>White Rice with Lentils and Golden Raisins

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Another one-pot recipe with a moderate list of ingredients, an extremely simple procedure (you don’t need to cut or chop anything!) and a decent cooking time (less than 1 hour).  I would recommend making the full batch, which makes 2 servings, because you can either make it for you and someone else or you can store the remainder in the fridge, as it will hold for 3 to 4 days.  If you don’t want to make extra this recipe can be halved extremely easily.
I’ve been studying (and eating) quite a bit of north-african cuisine recently, and I absolutely love the fact that most of their meals, especially their divine tajines (meat or vegetable stews), combine sweet and salty flavors in a way that isn’t too overwhelming or overpowering in one of either directions.  I’m always a fan of sweets (how can you not be in Paris, a city which possesses sweets that are mouth-watering upon both sight and taste?) and when sweet flavors are paired well in savory dishes it adds a great touch.
So my recent eating and reading excursions are certainly what led to the creation of this recipe.  I can’t deny that peering over the saucepan this morning playing around with spices may have been one of the highlights of my day (second only to video chatting with my sister).  Some things you can add or change around in the recipe:  add fewer or more raisins upon your liking, pine nuts, roughly chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts), or fresh or dried herbs such as parsley and oregano.  As you see in the pictures, I added some chopped fresh parsley to my version, and topped it with pine nuts. 
Bon appétit!

White Rice with Lentils and Golden Raisins – makes 2 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2-cup (220 grams) lentilles de puy (french green lentils, but any other type works fine too)
1 pinch each of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and ground coriander
1 cup (450 grams) white rice, such as basmati, or any other long-grain rice
1-2 handfuls golden raisins
1 tbsp honey

1.  Wash and drain the rice, set aside; wash and drain the lentils (try to dry them with paper towels as thoroughly as possible).
2.  Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the lentils and spices, and sautée until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
3.  Add 1 cup water to the saucepan, and simmer until lentils have softened slightly, about 15-20 minutes.
4.  Add rice, raisins, honey, and 2 cups water to saucepan.  Sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper; stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until rice is softened, about 30 minutes.
5.  Serve with fresh herbs (and a fat juicy steak if you’re so inclined).

>Mildly Spiced Chickpea and Spinach Stew

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I’m really happy with this chickpea stew, not only because of its smoky and spicy flavors, but also because when I pureed the remainder of the stew and served it to some guests the next day, they loved it too.  They actually ate it quite speedily and more readily than anything else on the table. So, this makes me happy, because although I only put the recipes I’m confident about on the site, I can never truly know if they are satisfactory to other people – it is at this point that I will implore you to post a comment if you end up trying a recipe.  It is extremely helpful to know what you think, and I would appreciate it greatly!
In any case, I trust that you will enjoy this, especially if you are a chickpea fan.  They have such a unique nuttiness to them, and no matter how tender they get, they always contain a certain crunch to them that adds great body to any soup or stew.  Although using dried chickpeas is a bit of a hassle, it is absolutely worth it, because you can cook them with herbs and spices which mildly penetrate the peas and give them greater depth of flavor. 
I always suggest preparing more than 1 serving when making soups, because it’s such a treat to have a hearty bowl of soup ready in a flash after coming home late from work or wherever the day led you.  I used spinach because it’s delicious and has a nice and thick consistency, but I think kale would hold up equally well.  You can use an equal amount of kale instead of spinach.
Lastly, I think this soup would be thrilled served alongside some sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche.  Enjoy this stew, this week, and this very moment that finds you reading this website!

Chickpea and Spinach Stew with Mild Spices – makes 2 servings

2 cups dried chickpeas
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander, and chili powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1. Place the chickpeas in a medium bowl and cover with water so that it’s covered by about 2 inches. Soak overnight.
2. Drain chickpeas; in a medium-large saucepan or deep skillet, add the chickpeas, enough water to cover by 2 inches, the chopped rosemary, ground cumin, and a dash of pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring a few times to combine, and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 1- 1 1/4 hours.
3. Once chickpeas are done, heat olive oil in a large skillet (large enough to hold chickpeas and cooking water) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
4. Add chickpeas with their cooking liquid to the skillet, along with the coriander, chili powder, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.
5. At this point, add the chopped spinach, stir to combine, and cook until spinach is soft, about 15 minutes longer. Season to taste with additional spices or seasonings.

