Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine

Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine

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Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine is aromatic, visually striking and oh so satisfying. Served with a whole wheat couscous with barberries and nuts, the dinner was ready in about an hour. While the couscous may not have been steamed over the tagine as a traditional couscous would be, it had the virtue of being ready in about 6 minutes. Here’s how this flavorful tagine came about.

So Shabbat was coming – as it does every week – and I had nothing planned. Feeling a bit lazy, I didn’t want to go to the grocery store again to pick something up. These days we pretty much only eat meat on Shabbat and later in the week if there are left-overs. It seemed like a good time to check out my freezer. It’s mostly filled with nuts, frozen fruit, ice cream and veggie sausages so I wasn’t very hopeful. However, in the very back under some bags of fruit, I found one pound of chicken tenders and some lamb merguez sausage. Hmmmmmm….

I always have plenty of grains, legumes, olives and veggies around as well as great spices, so I figured I could come up with something. After spending a bit of time Googling and deciding that I wanted to make a tagine, I found one that used both merguez sausage and chicken. I made some tweaks and the resulting Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine exceeded all of my expectations.

While the end result was absolutely delicious, when I make this again – and I will – I would choose boneless chicken thighs instead of breast meat. Not only do the thighs have more flavor, but they stay juicy and are more forgiving than breast meat. But if the pandemic taught me anything, it is that we make do with what’s on hand.

I eat with all of my senses. While I may sacrifice aesthetics on occasion for flavor, ideally a meal is attractive as well as delicious. It is an extra treat if my apartment is permeated with lovely spices. There is just something so comforting. While this dish as made is well-seasoned, it is not spicy. Frequently a tagine will be accompanied either by zhug or harissa for those who desire more heat.

Although I only used a little over a pound and a half of meat, the meal, with side salads and dips, could easily feed six people. Four people if my son is one of them! As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I always have four to six salads and dips for shabbat, which we then enjoy throughout the week.

This wonderful Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine does not require a tagine to successfully make this dish. I use my favorite Staub enameled cast iron dome-covered every-day pan – well, every day. You do want to use a heavy pan with a wide bottom.

Definitely give this a try. It makes for a delicious meal any time. But remember, it is the spices that make this dish. So be sure to use fresh ones.

For some salad and dip ideas

Salads for Every Meal

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Garlicky Beet Spread

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Recipe

Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine

Yield: 4 to 6 generous portions depending on sides

Ingredients

Spice mix

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 rounded teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the tagine

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces

8.5 ounces of lamb merguez sausage, cut into 3-inch pieces (See photo above)

1/4 cup good olive oil

2 large carrots, peeled and cut on an angle into 2-inch pieces (See photo above)

1 large zucchini, cut on an angle into 2-inch pieces (See photo above)

1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (I cook up my own chickpeas and then used the cooking liquid in the tagine instead of broth.)

1 rounded Tablespoon garlic ginger paste OR 4 cloves of garlic minced and 1.5 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1.5 cups of salted chicken or vegetable broth OR the cooking liquid from home cooked chickpeas

1/2 cup of pitted green olives (I like Castelvetrano olives)

1/2 of a preserved lemon, the peel only sliced into julienne (I make my own, but these are available nowadays in many stores and online)

For the couscous

2 cups whole wheat or regular couscous (Not the Israeli couscous which is bigger and takes longer to cook)

1/2 cup dried barberries, raisins or dried cranberries

3 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup toasted coarsely chopped pistachios or sliced almonds

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

For the tagine

Mix together all of the spices for the spice mix. Pour 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil into your pan over a low heat. Add the spice mix and cook for 2 to 3 minutes in order for the spices to bloom and become fragrant.

Once the spices have bloomed, add the garlic ginger paste (OR the grated ginger and garlic) carrot, zucchini and onion and bathe with the oil and spices. Cook for a few minutes or just until the vegetables begin to soften.

Now add the chicken, merguez sausage and chickpeas. Gently toss so that everything is coated with the spices and oil. Next add in the preserved lemon and the olives and then add the broth over everything. Increase the heat to bring everything to a boil.

Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the chicken and sausage are cooked through.

