Lemon Scallion Couscous Cakes

scallion lemon cakes

These lemony couscous cakes get their moisture and flavor from lots of scallions, the larger the better. If you can only find small scallions then just use more of them. I like to serve these cakes with my Moroccan Chickpea Tagine, my  Moroccan Eggplant Tagine or a Persian Salad (recipe under salad on the side bar). But, they’re equally good with salsa, chutney, yogurt or creme fraiche and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or lime juice. Sometimes I make them for lunch and serve them with lemon, creme fraiche and roasted veggies. Harissa is a Moroccan spice blend that gives them a little heat. You can swap the harissa for sriracha sauce or ground red pepper with good results.

I imagine they might be good with some frozen peas tossed in the mix before frying.

 

Couscous Cakes Recipe

Makes 12 cakes

Ingredients For The Cakes

  • 4 cups of cooked couscous prepared according to the package directions (approximately one box of Near East Original Plain Couscous)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 large scallions, minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • A generous 1/3 cup of shredded cheese. Use a mild cheese such as mozzarella.
  • 4 tablespoons of self rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry Harissa Spice, a drizzle of sriracha sauce or some ground red pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried mint
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking

Serving Suggestions: your favorite chutney, salsa, creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, sour cream, fresh lemon juice or lime juice, Moroccan Chickpea Tagine or Moroccan Eggplant Tagine, Persian Salad

 

Instructions for the Cakes

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. Add the minced scallions, the shredded cheese, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, harissa and dried mint. Salt to taste. Take a taste, add more salt if needed. Mix in the eggs, egg yolks and self rising flour.

Heat some olive oil in a large nonstick fry pan. I use a measuring cup to form the cakes. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop up some of the mixture. Press the mixture into the measuring cup and then release the cake into your hand and pat down a little. Place the cakes in the pan. Brown on one side and then flip to brown them on the other. Be careful not to overcook them or they’ll be dry. Serve with suggestions and enjoy!

 

Sticky Sweet & Spicy Turkey Meatball Poppers

honey meatballs

These caramelized meatball poppers come together in a flash. Finely grated onion keeps them ultra moist and tender. Ground turkey keeps them on the lighter side. Sweet and a little bit spicy, these mini meatballs are anything but boring. The sticky honey glaze, cozy cumin and spicy harissa (or sriracha), give them a Moroccan flair. They’re deliciously satisfying, hitting all the right flavor notes.

spicy honey meatballs

 Harissa is a Moroccan spice blend containing hot peppers. If you don’t want to hunt for it then swap it for some sriracha sauce, red chili flakes or ground red pepper. Teeny Tiny Spice Company of Vermont makes a great dry harissa spice blend that I use in this recipe. Serve them with a squeeze of lime or lemon.

honey sriracha meatballs

Meatball Popper Recipe

Makes about 25 meatball poppers

Ingredients

1 pound of ground turkey

1 medium onion, grated on the smallest holes of a box grater

1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 teaspoon of dry harissa spice (or a drizzle of sriracha sauce to taste)

1 teaspoon of ground paprika

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of dried mint or dried oregano

A couple of drizzles of honey

Salt to taste

Olive oil for cooking

Serving options: Squeeze of lemon or  lime, plain Greek yogurt for dipping

Instructions

Mix the ground turkey with the grated onion, bread crumbs, egg, harissa or sriracha sauce, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, mint and salt. Wet your hands and form the mixture into the shape of large marbles. Heat a large nonstick fry pan with olive oil. Drop the meatballs in the pan and brown on all sides. The meatballs cook quickly, so adjust the heat as you go. Be careful not to overcook. They should be cooked through but still juicy. When they are almost finished cooking, add a couple of drizzles of honey and swirl the meatballs around in the warm honey to coat. Take off the heat and serve with any of the suggestions.  Enjoy!

Moroccan Eggplant Tagine

Morrocan Eggplant Stew with chickpeas

This stew is a good one, especially in the late summer when eggplants are bursting from farmers’ markets. When selecting eggplants, always pick ones that are very firm and shiny, free of brown spots, soft spots and blemishes.

For this recipe, I use five-inch eggplants, no peeling or salting is necessary. If you can only find large ones, you may want to peel some of their skin off in strips with a vegetable peeler before chopping. Fresh eggplants are the key ingredient here. The bitterness in some eggplants comes from being over-mature. So remember to buy firm eggplants. Look for green leaves at the stem too.

