From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Auntie Mame had it wrong. Life is not a banquet, it's an all you can eat buffet. While I hate to sound like a princess, even beautifully presented buffets can become tiresome when you have them day after day. The buffet was a nearly constant feature of our evening meals in Egypt. They were wedding scale extravaganzas, complete with hot and cold tables and dessert bars so long you could go into sugar shock if you even looked at them too long. Our meals were wonderful, but, unfortunately, they were not Egyptian. As a matter of fact, you had to search to find Egyptian dishes tucked into the copious buffet selections. I had done a little food related homework prior to our trip, so I was more fortunate than most in that I could recognize the few Egyptian dishes on the buffet tables. A sparsity of native food is not uncommon when you travel with a group where the goal is to please most of the people most of the time. It can be overcome by breaking away from the group for cooking lessons or meals in restaurants where native food is served. The climate in Egypt was not conducive to individual exploration, so we "suffered" through nights of rib roast or beef Wellington, and when I came on them, I jumped on the odd Egyptian dishes that I found. The recipe I'm featuring tonight is for a dish that is served throughout the country. It is very popular with locals and recipes for it abound. I had it several times when we were in Cairo and Alexandria and, interestingly, while they shared the same ingredients, the dishes never tasted quite the same. The dish is koshari. Koshari (also spelled Koshary or Kushari) is the national dish of Egypt. It mixes lentils, macaroni noodles and rice into a single dish that is topped with a spicy tomato sauce, garbanzo beans and fried onions. The idea sounds strange…until you taste it. Then you’ll know why this dish is a favorite among Egyptians. Here is how it's made.
Egyptian Koshari...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
4 oz. ditalini or macaroni, cooked
2 oz. spaghetti, cooked
4 oz. brown lentils, rinsed
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
2 cups canola oil
1/4 cup flour
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1) Combine ditalini and spaghetti in a bowl; set aside. Put lentils and 4 cups water into a 2-qt. saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 20 minutes. Season lentils with salt, drain, and transfer to a bowl along with rice and chickpeas; set aside.
2) Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Put flour into a bowl, add onions, and toss to coat. Working in 2 batches, add onions to hot oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer onions to paper towels to drain; reserve oil.
3) Spoon 4 tablespoons oil from skillet into a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin, cayenne, and ginger; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and vinegar and bring to a simmer; cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat. 4) To serve, divide pasta mixture between 4 bowls; top with lentil mixture and fried onions. Spoon tomato sauce over each bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
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