Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen


Archive for the ‘beans’


Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) 0

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Sahar

Years ago, as I was rifling through my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I came across 2 cans of black beans and a jar of pickled jalapeños (that I figured I needed do something else with besides make nachos).  Of course, these are pantry staples every Texan should have.

Hmm… I thought. What can I do with these?  After looking through my fridge and finding some cilantro, I stumbled upon it.  “Tart these beans up, Sahar”, I said to myself.

A no brainer, really.

At the time I came up with this recipe, Husband Steve was a vegetarian. And, honestly, me being a dedicated omnivore, there were times I struggled with figuring out what to feed him other than the same old dozen or so meals.  Thankfully, he liked this new concoction so much it became a semi-regular in the rotation.  I liked it because I was working a full-time job at the time and this was a quick & easy meal to make for dinner.  Cheap, too.  And, let’s not forget the most important part here – delicious.

I’m not even going to call this anything remotely like authentic Mexican cuisine.  I mean, I honestly don’t know of any interior Mexican recipe that uses pickled jalapeños.  However, I like to think I’ve at least kept to the flavor profile somewhat and honored the spirit, if not the authenticity.

 

A few notes:

1.  I really designed this recipe around black beans.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, pinto will do in a pinch.

2.  If you don’t have a jar of pickled jalapeños, you can use fresh. Use one, and, depending on the heat level you want, remove the seeds or not.  Also, in place of the jalapeño brine, use lime juice.

3.  I generally serve this dish with brown rice. It just seems to work.  However, white rice or even your favorite Spanish or Mexican rice recipe will be fine, too.

4.  Occasionally, I’ll dice up a tomato (after I remove the seeds) and add it to the beans when I add the second half of the cilantro.  I’ll let the tomatoes sit in the beans just long enough to warm through before serving.

5.  When I serve the beans with cheese, I’ll use Jack cheese or Queso Fresco as a general rule.  The rule being that I usually have one or both of those in my fridge pretty much all the time.  Honestly, they just seem to work.  However, if you decide to go the pinto bean route, cheddar will work, too.

6.  To make this dish vegan, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese.

7. If you’re feeling decadent and carnivorous, a small piece or two of salt pork or bacon cooking with the beans wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just watch the amount of additional salt you put into the beans.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 cans black beans (frijoles negros), drained

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 c. onion, fine dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño, chopped

2 tsp. jalapeño brine

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

3/4 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano

1 bunch cilantro, chopped and divided

IMG_3104

1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, or water; more as needed

Rice, cheese, lime wedges, and tortillas or cornbread

 

 

1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and let heat up.

2.  Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is soft, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic. It's important to allow the saucepan to become hot before adding the oil. This helps even a non-stick saucepan or skillet to become more non-stick. Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Sautéing the onion and garlic. It’s important to allow the saucepan to heat up before adding the oil. This helps the surface to become more non-stick than it otherwise would be (especially in a non-teflon pan or saucepan).  Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute.

Adding the jalapeños.

Adding the jalapeños.

3.  Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sauté another minute or just until the spices begin to have a fragrance. Be sure not to let them burn.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

4.  Add the beans, jalapeño brine, half of the cilantro, and the broth or water.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeno brine.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeño brine.

 

Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Be sure to taste for seasoning.  Add more broth or water if the beans become too dry.

After 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes.

5.  When the beans are soft and the broth has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cilantro and taste for seasoning.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you're using tomato, add it now.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you’re using tomato, add it now.

6.  Serve the beans with rice, cheese, a lime wedge, and cornbread or tortillas on the side.

Without cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.

With cheese.

¡Buen Apetito!

Salade Niçoise 0

Posted on June 11, 2014 by Sahar

Salade Niçoise has its origins in Nice, Provence, France.   No one really knows the complete origin story of this dish.  However, there is the ongoing legend that Catherine d’Medici brought a form of it to France before her marriage to Henri II.  How much credibility this has, I don’t know; but Nice is less than 20 miles across the Mediterranean from Italy.

