Showing posts with label Middle Eastern Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle Eastern Food. Show all posts

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Simple Persian (Adassi) Lentil Stew for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

When I was looking for Middle Eastern recipes to pair with my book review earlier in the week, I went to Sirocco: Fabulous Flavors from the Middle East by Sabrina Ghayour.  I ended up making her Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts, but I tagged several other recipes to try. Having a hankering for curry and a half-package of Puy lentils, I decided to make her Persian "Adassi" Lentil Stew for my soup this week. 


Ghayour notes that they usually enjoy this soup in the cold winter months--which we don't get here anyway and remarks on the amount of flavor from so few ingredients. She also notes that it gets better and better the longer it keeps and the flavors intensify--perfect since I eat my soup batches throughout the week. You can make this one thinner like a soup or thicker like a stew or dal. I kept mine in the middle and I added a can of coconut milk at the end, as I was craving that too. My small changes to the recipe are in red below.


One interesting thing about this stew to me is the way that the lentils are cooked somewhat like risotto, with ladlefuls of the hot liquid stirred in and absorbed before more liquid is added. I'm not sure of the purpose of that--other than maybe they cook more evenly?--but I tried it that way.  

 
Persian (Adassi) Lentil Stew 
Slightly Adapted from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour
(Serves 4)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
1 large onion, finely diced
1 1/3 cups Puy lentils
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 heaping Tbsp medium curry powder
flaky sea salt
1 1/2 quarts or so hot water from a kettle
(I added I can coconut milk)
(I added 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper)

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat (or medium heat, if you are cooking on an electric stove). add the oil and fry the onion until translucent. Add the lentils and stir for 1 minutes. then stir in the tomato paste and curry powder, season with salt, and add a couple of tablespoons of water to hydrate the mixture (spices absorb moisture quickly). Stir well for about a minute, until the ingredients are evenly mixed in. 

Then, in stages, stir in a few ladlefuls of hot water at a time, stirring well and allowing each ladleful of water to be thoroughly absorbed by the lentils before adding the next. Once all the water has been absorbed, taste the lentils to check you are happy with the texture and that they are cooked thoroughly. If not, add another 1-2 ladlefuls of water until you are satisfied. (At this point I stirred in a can of coconut milk and seasoned with a bit of extra salt and some Aleppo pepper.)


Notes/Results: A simple soup, but great flavor from the curry and another demonstration of why Puy lentils are my favorite for soups. I love the texture and body they give it--staying firm rather than melting into the liquid or getting mushy, like other lentils do. I really didn't notice what gradually adding the liquid to the lentils did or didn't do for the soup--I'll have to look into it more. Since there are few ingredients and a good amount of curry, use a curry you really like for it as the flavor stands out. They one I use the most is on the milder side of medium, so I added a bit of Aleppo pepper for a little kick. At the end, I liked it as it was but felt it would be even better with coconut milk added to make it creamy. I thought it made it even better, but you can certainly leave it out. I served my soup with a prantha--Indian flatbread I stock in my freezer but think it would pair well with any bread or flatbread or rice, I would happily make it again.


We have two great dishes in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!


Quilt Lady of Chasing My Life Wherever It Leads Me shared her Mexican Cobb Salad with Jalapeño Ranch Dressing. The salad is a combination of chicken, tomato, avocado, cheese and chiles on a bed of lettuce and she recommends whipping up the creamy dressing that tops it, the night before you serve it.

   
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared Conch Chowder and said, "It's getting very hot here in north Florida and so what do we have for dinner?  Hot chowder! Why not. It's a nice light meal after a hearty lunch so we were satisfied. This chowder was prepared in Marathon Florida. ... While I can't take credit for making this chowder I think I would be willing to do so in the future. It's packed with fresh conch, roma tomatoes, celery, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, broth, sherry, turmeric  and a healthy dose of red pepper. Gives it the kick that Chardonnay soothes after a few spoonfuls."


Thanks for joinin me at Souper Sundays this week!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on the post you link up to be included.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).



