Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blessed Lentils to you

Here we are again. You're probably about to eat a lot of lentils! Here are some delicious ways to do that.

Mujjadara is an old standby for us. I had never heard of it until I married Matt. He grew up in an Antiochian church that was 90% Arabs, and this was a popular dish during Lent. The cute little family story I always heard was that his mom was crazy about it and used to call it "mmmmjjadara," but he and his sister called it "yukjjadara." Probably because his mom burnt the onions (on purpose... a strange Lenten craving.) When he told me about it I was intrigued, and just looked up how to make it. My first few attempts were terrible and indeed, worthy of the name "Yukjjadara." The recipes weren't very good, I guess. I always had a hard time getting the lentils and rice to cook evenly. But when I finally found Bint Rhoda's recipe above, it was perfect the first time. Soaking the rice is imperative!

It's a very inexpensive dish except for the gallons of olive oil that you should use (I go cheap... Trader Giotto's lowest quality.) The only tedious part is chopping the onions. If you want to make it more of a one-pot meal, you can add some other finely chopped veggies like cabbage or cauliflower. I don't know if that would be strictly authentic, but those vegetables are common in Arabic cooking, so I don't think it's too kooky, and whatever, it's Lent, and you're hungry. This dish is extremely filling and satisfying.

Last week I decided to soak a bag of lentils and cook from it for a while. The first thing that I made was this awesome Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup . I used half of a kabocha squash that I already had prepared and otherwise followed the recipe, except that I omitted fennel seeds as I didn't have any. I also used a potato masher to squash the squash a bit, making the soup a little thicker. It's sweet, smooth, and hits the spot on a cold day.

Next, I lazily left the rest of the lentils on the counter and found the next day that they had sprouted a little bit. I decided to take advantage of God's gift to procrastinators and kept rinsing and draining the lentils throughout the day until I had some pretty nice sprouts going. I found a recipe for a cold sprouted lentil salad here and as I chopped veggies and doused with oil, I hummed happily to myself, thinking how good it was going to be and how I was going to write this blog post on the subject of Lenten lentil dishes. But the joke was on me when I found the salad utterly horrible and could not finish it without adding sour cream and ground beef. Matt, who is not breastfeeding and pregnant, said he thought it was okay by itself and bravely finished the bowl.

Finally, I fried the rest of the sprouted lentils with onions, garlic, and cabbage, along the lines of the second recipe on that page. I had a few marvelous tacos with this stuff and one quesadilla. I recommend the taco treatment for fasters (salsa, avocado, cilantro, lime, maybe some rice?). The lentils have a fresh flavor, but also enough savory chewiness to work in the taco setting. I won't say They taste exactly like carne asada! but they are still good.

It's a good strategy. Have a bowl of sprouting lentils and a bowl of soaking grains (like rice, kamut, barley, or wheat berries) on your counter at all times, and with the help of a rice cooker, you'll probably be able to come up with healthy Lenten meals with a minimum of planning and active prep.

Now I miss my big bowl of sprouted lentils. Matt got a little tired of hearing "Well, there's lentils..." every time he was hungry. But I'll give him a little break and try again next week.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Some good things.

The Food of My People is my favorite food blog. We need more food blogs like that, and fewer food blogs like this. (Oh my goodness, I see that she has her own show on the Food Network now.) TFOMP's recipes are not really easy to follow, because they are written in a narrative form, and there are no pictures, and he's religious about ingredients. But you will enjoy reading his recipes, if you are a certain kind of person like me, and you may learn something. I won't go so far as to say that I made his Cauliflower and Pasta Soup, because I included a few abominations. But I wouldn't have made the cauliflower and pasta soup that I did, which was very good, if I hadn't read his "recipe."

