Tag Archives: Hot

CAN I CALL THIS SALAD?

We returned from our trip Over The River yesterday evening, so dinner last night and tonight necessitated quick and easy as well as minimal ingredients, as I’ve yet to go to market.  Fortunately (kind of)* I have a small stock of various canned, dry and frozen goods and had left some zucchini in the refrigerator while we travelled, hoping it would stay good.  And it did, because this refrigerator is golden and takes care of its contents.

So I pulled out the rice and the frozen molokheyya.  (Molokheyya post forthcoming; you’re in for a treat with that one!)  But it didn’t seem colorful enough to be the entire meal, and lacked any protein.  Also, although the weather is cooling down, it’s still too hot to eat only hot foods.  The answer?  A simple mix, semi-inspired by the results of a Google search for “white beans corn zucchini” and using the standard Mediterranean/Middle Eastern yoghurt salad as a dressing.

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited when I first tasted the beans and vegetables together, but once that yoghurt dressing was drizzled on, this salad was transformed into something summery and zingy and well worth the little effort it required.

White Bean, Corn and Zucchini Salad

  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 can corn, drained (or about 1 1/2 c. fresh corn, barely boiled/steamed until tender, if you’re so lucky to have it!)
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 very small onion, diced
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • big pinch of mint and salt

Mix beans and vegetables.

Mix yoghurt, garlic, mint and salt.  Drizzle over vegetables.

See, isn’t that easy?  And so many things you can add or substitute…black beans instead of white, red or green bell peppers, cilantro instead of mint, tomatoes…

*I have ambivalent feelings about canned and frozen foods.  Generally they are more expensive than their fresh counterparts, and I wonder about the preservatives, loss of nutrients over time, and the environmental impact of transporting food around the world.  (For instance, the can of corn I used tonight came from Thailand; I wonder what its carbon footprint would be.)  But sometimes convenience wins.

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WHAT WE EAT WHEN I AM LAZY

There is a particular dish I make on the days when I don’t really want to cook but think that smoothies just won’t cut it.  Fortunately, Hungry Husband is fond of it and I can easily make enough to last us two, sometimes even three, days.  There’s no particular name for this, as far as I know, and although the original recipe (which I use primarily for inspiration) comes from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, no specific country or location is attributed as the source.  My neighbors here do not know it and tend to wrinkle up their noses when I describe it to them.

Noodles with Lentils and Tomatoes (my recipe)

  • 1 c. brown lentils
  • 3 or 4 big handfuls of smallish macaroni, like elbow or corkscrew
  • 1 lb.  (or more, if you like) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 large onions, quartered and sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, mashed
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • A big pinch of dried mint

I get the lentils cleaned and boiling first, adding enough water to the pan for the lentils and the macaroni.  The lentils usually need about 30 minutes or so until they reach a tender-ish stage, at which point I add the macaroni, stir well and leave to simmer until lentils and macaroni are both cooked.  Strain the cooking water off and leave them in the pot.

While the lentils are going, I get my onions frying.  Sometimes I like to caramelize the onions by putting them in a frying pan with a decent glug of oil, covering the pan, and leaving them over low heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Then I turn the heat up to high and stir constantly, never taking my eyes off the onions because it only takes about 3 seconds for them to go from brown to burnt.  When they are nearly perfect, I throw in my garlic and stir, then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, and mint, and stir very well.  I let it cook for just two or three minutes, until everything is heated through.  Add it to the lentil and macaroni mixture, stir well, and eat.  Or wait, because it is surprisingly tasty when eaten cold as well, making it a prime leftover meal.

DESSERT: THE MOST IMPORTANT FOOD GROUP

As the heat continues (highs remaining above 100 for the next week) I am struggling to find ways to keep us eating.  Since it started heating up in April, Hungry Husband and I have both lost substantial amounts of weight, and although neither of us are sickly skinny I am trying to find ways to put light, tasty, and high-calorie foods in our diet.