 
Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Moment Before" by Jason Makansi, Served with Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts

It's Wednesday and I am more than ready for it to be Friday. But, I  am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Moment Before, the debut novel by Jason Makansi. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts, inspired by my reading.



Publisher's Blurb:

A woman and her beloved Syrian father, separated forty years earlier when he is swept up in a geopolitical odyssey from hell, are almost reunited by a lawyer struggling to save his Illinois hometown from financial ruin.

The unflinching story of an American-Arab’s life in limbo.

Tricked by the two people closest to him, Elias Haddad leaves his beloved daughter Cheryl Halia for what he believes is a short trip home to Syria to visit his dying father. Largely ignorant of Middle East politics, Elias is detained upon arrival in Damascus and conscripted into Assad’s army, beginning a forty-year geopolitical odyssey from hell which culminates in his captivity in Guantanamo during America’s post-9/11 War on Terror.

In her search for her father, Cheryl meets John Veranda, an idealistic lawyer who risks his family’s land, his marriage, and his aspirations for his hometown’s future for a relationship with Cheryl neither are prepared for.

Stuart Eisenstat, a dedicated federal bureaucrat, thinks he’s doing an old friend a favor when he picks John’s hometown as the perfect site for relocating Guantanamo detainees only to come face to face with the personal cost of America’s global ambitions.

Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 6, 2018)
Language: English


My Review:

The plot of The Moment Before is what made me sign up for the book tour. I think any chance to personalize the immigrant experience and help us see the very real individual people and families that are behind broad sweeping political decisions. The Moment Before focuses much of the story on a father, Elias Haddad, who against the wishes of the family that sent him away from Syria and to the U.S. as a young man to keep him safe, attempts to return to visit his ailing father. He doesn't make it, being immediately detained in Damascus, forced into Assad's army, and then tossed around, country to country, as a prisoner before ending up in Guantanamo. Meanwhile, his daughter Cheryl, grows up without him, alone with her cold mother who doesn't seem to want to do anything to find Elias. Cheryl reaches out to several people to find her father--including a young attorney, John Veranda, working for a senator, who she later crosses path with again. 

I don't want to go into a lot of the plot details as there is a lot going on in the book and I think it would involve spoilers for some of the drama. In addition to Cheryl, Elias, and  John, we get the stories and perspectives of John's friend & DOHS contractor, Cheryl's mother, and Father Moody--a friend of the family who got a young Elias into the U.S. and may be involved in his disappearance. It does get a bit convoluted between the different perspectives and the back and forth in time from 1959 through 2012 as the story is woven together. I found myself frequently checking back to the chapter headings with the dates to understand where I was in time. I was pulled more to the stories of Cheryl and Elias, they are the most poignant and my heart broke for both of them. Other characters and their actions made me very angry, and some sections although they added to how everything comes together, just weren't quite as interesting. 

The Moment Before is not always an easy read--both in complexity and subject matter--primarily the injustice of Elias's experience and what it does to his family. It is a book that made me think and is both timely and relevant. There is beauty, sorrow, and hope in Jason Makansi's writing and this story hasn't left my mind since I finished it.

-----

Author Notes: Jason Makansi, author of four non-fiction books relating to business, energy/environmental issues, and mathematical modeling, has published short stories in a variety of literary journals and collections. He is a 2009 alumnus of the Sewanee Writers Conference, has reviewed short story collections for The Short Review, and is currently a contributing editor for River Styx literary journal and Associate Editor for December literary magazine. In his spare time, he plays the viola in community orchestras, plays piano for fun, and rides his bike as often as he can. The Moment Before is his first novel.

-----

Food Inspiration:

There's not a lot of food focus in The Moment Before, but there are some mentions that stand out--particularly the baklava that Cheryl makes with her father--their special ritual. There's also the stuffed grape leaves and stuffed cabbage, shish kabobs, and fruits she and her father enjoy. Even years after he has disappeared, his coat smells of za'atar. There is mention of more grape leaves and hummus, served at a meeting. Cheryl works at a diner known for their sodas, ice cream, hamburgers and French fries and chocolate milkshakes. Other food mentioned included coffee, beer, punch, multiple types of kibbe, pizza, iced mochas, and bread.


