Tag Archives: tomatoes

Abuhamad’s Mujaddara (mmm,jeddarah!)

10 Mar

Time definitely flies when you’re having fun. It flies even faster when that involves getting engaged, promoted, married and 15 pounds lighter. While I haven’t been writing, I’ve been digging right in and helping myself to the incredible changes life has served me.

One of the most amazing things about the past few months has been the welcome with open arms from my new family.  Lucky for my me, my husband and my faithful handful of dear readers, my amazing father-in-law lives just blocks away and has also welcomed me with an open kitchen. Since our wedding, I’ve had the pleasure of  spending Sunday nights peering over his shoulder into a giant stockpot simmering with crackling olive oil, a generously fragrant fistful of minced garlic, fresh vegetables carried up from the farmers’ market and  stewed lamb falling softly from its lovingly butchered bones.

Baba in his kitchen.

The cooking I’ve grown up with and so from which have felt most comfortable to experiment tends to involve a lot of “a la minute” sauteeing (clearly, I’ve been watching Top Chef while I plug away on PR plans this week). Watching my mom from across our granite counter at home, this coordination of colorful sides is casually but carefully timed. In my own closet of a kitchen, it’s frantic, leaving a trail of overturned prep bowls in its too-tiny wake. But the Middle Eastern cooking my Abuhamed has shown me is elegant, leisurely, leaving us time to put up our feet while the rice steams away, he smokes a forbidden cigarette and I try to memorize, fascinated, the lips of the characters on Arabic TV.

Moh and Baba "resting" while rice cooks.

It’s clear where my husband’s love of food comes from. One of my first and most distinct memories of talking to Abuhamad (“father of Mohammad”) is the way he described the flavor of the olives from the trees where he grew up in Nablus in the West Bank, when you would wait all year for them to come into season. “There is no olive oil in the world that tastes like where I come from,” he said wistfully. I struggled not to tear up as I witnessed this gentle man recount such a visceral memory of a place he will never again see in his lifetime. Even if he were to return, it wouldn’t be to the place he describes as he skillfully slices onion after onion – one of simple people who never had much, but were content.

One of the traditional dishes they ate there was “Mujaddara.” Some quick Googling reveals variations across the Middle East largely because it meets that universal jackpot of being delicious, healthy, filling, cheap and easy. Comprised primarily of ingredients you always have in your pantry – lentils, rice and cumin topped with onions and served alongside a quick salad of tomatoes, cucumber and lemon – mujaddara is comfort food at its simplest, guilt-free best.

Diced veggie salad to accompany mujaddara.

Mujaddara

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 2 per 1/4 cup (so divide into 6 servings for 8 points+, or 8 servings for 6 points+)

My camera phone photo is insulting to this dish. There’s a beautiful photo that looks like this version on Avocado Bravado.

  • A cup of brown lentils
  • Double the  rice for lentils  (2 cups will be enough to serve at least 6 people, or 2 people with many, many leftovers)
  • A heaping spoonful of cumin
  • An onion
  • Oil (olive if watching that weight, corn or canola if not)
  • Optional, but better: A dollop of Greek yogurt to serve with (1 WWP+ for 1/4 cup lowfat)

For salad:

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 1 (for every tsp. of olive oil you use)

  • A tomato
  • A cucumber
  • Juice from a fresh lemon
  • Part of a jalapeño
  • Any other veggie you want to use up (like red cabbage)
  • Olive oil (natch)
  1. Soak rice.
  2. Wash lentils (no need to soak them). Pick out and get ride of the uglies.
  3. Put lentils in a big stockpot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 – 7 minutes after it does so; you want the lentils to be just barely cooked, but it’s important that they not get soft yet or they’ll be mushy later.
  4. Rinse rice and add to the pot.
  5. Add cumin.
  6. Adjust water level so it’s where you’d want it if you were cooking rice – just covering it by about a half inch. You might have to add a little water, you might have to scoop some out.
  7. Stir everything. Add a generous pinch (or a small spoonful) of salt.
  8. Just like you would with rice, bring to a boil over highish heat, then cover and bring to a low simmer until rice is cooked.
  9. Meanwhile, slice onion into thin strips.
  10. If serving traditionally/not calorie consciously, fry the onion in corn or canola oil over high heat and dry on paper towels. Or, for my Weight Watchers friendly variation, caramelize the onions. I like to start them in a teaspoon or two of olive oil over fairly high heat, then bring them down to low and cover, stirring occasionally. Let them go until the rice is done.
  11. Prepare the salad. Dice tomatoes, cucumber and whatever else you’re using. If you like heat, cut off the top of the jalapeño and get rid of the seeds and ribbons. Dice into tiny pieces. Add all or part, depending on how spicy it is (and you are).
  12. Squeeze juice of a lemon over the top, toss with a small amount of olive oil, and S&P.
  13. Serve mujaddara with the onions on top, alongside the salad and yogurt.