So, I bake.  Having the oven on for an hour is…mmm…not so pleasant, but the resulting cakes and cobblers are tasty and easy to eat whenever we want a little something something.  For some reason I bought a kilo of green apples last week, and after trying to eat one I discovered it was too sour for me to eat on its own, making the remainders prime candidates for a pie or cobbler.

And this little treat is what we’ve been eating for the past few days.  The first time I made it, I grated the apples in my nifty food processor, a little gadget that I have wanted for a long time and have loved using these past few weeks.  I’ve got another in the oven right now, but I chopped the apples by hand instead of grating them.  We’ll see if one way is preferable over the other.

APPLE SPICE CAKE

  • 2 apples, peeled (I didn’t do this) and chopped or grated
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 125 g. melted butter (I didn’t melt the butter, either)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. mixed spice

Combine all ingredients, and bake for 40 minutes at 350 F.  After you take it from the oven, brush the top with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

TABBOULEH: FANCY FOOD?

It is impossible to do a blog prominently featuring Arabic food without an entry on tabbouleh, particularly in summer, when the never-ending heat waves make light, cold food a thing of comfort.  Unfortunately for me, tabbouleh as it is commonly eaten these days—heavy on the leaves, light on the bulgur—contains a lot of parsley, which I consider to be a blight in the world of greens.

My first memories of parsley center around trips to fancy restaurants like Denny’s and IHOP.  In my family, eating out was a real rarity, usually reserved for birthdays, when we were treated to Happy Meals at McDonald’s.  Dining at sit-down restaurants did not happen—with four kids, there was the cost to consider, although I suspect it was less about the money than the potential stress and embarrassment to my parents of trying to keep us all from fighting and crawling under the table.  Still, we did occasionally have “formal” meals, and for some reason they always came with a perky sprig of parsley precariously perched on the edge of the plate, or sticking up from the top of my sandwich like a miniature tree.  This being the era of starving Ethiopian children, I was well accustomed to the idea of eating everything on my plate and being grateful for it, but parsley…well, it was flavorless and often had a weird twiggy texture that completely put me off.

Since then, parsley has been in my very small category of inedible things, the garnish of sloppy chefs.  So when it comes to tabbouleh, which is about ¾ chopped parsley, I am saved only by the fact that everything else in the salad has a lot of flavor and provides some texture.  Truth be told, I like tabbouleh as long as I don’t think about its origins while I’m eating it.  I try to console myself with the fact that parsley is pretty healthy; at least, the women here are always telling me how “beneficial” it is, and a quick Google search praises parsley as  “hormone balancing,” “immune-enhancing,” and “a tonic for the blood vessels,” not to mention that it includes actual vitamins and minerals.  Not too shabby; perhaps high schools should consider including in their cafeteria menus…

So, I eat tabbouleh.  Here’s a basic recipe, although if you’re interested in something a little less traditional, check out Taste of Beirut for a variety of more exotic interpretations.

TABBOULEH

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fine- or medium-ground bulgur

Juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste

4 firm ripe tomatoes, diced

Salt and pepper

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cups flat-leaf parsley (I think it’s often called “Italian parsley” in America), very finely chopped by hand*

2/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint

1-2 small diced cucumbers (optional, I like to add them)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bibb lettuce or Romaine hearts (to be used instead of utensils)

Soak the bulgur in lots of fresh cold water for 10 minutes.  Rinse in a colander and press the excess water out, then put the bulgur in a bowl with the lemon juice and tomatoes to soak for 30 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients (except lettuce) and mix gently.  A traditional way of eating tabbouleh is to scoop it up with lettuce leaves.

*It’s important to do the parsley and mint by hand, with a very sharp knife, so that you don’t wind up with bruised leaves.  I tried it once in my food processor, which admittedly is not top-of-the-line, and ended up with a very unsatisfactory mess of smashed leaves.