Beef Stufato with Buckwheat Pilaf

You Say Stufato

A stufato is simply the Italian way to say stew. The version that appears below comes from my handwritten notes dating back about 40 years. Since writing a blog was the furthest thing from my mind then, I did not write down the author. Soooooooo, my apologies to the person(s) who came up with this delicious and easy peasy beef stew. For an old-fashioned Irish beef stew check this out.

So What is Kasha?

You could serve this warm and welcoming dish with some good chewy country bread, over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes, but I am serving it with a kasha pilaf. Kasha is roasted, whole grain buckwheat. And buckwheat is a great source of healthy fiber anti-oxidants and is rich in minerals. Best of all, it tastes great! While I am not in any way gluten-free, buckwheat is. I always make a lot because it is great as left-overs and stuffed in pita with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for a vegetarian or vegan lunch.

The Sum of Its Parts

I often find recipes with multiple parts and after I have made them, it turns out that I really only like the topping or the base but not what was in between. That’s how I came to make my Sriracha Cashews. So while beef stew definitely would not be appealing to a vegan, the buckwheat pilaf would. I have found inspiration in some unlikely places. I have successfully turned non-vegan recipes into vegan ones and clearly non-Kosher recipes into Kosher acceptable meals. So before you go dismissing a recipe, see if you can’t find some take-away that you can use.

Recipe for Stufato

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • Up to 2 cups of a dry red wine like a Cabernet (use whatever you plan on drinking)
  • 14.5 ounce can of a quality diced tomato (preferably San Marzano)
  • About 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Additional chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (Optional)

Directions

  1. Heat EVOO in a heavy-duty saucepan with a cover. Add meat in a single layer, without crowding and brown on all sides. (I did this in batches. If you crowd the pan, the meat won’t brown.) Remove the meat to a dish while you prepare the rest of the stufato.
  2. Add the onion to the same pan that you browned the meat in and sprinkle with the brown sugar and about a teaspoon of salt. Saute the onion until it becomes soft, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. (The juices from the onion should be sufficient to de-glaze the pan and all of those browned bits from the meat add flavor.)
  3. Once the onion has softened, add the wine to just cover the meat (you don’t want to drown the meat – just barely cover it), tomatoes, garlic, and herbs and stir through to mix. Now add back your meat and any juices and give another stir. Add some cracked black pepper and stir once more. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook on low for 2 hours. Adjust your seasonings and discard the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe for Buckwheat Pilaf (Vegan)

Yield: About 4 cups (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of roasted whole grain buckwheat (Kasha)
  • 2 Tablespoons of EVOO or butter
  • 2 cups of hot broth (Vegetarian, chicken or beef, preferably unsalted) (If using salted broth, eliminate the additional salt mentioned below.)
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped yellow onion, sliced mushrooms, celery and carrots
  • About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter or oil and add the vegetables. Saute the vegetables until slightly softened.
  2. Add the hot broth (and salt, if adding) and bring to a boil. Add the kasha and stir through. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Uncover the pot and fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving.

Tuna Puttanesca

When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, we had four easy winters so I really can’t complain – too much. But this winter has seesawed between a polar vortex and just plain dreary and wet. So going shopping – even when it is from my garage to the supermarket’s – holds little to no appeal. This pasta tuna puttanesca is the perfect answer because it is made almost entirely from pantry staples. And the best part is that it can be thrown together in under an hour.

Good for Your Health and Your Budget

We all know that it is healthier and more budget-friendly to cook at home than to order in or go out. This dish is so flexible and so quick to prepare that it can feed a crowd or a couple. There is no need to buy fancy canned tuna, although it’s certainly fine if you do. Use what you have on hand or would normally buy. Whether you like tuna packed in olive oil or water – chunk “light” or albacore – it all works.

This pasta dish is low in fat, high in flavor. Make it as puttanesca-like and spicy as you like or add just enough hot pepper flakes to tickle your taste-buds. If you have fresh parsley – great. And if you don’t, it will still be good. However, you do need a flavorful pitted olive (I usually use pitted Kalamatas myself) and I personally think that briny capers are a must. Mario Batali said that you should never use cheese on pasta dishes with fish or seafood. It may be breaking one of the sacraments of Italian cooking, but
I happen to like cheese with fish. There is no judgment here. I leave that decision in your capable hands.

