I love Middle Eastern food. Just thinking about warm pita bread, creamy hummus and crispy falafel makes my mouth water. But as much as I enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine, I only eat it at restaurants—I never make it at home. Even though many of the dishes seem fairly simple, I’ve always been intimidated by some of the more unusual ingredients and unfamiliar techniques involved in Middle Eastern cooking.
That’s why I’m excited about Faith Gorsky’s new cookbook, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. Faith learned about Middle Eastern cooking from her Syrian mother-in-law, and she passes on her passion and knowledge in this beautiful, informative book. It begins with sections detailing special cooking techniques, tools and ingredients with lots of images and straightforward, accessible descriptions. These instructional sections are followed by over 100 recipes ranging from salads and sides to entrees and desserts, and including both familiar foods like Chicken Kebabs as well as less well-known dishes such as Bell Pepper Walnut Dip. Each recipe is introduced with a note from Faith providing cultural context and cooking or serving tips. There’s even a list of recommended shops for getting Middle Eastern ingredients (though many items could be found in most natural food stores). All in all, An Edible Mosaic gives you the information and inspiration you need to start exploring Middle Eastern cooking at home with confidence.
Giveaway – This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to winners Ron, Rebecca and Tammy!
Would you like to win a copy of An Edible Mosaic? To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post answering this question: What is your favorite Middle Eastern dish? To help you get started with these tasty recipes, we’ll also send you a Bob’s Red Mill prize package including Lentils, Garbanzo Beans, Bulgur and Basmati Rice. We’ll pick 3 winners from those of you who enter by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, 11/6. Good luck!
We’re happy to be able to share a recipe from An Edible Mosaic with you here. It’s a flavorful vegetarian dish that can easily be made gluten free by substituting rice for the bulgur. Enjoy!
Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Onion (Mujaddara Burghul)
This hearty pilaf is commonly eaten as a vegetarian meal, with little else besides a bowl of plain yogurt and maybe some sliced tomato, cucumber and/or onion to accompany it. It’s eaten in many Middle Eastern countries and my husband remembers children singing a song about it in middle school while growing up in Syria. For an easy variation on this dish, use white or brown rice instead of bulgur wheat.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes, plus 10 minutes to let the bulgur sit after cooking
1 1/3 cups (275 g) dried brown lentils (or 2 cans brown lentils, rinsed and drained)
6 cups (1.5 liters) water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 pods cardamom, cracked open
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (185 g) coarse-ground bulgur wheat
1 ½ cups (300 ml) boiling water
Plain yogurt (optional, for serving)
1 Sort through the lentils to remove any small stones or pieces of dirt, then rinse with cold water in a colander. Bring the rinsed lentils and the water to a boil in a lidded medium saucepan. Cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary so that they’re always immerse; strain.
2 While the lentils cook, heat the oil and the butter in a large skilled over moderately high heat; add the onion and sauté until completely softened but not yet browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer half the onion to a small bowl and set aside. Continue cooking the remaining onion until deep caramel in color, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water as necessary if the onion starts to get too dark. Set aside.
3 Put half a kettle of water on to boil. Transfer the sautéed onion (no the caramelized onion) to a medium saucepan. Add the bay leave, cardamom, clove, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add the bulgur and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Add the boiling water, turn the heat up to high, and bring to a rolling boil.
4 Give the bulgur a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the bulgur sit 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and gently stir in the lentils. Taste and add additional salt, pepper and olive oil if desired.
5 Transfer to a serving dish and top with the caramelized onion. Serve with plain yogurt to spoon on top, if desired.
For more recipes from Faith Gorsky, visit her blog, AnEdibleMosaic.com.