Monday Night Dinner: Kibbeh and Mujadarah
|kibbeh with tahini|
Mujadarah was a new dish for me, and as a big fan of lentils, I knew I would enjoy it. Quite simply, the dish is rice and lentils garnished with fried onions. Because most recipes I found online said that the dish could be eaten hot or cold, I asked Vanessa and Mohammed how it was served most often, and they responded that the dish is actually more often served room temperature or cool. On Monday night, I served it for dinner hot off the stovetop. I thought it tasted great that way, but I also enjoyed the leftovers I took to work for Tuesday’s lunch. I had the cold mujadarah with yogurt, and I enjoyed it just as much as the hot dish from the previous night. Without a doubt, the fried onions are the star of the show here.
Friday Night Dinner: Fattoush and Kousa Mahshi Bi Laban
|kousa mahshi bi laban|
When Vanessa and Mohammed recommended Kousa Mahshi bi Laban (stuffed squash in yogurt sauce), I knew we had to try it. The dish actually originated in Syria, but it is commonly found in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, and Libya. The squash used in this dish (or marrows as they call them in the Middle East) is not readily available here in the United States, but after reading about it, I determined that our green zucchini squash would be the closest in size, texture, and flavor. To make the dish, I hollowed out zucchini squash and filled them with a mixture of raw lamb, uncooked rice, onion, garlic, pine nuts, cinnamon, and allspice. Then, I stewed them in a tomato broth for over an hour. (I admit that I was nervous about the raw rice cooking through, but it cooked perfectly.) While the stuffed zucchinis stewed, I made a yogurt sauce seasoned with mint and garlic. To serve the dish, I covered the bottom of a plate with the yogurt sauce and lay the stuffed zucchinis on top of it. Unfortunately, my pictures show a dish that looks a little like big stuffed pickles. They do not reflect the incredible flavors imparted by this dish. I took one bite and thought, “Oh my goodness. This is amazing. It’s like moussaka. Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” Not surprisingly, a variation of this dish is made with stuffed eggplants, and in retrospect, I recall having read moussaka recipes that incorporate zucchini squash in the dish with eggplant and sometimes as a substitute for eggplant. To call this dish “deconstructed moussaka” is a bit of a stretch, but it definitely offers an interesting variation on the same theme. I loved it, and I will definitely make it again.
I am so grateful that Mohammed and Vanessa shared their list of beloved Lebanese dishes for this week’s project, because it motivated me to try interesting variations on ingredients I adore. These dishes prove that a few simple ingredients can truly come together to create a fantastic composed dish.