Hora’a Osbao – Syrian Lentil Stew

An absolutely incredible dish originating from Syria. I had it for the first time last year by chance, and had to ask what the name was, it was so amazing. It’s a fair amount of work, but the results are by far worth it.

According to my roommate, this is often served as a side dish, but it’s more than filling enough to serve as the main course!

This dish uses pomegranate molasses, also called dibis ramman, which was an entirely new ingredient to me. It’s tangy, sweet, and just flat-out delicious. My local grocery store carries it, but you might have to make the trek to a Middle-Eastern market to find it! If you can only find grape molasses (which has a similar flavour profile), you can use that in a pinch.

If you use gluten-free pasta, this dish can be gluten-free.

Prep time: ~1.5 hours.
Serves: 6-8, generously.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large white onions, peeled and cut into thin slices.
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying the onions)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed/minced.
  • 1 bunch coriander, half finely chopped, half with the leaves removed from the stems.
  • 2 pieces Arabic bread (pita works well), cut into small cubes.
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed well.
  • 8 cups water.
  • 6 tsp cumin.
  • 150 grams fettuccine (or similar pasta).
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses.
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice.
  • 1 tbsp sugar.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.
  • pomegranate seeds, to garnish.

Cooking Instructions:

Start off by heating 2 cups of oil in a large saucepan or pot on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough that an onion slice starts to bubble when dropped in, but doesn’t go brown right away, add in all the onions.

Stir occasionally, and cook until browned and crispy, 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oil, pat off the excess oil with paper towels, and set them aside to cool.

While the onions cook, preheat the oven as hot as it will go. Toss the bread pieces with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, until they’re nicely coated, then spread on a tray and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and brown. Set the croutons aside to cool.

Place your lentils in a large pot with the water and cumin, and place the pot on high heat. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down until they’re just simmering. Cook for 30 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, heat a small pan on medium heat. When hot, add 2 tsp olive oil and the garlic. Turn the heat down to low immediately, and cook the garlic, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

Add in the chopped coriander, then turn off the heat, but keep the pan on the stove. Stir occasionally until it begins to cool down, then set aside. This is called the “takliye”.

Cook your pasta for half the time specified on the package, then drain the pasta, but reserve 3 cups of the pasta water.

Once the lentils have been simmering for 30 minutes, add in half of the pasta water, an all of the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well until combined.

Add the pasta, 2/3 of the crispy onions, and all of the takliye, stir well, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper, and taste to see if the lentils are done. If they’re still too firm, add some more of the pasta water and let simmer for a few minutes longer.

When the lentils are cooked and the stew has a nice, thick consistency, stir in the last coriander leaves. If you are serving this for others, place in a large serving dish and allow to cool slightly, then top with the croutons, pomegranate seeds,, and the remaining onions.

This dish can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

 

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

I love squash. And I love stuffing vegetables with things  (stuffed bell peppers and tomatoes are some of my favourites), so this is a great combination for me and all other squash lovers!

Squash have a very long shelf life, and tend to be fairly inexpensive. So if you, like me, are having trouble finding affordable produce because you live in Canada (where nothing grows between October and March), keeping a couple squash around can make planning dinner easier!

I chose acorn squash for this recipe mostly because they’re small and easy to handle, and because a couple of acorn squash can easily feed 4 people. Or 2 very hungry people.

Gluten-free
Serves 4
Prep time: ~60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 small acorn squash, sliced in half and de-seeded.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil of your choice (olive oil, butternut squash seed oil, you decide!).
  • 1 large onion, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced/crushed.
  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed.
  • 2 cups vegetable stock.
  • 500 g mushrooms, finely sliced.
  • 1 handful walnuts, crushed.
  • 1 handful pecans, crushed.
  • 1 small handful dried fruit (raisins, currants, etc – optional).
  • 1 small handful fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried).
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg.
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste).
  • salt and pepper, to taste.

Cooking Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375 F/185 C. Line a large baking tray with aluminium foil. See if your squash halves will rest hollow-side-up without falling over. If so, great! If not, slice a little bit off the back side to make sure it won’t topple over later.

Rub the inside of your squash generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place the halves hollow-side-down on your baking sheet. Bake for approx 30-45 minutes, until the squash is nice and tender. This will depend on how big your squash is.

Meanwhile, making the stuffing – start out by heating a large pot on medium heat with a tablespoon or so of oil in the bottom. when the oil is hot, add in your onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent and the mushrooms are nicely cooked, this should take 5-10 minutes.

Stir in the nuts, dried fruit, thyme, nutmeg, and cayenne. Next, add in the rice and vegetable stock. Simmer until the liquid is all absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 20 minutes.

When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and flip it hollow-side-up. If the cavity is smaller than you’d like, scoop out some of the squash and mix it in with your filling. Spoon your filling into the squash, being careful not to poke holes in the skin. If you do poke a hole, seal it up with a bit of tinfoil.

Cover the squash with tinfoil as best as you can, to keep it from burning, and pop it back into the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve piping hot!

 

Papa’s Fagioli Soup

My father’s fagioli soup recipe. Great for cold winter days when you want something really warm and hearty. This soup is full of vegetables, and has very little fat, so it’s quite healthy! Goes great with bread to sop up the juices.

This dish can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.

