Freekeh to the rescue

Mujadara is a delicious mid-Eastern specialty typically made with rice and lentils and topped with caramelized onions. My mouth was watering thinking about this plus spoonfuls of Raita (here), a yogurt topping seasoned with cumin, green onion, cilantro, and such.

It wasn’t until I began pulling out the lentils and rice that I realized I was completely out of rice! How does that happen?  I debated a run to the store but spotted a bag of cracked freekeh.

cracked freekeh

Well, I reasoned, freekeh is certainly nutritious, it has a lovely nutty flavor and a chewy bite… It might actually be good with lentils.  Why not give it try?

I had the Instant Pot ready to go, so I proceeded pretty much as usual in making mujadara, by first caramelizing the onions and then set them aside. Yum.  I quickly sautéed the aromatics: cumin, allspice, and smoked paprika, added garlic and a dollop of the onions. The freekeh and lentils were tossed in next with water and such, and the pot was set to Hi Pressure for 11 minutes.

Once complete, I decided to let the pot rest with a 7-minute quick release.  I carefully opened the lid, relieved to see that both the lentils and freekeh were cooked. It was a little soupy but it set up as it sat in the pot. I had forgotten to add lemon rind, so I stirred in a spoonful of preserved lemon, which perked it up nicely.

Freekeh and Lentil Mujadara

The very exotic mujadara was ready and waiting when dinner was served 30 minutes later—along with caramelized onions, raita, and more lemon.

I could have stopped there; it needed nothing more. I buckled and added a little tomato for fresh color… and pita bread.

Freekeh & Lentil Mujadara

Ingredients
1 Tbsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, thin sliced lengthwise
½ tsp cumin, ¼ tsp allspice, ½ tsp hot smoked paprika or to taste
1 clove garlic, mash and sliver
1 cup cracked freekeh
½ cup brown lentils
2½ cups water
½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp grated lemon rind or preserved lemon

Instructions

  1. To prepare the caramelized onion, set Instant Pot to Sauté Medium, melt the butter and a drizzle of olive oil. When bubbling, add the sliced onion, a dash of salt and pepper, and stir often with flat a spatula until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Reduce heat to Sauté Low, drizzle in a little olive oil to coat bottom. Add the spices, stirring until aromatic. Stir the garlic into the spice mixture for a minute and then a spoonful of the caramelized onions.
  3. Add the lentils and freekeh, then the water. Increase heat to Sauté High; stir in salt, pepper, bay leaf, and lemon. Seal pot, reset to Hi Pressure for 10-11 minutes. When complete, let stand 7 minutes and carefully release pressure. Open the lid, stir in preserved lemon  if using. It thickens as it sets.
  4. Serve with caramelized onion, fresh lemon, and homemade raita. Serves 4

Soup & Salad in a Bowl

I have been thinking about them for a while now. It’s not that they are complicated or require a lot of effort to make, I just need to be in the right mood.  I suspect I connect them with summer because today we got our first blast of heat, and when it approached the mid 90’s I started rummaging around.

Well, of course I found them!  I had everything needed and proceeded to set up the pressure cooker.  Hot or not.

Yes, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s the crazy green Le Puy lentils that I’m always ranting over.  True characters, those little powerhouses of potassium, iron, and magnesium… with peppery flavor and a firm texture that doesn’t turn to mush.

Earlier, I was in the mood for a soup, but this heat called for something lighter and I waffled toward a salad of some sort.

Lentil soup salad close

That was the answer: an easy lentil soup dotted with vegetables and fresh herbs. This soup is so good, it can be eaten hot, warm, or cold and with the help of the pressure cooker I figured I’d be done in about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I checked on the radish supply, and mine were huge!  This would require Pink Himalayan salt.  Today’s salad would be an arugula blend laced with more fresh herbs from the garden.

Lentil soup_salad long

I’d keep it simple with a perky drizzle of white wine vinaigrette and crumbled blue cheese scattered about.  Soup and salad in a bowl.

