Tag Archives: group cooking

Wake up, Wake up, Wake up! Breakfast of Jordanian Champions

3 Apr

Breakfast has always been my toughest meal. Cereal is king for the classic American kid, but all that carb and no protein always left me  cranky and slightly woozy by 10 a.m. Granted, this was before I discovered the eighth wonder of the world (coffee, as anyone who has ever come into contact with me before noon can attest), but even still the sugar-laden on-the-go pastries that fill the adult void left by Cap’n Crunch have never done it for me. That leaves basically one option: eggs and taters. While anyone who knows me is also aware that if asked to choose between picking up my next paycheck and plowing into a pile of potatoes I would genuinely struggle before reaching for the salt, variety is the spice of life.

Fresh tomato, cucumber and jalapeño salad and Greek yogurt.

So, when my wonderful boyfriend delivered a traditional Jordanian breakfast that turned out to be the answer to a lifetime of pre-noon struggles to my doorstep one morning, I knew I was hooked. (On the breakfast. The boy I’d long since fallen for.)

Come on and don't CHOP ME UP. That WAS a Justin Timberlake reference, I'm so glad you asked.

Fatteh is a blend of homemade hummus and Greek yogurt served over chunks of soft bread topped with jalapeño, garlic, sauteed almond slivers or pinenuts, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh parsley and chickpeas. It is also quite possibly the ninth wonder of the world. Spicy, fresh, and full of distinct flavors that bring out one another’s piquancy, it’s filling enough to stick with you for hours but never weighs you down. It’s one of the most decadent meals I’ve ever had that’s simple and healthy enough to make regularly at home, and it’s completely vegetarian.

Moh never cooks from a recipe, but I’ve watched him make it twice now and interrupted him several times this afternoon for reminders. Just for you, friends, I’m proud to divulge his divine breakfast secret. (Or as he’ll tell you, his mom’s divine breakfast secret.)

Hummus

First, start with fresh hummus. This you can do days ahead, but wait to add the lemon until you’re ready to serve.

  • Dried chickpeas (1 big bag)
  • Tahini (he uses about a third of a jar to make one batch)
  • Cumin
  • Fresh lemon juice
  1. Soak chickpeas in water overnight.
  2. Boil chickpeas in water with a couple spoonfuls of cumin and a little salt.
  3. Drain and puree chickpeas in batches in a food processer or blender.
  4. Mix with tahini.
  5. Season with more salt and cumin to taste. If you’re serving that day, add lemon juice. If not, wait and add when you do.

If, like Moh, you have far more patience and finesse than I do, make it look lovely and top with olive oil and fresh parsley.

Fatteh

  • The hummus you just made
  • Greek yogurt
  • A few soft sandwich rolls or buns, like potato bread
  • 1/2 can chickpeas (or you can use a scoop from the dried bag you used for hummus; just separate some after you’ve soaked them overnight).
  • More olive oil than seems possibly reasonable, but is
  • Juice from a few fresh lemons
  • 2 or 3 jalapeños
  • A clove of garlic
  • Pine nuts and/or slivered almonds
  • Optional: tomatoes, only if they’re really good – could be baby or big ones
  1. Bring chickpeas to a boil in water with some cumin and salt. When they’re soft, drain and reserve the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, make a spicy olive oil dressing. Dice jalapeños, garlic, and parsley into very small pieces and toss with olive oil, lemon juice and crushed red pepper.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a small pan and when it’s hot, fry the pine nuts and/or almonds, shaking often so they don’t burn. Remove from heat when they smell delicious and just before they’re perfectly toastily browned because they’ll keep cooking in the oil for a few minutes on their own.
  4. Tear the bread (or slice, I suppose, but ripping things is a good job when you’re a mostly helpless sous chef whose primary role is to harass the chef by obsessively snapping camera-phone shots of his every movement – is anything more annoying than a food blogger?) into bite-sized chunks and spread along the bottom of a big dish, like a glass baking dish. Pour a bit of the chickpea cooking water with cumin over the top and mix it up – not enough to be soupy, just slightly spongy.
  5. Mix the hummus with yogurt, about 7 parts hummus to 4 parts yogurt. Pour 2/3 of it over the bread, add the spicy olive oil dressing, and mix quickly and well.
  6. Pour the remaining hummus/yogurt blend over the top. Finish with more olive oil, the fried nuts, the whole chickpeas, fresh parsley, chunks of tomato if you have good ones, and salt, cumin and lemon juice to taste.

