Country #2: Egypt

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This week, 52 Weeks, 52 Meals is on the road in cold, snowy Chicago!  I am here visiting my dear friend Jessa, and since we share a love of food, I figured that there was no point in pausing this blog but rather to consider this a growing experience!

It is possible that Egyptians love food as much as we do.  Everyone has heard about wall paintings that depict grand battles, hunting expeditions, and victories - the Egyptians also painted food.  Lots of it.  And what better way to understand a people’s history than through their food?

Only 2% of Egypt is arable land, and it is concentrated around the Nile.  Much of the Egyptian diet consists of bread, grains, and of course, pulses like lentils and chickpeas.  Cuisine tends to have similarities to food found in North Africa (duhhh), such as the prominence of fava beans, as well as to the Middle East, like the use of pita bread, lentils, and chickpeas.

I chose Egypt this week for two reasons. First, Jessa is a vegetarian, and it is quite easy to find Egyptian entrees that don’t contain meat.  Second, my good friend Adam is visiting Egypt this week, and due to my paralyzing jealousy, I hoped that if I eat the same food, it’s pretty much the same as walking around the pyramids and the Nile River delta.  Totally logical, right?

Envy aside, this week we bring you: Kusherie (Egyptian lentils) and salata baladi (Egyptian green salad).

First, you cook lentils, pasta, and brown rice.  Each in their own pot.  (This recipe uses a lot of pots.)  In large skillet, simmer a can of tomatoes and one of tomato paste with brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce into a bowl.  Then heat up some oil in the pan, slice an onion into ribbons, and begin to caramelize it.
When the rice and lentils have finished cooking, pour the lentils into the pot of rice and stir it up (little daaaarlin', steeeer it up!).
Put the pasta and lentil/rice combo in a bowl.  Spoon the onions over the sauce in the bowl.  Then get ready to prepare... the salata baladi!  It's super easy.  Whip up your favorite green salad, and prepare the simple salad dressing described below.

Full Recipe
(Kusherie adapted from the Denver Post's recipe)

1 cup mostaccioli pasta
1 cup brown rice
1 cup lentils
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 can (16 oz) canned tomatoes
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 onion

1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain and set aside.
2. Cook the brown rice in another pot.
3. Cook the lentils in yet another pot until they are soft.  When they are finished, add the lentils to the rice.
4. Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep skillet.  Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Stir in the brown sugar, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Simmer for 10 minutes, then pour into a bowl.  
5. Rinse out the skillet and heat up the rest of the olive oil.  Slice the onion into ribbons and put them in the skillet.  Keep the heat on low and let the onions caramelize.  They are done when they are golden brown and taste like the most delicious things in the universe.  Place them on the top of the sauce.
6. Pour the pasta into a bowl, and put the rice/lentil mixture next to it.

Salata baladi:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

1. Dice the tomato and cucumber.  Tear up the spinach and put them all in a bowl.
2. To make the dressing, whisk the mustard into the oil.  Then whisk in the vinegar and lemon juice.  Whisk in the cumin, cayenne, and salt and pepper.  Toss with salad and enjoy!


Adam said...

Official update from Luxor - Kushari is awesome. We've had it 4 times now (I think) and I actually had it for lunch today. It costs about 4-6 LE here (about $0.80-1.20) for enough to fill you for the whole day.

A few corrections on the recipe: First, every place we've gotten it so far uses a combination of canneroni and spaghetti, not mostaccioli or other penne-style pasta. They also use white rice, but brown probably tastes really good. Second, it always has chick peas, about in proportion to the lentils. Third, it's delicious when you add a bit of hot sauce and some of a combination of white vinegar, lemon juice, and a little garlic.

I come home ~Monday. We need to make some Kushari when I get back.


Adam said...

I forgot one KEY ingredient: fried onions (like French's, available in the canned veg aisle). Super important. That is all.

Post a Comment