Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

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Did you know you can cook lentils in a rice cooker?  I found out last week thanks to a lovely visit from my friend.  It never occurred to me to use anything other than rice in a rice cooker, which by the way are amazing and cheap even if you only use them for rice.  But now that I that I’ve found out I can cook lentils (and possibly other beans) in it, I have a newfound appreciate for the simple machine.

Before my discovery I would cook non-split lentils sparingly because they took 40 minutes to cook and I’m just not that patient sometimes (I say this after posting about ricotta and gnocchi).  Now I can still follow the recipe with regards to amounts but they cook in nearly half the time, but with plenty of flavor.  This lentil and chickpea dish is delicious, but took a little more time than I like for a “simple” salad.  Now I’m done in 30 minutes with a great spring salad or, even better, it can become a filling crostini topping.

This recipe also reminded me how much I like “quick pickled” red onions.  Tender with just a hint of tang, but not that raw onion taste that lingers in your mouth even after you brush your teeth.  Also apparently I really like feta.  I save the container for storage and I won’t say how many, but we have quite a few lying around here.

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Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Lentils
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 large cloves of garlic, halved
2 fresh sage sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dressing and salad
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 large clove of garlic
salt to taste
2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil (split)
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 a large red onion, thinly sliced 
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup of feta 
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Lentils:  Rice Cooker

In a rice cooker add lentils, garlic, sage, olive oil, a pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon) and 2 cups cold water.  Turn on rice cooker and allow to cook.  Mine took about 20 minutes, but timing will differ depending on the rice cooker you have.  The lentils should be tender, but not mushy.  Once done, unplug rice cooker and allow lentils to cool slightly.

Lentils:  Stove top

In a small pot add the lentils, garlic, sage, olive oil and 2 cups cold water.  Bring the water to a simmer then turn the heat to low and allow the lentils to cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add water as needed.  When tender, but not mushy, remove from heat, drain any excess water, and set aside to cool slightly.

Salad

Place onion slices in a medium bowl and break them up with your hands.  Sprinkle with two pinches of salt (about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon), two teaspoons of lemon juice, two teaspoons of olive oil and parsley. Toss together and then crumble in feta and gently toss.  Set aside and allow to marinate.

Mash the half garlic clove to a paste with salt using the back of your knife or grate the garlic with a microplane grater.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, tahini, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water.  Whisk together and set aside.

In a large bowl toss the lentils and chickpeas.  Pour in the tahini dressing and toss to coat.  Gently stir in the onion and feta mixture.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve with toasted bread and a side salad.  This salad is good on its own, but also makes a great crostini.  Enjoy!

 
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Israeli Couscous with Eggplant and a Cinnamon-Cumin Dressing

I’ve been to San Francisco and Lewisburg, WV this week.  San Francisco was for the American Thoracic Society Conference, where my scientific poster was well received.  Lewisburg (dubbed the “coolest small town” by Budget Travel) was for my best friend’s medical school graduation.   I saw the Golden Gate Bridge and rode the cable cars in San Fran, and wandered through Fisherman’s Wharf.  I picked up a few magnets as souvenirs and read a book and half while waiting in line at the airport and cable cars.  In WV, I saw picturesque mountains and my friend’s photography exhibit.  More importantly, I watched a dear friend become a doctor, so now when I call for friendly medical advice she doesn’t have to say, “Hold on, let me get my book.  We haven’t gotten to that chapter yet.”

Now after a week of being stuck in small metal tubes (cars and planes) for hours, sleeping in less-than-ideal hotel beds, and eating out for all meals (mostly Asian in San Fran and mostly fried or cheesy in WV), I am ready to be home and cook in my own kitchen.  I made this dish before I left, but it is something I can’t wait to make again.  It is simple yet flavorful, and  I always wish I had more for my lunch the next day.  Also it’s completely different than anything I’ve had in the past week, meaning healthy, fresh and made by me.

