Vegan Kibbeh Pie

Kibbeh is a wonderful dish of Lebanese origin that is popular throughout the Arab world. It combines bulgar, lamb or other meat with spices, and a luscious tahini dipping sauce or spread. Kibbeh pie is a non-traditional variation of this classic which combines the main ingredients in layers, a bit like a cake. According to my-secret-Jerusalemi-lover-man Yottam Ottolenghi, this is his spin on a popular dish on his hometown.

As I'm still working my way through the wonderful (*though not vegan) cookbook Jerusalem, this dish caught my eye as something that could be easily veganized- crumbled meat is one of the easiest things to approximate in vegetarian cooking, either through crumbled tempeh, soy curls, lentils, or vegan sausages. I used a sub from my local bio markt, some kind of tiny soy nugget that is often used for vegan bolognese sauce.

I haven't made this totally perfect yet- I think next time I'll use a mixture of faux meat and mushrooms to add a bit more flavor to the middle layer. When I have it totally perfected I'll post the full recipe, but for now let me give you a walk-through that could be easily replicated at home:

Layer 1: Circa 1 c. of prepared bulgar, mixed with a drizzle of olive oil, and a tablespoon or so of flour. You press this mixture into the bottom of a pan as if you were making a crust.

Layer 2: Your faux meat of choice browned on the stovetop with onions, garlic, and pine nuts, seasoned with a few pinches cinnamon, allspice, cumin and salt+pepper.

Layer 3: A thick, creamy tahini sauce that's merely tahini plus some lemon and a bit of water to make it pourable.

You cook the first two layers in the oven at around 375F until good and browned, then add the tahini sauce on top and cook again for another 10 minutes, until its starting to brown in some places. Top with parsley, sumac, and more pine nuts if ya got 'em. Serve with lemon slices.

This casserole would be a perfect thing to set out at a potluck or casual dinner party with a big fattoush salad on the side. As it is, it makes an easy and hearty dinner dish that is exotic yet homey.

Conveniently, you can watch Yottam Ottolenghi make his version in a video here.

Song of the Day: Shostakovitch- Waltz No. 2


Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Green Goddess Sauce and Quick-Pickled Carrots

Last week my little brother was in town from the USA and we had an incredibly fun and ridiculously debaucherous time with him and a pair of his hilarious friends. Not being used to the many party-friendly novelties of Berlin (you can drink on the street! bars never close! everything great is walking distance!) they made it their mission to stay up all night every night and take it all in. I managed to avoid the craziness for a few nights but by the weekend I was in too, and I think I'll be recovering for some time. (Also from the heartbreak of suddenly having to go cold-turkey off of American-boy humor, which I apparently have really been missing.)

So for dinner after they left I decided to make something with a lot of raw garlic and green stuff to stave off oncoming infections surely flooding my weakened immune system. The perfect thing? Green Goddess dressing from Appetite for Reduction, a garlicky, tahini-laced herb dressing with tons of punch. Instead of serving it on a salad like normal however, I opted for some comfort food (to soothe my empty-nest syndrome). What better than some toothsome gnocchi? I boiled a couple of potatoes, set on the window sill to cool off, then put them through a potato ricer and kneaded the resulting mash with flour until it was easy to form little dumplings. Then I pan fried it in some olive oil and margarine. For a final kick, I peeled a carrot and quick pickled it in a bit of vinegar and sugar in the fridge.

Two parts raw, one part cooked, and extremely vibrant and delicious. I can think of many variations on this theme...

Another bright and delicious weeknight meal that incorporates a raw dressing? Another rendition of the sweet potato, tahini and onion dish from Jerusalem, served alongside some kale with garlic, diced red peppers, and a dollop of pomegranate molasses.  
Man I should eat like this every night! But then, what would I tell the veggie dogs in my fridge...?

Song of the Day: Paolo Conto- Sparring Partner


Spargelzeit! (My way)

Not to be a bad German or anything, but I just cannot get behind the sudden enthusiasm this country whips up for white asparagus this time of year. I guess its exciting because its a local vegetable, unlike the imported mealy tomatoes and sad waxy peppers of winter, but just because its ours doesn't mean its awesome.

No, true to my American roots, I like my asparagus green and skinny. As though it has been exposed to sunlight and gone through the process of photosynthesis. Something about covering white, stalky "Spargel" with white, creamy Hollaindaise sauce just does not scream "Spring" to me.

I think a real Spring dish exploits the first greens and pumps it up with some citrus and those wintry standbys, onions and garlic. Something like this simple, weeknight Lemon-Asparagus Risotto. Or an asapargus sautee with tons of lemon and red peppers and tofu. You get the picture. And as for Spargelzeit, I'll jump on the next German food bandwagon... lets say rhubarb-zeit or mirabellen zeit.


Asparagus-Lemon Risotto

1 Quart of your favorite vegetable broth method
1 Tbsp. Olive oil + 1 tsp. vegan margarine
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 C. Arborio Rice
1 Glass decent white wine
A fistful of Asparagus, trimmed and cut into quarters
Salt, pepper, Thyme
Juice and zest from one lemon

1.) Heat several cups of your vegetable broth (or water + bouillon) and put on the backburner.
2.) In a large pot, heat olive oil and margarine over medium heat. When sizzling, add in onions. After 1-2 minutes, add in garlic. Stir and cook for about 4 minutes or until translucent.
3.) While this business is getting underway, heat another frying pan with a drizzle of oil on medium heat. When hot, add in your asparagus and a pinch of thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired state of "done-ness". (I like them a bit undercooked and crunchy, but to each her own.) Finish off with a dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and remove from heat.
4.) Once onion and garlic are ready add in your rice and stir so that it gets coated with oil and butter, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then add in your glass of wine. Stir slowly, until wine has been absorbed.
5.) Now comes the "spoon and stir" portion of risotto for which it is famous. Ladle a spoonful of warm broth into your pot. Stir slowly until it has been absorbed by rice. Repeat this until mixture has significantly increased in size and rice is cooked through. (If you run out of broth, you can use water, no one will know.)
6.) At the end, when rice is fully cooked, stir in your asparagus mixture, lemon zest, and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice on in. Turn off the heat and cover and let sit for five minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with crusty bread, baked tomatoes, or whatever else strikes your fancy.


Song of the Day: David Bowie- Modern Love