So Easy!

Don’t even measure. I will give you some measurements below, but please use them only as a guide. If you want more tuna, use more. More olives – go for it. If you really enjoy anchovies, they can be added when you are browning the onion and garlic. The anchovy will break down, again adding a bit of briny flavor.

Let’s Get Started

Ingredients for Dinner for 4-6 People

  • 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 12 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces (or 2 smaller cans) of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
  • 2 Tablespoons good quality tomato paste
  • About 1 Tablespoon, finely chopped garlic
  • About 6 ounces coarsely chopped, flavorful pitted olives
  • 1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2-3 strips of anchovy, drained (optional)
  • Hot pepper flakes and salt, to taste (you can always add more but you can’t remove it once added)
  • 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water
  • One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and divided in 2 parts
  • 13 ounces to 1 pound of a firm pasta like a penne or rigatoni, preferably rigate (with ridges)

Directions

  1. Heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, if using, It will break down, melting into the EVOO and garlic.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through.
  3. Add all of the ingredients (half of the parsley) except for the starchy pasta water. Mix through and cook on simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated or made right before eating while the pasta cooks.
  4. When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to directions. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the puttanesca sauce. Stir through and continue cooking while you drain the pasta.
  5. Toss the drained pasta into the pan of sauce (if the pan is large enough) or pour the sauce over the pasta when you serve it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese, if desired. I like to serve a salad alongside, but if your fridge is bare, this will satisfy on its own.

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I LOVE Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. I could happily eat it every day and have for weeks at a time. So when I came across this recipe for chicken shawarma that you could make at home,  I simply had to try it. This recipe did not disappoint. Is it exactly like the shawarma you get off of the spit at a restaurant? No, but it is really, really close and truth to tell, I undoubtedly used a much better quality chicken then most shawarma stands would. It’s a fun weeknight dinner that can be prepped the night before. Serve it casually stuffed in a pita or alongside some dill rice or cauliflower tabbouleh, accompanied by salads and a tahini sauce. Left-overs can be easily re-warmed.

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce by Tori Avey

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 4 large thighs)

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp allspice

3/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

For Tahini Sauce

1/2 cup good quality tahini like Soom brand

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of 1 lemon

About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

About 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cold water

Directions

Prepare Marinade

  1. Slice the chicken breasts into 5-6 pieces each and the thighs into 3-4 pieces each. Place them in a glass or stainless dish or large plastic zipper bag.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 6 Tablespoons olive oil, the spices, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper (if you are salt sensitive or are using Kosher chicken, reduce the amount of salt). Pour the spice marinade over the chicken pieces. Stir with a spoon till all the chicken pieces are evenly coated in the marinade.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, or seal the zipper bag. Place chicken in the refrigerator and let it marinate at least 1 hour, up to overnight. [For maximum flavor, allow to marinate for 8 to 12 hours.]

Oven Cooking Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with a nonstick cooking oil. Place the chicken pieces on the sheet, evenly spaced.
  2. Place the chicken in the oven. Let it roast for about 15 minutes until cooked through, turning the chicken pieces once with tongs halfway through cooking.
  3. Take chicken out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into small, thin shawarma-like pieces. [You could do this first cooking ahead and then do the next step when you are ready to actually sit down and eat.] 
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on the stove-top over medium high heat. A cast iron pan is great for this step. Pour half of the chicken into the skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes till the smallest pieces of chicken turn brown and crisp.
  5. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet. Heat another 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the remaining chicken in the same way. Serve warm.

For Tahini Sauce

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together. Use 1/4 cup of water to start and mix it through. Here’s where it gets personal. I like a thick sauce so I may only use a little more water, but if you prefer a thinner sauce with the consistency of heavy cream – and also because different brands of tahini differ in density – use water, mixing until you get the consistency you want. The tahini will actually thicken when you first add the lemon juice and then you thin it with water. Extra sauce (should you have any) will keep for a day or two in the fridge and can be used to make salad dressing or with any other grilled meat or poultry.

