VDP: Burgul Pilaf with Cauliflower and Zucchini

Wednesday, Thursday March 6, 2008

Burghul with tomato is another traditional Lebanese dish that I ate on a regular basis as a child. The basic recipe is extremely simple, just burgul cooked with onions and tomatoes. That is all good, but to make it a bit more substantial I added some roasted cauliflower and zucchini.

To roast the cauliflower (I did that the night before), I tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in a shallow pan at 450F. Halfway through I turned the florets around to get a nice color on them. That’s a great way to cook cauliflower and to give it an amazing flavor. The zucchini was just sautéed with onions and garlic. Then I added some pureed canned tomatoes, water, the cauliflower and the burgul.I covered it and let it simmer till done.

To serve it, I made a crater in the center of a pile of the pilaf and filled that with homemade yogurt. Last but not least I garnished the dish with a good dose of shredded preserved lemon. The preserved lemon is certainly not Lebanese, it’s a north African ingredient but works so well with so many middle eastern dishes. I make those at home as well. Basically you just layer cut lemons and kosher salt in a jar and you fill the whole thing with lemon juice. A month later, you got awesome preserved lemons. To use them, rinse under water, get rid of the pulp and chop up the rind. The chopped rind will give any dish an instant exotic north African flavor.

VDP: Braised Vegetables and Tofu, Thai Style

Thursday, February 7, 2008

This Thai-inspired dish is based on a “Quick Braised Vegetables, Thai Style” from Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian“. It is not an exact replica because I did change a few things, some due to availability and some to make it more to my taste. The dish should include eggplant, but I could not find any decent ones. So, eggplant was axed out and instead I got some good soft tofu (Banyan Foods  brand, made here in Houston). The other vegetables are green zucchini and yellow squash in addition to onions and other aromatics.

The recipe is pretty easy, I first sautéed the onions and added some kefir lime leaves and garlic. Next goes in the rest of the veggies and are cooked till almost done. I added a can of Thai coconut milk to the mix and some lime juice, fermented yellow beans, Kecap Manis (a sweet thick soy sauce) and cilantro. After this cooks and thickens for a while -well, a while is about 10 minutes- I toss in the tofu, some fish sauce and corrected the seasoning. That’s it.

Steamed sticky (glutinous) rice is one of our favorite accompaniments to Southeast Asian meals. It does have to be soaked in water for preferably a few hours. I usually soak it in the morning before work. By the time I get back I drain it and steam it in the steamer basket of my pasta pot. I just pile it in the basket and never loose more than a few grain through the holes. It steams for about 30 minutes to cook through. It works so good with stuff like curries, because it soaks up the sauce very well and has a nice nutty taste and an awesome toothsome texture that really stands up to strong flavors.

VDP: Mushroom Ragout with Burghul and Yogurt Sauce

Saturday, January 12, 2008

If you do not know what burghul is, click here where I explained it once before. It really is a delicious and quick-cooking grain that can be cooked in many interesting methods or not at all. It can even be soaked for an hour, drained, flavored and eaten as is. This time I did cook it to go with the simple mushroom ragout.

Ragout is really just my fancy name for it. This is a typical dish you’d find at most Lebanese mezze (tapas, appetizers) spreads. It ranges from tongue-numbingly spicy, to mild. I make it mild since my wife does not like spicy foods. I add more chili flakes later on my portion. To make this, I cooked a whole bunch of bell peppers with onions, one chili pepper and garlic in olive oil. Then I added some cut up mushrooms and sautéed for a few minutes. Lastly I added some canned peeled and crushed tomatoes and let it stew gently for 30 minutes. It needs to be a little acidic, so at the end I adjusted the seasoning and added some lemon juice. This can be served hot, cold, or room temperature.

For the burghul, I use a 1X1 ratio of liquid to grain. For a simple burghul dish like this one, as opposed to using it as stuffing or in Kibbe, I use the medium or coarse grind. I just sautéed some green chopped onions in olive oil and toasted a cup of burghul in there for a minute or so. Then added a cup of water and reduced the heat to low. Covered and let it cook for 20 minutes or so. The grains should be cooked tender but still have a bit of bite to them. They should be fluffy and not mushy.

The yogurt sauce is just whole milk yogurt, olive oil, chopped fresh mint, chopped green onions (the green tops), salt and pepper.