In this paper I’ve attempted to cite arguments for and against vegetarianism, but I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I am more than slightly biased for a plant-based diet. My views can be mostly summarized by the Russian writer-philosopher, Leo Tolstoy, “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral” (Tolstoy, 1987).

In conclusion, more questions arise: Will I continue to abstain from meat? If so, why? And also, how will I reconcile the fact that I cook it daily on the job. To this, I respond yes, I plan on abstaining from meat consumption, for ethical, philosophical, but also very personal reasons. As far as cooking it as a source of employment? This will be an ongoing struggle, and one to which I currently have no answer.

Peter Singer, in his paper, Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism, published in Philosophy & Public Affairs, offers another view of this quandary, “The utilitarian vegetarian is on strong ground in arguing that factory farming and other cruelties involved in large scale commercial animal production should end. The final problem is to establish the link between this goal and the obligation to become a vegetarian” (Singer, 1980).

This said, I’ll finish with a simple recipe for a delicious meal which can be made in minutes and does not harm any animals. This is my “go-to” recipe for a quick and nutritious meal and can be made with nearly any vegetable. Though I have to admit, after reading Andrew Smith’s view of sentience, I’ll never look at a stalk of broccoli the same again.


A Recipe for Spaghetti with Broccoli, Garlic, and Olive Oil

For a recipe to serve two people you will need the following ingredients: One head of broccoli which was grown in your garden, or lacking this, sourced locally from a farmer’s market or food co-op. Two cloves of garlic (or more if you’d like), which is neither too green nor too dry. Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with an acidity level no higher than 3%. An couple ounces of Parmigiano Reggiano, which should be hand-grated just before this preparation. One-quarter teaspoon each of gray sea salt and crushed hot pepper. A half-cup of vegetable broth or, lacking this, a half-cup of water reserved from cooking the pasta. And lastly, 4 ounces of whole wheat spaghetti which contains one ingredient: whole wheat flour.

Begin the recipe by preparing the ingredients: wash the broccoli and cut it into florets, peel and mince the garlic, boil and strain the pasta (reserving ½ cup broth if needed).

Pour the oil into a cold skillet and add the minced garlic and hot pepper. This is an uncharacteristic way to begin a recipe (in a cold skillet), but there is a specific reason for this: To slowly draw the flavors out of the garlic and hot pepper rather than sear them in.

Place the cold skillet over a medium flame. Wait a minute or two until you notice movement in the pan as the garlic begins to sizzle. Slowly swirl the pan with one hand while stirring with a wooden spoon in the other. When the garlic is light golden, and the aroma of it and the olive oil perfumes the air while the hot pepper tickles your nostrils, add the broccoli and stir it into the oil. After just a few seconds add the vegetable broth or pasta water, which will release a puff of steam and also act as a vehicle of flavor. Add first the salt and then the cooked spaghetti. Stir it until is is hot but not over cooked, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese to the pan, stirring and tossing all of the ingredients.

Serve while hot or at room temperature.

Works Cited
American Nutrition Association. (2017). USDA Defines Food Deserts | American Nutrition Association. [online] Available at: http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017].

Child, J., Bertholle, L., Beck, S. and Coryn, S. (1963). Mastering the art of French cooking.
2nd ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

David, E. and David, E. (1968). A book of Mediterranean food. London: Cookery Book Club.

Engel, M. (2017). “The Commonsense Case for Ethical Vegetarianism” by Mylan Engel Jr.. [online] Digitalcommons.calpoly.edu. Available at: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bts/vol19/iss1/1/ [Accessed 18 Oct. 2017].

Escoffier, A. (1941). The Escoffier Cook Book. New York: Crown.

Olney, R. (1985). The French menu cookbook. Boston: D.R. Godine.

Sennett, R. (2009). The craftsman. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Singer, P. (1980). Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism. Philosophy and Public Affairs, [online] 9(4), pp.325-335. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2265002? seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents [Accessed 17 Oct. 2017].

Singer, P. (2009). Animal liberation. New York, N.Y: HarperCollins.

Singer, P. (2016). Most good you can do. New Haven and London: Yale Univ Press.

Swerdloff, A. (2017). This Vegan Professor Says There’s No Such Thing as Real Vegetarians. [online] Munchies. Available at: https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/jpkk4d/this-vegan-professor-says-theres-no-such-thing-as-real-vegetarians [Accessed 18 Oct. 2017].

Tolstoy, L. (1987). Writings on civil disobedience and nonviolence. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers.

World Hunger (2017). How many people are hungry in the world? – World Hunger News. [online] World Hunger News. Available at: http://www.worldhunger.org/hunger-    quiz/how-many-people-are-hungry-in-the-world/ [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017]. 


Urban Simplicity

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.

Asparagus with oil and garlic…

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Before I begin I have to chant the mantra for all, or at least most, of the recipes which I post on this blog…this is so easy to prepare, and it is delicious and nutritious. Okay, that out of the way, this is a classic recipe for aglio e olio (oil and garlic). Most Mediterranean countries have versions of this, and nearly any foodstuff can be prepared in this manner. The classic, of course is pasta, but it is great with vegetables, potatoes, and even seafood or chicken. The key is in browning the garlic and hot peppers…it should be started in a cold pan then heated slowly until light golden-brown. At that point lemon juice is added, which forms a temporary emulsion and creates a light sauce which is literally bursting with flavor (see the two photos just below. Once you have the sauce nearly anything can be added. In this instance I added asparagus, but as aforementioned, it is applicable with a large variety of foods, especially pasta. For mare recipes cooked like this click here. The recipe which correlates with this photos is below.

