Watermelon Rind and Bean Curry

Throwing food is something I try to avoid as much as possible. Almost everything we buy gets eaten or used this way or another. In this case, I’m referring to watermelon rind. Did you ever think it was edible? I didn’t think about it until a few months ago when a friend brought me some mysterious preserves she made. I couldn’t figure out what she could possibly had used to make the preserves. I was very surprised when she finally revealed her “secret” ingredient – watermelon rind. I enjoyed it, but when it was gone, I moved on with my life and completely forgot about it.

Yesterday, I brought home a watermelon. My husband cut it and placed the wedges in a special container, and we were left with a big amount of the rind. Just before we were about to dump it in the compost bin, my son reminded us of those preserves we all enjoyed, which gave me an idea. Try and make a savory dish using the rind as the main ingredient. I decided to go completely untraditional and use unconventional combinations of ingredients and flavors, and got some inspiration from a post I found in the blog Sumptuous Spoonfuls.

I think my creation came out pretty good…

Ingredients:
Sauce:
2 tbs minced fresh ginger
4 large cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1 medium lime
2 tbs palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
2 tbs peanut butter
2 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs soy sauce
5 tbs Thai masaman curry paste
1 15oz can coconut milk
4 tbs chopped cilantro
2 tbs Thai fish sauce (optional)

5-6 cups watermelon rind, peeled and cubed
3 tbs oil
3 cups cooked beans (I used pinto beans)
8 medium baby Bella mushrooms, sliced into thick slices

Preparation:
In a medium bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the watermelon cubes. Sauté for 6-7 minutes over high heat, stirring the watermelon occasionally. The watermelon should be lightly seared and wilted.

Add the sliced mushrooms, the beans and the sauce. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 more minutes.

Chicken in Orange juice and Tarragon

Lately, like most of us, I’ve been busy getting ready for the possibility that we may have to hunker down due to Covid-19. It is very stressful to try and think of everything we might need at home, plan my shopping trips to the stores in a way that I can get everything in one trip while trying to avoid everyone, and in addition, still go to work, keep my distance from my coworkers and smile and hang out as if all is normal. It’s exhausting!! When it came to cooking, that meant I didn’t want to spend time preparing anything special that required time or effort. I needed my time and my head clear for others matters. So this was the motivation behind this really surprisingly delicious dish.

This chicken recipe is so delicious and tastes so gourmet that I’m still surprised how easy it was to make it. I had chicken thighs waiting for me in the fridge and I knew I had to cook them before they go bad. I looked to see what I could through on the chicken quickly to give it some flavor. I had in the fridge half an onion and some tarragon leaves that started to look tired. I decided to chop the onion and the tarragon and add to that juice, pulp and zest from one orange. Put it all in a Ziploc bag with the chicken, marinated for half an hour, then roasted it in the oven. Piece of cake… and the result was amazing! I will surely make this dish again.

Ingredients:
2 ½ lb boneless chicken thighs
Juice from one orange with the pulp
Zest from one orange
1 medium red onion, diced
½ cup chopped tarragon
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

Preparation:
Place all ingredients in a gallon size Ziploc bag, close the bag and shake well until chicken is fully coated with the marinade. Keep refrigerated for 30-60 minutes.


Turn oven to 375F.
Place chicken thighs on a baking sheet and cover with the marinade.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Did I say delicious!!!?

Kubbeh Hamousta

Kubbeh hamousta (sour kubbeh in Kurdish) is one of the better known Kurdish classics. It was also one of my grandmother’s signature dishes. When she wanted to make sure we’d come visit, she would make kubbeh hamousta and call all her children to let them know. Not that we didn’t go see her anyway, but it was certainly a great pleasure to enjoy her kubbeh and see how happy it made her. Even when she got very old and could barely use her broken, aching hands, my grandma still insisted on making kubbeh hamousta for us. That was only one of her many ways to show her love to her six children, twenty-two grandchildren, and forty-four great grandchildren.

I had the privilege to spend many precious hours with my grandma, and learn from her the art that is Kurdish cuisine. The recipe below is my grandmother’s version for kubbeh hamousta. Although there are other versions out there, I wanted to remain true to her flavors and techniques. This way I feel I can pass on her legacy and continue my old world tradition.

Ingredients:
For the filling:
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion
1lb fatty meat (like chuck), cut into ½ inch cubes (I buy it pre-cut as Carne Picada)
Salt (to your liking)
½ tsp Black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup celery leaves, chopped very thinly

For the soup:
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery bunch with leaves, rinsed and cut into ½ inch strips
1 Swiss chard bunch (6-7 leaves), rinsed and cut into 1 inch strips
3 leeks
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
8 cups water
½ tsp. citric acid or juice from 2 lemons
2 heaping tbs. chicken soup powder
Salt
Black pepper

Preparation:
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté until onion is translucent. Add the meat, salt, and pepper, and sauté over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is crispy and well browned.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the celery and the garlic. Mix well and set aside to cool. The filling can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

To make the soup, cut off the dark green part of the leeks and use only the white and light green parts. Cut the leeks lengthwise, then rinse under running water to remove all dirt and sand, inside and out. Slice the leeks into ½ inch strips.

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions.