The spoils. That's the fatteh at the front.

Moh serves with toasted pita to scoop it up (if you want to go truly traditional, no forks allowed) and his favorite tea – Lipton’s steeped with heaps of sugar and fresh mint – in glasses. Sweet and delicious.

I’ve been planning to write this up for months but kept putting it off because I wanted to do it justice. An article in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine (“Does the Mediterranean Diet Even Exist?“), which I found an entitled, pot-boiling (har, har) brush-off of every culture (including ours) it examines through a superficial lens disguised as culinary, gave me the push I needed. So, Style Section, thank you for the excuse to answer your question – it sure does exist, and I’m just sorry (though not surprised) you never bothered to make any “local” friends who doubtless would have invited you into their homes to taste it. A “Mediterranean diet” is alive and well in the kitchens of those who prepare the food they’ve grown up eating with patience, love and, yes, an entire bottle of olive oil.

13 Coconut Fajitas, 25 piña coladas, 1 million pots of coffee

16 Jan

I could live a long and happy life eating nothing but rice, beans and plantains (mo’ mofongo, please!). Throw in fresh seafood and coconuts and I’m doggy-paddling along the lukewarm ocean coast of my personal food heaven.

All hands on deck: The motley-est of crews

While it could have been a bummer that the six days my college friends and I spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, were invariably cloudy, the afternoon thunderstorms were secretly the best thing that ever happened to New Year’s Day 2011. We’ve always had an endless ability to entertain one another (why else would we have devoted our better years to Tufts theater?) and a proclivity for doing so whether or not we we’re in public, where we tend to isolate in the same manner while spending more money. So, we joked that the penthouse apartment we rented for the week (yup, two bedrooms, 13 people, that’s math even I can do – ahhhh, to be broke) became our ship.

The mess hall (photo snatched from Molly O's FB ~ Muchas gracias, chica!)

Securely boarded against the rocky seas of light rain and heavy hangover, we sent particularly cabin-feverish or past-due for chore crewmembers out to procure only the most essential of booty – coffee, cigarettes, and queso. Back at the homefront, we had the perfect excuse to do nothing but read (The Alchemist – thanks, love!), cook and lazily maintain a light buzz.

Kitchen crew on a voyage to dry land. Not on New Year's Day, I'm cheating.

My first mates Molly and Erica and I took command of the galley (yes I did google the pirate term for kitchen, thank you) bright and early (i.e., 3:30 p.m.) this New Year’s morn, kicking off 2011 with a breakfast of Bacon Cheddar Pancakes bathed in maple syrup. Hint: Thanks to Armando’s genius, Molly caramelized the bacon in brown sugar first. Hoh. My. God.

Not the prettiest of pancakes, what they lacked in finesse they sure made up for. In sugar.

Fresh off this resounding success (slash surely still sugar-high), we again took the reigns for dinner.

I adore how elegantly fajitas feed a group, easily accommodating vegetarians/meat lovers and spice freaks/those who can’t handle the heartburn alike. I don’t think the thrill of “build-your-own” anything ever really wears off, either. Humans are simple creatures. I mean really, Coldstone Creamery is not a success because of the lame singing.

Plus, fajitas are cheap and delicious. Of course I adhere to a strict policy of abstinence when it comes to math on weekends, but there’s no way this works out to more than $3 a person.

COCONUT FAJITAS TO FEED THE WHOLE CREW

***Except LA CHUUUPACAAAABRA!! He is both real and not welcome.***

For the chicken:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 lbs chicken breast (we had leftovers, which naturally went in the January 2 breakfast scramble)
  • a couple jalapeño peppers
  • a couple cloves of garlic
  • fresh lime
  • S/P
  • Brian T. Smith to brilliantly oversee chicken marinating

For the fixings (use your imagination, but these were ours:)

  • 2 or 3 big onions
  • 6 bell peppers (green were cheapest, so we used 3 of these + 1 each red, yellow and orange because I like pretty things)
  • the ubiquitous Goya arroz amarillo (or any kind of rice, but when in Rome, and Rome is Puerto Rico, use this)
  • salsa (buy or make – we would have made made but tomatoes were all imported desde Los Estados Unidos, entonces muy caro)
  • beans (we had frijoles negros and refried)
  • avocado or guacamole (see step 1 of earlier post of Mint.com fame – hells yeah!)
  • cheeses (we had queso and cheddar)
  • sour cream
  • tortillas, enough for everyone to have 2
  • hot sauces
  1. Put the Lime in the Coconut. First, make your marinade. Dump your can of coconut milk into a big bowl. Cut up the jalapeños – since they’re just going in the marinade, no need to de-vein or de-seed them, but for the love of all that’s holy wash your hands well after touching. There are far too many related horror stories inappropriate for the level of family-friendliness this blog attempts to maintain, so fill in your own blanks but please, please scrub those digits. Mince garlic. Add both to the milk, squeeze fresh lime over everything, salt and pepper as you like. Leave the chicken breasts whole but remove any nasties and plunk them right in.  Let marinate for at least a half hour.
  2. How many pecks of red bell peppers did all your preppers pick? Cut peppers and onions in half width-wise and slice into into thin strips. Add as they’re ready to a giant saucepan or stockpot (likely the singular such instrument you have in your shabby rental kitchen, doubling as pancake griddle and short order egg station) over low heat. Let them caramelize, stirring when someone wants to do something, until the boys are back from their booze run. Don’t worry, this will somehow take hours, but the longer the better for these babies – you want at least 60 minutes. If you like, and you don’t have any strict vegetarians, splash some of the extra marinade over the peppers and onions – just make sure you cook it down for a good long time.
  3. Make ghetto tin foil baking trays or I suppose real ones if you’re fancy and bake the chicken at 375 until it’s done (these took at least 45 minutes), basting every so often. The coconut milk will infuse it with flavor and moisture, and you want these to be pretty well done so they shred easily. When they’re done, let them cool enough to touch, then get right in there and rip it up with the hands you cleaned so well, right??
  4. Fix yer fixins. Meanwhile, slice the avocado (drizzle with fresh lime juice for flavor and so they don’t brown), put beans in a dish, shred cheeses, etc. See Erica Finkel with queries, she is a condiment/fixings genius.
  5. Warm the tortillas. Wrap the whole stack in tin foil and pop in the oven for a few minutes.
  6. Go assembly line style and let every damn sailor build their dinner to their little hearts’ desires. Also, make them pour you a big old glass of wine, or if you’re lucky, Baba-Yan’s signature champagne punch. You deserve it.

This girl is coco-nuts!



Meals with Friends: Cause your job’s a joke, you’re broke…?

29 Jun

Monday evening. Far, far south of here, at 16th and Guerrero to be exact, I have to imagine that the Chinese man with whom I share a weekly struggle  to communicate through a fairly significant language barrier and the far more maddening craptastic hunk of plastic that calls itself my Blackberry, is bewildered.

No sweet and sour meatless chicken? No basil meatless chicken? Not even cold sesame NOODLE?!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (all three of you), it’s true. I’ve put my foot down. If on the hands-down worst day of the week I’m going to go so far as to brave poring myself into a sports bra and spandex only to spot the only two people on the planet who make me want to rip out my own hair and feed it to them (another story for another day), then I can absolutely find the strength to dig deep within the depths of my willpower, my freezer and Jenn’s pantry to make a nutritious, delicious meal on which I spend not one additional dollar. Certainly not the customary $27, including two Diet Cokes, plus tip, my roommate and I fork over weekly to Big Lantern.