>Soupe de Carottes, Patate Douce, et Haricots Blancs (Carrot, Sweet Potato, and White Bean Soup)

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(french version first, english version directly below)
Cela fait la première fois que j’écris en français sur mon site, donc excusez-moi s’il y a beaucoup de fautes! Il faut dire que je suis un peu fanatique au sujet de soupe, particulièrement en hiver quand j’ai toujours froid et je n’ai jamais envie d’aller au dehors; a mon avis rien n’est mieux que de me plonger sur mon fauteuil avec un bon bol de soupe. J’adore les soupes de patate douce, ou bien tous les repas de patate douces, parce que cette légume qui se ressemble aux pommes de terres mais qui est plus sucrée et plus crémeuse est bien pour la santé comme pour le palais. Mélangée avec des carottes, des haricots blancs, et plusieurs épices aromatisées comme la cardamome, le cumin, et le coriandre moulu, et on a pour résultat final une soupe légère, complexe, et délicieuse.

Comme je le dis toujours, je préfère préparer assez de soupe pour plus qu’un repas, d’abord parce que la soupe tient bien dans le frigidaire pour une semaine, et aussi parce que quand je rentre chez moi épuisée et sans le désir de cuisinier, ça me va très bien d’avoir une soupe maison que je peux facilement réchauffer sur le poêle.

A manger avec du pain, un peu de crème fraîche, des pignons de pin, ou des fines herbes comme la menthe ou le basilic. Bonne dégustation!

Soupe de Carottes, Patate Douce, et Haricots Blancs – pour 4 bols à soupe
5 carottes, taille moyenne
1 patate douce
1 oignon
1 c.s. d’huile d’olive
1 pincée de cumin, de coriandre moulu, de cardamome moulue, et de paprika moulu doux
400g de conserves d’haricots blancs
de l’eau
1. Éplucher les légumes et l’oignon; couper les légumes en petits morceaux, et émincer l’oignon.
2. Faites chauffer un peu d’huile dans une cocotte à feu moyen. Ajouter l’oignon et faites revenir quelques minutes en remuant régulièrement, jusqu’à ce que l’oignon soit tendre.
3. Ajoutez les épices avec une pincée de sel et de poivre, et remuer 30 secondes.
4. Ajoutez les les carottes et la patate douce, salez, et laissez cuire quelques minutes, jusqu’à ce que les légumes soient tendres, environ 5 minutes.
5.  Verser les haricots et couvrir de l’eau, amenez à frémissement, couvrez, et laissez frémir 25-30 minutes, jusqu’à ce que les légumes soient bien tendres.
6.  A l’aide d’un mixeur plongeant, mixez finement toute la soupe.
7.  Remettez la cocotte sur le feu et laissez frémir pendant quelques minutes.  Servir nature ou avec un peu crème fraîche.
Now in English!
I am particularly fanatic about soup, especially during the winter when it’s cold out and I don’t feel like going outside; in fact, my favorite thing to do is curl up with a bowl of soup, some nice crusty bread, and savor the warmth and comfort coming from the dish in my hands.  I also love sweet potato soup, or anything sweet potato for that matter, because this vegetable strongly resembles the lovely potato, but is slightly sweet and creamier.  Combined with carrots, white beans, and aromatic spices such as cardamom, cumin, and coriander, and the final product is a satisfying soup that is at once light, creamy, and wonderful for your health.
Especially when it comes to dairy-free soups, I am a firm believer of making a big batch, mainly because it holds well in the fridge for up to one week, and can remain in the freezer for even longer, about a month.  It’s also fantastic for those days when I am exhausted and don’t feel like cooking anything; it’s great to be able to quickly heat up some soup and enjoy a warm, home-made meal.
To be eaten with bread, pine nuts, fresh herbs such as mint or basil, or fresh cream or yogurt.  This thick soup would probably also taste great as a pasta sauce, just something to think about.
Happy eating every body!
Carrot, Sweet Potato, and White Bean Soup – makes about 4 servings
5 medium carrots
1 sweet potato
1 onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch each of ground coriander, ground cardamom, sweet paprika, and cumin
1 14-oz can white beans, such as cannellini
water
1.  Peel the carrots, sweet potato, and onion.  Dice the carrots and sweet potato into smaller pieces, and chop the onion.
2.  Heat the olive oil in a stock or soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
3.  Add the spices along with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds
4.  Add the carrots and sweet potato, and cooking, stirring, until slightly softened, 5 minutes.
5.  Add the beans and enough water to cover everything.  Bring to a boil, and simmer until vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes.
6.  Using a blender or food processor, blend soup in batches.  Return to stove over low heat, and gently reheat until warm.  Serve plain or with cream, yogurt, nuts, or herbs.

