One-Pot Mujadara with Leeks and Kale

Mujadara

Mujadara, a Lebanese medley of onions, rice and lentils, is delicious proof that the simplest of recipes can sometimes be the most satisfying and flavorful.

I came across a recipe for a one-pot version of this already easy-to-make dish in the New York Times while looking for dinner inspiration the other night. I was captivated. Mujadara is typically started by caramelizing onions but the cook in this case had used leeks. She had also cooked the lentils and rice together instead of cooking the lentils first as most recipes would do. And she had added greens to the pot too, making it a true one-pot meal and a supremely healthy one at that.
But the best part of it all was the time required to make the recipe. Just 35 minutes. How could I say no?
Mujadara
Mujadara
So I pulled out my big pot and my lentils and my rice and some wonderful spring greens and kale that were sitting in the refrigerator and went to work. I increased the flavor by adding more garlic and cayenne than the recipe called for. And I did have one brainwave that I used to ensure that the lentils did cook thoroughly because lentils take longer to cook than rice. The New York Times recommended soaking them for 10 minutes, but I put them in a microwave-safe bowl, covered them with an inch of water, and then I zapped them for seven minutes before adding them to the pot. When the dish was all ready the lentils were perfectly tender without  being mushy and the rice was not overcooked. Divine.
This is an almost foolproof recipe and it packs so much flavor for so little work that it’s almost criminal. Oh, and did I say it was quick? But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the recipe.
Mujadara
One-Pot Mujadara with Leeks and Kale
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main Course
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 leeks, cleaned thoroughly. Trim the roots and slice the white and green parts into thin ribbons (use a large onion if you can’t find leeks)
  • 1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor, sabut masoor). Place in a microwave-safe bowl with enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, then microwave for about seven minutes. You can do this while chopping your vegetables. Drain the lentils.
  • ¾ cup basmati or other long-grain rice
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp allspice powder
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-inch stick of cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups leafy greens (use any combination of vegetables. I used 3 cups of spring greens and 1 cup of baby kale), finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the leeks and saute, stirring, over medium-high heat until the leeks are golden and crispy, about 8 minutes. If you use too little oil the leeks won’t crisp up.
  2. Remove half the leeks to a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt while still warm.
  3. To the pot with the remaining leeks, add the garlic and bay leaves, stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the cumin, allspice and cayenne. Stir for a few seconds to coat with the oil and then add the rice. Saute for a few seconds until the rice turns opaque.
  4. Add the drained lentils, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Stir well, then add 4 cups of water.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to low until the water just simmers. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and let it steam away for 15 minutes.
  6. Open the pot, arrange the greens on top in an even layer, cover, and cook for five more minutes. Turn off the heat.
  7. Let the mujadara stand at least 10 minutes before opening the pot. Garnish with the reserved leeks and serve hot.
Mujadara recipe
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Pita Bread for Africa, and Inauguration Mania


The end of last year was a busy one for me, which meant some of the blog commitments I wanted to fulfill had to take a backseat. One of them was a tag from Uma to bake bread to feed Africa.

Well, not really: it’s just symbolic :). This is part of a “blog action” campaign started by a charity that seeks to raise awareness about hunger and poverty in Africa, by asking food bloggers to post their bread recipes. It’s a wonderful and worthy cause, and you can read more about it here.

Because this is a tag, I am required to tag other bloggers, but I think I’ll just leave it up to you: if any of you is interested, just consider yourself tagged and bake away!

It seems a little weird to write about hunger in a blog that celebrates food, and yet, I also think it’s rather appropriate. To me, veganism is not just a cause for saving the animals I love, but also a good way to start building a world where we become conscious of waste and needless consumption.

I strongly believe we have to share the resources our Earth provides us, with other people around the world, and with every creature that shares the Earth with us. I believe, as Gandhi once said, “The Earth provides enough for every man’s need but not every man’s greed.”

Now think of this: it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat. Very simply put, if more people eat a grain-based diet, more people can eat.

So a vegetarian diet can- and this is not an exaggeration by any means- fight world hunger. How cool is that?

Now on to the baking part of this post. I love baking bread and especially experimenting with veganizing versions of bread that use loads of butter or eggs. But baking — while not exactly very time-consuming– does take hours of planning and a few minutes of attention at different times throughout a day.