I didn't have the time or patience to make baklava or stuffed grape leaves this week--I needed something quick and simple and decided to pick a dish with flavors and spices of Syria and the Middle East so I turned to Sirocco: Fabulous Flavors From the Middle East by Sabrina Ghayour. There were plenty of recipes to choose from, but I saw the Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts and was happy to see them use Aleppo pepper--since I just happen to have a jar and like the gentler heat they lend. I am a huge fan of nuts and spiced nuts for snacks, so while not directly related to the book, this dish seems to fit. (Just snack one handed if you are reading while enjoying these nuts--they are a bit messy!)


Ghayour says "We produce a huge variety of nuts in Iran and I really love snacking on them--although I find myself eating way too many at times. We don't roast them with seasonings as is done in the West, but I do like spicy, sticky coatings on any kind of nut. These spicy nuts are a great snack, added to salads and even chopped up and sprinkled over desserts." 

Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts
From Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour
(Serves 6)

2 1/4 cups raw nuts of choice (I used cashews, almonds, pecans & walnuts)
4 Tbsp melted butter
4 Tbsp brown sugar
good squeeze of lemon juice
2 Tbsp Aleppo pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place nuts on the sheet and toast for 10 minutes.

Put the melted butter in a bowl, add the sugar, lemon juice, spices and a generous sprinkling of salt and mix well. Add the toasted nuts. Coat the nuts well in the mixture, stirring to break up any clumps of sugar or spice. Once they are evenly coated, place the nuts back on the baking sheet and toast for another 5 minutes. Using a spoon, turn the nuts, then return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. 

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Once fully cooked, they can be stored in a glass jar or another airtight container in a cool, dry place, but should be consumed within a few days.


Notes/Results: These nuts are so good! A friend once told me that she thinks of spiced nuts as fall and winter treats but these with their sweet-salty mix and gentle boost of heat (not mouth-burning, it just gets you in the back of the throat a bit) are perfect year round. Sabrina Ghayour serves them with iced hibiscus tea (pictured is iced Hibiscus Coconut Tea from The Republic of Tea--one of my favorites), but I think they would go well with a cold crisp wine, any iced tea, a cocktail or beer. I will definitely make these again--they are downright addicting. 


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "The Moment Before" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Creamy Middle Eastern-Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Israeli Couscous & Harissa-Mint Yogurt for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

I have been fighting off the 'yucks' the last few days--headache, a mild sore throat and some aches, mainly. It's like it's just on the verge and doesn't know if it wants to develop or not, but it definitely has left me feeling blah and mostly burrowed into the couch with tea and a blanket. I wanted a low-effort soup today, one that offered comfort and enough flavor that I could actually taste it.


I settled on a red lentil soup with some Moroccan flavors--ras el hanout, cumin, turmeric, garlic and ginger. As I went back and forth from the couch to the kitchen, other ingredients made their way into it--tomatoes, coconut milk and lemon and the last half of a package of Israeli couscous--always fun to eat. I thought of topping it with yogurt and remembered how much I liked the flavors in this Harissa-Mint Bagel Shmear so I mixed them into Greek yogurt. In the end it all came together into a delicious bowl of soup as the best "toss it all together" recipes do.


Creamy Middle Eastern-Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Israeli Couscous & Harissa-Mint Yogurt 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 6 Servings)

2 Tbsp coconut oil
6 shallots, peeled and diced (or 1 large onion)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1-inch piece  ginger, peeled and crushed/grated
2 tsp ras el hanout (or curry of choice)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or chili pepper of choice)
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup red lentils, picked through, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
6 cups vegetable-based stock of choice (I used not-chicken broth paste)
1 cup dried Israeli couscous or rice, or grain of choice
1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
lemon juice to taste
sea salt and black pepper to taste 
Harissa-Mint Yogurt (recipe below) and fried onions to garnish, if desired

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot and sauté the onion and carrot until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and all of the spices and cook for another minute or two. Add the lentils, tomatoes, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce soup to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.  

