07 February 2007

Eat Those Beans

I was poking around the Saudi Aramco World archives and found this article on legume research (and legumes themselves) and how scientists are working to improve legume crops that have been largely overlooked in favor of grains. It's a fun little article when you've eaten lots of fava beans and lentils and garbanzo beans in the Middle East. Legumes have become a staple at our house, mostly in ethnic dishes.

4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seed
1 cup rice
1 cup red lentils
1 tsp salt
Crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp butter

Toss everything into a large skillet up to the tomato paste mix well. Cover with 4 cups boiling water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, adding water if necessary. Stir in butter, let melt, and serve with plain yogurt. Serves four.

Spicy Garbanzos and Couscous
1 onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup couscous
Chicken broth
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 cups cooked garbanzos

Saute onion in 2 T olive oil. Steam couscous over chicken broth (or prepare according to package instructions, or just boil it in some chicken broth till done). While the couscous is cooking, combine 1/4 c oil (use more or less oil if desired-I usually use less) with garlic and spices. Combine warm garbanzos, onions, couscous, and sauce. I like this with plain yogurt. Serves 4.

Red Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 c beef broth
2 c red lentils
16 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot and saute the onions for a few minutes. Add everything else, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40-50 minutes, adding more beef broth if needed. Serve with plain yogurt, if desired. Serves 6.

Chilaquiles (not from the Middle East, but oh so good)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
2 cups cooked black beans
1 tsp salt
Crushed red pepper to taste
6-9 corn tortillas, torn into bite-sized pieces and fried in a bit of oil till golden
Plain yogurt

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add onion and saute till soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer 3-8 minutes (longer if your tomatoes were fresh). Add beans, salt, red pepper, and fried tortilla bits. Heat through and serve warm, topped with yogurt. Serves 4.

I don't have a real recipe for koushari. We ate it on the street in Cairo all the time. Layer equal parts of cooked rice, lentils, and macaroni in a bowl. Top with a spicy tomato sauce with plenty of garlic, vinegar, and red pepper.


  1. I make red lentil soup often... I learned to make it from the fellas at the local Middle Eastern place. It's a super simple recipe... just red lentils, onion (sauteed), stock, salt and cumin and garlic if you like. It's fabulously easy and tastes great :)

  2. My favorite thing about red lentil soup is that there are a million things you can do with it and it's so easy to make. And it's quick. And red lentils taste so good. I always tell people to try them first if they're nervous about lentils (or if they don't like brown lentils).

    I'm going to try your version; it's just about the same, except different spices and no tomatoes. Maybe I'll come up with my own version. I've always used others' suggestions.

  3. This is so not a diet for a diabetic, but darn Amira, it does sound really yum.

  4. I have recipes for red lentil dal and soup, both of which include coconut milk. The dal is a dinner staple for me, served with steamed rice.