The basis for this salad is its seasonality.  You use what you have fresh and in season.  Few, if any, of the ingredients are to be cooked (although, more modern versions certainly ignore this edict).  And, because of Nice’s proximity to the Mediterranean (and Italy), tuna and anchovies were added somewhere along the way.

The always main components of this dish are eggs (usually hard-boiled; sometimes poached), tomatoes, black (preferably niçoise) olives, green beans, and either tuna, anchovies, or both. It is always dressed with a vinaigrette. There are recipes that include artichoke hearts, white beans, radishes, potatoes, beets, corn, bell peppers, asparagus, cucumbers, green olives, mayonnaise, mushrooms, basil, tarragon, rosemary, and scallions.  Just to name a few.

So, basically, a French Cobb Salad made with whatever the chef has fresh in their kitchen.

I myself prefer a much more simplified version.  I try to stay as close to the traditional as possible.  By keeping it simple, I feel, each component can come through.  According to David Lebovitz’s post on Salade Niçoise (http://tinyurl.com/4rfsgjf), the original recipe stated that you don’t use anything cooked in the salad except for the eggs.  Nor are tuna and anchovies ever in the salad together. Well, I certainly bucked that tradition.  I think it’s all right in this case since cooks in Provence skirt the rules on this as well.

A few notes:

1.  You can use canned tuna in place of the tuna steak.  2 cans should be sufficient (but you can use more if you like).  Be sure to use a good quality brand packed in olive oil.  Be sure to read the label and avoid any that have extra flavoring (StarKist comes to mind).  Drain off the oil before you add the tuna to the salad.

2.  if you can’t find Niçoise olives, you can use Kalamata.  Just be sure to chop them a bit before adding to the salad.

3.  If you are using pitted olives, be aware that pits can still occur (especially with Kalamatas).  Whether you’re using whole or pitted olives, warn your guests about the pits.

4.  If you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, omit the anchovies, tuna, and eggs.  Use chopped garbanzo beans in place of the tuna (or, use a good recipe for “garbanzo tuna”; there are many available) and soft or firm-silken tofu cut into bite-sized pieces in place of the eggs.

5.  Some will lay the salad components on the serving dish separately, while others make more of a tossed salad-style.  It’s up to you how you like to serve.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Big Eye Tuna. You can use canned tuna,  but fresh is better.

Big Eye Tuna. You can use canned tuna, but fresh is better.

Nicoise Olives. These have a slightly smoky, peppery flavor.  These are pitted, but if you do have to use whole olives, let your diners know.

Nicoise Olives. They are a small olive with a slightly smoky, peppery flavor. These are pitted, but if you do have to use whole olives, let your diners know.

 

From the top and l-r:

From the top and l-r: olive oil; sugar; minced garlic, anchovies, Dijon mustard; black pepper, kosher salt, red wine vinegar

 

Vinaigrette

2 tbsp. red or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 cl. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. shallot or onion, minced

1/2 tsp. each salt, black pepper, sugar

3 – 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

 

About 1 lb. fresh tuna steak -or- 2 to 3 cans good quality olive oil packed tuna

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped -or- 1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 c. red onion, very thinly sliced

1 c. black olives, preferably Niçoise (if you can get pitted, all the better)

1 c. green beans, preferably haricot vert, cut into 1/2-inch pieces -or- fresh fava beans -or- edamame beans

1 bu. Italian parsley, chopped

4 ea. hard boiled eggs

4 ea. anchovies, minced

4 c. mixed greens (any you like; my personal preference is baby spinach & arugula)

 

 

1.  Make the vinaigrette: In either a medium bowl (if making by hand) or in a food processor or blender, mix together all of the ingredients except for the oil.  Either constantly whisking the mixture by hand or with the food processor or blender turned on, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream. (You don’t want to add the oil too quickly; it won’t incorporate and the vinaigrette will separate.)

Once you have mixed in all the oil, taste for seasoning and adjust if you like.   Set the vinaigrette aside.

The finsihed vinaigrette. I like it a little more on the sharp side.  If you want a milder flavor, use more oil.

The finished vinaigrette. I like it a little more on the sharp side. If you want a milder flavor, add more oil.

