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Friday, August 25, 2006

LEBANESE LENTILS AND PASTA

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After the excess of last week's blog entry, here is my take on a simple, healthful, delicious Lebanese dish that is one of our favorite go-to quick meals-- plus a delightful Lebanese iced tea recipe from an old friend.  In the Middle East, pasta is often added to sauce-y dish in its dry form, which saves a step, and washing a pot, and thickens the sauce.  This is a great example of that technique, and it works well with whole wheat pasta.  The greens in the dish are not traditional, but they are often added to Lebanese lentil soups, so I decided to add some and we prefer it that way now.

Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S LEBANESE STYLE LENTILS AND PASTA
(Originally from my [now defunct] newsletter, The Vegan Feast)
Serves 3-4
This is a delicious Lebanese dish. It makes a full meal (the greens aren't traditional, but I like them). PS: This qualifies as a Weight Watcher's Core Food Plan recipe if you use whole wheat pasta.

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
5 cups vegetarian broth
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2-4 cups chopped raw chard, kale or, other greens, or 1/ 10 ounce package chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 ounces spaghettini, broken into 4" long pieces (whole wheat pasta is good in this dish)
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice OR 1 tablespoon sumac (see about the herb sumac here)
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and lentils to a boil . Turn down to low, cover and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still holding their shape. (OR, pressure cook for 15 minutes.)

Steam-fry the onion, garlic, and cumin in a large nonstick pot sprayed with oil from a pump sprayer, or with cooking spray, until soft. OR place in a microwavable dish (such as a Pyrex pie plate), cover with a microwavable plate, and microwave at full power for 7 minutes. PS: if you don't mind a little fat, saute in a bit of olive oil instead.

Pour the lentils and all of the broth with the onion mixture into a nonstick wok or deep skillet. Add the greens, broken pasta, optional parsley or cilantro, if using, and the cayenne. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium.

Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth has been absorbed, leaving a sort of sauce. Add the lemon juice or sumac and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve hot.


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Printable Recipe

EASTERN TEA FOR DANCERS
(Given to me by my friend Lee Hoffman of New Orleans. She tasted this in a Lebanese restaurant and thought my bellydancer friends and I would enjoy it, which we do! This is her "voice" describing the recipe.)

Description:
A tangy iced tea that tastes like you've left the continent and arrived in an exotic place. I had some in a middle Eastern restaurant, but couldn't duplicate it until I got hold of the pomengranate molasses.

Ingredients:
4 tea bags or caffeine-free teabags
4 C. boiling water. Make tea as usual.
Add 2-3 T. pomegranate molasses (see below)

Sugar to taste. Serve over ice.

Add 1 tsp. rose water on the top. Don't stir.

Sprinkle on about a tablespoon of pine nuts (raw). Why? I don't know, but it was served that way in the restaurant.

ROSEWATER = rose water = ma ward
Notes: This is distilled from rose petals, and used in the Middle East, North Africa, and India to flavor desserts. Don't confuse this with rose essence, which is more concentrated.

ABOUT POMEGRANATE MOLASSES (known as nasrahab in Georgian and dibs rumman in Arabic) is an essential Middle Eastern ingredient. It has a wonderful flavor and heady aroma, and keeps in the refrigerator after opening almost indefinitely. The Iranian kind tends to be sweeter and thinner than the Lebanese brands.

The uses for this thick, tangy, piquant syrup are many. It blends well with walnuts, adds a tart and pungent flavor to beans and other savory dishes, and gives an astringent edge to salads and vegetables. It is delicious in glazes and marinades and it can even be diluted and used for sharp drinks and tart sorbets.

This should not be confused with grenadine syrup, which is made from the same base but has sugar and other other flavorings added.

Both rosewater and pomegranate molasses are available from amazon and from Middle Eastern, Greek and Persian grocery stores, and gourmet food stores; rosewater is also available from Indian grocery stores.

Enjoy!

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4 comments:

Jennifer C. said...

Bryanna,

I was just thinking I need to make a lentil and chard soup today, to use up some of the greens in my fridge. And that tea recipe. Yum! I'm going to the post office this afternoon and on the way is a halal market, so I can stop and pick up some rose water and pomegranate molasses! Thanks for the timely post!

t. said...

The recipe is wonderful (as usual!!!!) but what I found extra fantastic is the discovery of pomegranate molasses! Never heard of that before! And since I have a pomegranate tree producing many fruits, I may event try making some myself! Any tip welcomed: I am light years away from being as skillful and talented as you!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

t.,pomegranate molasses is evidently just boiled-down pomegranate juice. I've never tried making it, but it might be worth a try if you have lots! I grew up in California and remember picking pomegranates off a tree on the way home from school!

There are more recipes on this blog using the syrup-- Pomegranate soup (http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.com/2006/03/persian-new-year.html), and pomegranate tofu (http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.com/2006/03/pomegranate-tofu-re-visited.html)

Dori said...

I think the soup sounds delish! I'm going to try it with some BLACK RICE long noodles that I bought. I tried to use them as a noddle dish, but they were to sticky and pretty sweet. A buckwheat noodle might be tastey too.

I like the tea idea and am going to try this also.