Tag Archives: Cookbook

Havij Polow (Rice with Carrots)

I’ve been very slack lately in cooking in general, but especially in branching out and trying new things.  It is definitely a season when I am leaning towards my comfort foods (tonight for dinner: macaroni and cheese with peas–the way my mom has always made it–and garlic mashed potatoes), and not very excited about dishes that make me think.  However, with a bag of slowly wilting carrots in the refrigerator and and inkling to eat some meat, I pulled this Persian pilaf out of my main cookbook, Ms. Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  (Maybe I never mentioned it before, but when we moved to the Middle East I only brought two cookbooks with me.  Two.  I realized that perhaps this was not normal when I read A Crafty Lass‘s account of paring down her cookbook collection before moving internationally.)  Anyway, this pared with some roasted vegetables was good as a main dish, and could easily be made according to vegan or vegetarian standards.

Havij Polow (serves 6)

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3-1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, coarsely grated or cut into little sticks
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar, or more (optional) (but good, in my opinion)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) (again, you should add this)
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon rose water

Wash the rice in warm water and rinse ina  colander under the cold water tap.

Fry the onion in 2-3 tablespoons of the butter or oil until soft and golden.  Add the grated carrots and saute gently for 10 minutes.  Add sugar and cinnamon and cook 3-4 minutes longer.

Boil the rice in salted water in a alrge (9-10 inch), heavy-bottomed, preferably non-stick saucepan for about 10 minutes, until not quite tender and still a little underdone.  Drain and mix with the remaining butter or oil, keeping aside 2 tablespoons.  Heat the 2 tablespoons butter or oil in the bottom of the pan, then spread alternate layers of rice and sauteed carrots, starting and ending with a layer of rice.  Sprinkle rose water over the top and cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes.  The rose water, a relic of early-medieval times, gives a subtle perfume to the dish.  (Note from me: I always panic at around minute 25 of cooking the rice, thinking that it must be burning, and turn it off then.  Big mistake…the end result is supposed to be a layer of crusty golden rice, but if you remove it from the heat too soon it’s more like greasy golden rice, and not so pleasant to eat.)

Note: for meatballs, season 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (I used beef) with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Mix well and knead until smooth and pasty.  Shape into marble-sized balls and fry in a little oil for about 8-10 minutes, turning them over, until browned all over but still pink and juicy inside.

To serve: Turn the pot of rice upside down onto a platter on top of the meatballs, so that the meatballs are buried.  If you have achieved a good crusty golden layer of rice, that would traditionally be removed and served separately, as a delicacy.  Then the remaining rice and carrots would be stirred together.  (Clearly, I did not follow any of these steps myself.  Just telling you how it’s supposed to be done.)

FIX THIS: ROASTED VEGETABLE MOUSSAKA

I am continuing on in the world of eggplant, although maybe it is no longer eggplant season in America.  Meh.  It seems like it is always eggplant season in the Middle East, so if your world is now devoid of glorious purple orbs, give a little sigh and bookmark for next year any future recipes that seem interesting.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this be a recipe you rush to come next August, although I think it has potential.  It’s from a cookbook called Perfect Mediterranean, one of those little cookbooks that probably has companion versions like Perfect Italian and Perfect Asian.  I think this book concentrates very heavily on the north Mediterranean coast, and this moussaka is definitely closer to the Greek versions than any of the Arab versions I have ever had.

We liked this dish okay but I would make a few changes next time.  My main complaint was that the sauce-to-vegetable ratio was way off; you can see from the pictures the difference between my dish and the cookbook.

In the book...

In my kitchen.

The pieces of vegetable were also annoying large to me, so I’d probably go for chunks rather than slices.  I am going to give you the recipe as is but would suggest doubling the sauce.  I also would add more garlic, because I like garlic, but I would add it to the roasting pan halfway through the process, as leaving it the whole time resulted in burnt garlic.  And I might add potatoes, which are often part of the Arab moussaka, to give it a little more substance.  What would you try to improve this dish?

ROASTED VEGETABLE MOUSSAKA

(from Perfect Mediterranean, Parragon 2008)

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced thickly
  • 2 med. zucchini, sliced thickly
  • 2 onions, cut into small wedges
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped coarsely
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ¼ c. strained plain yoghurt
  • 14 oz. canned chopped tomatoes in juice (I used fresh tomatoes)
  • 2 oz. feta cheese

Put the eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, and garlic in a roasting pan.  Drizzle over the oil, toss together, and then sprinkle over the thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated oven, 425 F/220 C, for 3-35 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the cooking, until golden brown and tender.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and yoghurt and season with salt and pepper.  When the vegetables are cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F/180 C.

