"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Lentil Stew (Mjeddrah)

    lentil-stew

    Again we have a day of high 50’s to be followed by a freezing night and rain / ice /snow on the morrow. As such I’ll be staying in the city for the weekend and looking to put together some hearty fare to combat the chill and the ills that accompany them. Since I’ve been doing the Mediterranean kick, I’ll take something from that region’s cooler areas. Basically a stew of lentils and other veggies, not dhal, as thick but with many more veggies.

    Background
    Lentils have a short cooking time and a distinctive earthy flavor, used in preparation of inexpensive and nutritious soups and stews all in almost all corners of teh planet. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. A lentil and rice dish is referred to in the Middle East as mujaddara or mejadra, they can be cooked together as khichdi, a popular Indian dish. Lentils are used throughout India, the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East.

    For many vegetarians, lentils have long been part of the diet as a common source of protein. Usually, lentils are boiled to a stew-like consistency with vegetables and then seasoned with a mixture of spices to make many side dishes such as sambar, rasam and dal, which are usually served over rice, or with flatbread.

    To prepare lentils, first one sorts them for damaged lentils, stones and such, rinses them until the water runs through and comes out clear, soak the lentils for an extended time and discard the water. The lentils are then boiled in water or broth. They may be cooked on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Cooked lentils will usually require thinning: adding more hot water or broth to the cooked legumes until the desired final consistency is reached.

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  • Shawarma

    shawarma

    Well the local not-so-mega-mart, had chicken on sale again. I know folks will be THRILLED to no end to hear that, but then again if they want steak every night, they can go buy it. So how do I make it exciting, tasty, appetizing, Maybe a Shawarma… Slow cooked, juicy, flavorful, and not the expected..

    Background
    Shawarma is a Middle Eastern Arabic-style sandwich usually composed of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture of meats. Shawarma is a popular dish and fast-food staple across the Middle East; it has also become popular worldwide. Shawarma is known as guss in Iraq; it is similar to the gyros of Greece. The classic shawarma combination is pita bread, hummus, tomato & cucumber, and of course the shawarma. The additional toppings include tahini and chili sauce.

    Strips of meat or marinated chicken are stacked on a vertical spit with chunks of meat fat make sure that the meat stays juicy and an onion or tomato are placed at the top of the stack to provide flavoring. The meat is then roasted slowly on all sides as the spit rotates in front of or over a flame for a period of several hours. Traditionally a wood fire was used but for modern times, a gas flame is more common. While many specialty restaurants might offer two or more meat selections, some establishments have just one skewer. In this recipe, chicken is used, but beef, lamb, or combination of all three are quite common.

    After cooking, the meat is shaved off the stack with a large knife, made up into a sandwich with pita bread or rolled up in lafa together with vegetables (cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, cabbage) and a dressing (tahini, hummus, chili sauce, flavored with vinegar and spices). In some countries, (Romania, Bulgaria, Jordan, Israel, or the United Arab Emirates), french fries are included in the sandwich

    Shawarma is eaten either as a fast food type dish by itself, with grilled bread, or fresh pita bread, or with other regional foods like Tabouli, Hummus.

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  • Arabic Stuffed / Topped Breads (Aish bel lahm)

    toppedpida

    As previously disclosed, I recently had a simply wonderful dinner in a small arabic / Mid-eastern restaurant. The dinner was an almost endless procession of small plates, each a new taste sensation, each an adventure. One entire group of dishes were stuffed / topped breads. Good toothsome bread, stuffed with meats, veggies, and cheeses. Aish bel lahm

    Background

    The bread in question is similar to a Turkish pide typically has a soft, chewy texture and is pocketless. The pizza-like foods called lahmacun is made with oval-shaped pieces of pide dough that are topped with finely chopped meat and herbs before baking. Pide also refers to another pizza-like food made of pide dough which is topped with different material; there are regional variations in the shape, baking technique, and the topped materials used where it can be said that every region has its own pide. In Levant, this is eaten with dips such as a yogurt cucumber, or with a fresh yogurt cheese.
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  • Yogurt Cheese

    labni-pita

    I was getting ready to do shopping for a BBQ I am planning, and went to check and see if I had space to do some dry aging. What I found was a large collection of opened bottles of mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, olives, cottage cheese, sour cream etc, etc, etc. So up to the fridge with the rolling trashcan and in with it all. All but a couple of containers of Yogurt…

    I’d been to an Arabic / Mid-Eastern restaurant about a month back, (yes this is where the Mid-Eastern kick got started), and had a wonderful little fresh cheese dish. I did a bit of research at the time, and wanted to try and make my own Cheese from Yogurt, (This would seem to be the time..)

    Background
    Strained yogurt or labneh is popular in the Levant and the to the Arabian Peninsula. It is used fresh, and is also aged then formed into balls, sometimes covered with herbs or spices, and stored in olive oil. Labneh, a popular mezze dish and sandwich ingredient, is also a traditional Beduin food. The quality of olive oil topping influences the taste of labneh. Extra virgin olive oil is traditionally used. It is often eaten for breakfast with olive oil, cheese, olives and bread.

    Strained yogurt, yogurt cheese, labneh/labaneh is yogurt which has been strained in a filter, traditionally made of muslin, to remove the whey, giving a soft consistency, while preserving yoghurt’s sour bite. Strained yoghurt is often made from milk which has been enriched. It is used in both savory and sweet dishes, both cooked and raw. The flavor depends largely on the milk used: labneh from cow’s milk has a rather milder flavor. In Lebanon, a type of particularly flavorsome goat labneh is known as Anbariz.

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  • Pongyolas Alma, (Apples in Pajamas)

    friedapples

    While at an associates home, I was served a most interesting “dumpling”. A apple slice / ring , dipped in a batter, fried and then dusted with Cinnamon and Sugar and just a very HINT of Cayenne. The tartness of the apple, with the salt of the dough, the sweet / spiciness of the cinnamon and sugar, all touched off by the kick of the cayenne was a simple but splendid taste sensation. After MUCH discussion, I weaseled out of my host that this was an Israeli dish often served for breakfast. With that bit of information, I knew this could be a new RogueChef Treat. After a good bit of research I find that this is originally a Transylvanian dish named Pongyolas Alma, or Apples in Pajamas.

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  • Saag Paneer

    saagpaneer
    So while at the local kinda, mega-mart, I noticed they had Fresh Spinach on sale. Now that are any number of things I can do with spinach, but in keeping with my latest binge, we’ll go mid-eastern / Indian and do a spicy, very rich, very creamy spinach curry. Perfect to serve with rice or to spread on flat bread.

    Background

    Saag is a Spinach or Mustard Leave based curry dish eaten in India and Pakistan with bread such as roti or naan. Saag can be made from spinach, mustard leaves, or other greens, along with added spices and sometimes other ingredients, commonly “Saag paneer”, which contains a type of cheese known as paneer. Saag is more common in Punjab where it is usually eaten with a flatbread made of corn flour (makki di roti). When made with spinach and paneer, a common name for the dish is “palak paneer”. “Saag gosht” is a version of the dish prepared with lamb. The lamb is usually cooked in a tandoor before being marinated in the other ingredients.

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