Egyptian Culinary Lesson

This time, wanderlust came to me. I’m fortunate that one of my good friend’s parents have a catering business in Cairo – and that they were very excited when I asked to learn some of their favorite classic Egyptian recipes.

I’ve included four simple but delicious ones of the many we sampled below. These dishes can bring a light, uplifting yet warm touch to chillier days.

#oliveoil #tahini #egyptianculinary #vegan

TAHINI SAUCE

I love almost any dish with nuts or seeds, but for me, tahini is the superstar of pastes. This sauce is amazing with salads, roasted vegetables or meat, in sandwiches – I can’t think of too many things that this sauce doesn’t make better. That said, it’s still rather calorie dense, so I try to indulge in moderation.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup tahini paste (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated.
  • salt
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Make sure to whisk up the tahini in the jar or can before measuring as the oil tends to separate from the solids. Then, whisk all the ingredients (except sumac & olive oil) together until the mixture has emulsified and has the consistency of honey. Then, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and garnish sumac to serve.

This can be made ahead of time and can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

#garlic #tahini #egyptianculinary#eggplant #egyptianculinary

ROASTED EGGPLANT

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and one of my ultimate comfort foods. When it comes to something so simple with virtually no prep-work, why not?

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius.)  Place eggplant on a heavy-bottomed baking sheet and roast until the skin beings to wrinkle/collapse. This should take around 30-45 minutes. Then, once cool, peel back the skin with a knife and spoon. Mash the flesh with a fork, adding a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. (Optional addition: 1 clove of garlic, grated.)

#egyptianculinary #tabbouleh #lettucecups #vegan #vegetarian #egyptianculinary #tabbouleh #lettucecups #vegan #vegetarian

TABBOULEH

A light, refreshing dish that will never weigh you down. This dish goes with almost anything and works as a side, starter or stand-alone snack.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup bulgur wheat (medium)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 large bunches of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced (can substitute with around 2 tbsp of minced red onion)
  • 1 head leafy green lettuce (optional)

DIRECTIONS

(1) Cook the Bulgar
I usually can’t find fine bulgur, so I use medium bulgur in this recipe. If you get fine bulgur, you just need to rinse it until the run-off is clear, indicating that all the starch has been removed. For medium bulgur wheat, soak it in boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

(2) Chop the Parsley & Mint
Thoroughly wash the parsley (it is often very gritty) and mint and find someone who is willing to pull the leaves off of the stems. Then, finely chop the parsley. Separately, roll the mint into a cigar and chiffonade, then coarsely chop. (Mint bruises easily.)

(3) Dice the Tomatoes
Dice the tomatoes. Reserve any juice that escapes.

(4) Make the Dressing
Add the lemon juice, olive oil and excess tomato juice to a bowl. Whisk until emulsified, then add in the salt, pepper, shallots, and sumac. Whisk until incorporated.

(5) Mix & Serve
Toss tomatoes, bulgur, and parsley together with the dressing.

(6) Optional: Serve two large spoonfuls per single green lettuce leaf.

#lentils for #koshari #lentils for #koshari #koshari with #tomatoes #eggplant

KOSHARI

The highlight of the meal for me was the traditional Egyptian dish, koshari. An ultimate comfort food, this blend of rice, pasta and lentils and spices is something that I couldn’t stop eating, even when I had run out of room in my stomach.

INGREDIENTS

  •     1 cup dry brown lentils
  •     4 cups water
  •     1 cup uncooked long grain rice (we used basmati)
  •     1 cup macaroni
  •     2 tbsp olive oil
  •     3 large onions, 1 sliced, 2 diced
  •     4 cloves garlic, minced
  •     1 can diced tomatoes (or 3 large tomatoes, diced)
  •     1/2 tsp cayenne chili powder
  •     sea salt

DIRECTIONS

(1) Lentils
In a large saucepan, add the lentils, water, 1 of the sliced onions, and a dash of salt and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for around 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked.

(2) Rice
Strain and reserve the liquid from the lentils. Leave the lentils in the sieve to drain.
In the same saucepot (or rice cooker) add 1.5 cups of the reserved liquid to the 1 cup of dry basmati rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until you can fluff the rice with a fork.

(3) Macaroni
In a separate saucepan, bring lightly salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni. (Follow the timing instructions on the box, but likely around 8 minutes.) Drain.

(4) Sauce
Heat a pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the diced onion, garlic, and cook until golden. Add in the tomatoes, cayenne, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

(5) Mix & Serve
In a large bowl, stir the lentils, rice, macaroni. At this point, you can either add in the tomato sauce and stir, or you can let everyone add as much or little as they like to their own portion.