2.  Prepare the fava beans (if using):  As you probably noticed in the main ingredient photo, fava bean pods are quite large.  To open them, you will need to press the pod lightly on the seam and pry open with your fingers (it’s easier than it sounds).  Remove the seeds and place them into a bowl.

Fresh fava bean. The pods are fairly deceptive. They're thick with an almost cottony inside and anywhere from 3 - 5 beans inside.  The pods should be bright green (a little speckling is fine), shiny, and no soft spots.  The beans inside should be plump and light green (this is from the extra skin on the beans that you'll remove later). If you find any beans that are brown, discard them.

Fresh fava bean. The pods are fairly deceptive. They’re thick with an almost cottony inside with any where from 3 – 5 beans. The pods should be bright green (a little speckling is fine), shiny, and no soft spots. The beans inside should be plump and light green (this is from the extra skin on the beans that you’ll remove later). If you find any beans that are brown or shriveled, discard them.

The shelled beans.

The shelled beans.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add the fava beans and blanch for 3 – 5 minutes.  Drain the beans and either run them under cold water or plunge them into ice water.  Drain.

The beans after boiling.

The beans after boiling.  Notice how the skins are loosened.

Here’s how to remove the skins from the beans in 3 easy photos:

Getting ready to peel the bean.

Getting ready to peel the bean.

To peel the bean, simply make a small tear in the skin to expose the bean...

To peel the bean, simply make a small tear in the skin to expose the bean.

Then, slip the bean out of the skin. Discard the skin.  Add the beans to the bowl.

Then, slip the bean out of the skin. Discard the skin. Add the beans to the bowl.

Easy.

If you can’t get fava beans (they’re still fairly seasonal), you can either use blanched French green beans (haricot vert – a very thin green bean) cut into 1/2″ lengths or edamame beans (If you use frozen, just cook them according to the direction on the package and let cool.)

3.  Boil the eggs:  There are no doubt a thousand ways to boil and peel eggs.  Some work, some don’t.  For me, the best way I’ve found is to place the eggs in a saucepan filled with water and bring it to a boil.  As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes.

Drain off the water and immediately place the eggs into ice water and crack the shells (leave the eggs under the water).  This allows the water the get between the shell and egg and make it easier to peel.

After boiling the eggs, immediately plunge them into ice water and crack the shells.  The water will get between the shell and egg and it will be easier to peel.

After boiling the eggs, immediately plunge them into ice water and crack the shells. The water will get between the shell and egg and it will be easier to peel.

ta da!

ta da!

Cut the eggs into quarters lengthwise and set aside.

3.  Cook the tuna:  Lightly coat the tuna in olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper on each side.  Heat a skillet over high heat on the stove.  When the skillet is hot, lay the tuna steak in the skillet and let it sear until the side is lightly browned.  Turn the steak over and sear the other side.

Now, if you like your tuna very rare, you can stop at this point.  If you prefer medium-rare to medium, continue to cook the tuna on the stove, turning once more, until it’s done to your preference.

If you prefer your tuna well-done (as my husband does – at least for this), have your oven preheated to 450F.  If your skillet is oven-proof, take the skillet off the heat and place it in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tuna steak.

Searing the tuna.

Searing the tuna.

Remove the skillet from the heat, take the tuna out of the skillet and set it on a plate to cool slightly.  When it is cool enough to handle, either cut the tuna into bite-sized pieces (as I prefer), or you can chop it so that it resembles canned tuna.

4.  Place all of the vegetables (except the mixed greens), olives, eggs, anchovies, and tuna into a large bowl.

Ready for the tuna and vinaigrette

Ready for the tuna and vinaigrette. Pretty, isn’t it?

Pour over the vinaigrette and mix thoroughly.

5.  Place a large handful of the greens on a plate.  Take a couple of large scoops of the salad and place it on top of the greens.  Be sure to get a little of everything.   Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

Bean & Lamb Stew (Fasoulia فاصوليا) 2

Posted on December 13, 2013 by Sahar

As comfort foods go, Fasoulia was another one my sisters & I were rewarded with as we grew up.  It is a delightful stew consisting of (at least in the Palestinian tradition) of lamb, tomatoes, and green beans.

In fact, the word “fasoulia” in Arabic literally means “bean”.

Fasoulia is a dish that is found in several versions throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North & Sub-Saharan Africa, and southern Europe. There are versions that use white beans (Syria & Lebanon), red beans (Lebanon), with carrots (Ethiopia), and with olives and greens  (Greece).

The version I’m making is the one we grew up with (and the one I learned from my mom – who makes the best Fasoulia I’ve ever had, by the way).  It’s in the Palestinian style, with lots of tomatoes.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish vegetarian/vegan by simply omitting the meat and using vegetable broth.

2.  This dish is always served over rice.  I like to serve over saffron rice (because that was the way my sisters & I grew up eating it).  However, if you want to use plain white rice, or even brown rice (especially if you’re making the vegetarian version), go for it.

3.  If you don’t like or can’t find lamb, you can use beef.  Use chuck.  It’s meant for stewing and braising.

4.  Use regular, fresh green beans for this dish.  Don’t use frozen or haricot vert (French green beans).  They won’t hold up to the cooking time.

5.  This is generally served with browned pine nuts sprinkled over the top as garnish.  However, if you don’t want to go to the expense of or can’t find pine nuts, browned slivered almonds are an excellent substitute.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat.  Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat. Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The beans. Use regular green bean; not haricot vert or frozen. They won't stand up to the cooking.

The beans. Use regular green beans; not haricot vert or frozen. They won’t stand up to the cooking.

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

 

1 med. onion, finely chopped

2 lbs. lamb, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces

3 tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (try to buy without basil; if you do get basil, pick out the leaves)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. allspice

2 c. beef or chicken broth

 

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and cook, in batches if needed,  until it is browned.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

2.  Add the onions to the saucepan and cook until they are softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the onions.

Adding the onions.

3.  Add the beans and cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

And now for the beans.

And now for the beans.

4.  Add the tomatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.  Taste for seasoning.

With the tomaotes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

With the tomatoes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

5.  Serve with rice with a few browned pine nuts or slivered almonds on top.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

 

Sahtein!

My Arabic Breakfast فطوري العربية 3

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Sahar

One of the great things about having a parent, or parents, who were born and/or grew up in another country is getting to learn and experience mores, manners, customs, and, yes, food that are different than what you might experience daily in the wider world.

My sisters and I grew up with just such a parent.  Our father is Palestinian.  He’s originally from a town called Nablus.  When he was born, it was a part of  western Jordan. Now it is in the Occupied West Bank under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.  Dad came to the US in 1960 to go to college.  Eventually, he met and married our mom, graduated from college with an engineering degree, co-raised three girls without losing his mind, worked for the same company for 40 years, and happily retired.

Along the way, Dad did impart in us some of his old-world wisdom.  Or, at least tried to.  And while we didn’t always appreciate the lessons he tried to teach – especially Arabic, which I’m still struggling to learn – we always appreciated the food.

And while my sisters and I certainly ate with glee the kibbeh, sayadieh (fish with rice), mjudarah (lentils and rice), mishi waraq (stuffed grape leaves), and knaffeh (sweet  shredded phyllo dough with cheese) our parents made (Mom and Dad each have their specialties), we especially enjoyed breakfast with unrestrained glee.

Breakfast at my aunt's home in Jordan

Breakfast at my aunt’s home in Jordan

Breakfast in the Middle East isn’t necessarily a rushed thing.  Well, it isn’t unless one has to rush off to work or school. Breakfast usually starts about 8 or 9 with a nice long chat over coffee.  Then, the food comes out.  It can be as simple as some jam, bread, and cheese on up to dips, za’atar (spice mix made with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt), fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, pickles, eggs, and occasionally leftovers from the night before.

Unlike in the West, coffee isn’t drunk at breakfast.  It’s used as an aperitif, digestive, at social gatherings, and with the desserts the Middle East is so famous for.  Juice, water, or hot sweet tea is drunk at breakfast.