>Sloppy Joes à la Française

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I’m not supposed to be doing this.  I have a final exam tomorrow at 9:30 AM, but of course the only thing I could keep my mind on tonight was food, and as soon as I put the first bite of this sloppy sandwich in my mouth I knew I would have to write about it immediately. 
First, some essential things I feel obligated to tell you about this dish:  I could only find ground beef that came packaged, and which therefore provided with more than was necessary for one person.  No matter, I am confident this will taste equally good tomorrow when I toss it with pasta for dinner, and if you make this I encourage you to do the same, or to eat it as is with some vegetables or potatoes on the side.  This dish will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge so you can save it for a lunch or dinner not so far away.
Additionally, I apologize because the ingredient list is longer than I would like, but I really feel that all of the flavors are necessary and make this meal so complex and complete; besides, aside from chopping the onion, garlic, and anchovy fillet, everything else you can just toss right into in the pan. So please enjoy this – I’m still jumping in my seat a little about how fantastically this came out.  Bon appetit and happy eating.
Sloppy Joes à la Française – makes 2 servings
10-12 ounces lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1 large garlic clove, chopped
a pinch each of cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, and paprika
1/2-cup beef broth
1 1/2-tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 anchovy fillet, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1.  Sprinkle ground beef with a dash of pepper and a generous pinch of salt; mash with a fork to mix together.
2.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, thyme spring, and bay leaf, and cook until onion is slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
3.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
4.  Add the spices, and sautee for 30 seconds to combine.
5.  Reduce heat slightly; add the beef with an additional pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until heated through, stirring gently once every so often with a wooden spoon to break apart beef strands, about 8-10 minutes.
6.  Add tomato paste, beef broth, vinegar, and anchovy; simmer until reduced to a thick sauce, about 5-7 minutes.  Season to taste with additional cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, or paprika as desired.
7. Discard thyme sprig and bay leaf; add parmesan into sauce and stir until combined.  Serve on a french baguette, with additional grated parmesan. 

>(Slightly) Spicy Hummus

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I think I re-discovered how much I love hummus when I made this last batch.  It’s versatile, elegant, and light while still providing a creamy and rich taste.  I prepared it three different ways: for lunch with some oil-packed sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, and pita chips; on a serving platter as a dip alongside some black olive tapenade when I had some friends over (as pictured above), and in a sandwich with the black olive tapenade and more sundried tomatoes.  I imagine this would taste great in a sandwich with falafel.

Making hummus requires little work and can be fun and experimental, as long as you’re ready to continually taste it until it’s made to your satisfaction!  Personally, I don’t like to add garlic to my hummus, because I think it can be overpowering and can diminish the natural taste of the chickpeas.  However, I’ll include garlic as optional in the recipe because it’s entirely up to you if you want to add it or not. 
Also, I’ve made hummus with both fresh chickpeas and canned, and I tasted no difference between the two versions; if they taste the same, why go through any extra work? I say using canned chickpeas is A-OK.  One final note:  I made a decent amount for one person (2 cups) because it’s a great food item to have around whenever you feel like whipping up a quick snack, lunch, or dinner.  Enjoy!
Hummus – makes about 2 cups
1 16 to 18-oz. can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons hot paprika, or a combo of hot and sweet
2 teaspoons allspice (or quatre-epices)
1 lemon, halved and juiced
salt
fresh ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin (optional)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
1.  In a blender, place all the ingredients (but only 1/2 of the lemon juice) and blend until combined. 
2.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning however you’d like by adding additionnal oil, tahini, lemon juice, or spices.
3.  Sprinkle with additional paprika if you would like. 

>Falafel

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My appreciation for falafel certainly changed after I tried some in Paris at  l’As du Fallafel, a.k.a. the purveyor of tiny balls of heaven wrapped neatly in a pita.  It’s a well-known establishment in this city, and one that at least in my humble opinion merits all of the high praise it receives.  A no-nonsense, hustle-and-bustle kind of joint that has tourists and residents alike enamored.



