Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

I just had my wisdom teeth out, so on top of not being so smart anymore, I have to eat soft food. Luckily, I know a few recipes for delicious soft food. The original recipe involves a fried onion topping, which looks wonderful yet chew-intensive. Luckily, lentils and a stick blender yield a gently textured, full flavored product that I’ll happily eat even with teeth.

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/2 t dried thyme)
1/2 t cayenne pepper or ancho chile
1/2 t sweet smoked paprika
3 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
2 T tomato paste
8 c beef stock (vegetable stock makes this vegan!)
salt and pepper to taste (how much salt depends on your stock – taste often)
2 c red lentils
1 lemon, juiced

Pick over your lentils for any unwanted debris. Heat oil to medium high in a soup pot or deep dutch oven. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until soft. Add spices and stir well into vegetables, cooking for a couple of minutes until very fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes, until they begin to break down. Add tomato paste and stir well. Add stock and reduce heat to medium low – soup should not boil. Season with salt and pepper and add the lentils. Simmer 30-40 minutes (reducing heat to low, if necessary), until lentils and vegetables are very soft.

Remove soup from heat and process with immersion blender (or purée in batches in a heat-safe blender) until desired texture is achieved. Remember, it will thicken as it cools. If soup is still too thin, bring it back to a simmer for a few minutes. Check seasoning and stir in lemon juice. Serve with additional wedges of lemon and yogurt.

Middle Eastern Culinary Magic

Got in to Detroit just fine after something like 20 hours of travel, total. Everything went smoothly — even the 1.5 hour delay leaving Newark for the final air stretch wasn’t terrible.

When my sister picked us up at the airport, we got to choose between Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine for dinner out. She lives in Dearborn, so for me the choice was obvious.

We went to Al-Ameer and feasted on Hummus, Baba Ghanouche, Falafel, Fattoush, Grape Leaves, Lamb Shawarma, Chicken Shawarma, Ghallaba, and a new favorite: Hot Sujuk. My mouth is watering just writing these out, because it reminds me that I have leftovers for breakfast.

productive Saturday

Whew. We got a lot done today between 10:15 and 13:45. We’ve got a lot more to do, but so far, this has been a much more productive Saturday than normal. We

  1. got a cup of coffee at Black Bean for on-the-go Genuss.
  2. Thats not me (thanks Amazon)
    That's not me (thanks Amazon)
    checked out a bunch of stuff at MediaMarkt:
    • netbooks while we were there (not that we need one; but they are awfully cute, and could mean we don’t have to schlep our laptop with us to K.C. and Mexico next year)
    • stereo receiver units (been meaning to put my speakers from the U.S. to good use for the last five years or so; our upcoming move might finally make that happen)
    • TVs (ours is OK for now, but it has a mysterious green area which I can’t seem to eliminate – our TV apparently has no degaussing function)
  3. bought a drill, which will come in handy before, during, and after our move, I’m sure.
  4. hit our local favorite Chinaladen for some fresh cilantro, crucial for some falafel experimentation tonight or tomorrow
  5. hit the Edeka in the Galeria Kaufhof basement for some fresh parsley, also for the falafel, but also to pick up some supplies for trying our hand at this sauce, intended for enjoyment with these meatballs.


Time to go cook some more!

Culinary Peace in the Middle East

Yesterday the second and final day of Purim. So we made latkes! We only do this once or twice per year, and this weekend just felt right. The actual holiday of Purim coinciding with our jones was just serendipity.

Monday we’re instructing pals Andrea and Alex and Benjamin (and her parents, and their neighbors) in the fine art of Shawarma. Along with that, we’ll be preparing tabbouleh (they go so nicely together). We seldom take our show on the road, so wish us luck.

Chicken Shawarma

Oh boy, a little bit of Dearborn right here in our German kitchen!

Pita bread
1kg or 2.2 lbs. boneless chicken without skin
1 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Garlic dip:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Rub spices and lemon juice into meat. Marinate 1-2 hours. Arrange meat in 2 layers in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 450 degrees until top is light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Turn chicken and brown other side.

For the garlic dip, mix all that stuff together.

Let chicken cool slightly. Cut in thin strips and return to pan with drippings. Mix well. Spread a piece of warm pita bread with a small amount of garlic dip. Add chopped chicken. Roll into a sandwich.

