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Better Mujaddara (Rice with Lentils and Fried Onions)

I already had a recipe I liked for mujaddara, or mejadra, or megadarra, or however you want to spell it (or pronounce it). But when I saw this one in a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I had to try it and it became my new favorite. I used to eat it with plain yogurt, but the yogurt sauce is definitely a step up as well.

Besides being delicious, it’s also a good meal on a budget. In Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, she talks about this dish’s reputation as a “dish of the poor,” yet says it’s still a compliment to serve it. She recounts, “An aunt of mine use to present it regularly to guests with the comment ‘Excuse the food of the poor!’ –to which the unanimous reply always was: ‘Keep your food of kings and give us megadarra every day!'”

Maybe next time I’ll try her recipe or one of the other many variations…or maybe I’ll just stick with this one…

mujaddara

Yogurt sauce:

1 cup plain yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and refrigerate until needed.

Crispy onions:

2 lb. yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Toss onions and salt together in a large bowl. Microwave for 5 min. Rinse onions thoroughly and dry in a salad spinner to get most of the water off, then finish drying thoroughly with paper towels. Heat the onions and oil in a Dutch oven over high heat, stirring frequently, until onions cook down and are golden brown (about 25 to 30 min). Drain the onions and set on a paper towel lined baking sheet.  Reserve 3 Tbsp oil for the rice and lentils. The remaining onion-flavored oil can be stored in the fridge up to a month and used for other things.

Rice and Lentils:

1 1/4 cups brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 1/4 cups basmati rice

salt and pepper

3 Tbsp reserved onion oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/8 tsp cayenne

1 tsp sugar

3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro

Bring lentils and 1 tsp salt to a boil in 4 cups water. Reduce heat to low and cook until lentils are tender, about 15 min., then drain. While lentils cook, place rice in a medium bowl and cover by 2 inches with hot tap water and let stand for 15 min. Swish the rice grains to release extra starch and pour off water. Rinse rice in cold water and pour off again. Repeat until water runs clear (4-5 times). Drain rice in a fine mesh strainer.

Heat the onion oil, garlic, spices, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a Dutch oven over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 min. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the rice become translucent, about 3 min. Add 2 1/4 cups water, sugar, and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Stir in lentils, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 12 min, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat, remove lid, place a dish towel folded in half over the pot and replace the lid. Let stand for 10 min. Fluff rice and lentils with a fork. Mix in cilantro and half the crispy onions. Serve with yogurt sauce and topped with the remaining onions.

(Recipe adapted slightly from Cook’s Illustrated – September & October 2014)

John’s Lemon and Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

If John and I had a battle for the best broccoli, I think he would win. I still like my recipe too, but this one has a lot more flavor. And salt. It’s very tasty.

lemon parmesan broccoli

2 bunches broccoli (about 2 lb)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thin

olive oil

3/4 tsp kosher salt (or half as much regular salt)

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp lemon zest

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/6 cup parmesan cheese

Cut the broccoli off the stalk and break into smaller florets. Place on a large baking sheet. Add sliced garlic and drizzle with 2-3 Tbsp olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 min, until crisp-tender and beginning to brown. Immediately toss the broccoli with 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, the lemon zest, juice, and parmesan.

(Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com)

 

Swedish Tea Cakes

This is one of those cookies, in my opinion, that tastes better than it looks (another is Brown Sugar Cookies). There’s nothing wrong with how they look, but they just don’t look as exciting as say, chocolate chip cookies. I’m not sure why I made these the first time, since I expected them to be rather boring. It was probably because I had jam to use up, which is usually the reason I make these cookies, but once I tasted them, they became one of my favorites. They freeze well (before filling with jam) and you can make them with whatever kind of chopped nuts and jam you have. I like to make them with walnuts and raspberry jam as my first choice, but more recently I’ve made them with pecans and blueberry jam and orange marmalade and that was delicious too. I haven’t tried a combination yet that I didn’t like.

swedish tea cakes

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 egg white, beaten with a fork

2/3 cup finely chopped nuts, for coating

6 Tbsp jam, jelly, or marmalade

Cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg yolk and beat well. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl then add to butter mixture. Stir well to form a stiff dough. Roll into balls, using 2 tsp dough per ball.  Dip each ball in the egg white then roll in nuts. Place on parchment lined or greased cookie sheets. Dent each cookie with your thumb.

Bake at 325 degree F for 5 min. Remove and press dents again. Bake 10-15 minutes more, or until golden. Let stand 5 min before removing to wire racks to cool.

Fill each cookie with 1 tsp jam right before serving. Store unfilled cookies in an airtight container. Makes about 20.

(Recipe adapted from Company’s Coming Most Loved Treats by Jean Pare)

Spiced Lamb with Hummus and Pickled Onions

A quick dinner recipe, if you already have the hummus made, or use store bought.

lamb with hummus

Pickled onions:

3/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 red onion, sliced very thin

Whisk together vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir in onions and let stand for 25 min, stirring occasionally. (Can make a day ahead and refrigerate)

Spiced lamb:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb. ground lamb

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp salt

pinch each: pepper, cinnamon, cayenne

3/4 cup hummus

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

pitas, cut in wedges

Heat half the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Cook the lamb until browned and crisp. Drain, discarding fat, and place lamb in a bowl. Heat remaining oil in the skillet over medium, add onion and cook until golden. Stir in garlic, salt and spices, cook for one minute and then add the lamb. Cook until warmed through, about 5 min.  While the lamb is cooking, cut the pitas in wedges and toast in a 400 degree F oven until crisp, 6-8 min. (Toasting the pitas can be done ahead of time and kept in an airtight container.)

Spread the lamb on a platter, and top with hummus, drained pickled onions, and cilantro. Serve with toasted pitas.

(Recipe adapted from Canadian Living September 2014)

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce

This is one of the most delicious vegetable dishes I know. It’s based off the popular Middle Eastern dish of fried cauliflower with tahini sauce, but it’s easier (and healthier) to make at home.

roasted cauliflower

Cut cauliflower into florets. Toss with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees F until golden brown, turning it over once during cooking. While it’s cooking, mix tahini with equal parts water to thin. Add fresh lemon juice and salt to taste.

When the cauliflower is cooked, drizzle with lemon juice and top with chopped fresh parsley and serve with the tahini sauce.

Southwest Salad

Last year at work during our health emphasis week, we had a Salad Spin-off, a healthy variation on a Chili Cook-off contest we had done earlier. This salad was one of the entries. I thought it was delicious. I couldn’t track down the person who submitted it to get the actual recipe, but I had the list of ingredients so I just make it to taste.

southwest salad

Salad:

chopped romaine lettuce

baby arugula

black beans

corn

diced tomato

diced red pepper

diced avocado

cubed pepper jack cheese

dressing:

lime juice

extra virgin olive oil

tabasco sauce (just a dash)

salt and pepper to taste

bowl of salad

 

Lemon Anise Biscotti

These are very hard, crunchy cookies (they are made without any butter), but they are really tasty dipped in coffee or tea (even green tea). I can’t wait to try some of the other flavors too.  I’m sure I won’t have to wait long because they are disappearing quickly!

jar of biscotti

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 Tbsp lemon zest

2 tsp ground anise seed (or 1 Tbsp anise seed)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale yellow. Stir in zest, anise, and vanilla. Add flour mixture.

Halve the dough and use floured hands to stretch each piece into a rough 2 x 13 inch loaf and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 min (until loaves are golden and just beginning to crack). Lower oven to 325 degrees F.

Let loaves cool for 10 min, then cut diagonally into 3/8-inch slices with a bread knife. Lay slices cut side up on the baking sheet and bake again until crisp and golden brown, about 15 min (turning the cookies once during baking).

Transfer to wire rack immediately and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

(Recipe adapted slightly from The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook)

Spicy Grainy Mustard

This is my second attempt at making mustard this year. I liked this one quite a bit better than the other recipe I tried, and it’s very easy to make.  We had it for dinner with purple braised cabbage, purple potatoes, apple chicken sausage and sage-onion jam. John said it was the “blue plate special”.

mustard with dinner

1/2 cup white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

4 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds

2 Tbsp black (or brown) mustard seeds

4 Tbsp powdered mustard

2 tsp salt

Mix everything together in a glass or other nonreactive bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 48 hours to soften the mustard seeds. Blend with an immersion blender until somewhat smooth (there will still be lots of whole mustard seeds). Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge. (Keeps up to 3 months).

(Recipe adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook)

Cream Cheese and Salsa Dip

salsa dip

Cream together:

1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Spread on large plate.

Mix together:

1 cubed tomato

3 green onions, chopped fine

1/2 chopped green pepper

enough salsa to cover (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups)

Spread salsa mixture over cream cheese. Top with grated cheddar (about 2 cups). Serve with tortilla chips.

 

Deluxe version:

taco dip

Top it with reheated leftover taco meat.

Chickpea, Chard and Chorizo Frittata

We really liked this recipe. It’s a lot like a Spanish tortilla, but with chickpeas instead of the potatoes. And, like tortilla, it’s also delicious with a little mayonnaise on the side. The original recipe calls for spinach with chard recommended as a good substitute. It was time to finally harvest (ready or not) the Swiss chard I’ve been trying to grow all summer in containers in my back yard, which was still only a few inches high after 5 months!  It probably needed some fertilizer or something, maybe? I’m sure glad I don’t need to rely on my gardening skills to survive.

frittata

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 roasted red pepper, cut in small pieces

1 chorizo sausage, cut in small pieces

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 big handfuls chopped chard (leaves only, unless the stems are very tiny) or spinach

5 eggs, beaten

salt

Heat oil in a 10 inch non-stick or cast-iron skillet.  Add onion and sauté for a few minutes, add garlic, then add red pepper, chorizo, smoked paprika and chickpeas. Cook for a few minutes longer, until the chorizo starts to release some oil. Add chard and stir until wilted.  Add eggs and stir gently over medium heat. When bottom is set, put in a hot oven (or under the broiler, but not too close), for a couple minutes until the eggs are cooked on top and slightly puffed up.

To get the nice side up, loosen the frittata, place a plate over top and flip in onto the plate. Then place another plate over top and invert again. The frittata can be served warm or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Food52)