By the time I was hungry, the soup had cooled to warm… and that is the way it was: filling, flavorful and toooootally satisfying.

Le Puy Lentil Soup with Herb Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cups dried Le Puy lentils, rinsed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, small chop
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp mixed dried herbs (Herbes de Provence or thyme, rosemary, sage)
  • 1 carrot, chop
  • 1 stalk celery, small chop
  • 2 tomatoes, seed and chop
  • 3 cups beef stock or 2 cups stock plus 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper, fresh ground
  • Fresh herbs: 1/3 cup fresh herbs: parsley, thyme, rosemary, savory, dill, any

Mesclun Herb Salad

  • 2-4 ounces mesclun blend with arugula
  • 1/3 cup fresh herbs:  parsley, thyme, rosemary, savory, dill, any
  • White Wine Vinaigrette
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh herbs, chop
  • Salt and pepper, fresh ground
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 oz crumbled blue cheese

Instructions

  1. In multi-cooker/pressure cooker set to Medium Saute, heat olive oil. Add the shallot and cook briefly, then the garlic.  Once aromatic, add the herbs and stir to combine.  Then the carrot, celery, and tomatoes, toss to combine.
  2. Add the stock, the lentils and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.  Cover, lock lid, set to HI Pressure for 5 minutes.  When complete, turn off and disconnect PC.  Carefully release pressure and open lid.  Adjust seasoning. Serve hot, warm, or chilled.
  3. Prepare the vinaigrette and adjust seasonings.
  4. When ready to serve soup, stir in the fresh herbs. Ladle into soup bowls, top with mixed greens, drizzle with vinaigrette, and sprinkle with fresh herbs and crumbled blue cheese.  Serves 4

Cauliflower Credo

This is one serious blunder.  I can’t believe I forgot to post this incredibly good veggie burger that includes cauliflower.  I know, you must be saying, “No-more-cauliflower!”  If you are looking for an outstanding veggie patty, don’t count this one out.

There are probably more veggie-burger-patty posts on this blog than anything else. It is also true that in each case the latest is always the best.  This one really is!

Hear me out. If you have labored over as many veggie burgers as I have, it’s likely that you have established your own preferences.

Flavor
Personally, I like the falafel flavor range: cumin and other warm spices, plus a little heat all work in this format.  Not so much that it overwhelms other flavors.
Texture
Not too wet or too dry; it must hold its shape. Not too heavy or too light.  We want to be fully satisfied, but not have a bomb to process.
Nutrition
Healthful ingredients are key. A variety of vegetables plus a combination of grains, legumes, pulses and/or beans all help to balance, boost food value, and increase taste, nutrition, and overall interest.

Cauliflower
Yes, the perfect veggie patty must have a lot going for itself, and who would think cauliflower could be such a big player?  My recent cauliflower marathon confirms all of these suspicions.

»  Its assertive yet mild flavor profile works well with the falafel requirement.
»  It has the ability to hold its shape with the right binders.
» It is light, nutritious, and a big team player.

May I present the most outstanding veggie burger… of the day?

Cauliflower-Lentil Veggie Patties

Ingredients
2 cups riced cauliflower, or a partial head of cauliflower
¾ cup dried red lentils, rinsed
½ cup bulgur wheat
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ onion, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup cremini mushrooms chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon coriander
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes
½ cup falafel mix (found in specialty stores or bulk food section)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 beaten egg
1 cup panko, approximate
¼ cup coconut oil for cooking, divided (approximate)

Accompaniments:
Any of all of the following:  grated cheese, tomato, avocado, pickled pepper, yogurt sauce, Sriracha, sprouts, or sautéed kale.

Instructions

  1. To prepare the cauliflower, cut into florets. Cut or pulse in food processor until the size of large rice grains. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the lentils, place in small pot with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft but still holding shape, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Soak the bulgur wheat in 1 cup boiling water with a pinch of salt. Cover and let stand 15 minutes until swelled. Drain.
  4. In medium sauté pan over medium-high, heat the olive oil and add the onion and the thyme, cook to soften, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the mushrooms and garlic, stirring to soften the mushrooms. Add the coriander, a few grinds sea salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté to remove additional liquid, 1-2 minutes longer. Place in bowl of food process.
  6. To sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon coconut oil and then the cauliflower. Season with red pepper flakes and a sprinkling of salt. Cook until cauliflower begins to soften and color 3-4 minutes. Don’t overcook.  Remove to processor bowl.
  7. Pulse all the vegetables, bulgur, and lentils until coarse texture, but not pureed. Place in large mixing bowl. Stir in falafel mix, the lemon juice, and the egg. It should for a loose mass. Cover and let rest 20-30 minutes in fridge.
  8. Stir up to 1 cup panko into the mixing bowl to form a cohesive but not too wet mixture that holds together well. The panko is designed to bind and lighten the mixture, don’t over mix. It will also help with browning.
  9. Divide into 8 portions, shape into patties 3-1/2” x ½” thick, and place on parchment lined pan. Cover and chill 20 minutes longer or up to 1 day.
  10. Over medium, heat skillet with 2-3 teaspoons coconut oil. Cook in 2-3 batches. Cover while cooking the first side, about 5 minutes, until browned and well heated. Turn, add a bit more oil and brown second side, about 4 minutes longer. Cool on rack.
  11. Serve with bun or pita or choice. Top with grated cheese, tomato, avocado, pickled pepper, yogurt sauce, and shredded lettuce or sautéed kale. Yield: 8 patties.

A Lovely Bunch of Radishes

At the market recently a spectacular bunch of radishes caught my eye. They looked so freshly picked and perky—as if they had just been uprooted, given a quick rinse, and perched on the shelf.  These weren’t your typical tired little radishes, they were massive, brilliant globes of color ranging from white to deep magenta.

Easter Egg Radishes
Easter Egg Radishes

Their name, Easter Egg radish suits them well. I wondered, were these all show? Sometimes large varieties concentrate all their energy on producing size and can be bland, perhaps pithy. But, the price was right, so I took a gamble.

I couldn’t wait to head home and try one with a dusting of sea salt. Ah, yes, they were crunchy-crisp and mild—I immediately imagined them in a lentil salad made with firm, gorgeous le puys.

Once the lentils were cooked and cooled, about 30 minutes later, I added a drizzle of dressing and a smattering of fresh herbs, a handful of feta cheese, a little zip of preserved lemon (of course, you have some waiting in the fridge from the posting here), and folded in the chilled radishes.Lentil radish salad(870x1024)

Serve the salad at room temperature or lightly chilled. If made ahead and refrigerated, it will hold 2 to 3 days. It’s filling enough for a lazy light meal or in tandem with chilled shrimp or grilled salmon and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Lentil Radish Salad

Ingredients
2 cups cooked le puy lentils
1 cup sliced radishes, or cut into wedges
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs: any, or a combination of thyme, marjoram, parsley
1 tablespoon capers, or preserved lemon rind, well chopped
Dressing
4 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse 1 cup lentils and simmer in 2 cups water for 20 minutes until soft but still firm; drain and cool. Combine the dressing; whisk or shake well, and set it aside.
In a bowl combine all ingredients, add enough dressing to coat well, and toss lightly. Serve at room temperature or chill.  Serves 4 or more.

Cherishing Chorizo

Recently I had the very good fortune of once again enjoying some of the amazing Spanish chorizo made in Boise, Idaho where there is a very active Basque community.  It had been way too long since my last bonanza, and this was just as good as I remembered!

Try throwing a few of these incredible sausages on the grill, and you will know what I am talking about.  We gorged ourselves silly and could eat no more, yet I still managed to stash a few in the freezer for another day.

cherished chorizo
Cherished Chorizo

Yes, this lean sausage is the stuff that dreams are made of: cured pork predominantly laced with garlic and pimentón―a Spanish paprika that ranges from sweet to hot, and is often smoked. If you enjoy the nuances of smoked flavoring, this luxe seasoning is definitely worth seeking out.  It has endless applications beyond beans, sauces, marinades, salad dressings…it’s even tasty on buttered popcorn.

