Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cooking Occasions

Last week, I had the fortune of being invited by a woman at our church to learn how to make zwieback.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with zwieback, it is a yeast roll with two "layers":  a wider roll on the bottom and a miniature roll on top.  They look, more or less, like this->

The woman who invited me had been a young refugee during World War II in Germany, and escaped with her family to the U.S. with the aid of MCC.  After shaping the rolls there at her house, we had the chance to sit and talk about both of our life stories while the rolls raised and baked.  Sitting with this woman of courage, strong opinions (but accepting at the same time -- leave it to a German), and skills, I found myself wanting to hear more about her than I wanted to say about myself.  And I was reminded again that food not only brings people together, but shapes traditions, cultures, and stories.

This coming weekend, two friends are getting married, and I was asked to make part of the dessert.  We settled on cupcakes, and the search for recipes and quality ingredients ensued.  My friends are greatly invested in having a spread which represents both local produce and local labor, and I'm trying to do justice in my part.  I'll be baking 20 dozen(ish) cupcakes of four varieties.  I'm looking forward to the challenge (never done this before!) and am hoping that I'll live to tell about it.

I'm getting long-winded.  Here's the recipe for today!

78.  Kusherie (Egyptian Rice and Lentils), pg. 108

Craving lentils, I was in search of a recipe that I hadn't tried yet, and after reading the forward to this recipe (regarding its surprising ease of production), decided to take it on.  This kind of recipe always looks fun to me -- what I mean is that when I look at something like this, I see lots of room for variations and experimentation.

I used slightly less than called for on the lentils, but kept the stock at 3 cups.  If you use stock instead of water, consider not using the extra salt.  I used a mix of brown and wild rices, and as you can tell in the pictures, it's pretty dramatic.  While my rice usually takes longer to cook (up to 35-40 minutes), I decided to test at 25 minutes, and it was ready.  While you're not supposed to stir, I think it's perfectly reasonable to test the lentils and rice at the 25 minute mark.  If they're not done yet, put the lid back on and wait another 4-5 minutes and check again.

For the sauce, I used about 3 cups of frozen tomato chunks instead of the sauce/juice/puree, and a whole can of tomato paste.  I omitted the celery leaves.  I did put in all the spices, though when I make this again, I probably won't add the extra sugar, as I find tomato paste quite sweet to begin with.

And then come the browned onions.  My-oh-my, how I love them.  Because I made a full recipe, but knew the two of us wouldn't eat it all in one night, I only sauteed one onion and two cloves of garlic.  Tonight, with the leftovers, I'll saut√© another onion and two more cloves of garlic, while just reheating the rest of the dish.

I liked several things about this recipe.  One, the rice/lentil combo gets started first, and immediately after adding the rice, you can go on to the sauce, and then once the sauce comes together, you can start working on the onions.  Then, once the onions are done, everything else will about be ready.  It's nice to have two parts of your meal taking care of themselves while you're getting the finishing touches together.  Second thing that I like is that you can, as the contributor states, nix the sauce altogether.  The browned onions have so much flavor that having them with the lentils is still divine.  And lastly, I like that it's a one-plate, one-dish meal.  I know that cooking this recipe will be all I need to make for that meal.

Overall:  4.3 out of 5  Love the flavors, love the colors and presentation.


  1. I have made this recipe of lentils and rice in the past and have always enjoyed it, especially the sauteed onions on top!!

  2. This is one of my top two More With Less recipe favorites...the other is Spicy Lentil Pot....similar, but a little easier. Still has the yummy onions on top, though!

  3. I've always loved this recipe. I like it on the spicy, hot side.

  4. This has been a go to recipe for me. I was introduced to it by my dad, it's actually one of his favorite dishes. However, after being in Egypt I'm not sure why the recipe doesn't have you putting pasta in it. The kusherie in Egypt has rice and several different types of pasta in it. Delicious!

  5. One of my faves from MWL. Now, if I could only convince my children to love lentils too.