Morrocan Eggplant Stew

 

 

This Moroccan tagine is healthy and comforting. Chickpeas give it substance and protein. Saffron, ginger and a mix of spices transport you to an exotic Marrakesh market. A dollop of creme fraiche is always welcome on top when served.

You can add a little lemon zest and some chopped scallions to plain couscous and serve it with this tagine. It reheats well for lunches or workweek dinners.

Moroccan Eggplant Stew

 

Moroccan Eggplant Tagine Recipe

Serves 4-6 with couscous

Some Notes:

Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon Cubes are delicious. I love them for their clean taste. If you don’t want to hunt for them, you can just use water or substitute the water for your favorite vegetable broth or stock.

Harissa is a wonderful North African condiment that comes in a dried form or a paste. Teeny Tiny Spice Company of Vermont makes a good dried one.

Garbanzo bean flour is also known as besan or chickpea flour. It’s popular in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. It’s used to thicken soups and stews. Here, I use it to give the stew a luxurious, creamy texture. It also bumps up the iron and nutrients. I buy it from my regular market or online at  Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Bean Flour. It’s also sold in Middle Eastern and Indian markets.

Ingredients

2 large onions, chopped
3 small five inch eggplants, chopped (about 9-10 cups of chopped eggplant)
1 bell pepper, chopped. I use green
1 garlic clove, minced using a garlic press or a microplane zester
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (optional)
1-1/2 cups of crushed tomatoes
2 cups of water
2 Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon cubes (see notes)
1 16-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of paprika
A small pinch of saffron (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of harissa (optional, see notes for explanation)
Drizzle of honey or pinch of sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon of dried mint
1/2 tablespoon chickpea flour mixed with 1/2 tablespoon of cold water to thicken the tagine (optional, see notes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and butter for cooking

Serving Suggestions: Dollop of creme fraiche, Greek yogurt or sour cream. Couscous, bulgur wheat, quinoa, rice, pita, chapati, roti, naan, fresh chopped, scallions, chives, mint or parsley, olives, crumbled feta

Instructions for the Tagine

Saute the onion and bell pepper in some olive oil and/or butter with salt and pepper until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, crushed tomatoes, water, bouillon cubes, chickpeas, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, saffron, harissa and honey. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped eggplant. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. Add the dried mint and adjust seasonings. To thicken the tagine, mix the chickpea flour with equal parts cold water. Stir this mixture into the stew and simmer for an additional minute. Serve with any of the above suggestions and enjoy!      

 

Buttermilk Berry Muffins

morning berry muffins

I love muffins!  I love making them because they’re quick and easy.  I love eating them warm with an extra hot cup of coffee in the morning or in the afternoon with a cup of tea. I keep a steady supply in my freezer to pop in the microwave for a quick, weekday breakfast. These are a riff on my favorite incredibly moist blueberry muffins. They’re made with a combination of whole wheat and regular flour. They’re ultramoist, packed with berries and not too sweet (but sweet enough). If you like your muffins sweeter, increase the sugar in the recipe to one cup. Just about any berry will work here. I’ve made them with frozen blueberries and raspberries too. 
 

Buttermilk Berry Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients: 
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt. I use French sea salt. 
2 cups frozen berries. I use frozen mixed berries, straight from the freezer.
Topping For Each Muffin:
Sprinkling of coarse Turbinado sugar like Sugar In The Raw or regular white sugar 

 

Instructions for Muffins:

Preheat the oven to 400
Generously grease a 12 cup muffin tin or use paper liners to line the muffin cups. I use the empty butter wrapper to grease the cups, adding a little extra butter if necessary.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until it looks light and fluffy. Mix in eggs and beat until incorporated. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk  the white flour and whole wheat flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture.  Stir just until everything is combined. The batter will be thick. Fold in the mixed berries straight from the freezer. 

Fill the muffin cups with the batter. Sprinkle some Turbinado or regular white sugar over each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve.

You can also freeze the muffins. Reheat directly from the freezer in the microwave for breakfast or a snack on the go. Enjoy!

 

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine

Moroccan tagines are beautifully fragrant stews made with key spices and whispers of saffron. The French are very fond of them. I make a lot of tagines! To my delight, a French woman once wrote to me to say that my tagine recipes are some of the best she’s ever tried.

This vegetarian version is quick to make. It reheats well too. Creamy chickpeas give it substance and protein. It’s particularly delicious with a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt on top. As the stew bubbles away, deliciously spicy aromas linger in the air.

Moroccan Chickpea & Saffron Stew

I like to serve it with bulgur wheat pilaf. I use Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Bulgur to make the pilaf. I saute a large chopped onion in some olive oil with salt and pepper and then proceed with the instructions on the package of their bulgur wheat, adding Rapunzel Vegan Bouillon Cubes to the water.

When the tagine is ready, ladle it into bowls. Serve the bulgur wheat pilaf or freshly steamed rice on top. Dig your fork in and get ready for a cozy, satisfying experience.

Moroccan Tagine

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine Recipe

Serves 4 with rice, couscous, quinoa, bread or bulgur wheat pilaf

Some Notes:

Secret Ingredient Alert: Chickpea flour is used to thicken the stew. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand. Mix it with equal parts water. The more you use, the thicker the stew will be. It also adds protein to the stew. You can also leave this step out with good results, but I highly recommend it. Chickpea flour is a great ingredient to keep in your kitchen. Use it to thicken all sorts of vegetarian stews and chili.

I learned about Rapunzel Bouillon Cubes from the wonderful Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks. They’re vegan and just delicious. I buy them by the case online. If you don’t want to hunt for them, you can leave them out. Use your favorite vegetable broth or stock in place of the water in the recipe.

If all you have is regular yellow onions, then by all means use them. I happen to like the sweetness of a red onion in this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped. I like green.
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes. I use Pomi Brand
  • 1 16 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes. I use Rapunzel No Salt Vegan Bouillon (see notes)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried mint
  • Few pinches of sugar or drizzles of honey to balance the acid in the tomatoes
  • Olive oil and/or butter for cooking. I use both.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of garbanzo bean flour mixed with 2 teaspoons of water to thicken the tagine. (optional)

Serving Options: pita, naan, roti, chapati, couscous, bulgur wheat pilaf, quinoa, rice, fresh parsley, fresh mint, lemon wedges, creme fraiche, lite sour cream or Greek yogurt

 Instructions For The Tagine:


Saute the chopped onions and bell pepper in some butter and olive oil with salt and pepper until soft. Add the cumin, saffron, cinnamon and mint. Stir and saute the spices and herbs for about a minute, being careful not to burn them. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, ginger, water, bouillon cubes, turmeric, pinches of sugar or drizzles of honey and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chickpea flour and water mixture to thicken the stew (optional but so good). Cook for a minute or two longer. Adjust seasonings, adding a little bit more mint or cinnamon if needed. Serve with any of the above suggestions and enjoy!  

Creamy Fresh Pea Soup with Lime & Basil

 

dreamy creamy pea soup
This is a creamy, dreamy, fast and easy pea soup. It’s made with frozen peas. They’re elevated to something quite fresh and lovely. White wine, basil and fennel give it a complex flavor. If you don’t love fennel, you can omit it with good results. But, it quietly complements the flavor of the peas and basil.
 
fresh pea soup with basil
 
The soup is bright green, a real mood booster. The cooking is unfussy. The results are wonderful. The entire process takes under thirty minutes. The soup also reheats well. Some whole peas are sprinkled in at the end of cooking for a contrast in texture. Serve it with a squeeze of fresh lime, some chives and/or basil and a dollop of creme fraiche. Croutons, crumbled bacon, sauteed crab, shrimp or scallops are also welcome. We like to eat this soup with smoked salmon and boursin cheese tartines. 
 

Creamy Dreamy Fresh Pea Soup Recipe

serves 4-6 

Some Notes:
 

Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon is what I use in this soup. It has a pure, clean taste that I love. If you can’t find it then substitute your favorite bouillon or omit the bouillon and just use water or use the same amount of your favorite vegetable broth or stock.

You can use a large onion instead of the shallots.  

 

 Ingredients

 
 
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb chopped into small pieces (optional)
  • 3 16-ounce bags of frozen petite or baby peas
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup light cream
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Rapunzel No Salt Bouillon Cube (optional, see notes)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil and butter for cooking
  • 1 generous handful of fresh basil, chopped
 
Serving options: dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, squeeze of lemon or lime, freshly chopped basil, chives and fennel fronds, sauted shrimp or scallops, croutons, crumbled bacon
 
 

Instructions

 
Saute the shallots and the fennel with salt and pepper in some olive oil and butter until soft. Add the Rapunzel Bouillon cubes, wine and two cups of water. Salt to taste. Bring to a simmer. Add two 16 ounce bags of frozen peas. Bring back to a simmer. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, until the peas are tender but remain bright green. Take the pot off the heat and add the handful of chopped basil. Puree with an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Stir in the light cream and about half of the third bag of peas. Stir in a couple of squeezes of fresh lime juice. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and chopped basil. If using the fennel bulb in this recipe, you may also garnish the soup with some chopped fennel fronds. Enjoy! 