This past weekend I knew I had another winner on my hands when I decided to whip up a quick soup with kale and garbanzo beans.

Garbanzo, Kale, and Spanish Chorizo Soup
Garbanzo, Kale, and Spanish Chorizo Soup

How lucky was I to have just enough Spanish chorizo in the freezer to elevate this to a world class soup?   All it needed was a dash of pimentón for added depth and a splash of sherry vinegar for brightness.  So simple, so stylish… so good!

Note:  Spanish chorizo should not be confused with the popular Mexican varieties which tend to be softer due to a higher fat content, and flavored with cumin, chilies, and other traditional Mexican spices. Both chorizos are delicious, but they are absolutely nothing alike.

Garbanzo, Kale and Chorizo Soup

Inspired by Cooking Light magazine, September 2010

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz Spanish chorizo, diced
1 carrot, peeled, diced (optional)
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 medium Roma tomato, seeded, chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
14 oz. canned garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water, approximate
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
5-6 cups kale or escarole, chopped

Directions 

  1. Over medium, heat the olive oil in a soup pot; add the onion and  garlic and sauté until aromatic, 3-4 minutes. Add the chorizo, carrot, oregano and smoked paprika and cook 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomato, salt and pepper, the garbanzo beans, chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add additional water as needed for a stew-like consistency.
  3. Just before serving, add the sherry vinegar and the kale or escarole and simmer briefly until wilted.
  4. Adjust seasoning and serve. Yield 4 servings.

Cornbead: thinking out of the box

Cooking in a small kitchen requires ingenuity and resourcefulness: a small space has limited storage and requires tough choices:  like how much heirloom china do you really need?… and severely cutting back on pots, pans, and accessories. It means taking a close look at every day food choices and meal planning―to the point of rating what falls into the category of ‘food staples’.

Such was the case recently when I threw together a lovely le puy lentil soup, replete with carrot and Spanish chorizo. Yes, it was quick to make, but it was also ready and waiting because I had failed to considered what to serve along with the soup. An oops.

I spotted a kid’s size bag of Betty Crocker cornmeal muffin mix… what about that?   And then, there was the remnants of a jar of sauerkraut in the fridge; not a bad addition to counteract the questionable sweetness of the boxed mix… and while at it, I grabbed some plain yogurt for a little more tang and further lighten it. I quickly chopped up a handful of vegetables for color and crunch, added a few sliced olives, and finished it all with a dusting of grated cheddar cheese on top.  Into the oven it went for a quick bake.cornbread

Truth is, it’s hard to screw up these packaged mixes; they are very forgiving. But how do you elevate them beyond mundane? cornbread,lentils 1

The sauerkraut became an undetectable mystery ingredient that blended with the other vegetables, plus it served to ameliorate the mix’s inherent sweetness and create a little more interest and punch.

You could say I was thinking out of the box―and it was definitely ready in a Jiffy.

Cornbread in a Jiffy

1 small box or package cornmeal muffin mix, Betty Crocker or Jiffy
2 tbsp cornmeal, if available
¼ c yogurt plus enough milk or water to equal a generous 1/3 cup
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green onion, trimmed, chopped
1 med jalapeno pepper, seeded, trimmed, chopped
2 tbsp sauerkraut, heaping
12 green olives, sliced
1/3 c cheddar cheese, grated

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray or butter a 7″x5″ (approximate) baking pan or dish.
  2. In a 1 cup measure, place the yogurt and enough milk or water to equal a generous 1/3 cup and blend well; add the egg and olive oil, and combine well.
  3. Place the cornmeal muffin mix and additional cornmeal in a medium mixing bowl.  Gently stir in the yogurt mixture, sauerkraut, green onion, jalapeno pepper, and about 1/2 of the sliced olives, mixing only to moisten but not over blend.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly into prepared baking pan or dish. Top with remaining olive slices and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the top is set and cheese is melted.  Let cool briefly and cut into 6-8 servings.
  5. You could say I was thinking out of the box―and it was definitely ready in a Jiffy.