Add Israeli couscous and cook for another 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in coconut milk, heating until warmed through--about 5 minutes. The soup will be somewhat thick, if you prefer a thinner consistency, add more stock or water as necessary. Season to taste with fresh lemon juice salt and pepper.

Serve topped with Harissa-Mint Yogurt and crispy fried onions (I like the garlic & black pepper ones) and enjoy! I served it with fresh sourdough bread bu any Middle Eastern flatbread would be nice too. 

-----

Harissa-Mint Yogurt
Inspired by The Kitchn
(Makes 1 Cup)

8 oz Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp Harissa paste, or to taste
zest of a lemon + 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
sea salt

In a small bowl, gently stir harissa paste, lemon zest, lemon juice, and mint into the yogurt until thoroughly mixed in. Taste and season with sea salt to taste. 

Allow to chill and flavors to set for an hour or so in fridge before serving.  


Notes/Results: This soup hit the spot--full of flavor and warm spices and very creamy from the lentils and the coconut milk, with the lemon juice brightening things up nicely.  The soup itself has a mild heat, which intensifies when the Harissa-Mint Yogurt is stirred in. If you don't have ras el hanout, you could use any curry powder of choice and the same with the Israeli couscous, you could sub in rice, a grain, or any other pasta shape of choice. I was very happy with how it turned out and would happily make it again.


We have some good friends and tasty dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look at what got linked up this week!


Debra of Eliot's Eats joins us with Massaged Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Cranberry Relish from her "Moveable Thanksgiving Feast" and said, "At the last minute, I decided we needed some more greens so I made a version of my massaged kale salad.  For some color, I threw some pomegranate seeds on top. ... I really like a tart relish, but this next recipe can be adapted to your family’s tastes. The original recipe called for sugar. I used honey and a tangerine. These simple ingredients made the best relish ever. Truly. As I was testing for tartness, I found myself eating it out of the food processor by the spoonful."



Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen shared Estonian Beetroot and Potato Salad and said, "Estonian Beetroot and Potato Salad is known as Rosolje. Obviously it has beetroot and potatoes, but it also has pickled gherkins, red onion, slithers of eating apple and for flavour soured cream, of course those of you who are vegan can substitute this with a vegan alternative, mustard and seasoning to taste."


 
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shares a Grilled Crab Cake Sandwich she recently enjoyed and said, "Craving: Crab cakes and grits. I could make this, it just requires planning. My husband makes excellent cheese grits and I usually fry crab cakes for a dinner but grilling them may be an option next time. This beauty of a sandwich was had at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola. Florida."


 
Finally here at Kahakai Kitchen, I tried Ina Garten's Roasted Salmon Nicoise Platter, paired with a book review for Cook the Books. It was amazing--beautiful on the plate and the (in my case marinated and pan-seared instead of roasted) salmon was perfectly moist and delicious. 
  
Mahalo to everyone who joined me at Souper Sundays this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:


  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on the post you link up to be included.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).



Have a happy, healthy week!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Moroccan Corn Chowder for Food 'N Flix August Pick: Secondhand Lions and for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It's August and fresh and delicious corn is everywhere. Summer is the perfect time for a bowl of corn and vegetable chowder and today's soup blends classic corn chowder ingredients with chickpeas, Israeli/pearl couscous and Moroccan spices. It's inspired by our August Food 'N Flix selection, Secondhand Lions, hosted by Courtney of Fictional Fare (see her announcement post here.)


If you don't know this heartwarming 2003 comedy-drama, I suggest you watch it. It's a favorite movie of mine, introduced to me by my friend Yuri, who loves it probably as much for the adorable dogs (including a Frenchie like her two--Moo and Maggie) as she does for the story. Briefly, it's set in the early 1960s and is about fourteen-year-old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) who is dumped off at the Texas farm of his two eccentric great-uncles Garth (Michael Caine) and Dub (Robert Duvall). Supposedly the two have a fortune squirreled away somewhere and there are many theories of how they acquired it. Walter and his uncles eventually warm to each other and he inspires them to have some fun and spend their money, until eventually Walter's ne'er-do-well mother and her sleazy boyfriend come back looking for the fortune. In addition to the good performances from the movie's human cast, there are those aforementioned adorable dogs, an old lioness that Walter takes care of, various other farm animals, and a subplot of the uncles' adventures in Morocco and North Africa. Sure, it's a bit sweet and fantastical at times, but it makes me smile and warms the heart, and surprisingly there's a bit of food in it too. 


