Thanks to my good friend Wendy, I am able to appropriately express the deep despair I feel this morning...(Wendy told me about sackcloth and ashes, clothing worn in ancient times to reflect a person in mourning or deep sorrow)...so I have donned sackcloth and ashes because of our government and their total lack of sanity. Of course I'm talking about their latest debacle, the sequestration, but I don't give a hoot about who's fault it is, or how many TSA Agents will be sent packing, or how the entire Defense Department will hang from a thread, or the thousands of little children who will go hungry because the free lunch won't be free...no, I don't care one bit about any of that...brace yourselves...gird up your loins, because this is the tragedy/result of our government mangling our government...I heard on our local news that my beautiful, sleek, feel-the-need-for-speed Blue Angels, might not be flying for Seafair this year!!! I know! I know! Devastating News!! Without the Blues screaming overhead in those amazing F/A-18 Hornets, there is NO Seafair...and without Seafair there is NO picnic beside the waters of Lake Washington with tons of great food shared with great friends...just the thought of it - the possibility that the Blues might not fly...it's like saying we're not going to have a summer! Ergo, the government is taking away MY SUMMER!!! All rain, all the time and then no summer...woe is me! Please pray for the Blue Angels to be able to fly...I mean, please pray for our government to fix their stupid mess!
My book club read the book The Lemon Tree, which is about a house that two different families lived in, one Jewish, one Palestinian...and since I was hosting the group, I decided to make Palestinian and Jewish food. I started them off with this Palestinian Lentil Soup...to most people I know, just hearing those words would cause them to throw up a little in their mouth...but I promise, it's not what you think...it's not gummy, or heavy or bland but surprisingly fresh and dare I say, light?!? Yes, I dare! Light because of a twist of lemon, adding a brightness that perks up the lentils! This soup is so good - creamy and comforting, that if I couldn't make it at home I might consider going to Palestine to get it, even with missiles flying over-head, this soup would be worth the risk!
Most of the recipes I researched had the spice Za'atar in them - a spice I hadn't heard of! And to my complete and utter surprise, it's available at Whole Foods and it's fabulous! It's nothing like I thought - not spicy, not "middle-eastern-tasting" with peppers or exotic heat producing pods that would cause one to sweat at first bite...no, none of that, instead it's light and citrusy!!
I have since used Za'atar on chicken and fish and even on salads - it's my new favorite addiction. And, here's the best part, if you can't find Za'atar at the market where you shop, you can make your own! Which is what I did for my book group, they all had a little bottle of Za'atar to take home with them. The recipe for making your own Za'atar is below.
Palestinian Lentil Soup - Pots and Pins - Adapted From Several Recipes
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup mixed lentils, rinsed (Most recipes I read called for red lentils; I was able to find a combination of lentils and beans at the Indian market so that's what I used, which I thought was way more interesting than just red lentils.)
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Za'atar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups beef broth, divided
4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 tablespoon sea salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup long grain rice
juice of one lemonIn a large Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil then add onion and saute until tender and almost translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more, stirring. Add 3 cups of the beef broth and 3 cups of the vegetable broth, lentils, cumin, Za'atar, coriander seed, turmeric, cinnamon and salt; bring to a rolling boil and boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover pot with a lid and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Bring the heat back up, add in the remaining two cups of broth and stir in the rice, and bring to a boil for a
minute, then reduce the heat to low again, replace the lid, and wait
until the rice is cooked (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in lemon juice. Makes about 6 servings.
Along with the Palestinian Lentil Soup, I served my book group Chicken Schawarma's, Fattoush Salad and Lemon Mousse for dessert...those recipes will be up soon.
Homemade Za'atar Spice - From About.com
1/4 cup sumac (available at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Mix all ingredients together. Store in air-tight bottles or plastic Zip-Lock style bags. Stored properly, Za'atar will last for about 6 months.