Tangy Rice Pot with Chicken and Green Beans

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Let’s talk about sumac. In the US, it’s not a very common ingredient. I’m going to be 100% honest with you, internet… When I first saw a recipe with sumac as an ingredient, I immediately though about poison sumac, the third in the itchy trifecta of poisons ivy, oak, and sumac. Why would anyone want to eat that?? No one wants to and turns out, no one is. Looking into it, I learned that the sumac spice is made of ground Rhus coriaria berries, one of several dozen of plants in that genus. Poison sumac on the other hand is officially Toxicodendron vernix, but it used to be known as Rhus vernix! Hence the colloquial name that matches the other sumacs.

I came to realize that I’ve had sumac many times before, in restaurants and in pre-made spices mixes like za’atar. I just didn’t know what it was! When we started cooking more Turkish dishes since we started this blog, the lack of sumac in my spice cabinet became more noticeable. {Check out our sumac tag for other recipes we’ve made featuring this spice!} It took us a little while to find some, but check out your nearest Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocer. Now that I’m an experienced sumac consumer, I want to put it on everything! I mean seriously, I have no idea why this spice hasn’t crossed over into mainstream American kitchens yet… It is delicious and can add such a unique flavor to many different dishes. I made up this dinner around the leftover lemon I had in the fridge from making Lemon-Lime Ricotta Cookies, and I thought I’d combine tang with tang and add the sumac. It worked well without being too sour or overpowering. It’s a perfect one pot dish for a weeknight, with fairly minimal hands-on cooking time.

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Tangy Rice Pot with Chicken & Green Beans

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp+ neutral oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup rice, uncooked
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (~3 tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ~1lb fresh green beans, snapped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Select a saute pan with tall sizes (alternatively, a dutch oven would work). Heat the oil over medium.
  2. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with salt & pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan. Cook for just 3-4 minutes, reducing the translucency, and then remove to the side. (The chicken will not be cooked all the way at this point.)
  3. Add a bit more oil if needed, then cook the garlic and onions. Season with some more pepper. Cook until fragrant and softened, ~5 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the rice, stock, spices, and lemon juice. Stir. Make sure rice is submerged in the liquid.
  5. Top with the green beans, pushing them down into the liquid gently. The green beans do not have to be completely submerged.
  6. Bring to a boil and then immediately lower heat to low. Cover, ensuring that the liquid is only lightly simmering.
  7. Cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Roughly halfway through, stir and then re-cover.
  8. Watch closely towards the end. Depending on your variety of rice, you may need a little more liquid or a little more or less cooking time.
  9. Season with additional salt as need. Ours definitely needed it, but we also used salt-free chicken stock.
Serves 4.
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Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

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Happy first day of spring! Or if you’re of Persian descent, Happy Nowruz! Nowruz literally translates to “new day” and is the name for the Persian new year, which occurs on the vernal (spring) equinox. The holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and is a holy day from the Zoroastrian tradition, though it is a completely secular celebration for most, especially in the modern day. It has been a long-standing national holiday in Iran and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Caucasian and central Asian countries have declared it a national holiday for themselves as well. The holiday welcomes spring with a variety of traditions. Spring cleaning, visiting friends and family, a Santa Claus-like figure called Amu Nowruz with gifts for children, an elaborate table setting called haft seen, other festive decorations, and of course, eating are all parts of the traditional celebration.

This soup isn’t a traditional Nowruz dish, but most of those gorgeous dinners and sweets involve a little more time than we have on this weekday evening! Actually, I’ve found several variations of my source recipe around the internet – apparently they’re attempts to copycat a beloved soup at a Persian restaurant in Chicago called Reza’s. So we’ll consider this soup a stepping stone towards a real Nowruz celebration one of these years coming up! (I really wanted to make ash-e reshteh, but didn’t have all of the ingredients. It seemed like a cop out to fudge on the ingredients of the traditional Nowruz first night soup, so we bailed on that idea. Maybe next year!) We made another lentil soup recently (Turkish Red Lentil Soup), and while there are some similarities to this one, the flavors end being totally different! This soup is hearty and filling (thanks lentils!), but seems like a perfect welcome to spring with its bright and tangy flavors. Consider it the perfect culinary bridge between winter (warm, hearty) and spring (bright flavors)!