I have never seen l’As du Fallafel empty; at any time of day, be it 11 AM, 4 PM, or midnight, there is always someone devouring the enormous pitas.  And I am not exaggerating, the pita’s are enormous!

This pita pictured here is the Falafel Special, the cheapest and most popular one on the menu (6 euros).  It’s a hefty meal, stuffed with all sorts of treasures like red and white cabbage, fried eggplant, tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, spicy red sauce, a thick and creamy tsatziki sauce enveloping everything like a wonderful and edible blanket; and of course, tiny fried balls of spiced chickpeas, all wrapped in one of the thickest pitas I’ve ever seen.


Needless to say I think there’s an undefinable and intensely satisfying taste that comes with falafel, and I actually have been making a healthier version for the past couple of years which I’ve adapted from a Moosewood recipe and is a great alternative to this deep-fried original. The good news for anyone who would like to do the same: it is extremely easy to make.  Essentially, you combine all of the ingredients together in a food processor, form them into little balls, and fry them lightly in a skillet.  Sounds good to me! 


When I made this at home, I ate it with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and sundried tomatoes, and I served it with harissa (a spicy red sauce) and a quick home-made tahini sauce (1/2 cup tahini, 1 tsp. lemon juice, pinch salt, and 1 tbsp chopped parsley mixed together).  I think it would go wonderfully as well with some hummus or thick yogurt-dill suace.  However you eat it, I am confident you’ll enjoy the rich chickpea flavor!


Falafel – serves 1-2
1 7-oz. can chickpeas
1/2 onion, minced (you can wrap the other half in foil and save it for another day)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 pinches cumin
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil


1.  Pour everything (except the flour and vegetable oil) into a bowl or food processor, and mash or process until everything is combined together and pasty.
2.  Add flour and mix until combined – the paste should be able to form easily into little balls at this point – if not, add more flour by the tablespoon-full.
3.  Form into 4 balls of about 1 1/2-inch diameter
4.  Heat oil in a large skillet until it’s smoking hot; add falafel balls, flatten slightly with a spatula, and cook until golden, about 10 minutes on each side. 


Bon week-end a tous!

>Ratatouille

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My first dinner guest arrived in Paris last night! My aunt Elizabeth decided to spend the night in Paris (she was coming from her hometown of Brighton, England) and as soon as she told me she was coming, my mind started racing, trying to think of various dinner options to prepare for her.
Because my aunt is a vegetarian, my choices were thankfully narrowed down. I browsed through The New Moosewood Cookbook (by Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, Berkely California; 1977), and as soon as I saw a recipe for ratatouille, I knew I had to make it. I also love the animated film with the same title, featuring a talking French rat, so I took it as fate and went out to buy my groceries.

When I arrived back home, groceries in hand, I dove in to work, dicing up the vegetables and hoping that the meal would come together nicely. And if the picture of the ratatouille doesn’t do it justice, I hope my words can. The silkiness of the eggplant combined with the mild spice of cumin and chili powder create a smoky sensation in your mouth, leaving a nice aftertaste that changes in heat and dimension as time goes on. It’s so good, I dreamed about it last night!

Serve it with a nice salad (I made mine with butter lettuce, basil, cherry tomatoes, and a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, chopped shallots, salt & pepper), and please, I beg of you, serve this dish with a fresh baguette; nothing tastes better than dipping a piece of bread in the sauce, finishing the meal off perfectly.

The dish requires a bit of prep work to cut the vegetables and herbs, but it comes together so easily and you only need one large skillet to make it. It’s so yummy, and if you’re making it for one person, even better – you’ll have leftovers which taste so good for lunch or dinner the next day.

Merci à tous, et je vous souhaite un très bon dîner !

To make the ratatouille, you’ll need olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, 2 medium onions, 1 small eggplant, salt, basil, thyme, 1 small zucchini, 1 bell pepper, 1 7-oz can tomato sauce, fresh parsley, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

Chop up the garlic, onions, 1 1/2 tsp basil, and 1 1/2 tsp thyme, and cut the eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper into small cubes (try to make them around the same size so they cook at the same speed). Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and garlic, and saute over medium heat until onions are slightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggplant, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, and cayenne to taste, and stir. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes ,stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, or until the zucchini and bell pepper are tender.

You can serve it right away, or serve it cold – it’s delicious either way! I’ll be in Deauville for the next two days, and am hoping to get some new inspiration for French cooking. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!