<Mini-Review Tangent: Big Lantern is by far my favorite Chinese take-out in the city. The sesame cold noodles, though deceptively simple enough to trick you into thinking you can take a trip to Richmond for supplies and make them yourself (oops), are delicious. Just enough tang, with sweet shreds of carrot and crunchy wisps of bitter lettuce nestled into the thick, floury noodles. Spinach dumplings are crunchy without being greasy. The basil meatless chicken is the best entree I’ve had, with spicy red pepper dotting a dense but never syrupy garlic sauce, big green broccoli chunks and crisp green pepper slices. Of course, it comes with enough to stuff your face with half while watching Friends reruns in your bathrobe, then finish the rest for breakfast. I mean, eww, who eats cold Chinese food for breakfast?! Lunch, I meant lunch. I’m lying. It’s absolutely breakfast. Deal with it.>

Anyhoo, the new and improved healthy, affordable options comes about with a little help from my real-live friends, of course. The contents of the fridge she has to clear out by Wednesday in tow, The Lovely Ms. Rosen, Future Esq., arrives, and after a glass of wine – details to follow Wednesday – we set to cooking the most simple, cheapest feast of nutritional value to happily feed six I’ve yet found.

Thanks to the one, the only, Telanor Kousman for your unwavering inspiration. Keep it raw, my friend. Keep it raw.

schexy schweat in schports bra

The Monday Medley

  • 2 avocados (or however many you have)
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon (or lime)
  • a few garlic cloves
  • about 1 cup (cooked; about 5 oz. uncooked) of brown rice per person – we used 1 whole package of Trader Joe’s organic brown frozen rice ($3.49), but you could use any kind
  • lotsa spinach (however much you got), chopped
  • some red onion (we used probably 1/6 of a giant weird one. so giant you have to wonder. but no matter. i already ate it.)
  • can of beans (we used giant white beans in tomato sauce from TJ’s. In the past, the Kousman used drained black beans. I’m sure whatever you paid 89 cents for currently collecting dust in your cabinet will do just fine.)
  • optional: cheese, whatever type you’ve got (we used cheddar and gouda. feta would be great.)
  • Salt and pepper, obv. Do I really have to specify this? I think from now on we’ll dispense this step. Thanks.
  1. Make gaucamole. Cut each avocado in half, slice it still in the shell across both ways, and use a spoon to scoop the good stuff into a bowl. Dice a quarter of the tomato and throw that in. Chop up a garlic clove very finely and toss that in too. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze it on top, salt and pepper that ish (avocado loves salt) then mash everything together with a fork and your spoon. Very fun. Eat some with your fingers (I won’t tell) and then stick it in the fridge.
  2. Cook ya rice. Ya know, follow the package. Although I’ll admit – I find brown rice very tough to make well. I’m going to invest in a rice cooker one of those days. In the meantime, I’d highly recommend dumping your frozen TJ’s brown rice into a saucepan (a term I find confusing – it’s the spaghetti pot, yes?) with a sliver or butter or two or some olive oil if you want, putting your burner on medium-low, covering, and stirring every so often. It will probably take about 15 minutes.
  3. Chop yer fixins. Dice up the remaining tomato. Chop up your spinach. Dice a bit of onion and a couple cloves of garlic.
  4. Milk a cow. Just kidding. But if you want to, grate some cheese.
  5. Shake it like a polaroid picture. Top off your wine glass. Dance it out a li’l. When the rice is ready, toss in your tomato, spinach, garlic and onion. Empty out that can of beans. Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the top. Salt and pepper to taste (a tricky topic: more on this to come).
  6. Serve yourself. Make those bastards line up in your kitchen and let them add their own gauc and cheese. Offer them red wine and Bud Light. They’ll love you forever.

NOTES: This could easily be served with a simple salad or tomato soup for an indisputably complete meal. Because we were also playing kitchen clean-out, we served with TJ’s frozen chicken dumplings for those partaking in animal. On the other hand, this meal can easily, and with complete satisfaction, be completely vegan – a rarity for yours truly.