• mujaddara deluxe

    mujaddara deluxe

    When I originally posted my mujaddara recipe 4 1/2 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised when it became one of the most popular recipes on the blog. Mujaddara is a rice and lentil pilaf and very near and dear to my heart. When I decided that once and for all I would learn how to cook at the age of 22 (!), it was the first thing I set out to make. All you need is an onion, rice, lentils, olive oil, and salt. How hard could it be? Not very, it turns out, but it took several attempts and fine tuning to get it just where I wanted. In the years since I posted the recipe, I usually don’t make it “as is” unless I’m serving it as a side dish.

    On those nights when the pantry and fridge are looking scarce and I don’t know what to make, mujaddara is a reliable friend since I almost always have the ingredients handy. The base recipe remains the same, but I like to dress it up as much as possible with whatever I can scrounge up. You know those forlorn jars that live in the fridge door? That jar of red bell peppers? Sundried tomatoes? Hearts of palm? Old hot sauce? Harissa? That almost empty bag of frozen peas? The remaining bits of cashews shoved in to a corner of the cupboard? This is their time to shine, along with any other odds and ends in your fridge, freezer, and pantry that you may have forgotten about. Feel free to play around with spices, too. A little bit of coriander or pinch of cardamom work well here. It’s a truly everything but the kitchen sink kind of dish.

    The recipe below includes my latest version of mujaddara deluxe as I call it, along with some ideas for other variations. While I prefer to caramelize one onion per serving when making mujaddara, I only had one here.

    What’s your go-to pantry meal?

    Mujaddara Deluxe

    Base:
    olive oil
    1 onion, sliced
    3/4 cup rice
    3/4 cup lentils
    salt and pepper, to taste

    Extras:
    1/4 cup frozen peas
    2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
    2 tablespoons pickled sweet peppers, chopped
    1 sundried tomato slice, chopped
    1 tablespoon almonds, chopped

    Other variations:
    Dried or fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, mint
    Spices: cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, sumac
    Nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts
    Vegetables: carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno, cucumber, zucchini, radish
    Fragrant things: dash of rosewater or pomegranate molasses
    Hot things: hot sauce, harissa, sambal
    Canned things: artichokes, hearts of palm, beets, red peppers
    Sauce: yogurt, tahini

    Heal oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat. When hot, add the onions. Add the onions and a few dashes of salt, stirring every few minutes, for 30 minutes. Turn the heat up a bit and continue cooking until the onions until they are a deep, golden brown, another 15-20 minutes or so. Set skillet aside.

    In the meantime, prepare the lentils and rice according to their package directions. Some people prefer to cook the lentils and rice together in the same pot, but I find that this results in overcooked lentils, so I always cook them separately. About 30 seconds before the rice is ready, drop in the frozen peas. When the lentils and rice are ready, pour them into a colander to drain out the water.

    Mix together the lentils and rice in a big pot. Add salt, pepper, a couple glugs of olive oil, most of the caramelized onion, parsley, pickled sweet peppers, sundried tomato, and almonds. Heat until the mujaddara is warm, add more salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve in bowls and garnish with the remaining caramelized onions. Serve warm and gobble it up!

    Serves 2

  • diy coffee liqueur

    coffee liqueur

    This year, I’m determined to right the wrongs from last Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just 10 minutes into Thanksgiving dinner prep, I sliced off a chunk of flesh from my finger. The rest of my afternoon consisted of bleeding and watching the Forsyte Saga and Quantum Leap (yes, I’m a very cool person) while Cory took over dinner. Dinner was still delicious, but it put a damper on the day I hadn’t experienced the likes of since Thanksgiving ’95. That was the year my dad thought it would be a great idea to show my extended family a home video of me singing, dancing, and pretending to be the great Cornholio from Beavis and Butthead. These days, embarrassing myself is one of my favorite hobbies and you can find a clip from that video on YouTube. I think it’s adorable now, but at age 10? Mortifying. As for my homemade Christmas gifts, all but the buckeyes ended in disaster. We didn’t even get to visit family due to a power outage. So here I am, many moons later, gearing up to shower friends and family with tasty homemade treats.

