One of the nice things about being the youngest in a large-ish family, was having a much older sister who went off to the Big City (Portland Oregon), to college. When I was eleven, I got to spend a week with her, sitting in on her classes, meeting her friends, and being (for just about the first time ever) treated more like a friend than a booger-picker...which I was NOT. Ever
. It was my first real adventure, and if I keep thinking about how really wonderful it was, for lots of reasons more obvious now than then, I'll cry and short out the keyboard, so enough about that.
|Kabsa, summer style.|
Cool chick that she was, she had a Middle Eastern boyfriend, and cool guy that he was, he actually cooked. He made us a lamb and rice dish called kabsa, that introduced me to cinnamon and nutmeg in savory dishes. It was served with a salad of coarse chopped cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions. This weekend, wanting to serve tabbouleh (bulgur wheat salad) at a gathering that included someone with gluten issues, the thought of substituting rice triggered the childhood memory.
Kabsa is a warm dish, but with temperatures in the nineties, with icky-sticky humidity, I wanted a main dish salad. I sort of crossed my memory of kabsa with tabbouleh, and tweaked it a bit to get this:
At least four hours before serving time (because this dish needs time to cook and chill), start the Rice
Cook 2 c. brown rice in
3 3/4 c vegetable broth,
(water is okay, but not as tasty)
Into which you have dumped
2 tablespoons cinnamon,
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp nutmeg
(bay leaf and cardamom
are also traditional in this mix, if you want even more flavor)
I bring the rice, spices and liquid to a full boil, drop the flame to barely there, pop on the lid, and leave it alone for 45 minutes. Once cooked, dump the rice into a large bowl, and let it cool to room temperature. The seldom used punch bowl is large enough to hold everything, with room to mix, and everyone commented on how pretty it looked as a salad bowl.
While the rice cooks, prepare the meat. Since not all Americans like lamb, and since it's a little greasier than I like in a cold dish, I used beef. Traditional kabsa uses lamb, chicken, camel, shrimp, or beef, so take your pick. They don't sell camel at a grocery near me, but I'm sure all the others would be equally as good.
Just 1 1/3 pounds of beef
was enough for the generous 8 servings this makes, but if you have carnivores in the crowd, 2 pounds won't overcrowd the other ingredients.
Cut the beef in strips about 1/2 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 inches long, more or less. Toss in a glass bowl with
1/4 c. cider vinegar or white wine
1/4 c lemon juice
scant 1 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
1 T chopped garlic
allow to marinate, covered and refrigerated, while rice cooks and cools, then...
Saute beef in about 3 tablespoons of hot olive oil
. I do it in two batches, so it caramelizes a bit, rather than sweating and turning grayish. I'm not a patient cook, but it only takes a couple of extra minutes. As soon as the second batch is done, dump in the remaining marinade, and let simmer down a few minutes, until thick. Dump this all on top of the rice.
While that starts to cool, chop and add the veggies:
8 green onions, trimmed, outer leaf removed, chopped
1 medium cucumber chopped coarse
1 colorful bell pepper, matchsticked, or (cuter) 1 8oz bag of small sweet multi colored peppers, seeded and cut in rings.
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (do halve, as it adds the juice to the mix)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint (this is about six mature stalks worth of leaves)
Note: If you are a serious salad person, you may want to double the veggies.
dress this with
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil or vegetable oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
Lots of fresh ground black pepper
Stir everything together thoroughly. You can eat it at room temperature, but the flavors will blend better if you chill for at least an hour, two gets it properly cold, and overnight is really lovely.
Now, if you'll excuse me, while you enjoy your yummy supper salad, I'm gonna go write a letter to my big sister and thank her for a really great week, since I'm sure I never got around to sending a thank you card, back then. Thirty-five years later, this still falls in the "better late than never" category, right? Actually, though "Cat the Correspondent", a.k.a. my business partner in the (soon to debut) magazine 365 Being
, will shake her head, I think I'll facebook this post to Robin's honey of a husband ( A Jersey guy who cooks), and ask him to be sure she sees it. I know, I know, Cat, it's not as good as snail mail, but I still have to send the webmaster the draft of the new art, and really, after 35 years, I don't think she remembers if I thanked her.
When not feeding my friends, writing blog posts, working on the
and arguing with my big sister about who was the spoiled one, I create unique environments for lovely people. You can check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com
Questions or comments can be left below, or email me at email@example.com