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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mediterranean Night

One of my favorite restaurants here is a Mediterranean restaurant down the street.   They have a vegetarian platter that I love.   It comes with hummus, falafel, lentils and rice, and tabouli.   Although I love the dish I also realize that it is LOADED with fat.  I only eat there a couple of times a year and I have come up with recipes to make it at home without all the fat.

We have hummus a lot.  It is high protein, rich in fiber, and delicious.   Most commercial brands have a lot of added fat.  It isn't necessary to add all that fat to get a wonderful, creamy hummus.   There are a lot of ways to use hummus.   You can use it for a sandwich filling or as a spread to replace mayonnaise.   The most common way to use it is to put a big spoonful of it on pita bread, throw a falafel or two on top and add a little hot sauce.  Falafel is very close to hummus but it is normally deep fried.   I bake it instead and it is great.   Leaving out the oil and baking it makes it a bit drier than the fried variety but once you have the hummus on top of it the moisture takes care of that.  Garbanzo and chickpeas are the same thing.   I use them interchangeably.

The lentils and rice were always the trickiest part of the dish - I tried tons of recipes and could never figure out how to get that distinctive taste.   I finally nailed it and it is just as good.   This post is going to be 3 different recipes.   I make the rice and lentils a day ahead so can just throw everything together when I get home from work.  It is a work intensive meal but it is worth it.

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice

  • 3-4 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
Add ½ cup water, salt, and soy sauce to a wide skillet. Add onion and cook until almost all the water evaporates; continue adding water a few tablespoons at a time and onions are browned (caramelized) – this can take 10-15 minutes.  You want to let the water almost completely evaporate before adding more, there will be bits of brown sticking to the pan and you want the pan to be hot enough for the water to boil up and release the brown bits, this is called deglazing the pan.    Add cumin, cardamom, garlic, and cayenne and cook for 3 minutes.
 Add lentils and broth or water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.

Cook the brown rice separately.  

Fluffy Brown Rice

1 cups brown rice
5 cups water
salt – to taste

Rinse the rice in a colander under cold running water for a few seconds. Add the water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water begins to boil, add the rice and stir once.  Reduce the heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a colander and drain for about 10 seconds over the sink.  Return the rice to the pot, (make sure to remove the pot from the heat). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes.  After you have steamed the rice for 10 minutes, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste.

Once rice is done, add the lentils and stir to combine.

Baked Falafel
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, with liquid reserved
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons garbanzo flour (substitute regular flour if you are not avoiding gluten)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans.  Put in a medium sized bowl and smash with a fork (or pulse a few times in a food processor). Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls, about the size of an ice cream scoop and slightly flatten (the flatter they are the more uniformly they will cook. Place onto an oiled baking pan.
Bake for 15 minutes on each side, until nicely browned (since it’s baked; only the part actually touching the pan will be browned and crispy).

Low Fat Hummus

2 cans chickpeas (liquid reserved)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process, adding very small amounts of the reserved bean liquid at a time.   You want it to be totally smooth with no remaining chunks of chickpeas in it.  It won’t take very much of the reserved liquid to accomplish this.   Using plain water doesn’t give it the same creamy texture as the reserved bean liquid does.  

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