Friday, May 25, 2012

Koshari

I first had koshari--a popular Egyptian street food--while visiting my brother when he was studying abroad in Cairo.  This traditionally-vegetarian dish combines a bunch of staple foods into one, resulting in a satisfying, though starchy, meal. 


Koshari: So many components, so few vegetables.

Recipe:    
Koshari
  • 1 - 14.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1.5 cups white rice (plus water to cover)
  • 1.5 cups lentils (plus water to cook)
  • 1 pinch salt, or to taste
  • 1 pinch pepper, or to taste 
  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta (plus water to cook)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 - 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 small package or can French fried onions
 
First, marinate the chickpeas.  Combine the chickpeas, vinegar, and spices in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  Store the container in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the dish, shaking occasionally to stir up the chickpeas.  
 
Next, in a small bowl, combine the rice with enough cold water to cover and allow to soak.  After 20 minutes, carefully drain the rice.   
 
Meanwhile, add the lentils to a medium saucepan and add enough water to more than cover the lentils.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring the lentils to a boil and cook until tender (about 30 minutes, depending on the type of lentils you use).  If all of the water is absorbed before they are finished cooking, add a bit more water. 

As the lentils cook, prepare the pasta according to package instructions.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain and set aside. 
As all of these ingredients cook, prepare the tomato sauce.  Heat the olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil becomes hot, stir in the onion and sautรจ for about 5 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer until the rest of the dish is ready. 

Once the rice has soaked for 20 minutes, you can begin to cook the rice.  Melt the vegan butter in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add the rice to the pot and fry, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes.  (Don't be too concerned if the rice starts to stick--the vegetable broth will deglaze the pan).  Add the vegetable broth while stirring, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed (about 18 minutes).

Finally, when all of these components are ready, mix the rice and lentils together.  To serve, spread the pasta over the rice and lentil mixture and top with chickpeas, tomato sauce, and the French-fried onions.
 
Yields 8 servings.

Comments:
Taste:          
This is a really tasty dish with a rich yet earthy flavor.  Ours came out a bit mushy (I think we overcooked the rice by a few minutes), but the chickpeas and French-friend onions add some nice textural variation.  Overall, it was a pretty heavy dish.  
Accessibility: 
This dish makes use of numerous easy to find staple foods.  It would be a great dish to make in the winter when high-quality fresh ingredients are scarce.
 Ease of Preparation:       
There are many pieces to the koshari puzzle, as you can see.  However, most of the ingredients can cook at the same time; or, you could even make the lentils, rice, and pasta a day in advance.  Once all of the components are cooked, the assembly is quite easy. 
Non-vegan friendliness:      
This dish is extremely substantive.  I wouldn't serve this as a one-pot meal, however, as it's quite blatantly missing vegetables of any kind. 

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