    First up, coffee liqueur! When I was a wee one, having Kahlua in the house was a rare and very special thing that my parents would use for making White Russians. Those are nice and all, but I also recommend using coffee liqueur almost anywhere you would vanilla. It’s a simple way to give baked desserts and goods a little bit of “ooh, what’s in this?”. Adding just a small amount can go a long way. We’ve been putting coffee liqueur in smoothies, coffee, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, cookies, popsicles, and drizzling over ice cream. Your coffee liqueur will be ready in about 4 weeks. Technically, you can pop it open whenever you’d like, but it’s best to allow the vanilla to infuse for 4 to 6 weeks. It’s so worth it.

    Damn girl, where did you got those bottles?

    I love swing top bottles. The bottles pictured above are from World Market. I must’ve bought them on sale because they’re a little more expensive on the website, but Amazon sells the same bottles for about twice as much. If you’re in Portland, Kitchen Kaboodle has a huge selection of glass bottles on the cheap. Want a really large bottle? IKEA sell 34 ounce bottles for just $4. Maybe keep that one for yourself and give the smaller ones away? That’s what I’m doing!

    Coffee Liqueur
    (adapted from Food in Jars)

    I actually doubled this recipe so I could keep some for myself and give away to others. If you don’t really care for vodka, try this with rum or bourbon. Admittedly, I’ve only used vodka but I’ve had a lot of success making vanilla extract with both bourbon and rum.

    2 1/2 cups white sugar
    2 cups water
    3/4 cup instant or ground espresso
    2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
    3 cups vodka

    Heat sugar and water in a large pot over medium heat. Stir often until sugar is completely dissolved. Then, add the espresso and stir until it has been fully dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. Mix in vodka, bourbon, or rum.

    Split and scrape the vanilla beans and stir the seeds into the coffee mixture. Drop vanilla beans into your bottle or jar (cut them in half if using multiple jars or bottles). Then carefully funnel the mixture into each jar(s) or bottle(s). Give each bottle a shake every few days. The liqueur will be ready in 4 to 6 weeks. Enjoy!

  • harissa roasted carrots with yogurt sauce

    harissa roasted carrots with yogurt sauce
    Looking through some of the recipes I’ve shared here, it’s easy to spot a pattern. Vegetables? Roast ‘em. Need a sauce? Some variant of yogurt and/or tahini. With lots of garlic. Some things just work though, and I just can’t get enough of roasted vegetables with yogurt or tahini sauce. This is my current favorite way to serve carrots. They’re coated in harissa, which is a North African hot pepper paste, roasted until browned, and served with a generous serving of garlic yogurt sauce. This dish pairs perfectly with a big bowl of mujaddara.

    Not sure where to find harissa? It can be found at Middle Eastern and gourmet grocery stores. If you don’t have (or want to buy) harissa, just use your favorite hot sauce. The results won’t be the same, of course, but it will add that spicy kick to the dish that the yogurt helps offset.

    harissa roasted carrots with yogurt sauce 2

    Here’s my nosy neighbor watching me take photos of the carrots:

    nosy neighbor

    Mind your own business, will you? Sheesh!

    Harissa Roasted Carrots with Yogurt Sauce

    For the carrots:
    1 pound carrots, sliced in half
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    2 tablespoons harissa
    1/4 teaspoon coriander
    salt and pepper, to taste
    dried mint, for garnish

    Yogurt sauce:
    1 cup plain yogurt
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    salt & pepper, to taste

    Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice carrots in half and place in a roasting pan. Mix the olive oil, harissa, coriander, coriander, salt, and pepper in a small bow. Coat the carrots in the harissa and olive oil mixture. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by mixing together the yogurt, garlic, salt, and pepper. After the carrots have been roasting for 20 minutes, remove them from the oven and turn them over. Add a little more olive oil if it seems dry. Place back in the oven and roast for another 30 minutes, or until the carrots are browned and caramelized. This may not be ready for an additional 10 or so minutes, but check on the carrots after 30. Some carrots may be ready before others, depending on the thickness of the carrot. Serve over yogurt and garnish with dried mint.

