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Saturday, February 08, 2020

Recipe Round Up: Arabic Style Rice Pilaf, Shorbat 'Addas, and Tamis

Arabic Style Rice Pilaf

So, when I was a kid, Rice-a-Roni had all these television ads, and my mother wouldn't buy junk like that for me. It is a little weird to have a starch boosted with, well, more starch. However, I grew up eating pilafs like this all the time, which makes me think that Rice-a-Roni had an Arab in their research and development department.

I am not a low-carb person. I love carbs. I come from a people who, when potatoes were introduced to them from the New World, added them to the rice and ate it all with bread. Pasta and rice? Sounds perfect to me!

The best way to make this is to soak your rice in cold water, and rub it between your fingers, removing the excess starch, and to rinse it until the water runs clear (or almost clear). However, I will admit that if you are lazy out of time, you can do a quick rinse of the rice and cook it and it will turn out fine. Not perfectly, but fine. I grew up with rice at nearly every main course meal, so it astonished me how much making rice seemed to mystify my non-immigrant American friends. You will see that I don't measure the amount of liquid in my rice. I eyeball it based on my mother teaching me to stick my finger in the pot and see if the water went to the next knuckle on my finger from the surface of the rice. This is still how I make rice and how I have taught my kids to do it.

This recipe can be made with broth, if you like, but I prefer to make it with water, because it means we can eat it as leftovers regardless of whether or not we are eating meat that day. If you follow a stricter fasting rule, use the olive oil, and if you are following the strictest rules, you can use a fasting friendly oil. We tend to still eat dairy products except during Lent and Advent, and will still use olive oil except for Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent and Advent.

1/2 cup olive oil or butter (or clarified butter, for the best flavor)
2 cups broken vermicelli pasta (if you have a Grocery Outlet or Mexican market, you can often find this packaged, already broken into one inch or smaller lengths - see below)
4 cups basmati rice
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced (you know you want 6 cloves)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
hot water to cover by about a knuckle's length (6 - 8 cups)
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely minced

In a large, deep pan heat the oil or butter over medium heat. Add the vermicelli and brown, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. You really want this to brown more than you think you do, but be very careful not to burn it, or you will need to start over.

Add rinsed rice to the pan and stir into the vermicelli and fat. Toast the rice for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, salt and pepper and stir about a minute more.

Add hot water to the pan, stirring so the rice and pasta won't stick to the pan or itself. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, stir once more, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes without ever removing the lid.

Remove pan from heat. When ready to serve, top with pine nuts and parsley, fluff a little to stir in to the rice.

Pre-cut vermicelli

browning the vermicelli - look for this color

Shorbat 'Addas

This is a simple, Arabic lentil soup. If you are making this for Lent, substitute a fasting friendly oil for the olive oil. You can bulk this up by adding potatoes and/or spinach, as well.

1/4 cup olive oil
4 onions, peeled and finely diced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 1/2 cups lentils (brown or green)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
12 - 15 cups water
juice of one lemon, to serve

Heat olive oil in heavy soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add carrots and stir about 1 - 2 minutes. Add lentils, garlic, cumin, salt and Aleppo pepper (if using). Stir 1 minute.

Pour in 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cover partially. Cook until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Add up to 3 cups more water while cooking if you like your soup more brothy, or if the lentils seem to need more liquid to cook.

Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. When ready to serve, add juice of a lemon to pot and stir.


This is an approximation of a traditional flat bread made on a clay oven. I use the dough cycle on our bread machine to make this, but it can easily be mixed by hand or in a stand mixer.

4 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil + more for pan
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in a bread machine (or bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl) and set on dough cycle. This will be a soft dough.

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease a jelly roll or half sheet pan with two tablespoons of olive oil. Oil your hands and press dough into pan, patting out to edges. Using scrupulously clean hands, dimple the dough all over with your fingertips.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool for 5 - 10 minutes in the pan, cut or tear to serve.


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