For the Couscous

Place the couscous, barberries, cranberries or raisins, olive oil, turmeric and salt in a glass or ceramic serving dish Stir through so that everything is evenly distributed. Bring the broth to a boil and pour over the couscous mixture. Cover tightly with a lid, foil or plastic wrap. Leave covered for 6 to 8 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is fluffy. Add the chopped nuts and parsley and stir through. Now enjoy!

Wonderful One-Pot Pasta

Wonderful One-Pot Pasta

Yes, nutritious and vegan tastes this great! Wonderful One-Pot Pasta with lentils is packed with vegan power and gives you a satisfying dinner in under an hour. And this one-pot method of cooking pasta right in the sauce makes clean-up a snap. Who could ask for anything more?

For the past year, I have been watching a vlog called Pick Up Limes out of the Netherlands. It’s all about the vegan life-style. The vlogger is a registered dietician and a walking advertisement for the vegan life. She is completely non-preachy and makes everything approachable. While she now spends less time on her life, which I kind of miss, she is a wonderful resource for vegan recipes and nutrition. This pasta recipe originated with her. Per usual, I made a few tweaks to portions and method. Frankly, even I was a bit surprised how much I loved this dish.

Wonderful One-Pot Pasta layers in the flavors to make a savory, thick – and very healthy – sauce. Every element plays a part. The capers and olives lend a brininess and the lentils add smooth mouthfeel and meatiness to the dish. And after eating the generous portions you feel full without any heaviness. It’s a great introduction to vegan eating.

I served this with broccolini that I lightly sautéed in a pan with just salt, pepper, grated garlic and lemon zest. The crunch of the broccolini was a perfect accompaniment to the unctuous pasta. A small salad instead wouldn’t go amiss and some good bread to lap up every bit of the delicious sauce.

There are a few shortcuts that you can take even though I chose not to. With a pantry full of dried lentils and beans, I cooked mine up in the morning. Unlike some legumes, most lentils do not require pre-soaking and a long, slow cooking. These only take a good rinsing and 15 minutes of cooking to be ready. However, prepared lentils are often available in the produce department in vacuum-sealed bags if you choose to go that route.

And normally, if I had thought ahead, I would have bought pitted olives for the dish. Since I had some lovely picholine olives from Morocco with pits I used those. It took a few minutes longer to cut the flesh off of the pits, but not much more. Kalamata olives, which are black, are readily available pitted and would be just as good here.

I did use the recommended spinach. While it added to the nutrition of the dish, it didn’t contribute much in the way of flavor in my opinion. So as a consequence, I have made it optional. Don’t forego making this pasta if you are out of fresh spinach! The original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes. My husband and I do not like every meal to be spicy, so I only used a sprinkling and might even leave it out altogether the next time. All of the other ingredients are essential to the overall mix of nutrition and flavor.

When I saw the original amount of pasta called for, I thought there is no way that the portions would be generous. Boy, was I wrong. Somehow, 300 g or 10.5 ounces of pasta resulted in a very generous four portions. If you wish to increase the portions to make this for a bigger crowd, the Pick Up Limes website has a conversion table on the recipe.

We ended up using some grated Parmesan on top, but afterwards my husband and I both agreed that it was not needed. So if you are not going full-blown vegan, you can use it or not. And while I have not tasted them myself, there are also vegan “cheese” options out there. It’s up to you.

Wonderful One-Pot Pasta

For a non-vegan one-pot pasta dish that is quite good:

One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca

Recipe

Yield: 4 very generous portions

Ingredients

Wonderful One-Pot Pasta

1.5 Tablespoons Olive Oil (Canola or sunflower could also be used)

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 cups (about 1 medium) onion, peeled and chopped

1 vegetable bouillon cube

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon ground dried fennel

Up to 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (Optional)

10.5 oz. (300 g) dry spaghetti noodles

3 cups (720 ml) tomato sauce

2 cups (480 ml) water

2 cups (360 g) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 to 3 cups (225 g) cooked lentils (brown, green or whole red lentils) (I was fine with 2 cups; my husband wanted more, so I added the additional cup. The original recipe called for 1.5 cups.)

1/2 cup (68 g) green or black olives (about 20 regular olives), sliced or chopped

1/3 cup (50 g) sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and chopped

1 Tablespoon (9 g) capers, rinsed if stored in salt

2 cups (60 g) fresh baby spinach (Optional)

Fresh Basil (Optional Garnish)

Directions

Dissolve the bouillon cube in the 2 cups of water. Add the oil to a large pot on medium-high heat.

