Victory Spinach

[image: baked spinach]
[image: baked spinach]

This past weekend, I basically begged an invitation from Lydia for something, ANYTHING, to keep my mind off tomorrow’s election. She very kindly invited me over for dinner on Sunday. She and her husband were making miso-marinated flat iron steak, so she asked me to bring a side. I decided on spinach, because creamed spinach is one of the classic sides at old school steakhouses. I didn’t end up using a cream-based recipe, but this was a really pleasant surprise. Using frozen spinach made it much easier. I squished the defrosted spinach in a colander using my hands to get out all the liquid. Wrapping it all in a black kitchen towel and wringing it out would also work (my dad’s recommendation) (otherwise you’ll dye the towel green).

There’s no reason behind the recipe name. I’m just hopeful for tomorrow.


2 lbs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
4 Tbsp butter, divided (2+1+1)
1 1/2 Tbsp AP flour
1/2 tsp table salt
pepper, to taste
2/3 cup stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp assorted chopped herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, parsley—whatever’s lying around) or 1/2 tsp dried Italian herb mix

Butter a 9×9 baking dish (or use nonstick spray) and heat the oven to 375.

In a large saucepan or pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. When foaming, add spinach. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the residual moisture from the spinach has evaporated. You can tell when this happens by when the spinach starts to stick (if you’re using not a nonstick pan) or by the sound of the sizzle—it will start to sound noticeably different.

Sprinkle the flour on top and turn the heat to low. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly (in a trickle) stir in the stock. Once added, simmer for 1 minute and stir in an additional 1 Tbsp of butter. If you think the mixture seems too thick, add up to an additional 1/3 cup stock. Stir in salt and add pepper to taste (I put in like 8 grinds).

Transfer the spinach from the pan to the baking dish. Carefully mix in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. In the now-empty pan, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs and herbs. Stir until just barely toasted. Sprinkle on top of the spinach along with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 until heated through and browned on top, about 30-35 minutes.


[image: bowl of mujaddara]
[image: bowl of mujaddara]

This is a follow-up to my mujaddara post from last year. I think I’ve found a version I like. I found out that I was sort of wrong about the original dish from Mediterranean Grill House. I took a look at the menu on their website, and it’s listed there as “Mujaddarah – Kushari.”

Kushari is an Egyptian dish which, like mujaddara, involves rice, lentils, and onions. However, it also contains macaroni, which was the mystery addition in MGH’s dish. So it’s more like a combination of the two? No vinegary tomato sauce, though (but I always dumped a ton of their hot sauce on top). The bright yellow I haven’t really found in any variation of either recipe. I added some turmeric to mine, but I think in order to get it the right shade, I’d need to add a bunch more to the rice as it’s cooking, and not just in the spiced oil.

(This is not a traditional recipe, just FYI. Also this particular method uses way too many dishes.)

1.5 cups long-grain white rice (I like jasmine)
1 cup brown lentils
2 onions, sliced into half-moons
vegetable oil
kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
plain greek yogurt or sour cream, to serve
lemon juice, to serve

Cook the rice using your preferred method—stovetop, rice cooker, whatever. But for me, it’s the oven. In a 8×8 baking dish rubbed with a skosh of butter or oil, put 1.5 cups of rice, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 2 1/3 cup boiling water. Stir, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 1 hour at 375. Remove from oven, fluff with a fork, and set aside while other things are finishing.

(p.s. this method is amazing for brown rice and farro)

Cook the lentils on the stovetop in 4 cups of water until tender, 20–25 minutes.

In a pot that will be large enough to hold all the ingredients eventually, splash a bit of oil and add the onions and some salt. Over medium-low to medium heat, caramelize the onions. This will take a while. Add a sprinkle of sugar if you get impatient.

In a little pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika, allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir to combine over medium-low heat. Once the smell gets really potent and the oil starts to bubble around the edges a bit, remove from heat.

Stir the oil into the onions. Add the lentils and rice and mix everything together.

Serve with yogurt or sour cream, lemon juice, and an extra little sprinkle of salt. (If you want to make this vegan, just leave out the dairy garnish.)


homemade mujaddara
[Image: a white bowl containing mujaddara, a rice-and-lentil dish with caramelized onions]

This was my dinner tonight. Mujaddara is a vegetarian rice/lentil/onion dish that I very much like, ever since I first discovered it back in 2009. Of course, the mujaddara I had back then was VERY different than the recipes I have found since.

restaurant mujaddara
[Image: a plate of food containing very yellow mujaddara, hummus, and a tomato-cucumber-pepper salad]

This is the mujaddara plate from Mediterranean Grill House in Mountain View. I started going there occasionally in 2009, after I lost my job. The mujaddara was the biggest bang for your buck there. You got a TON of food for cheap. As a bonus, you always got your food super-fast because they didn’t have to grill any meat. I tried it once on a whim, really liked it, and continued ordering it there even after I got a new job. I continued visiting Mediterranean Grill House until I moved, back in January. (Also, they had switched their soda machine from Coke to Pepsi, which broke my heart.)

So yeah, I thought mujaddara was supposed to be bright yellow for the longest time. And that it should contain macaroni (?!). Imagine my surprise when I ordered the same dish from Palo Alto’s Mediterranean Wraps. That one was much more inline with the recipe I made tonight as well as basically every recipe I’ve seen on the internet. (It also instilled in me the idea that since both my local places offered it, every Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurant would have this on their menu. This is not true, and it super-bums me out that my current local kebab place doesn’t have it.)

I’ve tried a couple different recipes, and none of them have quite hit my craving yet. Tonight’s recipe was from Budget Bytes. I’ve also tried this one from Food 52. I’ve looked at this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but I haven’t tried it yet. Once I hit upon a combination I dig, I’ll post the recipe here.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to have it with an over-easy egg for breakfast. Yum.

Vegetable Pullao

from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

15 fl. oz. long-grain rice
2 pints and 1 pint water
4 oz. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 oz. fresh green beans, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 fresh hot green chile pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press

Put the rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water. Drain. Add 2 pints of water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and leave in a sieve for 20 minutes.

Choose a large, heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Put 2-4 tablespoons of oil in the pan. When hot, add the cumin seeds, and let them sizzle for 5-10 seconds. Then, add the potato, carrot, and green beans. Stir and saute for a minute. Turn the heat to medium-low anmd add the drained rice, salt, turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, green chile pepper, cilantro, ginger, and garlic. Stir and saute the rice for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 pint of water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn the heat to very, very low, and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off the heart and let the pan sit, covered and undisturbed, for another 10 minutes.

Aloo Matar (Potato and Pea Curry)

2–4 Tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
Pinch of punch-phoron seeds*
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or use a drained can of same)
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4–1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 cups fresh (or frozen, really) green peas
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) coconut milk or warm water
3–4 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/8 tsp paprika

*Punch-phoron is a mixture of five whole spices mixed in equal proportions- cumin, black cumin, mustard, fenugreek, and fennel. I think I used cumin, fennel, and coriander (mistakenly), because those were the only ones I had in whole form.

Heat vegetable oil or ghee in a large saucepan. Fry punch-phoron seeds, bay leaf, ginger, and onion for 3 minutes. Add potatoes and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, salt, ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, garam masala, and peas and cook for another 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and boil rapidly for 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to a bare simmer, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with cilantro and paprika.