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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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!

Lemon-herb Tofu, Garlic, and Cherry Tomato Pasta.

Quite the mouthful of a title, yes. And this dish is quite a mouthful of flavor as well! Hehe. Sorry.

In all seriousness, this is a very nice pasta recipe. It makes use of a garlic gravy (sounds kinda weird, I know, but tastes great) as a sauce, and crispy pan-seared tofu.

Prep time: ~60 minutes, counting time to marinate the tofu. If making tofu marinade ahead, this dish takes ~30 minutes.
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams long pasta (linguine, spaghetti, etc).
  • 1 tub cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved.

For the tofu marinade:

  • 1 block firm/extra firm tofu.
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice.
  • Zest of one lemon.
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil.
  • 2 tsp dried/4 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped.
  • 2 tsp dried/4 tsp fresh thyme, removed from woody stems.
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper.

For the garlic gravy:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil.
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced/crushed.
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour.
  • 2 cups vegetable stock.
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, shredded.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.

Cooking Instructions:

Press the tofu with a paper towel to remove all excess water. Slice into bite-sized cubes, and prick with a fork. Place ina bowl with all the other marinade ingredients, and toss. Marinate for at least 20 minutes, though I recommend getting the tofu started hours beforehand, if not overnight, to get the most out of your marinade.

When the tofu is ready, get a non-stick pan hot on medium heat, without oil, and sear all sides of the cubes until firm and crunchy, but not burnt. Burnt tofu is not nice.

Next, for the garlic gravy. Place a pan over medium heat and heat the olive oil, then saute the garlic until soft and fragrant. Add your flour and cook for a minute, stirring frequently. Pour in the vegetable stock and then simmer until the gravy is thickened. Toss in the basil, and season with salt and pepper.

Stir the tofu in the gravy, then toss the cooked pasta in this sauce. Finish the dish with the cherry tomatoes, and enjoy!

Gillis Pasta Salad

My mom’s recipe, tried and true. Perfect for barbecues, picnics, or just a hot day when you want cool pasta. This dish can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.

Prep time: 90 minutes, including time cooling in the fridge.
Gluten-free (if using gluten-free pasta)
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 400 g short pasta/gluten-free pasta (rotini, farfalle, etc), cooked, drained, and cooled.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed.
  • 1 green pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped.
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped.
  • 1 ½ cups cherry/grape tomatoes, halved.
  • 1 handful fresh basil, and any other herbs (tarragon, dill, etc).
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 tsp orange juice.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.

Cooking Instructions:

Toss everything in a bowl, stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavours mingle. Serve slightly cooler than room temperature.

Death Pasta

So named because it is incredibly filling, and eating too much will leave you in a food coma. Another recipe I learned from Amr (Elaine’s boyfriend). Very delicious, despite the dangers of overindulging in this dish, and sort of like a vegan pasta bolognaise. Also quite healthy! This dish can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.

Prep time: ~40 minutes
Gluten-free (if using gluten-free pasta)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, cooked.
  • 1 can beans, drained and rinsed (black beans are best, but use whatever beans you like!)
  • 400 g pasta/gluten-free pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced.
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced.
  • 1 large onion, chopped.
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed.
  • 1 can tomatoes, pureed.
  • 2 tsp Baharat (see Spices for the recipe!).
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or hot sauce to taste.
  • 1 small handful fresh basil, shredded, or 1 tsp dried basil.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute for 2 minutes. Next add the garlic, and cook until both onions and garlic are soft and fragrant.

Add the carrots and celery, and cook with the lid on until the carrots begin to soften. Next, toss in all the lentils, and give it all a good stir. Add in the tomatoes and Middle Eastern spice mix and stir well.

Bring to a bubble, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the basil, beans, red pepper flakes or hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir and let simmer for as long as you want, but at least until the carrots are thoroughly cooked.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, drain, and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together. Serve hot, and don’t eat too much! Seriously, don’t eat too much.

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.