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Rice & Vegetable – Part 1


Batata Harra

There are numerous variations of batata harra, a spiced Lebanese potato dish. Although some include bell peppers and onions, this recipe is all about the enticing crispy potatoes, because they tend to lose their crunch once other vegetables are introduced. To finish the dish, herbs are fried in hot butter to bring out their flavor—a classic Middle Eastern technique.

PREP : 10 minutes
COOK : 50 minutes
MARINATE : 1 hour

  • 9 floury potatoes, such as russets, cut into ⅝-inch chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, plus a pinch
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Mix together the potatoes, garlic, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large bowl. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.
  2. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the potatoes into a large roasting pan and, if damp, dry them with paper towels. Mix with another tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of salt, then roast on a high shelf for 40–50 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked, heat the butter in a large skillet over low heat until it stops foaming. Stir in the cilantro and cook for 1 minute. Add the roasted potatoes, then the lemon juice and toss. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, then serve immediately.

Cook’s tip : Herbs are often interchangeable in Middle Eastern recipes. In this dish, cilantro is a good match, but you can use fresh flat-leaf parsley, if you prefer.


Lebanese Seven-Spice Roasted Squash with Feta & Pine Nuts

This is great for a crowd, and you can use whatever type of winter squash is in season. The crunchy scallions and salty feta provide a great contrast to the smoky spiced squash.

PREP : 15 minutes
COOK : 45 minutes

  • 1 (about 2¼ pound) butternut squash or other squash, halved and cut into wedges
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, plus a pinch
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of pepper
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Lebanese seven-spice mix
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. For the Lebanese seven-spice mix, put all the spices in small bowl and mix together.
  2. Put the squash in a roasting pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of seven-spice mix and 2 teaspoons of salt, then drizzle with the oil and toss well, using your hands. Roast for 45 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly, then season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat for 2–3 minutes. Sprinkle them and the feta, scallions, and arugula over the squash, then serve immediately.

Cook’s tip : Rinse and dry the squash seeds, then sprinkle them into a skillet with a teaspoon of seven-spice mix and dry-fry until golden. Sprinkle with sea salt. Use these instead of the pine nuts to top the dish, or eat as a snack. Keep any unused seven-spice mix in an airtight jar.


Spiced Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds & Tahini Dressing

This dish is filling enough to eat as a vegetarian main dish, but makes a great side dish for lamb or chicken, too.

PREP : 10 minutes
COOK : 35 minutes

  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 teaspoon baharat spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons blanched almonds, toasted, to garnish
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish
  • Tahini dressing
  • 4 teaspoons tahini
  • ¼ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the cauliflower into a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with the baharat spice mix, salt, and oil and mix well. Roast for 25–35 minutes, or until lightly charred but still with some bite.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, mix the tahini, yogurt, and lemon juice together in a bowl, then season with the salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving plate, dot with the tahini dressing, and sprinkle with the almonds and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Cook’s tip : If you can’t find baharat spice mix, use an equal mixture of ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground cinnamon instead.


Cumin-Roasted Beet & Carrots with Tahini Dressing

These mildly spiced roasted veggies make a great light meal served with couscous or rice, and they are just as good served as a side dish for roasted chicken or fish.

PREP : 15 minutes
COOK : 1 hour

  • 8 small raw beets, quartered
  • 8 carrots, cut into wedges the same size as the beet quarters
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2½ tablespoons pistachio nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (see Cook’s tip), to garnish
  • Tahini dressing
  • 1 teaspoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon Greek-style plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix together the beets, carrots, cumin, coriander, salt, and olive oil in a roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice in a bowl, then season with the salt.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. Dot the dressing over them, sprinkle with the pistachio nuts, and serve immediately.

Cook’s tip : To toast a large quantity of whole nuts, preheat your oven to 350°F, spread the nuts onto a baking sheet in a single layer, then roast for 5–10 minutes. Check them regularly, because they burn easily. For smaller quantities of nuts, place them in a dry skillet large enough to hold them in a single layer, and toast them over low heat for 5–6 minutes, or until they are evenly golden and smell toasty, shaking the pan every couple of minutes. Do not leave them unattended—they will burn as soon as you turn your back.


Okra with Chickpeas, Tomatoes & Garlic

Okra is popular throughout the Middle East, and is served here in a Sephardi-inspired rich garlic, tomato, and chickpea sauce. Roasting the okra separately helps prevent it from becoming sticky.

PREP : 25 minutes
COOK : 45 minutes

  • 1¼ pounds okra
  • 2 teaspoons sumac spice
  • grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 3 pinches of sea salt
  • 2 pinches of pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas in water, drained and rinsed
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 tablespoon to garnish
  • ½ cup water
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the okra, sumac, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and pepper, and half the oil together in a roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the coriander and cook for 2 minutes, or until aromatic. Increase the heat to medium–high, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and sauté for 10 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the onion and simmer for 5 minutes, breaking up any larger pieces of tomato using a wooden spoon. Add the chickpeas, cilantro, and water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until thickened.
  4. Stir in the roasted okra, then season with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro and serve.

Cook’s tip : If you rinse okra before roasting it, be sure to dry it thoroughly with paper towels or it will steam instead of roast.

Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer