Mograbieh & Legume Salad with Pickled Lemon & Ras El Hanout

One of our summer staples and all-time favourites is this wonderfully flexible Mograbieh salad. Both filling and refreshing, with a balance of flavour - salty, tangy, spicy, nutty and milky sweet.

Morgabieh are dried-up semolina balls, about the size of a pearl or as small as a lentil. They are rolled and either kept frozen or left to dry, and can be prepared much like pasta. Because the mograbieh I originally used for this recipe was pearl-sized, I liked to use medium to large sized cooked beans, such as pinto beans with it. Now that I only find very small sized maftoul (the Palestinian version of the same thing)I like to pair it with smaller legumes, especially chickpeas. In all truth though, the mograbieh may be substituted for any pasta shape you have on hand, and paired with any similarly sized and attractively shaped legume. In one instance, I even used star-shaped pasta with lentils. 

What gives this dish its distinctive character and flavour is the various textures, colours and seasonings:  The texture ranges from al-dente pasta and buttery cooked legumes, crunchy onions, and pop of flavour and colours from the various pickled lemons, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, capers and more. 

2 cups cooked pinto beans or chickpeas 

200 g mograbieh or maftoul, cooked to al-dente stage (see instructions on the package you purchase) 

1 medium sweet onion, minced

1 handful of sundried tomatos, chopped

1 handful brined and wrinkly black olives (Moroccan-style), rinsed, pitted and chopped 

1-2 Tbs capers, rinsed 

 1/2 lemon, cut lengthwise into quarters and sliced very thinly

1/4-1 tsp chili flakes or to taste (depending on how spicy you want your salad to be; I like to use Korean chili flakes which are very mild) 

1/2 tsp Ras El Hanout 

1/2 Sweet red or yellow bell pepper, quartered and sliced (optional)

Olive oil, to taste 

Prepare each ingredient as described. Set aside 

- While the beans and/or Mograbieh are still warm, add the olive oil, spices, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers. 

- Wait for everything to cool off completely before adding the onions and lemons.

- I like to let this sit in the fridge for at least a few hours if not over night before serving. This allows for all the flavours to marinate, and the fresh lemons turns into lemon pickles! 

- Just before serving, add a few slices of quartered bell peppers to the salad. The rest of the salad keeps for at least a week in the fridge otherwise. It's like a meal all on its own, full of flavour and nutritious as well (grains, especially whole, and legumes together, form a complete set of all the 22 necessary amino acids). All of these points make this dish an excellent choice for picnic and camping trips too. I have so many fond memories of this salad, it has nourished me in more circumstances than I care to detail here. And brought good memories of lakeside camping and beach picnics from my happiest days when I was stuck at the hospital half of last summer, caring for my daughter. It certainly has merit! 

Bon Appetite!  

Soba, Eggplant & Mango Heaven

This soba noodle salad recipe is an adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe from his book "Plenty" (which I highly recommend). I've been obsessed with fruit & herb combinations this summer, and this salad shows that the possibilities are limitless, and being creative leads to much excitement for the taste buds (as well as one's nose).

The author dissects the charm of this dish as "the sweet sharpness of the dressing and the muskiness of mango that makes it so pleasing". I couldn't agree with him more; but I think the true secret here is the contrast between lime zest, which has a slightly coconut-like effect, harmonizing with the almost floral aspect of mango in a way very similar to that of jasmine and lime; and to top it off - basil and cilantro goes amazingly well with both the lime and the mango!

It is also very appealing texture-wise, with the soggy fried eggplants, crunchy onions, slippery noodles and mango, and bits of herbs and spices and heat from the chile. Delicious is not good enough to describe it...

My adaptations or variations on the original recipe are in the method of cooking the eggplant (to reduce the amount of grease involved without compromising taste) as well as substituting sugar and rice vinegar with agave syrup and apple cider vinegar (my personal preferences). I also feel that the recipes always go overboard with some of the ingredients (herbs, vinegars and spices) so mine is toned down quite a bit, including omitting the garlic (which I think is overboard with all that red onion in there) - and I like it best this way - and hope you do too! It's full of flavour and like all the recipes I'm sharing today (see below) to celebrate the end of summer - it's a perfect picnic food and actually can be a meal all on its own! Especially if you add a bit of pan-roasted tofu - see comment below.

To prepare the eggplant:
2 eggplants, diced to about 3/4"
1 Tbs coarse sea salt

Sprinkle with salt and set aside to drain for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hrs. Pat dry with a towel, or squeeze additional excess moisture over the sink. Fry the drained eggplant pieces in about 3 Tbs or more (no more than 1/4cup) vegetable oil. You can do this in a large saucepan or a wok. Sautee and stir until slightly browned and fully cooked (but the pieces still hold their shape). Set aside to cool off.

For the soba noodles:
Cook 2 bundles of soba noodles (preferably wheat free and yam flour free - I even found a brand that is organic and 100% buckwheat flour!) according to the manufacturer's directions, until they are "al dente". Rinse off with plenty of cool water and leave to drain over a sieve. Once completely drained - coat the noodles with:
2-3 Tbs olive oil
2-3 Tbs soy sauce or tamari

Add the cooled off eggplant, and:
1 ripe yet firm mango (I prefer Ataulfo mango), diced
1 generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
1 generous handful of torn basil leaves
1 red shallot, thinly sliced (or 1/2 red onion).

For the dressing:
1 Tbs dark roasted sesame oil
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice from 1 ripe lime (pick the one that is as more yellow rather than the dark green ones)
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tsp chile flakes (or 1 fresh red chile)
Combine all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. If serving the next day, add an extra garnish of fresh basil and cilantro for an extra burst of flavour!

In a cast-iron pan, roast 1 package of extra firm organic tofu that is cut into 3/4 dice. This is simply done by warming the tofu inside soy sauce or tamari until the tofu is brown and crispy on the outside. Add more sauce during the process to prevent scorching the tofu and the pan prematurely...

Marinated Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad by Ayala Moriel
Cucumber Salad, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
This cucumber salad is one of the things to look forward to all summer long. It is wonderful with crisp, fresh cucumbers; but originally was designed to use up tired, limp cucumbers from composte oblivion... My grandmother taught me how to make this from old cucumbers and she would sometimes also use radishes that lost their luster in the mix. You can also make a similar version with mint, onion and radishes only (perfect in the winter time!).

6 small cucumbers (this recipe would not work with field cucumbers or long English ones; although larger dill pickel cukes might do the trick)
1/2 white sweet onion (or 1 shallot; or scallions if you find raw onion to be too much)
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
3 Tbs olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
Lots of freshly ground peppercorns, to taste
1 Tbs chopped dill weed (optional)

Slice the onion very thinly and cover in the vinegar, salt and lemon juice.
Slice the cucumbers (if they are tired and grumpy you may also peel them).
Toss with the remaining ingredients and marinate for at least 1/2 hour before serving. Excellent the next 2 days as well and makes perfect picnic food!

Faux Papaya Salad

Papaya inspired salad by Ayala Moriel
Papaya inspired salad, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Fresh and fragrant green papaya are unmatched by anything, really. However, they are not easy to find in Vancouver (when I tried, the middle was ripe and soft, and the outside rather flavourless. It made for a very difficult juliening job!).

So, in lieu of papayas, you may use pale julienned carrots with very satisfying results. My version also is a vegetarian one, as I’m not all that excited about fish sauce and shrimps… Feel free to use them if that’s what you’re after.

4 small leaves of butter lettuce
2 yellow carrots (orange ones will do as well, but they will look less like green papaya), julienned into thin long strips - or 1 small green papaya if you can find it
Handful of bean sprouts (optional)
12 green string beans, cut into halves and then also lengthwise “French” style
2-3 Tbs skinned unsalted roasted Spanish peanuts (Note: If they are salted on their skin you’ll be fine, but if you’re buying them skinned, make sure they are unsalted)
1-2 tsp crushed chile (or 1 fresh red chile, chopped finley)
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn by hand

For the dressing:
Juice from ½ lime
1 Tsb apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbs neutral vegetable oil (i.e.: almond or grapeseed oil)
1 tsp agave syrup
Sea salt to taste

To assemble the salad, line a shallow bowl with butter lettuce leaves.
Toss together the other vegetables and herbs and seasoning, and add the dressing ingredients (you don’t need to make “vinnigraite” on the side – simply toss all the ingredients together).

Place the salad on the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle with the roasted peanuts, and serve immediately.
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