Fresh diced veggie salad to accompany mujaddara.

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The Perfect Salad for Pizza in the Surprise Spring Sun

25 Jan

When you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco, you’re surrounded by so many incredibly beautiful things and impossibly ridiculous characters, such rich history about which to daydream and mouthwatering  cuisine in which to indulge, that it’s easy to forget you can drive across that most iconic of bridges and end up in an entirely different magical world.

Califooooornia, CalifOOOOOORnia, here we COOOOOOOO-oooome...

Instead of towering Pacific Heights castles sweeping their money-scented shadows across the apartments forming their block-by-block stepping stones below, the well-to-do in this world keep small houses with big windows tucked into winding paths best reachable by bike-laden Subaru.

The further north you drive up the sun-dappled, zig-zag turns comprising this stretch of the 1, the further behind you leave the commuters packed like puzzle pieces onto Muni, the cars insistently blazing their impatient paths across traffic. Eventually, only the cows fanned out lazily across roadside pastures slowly chomp their big cheeks by way of greeting even such obvious foreigners on their muddy soil.

Identifying wild mustard: a skill you don't learn in the suburbs.

Moh and I set out on the well-worn path north one glorious recent Monday off (is it awkward to thank MLKJ?). While driving, I taught Moh two things: first and most importantly, “Hey Cow,” in which each competing passenger rolls down his window and shouts exactly that to collect a point for each lackadaisical bovine who looks at him. Yes, I’m a lucky lady – my boyfriend is quite the player. Secondly, I recounted my favorite California legend – that the brilliant yellow mustard snaking its way up the hillsides this time of year was scattered as seeds by the Spanish Missionaries who made their way up the coast hundreds of years ago. They would know their path back the next spring, from Sonoma to south of San Diego, by the “ribbon of gold” they’d left, now blooming, as a trail.

About an hour out of the city, conveniently rounding on late lunch time, we came to Point Reyes, or “King’s Point.” So, it seemed only appropriate that we eat like rural royalty. Dana had recommended Cafe Reyes for pizza and oysters. It was perfect in every way, from the wobbly plastic table  we sat at out back to the complimentary caramel and chocolate doily-shaped cookies we took too many of on our way out. We shared:

A dozen local oysters on the half shell. No cocktail sauce or horseradish to mask their salty sea bite, they were decadently briny and served with only the perfect champagne mignonette and juicy lemon wedges…

…a wood-fired pizza topped with a bright tomato sauce, thick slabs of golden mozzarella, a handful of silky mushrooms, clusters of chicken sausage laced with fennel and red pepper and a sprig of fresh rosemary…

… and a salad built to showcase the famous Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese. Because blue cheese has such a distinct, sharp flavor, I was shocked to find how well it enhanced, without overpowering, the flavors of everything else we ate.

I would love to be able to recreate each and every incredible dish we ate, basking in the surprise January peek of springtime sun and a stolen Monday tucked surreally away from everything but each other.  But, I’m afraid all I can manage is a recreation of this salad, which goes perfectly with pizza.

Get everything as fresh as you can, and share it with someone who loves blue cheese almost as much as you love them.

the homespun edition

CAFE REYES BLUE CHEESE SALAD IN THE SUN

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spring lettuces
  • The best blue cheese you can find, crumbled into little pieces
  • Slices of big juicy tomatoes
  • Little cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • Ribbons of red onion
  • Dressing (I think it was ranch; TJ’s only had Caesar so my re-creation lacked a little kick. I’m sure making your own would do you well, but I don’t yet have the dressing touch)
  • Fresh parm to shave over the top
  1. Toss your salad.
  2. That’s all 🙂