Garbanzos Galore

Whatever your preference, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, ceci beans, chanas, Indian peas, or bengal grams… they have a long history in world cuisines with credits dating back over 7,500 years as one of the earliest cultivated vegetables. In early antiquity, chickpeas were associated with Venus and revered for medicinal attributes linked to increased sperm and milk production.  The Roman gourmet Apicius offered several recipes for chickpeas.  Culpeper found “chick-pease or cicers” less “windy” and more nourishing than peas.  In 1793 a German writer noted that ground roast chickpeas were considered a suitable coffee substitute.
It’s hard to compete with garbanzos when it comes to nutrition, they are a good source of zinc, folate, and protein.  They are very high in dietary fiber and a good source of carbohydrates for those with insulin sensitivity or diabetes. Chickpeas are low in fat, mostly polyunsaturated, and are also an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in energy production and in antioxidant defense.  Garbanzos provide dietary calcium with some claims of content at about the same level as yogurt and close to milk.
 I enjoy their nuttiness, their slight crunch, and the extra dimension they provide, but I’m a little late to the game when it comes to appreciating the full capabilities of these mighty legumes.  In my pantry there’s always a can on the ready for when I’m craving hummus, or need a quick addition to a salad, soup, or stew.  Admittedly, since I have always relied on the convenience of canned varieties it never occurred to me that I could actually cook my own from the dried state. It seemed like a lot of work for one can’s worth. 
But, thanks to the arrival of my new pressure cooker the world looks different these days, and life has morphed into a garbanzo bean bonanza.  I’ve discovered that given a night of pre-soaking, it only takes about 10 minutes before I am totally surrounded by a full pot of these lovelies.  Instead of cans, my freezer is now stocked with quart bags filled with cooked ceci beans. 
Released from this unnecessary stinginess, I plan to take full advantage of my new store of frozen garbanzos. Beyond the obvious, there will be more tajines, curries, and stews, probably more exotic veggie burgers, I’ll even spice some up for snacking; and maybe I’ll find a good falafel recipe that uses cooked chickpeas instead of its flour. 
Here’s an idea expanded from Spicy Garbanzo Burritos, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper at Splendid Table.  Tacos and burritos fixings are a standard in my kitchen, and this offers a ton of options for quick meals. The flavors are reminiscent of the Mediterranean, yet melded with Latin touches a dynamic partnership is formed.  I have included chicken here (because I had one cooked breast on hand), but it is optional; the satisfying garbanzo beans can easily stand alone.      
Spicy Garbanzo Bean Burritos with Yogurt Sauce
Inspired by a recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Splendid Table early newsletter.

1  tbsp olive oil
½  red onion, sliced
1 poblano or other green or red pepper, seed and slice

1 large clove garlic, mince
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½  tsp. oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drain
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup stock or water, as needed

4 large wheat tortillas, warmed

1 cooked chicken breast, shredded (optional)
1 cup feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
Arugula or other greens, approx. 16 leaves or so
fresh oregano for garnish

Yogurt Sauce
1 ½ cups plain yogurt

2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seed, chop
2 tbsp cilantro,  chop
1 small clove garlic, mince
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and toss to soften, then add the pepper and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic, the cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika and sauté to blend flavors.   Add the garbanzo beans and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and adding liquid to moisten if it becomes dry; season with salt and pepper.
For sauce: combine ingredients and set aside. 
To assemble:  Warm tortillas and spread each with sauce and top with a few leaves of arugula.  Add a dollop more of sauce and top with chicken if using.  Cover with garbanzo mixture and top with feta.  Sprinkle with fresh oregano. Roll up the tortillas and serve. Pass the hot sauce.  Serves 4