Bint Rhoda's Kitchen is my second favorite food blog. Well, maybe it's my favorite functional food blog with actual recipes and photographs and stuff. She's a Palestinian native who rediscovered her heritage in the kitchen when she got into Weston A. Price Foundation methods, which she realized were there all along in the way that her mother and grandmother cooked. She's the only WAPF blogger that I really read anymore, because the rest are just so shrill. I've become a little dissatisfied with this desire of most of the Nourishing Nazis to get back to Traditional Ways of preparing food, but with a typical American vagueness about where those traditions are to be found. It's a little like American converts trying to do Orthodoxy without any contact with Old World Orthodox. You can get it technically correct but there's just something a little off about it, because there's no contact with that living river of tradition. Same with food. You really have to feel sorry for us, because we wish we had Serbian or Korean or Israeli grannies who taught us how to ferment things and rapped our knuckles when we nicked sarmali/malfouf/halupkis before dinner, but unfortunately our grandmothers were very excited about microwaves. (I don't blame them.) Anyway, Bint Rhoda is a refreshingly authentic and positive source of recipes that are part of a continuing culture. Plus, she seems like a very sweet person.

The post I linked to above is about stocking a Middle Eastern kitchen. She says that it's easiest just to pick one cuisine and stock for that. I agree, but what would we choose? The strongest ethnic identity in our family comes from Matt's Armenian grandfather, but he didn't cook. I suppose if I had to choose one regional cuisine to cook exclusively, it would be a toss-up between Middle Eastern and Eastern European. Matt is not as big of a fan of beets and pickles as I am, so I suppose it would fall to Middle Eastern in the end. There's a good variety of fasting and feasting food, and with a few extra spices we could slide over into Greek cuisine too.

GZT shared this recording of Martynov's Beatitudes in a comment and I am for some reason not able to reply, so I'm replying by sharing it with everyone here, because it's very nice. I discovered the arrangement when I somehow stumbled upon this recording by the Russian folk vocal group Sirin. I think I still prefer Sirin's version, just because the voices are a little sweeter, but that's just me. Wouldn't it be lovely to arrange it in English and sing it in church? Wait, scratch that. I'm sure the translation would be awkward, actually, and a five minute version of the Beatitudes would require a lot of standing around by clergy and acolytes either before or during the Little Entrance. Better to just learn the Slavonic and sing it to my baby. Matt can sing second soprano. Teehee.

One other thing. I'm reading Kristin Lavransdatter again, just like everybody else in the world, apparently. I recommended it to a friend and when she talked about how much she liked it, I thought "Yeah! It's great!" and picked it up again. Then my sister-in-law said she was reading it and apparently so is Anna of Orthogals fame. Something in the weather I guess. Anyway, it definitely holds up on a second reading, especially after a few more years of marriage and having a child! I was full of dread during the entire first book, thinking, Maybe she won't make all these terrible choices this time.... but she went and did it again.

Monday, February 9, 2015

First post on new blog

I've started writing in my new blog about learning and teaching Greek. It isn't very fancy! But here you are.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Haven't posted in a long time because I've been feeling wintroverted. Also because I'm pregnant and I didn't want to say anything yet, but most of what I felt like saying had something to do with that.


Dumped FB the other day so that I can spend Lent (slash the rest of my life???????) studying Greek, praying the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Naughty Little Babies, and just being in my real life more. Also I need to find an absurdly cheap 2 bedroom apartment for us to move into in the next six months.

Me: Hi, I'd like to find an apartment in the D.C. area.
Apartment finding lady: Cool, what's your price range?
Me: (highballing) About $1200?
Apartment finding lady: Okay, are you looking for a studio then?
Me: Um... how about two bedrooms?


Matt reads a chapter of the Bible to us every morning (that's all Squirmy can handle) and we've started reading it in the Septuagint too. I stumble through guessing based on what I remember from the story and he helps with grammar. It's a good way to learn. Of course, I remember a lot from school and I have a very knowledgeable fellow at my elbow, so I can't recommend it to anyone starting cold. But materials need to be prepared for people to be able to do such a thing on their own. This article got Matt and me hooked on interlinear preparations for teaching classical languages. Check it out because I have to go chase my baby away from the stairs again.