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Bulghur

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I love vegetables and I love lamb. Mediterraneans stuff all kinds of vegetables and the ingredients and seasonings are only limited by your imagination and personal tastes. You can keep the dish vegetarian – as I do at times – or you can blend grains with ground lamb or beef. This time I decided to stuff my eggplant and zucchini with ground lamb mixed with cooked bulghur wheat, onions, garlic and Ras El Hanout, a Moroccan spice mix.   My spice mix came from Kalustyan and combines, coriander, cumin, fennel, allspice, cinnamon, anise, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, rose petals, lavender and black pepper. Any good spice store or Middle Eastern market should carry it and each will have its own combination of spices. You can, of course, make your own and adjust the mix to suit your own personal tastes.

The different parts of this dish can be assembled ahead and heated through when you are ready to serve. All that is needed to round out the meal is salad, maybe some hummus and pita and some fruit. Get creative and go stuff some vegetables!

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Bulghur

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants (about 1.25 pounds each)

EVOO

1 cup cooked bulghur wheat, farro or rice

1 pound of ground lamb or beef

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 cloves of peeled, minced garlic

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

About 2.5 teaspoons Ras El Hanout or other spice combination like Baharat 

28 ounces of good quality canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

2 Tablespoons of tomato paste

1 Tablespoon of either balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses

About 4 ounces of a melty cheese like a mozzarella provolone blend or a Haloumi (Optional)

Dried bread crumbs, preferably Panko (Optional)

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place the rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, use a paring knife to cut around the insides of each half. Scoop out the flesh carefully so as not to go beyond your border. If you go too far the vegetable “boats” will collapse when cooked. Coarsely cut up the flesh and set aside. Stuffed eggplant with lamb and bulghur7
  3. Rub the insides of the vegetable “boats” with about 1 Tablespoon of the EVOO and season with the salt and pepper. Place the “boats” in a baking dish (or dishes as in my case) large enough to hold them fairly snugly. I like to alternate the pieces head to foot for a better fit.  Roast until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetable. You know when it is done if there is no resistance when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO and brown the ground lamb with about 3/4  teaspoon of salt. Remove the lamb from the pan and put it in a strainer to remove any excess fat and liquid. Without cleaning the pan, add the chopped eggplant flesh, onion and garlic to the pan along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some cracked black pepper and cook until the onion begins to brown at the edges and the eggplant is cooked. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Depending on your eggplant you may need to add some additional EVOO. Add back the lamb and add the cooked bulghur and 2 teaspoons of Ras El Hanout and just cook for about another  two to three minutes, stirring through until the air is perfumed with the spice mix. Allow to cool enough until it is easy to handle. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. [NOTE: Any left-overs can be frozen or used later in the week for another dinner.]
  5. If using whole canned tomatoes, break them up with your hands into a bowl. Add the tomato paste, 1 Tablespoon of either balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses and some fresh cracked black pepper to the tomatoes along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of Ras El Hanout. Stir through. If you want things spicier and your Ras El Hanout did not contain chili pepper, you can add some to taste here. Add 1/2 cup of the tomato mixture to the eggplant, onion, bulghur wheat mixture and stir through. Pour the remaining tomato mixture into the bottom of the baking dish(es).
  6. When you are ready to serve, heat the broiler (or heat your oven to 450 degrees F. if you don’t have a good broiler or if your baking pan is not broiler-safe.) Take each eggplant “boat” and place onto a cutting board or work surface and fill it to the top, mounding it a bit. If you are using cheese, crumble it over the top of each eggplant “boat.” Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with EVOO. If you choose not to use the cheese, you can simply sprinkle with some bread crumbs. Stuffed eggplant with lamb and bulghur4Broil or roast until the cheese is melted and browned (or until the breadcrumbs are browned). It will be faster under the broiler but should not take long in either case so be sure to watch it. Serve each eggplant “boat” with some  of the tomato sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro. Any left-overs can be refrigerated and reheated. Stuffed eggplant with lamb and bulghur

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut dip

I’m always looking for something that my guests can nibble on with drinks that will stimulate their appetite but which won’t overwhelm my main meal. I came across this dip which is adapted from Feasts: Middle Eastern Food to Savor and Share by Sabrina Ghayour. While I haven’t explored the actual book or any other recipes, based on this I am anxious to see what else Ms. Ghayour has in store.