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Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes (or a 15oz can crushed tomatoes)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp (+) sumac
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: yogurt, feta cheese, lime wedges
Instructions:
  1. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Season with pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes, chop quarter them and blitz them in a food processor. Then add the tomatoes, along with the stock, herbs, and spices (except for the fresh parsley).
  3. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes.
  4. Now add the lentils and return to a simmer for another 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked.
  5. Add the chopped parsley and cook for just another few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Serve with additional sumac, parsley, or a squeeze of lime on top if you like. A dollop of yogurt or a few chunks of feta would also be delicious!
Serves 4 as an entree; ~6-8 as a starter or side

Tangy Moroccan Meatballs

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As a newbie blogger, I like to think I’m following all of the blogging etiquette rules out there. (Although honestly, I have no idea… I could be committing some blogger faux pas with every post for all I know… someone give us a heads up!) But one thing I do know – because it’s common sense for one – is that you don’t just copy and paste someone else’s content and share it verbatim as your own. Now, if you’ve read our blog prior to today, you’ll notice that we share a healthy mix of personal creations and recipes that originated with others. When we’re using someone else’s recipe, before sharing it on here, we take care to tweak it a bit to our personal and non-copyright-infringing tastes AND to share the recipe in our own words. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the original inspiration for tonight’s dish was a pin I found on Pinterest. It had a gorgeous picture of meatballs in a tagine and the recipe sounded delicious! As I was getting ready to work on the dish for tonight, I found this recipe from the BBC’s Good Food site – it is WORD FOR WORD the exact same as the blog post I originally saved. Ugh! 😡 Maybe it shouldn’t bother me so much, but I like following the rules. And then when I went back and looked at my pin, it appears that the picture in the pin is stolen as well! Double ugh! 😡😡 So I deleted my pin, and we’ll credit the real inspiration instead 😘 Thanks Good Food!

Anyways, back to the recipe! We love meatballs around here! One of these days I’ll share the meatballs I grew up on – very different from these and just about any others I’ve ever had. [Check out our other Bon Appetit Baby meatballs – from our Sultan Selim Kofte & Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha) to our Thai Turkey Meatballs!] Tonight’s recipe caught my eye because of the unique (to me at least) ingredients – the lemon and the olives! I’m glad it did, because this recipe is one of my new favorites! It’s slightly spicy, but just beautifully bright and tangy from those olives and lemon. Fancy chefs on TV always talk about balance in dishes, and while I don’t always know how to achieve balance, this recipe definitely has it! You’ve got spice and tang and earthiness and just the slightest hint of sweetness. I think this is why I gravitate towards Middle Eastern/North African dishes – they never just hit one note – they’re always multi-faceted. Whatever you call it, these meatballs are a treat! I ate them over pearl couscous (highly recommend), while Selim just ate them plain and was pretty darn happy! I can also see them being delicious with some fresh baked flatbread. Maybe next time? Because there definitely will be a next time for these!

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Tangy Moroccan Meatballs

(Adapted from BBC Good Food)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped – divided
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 large lemon (zested & juiced)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • Generous pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock (or lamb if you have access to it)
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly torn
Instructions: 
  1. In a large bowl, combine ~ half of the chopped onion, lamb, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and parsley. Using your hands, form small meatballs – roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. Set them aside.
  2. Now, heat the oil in a tagine if you’re cooler than us and have one, or a small dutch oven if you’re not.
  3. Add the remaining onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for just 2-3 minutes until starting to soften and become fragrant. Top with the saffron and cook just another additional minute.
  4. Add the juice from the lemon, cayenne, tomato paste, stock, and olives and bring to a simmer.
  5. Once the liquid has reached that simmer, lower the heat and gently add the meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 25 minutes. Halfway through, flip the meatballs over.
  6. Remove the lid and raise the heat back to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Toss in the cilantro right before serving.
  7. Serve with couscous or rice.
Serves 4.