Just to make you hungrier, here’s a picture of my family at the restaurant my cousin Salam owns with her husband. Tarweea. It serves breakfast 24 hours a day.  And it’s amazing.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

So, welcome to my version of Arabic Breakfast.

***************************************************************************************************************************

The recipes I’m showing you are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.  Like anywhere else, there are regional variations for each dish.  That being said, I’m going to show you the way I grew up eating these dishes and the recipes I learned Palestinian style.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

I will be making several recipes in this post:  Ful Mudammas (Fava Bean Dip), Baba Ghannouj (Eggplant Dip), Tomatoes and Garlic Poached in Olive Oil (not sure if this is authentic, but my dad makes it on occasion), and Hummous (which I’ve already made for you, http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?cat=63).

Hummous. Mmm... Click on the above link to get the recipe.

Hummous. Mmm…
Click on the above link to get the recipe.

The additions will be some lovely olives and turnip pickles:

olives, pickles, cucumber

Clockwise from top: Persian cucumbers, turnip pickles (the red color comes from a beet put into the brine), Moroccan Oil Cured Olives, Lebanese Green Olives

Plates of olive oil and za’atar.

Olive Oil and Za'atar

Olive Oil and Za’atar

Bread is dipped in the olive oil and then the za’atar.  It has a wonderful savory-slightly tart flavor.  Some people will also make a paste of the two, spread it on bread and toast the bread until the top is nice and bubbly.  It’s divine.

We also have some lebneh.  It is essentially yogurt cheese.  A lovely, delightfully slightly sour treat. Try it spread on bread with some tomato. Oh. Yeah.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Some farmers cheese is always essential on the table.  Jebne Nabulsi (Nablus Cheese) is our cheese of choice.  Farmers cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes.  For sweet dishes, it’s usually boiled to remove the salt.  The cheese we get in the US is always packed in brine. If you’re able to buy it in Jordan, it’s much fresher. The difference is striking.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it's not too salty and cooks well.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it’s not too salty and cooks well.

 

The first recipe I’ll show you is for Ful (pronounced “fool”) Mudammas (فول مدمس).  It’s a breakfast dish made with fava beans. It’s a dish that’s been traced back to ancient Egypt and is still a very popular breakfast choice throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Now, I use the canned ones.   However, if you want to use fresh or used soaked dry beans, it’s up to you.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

1 can fava beans, drained, liquid reserved

1/4 c. onion, finely minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 – 4 (depending on size and heat level) tabasco or pepperoncini peppers, minced

1/4 c. parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon to taste

Olive oil

additional minced parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the fava beans, onion, garlic, peppers,  about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the beans, and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Beans in the pot.

Beans in the pot.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers waiting to make me happy.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers ready to make magic.

Heat the mixture slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook about 20 minutes.  Add more liquid if the beans become too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

2.  Once the mixture is cooked, taste it for seasoning and some lemon to taste.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and mash the beans, leaving some texture.  In other words, don’t make them a smooth mash.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don't make too smooth a mix.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don’t make too smooth a mix.

3.  Place the ful on a plate, drizzle over some olive oil and additional parsley.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn't it.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn’t it.

 

*********************

The next dish I’m going to show you is Baba Ghannouj (بابا غنوج.). It’s a smooth dip made with eggplant.  It can be served as a mezze, a salad, or a side dish.  It is sometimes served with sliced or finely diced vegetables on top.  Some will use parsley or mint.  In some parts of the Arab world, particularly Syria, pomegranate seeds or syrup are used as well.

Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled over an open flame until it’s soft and charred.  However, I’ve found the oven is an excellent alternative cooking source.

When buying eggplant, look for ones with a smooth unblemished skin and no soft spots.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 eggplant

3 cl. garlic

1/4 c. tahineh, more if needed

Salt and lemon juice to taste

Olive oil for garnish

Pomegranate seeds or syrup for garnish, optional

Parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  Prep the eggplant.  Heat your oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom and spread to cover.

Take the eggplant, cut off the top, then cut in half lengthwise.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white.  And not too seedy.  A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white. and firm. And not too seedy. A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

Place the eggplant cut side down on the baking sheet.  Drizzle to top with a little more oil and put in the oven.  Bake the eggplant until it’s soft, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

2.  Meanwhile, if you are using pomegranate seeds, time to get the seeds out.

Hello.