Tabbouleh

On hot days, we tend to eat salad for dinner – sometimes with something else (pasta, sandwiches, etc), sometimes by itself. It can get a little boring, though. Cliff and I are both fans of Middle-Eastern cuisine, so I decided to try tabbouleh for a change. The appearance of the recipe here means it was a success!

1 c bulgur wheat
3 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 large clove garlic, chopped fine
1/3 c fresh mint, chopped
1 c parsley, chopped
1/3 c lemon juice
1/2 c olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
pinch pepper
pinch cinnamon

1. In a deep bowl, pour 2 cups boiling water over bulgur and do not stir. After 30 minutes, drain bulgur, squeeze out excess water and set aside.

2. Stir tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, garlic, mint and parsley together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Add bulgur to vegetables, add dressing and toss well. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours and toss again before serving.

Spinach and Feta sidedish

I finally did it! Everyone that’s come to visit us has eaten with us at Exil, our favorite restaurant. They serve a fabulous spinach as a side or as a filling for little turkey rolls. I think I’ve finally come close enough to recreating it to post it here. If you don’t like feta, you might be able to substitute yogurt cheese.

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

In a deep skillet over medium-low heat, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil for about 7-9 minutes (or until tender). Don’t burn the garlic! If it starts to brown, turn down the heat.

Next, add the spinach by handfuls. There will be a lot of spinach, but if you only add 2-3 handfuls at a time and cook it with a lid on for 1-2 minutes, it will wilt significantly.

After you’ve added all the spinach and it has all wilted, add the salt, pepper, mace and pepper flakes and stir thoroughly. The spinach will start to give off a fair amount of liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high to cook away the liquid. When you’ve cooked off as much liquid as you choose, stir in the feta and turn off the heat.

Serves 4

Grapeleaves

The Joint

2850 W Maple Rd.
Troy, MI 48084-7001
Phone: +1 248 816 2000

We took Carolyn and Max here on advice from an Iranian colleague of mine in Regensburg (she’s from Troy). She said it would blow La Shish outta the water. I have to disagree. It was good, but it couldn’t topple La Shish down off of the pedestal upon which I have placed it.

We got the Falafel platter for starters and had high hopes after that — it was great. They weren’t shy about the garlic in the dipping sauce, and the pickled beets were a little more…I don’t know “real” looking and tasting than the typical “hi-liters” you get at La Shish. I liked ’em. The bread that came with the meal was good; there were chewy pitas and crispy…um, also pitas, I think, to choose from. I guess I would have preferred the still-warm freshly-baked rolls typical of La Shish, but these were still fine. Even better would have been a creamy garlic paste in which to dunk the bread, but no such luck.

Max (also a connoisseur of Middle Eastern fare) and I thought it fair and balanced to throw Grape Leaves a slow pitch for their first at-bat with us. We both ordered Shawarma with Hummous (he got the chicken, I got the lamb), so there could be an even basis for comparison with La Shish (my fave) and other Middle Eastern restaurants he’s familiar with. I can’t speak for his chicken (imagine though, if I could!), but I thought my lamb was a little on the dry side.

Judgement: pretty good, but La Shish (at least the one in Troy, whose ambience factors in) has got nothing to worry about. Grape Leaves is good (thanks for the recommendation, Mariam), but if I’m in Troy, I’ll go to La Shish next time.

I’m still looking for a contender; Carolyn says she and Max know places in Dearborn even better than La Shish. I say, “show me!”

Lokanta

The Joint

Haaggasse 15
93047 Regensburg

phone: +49 941 200 7151

Cliff

Trying it out tonight for the first time with Steve and Doreen — should be comparable to Exil (we’ll just see about that).

Sarah

If by ‘comparable’ to Exil, Cliff means ‘shares the exact same menu items with slightly different seasoning,’ then he was exactly right. It was ok, but if I want Kurdish cuisine, I’ll stay loyal and go to Exil.

Moroccan Chicken

We had some incredible soup in Avignon at a Moroccan restaurant in the old town. I’ve been trawling the internet ever since for something similar and this finally appeared to fit the bill. It’s not identical, but the flavors are very much in the same family.

8 oz baby carrots
1 1/2 cups uncooked lentils, rinsed well
1 1/2 lbs frozen chicken tenders
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste (I don’t think this is necessary)
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cans chicken broth

Place first three ingredients in crockpot, layering first carrots, then lentils, then chicken. Sprinkle garlic over chicken. Combine dry spices in a bowl, then sprinkle over chicken. Pour broth into crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 1.5 hours, then set on low for 5.5 hours. Serve with couscous.