Put half the vegetables in a layer in a large ovenproof dish.  Spoon over the tomatoes and their juice, then add the remaining vegetables.  Pour over the yoghurt mixture and crumble over the feta cheese.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown.  Serve hot, warm, or cold.

SWEET-AND-SOUR EGGPLANT SALAD

Here I am, back with yet another recipe that brings together the tasty trio of eggplant, tomatoes and pomegranate molasses.  It is also one of those dishes that, as its name implies, is a Side Dish, but that with just a little help can become a nice light main course.

This is not my own recipe, but is taken from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Rodin.  This cookbook will show up frequently here, as I have only it and one other cookbook.  Really, I prefer to try and learn cooking from my neighbors, but I am thankful for people like Ms. Rodin who have put the time and energy into researching, testing, revising, and finally writing cookbooks.  It must be a very daunting job, particularly when trying to cover a topic as broad as “Middle Eastern Food.”  My own time in this region has shown that the same dish may have six or seven different names, or that one name may be applied to six or seven different dishes.  And let’s not even get started on the babaghanouj vs. mutabbal debate.

SWEET-AND-SOUR EGGPLANT SALAD

  • 1 1/2 lb. eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-5 cloves garlic, chopped (okay, the recipe only calls for 2 cloves of garlic, but I really like garlic and think it’s nice to add more)
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I didn’t peel and it turned out fine for me)
  • 4 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. dried mint
  • 3 Tbsp. wine vinegar OR 2-3 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses (trust me, the pomegranate molasses is the better option here)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • Pepper or a good pinch ground chili pepper to taste

Sprinkle the eggplant cubes with salt and leave in a colander for about 1/2 hour for the juices to drain away.  Then rinse and dry.

Cover the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil.  Fry the onion in this until it is soft and golden.  Add the eggplants, and stir, turning them over, for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir, until it begins to color.  Add the tomatoes, with their juice, the parsley, mint, vinegar/pomegranate molasses, sugar, and pepper/chili pepper.  Cook over very low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the eggplants are soft.  Serve cold.

My notes: This tastes pretty good hot, too.  To turn this into a main course, I add about 1 lb. of cooked chickpeas for the final few minutes of cooking, and I serve the salad over a bed of toasted Arabic bread, which soaks up the delicious sauce.

BULGUR WITH CHEESE AND EGGPLANT

Look! Pictures!

One thing about temporary living is that it makes me hesitant to buy much in the way of food products that are not highly multifunctional or will not be consumed fairly quickly.  I hate throwing things away; when we left The Oldest City in the World (our previous residence) and came to Hillside (our current city), I smuggled along over a dozen plastic baggies of spices, a plastic tub of red lentils, and two partially-used bags of bulgur and semolina.  Oh, and the obvious: tea, coffee, and sugar, because in what are already stressful situations like moving, it is best not to upset the body with unnecessary caffeine withdrawals.

Thus, meals that require few ingredients while still meeting my Ideals of Eating (another post for another day) are key.  This lovely vegetarian dish fits the bill perfectly and is easy to make in large batches.  Below is the recipe, as found in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Ms. Roden, with notes about my modifications and suggestions in italics.

Bulgur with Cheese and Eggplants

  • 1 eggplant, weighing about ¾ pound, cut into 1-inch cubes (If you wanted to up the vegetable intake, I think zucchini and green or red peppers would be nice additions)
  • Salt
  • 1 ½ large onions, sliced
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups coarse-ground bulgur, washed in cold water and drained
  • 3 ¼ cups boiling water or chicken stock
  • Pepper
  • 7-9 ounces halumi cheese, cubed (I couldn’t find halumi, so used kashkaval instead; I think mozzarella would also work fine)

Sprinkle the eggplant generously with salt and leave in a colander for ½ hour to degorge its juices.  Then rinse, and dry with paper towels.

Fry the onions in 2 tablespoons oil till golden.  Add the bulgur and stir.  Pour in the boiling water or stock, season with salt and pepper (I also added about 2 teaspoons allspice), and stir well, then cook on very low heat, with the lid on, for about 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender.

Fry the cubed eggplant briefly in hot oil, turning the cubes so that they are lightly colored all over.  Lift out, and drain on paper towels.   (I am terrible at frying food—see the picture below for what happened to half my eggplant cubes.  If you had a functional oven and didn’t mind the heat, I think roasting would be a satisfactory substitution for cooking the eggplant and whatever other vegetables you might choose to include.)

Stir 4 tablespoons oil into the bulgur.  (I didn’t add any extra oil; I think it would make the dish too greasy.) Add the cheese and the eggplant and gently fold them in.  Heat through with the lid on until the cheese is soft.  Serve very hot.

For dessert?  Something cold, of course, and bonus points if it comes in groovy flowered glasses 🙂

That's a Chocolate Banana Milkshake, if you can't tell.