Baba Ghanouj Salad

Baba Ghanouj SaladThis chunky, fresh-tasting salad comes dangerously close to being a salsa.  It boasts the bright, clean flavors of scallions, citrus, and mint.  This is backed by the smooth and somewhat smoky taste of the broiled eggplant.  The pomegranate reduction adds a unique sharpness to round out the dish and provide even more depth.  This is a really versatile salad that will be right at home with a variety of meat dishes.  In our case, this meat was smoked chicken.

Preparing this dish is going to take a bit of time on your part, because it simply takes time to broil, peel and chop the eggplant.  It is, however, well worth the time investment, as you will end up with a richly flavored side that is really quite special.  Nothing else about this dish is particularly difficult, and after you make it once, you will probably be quite comfortable adjusting the ingredients to customize the flavor.  For example, in the version that we prepare, we use less walnuts and also prefer dried cranberries instead of pomegranate seeds.  Try either the version below or the original that Suzanne Husseini published in her book, Modern Flavors of Arabia.  This is an excellent book if you are interested in exploring this type of cuisine or simply like the blend of flavors represented by this dish…. 

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Lentils with Chilies and Black Pepper

Lentils with Chilis and Black PepperSo, Sunday dinner was coming up and I had a problem on my hands.  We we going to serve a new variety of smoked chicken (Americana), an eggplant salad (Mediterranean), smoked corn on the cob (also Americana), and……something.  So what should that something be?  The amount of food was not an issue.  The eggplant salad seems to cover both the vegetable and side dish categories.  But something else was needed.  Should it be a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern style pilaf or should there be some type of bread represented at the table?  The cruel reality that confronted me was this; if we were going to have bread, I needed something for that bread to do.  In my opinion, bread without purpose is wasted  bread.  Since there was nothing for the bread to do while at the table (and, frankly I was a little tired of rice), I reached for the ever popular paste-of-legume strategy.

It is generally a good idea to have some form of carbohydrate represented at the table.  This can be a potato, a squash, or a yam, but more commonly you see one of the three workhorses at our table; pasta, bread, rice.  They are the purest representatives of family Carb, and are that family’s ambassadors.  But none of these ambassadors can stand alone; they need staff.  … 

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Sateh Pork Steamed with Vegetables and Tofu

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I really, really like this dish.  Stylistically, it falls in the category of marinaded meat steamed together with other stuff; in this case, vegetables and tofu.  It is, essentially, a steamed hot-pot.  Steaming the ingredients together allows the lemongrass and coriander flavors of the sateh pork marinade to subtly flavor the rest of the ingredients.  A drizzle of lime right before serving adds a clean fresh accent to both the pork and the vegetables.  The result is a light, fresh-tasting lunch that is satisfying but not heavy.  One of the things that I love about this dish is that it appears to come together out of thin air; what little prep work there is to do can be done by whoever gets up first to make coffee for the day.  Cleanup is similarly easy.  Just wash whatever bowl you eat out of and rinse the steamer.

It is also very much a social dish and fun to eat.  With each diner armed with a small bowl of rice, an eating bowl, and a pair of chopsticks, there is definitely a competitive element to “sharing” this sort of lunch with someone, as everyone scrabbles to grab the best stuff out of the steamer.  I think that the light, aromatic flavors of the marinade meat and the steamed vegetables, combined with the way you serve it (as a free-for all) conspire to create a relaxed, open and sort of care-free lunch experience that is just plain fun…. 

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Chickpeas Fried with Harissa and Spinach – A Quick Psuedo-Curry

Chickpeas Fried with Harissa and SpinachI made this as part of my lunch today…in less than 5 minutes!  Granted, I had cooked chickpeas on hand and I had a jar of harissa in the refrigerator.  But that does not change the fact that in a very short amount of time, I had a lovely side dish and was eating it.  Think to your own situation.  Is it possible to keep a can of cooked chickpeas on hand, or better yet, get a pressure cooker and keep some handy?  Do you have room in your refrigerator to store a pint jar full of harissa, which will keep well for months.  Would this inconvenience you in any way?  To me, any inconvenience that could come out of these things seems easily offset by having the ability to quickly produce such a tasty thing to eat…. 

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