Add the celery, Swiss chard, leeks, and garlic and sweat to extract the flavors of the veggies.

Add water and spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer on medium low heat for about 30 minutes.

* Be very cautious when using citric acid. It is very strong and powerful when added to food. A tiny bit goes a long way, so be super careful with the quantities. The soup needs to be sour but in a pleasant way. You may want to adjust the amount of the citric acid to your liking.

While soup is simmering, make the Kubbeh dumplings following the picture step by step recipe in my blog.

Once done, you’ll have a tiny adjustment to make for the hamousta recipe. The shape of the kubbeh is slightly different. After you’ve created perfect balls, place each ball between the palms of your hands and slightly press to flatten it.

hamousta uncooked

Very gently, add the kubbeh dumplings to the soup, moving them gently occasionally, using a wooden spoon, to make room for more kubbeh dumplings to be added. Once you have all the kubbeh in the soup, cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes.

Soba Noodles with Mango and Herbs

A fun, light, and quick dinner. We made it last week, and even had some leftovers that my son took to school the following day. This recipe is based on a recipe I saw online in an Israeli website, with some mild changes.

1 lb soba noodles (I used the wheat free ones)
1 mango, cut into pieces
2 scallions, chopped
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
2 tbs sweet chili sauce
2 tbs rice vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Cook the soba noodles in boiling water, as instructed on the packaging. Drain the noodles.

In a large bowl, place the drained noodles, mango, scallions, cilantro, mint, and both sesames.

In a smaller bowl, combine the sweet chili, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix well and add to the larger bowl. Mix all the ingredients well to let the flavors combine and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Khoresh Sabzi

Khoresh Sabzi, which means fresh herb stew in Persian, is one of the staple dishes in Persian cuisine. You will probably find this dish in every Persian restaurant. The unique flavor of this wonderful dish comes from the large amount of various greens and Omani lime which is a prevalent ingredient in Persian cuisine. Omani lime, also known as dried lime, can be found in Middle Eastern stores and online.

Khoresh sabzi represents the kind of food I consider perfect in every way. Besides the fact that it reminds me of my childhood and my father’s side of our family, it is delicious with very rich and unique flavors, and is satisfying in a way that only slow cooking food can satisfy. It is also super healthy and guilt free, so you can enjoy it anytime, even when on a diet.

Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 tbs oil
2 lb beef shank or chuck roast, or boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
6 cups water or broth
1 cup red kidney beans, soaked in water for 5 hours
5 Omani (dried) limes, crushed coarsely and seeded
½ tsp ground turmeric
Salt, Black pepper
4 cups parsley finely chopped
4 cups cilantro finely chopped
2 cups scallions finely chopped
2 cups leek (green part), chopped
1 cup celery leaves and stem chopped
1 cup dill finely chopped
Juice from one lemon (optional)

Preparation:
Place the beans in a pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook according to instructions until the beans are barely soft. When cooked, drain the water and set the beans aside.

Heat 3 tbs oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until golden. Add the meat and brown it for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the broth or water, the limes, the beans, turmeric, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes over medium heat.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining 3 tbs oil over medium heat, and sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes. The greens should be wilted but still retain their bright green color. Add the greens to the pot with the meat. If you like the khoresh to have a pronounced sour tone, add the lemon juice, as well .

Cover and cook over medium low heat for 30 – 40 minutes longer, until the beans and the meat are cooked and are tender.

Serve in a soup bowl, together with white basmati rice.

Turkey Chili

Americans are very familiar with chili and its endless variations, given we have such a strong, positive Mexican impact on our food and culture. So really, no introduction or explanation is needed for this wonderful, hearty, Mexican stew.

On second thought, not everyone around the world knows chili, and I’m not sure that even Americans know its origins. Chili was invented in the 1850s by Mexican and Tejana working class women, in what is now northern Mexico and south Texas. It included beef (sometimes dried beef) and chili peppers. Over the years it has spread all over the U.S. and evolved to include ground beef, red or black beans, vegetables, and of course chili pepper. That is the very basic recipe. The variations, however, are endless – with or without meat, different types of meat, different kinds of beans, more or less veggies, and a different ratio of spices. Whichever combination you choose, you still want to keep the same selection of spices (especially the chili powder), otherwise the flavor of the dish is completely altered, and you end up with something that isn’t chili.

This version calls for ground turkey, instead of beef, and a mix of different beans.

4 tbs oil
1 large onion chopped
4 sticks celery chopped
3 carrots chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 lbs ground turkey
3 cans of beans with the liquid (red, pinto, white)
2 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs chili powder
1 heaping tbs chicken soup powder
1 tbs salt
1 tbs powdered garlic
1 tbs ground coriander seeds
1 tbs cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups cilantro leaves chopped

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In a large pot, sauté the onion, celery and carrots in four tablespoons of oil, until translucent.

Add the bell peppers and sauté for 5 minutes longer.

Add the ground turkey and stir in with the veggies, breaking the turkey into small chunks with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the beans with their liquid, tomato paste, and spices and mix to combine.

Add one cup of water, bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer the dish for an hour.

Turn off the heat and add the chopped cilantro to the chili.

Serve the chili over rice or just as is. At home we like to add some tangy hot sauce to the bowl.

Buen Provecho!

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