My Father’s Favorite Salad ~ Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Mint

tomato salad

My dad was a funny, generous and kind man. He was my best friend and my caretaker.  An accountant by trade, he could do long division in his head.  I didn’t inherit his talent for numbers. But I share his love of cooking and nurturing people with good food. I have many fond memories of the delicious meals he prepared for us.  He was famous for his Christmas feasts which included festive punch and lots of fancy desserts.

When I was a kid, I remember him coming home from work, dressed in a jacket and tie with a bunch of tomatoes in one hand, a loaf of Italian bread in the other. He often brought us fresh mozzarella too. He’d prepare this salad with the tomatoes. We’d eat it with pillow-soft fresh mozzarella and crusty bread.  It was his favorite go-to dinner on busy weeknights.

 
He was Lebanese.  This was his favorite salad.  Adding fresh or dried mint to chopped salads always will be popular with Middle Easterners. Fresh mint adds sparkle. It pairs well with with cucumbers, enhancing their flavor.  If you use dried mint, it’s important to use spearmint, not peppermint.
 
If you love tabbouleh, chances are you’ll love this one too.  It makes its own light dressing .  It’s high in vitamin C, lycopene and monounsaturated fats. If you’re a tomato lover then this salad is for you.
 
Eat it like my dad did with crusty bread and mozzarella.  Alternately, sprinkle it with crumbled feta or stuff it into a pita with my creamy restaurant style hummus. It’s a good summertime salad to keep in your recipe box.
You can even add some rinsed and drained canned chickpeas to it for protein.

tomato and cucumber

Lebanese Tomato Salad Recipe

Some notes: 

Make this salad with any variety of ripe tomatoes. Use one pound of small plum tomatoes, tiny grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or whatever kind of tomato that floats your boat. Summer heirloom tomatoes are wonderful too.

Persian cucumbers are sweet, crunchy and seedless. There’s no need to peel them as their skins are soft. If all you can find are regular cucumbers then peel them before adding them to the salad.

I find scallions to be easier to work with and much milder than red onions, so that’s what I go for here.
 
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, chopped or quartered depending on the kind and the size. I used quartered cherry tomatoes.
  • 3 scallions, green and pale-green parts diced
  • 6 Persian cucumbers, chopped into small pieces (see notes)
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves torn or chopped or a pinch or two of dried spearmint, rubbed between your fingers to release its flavor.
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice. Don’t overdo it with the lemon juice, unless you really love lemony salads.
  • Sea salt to taste. Fleur de sel or Celtic gray salt is great.
  • Serving Suggestions: crumbled feta,  chickpeas, crusty bread or pita, sliced mozzarella, black olives, drizzle of good olive oil

Instructions:   Place everything in a bowl and toss to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve at room temperature with some feta crumbled on top. If you don’t love feta then the other serving suggestions are lovely too. Enjoy!

Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Tomatoes & Warm Spices

moroccan

Moroccan tagines are savory stews made with spices and vegetables. A bit of a departure from the usual fare,  these stews provide you with welcoming warmth and intoxicating aromas. They  make for good eating.

 
Chickpeas are simmered in a light tomato sauce infused with several spices. This is no ordinary beans and rice dish. Smoked paprika and a blend of Moroccan spices make it exotic and special. The paprika infuses the stew with a mild smokiness, a pinch of nutmeg offers a subtle sweetness and a Moroccan spice blend lends uniquely North African flavors.
 
Comforting and hearty, the tagine forms a complete protein when served with rice. It’s good on a chilly evening or for a meatless Monday meal. It’s a wholesome dinner to prepare at the end of the workweek when you’re tired and in need of some healthy, home cooking. For a simple Moroccan dessert, serve Medjool dates and mint tea. Something minty and sweet at the end of the meal is refreshing.

There might seem like a lot of ingredients, but the stew is a one pot dish. If you can make vegetarian chili, you can make a Moroccan tagine. You could swap out the chickpeas for chicken or use a combo of chickpeas and chicken.

The idea here is not to get caught up in searching for different spices, unless you feel like it. Otherwise, use what you can easily find. Think of me as your gentle spice guide. I’m here to suggest things. No pressure. But I believe if you’re making vegetarian/vegan meals on a daily or weekly basis, it’s nice to taste different flavors with the vegetables. It keeps things interesting and exciting. It prevents brown rice and boring broccoli syndrome.  Penzeys Spices is a wonderful source for fresh, fragrant spices.
 
It’s delicious finished with a dollop of sour cream or thick Greek yogurt, fresh chopped parsley and toasted almonds for crunch.  Serve over couscous, quinoa, basmati or brown rice.
A side of pita bread, olives and feta is never a bad idea either.

The stew reheats well for workday lunches. Keep some steamed rice and the tagine in separate containers. They can be stored in the fridge for two days. Like most stews, it gets better as it sits. If you’re like me, you may want to keep your pantry stocked with a couple of cans of chickpeas, some spices, tomatoes and rice.  Then you can whip this up whenever you get a craving.

 
This recipe is featured on Healthy Aperture
morccan stew

Moroccan Chickpea Stew Recipe

Makes a pot full
 
 
 
Some notes: 

Paprika and cumin are the only spices essential to this recipe, the rest of the spices are optional but ohhh sooo good.

A Moroccan spice known as ras el hanout is unquestionably North African. It’s actually a blend of over a dozen spices. Zamouri Spices had a good one.  I also love the ras el hanout sold by Soluna Garden Farm.  Ras el hanout lends soft, spicy notes to this stew, giving it much more depth of flavor.
 
Saffron is also optional. Not everyone likes saffron. If you use it, add just a few strands, maybe 4 tops. It’s very easy to overpower a dish with too much saffron. Saffron is used in many Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
 
I learned to add a  pinch of grated nutmeg to my African stews from my Ghanaian friend who just happens to be a wonderful cook. You don’t detect that it’s nutmeg, you just know that the stew tastes savory and flavorful. I include turmeric for its health benefits and pretty color.
 
 

I use Pomi Tomatoes in this recipe and most of my recipes now. The company sent me some samples and I was impressed by their taste and texture. They’re 100 percent Italian tomatoes with no added salt or mysterious ingredients.  They come in 26.46 ounce boxes instead of cans. I find them at Whole Foods and in my regular grocery store. You can also buy them online. If you can’t find them, use almost all of a 28 ounce can of best quality chopped tomatoes.

Garbanzo Bean Flour is a wonderful thickener for soups and stews. I highly recommend it here. Mix the flour with equal parts cold water to thicken this tagine. Viola! Instant thickener, which is never a bad thing in vegetarian stews. They often need more body, richness and voluptuousness. The stew can also be thickened by mashing a few of the beans with the back of your spoon too, but it won’t give the same luxurious results. I usually like to thicken all my vegetarian bean stews with either a garbanzo flour/water solution or a potato starch and water solution. Bob’s Red Mill sells both garbanzo bean flour and potato starch online. Bob’s Red Mill also has a gluten free version of the garbanzo bean flour. But I find both at Whole Foods and even in my regular market.

 
Ingredients:
  • 2 16 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
  • 1 26.46 ounce box of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes or almost all of one 28 ounce can of best quality canned chopped tomatoes. (see notes)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced. You pick the color. I used green.
  • 1 small chili pepper, seeded and diced or a pinch of ground red pepper (optional)
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced. I used a microplane zester to mince it.
  • 2 dried bay leaves, torn, remember to remove them before serving.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
  • A drizzle or two of honey or a few pinches of sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes
  • A few saffron threads, crushed between your fingers to release the flavor. (optional)
  • A teeny pinch of nutmeg. I use a microplane zester to grate it from a whole nutmeg.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Moroccan ras el hannout spice (optional, see notes)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • To thicken the tagine: mash some of the chickpeas with the back of your spoon and/or mix some garbanzo bean flour with cold water (see notes)
  • Serving Suggestions: Greek yogurt, sour cream, chopped flat leaf parsley, slivered almonds, flaky sea salt or grey celtic salt, lemon wedges


Instructions:


Cook a grain of your choice according to the package directions. Couscous, rice and quinoa are lovely with this dish.

Meanwhile, add some olive oil to a large nonstick skillet or pot and saute the onions, bell pepper and chili pepper (if using) with some salt on medium to medium high heat until soft.

When the vegetables are soft, add the bay leaves, spices, rinsed and drained chickpeas tomatoes, minced garlic, honey and the saffron threads (if using). Adjust the salt and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to very low and simmer, covered, for about 20-30 minutes or until the flavors meld and mellow. Remove the bay leaves. Thicken the stew with  the garbanzo flour and water solution. Start with one tablespoon of garbanzo bean flour mixed with one tablespoon of cold water. If you’d like it thicker, add more of this mixture. Mash some of the garbanzo beans with the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings. Serve with accompaniments. Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Hummus with Smoked Paprika-Chili Drizzle

hummus 43

Growing up in a Lebanese family, I’ve eaten a lot of hummus. And still, I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it.  This hummus is unexpectedly thick and rich. It hits the spot.

Hummus is health food for some. It’s comfort food to me.  It reminds me of spending fun summers with my grandmother in Brooklyn. She’d make her hummus the old fashioned way, soaking the dried chickpeas overnight. Then she’d cook them before blending them into a creamy dip. She’d always serve her hummus with fresh pita, scallions and radishes.

One night after having dinner with my husband at a little Indian restaurant on the outskirts of Boston, I declared that I had to stop at the closest supermarket for lemons and limes. Heaven forbid I don’t have any fresh lemons in the fridge! My patient husband has learned to just roll with my food-obsessed ways. We ended up at an old supermarket that looked like it hadn’t seen a remodel since the 1970’s. While waiting in the checkout line, I grabbed an issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The recipe for restaurant-style hummus caught my eye. I knew I had to try it.

 

hummus 2

 

This creamy hummus is topped with a complex-chili infused oil. This oil is also good on eggs and grilled chicken or fish.  You can omit the red chili pepper in the oil if you don’t want the spicy heat.

Aleppo pepper is a pleasantly tart ground pepper with mild cumin undertones. It’s sold in most Middle Eastern markets and online at Penzeys Spices.

The best paprika comes from Spain. They slowly smoke the peppers and grind them into a velvety powder. I like Safinter Smoked Spanish Paprika which I find at Whole Foods.

Store the hummus in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 days. Serve it with pita and olives and you’ve got a fresh, healthy snack or a light lunch. Add it to your favorite vegetarian wrap. Dip grilled chicken or veggies into it.  The sky’s the limit.

 
Once you’ve made hummus a few times, you’ll get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect. Enjoy!
 
 

 

Restaurant Style Hummus with Smoked Paprika Chili Drizzle Recipe

 

 

serves 4

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine’s recipe for restaurant style hummus. http://www.food.com/recipe/cooks-illustrated-restaurant-style-hummus-380146

 
Some notes: 

I keep a couple of cans of chickpeas, a jar of tahini and some pita in my kitchen, so I can whip up this beloved Middle Eastern dip whenever the craving strikes.
 
My favorite brand of tahini sesame paste is from Beirut. I love this one because it pours/stirs so easily even after being refrigerated.  I find it at Middle Eastern grocery stores. Here’s the amazon link for it: http://www.amazon.com/Beirut-Tahini-Sesame-Paste-32oz/dp/B0074D3B9S   Use whatever brand you like.
 
Depending on my mood, I either add ground cumin to the hummus or I leave it out.
 
Sometimes I pick up another can of chickpeas and scatter whole chickpeas on top of the creamy hummus for additional texture. Have fun and add your own inspired toppings.
 
 
Ingredients:
  • 1 16-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 lemons, I like my hummus lemony.
  • Generous 1/3 cup of tahini, well stirred. (see notes for information and my favorite brand)
  • 1/4 cup of cold water
  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin (optional)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Serving Suggestions: some whole chickpeas scattered on top, smoked paprika chili drizzle (recipe below), 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds,  a handful of toasted pine nuts, everything bagel blend,  finely diced or thinly sliced jalapeno peppers


Instructions:

  1. Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon into the bowl of a food processor along with the chickpeas, tahini paste, salt, cumin and 1/8 cup of olive oil. Pulse to combine. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time while mixing in the food processor, until you reach your desired consistency. You want it to be thick and creamy, not watery or thin. Stop often. Taste often. Adjust salt, scrape down sides of the bowl and add more lemon juice if desired. I used the juice of one whole lemon in this recipe. Then I dowsed it with lots more lemon juice upon serving. Adjust the lemon juice according to your personal taste.
  2.  Serve it with my smoked paprika chilli drizzle (recipe below).
  3. Another option instead of the chili drizzle  is to  toast some sesame seeds or pine nuts or everything bagel blend in a small dry fry pan on medium low heat until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Serve the hummus with a drizzle of best quality olive oil and  a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds or pine nuts or everything bagel blend and very thinly sliced or finely diced green chili pepper.

 

Smoked Paprika Chili Drizzle 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground red chili pepper or Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika (I used Safinter brand)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste

 

Instructions:
Warm the olive oil on medium low heat with the red chili pepper or Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika and a dash of salt. Once warmed, set a side. The longer it sits the better it will be. Drizzle it over the restaurant style hummus and serve.

 

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Addictive Black Bean Salsa

black bean salsa 2

Every time my husband makes a business trip to San Diego, he comes home raving about the delicious salsas and tacos he has eaten there. I don’t blame him. California Mexican is so fresh and flavorful.

 Believe it or not, just outside of Boston sits a great little taco joint too. Taqueria El Amigo is the size of a large walk-in closet. It has about 6 tables, tops. It’s always crowded. We go there every so often to get our taco-fix and ice-cold agua de Jamaicas (refreshing, jewel-toned hibiscus drinks). Californians who have eaten there say the food reminds them of home.

 

blacl bean 33

 

In the spirit of fresh Mexican cuisine, I’m sharing this light but satisfying meal with you today.  The salsa is smoky and spicy, thanks to a charred jalapeno pepper, smoked paprika, a pinch of ground cumin and a wee little bit of liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is sold in my regular market and on Amazon. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Colgin-Natural-Hickory-Liquid-Smoke/dp/B0005Z8NCM  It lends a nice smoky flavor to meatless vegetarian chili too. Only use a tiny drop or two. You can leave it out with good results too.

The heat in the salsa is balanced by creamy black beans, sweet corn and a snappy red bell pepper. It’s finished with tangy lime juice and fresh cilantro or parsley. Simple cheese quesadillas, lite sour cream and sliced avocado lend welcome creaminess and round out this vegetarian, gluten-free meal.

 

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Black Bean Salsa Recipe 

Serves 4 with quesadillas

Some Notes: 

You could also toss the salsa into cooked rice for a complete protein.

This meal is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
  2. 6 scallions, diced
  3. 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn. I use frozen corn and defrost it a bit in the microwave.
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 jalapeno pepper, charred and diced. Remove the seeds and veins if you don’t want it too spicy.
  6. A generous handful of chopped cilantro or parsley
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  8. A tiny drop or two of liquid smoke, see blog post for explanation. (optional)
  9. 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
  10. A drizzle of honey or a pinch of sugar
  11. Sea salt to taste
  12. A drizzle of olive oil or corn oil
  13. A couple shakes of Green Tabasco sauce (optional, but I love it!)
  14. 2-3 limes, zest one and reserve the zest. I use a microplane zester.
  15. Serve suggestions: sour cream, cheese quesadillas (recipe below) lime wedges and/or sliced avocado.

 

Instructions:


Char the jalapeno pepper on gas flame or under the broiler, adding some black blistering to the outside of the jalapeno.  Dice it up. This step is optional, but does produce mild, pleasant, smoky notes in the salsa. If you don’t want to char it, then just mince it finely.

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the lime zest, a couple of  good squeezes of lime juice a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Stir in a drizzle of honey to balance the acid in the lime juice. Add a little bit of green Tabasco sauce if you’d like.  Toss to combine. Taste. Adjust salt.

Serve with cheese quesadillas, lite sour cream, lime wedges and/or avocado slices. Enjoy!

 

cheese q

 

Simple Cheese Quesadillas Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Cheese of your choice. I used an aged cheddar.
  • Corn tortillas. I am usually able to find these in the refrigerated section of my grocery store.
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

Spray tortillas with a little cooking spray. Put 1-2 slices of cheese of your choice between to two corn tortillas. Don’t over do it with the cheese. I tried this with light cheddar and it didn’t work too well. It made a mess in my panini press. The cheese oozed everywhere. So I suggest using full-fat cheese. I like aged cheddar or jack cheese or a Mexican shredded blend. Cook the tortillas in a panini press until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are somewhat crisp and browned. Alternatively, you can make them in a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan. Cut into wedges and serve with the black bean salsa, sour cream, avocado slices and limes.