When hot, sauté the onion, garlic, herbs and chili flakes, if using for 3 minutes.

Now add the pasta, pasta sauce, water, cherry or grape tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and capers to the pot. Bring everything to a simmer. Using tongs or a wooden spoon, push the pasta into the sauce as it begins to soften. The pasta will need to be fully submerged in the sauce to cook properly. [I got a bit impatient here. To speed things up, you can break the pasta in half – a heresy, I know. Otherwise, just be patient. It will take a few minutes.]

Once simmering, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on the brand of pasta. Keep checking after 10 minutes. You want the pasta cooked but al dente. 10 minutes into the cooking time, add in the cooked lentils. Stir through.

At the very end, stir through the spinach if using. Serve it generously and garnish with fresh basil, if using. Now enjoy!

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas are a weeknight meal sure to please. With protein from rich, dark kidney beans, these satisfying quesadillas can be on the table in less than an hour. Served up with a quick, fresh guacamole, it’s the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

This is casual dining in the best tradition. Just as a great falafel sandwich will ooze down your hand as you eat all of its yummy goodness, so too do these quesadillas. Do NOT eat this wearing your favorite silk blouse or shirt!

I came across this recipe while watching a lovely Australian vlogger living in Tuscany. While we may not have been able to travel during the pandemic, I get my “fix” watching this lyrical vlog. As soon as I saw Kylie Flavell make these Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas, I knew that I had to try them. And because most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it didn’t require a major excursion to the market. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe so if you need to swap out one ingredient for another, your results will likely still be delicious.

This recipe easily would feed four people, but it could also be doubled or halved. While I did use cheese, making my quesadillas vegetarian, it is vegan-friendly. Just leave the cheese out or use a vegan cheese as an alternative. The cheese does act as a kind of binder, holding everything together, so I personally recommend it. I have successfully made this with goat cheese and with a “Mexican” blend of cheeses.

And though you could use any kind of tortilla, by choosing a whole-grain option, you are increasing the nutrition quotient, while adding some additional flavor. My tortillas were 7.5-inches in diameter, but smaller or bigger ones can be used. Simply adjust how much filling you put inside. While tempting to overstuff these – don’t. The final quesadilla is surprisingly filling and too much filling will completely ooze out.

Now you could use a different bean, but dark red kidney beans are readily available, very nutritious, flavorful, inexpensive and have just the right amount of heft to give these a great mouthfeel.

Almost any cheese would work as long as it is one that gets melty. And while I used a sweet potato for added color, flavor, heft and nutrition, you could easily use butternut or other winter squash in its place. So the next time you are looking for something quick, delicious and nutritious to make in about 45 minutes or less, consider these great quesadillas.

Recipe

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 teaspoon each: salt, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, paprika (preferably smoked Spanish paprika)

Generous pinch of ground cinnamon

About 3 Tablespoons of EVOO or Canola

1 large bell pepper – red, orange or yellow, diced (You could use green – I just am not partial to them)

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

15 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with their liquid, preferably fire roasted

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

About 4 to 6 ounces of shredded or cut up cheese or to taste, if using

For fresh guacamole or avocado smush

2 large ripe avocados, with the flesh placed in a bowl and mashed with a fork

Juice of 1/2 to 1 fresh lime, depending on taste

kosher or sea salt to taste

freshly cracked black pepper

8 whole wheat or other type of tortillas

Directions

Heat the oven to 420 degrees F. and place the oven rack about 6 inches from the top. Drizzle about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of oil across the bottom of a sheet pan. (I only needed a quarter sheet pan this time. It should be large enough to hold all of the diced sweet potato in a single layer without crowding.)

Place the diced sweet potato on the pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the cinnamon and using your clean hands, mix together the sweet potato, oil and seasonings. Place in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. The sweet potato should be cooked, with some browning, but not dried out.

Meanwhile, place 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté until the onion begins to soften and turn translucent. Add the remaining spices and mix through, blooming the spices, for about 30 seconds.

While the onion cooks, lightly mash the drained kidney beans. You don’t want a puree. Some beans can even be left whole. Add the beans, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, diced bell pepper and about 3/4 cup of water to the onion mixture. Stir well and allow to cook on simmer while the sweet potato roasts. This can be done ahead if you wish. Just gently heat it through when you are ready to assemble the quesadillas.

