Saturday, February 21, 2009

Middle Eastern cooking

For V-Day, Priya got me an amazing cookbook: The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden (click for New Yorker piece). There are probably dozens of recipes I can't wait to try NOW. Last night, I found myself at home, hungry, well-stocked with groceries from the co-op, with Priya stranded at her house doing work...so I tried out three of the recipes.

First, I made the mujadarra. I love mujadarra and have made it a bunch of times in the past, but the book's recipe (called "megadarra"; Claudia is, after all, Egyptian, and the Masriiy do have that nasty habit of replacing Js with Gs...) was quite different. See, when I make mujadarra, I do it all in one pot (my Dutch oven); I fry a huge amount of onions (5 big ones) in vegetable oil for a long, long time, until they're dark brown, almost burnt-looking...then I throw in some lentils, stir a bit, add water, cook for a while, add rice and more water, and cook til done (maybe adding some cinnamon or cumin or something on the way). Really easy and really great.

Claudia's mujadarra recipe starts off with only three onions and olive oil. Then, she has you cook them only until they're soft and darkening, not deep-brown-fry them. In a separate pot (argh, more dishes!) you boil water and cook the lentils in it for 20 minutes (adding cumin and coriander to the water); you then take half the cooked onions and some rice and dump them into the water, where you finish cooking everything. Meanwhile, you turn the heat back on the onions, deep-brown-fry them, and put them on top of the finished dish. It's a lot more work and honestly the easier way is just as good.

I had some flash-frozen salmon fromTJ's, so I pulled it out and made a chermoula marinade from the book (cilantro, olive oil, red wine vinegar, cumin, coriander, garlic, etc) and pan-fried it. That came out absolutely delicious, and I will use it again. I didn't save half the marinade to use as a sauce for the fish, but I really didn't need to--it was very flavorful already.

Finally, I wanted to experiment with some Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) I'd bought at the co-op...never had 'em before. So I made a simple recipe involving frying them with fresh tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a pan. I wasn't sure how long to cook them for, so I left 'em a little crisp, which was fine--they were delicious, like celeriac but without the celery flavor.


Fantastic cookbook, and great meal! I ate it watching Grizzly Man--maybe the first time I've sat down and watched a movie myself in more than a year (and it was a good one).

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