Prep time: ~40 minutes
Gluten-free (if using gluten-free pasta)
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions, diced.
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced.
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil.
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced.
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced.
  • 6 cups vegetable stock.
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1 can whole tomatoes, sliced, with the juice reserved.
  • 400 g pasta/gluten-free pasta (traditionally, ditalini or elbow macaroni, but farfalle works well too).
  • 1 small handful fresh herbs, chopped (basil and oregano work nicely).
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. When hot, add the onions, and saute for 2 minutes. Then add your garlic, and saute until both the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant. Toss in the green pepper and celery, and cook until they begin to soften. At the same time, place your sliced carrots in a large bowl filled with water, and microwave for a few minutes, until they start to become tender.

Add the carrots to the pot, along with all the vegetable stock. Next, add your beans and the tomatoes (with all their juice). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer until everything is soft and nicely acquainted. Then add your pasta, along with a few cups of boiling water, to prevent the pasta from sucking up all the liquid.

When the pasta is just cooked, add the herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for another minute or two, then serve. Enjoy!

Vegetable Kabobs

A great lunch or dinner for a summer day. Served with a vinaigrette for dipping, it’s a very light meal, perfect for really hot days spent by the pool. Or lake. I recommend having a couple different salads with these kabobs (the Gillis cucumber salad and Gillis pasta salad are both great!), and maybe some corn on the cob.

Prep time: ~60 minutes, including marinating the tofu.
Gluten-free
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry/grape tomatoes, whole.
  • 2 cups pearl onions, peeled and whole.
  • 2 cups mushrooms, washed and halved.
  • 2 cups bell peppers, sliced into large squares, seeds removed.
  • 2 cups pineapple, cut into chunks.
  • 2 cup extra-firm tofu, chunked.
  • 2 tbsp oil (sesame oil or olive oil work nicely).
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce/gluten-free soy sauce.
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar.
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger.
  • wooden/metal skewers.
  • 8 tbsp vinaigrette (see Basic Vinaigrette for instructions).

Cooking Instructions:

Before slicing the tofu, press between two paper towels to remove extra moisture. Really squeeze the water out of that sucker. Next, slice up the tofu, and place in a large bowl. Add in the soy sauce, oil, vinegar, and ginger. Toss well, thoroughly coating the tofu. Cover with clingfilm, and place in the fridge for half an hour.

When the tofu is done, begin assembling your kabobs. Skewer the vegetables and tofu however you’d like. I like to either make a pattern with the various ingredients, or do separate kabobs of each. Place on a hot barbecue, and cook, rotating the kabobs occasionally, until nicely cooked and browned.

Serve hot, with vinaigrette on the side for dipping.

Ratatouille

The famous French dish that an adorable movie was named for. While not as pretty-looking as the dish served in said movie, this dish sure is delicious, and very healthy! If tomatoes aren’t in season, use a can of whole tomatoes. A combination of my parents’ recipes, adjusted to my personal preferences. Another one-pot meal, so easy cleanup!

Delicious served on its own, or over pasta or rice, if you want to make it a little more substantial. I’ll also toss in a can of cooked chickpeas sometimes if I want a little more protein (rinse the chickpeas well, and add them in at the same time as the tomatoes). This dish is just as good the next day as leftovers!

Prep time: ~30 minutes
Gluten-free
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly diced.
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 bell pepper, seeds removed, roughly diced.
  • 1 small eggplant (Chinese or Italian, both kinds work well), sliced into small pieces.
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into half-moons.
  • 1 can whole plain tomatoes, or ~6 ripe tomatoes, chopped.
  • 1 handful herbs (basil, oregano, herbes de provence, thyme, and rosemary are all nice).
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in large pot on medium heat. Add the onion, saute for two minutes, and then add the garlic. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, then add the bell pepper, and continue cooking for 3 minutes.

Next, add the eggplant. When the eggplant begins to soften, add the zucchini, and once that starts to become tender, add the tomatoes and the herbs.

Once it comes to a bubble, reduce the heat, add your salt and pepper, and allow to simmer until everything is tender and the flavors have mingled nicely. 

Koshari

Also spelled Kushari. A traditional Egyptian dish that I learned from my sister’s boyfriend. An incredibly filling, tasty dish that uses very inexpensive ingredients, so if you’re on a budget, this is a great option!

Just as yummy leftover as it is fresh. This dish can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.

Prep time: ~1 hour
Gluten-free (if using gluten-free pasta)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice, rinsed.
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed.
  • 2 tsp Baharat, aka Middle-Eastern 6 spice mix. See the recipe I have on this blog, under spices!
  • 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 large onion, half chopped, half thinly sliced.
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 can whole tomatoes.
  • 1 tsp vinegar.
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or hot sauce to taste.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.
  • 400 grams macaroni or other short pasta/gluten-free pasta.

Cooking Instructions:

Place the rice, lentils, and spice mix in a pot or a rice cooker with 4 cups water, a pinch of salt, and a dash of oil, and cook until tender.

Fry the chopped half of the onion in a large pot in the olive oil until soft, add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using them) and cook until fragrant. Puree the tomatoes and add to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat until simmering. Add the vinegar and hot sauce (if using it), season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, and strain, tossing with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

Prepare a small frying pan with enough olive oil to comfortably cover the bottom, heat until just below the smoke point. Lightly salt the sliced onion and press with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, then fry in the oil until browned and crispy.

Serve in layers: the rice-lentil mix on the bottom, the pasta, the sauce, and then the onions. Use up all the crispy onions while this dish is fresh, they’re no good when refrigerated.