Not pita bread, though. While it does require two rises, the first is only about a couple of hours, and the second rise is 20 minutes and is not really a rise as much as an opportunity for the dough to kick back and relax before being plunged into a hot oven.

The resulting bread itself is so warm, pillowy, delicious and fragrant, you know it is worth the effort, instead of picking up a packet of days-old, plastic-packed pita bread from the supermarket.

I made my pita mostly whole-wheat, and I used some of the loaves the next day to make pita chips: which I absolutely adore and which are heaven with some guacamole or hummus.

I am going to move on to the recipe now, but don’t forget to see pictures of the inauguration of President Barack Obama at the end of this post. It was one of most memorable days of my life.

Whole-wheat Pita Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups white whole-wheat flour (can substitute with regular whole wheat flour)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp salt

4 tsp active dry yeast

Warm water (about 1 1/4 cups)

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together all the ingredients.

Knead into a smooth dough, and continue kneading by hand, or on low speed in a stand mixer, for about 10 minutes.

Place in a bowl coated with olive oil, turning over once so that the dough is coated with oil.

Keep in a warm place to rise, about 2 hours, until doubled in volume.

Now punch down the dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll into balls, cover with a kitchen towel, and allow the balls to rest about 20 minutes.

Roll each ball into a dough around 7 inches in diameter. Try to roll evenly so the pita will rise in the oven, making a perfect pocket.

Place a pizza stone or unglazed ceramic tiles in an oven, and preheat to 450 degrees.

Spritz the pizza stone with water and, after 30 seconds, place as many pitas as you can on the stone without overlapping.

Leave alone for 3 minutes. The pitas should puff up.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. The pita should now deflate. If, for some reason, it doesn’t, I find that putting it in a microwave for 30 seconds after it has cooled down softens the pita and does the trick.

Stuff with felafel and fresh veggies and enjoy!

I made some spinach felafel to go with the pita bread, but I baked them instead of frying. I wasn’t too happy with the texture of the baked felafel: I should’ve just fought the healthy urge and gone with frying which is how felafel is usually made. But the felafel were tasty enough, although I’m going to wait until another time, when I’ve perfected it, to share the recipe.

Pita Chips:

To make pita chips the next day, cut the pita into eight wedges, like a pizza.

Put the wedges on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle some olive oil. Toss.

Place in a 350-degree preheated oven and bake about 3-5 minutes, flipping over once if needed.

Remove to a plate and serve with some hummus or guacamole.

***

I can imagine many of you have by now watched pictures and videos of the inauguration over and over. But since I was there freezing to death, I think I deserve to be able to post some of my own :)

I won’t wax on about the inauguration itself, except to say it was colder, way colder than it was at the concert Sunday, and much more crowded. It’s estimated around 2 million people made it to the inauguration ceremonies, which include the swearing-in, the parade, and the many balls. The National Mall was so packed, it might have been hard to slip a newspaper between two people! Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. You can see the pictures for yourself.

And now that all the festivities are over, it’s time to get back to real life. Wish you all a wonderful week ahead, and here’s hoping the weekend gets here very, very soon!

There I am, all bundled up but not about to let go of a photo op with PETA’s mascots who we encountered on the way to the inauguration. Don’t miss the “Yes we can go veg” signs!

This was the crowd on just one of the many streets leading out of the National Mall after the swearing-in of President Obama.

People gathered at just one of the jumbotrons that beamed the swearing-in.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Beets Infused with Garlic and Olive Oil


Middle Eastern food never fails to amaze me with its vibrant flavors and simplicity and ease of preparation. Its popularity is obvious from the fact that foods like hummus, felafel, pita and tabbouleh have melded effortlessly into our food vocabulary today.

I am lucky because one of my oldest and best friends, Margo, is an Armenian who was born and raised in Lebanon. I often pick up great tips for wonderful Middle Eastern dishes from her, and from eating at her home.

This super-simple recipe for beets, one of my favorite veggies, is one I got from her. When I first ate these beets at her home, I was speechless when she told me just how easy to make they are, and how tiny the ingredient list is, because the flavor was so incredibly and spectacularly vivid.

I make this dish often in my kitchen now, and it takes minutes to put together. It goes beautifully as a side dish with just about anything. Try it: you won’t be disappointed.

Beets Infused with Garlic and Olive Oil

4 medium beets, scrubbed clean, then covered with water and boiled on a stovetop or zapped in a microwave until a fork stuck in the middle slides in effortlessly. (I don’t skin my beets). Slice the beets thinly and cut each slice into quarters, then eighths.