Asparagus Aglio e Olio 

1 pound asparagus  

¼ cup olive oil 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper 

½ teaspoon sea salt 

2 tablespoons water 

3 tablespoons lemon juice 

Trim the asparagus of their tough ends, discard the ends, then set the asparagus aside. Combine the olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, and salt in a skillet then place it over medium-high heat. Stir the garlic and peppers in the pan as it heats. Stir and cook the garlic continuously until it is golden-brown, then add the water and lemon juice. Stir the ingredients together then add the asparagus. Turn the asparagus in the sauce, then cover the pan with a lid for just a minute or two. Remove the lid and baste the asparagus with the garlic, oil, and peppers. Cook the asparagus until it changes color but is still crisp, al dente. Transfer to a plate and pour the sauce over the asparagus.

Maghmour!

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

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

For additional Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here


Maghmour
(Lebanese Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

Serves 6-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban Simplicity.

Aloo Gobi…

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Aloo gobi…the classic Indian dish consisting of mostly potatoes (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi). Peas are often included. Spices vary and can be interchanged to your liking. In the version I made for dinner last night (pictured) I also added whole coriander seed. I used dry chilies but fresh can be used as well. Interchange ingredients and seasonings. Eat this as a side or main course with basmati rice. It’s simple to make, super delicious, and healthy. Make it and you won’t be sorry.

Aloo Gobi

(Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas)

Serves 4

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 slices ginger, minced

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon whole cumin seed

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

¼ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice

1 cup frozen peas

1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the onion and potato. Cook these for a couple minutes, until they just begin to change color. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Stir in the black mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, cumin seed, and crushed hot pepper; cook for a minute to release it’s flavor and aroma, then stir in the cauliflower, coating it with oil and spices. Add the water, then cover the skillet and cook the potatoes and cauliflower for a couple minutes. Stir in the peas and lemon juice; cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Urban Simplicity

Sweet Potato Latke with Cheddar and Jalapeño

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After scrounging around my fridge and kitchen counter the other evening I came up with the ingredients for the following recipe. So I made these. I ate half of them, then my son stopped over and ate the other half. Super easy to make. Super delicious. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy. Try to eat just one. I dare you.

Sweet Potato Latke with Cheddar and Jalapeño

Makes about 12

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and grated
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ medium onion, sliced thin
2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
canola oil for pan frying

Combine all of the ingredients except the canola oil and mix well. Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Using a large spoon, drop dollops of the latke batter into the skillet and flatten them with the back of the spoon. Cook them on both sides until golden brown and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper.  

Urban Simplicity.

Souvlaki-Style Tofu (version 2.0)

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Okay. So this tofu recipe is so delicious even a dedicated “tofu hater” will like this. Seriously. This is a slight variation of this original version where the tofu was baked. What’s different with this version (and is not represented in the printed recipe below), is that I added a couple teaspoons of smoked paprika to the marinade, diced the tofu (instead of slicing it, and after marinating it I rolled each piece in cornmeal. Then instead of baking it I pan-fried them in olive oil to crunchy deliciousness (yum!). And yes, before you ask, this recipe can also be baked but it will not be as crispy (I tried it both ways). Anyhow, try this recipe and I dare you to try to just eat one.

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.

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.

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.

Asparagus and Bean Curd with Thai Red Curry.

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This is another recipe that is about the method and not necessarily the ingredients. What I mean is that this is a really basic recipe where the ingredients can be changed to your liking while using the same seasoning (or similar seasonings) but using the same simple stir-fry method to prepare them. Anyhow, this is really easy to make and super delicious.

 

Asparagus and Bean Curd with Thai Curry

Makes 4 servings

1 package extra firm tofu, drained

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra to oil a pan

1 onion, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons red Thai curry

¼ chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

12 leaves fresh basil, course chopped

Preheat an oven to 400F. Dice the tofu and spread it onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake the tofu for about 30 minutes, turning it every ten minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the tofu from the oven and set aside. Heat the 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then add the sliced onion and bell pepper; stir-fry for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and cook a couple minutes longer. Add the asparagus, cook for a minute or two, then add the red curry, mixing it with the vegetables. Add the cooked tofu to the pan, along with the vegetable broth and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, tossing all the ingredients together, then stir in the basil and remove from the heat.

Another Pie…

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

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

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

For pesto recipes, click here.

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

Urban Simplicity.

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus (yum!)

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

 

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

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

2 roasted red peppers

1 cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce (optional)

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

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

 

How to Roast a Pepper

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

Urban Simplicity.

How to make tofu really flavorful and chewy in three simple steps (yup, it’s this simple)

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This is really easy and the outcome is so delicious that I’ve even had a devout “tofu hater” say it was really good. Eaten as a snack, on a salad or sandwich, or as a component to a stir-fry or rice dish, it delicious, healthy, and versatile. I seasoned this with Cajun seasoning and sea salt but the flavors are really up to you (herbs, curry, smoked paprika, Mexican…it’s really limitless) but what you want to take away from this post is the simple method in which it is prepared, not specific ingredients..

(1) To start with, purchase extra firm tofu, then–after removing it from it’s package–place it between a few plate to gently squeeze out some of it’s moisture; leave the tofu like this for about 20 minutes (continued below).

(2) Slice the tofu and coat it with whichever seasonings you prefer. Then place it on baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack. Having the wire rack is important because air need to circulate under the tofu as it bakes.

(3) Bake the tofu in a preheated oven (350F) for about 20 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another ten. Allow it to cool before serving.

For multiple actual printable tofu recipes click here.

Urban Simplicity.

 

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.

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