I made this dip for Passover but it would be excellent anytime. And since it is vegan, it can be used at any meal if you observe food restrictions for whatever reason. If you are unfamiliar with nigella seeds, they are definitely worth trying. They can be found at any decent spice store or online and will be used in Indian as well as Middle Eastern recipes. Nigella is also known as black caraway, black cumin or fennel or kalonji seeds. Any left-over dip will easily last a week in the refrigerator.

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip 

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound carrots, peeled and very roughly chopped

5.3 ounces of walnut pieces, very lightly toasted in a dry pan on the stove (As soon as you begin to smell the nut, remove it immediately from the heat!)

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 well-rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 Tablespoons of Agave syrup or honey

Zest and juice of 2 large unwaxed oranges

About 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) EVOO

3 Tablespoons nigella seeds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish

Coarsely chopped cilantro

Whole walnuts

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the carrots. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are just tender (about 10 minutes). When a sharp knife inserted into a carrot chunk comes out without any resistance, the carrot is done. Immediately drain under cold water to halt the cooking.
  2. In a food processor combine all of the ingredients up through the EVOO. You want a course puree. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in a little more EVOO if you prefer a slightly looser consistency. I did not. Pulse through the nigella seeds and serve with a whole walnut and/or some coarsely chopped cilantro on top.

 

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

I have been making these burgers for the last year and they are juicy and incredibly flavorful. Make these and say goodbye forever to boring turkey burgers. In fact, personally, I will take these over a beef burger any day. I’m serving these with Israeli couscous, roasted asparagus and a fresh fruit salad with Mandarin Napoleon Brandy .

I am giving measurements below to give you a starting place but normally I just eyeball everything except for the bread crumbs. Do not skip the breadcrumbs. They give the burger just the right mouth-feel, giving that lovely caramelized char that a good burger has.  Please note that NO EGG is needed as a binder for these burgers.

These burgers are also delicious with a simple tahini or yogurt sauce. While normally I like 1/3 pounds of ground meat per burger, I only need 1/4 pound here because of all of the wonderful other ingredients. I like to make enough for left-overs because even reheated in the microwave these burgers stay moist and delicious.

Lisa’s Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Mediterranean turkey burgers8

Yield: 6 burgers

Ingredients

1.5 pounds ground turkey, preferably 93% lean

1/3 cup finely chopped onion, shallot or scallion

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup sweet, roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

4 ounces coarsely crumbled goat or sheep’s milk cheese – a feta or even something a bit creamier like a chevre will work

1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs

1/2 Tablespoon Harissa – green or red (optional)

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or fresh, cracked black, but buy yourself Aleppo pepper – you’ll thank me!)

1/4 teaspoon Baharat, hawayij or ground cumin

Hungarian paprika for dusting

EVOO or Grapeseed oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven and pan to 425 degrees F. (I like to use a grill pan, but you can use any heavy baking pan, covered with foil for easier cleanup if you wish. This time I roasted my asparagus first, then removed them to a serving platter and using the same pan, including the same foil, I cooked my burgers. I didn’t get the nice grill-marks this way, but they still were delicious and it was one less pan to clean!)
  2. In a glass or stainless steel bowl combine well all of the ingredients listed up until the Hungarian paprika. I find that using my hands works best. If you don’t enjoy touching raw meat then wear disposable gloves. (Whenever I work with raw meat or fish – especially ground meat or fish – I use glass or stainless steel because I know they will clean properly and there will not be any cross contamination with other foods.) 