Israeli Couscous with Eggplant and a Cinnamon-Cumin Dressing

Adapted from Love and Olive Oil
 
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants or 6 Indian eggplants (pictured), diced into ½-inch cubes
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup Israeli couscous
1/3 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3-4 green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
½ cup raisins (golden or regular)
¼ cup chopped parsley (or cilantro)
salt and pepper
 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Add eggplant and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground pepper.  Roast in oven for about 30-35 minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown.

Meanwhile, cook couscous according to package directions.  Drain excess water, rinse and cool.

Toast walnuts over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cool then roughly chop.

In large bowl whisk together the cumin, cinnamon, white wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the green onions, raisins, parsley, toasted walnuts, couscous and eggplant cubes to the large bowl with the dressing.  Toss everything together to coat.  Serve at room temperature.

Kofta and Zucchini

A little more than a year ago, I honeymooned in Turkey.  I walked through the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis.  I saw the ancient and yet modern cities of Istanbul (not Constantinople) and Izmir.  I took a boat tour of the Bosporus and walked along the Aegean Sea.  I was awoken daily by the morning adhan, which shook our hotel’s window when we stayed near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  I learned a few key phrases of Turkish, such as “thank you” (teşekkür ederim), “please” (lütfen), and “I do not understand” (anlamadım).  I tried local cuisine and fell in love with Turkish tea (Çay), which has the perfect jolt of caffeine without the jitters of coffee.

My favorite dinner was at a small restaurant in Kuşadası called Avlu, tucked away on a side street of the main bazaar (where you can find “genuine fake watches”).  My husband and I headed to dinner around 7 and found the restaurant empty, as with many at this time (I never did figure out when locals eat).  We were seated and brought delicious pide (Turkish flat bread).  Since we appeared to be confused tourists (which we were), our host suggested getting a sampling of kofta and other grilled meats and vegetables.  The meal was truly delightful and a wonderful introduction to kofta.

There is no way to replicate the delectable kofta I had at Avlu, but the smell and taste of this kofta instantly brought back the memories of the Aegean and the small seaside town of Kuşadası.  If you can’t make it to Turkey to sample their incredible, bold favors (or can’t make it back), you can at least make this and pretend you’re watching the sunset over the Aegean.

Kofta and Grilled Zucchini

adapted from Smitten Kitchen
 
Mint-yogurt sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
 
Zucchini:
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 medium zucchini, sliced crosswise or lengthwise*
 
Kefta:
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 small onion, finely minced or grated
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1lb ground beef or lamb

Stir together mint-yogurt sauce ingredients and chill.

Whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle in olive oil while whisking.  Add zucchini slices to coat and let marinate 15-30 minutes.  Skewer slices if using grill.

In a medium bowl, add breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne, pepper and walnuts.  Using hands or a spoon, combine.  Add in beef (or lamb) and mix together with hands until well combined. Form mixture into small balls** (tablespoon) if roasting in the oven or form into long oval patties around a soaked skewer.

To Broil***:  Place meatballs onto baking sheet and place under broiler 4-6 minutes, rotating partway through.

To Grill (or grill pan):  Place skewers on hot grill/grillpan and cook 4-6 minutes, rotating partway through.

Keep kefta warm (tented aluminum foil), while grilling (grill pan, grill or broiler) zucchini for 2-3 minutes per side until slightly charred.

Serve the kofta and zucchini warm with the mint-yogurt sauce.  I like to have mine with pita chips and couscous.

*I like lengthwise because then I don’t have to turn as many pieces.

**In Turkey it was served as a long formed oval patty on a stick.  If grilling I would recommend forming the meat onto the stick like this, because it is easier to manage that the meatballs.

***Kofta is typically grilled, but I didn’t feel like grilling them in the small batches my grill pan requires and getting out my charcoal grill at my apartment complex is always a pain.  Therefore I settled for broiling them, saving the grill pan for the zucchini.