Wednesday, March 27, 2013


This is a healthy and flavor packed Middle Eastern stew. Cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and cardamom are combined with onions, carrots and garlic. Add some lentils, chickpeas, spinach, and tomatoes and you have a hearty one pot meal in no time.

This weeks Food Matters Project recipe was Dal with Lots of Vegetables. Anita from Cooking Poetry chose our recipe and she made four different Indian dishes! Check out her blog and what she made here.

Mark Bittman's recipe inspired me to make this stew. We loved this!

To see what the other members made this week click here.


Olive oil
1 medium onion
2 large carrots
3-5 large garlic cloves
3 teaspoons each of cardamom and coriander
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon cumin
1 scant teaspoon allspice
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1 ½ cups lentils (brown or yellow preferred)
4-5 cups filtered water
1 28 ounce can of peeled, whole tomatoes
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
14-16 ounces cooked chickpeas (either canned or pre-cooked)
2 cups fresh spinach

Heat olive oil over a low flame in a large soup pot. As the oil heats, peel and chop the onions and carrots.   

 Raise the heat of the pan to medium. Add the onions and carrots and stir well to begin cooking them. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until softened.
 Lower the flame to low. Add the garlic and spices and stir well. When the spices’ aroma begins to bloom (in about 30-60 seconds), remove the pan from heat immediately and turn off the heat. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute more.
 Add the lentils, canned tomatoes, cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and water to the pot. Break up the tomatoes and stir everything together really well.

 Return pot to burner, and bring to a boil. Once stew is boiling, drop the flame down to low and cook for 20-30 minutes more, or until both carrots and lentils are tender.
 Add the pre-cooked chickpeas. (If using canned, be sure to strain the liquid and rinse the chickpeas).
To finish, turn off the flame and add the spinach. The residual heat will wilt the spinach, leaving it a bright green color without overcooking it.

Recipe from West of Persia

Monday, March 18, 2013


What a nice little package this was! Our weekly Food Matters Project recipe was chosen by our newest member Nancy of Funkytown Foodies. Nancy chose Mark Bittman's recipe- Provencal Vegetables and Chicken in Packages. It is a great sounding recipe and you can find it here. I was in the mood for fish and the Alaskan Halibut at the harbor looked fantastic!

Each package contained a piece of halibut, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, thyme, and sliced browned garlic. Right before closing the package you add a pat of butter and some white wine. A quick 10 minute blast in the oven and dinner is on the table. Super healthy, really quick and hardly any clean up! I served it over a bed of Armenian Rice Pilaf.

You can check out what our other members made here.


Four 15" x 15" pieces of foil

4 halibut fillets (6 oz each)
1 TBSP. plus 4 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (I left mine whole)
2 TBSP. capers, drained
8 large kalamata olives, quartered (mine were small so I cut them in half)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 TBSP. dry white wine
4 tsp. unsalted butter
8 fresh thyme springs

Heat oven to 450~.

In a small skillet, warm 1 TBSP. olive oil over medium heat. Saute sliced garlic and pepper flakes until garlic turns golden, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and stir in tomatoes, capers and olives.

Place one piece of halibut in center of each foil square. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture among fish. Top each fillet with 2 TBSP. wine, 1 tsp. butter and 2 thyme sprigs. Fold edges of foil to make a tight package.

Place packages on a large rimmed baking sheet; roast 10 minutes. Slit open with a knife and gently open.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Saturday, March 16, 2013


This salad is in my top five BEST salads ever. While immersing myself into Middle Eastern cuisine I came across this recipe in Jerusalem the Cookbook. The combinations of flavors are amazing. You give onions and dates a quick pickle in white wine vinegar, toast pita pieces with chopped almonds until brown and mix in ground sumac and chile flakes for a little spice. When ready to serve, toss everything together with fresh spinach, a small amount of olive oil, salt, and some lemon juice.

Give this a will be amazed!
You can find ground sumac at any Middle Eastern Market or on-line.