  3. Using slightly damp hands (cold water) form the patties and place them on a piece of lightly oiled parchment or waxed paper. Dust with the paprika. Then turn the burgers over and repeat.Mediterranean turkey burgers5Mediterranean turkey burgers9When the pan is HOT, add the burgers. No other oil is needed. (If you cook them on a pan that already had oil like I did this time then simply don’t add any oil to the side that you flip over.) Cook for 9 minutes on the first side, then flip the burgers and cook for another 9 minutes on the second side. Turkey burgers are ONLY eaten fully cooked. No rare burgers here. Allow to sit out of the oven for about 3-5 minutes before serving to retain the juices. If you decide you REALLY want a bigger burger, you will have to adjust your cooking times. Mediterranean turkey burgers2
  4. Now eat.

Moussaka

Moussaka3 (2)

One of the highlights of our trip to Greece a few years ago was certainly the food. The smells from cooking Greek classics at home always conjures up memories of that fantastic trip, and so while a bit tedious, we enjoy making this meal for “events.” This time we were cooking for my parents in sunny LA. When I first took it out of the oven there were protestations of “oh my! So much food – it will be enough for leftovers for weeks!” But after seconds… and thirds… there really wasn’t much left. On the other hand, I like to think that when people get thirds, whatever the dish is is *really* good. We found this recipe after using a different one for moussaka, but when we saw this claim to be the “Best ever moussaka” we decided to put it to the test. And sure enough, this really was the best ever that we’ve had, especially when paired with the wine used to make it!

Ingredients

2 medium globe eggplants (or 3 small eggplants)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds ground lamb
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fines herbes
¼ cup minced parsley
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
¾ cup red wine
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¾ pound feta cheese

Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish: chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut tops off eggplants and cut lengthwise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and place on paper towels for 30 minutes to absorb the moisture. Rinse, wipe eggplant dry, and place in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, cook the lamb, onions, and garlic, crumbling the lamb with a fork and stirring frequently until browned.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place meat mixture on paper towels and pat dry to further remove fat.
  4. Return the meat to the cleaned pan and add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, fines herbes, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir well. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Grease the bottom of a 9 X 13 ovenproof baking dish and dust with all but 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Reserve remaining bread crumbs for sauce.Sauce
  6. To make sauce, in a medium sauté pan over low-medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Stir in milk, nutmeg, and salt and stir until thickened. In a separate mixing bowl, spoon a little of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and add the 3 tablespoons of reserved bread crumbs. Then, blend the egg-bread crumb mixture into the sauce. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Layer dish first with eggplant, then meat, and then with a generous portion of feta cheese. Repeat layers and top with sauce.
  8. Lower oven heat to 350°F. Top the dish with Parmesan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top of cheese is golden brown. Cut into square servings. Garnish with chopped parsley. The Wine Lover’s Cookbook by Sid Goldstein  

     

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Roasted chicken with clementines4 (2)

For many years I led a program that brought Catholic School High School teachers to Israel to give them an opportunity to see the country outside of the very narrow focus that was available to them in the news. The hope was that it would give a more balanced and broader perspective to present to their students. I was fortunate enough to have kept up with some of the teachers even after I had retired. My husband and I hosted one of the teachers along with her husband for dinner last week and as food was always a highlight of the trip, I decided to make a Middle Eastern meal. I had homemade hummus, “burnt” eggplant with garlic, lemon and pomegranate seeds, kohlrabi salad, pita and this roasted chicken served with basmati rice. The chicken essentially is a sheet-pan meal, which is prepped the night before and then cooked an hour before serving. It comes from Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi that was given to me as a gift by my niece. I made a few changes, mostly in proportions, but the biggest change was in the temperature that I used to cook the dish. Ottolenghi suggests cooking everything at 475 degrees F. but I found that was much too high and would have resulted in burnt skin and under-done chicken. I cooked mine at 400 degrees F. The other major change I made was that I did not cook my chicken in the sauce. I poured the marinating liquid into a saucepan and cooked it separately on the stove. It was much less messy than trying to pour off the hot sauce later to reduce and I knew that the chicken would be moist enough from the marinade that it didn’t need to cook in the liquid, which also allowed my skin to become truly crispy, which I like. The recipe can be made with Arak, Ouzo or Pernod, all of which have an anise base. Arak would be used in Israel, but I had Ouzo on hand and used that successfully. This dish definite qualifies as comfort food and can easily be increased for a crowd. Left-overs warmed in a 250 degree F oven were wonderful so don’t worry if this makes more than you need immediately.

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Arak, Ouzo or Pernod

1/2 cup of EVOO

6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup Dijon or whole grain mustard

6 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges each

6 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin

4 chicken breasts, bone-in with skin

8 small clementines with the peel, cut horizontally into thick slices (usually 3 slices per clementine)

2 Tablespoons thyme leaves

1 Tablespoon fennel seeds

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt and 1.5 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or to taste

Directions

  1. Mix together the first 6 ingredients. Add the salt and Aleppo pepper and whisk to combine. Using 2 sets of doubled freezer bags (no clean-up!) divide the chicken between the bags. (You can use a glass or stainless bowl if you prefer.) Divide the fennel bulbs and clementine slices between the bags. Pour half of the marinating mixture into each bag. Using your hand, carefully mix everything through, trying not to smush the clementines or break up the fennel wedges. Alternatively you can carefully seal the bags and holding it over the sink, gently massage everything in the bag. Place the sealed bags standing up in the fridge. Ideally this is done the night before, but it can be done a few hours before if that is all the time you have.
  2. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. and raise the oven rack to the next to top space. I used two pans and two ovens to make this much chicken but you can use one oven rotating the pans as needed.
  3. I covered two sheet pans with heavy duty foil (again – no clean-up!) I liked that these pans weren’t super deep which allowed everything to get really good color and a crispy skin on the chicken.
  4. I carefully opened a corner of the freezer bags and poured the marinating liquid into a small saucepan. I then places the chicken pieces, skin side up on the pans and placed the fennel wedges and clementines around the chicken, but not covering the chicken. I roasted everything for about 45 minutes or until the skin was crackling and everything had great color. This is one time when you really want to eat the skin!Roasted chicken with clementines
  5. While the chicken was cooking, I brought the marinating liquid to a boil, uncovered. I boiled the liquid down by about half and set it aside until I was ready to serve. when the chicken was ready, I brought the sauce to a simmer and spooned it over the top after plating. Roasted chicken with clementines6

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower

Lamb Meatballs3

I came across this recipe on the Food52 website and it caught my eye. Lamb is my favorite meat and we eat a lot of it in our house.  Don’t get put-off by the seemingly long list of ingredients. This recipe came together fairly quickly although I did make some modifications from the original. I also added some Basmati rice to make what I considered a satisfying meal. If you prefer to simply serve it with a good pita or naan that would also work. Clean-up was minimal since the lamb and cauliflower cook on the same pan, lined with aluminum foil. And, if like me, you do a lot of Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, you should have the spices, tahini and pomegranate molasses on hand. The tahini-yogurt sauce makes more than you will need, but it is wonderful with any grilled or roasted meat or vegetables and thinned further can be used as a salad dressing.

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower by Emily C and modified by me

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For lamb meatballs

1.5 pounds ground lamb

1 teaspoon each: Aleppo pepper, ground cumin, fennel seed, Kosher salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1.5 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt (2% or full-fat only please)

2 teaspoons garlic cloves, minced or crushed

3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Olive oil or Grapeseed oil for greasing the pan

For cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower (about 2.5 pounds), cut or broken into small florets

About 3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (available online and in Middle Eastern grocery stores)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

For Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup tahini

3 Tablespoons Greek yogurt (2% or full-fat)

Juice of 2 lemons

1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses

Kosher salt and Aleppo pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Tap water for thinning the sauce (How much you use will depend on the tahini that you are using and your own personal taste as to how thin you like your sauce. Start with about 1/2 cup. The sauce will also thicken a bit over time so if you make this ahead, you may add more water before serving.)

2 Tablespoons of pomegranate arils (that’s the good stuff!)

1/4 chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro for serving

Directions

  1. Heat broiler and place rack towards the top of your oven. If you don’t have a broiler, you can heat your oven to 425 degrees F. and it should still be fine. Line a large rimmed pan with heavy duty aluminum foil – unless you love doing dishes! Drizzle the foil with the oil.
  2. In a large glass or stainless steel bowl (I always use these when dealing with raw meat.) combine all of the ingredients for the lamb meatballs with the exception of the oil. Use your hands to combine everything. Then shape the meatballs, using about 2 Tablespoons of mixture at a time. Place the meatballs on the greased pan. Gently roll the balls to lightly coat with the oil. Broil the meatballs, turning once, until they are browned and cooked through. This will depend on the temperature you use and the individuality of your oven. They should take about 10 minutes. Mine took a bit longer.
  3. While the meatballs are cooking, toss the cauliflower with the flavorings and oil and set aside.
  4. Remove the cooked meatballs to a platter that has cooked, hot Basmati rice on it (if using). Cover the platter with foil to keep hot while you cook the cauliflower.
  5. Pour the cauliflower in a single layer onto the same pan, in the juices left behind from the lamb meatballs. Return to the broiler and cook for between 6-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and has begun to brown. Lamb meatballs2
  6. While the cauliflower cooks (although this can easily be made ahead and refrigerated) mix together the ingredients for the tahini yogurt sauce. Be sure to stir the tahini well before adding anything else to it. I find a wire whisk works best. Tahini yogurt sauce
  7. When the cauliflower is cooked, add it to the platter with lamb meatballs and rice. Sprinkle the parsley or cilantro and the pomegranate arils on top and serve the sauce on the side.

 

 

Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Harira

My family can never have enough soup – especially now that we have entered the dreary, damp, chilly season. I have many soups that I go back to again and again, but it is always fun to find a new one. This soup comes from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. This is no “first-course” soup, but an entire meal in a bowl. As with most Moroccan food, it is well-seasoned, but each person gets to control the amount of heat by adding harissa or filfel chuma to his own bowl when it is served. I’m serving mine with some garlic naan, but pita or even a really good homemade white bread or challah will do.

Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur and tweaked by me

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup EVOO

1.5 pounds of lean, boneless lamb stew meat cut into 1-2 inch pieces

3 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or finely minced

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or longer) and drained

1 cup brown lentils

Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper OR Aleppo pepper (Don’t be stingy – it’s a big pot of soup!)

1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon dried ground ginger

1.5 teaspoons ground coriander

Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

About 1 pound of tomatoes, cut into small dice (You could use a  14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes if there are no decent tomatoes available or if you don’t want to be bothered with chopping them)

About 10-12 cups of chicken stock or water (I use stock)

12 chicken drumsticks

1/2 cup rice (I used brown Bismati, but keep in mind that if you use white rice it doesn’t take as long to cook.) I like to soak my rice in cold water for about 15-20 minutes and then drain it to remove additional unwanted starch.

To Serve

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Harissa or Filfel Chuma (Harissa is pretty easily accessible in grocery stores these days and either red or green will do. I have linked to recipes for both Harissa and Filfel Chuma should you wish to make your own. There are endless variations of both so feel free to experiment. IMG_3949

Directions

  1. Depending on how old your dried chickpeas are, you should soak them at least overnight or longer. If longer, I would refrigerate them after about 8 hours, changing the water once. Drain them before using. See Note.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pan (I love cast iron for this) and brown the lamb pieces. Transfer the browned lamb chunks to a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the chicken and rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover tightly, cooking for 90 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and drained rice and cook for between 30-50 more minutes, depending on the type of rice used. Taste and adjust the seasonings. IMG_3950
  5. When ready to serve, garnish with the lemon juice and parsley or cilantro. Allow each person to add the Harissa or Filfel Chuma. Serve with bread.  IMG_3954

NOTE: If you are in a hurry or forgot to soak your chickpeas (or are simply lazy!) you could use canned. However, I would not add them until I add the chicken drumsticks and the rice. I would use 2 drained and rinsed 15 ounce cans or its equivalent.