In a small bowl, mix together:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed, preferably with a garlic press, or minced really fine.

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

Pour the oil-garlic-lemon mixture over the beets and toss well.

Set aside for about half an hour for the flavors to infuse. Serve at room temperature.

Delicious.

***

I have long been intimidated by the thought of entering Jugalbandi’s gorgeous Click event because of the amazing quality of the photographs they get, but heck, you only live once! So this time I’m throwing my hat in the ring. Thanks, Happy, for the suggestion!

I am also sending on this super-simple recipe to Ramki’s event for minimalists, Recipes for the Rest of Us. Thanks, Ramki!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Edamame Hummus

Edamame Hummus
I am in India for the next three weeks, but before saying goodbye I wanted to leave you with one of my most favorite and versatile dishes: my three-soy hummus.

I must admit I jumped the gun on this one when I posted my edamame pesto recipe. That recipe was actually inspired by this three-soy hummus which is a very easy, very delicious and very, very nutritious dish. It acts great as a spread for wraps or as an appetizer with whole-wheat pita or crackers, but I usually pick up a spoon and eat it like ice-cream. Yes, it’s that good.

I would normally use soft tofu for the hummus, but I happened to only have some silken firm tofu in my refrigerator which has been depleted quite a bit because of the upcoming travel. The firm tofu worked very well and gave the hummus an interesting texture while not really taking away from that creamy mouth-feel.

I call this a three-soy hummus because of the three different soy products I use in it: edamame or soybeans, tofu, and mild miso. Miso is a paste made with fermented soybeans and is rich in enzymes that aid digestion. It is salty, so go slow on the salt in the hummus. I usually don’t add any at all. Also, vegans and vegetarians might want to get a good look at the label when you buy miso, because some brands do use non-vegetarian ingredients.

I hope you enjoy this very special recipe.

Edamame Hummus
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2 cups shelled edamame beans, thawed if frozen then steamed with a couple of tablespoons of water in a microwave for a couple of minutes
  • 2 cups soft or firm tofu, depending on how creamy you want the texture to be
  • 1 tbsp mild miso paste
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, powdered
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes (use more or less per your taste)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, if needed
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Could it be any easier?
  2. Enjoy!
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Black Bean Hummus with Olives

Black Bean Hummus, vegan and gluten-free
I’ve blogged before about my hummus recipe, made with the traditional chickpeas. But today I wanted to introduce you to a different version of hummus that’s just as delicious and extremely healthy: Black Bean Hummus with Olives.If you have visited this blog before, you know that I focus on foods that are healthy as well as delicious. While I don’t obsess with fat and don’t believe in cutting it out of meals altogether, I do try to ensure that the fats my family does consume, in limited quantities, are healthy, unsaturated ones. After all, our bodies do need some fat to function effectively and unsaturated fats are even believed to reduce cholesterol levels. Plus, who’re we kidding, they add a zing to most foods.

One of the big advantages of a vegan lifestyle is, the fats you eat tend to be free of cholesterol and, usually, saturated fats, which are predominant in animal products.

This black bean hummus contains fats from both olive oil and olives, which as we know is a healthy fat and actually good for your heart. The black sesame seeds I use in the recipe also contribute heart-healthy fats known to reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure. Black sesame seeds can be found in most Indian and Asian grocery stores.

And black beans, of course, are super-nutritious with loads of cholesterol-reducing dietary fiber, and protein. What’s more, they are packed with more antioxidants than any other bean.

This black bean hummus tastes great with some pita bread or even with crudites. Put it out at a party and I promise you, it will be gone before you know it!

Black Bean Hummus with Olives
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dip
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (use canned or dried. If using dried, soak for several hours or overnight and then cook until tender. If using canned, drain and rinse thoroughly)
  • 1 14-oz can black olives
  • ¼ cup black sesame seeds, powdered in a spice grinder (can substitute with white sesame seeds or ¼ cup tahini)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper like cayenne or paprika
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients except the salt and olive oil in a food processor. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the ingredients form a smooth paste.
  2. Add some water if the mixture is too thick. Add salt to taste.
  3. Remove to a bowl.
  4. Sprinkle with some red pepper and a few drops of olive oil as a garnish.
  5. Serve with pita bread or crudites.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.