When you are ready to assemble, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a clean frying pan, place either a little neutral oil like Canola or spray with a cooking spray. Heat the pan and add the tortillas one at a time. Heat until both sides have become warm and speckled with brown spots. Turn once. Place the tortilla onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spoon 1/4 of the bean mixture over one tortilla. Then place 1/4 of the sweet potato chunks on top of that and add your desired cheese. I tend to use a light hand with the cheese, but it’s personal preference. Place a second tortilla on the top of everything and gently press down with the flat of your hand. Drizzle lightly with EVOO.

After you make all of the tortillas, place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Carefully remove the tortilla to a cutting board and using a large knife, cut each tortilla into 4 pieces. Don’t worry if a little filling oozes out. Just shove it back in!

Serve with the guacamole and have a napkin on hand! Enjoy!

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)


Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira) is hearty and fragrant – a soul-satisfying one-dish meal. There are many versions of this soup – some with meat and others like this one, which is vegan. In some families it is traditional to serve this as the “break-the-fast” meal following Yom Kippur. But it could and should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. This is a make-ahead meal that only improves with a bit of age.

To show how vastly different our family traditions can be, my family’s break-the-fast meal was always bagels, lox and smoked fish. We came from New York via Russia Poland. But the truth is that I actually don’t like lox and smoked fish in the Midwest just doesn’t cut it for me. So, as I have with much of our diet during the rest of the year, I have adopted a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/South Asian food culture. And a heavily plant-based diet.

I came across a version of this soup on the Jewish Food Society website. It’s a wonderful site that has made it its mission to collect stories and recipes of the myriad Jewish communities across the globe. These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but which might have so easily been lost. Because so many of these families were forced from their homes under terrible conditions, it was easy for these unwritten treasures to have fallen by the wayside. While I have found that the recipes on the site are not always easy to follow, especially if you are a novice cook, the family histories alone make the website worth a visit.

While we Jews lived among the local communities, we also remained outside of them, keeping to our own traditions. Local cuisine was adapted to meet the laws of kashrut. Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Soup is a perfect example. Moroccan Muslims would eat harira to break the fast on Ramadan. Whereas many Jews ate it to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

The original recipe for this harira uses fine egg noodles and since I am not a vegan, I did as well. However, there is no reason why an angel hair pasta or spaghettini couldn’t be used instead. That is the only change required to make this wonderful soup vegan.

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

If you choose to cook your own soaked chickpeas as I have done, you need to start the process the night before. If you prefer to use canned chickpeas, you can still make a delicious and hearty soup. I happen to enjoy cooking my own beans and use the liquid from the cooking process to replace most of the water called for in the recipe. It adds an extra level of nourishment and flavor and helps to further thicken the soup. Unless you are using organic canned beans, however, I would not recommend using the liquid. You could use water, as called for, adding a vegetable bouillon cube or you could use a vegetable stock.

After I had decided to make the recipe I found from the Jewish Food Society, I came across another version from My Jewish Learning, The Nosher. So I ended up doing what I usually do and took the elements that I liked best from both and then tweaked it!

My sister-in-law is from Morocco and I asked what her family’s tradition was for breaking the fast. She told me that their tradition was to eat an egg-drop soup before the fast and cake to break the fast, followed by a full meal. So whatever tradition your family follows – or if you are starting a tradition of your own, I definitely encourage you to fit this wonderful and incredibly soul-satisfying soup in there somehow.

For a version of harira with lamb: Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR one 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas

4 Tablespoons olive or a neutral oil like Canola

3 medium carrots (or 2 large), peeled and cut into small dice or rounds

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons of a milder Harissa and added a few crushed red chili flakes)

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils OR 1/2 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (If making this in the winter, use canned tomatoes, about 28 oz. can)

3 cups fine egg noodles OR angel hair pasta broken into thirds (About 4 to 5 oz. depending on the kind of noodle that you use)

8 cups of vegetable stock, OR water with a couple of bouillon cubes OR the cooking liquid from the chickpeas plus additional water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

A large handful of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

If you are cooking your own soaked chickpeas, place the drained chickpeas in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any white foam. Cover and cook for 50 minutes at a simmer.

In a large pot, add 4 Tablespoons olive or Canola oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 6 minutes on medium high heat or until softened. I like to add 1 teaspoon of salt here. I will probably add more later since it is a big pot of soup. However, if you are using broth or bouillon and depending on your Harissa, you might not need much more salt. You can always add it but you cannot easily remove it!

Once the veggies are softened, add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Now add the Harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and stir through to coat everything well. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomato paste to the bottom of the pot. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you are using your own chickpeas you can add them to the pot. I find that when I cook chickpeas myself, they retain their shape and bite even when cooked longer. If you are using canned chickpeas, you will add them in later. Your lentils are also added now. Give everything a good stir to coat with the spices and tomato paste.

Next add the tomatoes, broth, water or liquid from the chickpeas, the chopped stems of the parsley and/or cilantro. Don’t worry if there are some leaves in there as well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. This can be done ahead.

When you are ready to eat, return the heat to a boil and add the noodles and canned chickpeas, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and check your seasonings. The soup should be very thick, almost stew like. If you want it thinner then add more liquid. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Garnish with the chopped parsley/cilantro leaves.

Enjoy!



Chickpea and Spinach Soup (Potaje de Garbanzos y Espinacas)

img_2820For my father’s 60th birthday back in 1973, I made this incredible Turkish Moussaka that was cooked in a Charlotte mold, with a lamb stew stuffing and served with a tomato coulis. It was unmolded for serving and was both stunning and delicious and I swore NEVER to make it again because it was soooooooo much work! For some reason I was thinking about that dish on a nasty day when I was stuck inside and decided to search for the recipe. I thought that I recalled it coming from one of the 12 years of bound Gourmet Magazines that I had inherited from my mother. I started looking through 1973 and did not find the recipe for Turkish Moussaka; however, I did find an article with recipes for soups from Spain. Several looked delicious and I plan on working my way through them, but this Chickpea and Spinach soup from Catalonia also sounded easy so I decided to start with this one. Catalonian cuisine borrows a little from the French across the Pyrenees, Valencia to the south, Aragon and the Mediterranean. I mostly followed the recipe but I did make a few tweaks of my own. I will garnish this with the traditional hard-boiled egg and parsley and will serve it with a good toasted farm bread and an aged Manchego cheese. There is so much spinach in this dish that you don’t even really need a salad, but having one never goes amiss. Of course, you should also serve this with one of the many hearty Spanish red wines that are both affordable and delicious.

Potaje de Garbanzos y Espinacas adapted slightly from Gourmet Magazine, February 1973, p.28-29

Yield: 8 to 12 servings, depending on if this is a first course or dinner

Ingredients

1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water to cover (Do not use canned beans here. There really is a difference in the final texture of the soup.) IMG_2813.JPG

1 quart of stock (chicken or vegetable)

2 quarts of water

2 dried or fresh bay leaves

2 small dried red peppers (I used Arbol. Choose a pepper according to your tolerance and preference for heat. Ours is minimal.) img_2815

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

28 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

1 pound of fresh spinach, well washed and coarsely chopped unless you are using Baby Spinach

For the Garnish

1 hard-boiled egg per person if serving as dinner, chopped or sliced

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

EVOO to drizzle

Directions

  1. Drain the chickpeas. In a large stockpot, bring the stock, water, hot peppers, thyme, salt and drained chickpeas to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
  2. In a skillet, saute the chopped onion in the EVOO until it is soft. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon or by hand. Cook the mixture for 3 more minutes.
  3. Add the tomato mixture to the chickpea mixture and simmer the soup for 30 minutes more until the chickpeas are tender but not mushy.
  4. The soup can be made ahead up to this point. When you are ready to serve the soup, return the mixture to a boil and plunge in the spinach. Cook the soup, covered, for 6 to 8 minutes, just until the spinach is cooked. Adjust your salt. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley and the hard-boiled egg. img_2819

 

Christmas Lamb Shanks

img_2629Okay, so I don’t celebrate Christmas and these lamb shanks can be eaten any time. I named them Christmas Lamb Shanks because I am using an heirloom Christmas Lima Bean that I bought through Rancho Gordo, the premier site for heirloom beans and other wonderful one-0f-a-kind goodies from south of the border. I was introduced to this company on a trip to Napa Sonoma that my husband and I took with Frances and Matthew a few years ago. Of course, if you don’t have access to these beans, which are meaty and unctuous and taste ever so slightly of chestnuts, you could substitute a good dried lima bean or other large runner bean.