    Serves 4

  • roasted fennel and zucchini soup

    roasted fennel and zucchini soup

    Tired of zucchini yet? I’m not not ready to let go of summer vegetables yet, but I’m making batch after batch of soup as the temperatures begins to dip down. Heat, serve, and store back in the fridge — one of my favorite ways to eat. I love the gentle and sweet anise flavor of fennel, but I recommend going easy on the garlic here. Four cloves were added to this batch of soup, but I was initially tempted to toss in the entire bulb. I’m glad I didn’t, otherwise the fennel wouldn’t have had the opportunity to shine through. If your fennel includes stalks and fronds, save the fronds to make pesto. I added a little bit of of the pesto to the soup for garnish, but reserved the rest of it for pizza.

    As an aside, if you are visiting or live near Detroit, the Arab American Museum hosts a food walking tour of Dearborn. So bummed I didn’t know this tour existed until after I moved. Please eat everything ever from Shatila so I can live vicariously through your stomach.

    roasted fennel and zucchini soup 2

    Roasted Fennel and Zucchini Soup

    For the soup:

    4 medium sized zucchini, sliced in half
    2 fennel bulbs, cut in half
    1 cup new potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
    1 onion, cut into quarts
    4 cloves of garlic
    3 cups vegetable broth
    1 bay leaf
    freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
    salt and pepper, to taste

    For garnish (optional):

    a tablespoon of chopped nuts per bowl (hazelnuts or walnuts)
    fennel frond pesto
    drizzle of olive oil

    Fennel frond pesto (optional):
    2 cups fennel fronds
    2 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup pine nuts
    2 tablespoons lemon juice (add more to taste)
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1/3 cup olive oil

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, wash and prepare vegetables. Lay zucchini, fennel, potatoes, onion, and garlic on a pan. Use your hands to thoroughly coat the vegetables in olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and place in the oven. Roast for 35 minutes.

    While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the pesto (optional). Blend all the ingredients except for the oil in a food processor, scraping down the sides, processing again, and repeat until it’s formed a paste. With the machine running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture transforms into a loose sauce. Scrape down the mixture in the food processor, as needed. Give the pesto a taste and adjust the amount of cheese, lemon, and salt to your liking.

    When the vegetables are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a stock pot. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower the temperature and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaf from the pot. Working in batches, blend the soup in a food processor or blender, or just use an immersion blender if you have one, until the soup is smooth. Return the soup back to the pot, then add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Season to taste, and serve. Garnish with some chopped up nuts, olive oil, and a small dollop of pesto.

    Serves about 6

  • lentils and potatoes with mustard dressing

    lentil and potatoes with mustard dressing

    Yeah, no one is going to look at this and call it “food porn”.

    There is an Egyptian dish called kushari, which consists of lentils, rice, macaroni, spaghetti, chickpeas, tomatoes and fried onions. It’s cheap, filling, and the serving sizes are preposterous. Whenever I’d order it, I’d be full by the fifth or sixth bite. That’s not a humblebrag about eating small portion sizes, no pizza is safe around me. Even though I liked kushari, eating it always felt like a punch in the gut. I love me some carbs like nothing else, but it was just too heavy for me.

    While this dish bears basically no resemblance to kushari, it was made in the same spirit. Cheap, filling, made primarily with pantry and freezer essentials, but most definitely not a punch in the gut. The dressing is sharp and tangy, thanks to the mustard, garlic, and vinegar. Use dried dill if you don’t have fresh dill on hand. Even though I didn’t add this to the recipe, when I make this again, I think I’ll add a handful of almonds or hazelnuts for a nice crunch.

    Lentils and Potatoes with Mustard Dressing

    1 cup dried lentils
    1/2 cup edamame
    1 pound of new potatoes
    1/2 white onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1/4 cup freshly chopped dill or or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried dill
    3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
    1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1/3 cup olive oil
    cayenne pepper, to taste
    salt & pepper, to taste

    Prepare lentils according to package directions. A few minutes before the lentils are ready, toss in the edamame. Drain and side aside. In a large pot of water, boil the potatoes, once ready, drain in a colander and set aside while they cool down. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

    Chop the onion, garlic and dill (if using fresh), then set aside. Prepare the dressing by mixing together the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper. By now, the potatoes should be cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl or pot, mix together until the dressing is coated thoroughly. Season to taste and add more salt, pepper, or cayenne if necessary.

    Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Serves 6-8 as a main or side dish