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds
        1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
        1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced 
        3 1/2 oz pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
   2 tablespoons unsalted butter
   2 tablespoons olive oil
   2 small pitas, roughly torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces
   1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
   2 teaspoons sumac
   1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
   5 ounces baby spinach leaves
   2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain away any residual vinegar and discard.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring all of the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.

When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Recipe from Jerusalem a Cookbook

Monday, March 11, 2013


 This week for our Food Matters Project Evi and Sam of Fifth Floor Kitchen chose Mark Bittman's recipe for Brown Rice and Lamb Burgers with Spinach. I decided to give his recipe a Middle Eastern twist and made Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin. These burgers are juicy, flavorful, and the cayenne pepper gives it nice kick. To put these burgers over the top serve them with the Sumac and Sour Cream Sauce. With Middle Eastern cuisine becoming my new passion I have found that sumac is my new "it" spice. Sumac is a decorative bush that grows in the Middle East and parts of Italy. The berries are dried or ground. I'm using the ground which has a tart, lemony flavor. I have used it with hummus, sprinkled on pita and toasted, in salads and in meat dishes. Here it adds a nice sharpness to the sour cream and yogurt sauce.

I served the burgers (made larger than the recipe calls for) with Wheat berries & Swiss chard with pomegranate molasses, and warm lavash.

Turkey & Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion & Cumin

Serves 4 to 6; makes about 18 small burgers

1 pound ground turkey
1 large zucchini, coarsely grated (scant 2 cups total)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large free-range egg
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
about 6 tablespoons sunflower oil, for searing

Sour cream & sumac sauce

1/2 scant cup sour cream
2/3 scant cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the sour cream sauce first by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside or chill until needed. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers except the sunflower oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into about 18 rounded burgers of about 1½ ounces each. 

Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/16-inch thick. Heat over medium heat until hot, then sear the burgers, in batches, on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes, adding oil as needed, until golden brown. 

Carefully transfer the seared burgers to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce spooned over or on the side.

Recipe from Jerusalem the cookbook

Sunday, March 3, 2013


This week our Food Matters Project host was Laura of Chef Laura at Home. Laura chose Mark Bittman's recipe for Lemon-Blueberry Crisp with Pine Nut Topping. This is my second attempt at making a crisp. My first crisp was a Cardamom-Scented Apple Crisp that you can find here. I was surprised at how easy a crisp is to make. This time it was just as easy and just as good. I loved the pine nut topping. It added just the right amount of savory for my taste.

You can see what the other members made here.


4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
4 to 6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup pine nuts
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking dish with a little butter. If you’re using frozen berries, set them in a colander to thaw for a bit while you prepare the crust. Put ¾ cup of the pine nuts in a food processor along with the 4 tablespoons butter and sugar; let the machine run until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture is creamy and fluffy.

2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the whole pine nuts, flour, nutmeg, and salt and stir with a fork until crumbly. (You can make the topping ahead to this point, tightly wrap, and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to several weeks; thaw before proceeding.)

3. Spread the blueberries in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the lemon zest. Crumble the topping over all and press down gently. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is just starting to brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately, or at least while still warm.
Serve with a Tablespoon of good ricotta, mascarpone, ice cream or whipped cream.

Recipe by Mark Bittman

Saturday, March 2, 2013


My exploration of Middle Eastern food continues with these juicy lamb chops with a lemon-herb rub. The chops are served with a tangy cucumber-tahini sauce and a side chopped salad called Fattoush.


Freshly grated zest of 2 lemons
1 TBSP. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 lamb loin chops (1 1/2-1 3/4 pounds total), trimmed
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup diced  seeded cucumber, peeled if desired
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP. chopped fresh parsley
1-3 TBSP. water
2 tsp. extra- virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400~

Combine lemon zest, oregano, 3/4 tsp. salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture onto both sides of the lamb chops and set aside for at least 10 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine tahini, yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Whisk in enough water to thin the sauce to desired consistency.

Heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb chops and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn them over and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted horizontally into a chop registers 135~ for medium-rare, 8 -14 minutes depending on the thickness. 

Serve the chops with the tahini sauce.

Recipe from Eating Well