vegan

Matbucha

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Spring has sprung and for me, that means more salad.

So I got to thinking about that word salad, which I realize means so many things that I was never able to fit all of my salad recipes into a file folder simply marked “salad.” I had to sub-categorize them into files such as “grain salads,” “tomato salads,” “fruit salads” and so on.

Over the years I’ve made salads of all sorts. Some based mostly on greens and some that had no greens at all.

I’ve made beet salads, dinner salads, fish salads and quinoa salads.

I could go on. But really, there is no one way to describe “salad,” even though a dictionary might say something like “a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables served with dressing.”

No.

Because recently I prepared some Matbucha, which is in an entirely different salad category.

Matbucha is a “salade cuit” — that is, “cooked salad.” In fact the word Matbucha, is an Arabic word that means “cooked salad".”

Cooked salad may seem odd to Western thinking except for the fact that most of us actually eat lots of cooked salads, such as potato salad and egg salad too. We just don’t think of them as “cooked salads,” but that’s what they are.

Matbucha is a Moroccan dish, especially popular in the Moroccan Jewish community, which was once large and thriving in North Africa. When good numbers of Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel, they brought their love of this dish with them and it is now wildly popular in Israel too.

For good reason: Matbucha is vibrantly tasty, easy to cook and is ideal for Shabbat because, even though it’s cooked, you can serve it at room temperature. Use it as a salad course or as a side dish with dinner. I’ve always served it with hors d’oeuvre, as a topping for crackers or pita wedges (it works well with other Middle Eastern nibbles and dips such as hummus, raheb, baba ghanoush and so on).

You can make Matbucha 3-4 days ahead. That’s handy isn’t it?

Matbucha

  • 2 large red bell peppers

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat, and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the peppers, serrano pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

 Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

 

Barley with Carrots, Raisins and Almonds

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For me, the appeal of winter foods is their ability make me feel warm and well-nourished. I don’t expect them to be gorgeous. When I look at dishes such as beef stew or a beloved chicken-and-soup, I don’t see art, I see safety and memory and the expectation of comfort.

This is why, when winter comes, I look for side dishes or desserts or an appetizer that can provide some color or add some beauty to the entree or the meal.

This barley casserole fits the bill. It’s a substantial side dish that works with meat, fish and poultry, with stews and hearty winter casseroles and for vegetarian meals too. It’s colorful and makes for an attractive addition to a winter dinner.

Barley with Carrots, Raisins and Almonds

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2-3 carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick

  • 3-4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 cup pearled barley

  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable stock

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and scallions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the barley and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the stock and add the salt, pepper and thyme. Stir, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 50 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the raisins and almonds and toss gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Cover the pan and let rest for 5 minutes. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

 

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

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When I was a kid my mother sometimes made macaroni-and-cheese using somewhat older, hard-around-the-edges American cheese that didn’t look fit to eat. I thought it was appalling.

But she told me that these cheese wasn’t spoiled, just hard because maybe it wasn’t wrapped quite so well, and that in any event she would never make any dish for us using an ingredient that could be harmful.

Of course.

And also, why waste perfectly good cheese that’s going to melt anyway. So if it isn’t perfect to eat cold, as is, it is perfectly fine for macaroni and cheese.

And it was. She made delicious macaroni and cheese.

My children are appalled if I use an ingredient that’s past its sell-by/expiration date. I feel the same way my mother did. I would never use an ingredient that is spoiled or harmful. But some of those expiration dates are meant more as a “use them soon because the flavor or texture won’t be perfect” than “do not eat this EVER!”

So recently, I noticed that in addition to some fresh bananas turned black-spotty, my snack packages of applesauce were a month beyond their expiration date. Rather than give the applesauce to my grandkids and have my daughters feel appalled, I used it in chocolate cake, in the place of eggs.

Not only was I able to use up a perfectly good ingredient, the cake was delicious and also a good vegan choice.

So there.

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 medium ripe bananas

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup apple juice (or orange juice)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8”x8” cake pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set the flour mixture aside. Mash the bananas and place them in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer and bowl). Add the sugar and mix at medium speed for a minute, or until well blended. Add the applesauce, juice, vanilla extract and melted chocolate and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until throughly blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 servings

Grilled Corn Salad

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Now's about the time of year when local corn is at its best. So of course, while corn-on-the-cob is always a good bet, there are reasons to cut the kernels off the cob too:

  • your child or grandchild wears braces
  • your parent or grandparent wears dentures
  • you hate the mess and fussiness of eating corn-on-the-cob
  • you've had your fill of corn-on-the-cob
  • you want a pretty dish to go with whatever else you're serving

Here's what to do: salad. Like this easy one:

Grilled Corn Salad

  • 2 cups grilled or otherwise cooked corn kernels (about 2 large ears of corn)*
  • 1 cup cut up grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chili pepper, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, thyme and chili pepper, if used, in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the olive oil and toss the ingredients to coat them with the oil. Pour in the wine vinegar and toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

*You can also use raw corn kernels

Makes 4-6 servings

Tahini Turmeric and Mjadra

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I have made mjadra (mujadara) so often I can't even count the ways. It's a family favorite that I serve on special occasions (the #1 item at my Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast), at somber times (the Nine Days), for holidays (my Thanksgiving vegetarian entree) and sometimes just for any old meatless meal. 