Chicago is currently under a polar vortex and a former colleague from Russia says that we are living in Chiberia! This dish only takes about 30 minutes of prep time but then you want it to cook low and slow so it is wonderful to make on a day when you are stuck indoors. Alternatively it could probably be made in a slow cooker or cooked overnight and then reheated when you are ready to eat. This dish cries out for a really full-bodied red wine, preferably from California or Oregon, but a Shiraz or Spanish Rioja would also be wonderful.

I really don’t do any serious measuring and this dish can be increased easily – only limited by the size of your Dutch oven. The amount I made is enough for four servings and I used a 5 quart oval Dutch Oven to give you a reference point.

Christmas Lamb Shanks

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

3 to 3.5 pounds of lamb shanks (The lamb shanks these days seem to run really large so I am using only 2. The meat will be falling off of the bone so it is not a problem; however, if you are really looking for presentation, try to find 4 small shanks or serve the 2 on a platter and then remove the meat from the bone.)

1 pound of dried runner beans, soaked 18 hours (I changed the water 3 times before going to bed. You could soak them for less, but I want them REALLY unctuous.)

2 to 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 to 3 Tablespoons of EVOO or Grapeseed oil

1/4 cup of whatever red wine you will be drinking or have opened from the night before

5 large shallots, peeled, split into its 2 parts and left whole

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves which are trimmed, peeled and left whole or are lightly smashed img_2622

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 or 4 chunks each

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon dried rosemary

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

4 cups of chicken stock

28 ounces of whole San Marzano tomatoes, squeezed by hand into rough chunks

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

8 ounces whole button or Cremini mushrooms

3 Tablespoons of chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Drain your beans which should have almost doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a Dutch Oven or heavy duty casserole (I recommend Staub or Le Creuset) large enough to fit the lamb shanks in one layer and hold everything else, heat the EVOO or Grapeseed oil to hot but not smoking. (If I am being totally honest, I added 1 Tablespoon of duck fat to the EVOO for flavor and its burning point, but since everyone may not have it around, I didn’t want to complicate things for you.)
  3. Make 3 or 4 deep slits in each lamb shank and stuff the slit with a sliver of garlic. This took 2 cloves from the total. Lightly dredge the shanks in the flour, shaking off any excess. I put the flour in a one gallon plastic freezer bag and threw in the shanks and sealed the bag. I tossed the shanks around to coat. It’s easy and you then just throw away the bag. You can season the flour if you wish with salt and pepper, but I didn’t.
  4. Brown the shanks in the hot oil – about 5 minutes a side. They will brown best if you don’t move them around except to turn once. Adjust your heat so the oil doesn’t burn. Once the shanks are browned, pour in the 1/4 cup of red wine to quickly deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits.
  5. Add everything else to the pot except for the parsley and mushrooms and stir through to mix. The beans and shanks should be covered with the liquid from the stock and tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil on top of the stove, then cover and place in the oven. Cook it for 3 hours, checking once to stir things. Then add the mushrooms and cook covered for 30 minutes more.img_2626
  6. Serve garnished with the parsley. Make sure you have plenty of crusty bread to soak up the sauce or some starch of choice. This dish reheats beautifully and only gets richer with time.

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Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

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My birthday was Saturday and my wonderful son and daughter-in-law sent me the perfect gift – a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, amazing spices and a gift certificate for cooking lessons of my choice at a local school. I adore Indian food so I immediatelyt started reading Jaffrey’s book over my morning coffee. Some women get seduced by a new pair of shoes. My downfall is cooking ingredients and gadgets. We have some wonderful Indian/Pakistani stores in Chicago and I have things in my pantry that caught my eye, but somehow never got used.

I came across Jaffrey’s recipe for Moong Dal and since I never met a lentil that I didn’t like, I kept reading. While, it’s true that the average American cook doesn’t just happen to have moong dal and asafetida in the pantry, I actually do. I’m sure that I bought both after reading some recipe and then never got around to making it. Well, I am making it now! Jaffrey serves it with Basmati rice, which I always have on hand and she mentions Lemony Ground Lamb with Mint and Cilantro. Coincidentally, I have all of those ingredients and so am planning a mini-feast. It’s only a shame that Frances and Matthew aren’t here to share it with us since I know that they would enjoy this meal as well. Andrew and I are looking forward to many happy meals thanks to our children!

