Yabancı Chicken Freekah Soup

Winter has truly arrived here in Kirikkale. Frigid temperatures and a blanket of snow have descended on the city, prompting my hibernation and hot plate to go into full gear– roads haven’t been plowed and a trip down the street to the grocery store seemed daunting and fraught with slip-potential.20150107-225946.jpg

I decided to make do with what little I had stocked up in the ol’ mutfak (kitchen) and devised a “chicken freekah soup,” blending the fabulous Palestinian standard shurba al-farik with hints of the chicken noodle soup of my childhood (basically just that there are carrots). A simple and delicious one pot dinner that’s a little funk, a little familiar, and a surprising amount of flavor.

For those who have yet to be acquainted with the Arab staple turned cult favorite gracing many “supergrain” lists, freekah refers to roasted cracked green wheat. The name comes from the Arabic root f-r-k, to rub, referring to the thrashing process it undergoes during production. It is a standard grain found most commonly in the cooking of the Levant and Egypt, though it has recently found new life in chef’s kitchens across the globe. High in fiber and low on the glycemic index, with a delightfully chewy texture similar to pilavlik bulgur, it also is a lovely addition to salads, or on its own as a side dish with poultry or lamb. In any event, it’s freek-in awesome. 20150107-225959.jpg

Ingredients:
One chicken breast
1 cup freekah, rinsed
Water
2 Carrots
1 onion
Garlic (to taste, I minced 4 small cloves)
Lemon juice
Mint
Thyme or Zaatar
Olive oil

Gently sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, then add carrots. After a few minutes add the freekah and stir continuously for a few minutes, to toast it. Add water and bring to a boil. After boiling for 5-10 minutes, add the chicken to poach it. When cooked, remove and shred using two forks. Return to pot. Season with lemon juice and healthy scoops of dried mint and zaatar (or any selection of fresh herbs you may have on hand). If you like,(I love!) serve hot with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Snuggle up with the bowl and a book, and you’ll forget the snow outside.

Afiyet olsun! Sahtein! Enjoy!

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Easy Vegetarian dinner with tastes of the region

This meal combines tastes and adapted recipes from the Maghreb to the Levant to Anatolia.

20150106-200020.jpgNohutlu pilav, or rice with chickpeas, is a street and home cooked staple, often served with boiled shredded chicken. Because I used canned chickpeas, I began by preparing the rice and then added the chickpeas on top towards the end of the rice’s preparation. As with just about all of my recipes, serving size and ingredient quantities are highly adjustable according to taste.

Ingredients:
Rice (any form will do, while “baldo” is most common here for this dish)
Chickpeas (canned, about 1/3 less than amount of rice used)
Water
Butter (about a tablespoon)
Chicken bouillon cube, crushed (optional, commonly used to flavor the rice)
Salt and black pepper, to taste.

Plain Yogurt (optional)

Melt the butter in a pot, add rinsed rice and stir continuously for 1-3 minutes. Add water, bring to a boil and then simmer with closed lid until all water has been absorbed. Do not stir. Add chickpeas and incorporate them into rice by fluffing with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a healthy dollop of plain yogurt.

Peasant Salad ; Modified Fatoosh/ Çoban Salatası

This salad is either a classic Lebanese fatoosh salad without the requisite toasted pita bread pieces, or a Turkish çoban salatası with the addition of spices to the dressing. Either way, the name and tradition of both is that of a peasant salad, a gloriously easy hodgepodge that can include whatever vegetables one may have on hand. I especially love adding purslane (bakhleeh in Arabic, semizotu in Turkish) when available. I try to use an even amount of each vegetable (i.e. one tomato, one cucumber….). Based on preference, vegetables can either be roughly chopped, as in the Arab style, or diced, a la turca.

Tomato, chopped
Cucumber, chopped
Green pepper, chopped and de-seeded
Onion, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped (Optional. I used about a tablespoon of dried mint instead)

Dressing:
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Pomegranate molasses
Sumac
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Boom.

“Moroccan carrots”

I have never been to Morocco nor had these carrots served to me by a Moroccan. The recipe is actually a modification of a dish made for me by a Lebanese roommate in Beirut. Numerous adaptations abound online under names like “Moroccan carrot salad.” This is a great, quick, easy way to add some veggies with a unique flavor spectrum to a meal. They can be served hot or at room temperature, and make an excellent meze, in my opinion.

Carrots,
washed, peeled, sliced, and boiled or steamed until tender but not squishy

Dressing:
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Lots of cumin
Turkish crushed red pepper flakes
(Or paprika)
Salt, to taste
Garlic (optional)

Drain the carrots and mix them with all the dressing ingredients over very low heat, stirring gently until cumin and the liquids form a light sauce. Amount of cumin is super adjustable, I like lots. When the dressing lightly coats all the carrots, take it off the heat immediately.

20150106-200131.jpgAfiyet olsun! Sahtein! Bon appetit!