Zesty Chicken Salad

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I think chicken salad is one of those dishes that gets a little bit of a bad reputation. Whether it’s because your great aunt’s recipe had a real problem with the chicken to mayonnaise ratio (I am in no way referring to any of my great-aunts) or you hate how people chop celery up into their version (I am with you there!), I just don’t see a ton of people raving about their love for a good chicken salad. This is sad because chicken salad is just a great black canvas! You can really stir in whatever you want, and you’ve still got chicken salad. Got some leftover chives? Throw ’em in! Craving some bacon bits? Mmmm… bacon chicken salad! Fridge is full of fruit? Rumor has it that grapes and apples go great in chicken salad!

This chicken salad that I made for my lunches this week took no time to throw together and is packed with flavor. No bland chicken salad for me this week! I’ve been eating it on a pita with a few slices of cucumber. As I’m sitting here enjoying this version of a classic, I’m wondering why I haven’t been eating chicken salad more often.

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Zesty Chicken Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1/2 packet (~1.5 tbsp) dry ranch mix
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Cook chicken however you prefer (or use leftovers or store bought rotisserie chicken). We baked ours, seasoned with a little black pepper.
  2. Chop or shred the chicken in a large bowl.
  3. In another smaller bowl, stir together all of the other ingredients. Season with a little extra pepper if you’d like.
  4. Combine the chicken with the rest of the ingredients. Stir to coat the chicken thoroughly.
  5. Refrigerate if not eating immediately.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

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I don’t know if you noticed, but we haven’t shared too many posts this month so far (although our Sultan Selim Kofte was amazing & you should check it out!). A two-fold problem – we attempted a few recipes that we thought would be “blog-worthy,” that just didn’t turn out well, so we definitely couldn’t share our failures 🙄😬😣😉. And also, we used a few of our saved up vacation days to visit friends and watch UVA beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem one weekend and to see our families in Nashville for a cousin’s wedding on another weekend! So we really haven’t cooked quite as much as normal this month!

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Us at Ally’s cousin’s wedding

Our lack of blogging this month is a little bit of a tragedy because January is National Soup Month, and I LOVE SOUP! I don’t know what month is better suited to officially be National Soup Month – what sounds more cozy and warming for chilly nights (and days!) than a big flavorful bowl of soup. It’s actually National Slow Cooker month too (probably for similar reasons…), so we just went ahead and did the two birds, one stone thing with this recipe – ✔️ & ✔️!

I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for literally years I think. It comes from Gimme Some Oven, which actually is the very first blog I think I ever started following. I’ve made many of her recipes over the years, prior to the birth of our little infant blog. Check it out for some great recipes from a veteran blogger and much better pictures than ours! We tweaked her recipe just a tiny bit, adding a little extra vegetables & spices, because the entire world (or the 467 commenters on her post at least…) seems to love the original just as is! One little side note… one day we would like to make our own, traditional enchilada sauce, for this recipe or others. We were just feeling a little too lazy today for finding and roasting our own chilies. But we can only imagine how much better this soup would be when substituting authentic homemade enchilada sauce for the canned stuff!

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Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 10oz can red enchilada sauce
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ears corn (~2 cups)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 4oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1 10oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional toppings: cheese, sour cream/crema, avocado, cilantro, jalapenos, tortilla chips, etc
Instructions:
  1. Prepare all of the vegetables – chop up everything that needs chopping and slice the corn kernels off the cob. Cut the chicken into bite-sized portions.
  2. Put all of the ingredients, minus the toppings, into the slow cooker.
  3. Cook 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Taste and adjust salt/pepper if needed. Serve with optional toppings!
Serves ~8

Potato Latkes

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If there’s any dish that just screams ‘Hanukkah,’ it’s potato latkes. Latkes are traditional Hanukkah fare not for the dish itself, but for the oil its fried in. Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights; it celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days. Over 2000 years ago, the city of Jerusalem was under Syrian-Greek control. Specifically, the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes reversed the rule of his father in allowing Jews to practice their religion and began persecuting the Jewish people. Their religion was banned, they were ordered to worship traditional Greek gods, many were massacred, and the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated. A Jewish rebellion broke out, led by the Maccabees, which eventually drove the Syrian-Greeks out of Jerusalem. Once this occurred, the Jews set about cleaning and restoring the Temple. Once the Temple was rededicated, there was only a small amount of oil, enough that would keep the menorah lit for one day. The flame was supposed to stay lit continuously, but no one knew how the oil would last. The miracle was that the oil lasted for eight days, until the supply could be replenished. Jewish sages of the time proclaimed this miracle and thus created the holiday of Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights!

