Toast slathered with butter. Couscous porridge with butter and whole fat milk. Potatoes mashed with butter, whole fat milk, and an entire head of garlic.
See a theme here? For me, winter is all about fat and carbohydrates. I have no qualms confessing that my diet is highly influenced by the season; I know I’m not alone here. Most of humanity begins thinking this way as evening falls earlier and earlier and we all huddle about wondering how to survive another long, cold winter. We may not be able to hibernate for the entire three or four months, but we can sure eat like we’re preparing to!
Tonight I made a cheesy potato-corn-white bean chowder. It started out with onion cooked in a large chunk of butter until translucent, then a few minced cloves of garlic, two smallish diced potatoes, and about 2 1/2 cups each chicken broth and fully fat and wonderful milk, brought to a boil and simmered gently. Oh, it smelled heavenly! Once the potatoes were tender I added one (drained) can each of corn and white beans, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and some cubed cheese, maybe 1/3 cup, which led to the only slightly disappointing part of the whole shebang. In my extreme cheapness, I had forsaken the real cheese and bought processed cheese. I was thinking Velveeta; what I got instead was a sticky white brick that refused to melt even when cut into very small pieces, meaning that instead of a consistently gooey cheesy broth, I ended up with a milky broth with bursts of cheesy(ish) goodness.
(That’s all the recipe you’re getting for this. It’s so very simple. And soup is really something that was made for adaptation and improvisation, so you can take this idea and recreate it yourself in whatever manner works for you. I would suggest better cheese, though!)
And I ate it out of a mug, because it is a well known fact that soup (umm, or chowder, whatever the difference may be) always tastes best when eaten out of either a mug or a bread bowl. Bread bowls being in short supply round these parts, I happily grasped my mug in both hands (giving the additional benefit of warm to my chilly little fingers) and soaked up my leftover broth with a warm wheat roll. (And no, I did not butter the roll. But I did consider it…)
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Tagged American, Butter, Cheese, Chowder, Cooking, Corn, Eating, Legumes, One-pot, Onions, Potato, Recipe, Soup, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Winter
I am happy to report that after what seemed like a very long, hot summer, I am sleeping under a blanket once again, enjoying the feel of my cold nose peeking out above the covers. After all, it gets down to 72/73F in my bedroom at night—chilly! But apparently the real cold is yet to come; yesterday the neighbors were admonishing me that we need to hurry and buy a heater, because the temperature will start dropping fast and before I know it, there will be rain and even snow. Life in non-insulated buildings with drafty windows can become very difficult in winter for those of us who are most sensitive to the cold.
One way of dealing with this? Spend a lot of time in the kitchen, preferably concocting things full of spices and butter and meltingly soft vegetables. Today I wandered around the market gathering things that may not be at the height of their growth season right now, but are definitely appropriate according to my internal sense of what to be eating in autumn. This evening, as Maghrib (sundown) happened just before 6:00 p.m., I was at the stove putting together one of my favorite fall dishes, a Moroccan-style vegetable tagine. (I have no idea where I got this recipe…I found it somewhere on the internet three or four years ago. My apologies to its creator.) It is fragrant and sweet and savory and full of nutrition and makes me feel like I have a warm blanket of happiness wrapped around my internal organs.
MOROCCAN VEGETABLE TAGINE
(makes 4 large servings or 6 small)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tsp. turmeric
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 c. water
- 1 lb. pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 14 oz. cooked chickpeas
- 2 tsp. harissa (I used 1 ½ tsp. Sriracha instead)
- ¾ c. raisins, dried cherries or dried chopped dates
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat oil and add the onions. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes or until aromatic.
Add the carrots and water, stir well, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin/squash, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, harissa, raisins, and honey; cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with couscous.
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Tagged Arab, Autumn, Chickpeas, Cooking, Couscous, Grains, Legumes, Middle Eastern Food, One-pot, Onions, Pumpkin, Recipe, Spices, Sweet Potatoes, Tagine, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian
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
- 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.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Arab, Cookbook, Cooking, Eggplant, Legumes, Middle Eastern Food, One-pot, Onions, Pomegranate Molasses, Recipe, Salad, Tomatoes, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian
Here we run into a problem of cultural clashes about what constitutes an entire meal. In Syria, Okra in Olive Oil with bread and pickles on the side is an entire meal. And although this is a dish that I like very, very much, my American side protests that one vegetable, bread and pickles is completely unsatisfactory, both nutritionally and for my taste buds, which are accustomed to more variety. So I tend to serve this as a side dish–a BIG side dish, but a side dish nonetheless. Maybe more of a partner dish, which makes it sound more equal in the meal. Regardless, this is a simple and tasty dish and as long as you can find small enough okra, you don’t have to worry about the sliminess factor.
OKRA IN OLIVE OIL
- 1/2 lb./250 g. okra (tops removed if you use fresh okra)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. coriander (dried) or 3 Tbsp. cilantro/coriander (fresh)
- Salt to taste
In a large, heavy pan heat the oil. Add the onion and cook until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the okra and stir well. If you’re using fresh okra, you may need to add a small amount of water. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or so, until okra is almost done. Add the coriander/cilantro and salt; cover and cook another 5 minutes.
This dish can be eaten hot or cold, and is traditionally served with Arabic flat bread and cucumber pickles.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Arab, Cooking, Middle Eastern Food, Okra, One-pot, Onions, Recipe, Tomatoes, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian