Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Feast for Saddam: Iraqi lentil patties and medieval style fava been puree

Fried croquettes of lentils, tomatoes, onion, currants, parsley and spices; fava beans pureed with ground pistachios, onions, and lemon juice

A couple years ago I read an article (maybe in the New York Times) about an Iraqi immigrant who published her own cookbook. It's called Delights from the Garden of Eden by Nawal Nasrallah. It's nearly 650 pages long and filled with recipes for everything from salads to desserts. Nasrallah also included some Iraqi cuisine history as well as some of her own personal history. I haven't cooked much from the book. I think I've been a little intimidated by the size. But I did use it to prepare an Easter dinner just before I found out I was pregnant with Jasper. I spent the entire day cranky as hell and not knowing why.

Well, today I became cranky as hell again. I just tried to fit too much into the day. But more on that later.

I'm actually quite pleased with how this dinner turned out. I never, NEVER, fry foods. The croquettes were in danger for a while because the tomatoes made the lentil mixture too wet. I had already added flour (I used wheat, though Nasrallah calls for rice) and had to add more. I was also worried about the bread crumbs I rolled the patties in before frying. I'd used some leftover miche, which turned out to be too chewy to make proper bread crumbs, more like small pieces of toast. And Nasrallah doesn't give a temperature for the oil. All I know is that it should be very hot if you don't want your food to turn out greasy.

Despite all of this they turned out just as she'd promised, a "crisp shell" with a "melt-in-mouth soft" interior. I loved the currants, their sweetness punctuating each savory bite. I made a yoghurt tahini sauce to go with the patties and served them in a Middle Eastern flatbread that's a little fluffier and thicker than pita bread.

As for the fava beans -- my, what a high-maintenance vegetable. You pull them out of the pods, then boil them, then pull them out of skins. But oh my Great Green Goddess that puree is delicious. Favas taste a little like peas when raw, but cooked they aren't sweet at all, but have an earthy, nutty flavor. With ground pistachios and a little lemon and garlic they really sing.

In addition to the dinner I also went grocery shopping, made a jasmine tea jello dessert (I'll write about it tomorrow), and took Jasper to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Every Tuesday the children's discovery garden has a themed activity. This week it was butterflies. We looked at books about butterflies and made little butterfly wings that the kids can wear. Jasper wouldn't wear his, of course, but he enjoyed smearing around the glitter glue. Who wouldn't? The discovery garden is actually the point of the Garden farthest from our apartment. It's only a half hour walk, but in the heat of the 2:00 sun it seems long. Then we wandered our way through the rest of the BBG, spending a lot of time at the Japanese garden.

I stared dinner before Lane got home to relieve me of Jasper duties, but even with my head start I didn't finish until around 8:45. I usually feed Jasper earlier, so dinner is more just one more opportunity to eat. He was ready to go to sleep promptly at 9:00, about the same time Lane finished setting up his new g-mail account and the same time I'd almost finished eating. All of this, plus the prospect of cleaning the huge mess in the kitchen, sent me into one of those classic maternal seething rages. But Lane and I had it out, reached a new understanding about dinnertime, I cleaned up the kitchen and now I'm full, in a cool nightgown, and ready for bed.

For more about Nasrallah and her cookbook, read this NPR article.

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