Egyptian food

Koshary - Street Food

Why is it that "street food" and "food truck food" are always so intriguing?

Take shwarma, for instance, which I first tasted in Jerusalem many years ago. I absolutely couldn't resist, especially after my daughter Meredith, who had been living in Israel for several months, told me that I would fall in love with this particular dish.

I did. I can still remember that first awesome bite.

I am not tempted by all street food of course. I would never, never try one of those greasy-looking hot dogs that sit in cloudy water with those awful fat globules floating on top. 

But when we traveled to Egypt I was fascinated by this wonderful looking/aromatic dish called koshary. Fortunately Ed and I were on a Nile cruise ship and, just our luck! the chef knew how to make it. 

Lucky us. He prepared the dish for lunch one day and also told me the basic ingredients, which I have worked with several times to try to make koshary that tasted the way we like it.

That's it in the photo. This is a dish that takes some time and has several parts (unlike most of my recipes). But it is worth the effort. 

Koshary! Street food. Food truck food. Meatless Monday food. Vegetarian food. Filling. Fabulous, even when it's reheated.

 

Koshary

 

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 28 ounce can Italian style tomatoes, including liquid, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook briefly. Add the cinnamon stick and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until thick. Remove the cinnamon stick, puree the ingredients (I use a hand blender) and set aside.

 

The Grains:

  • 6 ounces small pasta (elbows, farfalle, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup Basmati rice
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to warm (about 225 degrees). Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook the lentils in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. Combine the rice with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the heat but keep the cover on the pan to keep the rice warm. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside in the oven to keep warm.

 

Final Assembly:

Reheat the tomato sauce. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan used for the onions. Add the cooked macaroni and cook over medium heat without stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom is crispy. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes to crisp the pasta. Remove the pasta to a serving platter. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan. Add the lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes or until lightly crispy. Spoon the lentils on top of the pasta. Top with the rice. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the chickpeas and cook briefly to warm them. Spoon the chick peas over the rice. Spoon the tomato sauce on top. Top with the caramelized onions. 

Makes 8 servings

Egyptian Hummus with Tahini

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What’s the most popular hors d’oeuvre?

I think it has to be hummus. I don’t have any scientific proof but I once counted the kinds of hummus sold at one of my local supermarkets and stopped when I reached 38.

Thirty-eight kinds of hummus? That’s almost as many varieties as potato chips!

Of course there aren’t actually 38 different flavors. There are several brands and some of them are the same flavor, brand to brand — like garlic flavored or spicy, olive, tahini.

But there are also some that I will call post-modern versions because I can’t think of another word for it. Like Sabra’s chipotle or Buffalo style hummus or Tribe’s hummus topped with Cilantro Chimichurri. Wow, that’s what I call fusion cuisine!

Sorry, but when it comes to certain foods, I am a purist. Like with hummus.

In Egypt, hummus is still blessedly kind of pure and simple, so I’ve been eating it every day with breakfast and dinner. It’s basic stuff: pureed chickpeas mixed with spices, olive oil and lots of tahini. Mix it all up in a food processor, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few cooked chickpeas and it’s yummy enough. You don’t need to make it more complex or add any sauce or topping. That way you can actually taste the hummus.

Try this version — it’s easy to make, cheaper than store-bought and you won’t have to make a decision about which of the 38 (or more) flavors to buy.

Egyptian Hummus with Tahini

  • 1 pound can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • pita bread

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Set aside a tablespoon of chickpeas. Place the remaining chickpeas in a food processor with the tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and 1/4 cup of the reserved bean liquid. Process until the ingredients form a smooth puree (turn the machine off and scrape the sides of the work bowl once or twice). If you prefer a thinner hummus, add some more of the bean liquid. Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and the reserved chick peas.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Egyptian Feta Cheese Dip

When in Egypt, eat as the Egyptians do. 
 So I have, as I’ve been here for just under two weeks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. 
 Some of the traditional breakfast food is actually not so different than what I eat at home, which usually is plain yogurt with fresh fruit or dried apricots. There’s lots of yogurt here for breakfast, all plain rather than being mixed with so much stuff that you can’t taste the yogurt. 
 But for breakfast here there’s also hummus, baba ghanoosh, tahini, olive salads and falafel, so I’ve been having a feast. I love all that food, but normally it’s for snack or hors d’oeuvre, not breakfast. This will change my company brunch menu for sure. All of these dishes are ones I can make ahead so there’s no fussing when people are over. 
 Think New Year’s weekend. 
 One of the more interesting breakfast dishes is the variety of feta cheese mixtures. I love feta cheese. But it’s the kind of cheese I crumble into a salad or spinach pie. In Egypt they mash it up and mix it it with lemon juice and olive oil to make it creamy, add some chopped tomatoes, scallions and sometimes parsley or mint and it becomes a spread for pita bread. 
 Terrific breakfast food. Great change from toast and jam. 
 The photo shows the way it’s served: with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped tomatoes. Try it. The recipe is something like this — use amounts of lemon juice and olive oil that suit your fancy and make the feta as creamy as you like. 
 Mash 6-8 ounces of feta cheese with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and about 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Beat until creamy. Add plain yogurt if desired for a creamier consistency. Add 3 chopped scallions, 8-10 chopped cherry tomatoes and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or one tablespoon chopped fresh mint if desired. Mix thoroughly. Serve drizzled with olive oil and chopped tomatoes. Serve with pita bread. Makes 6 servings

When in Egypt, eat as the Egyptians do.

So I have, as I’ve been here for just under two weeks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Some of the traditional breakfast food is actually not so different than what I eat at home, which usually is plain yogurt with fresh fruit or dried apricots. There’s lots of yogurt here for breakfast, all plain rather than being mixed with so much stuff that you can’t taste the yogurt.

But for breakfast here there’s also hummus, baba ghanoosh, tahini, olive salads and falafel, so I’ve been having a feast. I love all that food, but normally it’s for snack or hors d’oeuvre, not breakfast. This will change my company brunch menu for sure. All of these dishes are ones I can make ahead so there’s no fussing when people are over.

Think New Year’s weekend.

One of the more interesting breakfast dishes is the variety of feta cheese mixtures. I love feta cheese. But it’s the kind of cheese I crumble into a salad or spinach pie. In Egypt they mash it up and mix it it with lemon juice and olive oil to make it creamy, add some chopped tomatoes, scallions and sometimes parsley or mint and it becomes a spread for pita bread.

Terrific breakfast food. Great change from toast and jam.

The photo shows the way it’s served: with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped tomatoes. Try it. The recipe is something like this — use amounts of lemon juice and olive oil that suit your fancy and make the feta as creamy as you like.

Mash 6-8 ounces of feta cheese with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and about 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Beat until creamy. Add plain yogurt if desired for a creamier consistency. Add 3 chopped scallions, 8-10 chopped cherry tomatoes and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or one tablespoon chopped fresh mint if desired. Mix thoroughly. Serve drizzled with olive oil and chopped tomatoes. Serve with pita bread. Makes 6 servings