For this recipe, I used Tori Avey’s recipe and tips & tricks to try to make this the best batch possible. The goal is to have a crispy exterior with a warm and soft interior. Traditionally, you would top your Hanukkah latkes with applesauce or sour cream, but since we ate our with the delicious Wine & Honey Brisket that had plenty of pan sauce in which to dip the latkes if needed!

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Potato Latkes

(Adapted from toriavey.com)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes (~1lb)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal/crushed matzo crackers
  • 2 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Few turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • Oil
Instructions: 
  1. Peel and then grate the potatoes. Submerge the potato shreds in cold water while working.
  2. Quarter the onion and then run it through a food processor.
  3. Drain the potato shreds through a doubled cheesecloth.
  4. Add the onion to the potato in the cheesecloth. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible.
  5. Combine the potato and onion with the matzo meal, the egg, salt, and pepper.
  6. Pour enough oil into your pan to form a layer ~1/8th inch thick. Goal temperature for frying = 360-375 degrees – you can check with a candy thermometer if you have one.
  7. Form a small patty with your hands, roughly 3 tbsp worth. Test this first one to make sure your oil is a good temperature. Should be 2-3 minutes per side, yielding crispy brown edges with a soft interior.
  8. Set the latkes on a wire rack to cool, with paper towels underneath. Serve while still warm.
Makes 8-10 latkes

 

North African Wedding Soup

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This is another one of the recipes that we decided to make this blog for… It’s one of my favorite Pinterest finds, from what’s become a favorite blog – Little Spice Jar. We always tweak our recipes a little bit and this was no different. But, per usual, we’ve forgotten the changes we made from the last few times we made it. So this time, we’ll cross our fingers that it turns out to be the best version we’ve ever made and actually write it down.

These little meatballs are so full of flavorful spices, and the meatballs actually flavor the soup broth itself. This broth has such depth, and the aromas floating through your kitchen are so enticing. The flavors build and build the more you eat. And actually, this is one of those soups that is so much better as a leftover. Do what we did and eat it for dinner, but then enjoy the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Feel free to tweak the spices based on your personal preferences, but keep it spice-heavy! It is not super spicy, so if you want it that way, go ahead and increase the spice level. You may have noticed if you’ve read our blog a lot that we love the flavors of the Middle East and Northern African. No exception here. If you’re not familiar with or unsure of the cuisine from this part of the world, please let this soup be your gateway drug. You won’t be disappointed!

Why is this called North African wedding soup? Well, every time we make it, it makes me think of Italian wedding soup – the small meatballs, couscous in place of the orzo, and of course, North African spices in place of Italian flavors. Even more confirmation for this name? Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary! North African wedding soup it is! (I have no idea if there is actually a traditional North African wedding soup – if there is, this is not it!)

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One of my favorites from our wedding ❤  Photograph by Lauren D. Rogers Photography

North African Wedding Soup

(Adapted from Little Spice Jar)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the beef, tomato paste, and spices through nutmeg. Combine well.
  3. Then form into small meatballs and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot and top with several turns of black pepper, the Aleppo pepper, and the fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant/browning and carrots have begun to soften, ~10-12minutes.
  6. Pour beef broth into the pot and adjust heat to a light simmer.
  7. Add the meatballs and the couscous, partially cover if needed, and continue to lightly simmer for ~15 minutes, until the couscous is soft and tender.
  8. Taste and adjust for salt as needed, then serve.
Serves 6-8
Quick response to a question I’m anticipating. Why bake the meatballs, won’t they cook in the broth? Yes, they would. Baking them briefly allows for two important things in my mind – 1) it helps the meatballs hold their shape and 2) allows the meat to leech some of its fat somewhere other than your broth. Yes the fat tastes delicious and yes, you’re losing some of the spiced flavors, but it can definitely make your soup cloudy and oily.