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A Weakness for Feta

Feta Love SaladCheese is something I generally try to limit in my diet, although it’s hard for me to restrict the passion in my heart. I adore the full range of stinkier cheeses available. Although I lean more heavily toward a goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese, a great aged sharp cheddar can also do me in. I will always eat burrata on special occasions (included embarrassing friends with the closed eyes, transport-me-to-heaven-now look I apparently get.) But, don’t get me started on feta. I’ve always had a passion for feta, yet my true revelation was the day a close Albanian friend introduced 23-year-old-me to the sweet and salty love story that is feta and watermelon.

Fast forward just a few years, and it’s summertime a few weeks before my wedding. I’d promised that I’d cut out dairy (and processes sugar) until the big day, but after we pulled tomatoes and herbs from the garden, I couldn’t resist throwing everything that looked delicious and fresh into one bowl, including red bell peppers, parsley, mint, kale, tomatoes, avocado, red bell peppers—-and one gorgeous, creamy-yet-crumbly brick of feta fresh from the farmers’ market, all tied together with a quick lemon vinaigrette (whisk 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, dash of salt, pinch of pepper.)

An additional tip for those who like the idea of feta, but find it a bit strong by itself: marinate it. Keeping it in the brine will preserve feta, but if you have a food saver, jar, or other way of re-sealing the feta, you can remove it from the brine and add olive oil and herbs or sweeter additions such as preserved lemon or sun/oven-dried tomatoes to soften the flavor. In the image below, I have used my food saver so I wouldn’t have to add as much olive oil.   Feta Love - Marinated Feta

Faking Sun-dried Tomatoes

#sundried #tomatoes #ovendried #gardenfresh #vegan #vegetarianI don’t have a dehydrator or find much sun to sun-dry my tomatoes, even in these gorgeous Pacific Northwest summers. But I’ve found a great substitute to get my sun-dried tomato fix. Slice tomatoes in half, toss in olive oil, sea salt, herb of choice and roast on parchment paper (or Silpat) with the sliced middle facing upward (skin down) for 5-6 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

I’ve been fortunate to have a plethora of tomatoes in my garden this season, but if you’re purchasing tomatoes at the store, I’ve found the best tomatoes to oven-dry to be either campari (first choice) or cherry (second choice or for a more “adorable” size.) Store in olive oil for up to a month.

Bengali Spiced Kohlrabi Salad

I’m always looking for new (to me) vegetables, especially for my current binge of summer salads. I’ve been hearing a lot about kohlrabi for a while now, but finally gathered the courage to try it out last week.

The flavor was somewhere between cabbage and broccoli, and the texture was like a firm radish.

I’m a fan of curried daikon (with lots of ginger…) and I usually make one of my favorite Bengali salads with cabbage and carrots. Thus, I was inspired to try out a version of these two, combined, as my newest experiment.

I lightly toasted some panch phoron (equal parts fennel seed, cumin, nigella seed, mustard seed, and fenugreek), then sautéed one onion, sliced, until golden, then added in the kohlrabi battonets (cut into short sticks) and sautéed for another few minutes. I garnished with cilantro, then ate it first warm with rice, then the next day chilled as a side salad.

Salade Verte with Noisettes (Hazelnuts)

salade verte avec noisettesMy French may have deteriorated a bit since I lived in Paris, but my love for the simple classics has not. A nice buttery lettuce mix, mustard vinaigrette (I like 2 parts vinegar of choice, 10 parts oil of choice, 1 part Dijon mustard with a dash of pepper and salt) and freshly toasted hazelnuts are the perfect start or finish for any outdoor meal.

Thyme Blossom & Black Sesame Mini Baked Potatoes

The thyme on my patio is in full bloom. Taking advantage of the sweet blossoms and baked/grilled baby potatoes from last night’s asado, I scoop out the insides and mixed them with with three tbsp of thick yogurt and one tbsp of pumpkin oil, whipping with a fork. I spoon the mixture back into each potato skin, topped with a few black sesame seeds and fresh thyme blossoms.Thyme Black Sesame Mini Baked Potatoes

Polish Favorites: Pierogi

classic pierogi #polishdelightSweet home Chicago. I’m here for a week and fortunate enough to catch up with old friends.

One of my best friends is Polish, and a very good cook. She’s prepared a Chicago size batch (that means a lot) of classic potato and farmer’s cheese pierogi. She quickly boils the “little pillows from Heaven” (my translation, not the actual Polish meaning), then tosses them in butter and caramelized onions she made beforehand.

The fresh dough has a little bite, the potatoes and cheese are inside are combined into a perfectly smooth union: I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. The filling-to-dough ratio is sinful with an appearance of a freshly fluffed pillow, and the caramelized onions are only sweet an aromatic. Nothing frozen tastes this good.