Of course, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, the Moong Dal and Rice together are a wonderful meal, perhaps with another vegetable dish added. This is real comfort food.

Every Day Moong Dal by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Ingredients

1 cup (7 ounces) moong dal (hulled and split mung beans) washed and drained

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon asafetida

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin sees

1 to 2 dried hot red chilies (the short cayenne type) or ground cayenne pepper to taste

1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into fine slivers

Directions

  1. Put the dal in a medium pot and add 3.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any froth.
  2. Add the turmeric, stir to mix and partially cover the pot. Turn the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and stir through. Turn off the heat.
  4. Pour the oil into a small, heavy frying pana nd set over medium heat-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the asfafetida, cumin seeds and chilies, quickly and in that order. As soon as the chilies darken (a matter of seconds), add the shallots. Stir and cook until the shallots brown and then quickly pour the contents over the cooked dal. Stir to mix and serve with the rice.

Lemony Ground Lamb by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 3-4 portions

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 2-inch sticks of cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 pound ground lamb (on the lean side)

2 teaspoons very finely grated, peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 tp 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 to 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Juice of one lemon

3/4 teaspoon garam masala

Directions

  1. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-duty frying pan (I like cast iron) and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon sticks. Allow them to sizzle for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions. Stir and fry the onions until the edges turn brown.
  2. Add the lamb and ginger, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of water, the salt and cayenne. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 40 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice and garam masala. The dish can be made ahead of time up to this point. When ready to serve, bring the mixture to a simmer and add the mint and cilantro, stirring through. Heat uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Serve with Basmati rice and the Moong Dal, Naan and any chutney of your choice. This can be wrapped in the flatbread and eaten as a wrap, with some chopped fresh tomatoes.

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

lentils de puyThe beauty of Lentils du Puy is that they just never seem to get mushy, which is wonderful if you want to serve them in a salad where they are the star. This is a classic French salad and is wonderful eaten at room temperature. I’m serving lamb chops tonight and lamb and lentils are a wonderful marriage of taste and texture. I also make this salad when I am serving a summer dinner of lamb merguez sausage or any other flavorful sausage. All it needs is a green salad with some ripe tomatoes, a nice Dijon mustard and a crisp wine. Well, okay, I have already admitted that my husband and I are bread people, so I would also serve this with a crusty baguette.

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

1.5 cups Lentils du Puy or other green lentils

6-7 small potatoes like a red baby Bliss or Yukon Gold or a mixture

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt or to taste

1.5 teaspoons dried tarragon or 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon

6 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

20 cracks of fresh black pepper

Directions

  1. Rinse your lentils in cold water and place in a medium pot with water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. If you are using Lentils du Puy, cook uncovered for about 23 minutes, immediately drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Regular green lentils may only take about 18 minutes. You want them tender but still holding their shape.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, add all of the other ingredients except for the potatoes to a large serving bowl. When the lentils have cooked and been cooled and drained, add them to the bowl with everything else and mix through.
  3. Cook the potatoes uncovered, whole and in their skins until tender but firm – about 14 minutes, but check if a sharp knife easily pierces the potato and pulls out easily. Once cooked, immediately drain them and run under cold water to stop the cooking. The potatoes should easily peel. Cut into large dice and add to the lentils. Adjust your seasonings and enjoy.

 

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Bean, Mushroom Cauliflower Stew

As I have said many times on these pages, I am not a vegan. However, I do make vegan or vegetarian meals with some frequency. This rich and flavorful stew is something I came up with after cooking up beautiful heirloom scarlet runner beans and chick peas that I had in my pantry from Rancho Gordo. Some of the beans I cooked up will go into a bean soup with smoked pork butt, but I also wanted a vegan dish for the remainder. If you don’t want to cook up your own beans, you could probably substitute canned beans. It won’t be quite the same and I have never seen scarlet runner beans in a can, but a bit of experimenting can sometimes produce wonderful results. However, if you own a slow cooker, cooking up your own beans is really simple and opens up all kinds of bean options for you. Also, I always cook my beans with aromatics – carrot, onions, garlic and some herbs.

I served this stew, with its rich coconut milk-based sauce over plain Basmati rice. It would go equally well over faro or barley or wheat berries. You want a hearty grain that can soak up the sauce, while keeping a bit of chew. The seasonings in this are Indian-inspired but not based on any particular recipe. The dish requires nothing more than a bit of chopped cilantro on top for serving and possibly a green salad. Leftovers heated up will make for a satisfying lunch that should banish the sad desk lunch blues.

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

2-3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 small head cauliflower cut into florets

6 cups of beans (I used Scarlet Runner beans and Chickpeas, but a large white bean or pinto bean with chickpeas would probably work) with liquid or about 2 cups of vegetable broth

8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used Crimini, but white button mushrooms are fine)

1 can of full-fatted coconut milk

2 small onions, coarsely chopped

10 whole cloves

2 rounded teaspoons curry powder (I used 1/2 hot curry powder and 1/2 regular)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

2-3 Tablespoons, chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions

  1. In a 3.5 – 4 quart Dutch oven, heat the EVOO. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent – about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cloves and the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower and the mushrooms with the ginger and the spices and stir through to coat the cauliflower.
  4. Add the beans and about 1.5 cups of the bean liquid or vegetable broth if you are using canned beans. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add in the coconut milk and stir through. I like a lot of liquid, but if you don’t want quite so much, do not add the entire can of coconut milk. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more.
  6. Serve over the Basmati rice and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans

lamb with beans

Since next week is going to be all about the bird, I decided to give my husband lamb this week. Everyone in my family loves lamb in all of its forms, but I especially love lamb shanks because they are so easy to make in so many different ways and they are always hearty and delicious. They may not be a show-stopping “company” dish, but anyone who eats this homey meal will be glad that they are considered family.

The lamb shanks I got were on the large side – about 1.5 pounds each, so just two of them will give me dinner for four. However, sometimes they come a lot smaller, so how much you use will depend on the size of the shank. The presentation has a bit more of the wow factor when you serve someone an entire shank, but the taste is just as wonderful if you serve the meat off of the bone, as I did here. Whoever does get the bone will have the added plus of getting the marrow to enjoy. Careful measuring is not necessary here. And if you don’t have flageolet beans, those wonderful pale green, small, slightly kidney-shaped French beans, then use a good white bean – a Great Northern or cannellini or some large heirloom bean. This dish takes LOTS of garlic and fresh rosemary, but the slow cooking removes any of the bite from the garlic, leaving just that wonderful flavor where you can eat entire cloves and go “yummmmmmmmm.” I made it last night in a Dutch oven for tonight’s dinner. You could probably do this in a slow cooker as well once you have browned the lamb.

Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups flageolet or large dried white beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 onion, chopped

1 generous Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

10-12 cloves of fresh garlic

3 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted

4 lamb shanks – about 1/2 -3/4 pound each

About 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, seasoned with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and whatever dried herbs you like (oregano, thyme, rosemary) for dredging

1 pound baby carrots

2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash or pumpkin puree (optional)

1/4 cup hearty red wine (whatever you plan on drinking with this or whatever you have left-over) (optional)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Dredge (this just means roll the shanks in the flour to coat) the lamb shanks in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess
  2. In a Dutch oven or covered casserole dish, heat the EVOO. When the oil is hot, place the shanks in and turn and cook on a medium high heat until nicely browned. Add the onion and stir until softened.
  3. Drain the beans. Add all of the other ingredients to the casserole. If you are using salted chicken stock, only add about a teaspoon of salt at this point. You can always add more later.
  4. Bring to a heavy simmer, cover the Dutch oven/casserole and reduce the heat so the ingredients simmer but do not boil. This can then be cooked on the stove for 2.5 hours or in a 325 degree preheated oven, until the lamb is practically falling off of the bone and the beans are tender. Check occasionally and give a stir to make sure that nothing is sticking and that you have enough liquid. If it is getting a bit dry, you can add more stock. Taste and adjust your seasonings to taste.
  5. This can all be done ahead and warmed when you are ready to eat it. I think it actually gets even more rich and flavorful if made a day ahead. Serve with bread and salad.