Some of the food I saw: ice tea (sweet tea?) on the front porch, breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausages, root beer, a garden they plant that is supposed to contain peas, tomatoes, beets, potatoes, lettuce, squash, beans and bok choy ("that's Chinese cabbage") but in reality contains "corn, corn, corn, nothing but corn," pumpkins and other veggies and spices in the Moroccan markets, barbecue that looks like ribs, and fish. I watched the deleted scenes and there was a bit more food--catfish-full of buckshot, a dinner scene with lots of meat--mainly pork, Cheerios and milk for breakfast, and a mention for people to "help yourself to vegetables when leaving--there's some good red peppers there."


For my movie-inspired dish, I wanted to make a corn chowder as a nod to all that corn. (I wish I could buy it at .25 cents a bushel--I had to pay $5.00 a bag from the roadside corn lady.) And I wanted to add some Moroccan ingredients and flavors to change it up from the many corn chowders and corn soups that I have made already and to represent Garth's stories about Dub's exploits in Morocco.


I added chickpeas, couscous--I used the larger Israeli or pearl couscous because I like it better in soups, and I seasoned with fresh ginger and garlic, ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend full of several aromatic spices--here's a recipe), plus some additional turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and smoked paprika. I also added a can of coconut milk to make it creamier. 


Moroccan Corn Chowder 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6-8)

2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
3 medium leeks, white & light green parts only, halved, cleaned and sliced
2 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsps Ras El Hanout
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
6 cups low-sodium veggie stock
4 large red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous 
1 (14.5 oz) can coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, and red pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and all the spices and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, potatoes and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and couscous and cook for another 10 minutes until the couscous and the potatoes are tender. Stir in the coconut milk and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste and additional spices if needed/desired.

Serve with toasted flat bread and enjoy!
 


Notes/Results: This soup smelled so good cooking and it tasted even better than it smelled. The sweetness of the leeks, coconut milk and corn paired really well with the smokiness of the Moroccan spices. The texture of the veggies, chickpeas, and couscous all together was pleasing. It makes for a thick chowder--you can add extra broth or coconut milk if desired to thin it out--but it isn't at all heavy, making it just as good for a warm summer night, as a cool one. I have a feeling it will taste even better tomorrow. I would definitely make it again. 


The deadline for this round of Food 'n Flix is Tuesday, August 29th and Courtney will be rounding up the dishes on her blog soon after. If you can't make it this month and you like food, movies, and foodie movies, join us for Food 'n Flix September when we will be watching To Kill A Mockingbird, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.


We have two delicious dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look!
 

Debra of Eliot's Eats made Cucumber and Mango Salad with Lime Dressing. She said, "We are getting a few cucumbers every few days from the garden so I searched out a salad that I could utilize our garden produce. Obviously, we weren’t able to go pick a mango off a tree, but our garden cucumber did pair great with the other flavors.  The jalapeno was home grown as well. This salad certainly creates an explosion of tropical flavors and I love anything with quinoa.  (Be aware, however, that there’s more veggies and mango in this salad than quinoa.)"

 
Here at Kahakai Kitchen, I enjoyed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for Bruschetta of Beans and Celery. Humble ingredients go together quickly and easily for a satisfying and delicious open-faced sandwich. 


Mahalo to Debra for joining me at Souper Sundays this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).



Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bamia (Okra Stew) for Cook the Books: "Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots"

Okra will probably never make my list of favorite foods but I am learning to appreciate it more and more. I like it especially when it is flavored with plenty of spices, like in this Bamia, a Middle Eastern okra stew. The recipe comes from Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots a novel by Jessica Soffer and our Cook the Books October/November pick, hosted by Simona of Briciole.


Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an interesting book--on one hand I loved it for the food descriptions and imagery that filled it, but I also found myself very slow at working my way through it, as the story made me sad--there is so much loneliness, pain and loss captured in its pages. Lorca is a 14-year-old girl who is desperate to gain the love and attention of her very distant (to the point of being cruel) mother. Her mother is a chef and Lorca tries to show and earn love through food and cooking and caring for this cold woman. (Can you tell I desperately did not like this woman!?) Lorca deals with her pain and abandonment (her father, who her mother left back in New Hampshire is a piece of work as well) by cutting and other ways of self-harm and when she is discovered injuring herself in a school bathroom stall by a classmate and suspended, her mother decides to send her to boarding school. Lorca is desperate and hopes that by recreating, Masgouf, a special Iraqi fish dish from a restaurant that her mother declared was the most delicious food she had tasted, her mother will allow her to stay. Searching out the restaurant and recipe leads Lorca to Victoria, who along with her husband, owned the restaurant where Lorca's mother ate the Masgouf. Victoria is dealing with the very recent death of her husband and some big secrets from her past and she and Lorca are drawn together as Victoria teaches her how to make the dish and other Iraqi specialties.  


The book is full of food and food references, lovingly described by the author and I liked how these two women, generations apart, bonded over cooking and ingredients. I found the descriptions of the cutting and Lorca's emotional pain very difficult to read--at one moment I would be tempted by the descriptions of a dish and the next I would find my stomach turning with a description of the self-mutilation, which threw of the rhythm of the book for me. There were also some plot points and twists that didn't quite hold up for me and I wanted more from the ending. Still, I hold out hope that the title of the book (taken from an Arabic saying "Bukra fil mish mish") comes true and tomorrow, apricots may bloom for Lorca and Victoria.


In addition to many dishes, French, Iraqi, simple and complex, there are a handful of recipes in the book: Wild Mushroom Quiche with Wood Thyme Stem, Date Spread, Chicken in Half Mourning, the coveted Masgouf, and Bamia, the okra stew that Victoria teaches Lorca to make and feeds her and that Lorca gives to her friend Blot. Since I can buy locally-grown okra and I loved the combination of spices, I decided to make the Bamia and serve it with rice and some naan bread I had sitting about to soak up the flavorful tomato juices.
 

Bamia (Okra Stew)
Adapted from Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer
(Serves 2)

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 tsp garlic, grated
2 cups stewed tomatoes (I used 1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes)
3/4 tsp each: cardamom, curry powder, ground ginger
1/2 tsp each: paprika, red pepper flakes, celery seeds
1 1/2 lbs fresh okra, washed and chopped into inch-long pieces
lemon juice, salt, and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent and add garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add spices and tomatoes and continue cooking for five minutes, stirring consistently. Add the okra and cook for 12-15 minutes or until okra is soft, stirring very infrequently. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with long grain rice.


Notes/Results: Such delicious and exotic flavor from the mix of spices (curry, paprika, celery seed, cardamom, ground ginger and red pepper flakes) that it compensates for the natural sliminess of the okra. I did try to limit it as I could by not stirring it very much as it cooks but there is still a fair amount. It is less noticeable with the rice and I enjoyed both the serving I ate freshly made and the leftovers reheated. I also liked the brightness that the lemon juice added to the mix. Online there are several recipes for bamia with meat, but this recipe is vegan and when served with the rice and flatbread, it is a satisfying dish. I would make it again. 


Because it is a stew, I am linking my Bamia up to this week's Souper Sundays, hosted weekly here at Kahakai Kitchen. If you aren't familiar, Souper Sundays is my weekly soup tribute that includes sandwiches, and salads and is open to anyone and everyone who wants to share a soup, salad, or sandwich post that week. You can see the details for joining in on the current weekly post here--we would love to have you!

   
Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is my sixteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  

 
The deadline for this Cook the Books round is today, November 30th and Simona will be rounding up the delicious entries at the CTB site shortly after. If you missed out on this round and like books, food, and foodie books, consider joining us for December/January  when I will be hosting with the foodie memoir, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home. Hope you join us!