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Posts Tagged ‘Arabic recipe’

Mujaddara ~ Palestinian Lentils & Rice

October 19th, 2012 38 comments

When my husband and I were starving university students, we ate this dish all the time—mostly because it was cheap and filling. Then at some point we stopped. We forgot all about lentils and rice for many years, as we graduated on to more “sophisticated” foods.

Recently, in an attempt to bring some vegetarian dinners to our table, I re-discovered mujaddara, so tasty, nutritious, and economical. When I presented the humble platter to my husband, he was surprised and thrilled—as though I was serving up a whole lamb or some rare delicacy.

He raved about the dish to the kids, how amazing and delicious it was—the fried onions over the cumin-flavored rice with a touch of yogurt. I suspect the taste unlocked some sentimental memories of his childhood in Palestine, where simple foods ruled the kitchen.

Lentils & rice is a classic Arab combination that goes back to medieval times. I’ve seen it prepared many ways—from a rice dish with just a bit of lentils to mostly lentils with a touch of rice. As for me, I like to make it half/half, a cup of each.

I also add a chopped up carrot. Though non-traditional, the carrot adds color and interest to an otherwise plain-looking dish.

Finally, do not skimp on the onion. More than a garnish, the onions flavor the dish in such a way that you’ll find yourself and a fellow diner fighting over the last remaining bits of onion. If you love onions, I suggest frying up three onions or even four. Trust me on this.

Mujaddara ~ Serves 4-6

1 cup brown lentils

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, chopped finely

1 cup rice

1 teaspoon cumin

1½ teaspoons salt or to taste

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 medium onions (more if you love onions)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Method

  1. Start boiling some water for use later.
  2. Wash lentils and put in large cooking pot with 2 cups cold water. Add carrots and garlic. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. While lentils cook, start soaking the rice. Place rice in heat-resistant bowl, cover with boiling water and stir. Soak rice for about 15 minutes.
  4. Drain rice well and mix with the cooked lentils and 1½ cups hot water. Add cumin, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes or longer.
  5. While rice and lentils cook, halve the onions vertically and slice thinly. Fry onions in the olive oil until golden brown.
  6. Transfer the mujaddara to a platter and top with the fried onion. Serve with a Simple Arabic Salad and Yogurt Cucumber Salad or simply plain yogurt.

Note: If you prefer a more traditional mujaddara, omit the carrot and reduce the hot water from 1½ cups to 1 cup in Step 4.

Questions: How do you prepare Mujaddara? What are your memories of this dish?

Cauliflower Soup, North African-Inspired

June 25th, 2012 13 comments

I love this soup. Pureed cauliflower is smooth, thick and surprisingly creamy—without adding any cream at all. The recipe is adapted from a soup found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I have prepared this soup many times, changing it a little bit each time. I love it because it’s tasty, healthy and keeps well for days.

The spices in the soup suit the Arab palate. Cumin, one of the indispensable spices of Moroccan cooking, along with a touch of ginger, gives this soup a distinct North African flavor. The chopped tomatoes are more than garnish; they provide a sweet, cool contrast to the creamy soup.

Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4-6

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 medium-large onions, chopped (about 2½ cups)

2 gloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch cayenne (optional)

1½ teaspoon ground fennel (optional)

2 potatoes, diced (about 2 cups)

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped (about 5 cups)

4-5 cups hot water and/or vegetable or chicken stock

1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Juice from one lemon

Garnish

2 small tomatoes, finely chopped

Chives, green onions or parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges

Method

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in the oil for 5 minutes until translucent. Lower heat and stir in the garlic, cumin, ginger, cayenne and fennel, if using. Stir briefly, add potatoes and cook for another minute.
  2. Add 4 cups hot water and/or stock. Turn up heat and bring to boil. Add the cauliflower and return to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. In a food processor or blender or with an emulsion blender, purée the mixture until smooth. If it’s too thick, add all or part of the extra cup of liquid. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gently reheat soup over low heat.
  4. Serve with a generous garish of chopped tomatoes, as well as a sprinkle of parsley, green onions or chives.

 

Question: What is your favorite North African soup?

Fattoush ~ Lebanese Peasant Salad

April 20th, 2012 21 comments

Fattoush is one of the most well-known of Arabic salads and a standard dish on the mezza table. It’s a colorful tossed salad with a lemony garlic dressing, and if you’ve never made a single Arabic dish, this is a delicious and healthy place to start.

Like most Arabic dishes, the ingredients and proportions can vary. However, all cooks agree that the one essential ingredient to this rustic salad is its crispy pieces of Arabic bread which serve as a kind of Middle Eastern croutons. Claudia Rodin refers to fattoush as “Bread Salad.”

Optional Specialty Ingredients

A few optional ingredients can give fattoush a more authentic flavor. First, sumac, a deep red spice, adds a pleasant lemony taste and an extra layer of zest. Next, pomegranate syrup, one of my favorite Middle Eastern ingredients, provides a lovely sweet-and-sour tang. Finally, some insist that fattoush must include purslane, a pale green herb with pear-shaped leaves. If you can’t get your hands on these ingredients, don’t despair. You can still make a terrific fattoush salad without them.

Below is my recipe for fattoush. It contains the basic ingredients, plus a few optional add-ons. With this method, you can make the salad an hour or two in advance and toss it together just before serving. Always use the freshest ingredients possible.

FATTOUSH SALAD

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 Arabic flat breads

3 medium firm ripe tomatoes, chopped

2-3 small cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and sliced

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped into small pieces

5 small radishes, sliced thinly

6 green onions (scallions), sliced thinly

1 small bunch of fresh mint, leaves only, chopped finely (about ¼ cup)

1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely (about ¼ cup)

1 small bunch purslane, tender leaves only (optional)

6 large leaves romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Dressing:

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1-2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup (optional)

1 teaspoon sumac, or more to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Toast the bread. Traditionally, the pieces of Arabic bread are fried. As a healthier option, cut each round of Arabic bread into two and split into two layers. Brush lightly with olive oil or skip the oil entirely. Place bread on baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven 350° F/180° C for 5 minutes. Turn and repeat until crisp and lightly toasted. (The thinner the bread, the quicker it toasts.) Break the bread into bite-sized “croutons.”
  2. In the bottom of a large salad bowl, place ingredients in this order: tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, radishes, green onion, chopped herbs and finally, the chopped lettuce. Leave ingredients layered in the bowl until ready to serve.
  3. Prepare the dressing. In a small measuring cup, add the olive oil and lemon juice. Wisk in the garlic, salt, pepper, as well as sumac and pomegranate syrup, if using.
  4. Just before serving, gently toss the salad to mix the layers. Add the dressing, just enough to lightly coat the salad.
  5. Garnish the top of the salad with toasted pieces of Arabic bread and an extra sprinkle of sumac, if desired. Serve with extra dressing and “croutons” on the side.

Question: How do you like to prepare Fattoush Salad?