I've made mujadara using bulgur wheat and brown rice, barley and kaniwa

But I never made it with wild rice or with white rice. In fact, I hadn't even thought about that possibility until I got Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox's new cookbook: tahini & turmeric; 101 Middle Eastern Classics Made Irresistibly Vegan.

This is one gorgeous book, stuffed with recipes that anyone who loves good food, or who is kosher or a vegetarian or even a hearty carnivore and even a vegan-skeptic would find -- yes -- irresistible.

There were (still are) so many recipes I want to try. I've followed Vicky and Ruth's blog for years and have cooked many of the dishes in their posts, every one of them a winner.

But when I saw the recipe for Mjadra, I knew that had to be the first from the book.

It was as delicious as any version of this dish I have ever tried. The addition of pomegranate molasses to the onions gave the dish a faint, lush tang. The authors suggest one of two sauces to accompany the grains. I prepared the (vegan) Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (which is also paired in the book with Zucchini Fritters -- a delicious-sounding recipe that I will try next to see how the taste compares with my own, non-vegan version).

Every recipe sounds and looks tempting. Over the summer I will try my hand at the Tangy Roasted Carrot Hummus -- a quick and easy hors d'oeuvre for the company I am sure to have. And because I love all versions of Shakshuka, I will definitely try the interesting Chickpea and Pepper Shashuka -- with rounds of polenta taking the place of the traditional eggs! (It's the recipe on the book cover.) Before the High Holidays I am going to try the spectacular-sounding Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranate. 

I could go on and on. I rarely post about cookbooks, but this one is special, and comes in handy particularly this week, when the Nine Days begin and observant Jews will be eating meatless meals. 

Good luck with the book Vicky and Ruth!

WILD RICE MJADRA

Our take on this classic Middle Eastern dish incorporates wild rice and sautéed on-ions, as opposed to fried, for a healthier version. We also cook the rice, lentils, and onions separately, and then mix them together right before serving. This is a fool-proof method to prevent the mjadra from becoming mushy.

Traditionally, this dish is served topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce, which we made using nondairy yogurt (see Zucchini Fritters with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, page 26). While we were growing up, our dad always ate it with his favorite Spicy Israeli Salsa (page 62), made with freshly picked tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden.

Store in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

WILD RICE:

½ cup uncooked wild rice

½ teaspoon salt

LENTILS:

1 cup dried French green lentils,

picked over and rinsed well

½ teaspoon salt

WHITE RICE:

1 cup uncooked basmati rice

1 teaspoon salt

SAUTÉED ONIONS:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

            (see page 132 for homemade)

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (page 26) or Spicy Israeli Salsa (page 62), to serve

Prepare the wild rice: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over high heat. Add the wild rice and salt. Bring again to a boil, lower the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat, drain well, and set aside.

Prepare the lentils: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the lentils and salt. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Remove from the heat, drain well, and set aside.

Prepare the basmati rice: In a medium-size saucepan, bring 1½ cups of water to a boil in a separate medium-size saucepan over high heat. Add the basmati rice and salt. Return to a boil, lower the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered.

Prepare the onion: Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Add the sliced onion, salt, and pepper, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. Add the pomegranate molasses and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until the onion turns dark golden brown.

Assemble the mjadra: Combine the cooked wild and basmati rice, the cooked lentils, and the onion in a large bowl, and toss well. Serve warm, topped with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce or Spicy Israeli Salsa.

Referenced recipes:

CUCUMBER YOGURT SAUCE:

½ cup plain unsweetened coconut or CASHEW YOGURT

1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice

SPICY ISRAELI SALSA:

1 pound assorted colored tomatoes, diced small

5 to 6 Persian cucumbers, diced small

2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, diced small

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

HOMEMADE POMEGRANATE MOLASSES:

6 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a low boil and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours, or until the liquid has reduced to about one third. Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t overflow.

Remove from the heat, let cool, and transfer to a glass jar with a tight lid. The molasses will thicken once cooled.

Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.


Excerpted from Tahini and Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Ruth Fox and Vicky Cohen. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.