Yes, ok, I’ll admit that the above doesn’t look that appealing, but just stick with me for a minute okay? I was a biochemistry major in college, which led to an advanced science degree and a job that revolves around research and scientific rigor. But I was also a Classics (emphasis on ancient art and history) minor. In fact, I was only a classics minor due to a poor advisor that failed to point out that I was 2 credits short of my intended double major. Oops. Anyways, the point is, I did a lot of reading about Greece and Rome and the Ottoman Empire and, of course, Egypt. Those ancient civilizations were absolutely amazing and I’ve always been a little obsessed. They are all top of the list as far as places I want to visit. Unfortunately, with the exception of Italy, I haven’t made it very far yet.
Do you get Saveur magazine? If you don’t, you should. On top of containing some amazing food porn, the articles are crazy interesting. It’s a fairly new addition to my food magazine repertoire and I’m frankly shocked at how much I look forward to it each month. This past issue was the Saveur 100, which had SO many great gift and recipe ideas, it’s totally worth buying off the rack. One of the recipes was for Koshary, an Egyptian street food consisting of pasta, rice, chickpeas, lentils topped with garlicky cumin tomato sauce and fried onions. Awesome, I thought, I don’t think I’ve ever had Egyptian food and what better way to learn about a culture than to eat their food? Done and done.
Does this not sound like the perfect winter food? Hearty grains and pasta and warm spices and sweet fried onions? It’s interesting to me that this dish hails from a warm country, but hey, I won’t question it. Chickpeas are my favorite legume and lentils, with their earthy, hearty flavor, are way up there as well. Not a fan of lentils? It’s cool, there are other things you can do with them and I think that there are enough components in this dish that you could probably leave them out. Though, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it; they add a complexity that the other components lack.
This dish is exactly what you think it will be: ribsticking, warming, and comforting. It makes me want to wander the markets of Egypt ASAP. I truly believe that the food a people eats is a direct window into their culture and souls. It describes how they live, what they find important and how they relate to each other. Eventually, I will make it to all the places I want to go, but until then, the food may be as close as I can get. And honestly, when it’s this good, I’m okay with that.
Adapted from Saveur. