Spicy cauliflower and chickpea salad

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A nice, warm winter treat (though this is good cold, too)! I know cauliflower is making a comeback, as it should! I’m particularly fond of it roasted, a little charred, smoky, but still sweet. This has just the right amount of spice without being overwhelming. Enjoy it with some tapas, bread, and a glass of wine (that’s what I’m going to do right now. Oh yes, and binge watch Project Runway).

Adapted from: Simply Nigella

Prep time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer or 2 for dinner

Ingredients

1 small head of cauliflower

3 tbsp. regular olive oil

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 can (approx 400 gms.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

2 tbsp. harissa

2 small, vine ripe tomatoes

Salt, to taste

Bunch of cilantro OR parsley, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or 425 degrees F. Trim the cauliflower into small florets. gobi1
  2. Whisk the oil, cinnamon and cumin seeds together in a bowl. Tip in the cauliflower and toss to coat. Pour the contents into a baking tray or dish and bake for 15 minutes.gobi2
  3. In the ‘dirty’ bowl that you used for the oil, add the harissa, tomatoes and chickpeas and mix together well. chickpeaharissa
  4. When the cauliflower has done its 15 minutes, take it out and add the harissa, tomatoes and chickpea mixture to it. Mix everything and put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.roastedcauliflower
  5. Once the cauliflower is tender, sprinkle with salt. Garnish with cilantro or parsley leaves and serve!chickpeafinal

Pearl couscous salad with paprika and mint dressing

We’re back to school, lovelies! And what a back-to-school dramaturgy it’s been. We’ve been having a record-breaking heatwave here in southern California, no joke, temperatures reached 100+ with nasty Santa Ana winds (the equivalent of the Delhi ‘loo’) blasting in from the desert.

This salad has been a lifesaver in this unseasonably hot weather. Not only does it keep well in the fridge for days (making a most delicious lunch indeed), but it is easy, quick, cooling, and manages to strike that magic balance between being both light and filling (perfect for teaching days). Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients – almost everything is replaceable and substitutable – you can replace the couscous with quinoa or another grain, you can replace the chickpeas with white or kidney beans, and you can replace the mint with basil or parsley. Etc. Etc. Etc. Whatever you’ve got lying around, I promise it will work. The toasted almonds add such a nice crunch and depth of flavor, you really do need the crunch, so if you have to substitute them, use something crunchy!

You get a hint of cinnamon and smokiness from the bay leaf in the couscous, which adds that subtle vacation-y feeling to this. So we can pretend like summer’s not really over.

Bon appetit!

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dressing

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2 as generous lunch portions, or 4 as a side

Ingredients

2 cups pearl couscous (sometimes called “Israeli couscous”)

1 15 oz. can (about 430 gms) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1 stick cinnamon

2 small or 1 large bay leaf

1/2 cup black olives, halved

2 cups cherry/grape/heirloom tomatoes, halved

4 small Persian cucumbers, chopped

4 cups boiling water

3/4 cup slivered or chopped almonds, lightly toasted

3 oz. crumbled feta cheese (or any cheese you like, or omit if going vegan)

For the dressing:

4 sprigs of mint, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar is fine too)

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Dry roast the couscous in a saucepan until the pearls start browning, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. To the couscous, add 4 cups of boiling water (double the amount of couscous you are using), the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, onion and a pinch of salt. When it starts to boil, lower the heat, put on a lid, and cook for about 12-15 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, assemble your other ingredients: chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives.
  4. In another small pan, toast your almond slivers and set aside.
  5. Prepare the dressing.
  6. When the water from the couscous has evaporated and the pearls have puffed up, set aside and let the mixture cool down for a few minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves carefully. Lightly fluff the couscous with a fork.
  7. Add the dressing. Gently combine everything with a fork.
  8. Sprinkle the cheese and toasted almonds on top. Serve!

Note: if you will be eating this as leftovers, don’t add all the almonds now – just add them to your own bowl. Save the rest and add them just when you are about to eat so they stay crunchy.

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Fall roasted veggies with haloumi

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Tonight, I’m attending a moveable feast in my neighborhood. Each person is responsible for serving one course in their home, and then we move to the next person’s house, and so on. Theoretically, anyway. My guess is that somewhere around the second or third house, we might all fall down with the wine and good food buzzing in our bodies, but who knows? Maybe we actually will make it to dessert.

My friend Denise and I are co-hosting the second course of the evening, appetizers. She is making a mushroom dip and I decided to make these roasted vegetables with haloumi, which I once saw on Nigella Bites. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cheese on the menu tonight, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. This is also a great recipe for a weeknight dinner – just pop it into the oven and forget about it until five minutes before its ready to eat. Rewarding, rustic, delicious, easy.

If you don’t have/can’t find haloumi, you can substitute with feta or with another salty, crumbly cheese. Or you can also make your own haloumi, which I am going to attempt to do, thanks to this recipe: http://wholesome-cook.com/2012/07/18/homemade-haloumi-cheese-in-an-hour/

Prep time: 1 hour

Ingredients

One large sweet potato

1-2 yellow or red potatoes (whatever you have on hand)

1 red bell pepper

1 red onion

1/2 head of garlic (about 6-8 individual cloves)

4 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes or cayenne pepper (optional – I feel it adds more flavor)

Grind of pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the potatoes into slightly smaller cubes than the sweet potato (the potatoes are denser than the sweet potatoes, so need slightly more time to cook). Add each ingredient to the pan as you go.
  3. De-seed and cut the red peppers into approximately the same size cubes and add to pan.
  4. Half the red onion and then cut each into 4-6 segments. Discard the outer skin. The onion chunks should stay together.
  5. Separate the cloves of garlic but you don’t need to remove the skins (yay).
  6. Drizzle your olive oil on top and mix everything together with your hands.
  7. Season with pepper and/or red chili flakes if you wish. Don’t add salt because otherwise your vegetables will get mushy.
  8. Arrange all the vegetables in a baking dish. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Gently turn the vegetables about halfway into the baking process.roastveg2
  9. About five minutes before the vegetables are done, slice the haloumi cheese and lay on top of the veggies. Turn your oven on the broiler, and broil for 5 minutes. The cheese should get brown on top (if you don’t want to use cheese, just add salt at this stage).roastveg4
  10. Serve!

Ful medames (Stewed fava beans)

Driving home one day from a cafe, my partner and I noticed a new Middle Eastern market which has opened up in what is fast becoming the Durham Muslim community’s hub (yay! finally!).  It was spring break, and with time on our hands, we decided to stop and browse.  My partner, who lived for some time in Jerusalem, was thrilled.  Though the selection of fresh vegetables was limited, we loaded up on lots of other goodies: a sturdy jug of Lebanese olive oil for $10, bulgur wheat (in lots of different sizes), fava beans, eggplant spread, pickled labneh, tahini, fresh pita…. There is also halal meat available, for nonveggies. 

I’ve been having a Middle Eastern spell lately, and this morning, I created my version of Ful Medames – a super easy, fast, delicious, and healthy breakfast.  It takes about 10 minutes and is fantastic with some pita bread, warmed and slightly crisped in the oven, and some soft or hard boiled eggs.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic, grated or mashed

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Bunch of parsley, finely chopped

  1.  Drain and rinse the fava beans well under cold running water.  Place the beans in a pot and cover them with water (there should be at least 1″ more water than beans). Bring the water and beans to a boil on medium heat.  Let the beans boil for about 8 minutes, until soft.
  2. While the beans are boiling, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Transfer the beans into the bowl and mix well.
  4. Using a fork, lightly mash the fava beans, making sure to leave some unmashed, so that you have different textures.
  5. Serve with pita/bread and/or some eggs!

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Going Analog

The (re)turn to analog has taken the food, music, art, and culture scene by storm. The massive popularity of analog synthesizers in electronic music has its, well, analog, in cooking as well, with artisanal edibles, the turn to canning, the move to slow cooking, etc. The movement has its critics—it can be elitist, bourgeois, and obnoxious. These things bother me as well, along with the fact that the basic contradiction that DIY, back-to-basics, Etsy things cost a fortune and ultimately rest on increased consumption. (This is, of course, nothing new, and speaks to the way capitalism hungrily incorporates its own critiques. See the history of punk). At the same time, the base impulse—the desire to return to simplicity, freshness, and homemade things—seems not entirely unworthy.

I’ve been reluctant to make hummus from scratch (i.e. the analog way), probably because, like you, I tried it a few times and it came out grainy, thick, and weirdly colored, and because its not atrociously expensive at the grocery store and is of passable (not great) quality, and because the only decent recipe I found called for removing the skins of individual chickpeas one by one and the thought of that made me want to put my eyes out. Thus, there is much in the ‘against making hummus at home, from scratch,’ column. I understand.

However, after impulsively buying a 5-kilo bag of chickpeas from the Indian store, I decided, with trepidation, to rethink my approach and to go for it. I found a recipe that was definitely analog by my standards, requiring 12 hours of foresight (the chickpeas have to be soaked overnight or all day), which is not usually how my cooking happens temporally speaking. However, the recipe saved me from shelling individual chickpea heads and for that, I was already grateful. That is, until I scooped up the luscious, creamy deliciousness that is—and can be—hummus. I couldn’t stop licking the spoon I used to scoop this up with. This is so, so, so good. A revelation.

hummus

 YOTAM OTTOLENGHI AND SAMI TAMIMI’S BASIC HUMMUS

From: http://food52.com/recipes/22888-yotam-ottolenghi-sami-tamimi-s-basic-hummus

Prep time: 12 hours+

Serves: 6

Ingredients

1 ¼ cup dried chickpeas

1 tsp. baking soda

6 ½ cups water

1 cup tahini

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 ½ tablespoons ice cold water

Salt

Good quality olive oil, to serve (optional)

Zatar, as garnish (optional)

  1. The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
  3. Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine sill running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about five minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
  4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving. Optionally, to serve, top with a layer of good quality olive oil. This hummus will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shakshuka: a Middle Eastern Breakfast Delight

Shakshuka is one of those Middle Eastern recipes that is claimed by different ethnic communities across the region. According to Yotam Ottolenghi, the dish was created in Tunisia but was brought to Israel by Jewish communities. However, I’ve also heard that the dish originated in Yemen or Saudi Arabia.

The first time I ate shakshuka was in 2006, in the Sinai peninsula in northern Egypt, where Hani, our Bedouin host, served it for breakfast along with homemade tahini and hummus, pita bread, and guava juice. I loved–and still do–the simplicity and vibrancy of the dish, and its one of my favorite breakfast dishes of all time.

When I eat it, it still brings up memories of the Mars-like landscape of the Sinai peninsula and the simplicity of vacation time. That’s me, sleeping on the beach as the sun rises…

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Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for shakshuka that is different from mine (he uses saffron and other ingredients, which I omitted here), but, at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I find my version simpler and closer to what I remember from my experiences in Egypt.  But really, you can be flexible with what herbs you have on hand. Ottolenghi uses parsley and coriander, which works very well, but I love the combination of basil and coriander too.

I had the pleasure of procuring some beautifully bruised red and yellow peppers at the Farmer’s market today.  Shakshuka is the perfect showcase for them, not to mention a great way to wander back to a serene holiday.

Farmer's market produce
Farmer’s market produce
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Onion half moons frying


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SHAKSHUKA

Serves: 2
Prep and cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 tbsp. olive oil
4 eggs
1 white onion, cut in half moons
½ red pepper and ½ yellow pepper (or just one)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes
Handful of basil
Handful of coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and fry till yellow, about three minutes.
  3. Add the peppers and saute for another three minutes until softened.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cayenne pepper. Mix everything together. Add a tbsp. of water in case the mixture is dry. The texture should be thick and a bit wet – like a chunky pasta sauce. Add half of the coriander leaves and half of the basil leaves to the mixture.
  5. Once the tomatoes have softened, crack four eggs on top of the mixture, being careful not to break the yolks. Add a few grinds of black pepper and a dash of salt. Reduce the heat to low.
  6. Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are no longer wobbly, but the yolk is still runny (about four minutes) on low heat.
  7. Garnish with the remaining coriander and basil. Serve with pita or any good bread. Hummus (homemade if you can do it) is a great accompaniment!