Hello.

When buying a pomegranate, make sure there are no soft pots, the skin is smooth and free of blemishes, and be sure to check for pinholes in the skin.  That’s a sign of infestation or spoilage.  If you open a pomegranate and any of the seeds are brown or dried out, discard them.

Cut around the equator of the pomegranate just until you break through the skin.  Don’t cut all the way through or you’ll lose some seeds.

Pull the halves until they separate.  This takes a little doing, but it will happen.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

I suggest wearing gloves for this next part. It is now time to separate the seeds from the membrane.  It’s really not difficult.  Just time consuming.  if you can remove the seeds in clusters, all the better.  The trick is to break as few seeds as possible and not include any of the membrane (edible, but very bitter).

Removing the seeds from the membrane.  Not difficult, but time consuming.

Removing the seeds from the membrane. Not difficult, but time consuming.

The remains.

The remains.

You will be rewarded for your hard work.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

3.  Check the eggplant.  Give it a quick poke with your finger or a fork.  If it feels soft, it’s ready to come out of the oven.  Take the eggplant halves off the baking sheet and set aside until cool enough to handle.

The baked eggplant.  You want the char.  It adds a smky flavor to the final dish.  However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

The baked eggplant. You want the char. It adds a smoky flavor to the final dish. However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

4.  when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin and discard.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Place the peeled eggplant in a small bowl or dish.  Set aside.

5.  With a food processor running, drop the garlic cloves down through the feed tube and chop them.

The chopped garlic.

The chopped garlic.

Add the eggplant, tahineh, and a little salt.

Ready to mix.

Ready to mix.

Puree the ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Add a little lemon juice through the feed tube while the machine is running.  When the lemon is mixed in, taste the baba ghannouj for seasoning.

6.  Place the baba ghannouj into a bowl and garish with a little olive oil, some parsley, and a few of the pomegranate seeds.

This is delicious. And I don't like eggplant.

This is delicious. And I don’t like eggplant.

*************************************

As for the Poached Tomatoes and Garlic, I really don’t know if it’s an authentic part of the meal.  However, I remember my dad making this dish from time to time, so I do, too.  My husband and I  like this dish, so I make it for that reason as well.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

4 large tomatoes, quartered, core (blossom end) cut out, and seeded

10 – 12 cloves garlic, smashed

3/4 c. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

 

1.  Place all the ingredients in a large skillet or shallow saucepan over low heat.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

2.  While the ingredients cook, you can mash them a bit if you like. Just cook until the tomatoes have completely broken down, about 30 minutes.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

All done.  Yes, it's a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

All done. Yes, it’s a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

***********************************

Fried Nabulsi Cheese

1.  Take a few pieces of the Nabulsi cheese and cut them into smaller pieces (I usually cut them in half crosswise and then again lengthwise).  Place them in a bowl and rinse with water several times until it runs clear.  Let the cheese soak in the water to remove some of the salt.

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand,

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand.

Soaking the cheese

Soaking the cheese

Before you get ready to fry the cheese, take it out of the water and drain on paper towels.

2.  In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter starts to foam, place a few pieces of the cheese in the skillet to cook.  Cook until each side is golden brown.

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Drain the cooked cheese on paper towels and eat while still warm.  It doesn’t really keep once it’s cold.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

**************************

Of course, the one indispensable ingredient for the whole meal. Bread. Khubuz خبز

 

The bread.  The most indespensible ingredient of all.

The bread. The most indispensable ingredient of all.

And, here is the final table.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cannellini Bean Soup 1

Posted on February 26, 2013 by Sahar

In the final throws of winter in Central Texas, my mind continues to turn to heartier fare.  Sometimes, beans sound delicious.

Admittedly, beans are not a food I eat often.  I do like them, but it’s not a food that immediately springs to mind when I’m deciding what to make for dinner.  They should, though.  Beans are almost the perfect food.  They have high amounts of fiber and soluble fiber. (One cup of cooked beans providing between nine and 13 grams of fiber.)  Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol. Beans are also high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans (fava beans) were gathered in Afghanistan and the Himalayan foothills. They’ve been grown in Thailand since the early seventh millennium BCE.  They were buried with the dead in ancient Egypt. In the second millennium BC did cultivated, large-seeded broad beans appear in the Aegean, Iberia and transalpine Europe. In the Iliad (late-8th century) is a passing mention of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor.

Beans were an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and still are today.

The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.

Most of the kinds commonly eaten fresh or dried, those of the genus Phaseolus, come originally from the Americas, being first seen by a European when Christopher Columbus, during his exploration, of what may have been the Bahamas, found them growing in fields. Five kinds of Phaseolus beans were domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples: common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) grown from Chile to the northern part of what is now the United States, and lima and sieva beans (Phaseolus lunatus), as well as the less widely distributed teparies (Phaseolus acutifolius), scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and polyanthus beans (Phaseolus polyanthus). One especially famous use of beans by pre-Columbian people as far north as the Atlantic seaboard is the “Three Sisters” method of companion plant cultivation:

In the New World, many tribes would grow beans together with maize (corn), and squash. The corn would not be planted in rows as is done by European agriculture, but in a checkerboard/hex fashion across a field, in separate patches of one to six stalks each.
Beans would be planted around the base of the developing stalks, and would vine their way up as the stalks grew. All American beans at that time were vine plants, “bush beans” having been bred only more recently. The cornstalks would work as a trellis for the beans, and the beans would provide much-needed nitrogen for the corn.
Squash would be planted in the spaces between the patches of corn in the field. They would be provided slight shelter from the sun by the corn, would shade the soil and reduce evaporation, and would deter many animals from attacking the corn and beans because their coarse, hairy vines and broad, stiff leaves are difficult or uncomfortable for animals such as deer and raccoons to walk through, crows to land on, etc.

Dry beans come from both Old World varieties of broad beans (fava beans) and New World varieties (kidney, black, cranberry, pinto, navy/haricot).

Beans are a heliotropic plant, meaning that the leaves tilt throughout the day to face the sun. At nighttime, they go into a folded “sleep” position.

(Information from www.wikipedia.org)

 

The bean varieties I eat most often are pinto and black.  Hell, I’m in Texas.  It’s almost a requirement.  I’ve also enjoyed garbanzo, fava, navy, red kidney, and, my personal favorite, cannellini.

I’m not sure what it is about cannellini beans that I enjoy so much.  Perhaps it’s the slight sweetness to them.  They’re also very versatile. Like pretty much all beans.

Now, to the recipe.

****************************

The recipe is presented as vegetarian.  I generally keep it that way.  However, if you would like to make the recipe vegan, cook the beans from dried and omit the Parmesan rinds.  If you would like to add some meat to the recipe, a little leftover chicken or diced pork would work well.

I do used canned beans in this recipe.  Beans are a foodstuff that cans well.  It’s also quick, convenient, and cheap.

This is most definitely a dish one can make after a day at work.  It also freezes well.

As for the Parmesan rinds: if you have a good cheese section in your grocery store or a specialty cheese shop that cuts Parmesan down from the wheel, ask them to save you some of the rinds.  Sometimes you’ll be charged a nominal amount, sometimes you’ll get them for free.  Keep them in the freezer.  They add a lot of flavor ro many soups and stews without imparting too much extra fat or cheese.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The classic mirepoix. Equal parts carrot, onion, and celery.

The classic mirepoix. Equal parts carrot, onion, and celery.

 

2 cans cannellini beans, drained

1 med. carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 c. yellow onion, minced

4 cl. garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 c. vegetable broth

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, or to taste

Approx. 3 – 4 oz. Parmesan rinds (If they are large enough, you can leave them loose in the soup while cooking. Otherwise, wrap them in a cheesecloth for easy removal after cooking.)

Extra olive oil for serving

 

1.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables (the mirepoix) and the garlic and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sauteing the vegetables and garlic.

Sauteing the vegetables and garlic.

2.  Add the beans, sage, salt & pepper.  Saute another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the beans, sage, salt  & pepper.

Adding the beans, sage, salt & pepper.

3.  Add the broth and rinds.  Bring the broth to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low.  Cook for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the soup begins to thicken. Stir occasionally to be sure the rinds don’t stick to the bottom.

Adding the broth and the rinds.

Adding the broth and the rinds. 

4.  When the soup is done, taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.  Remove as many of the rinds as you can before or as you serve. (The rinds are basically inedible.)  Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the soup if you like.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.

I like to have a good hearty country-style bread to serve with the soup.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Chili (I promise it tastes great!) 1

Posted on January 02, 2013 by Sahar

In Texas, the preferred chili is called “Bowl of Red”.  No beans.  Slightly to very  spicy.  Lots of chiles.  Beef.  Slow stewed.

Now, of course, this could be seen as sacrilegious in certain quarters, but I do have a recipe for vegetarian chili.  At one time, my husband, Steve, was vegetarian.  So, I came up with this recipe for him some time ago. (He has since returned to the dark side. He relapsed on barbecue.)

It is a recipe, if I do say so myself, even ardent chili lovers will enjoy.  Well, I’d like to think so, anyway.

I use canned pinto beans in this recipe. (If you know anything about traditional Texas chili, beans are always verboten.)  They work great and are inexpensive.  However, if you want to use different beans (i.e. black, cannellini, garbanzo, etc.) or a combination, feel free.

I admittedly have a lot of spice in this chili.  Feel free to adjust it to your taste.  And, instead of commercial chili powders, I use dried, ground chiles and spices you would normally see in mixed chili powders.  I find I can adjust the flavors much more easily.  However, if you have a chili powder blend in your pantry, feel free to use it.  However, you will have to omit and/or adjust the other spices.

*************

Now, to the recipe.

The Ingrdients

The Ingrdients

 

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 med. onion, minced

8 cl. garlic, minced

3 tbsp. Ancho chile powder

1 1/2 tsp. Chipotle chile powder (very spicy; use less or omit if you want less spicy)

2 tbsp. paprika (if you want a smokier flavor, substitute some or all with Spanish paprika)

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1 bay leaf

2 tsp. brown sugar (doesn’t matter whether it’s light or dark; dark is sweeter, though)

1 tsp. salt (kosher or sea)

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lg. (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

Vegetable broth or water as needed

2 ea. 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained

2 tbsp. masa flour, mixed with 2 tbsp water or vegetable broth to make a slurry (optional)

 

Clockwise from top: Chipotle Chile Powder; Paprika; ground Cumin; Mexican Oregano; Ancho Chile Powder.

Clockwise from top: Chipotle Chile Powder; Paprika; ground Cumin; Mexican Oregano; Ancho Chile Powder.

Clockwise from top: kosher Salt; ground Black Pepper; Bay Leaf; Brown Sugar.

Clockwise from top: kosher Salt; ground Black Pepper; Bay Leaf; Brown Sugar.

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Sauteeing the onions and garlic.

sauteing the onions and garlic.

2.  Stir in the spices and cook until the aroma begins to come up, about 1 – 2 minutes.  Stir frequently to be sure the spices don’t burn.

Cooking the spices with the garlic and onions.

Cooking the spices with the garlic and onions.

3.  Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water or vegetable broth. Mix well, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, keep the saucepan covered, and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir frequently.

After adding the tomatoes and vegetable broth.

After adding the tomatoes and vegetable broth.

After cooking for 20 minutes.

After cooking for 20 minutes.

4.  Add the beans and cook another 20 minutes, uncovered.  The chili will begin to thicken as the beans cook.

Adding the beans.

Adding the beans.

After 20 minutes, if using, add the masa slurry.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

The chili after 20 minutes and adding the masa slurry.

The chili after 20 minutes and adding the masa slurry.

5.  Serve the chili with cornbread or tortillas, chopped onion, shredded cheese, and sour cream, if you like.

Chili with a little sharp cheddar.  Yummy.

Chili with a little sharp cheddar. Yummy.

 

And, like other chilies, this tastes even better the next day.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



↑ Top