Tomato and I had a blast out west In L.A. this past weekend. For me, it’s been a much needed break from the winter mundane and for her, a return to her homeland. You can take the kid out of L.A., but you can’t take the L.A. out of the kid.
Before we all got down and country at Stagecoach (country music festival), we spent some time eating and hitting all of her favorite restaurants. Our time was limited, so we only ate at a few, but they were a few very good ones. No surprise, since I’d say that 75% of the reason we travel is for food and the other 25% is for personal enrichment and cultural immersion. Maybe I exaggerate. Maybe I don’t.
Stay tuned for L.A.’s food scene, through the eyes (and stomach of Tomato).
But first…back to Lebanon.
With the sunshine and airiness that comes from coming west at this time of the year when the middle is still getting wind-whipped by some early spring frigidity, it reminds me that eventually we’ll be able to enjoy those sort of temperatures here at home. As such, lighter food is preferred. Necessary, actually.
Luckily, Lima’s Grandma’s Lebanese recipes fit this bill and the next recipes I’m sharing are actually two separate dishes, but I ate them together to create the perfect spring-mix salad. Taco salad-like in execution, but overall, Lebanese in essence.
First, the Tabbouleh.
Like, the Kibbeh, these can be thrown together in no time, and are actually faster since they require no oven time. And, like the kibbeh, I substitute quinoa for the more traditional bulgar wheat.
A tip on the salad: Have you ever thought to use your food processor to create a chopped salad? No, right? It doesn’t seem like an obvious use for a food processor, but after watching Mama Buddha do this at home on my last visit, I have no clue why I had never thought to do it before. If you’re saying, “well, duh,” to yourself, you clearly operate on a higher intellectual plane than I do. In any case, I found the food processor perfect for giving the tabbouleh the consistency of restaurant versions, and I liked that very much.
As for the Hashweh…as easy as tacos. Actually, easier, since it contains only the magical two spices of Lebanon: cinnamon and allspice. Almonds (or pine nuts) for crunch round out the flavors and texture.
Toss the two together and you’ve got a quick, light…perfect spring/summer plate.
½ cup cooked quinoa
5 scallions chopped (green and white parts)
5 cups parsley, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cucumber, chopped
½ cup olive oil
½ cup lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 cup minced mint
Toss all the chopped veggies in a bowl with the quinoa well to combine. Dress with the lemon juice and oil. Viola!
For the Hashweh
½ cup pine nuts (or slivered almonds), toasted
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 TB olive oil
1. In a large sautee pan on medium high heat, add the oil and brown the beef. Once the beef is cooked through and no pink parts remain, remove from pan and set aside.
2. To the pan, add the onions, and sauté until translucent. Add the spices and the beef back to the pan. Add the nuts. Season to taste. Mix well. Viola!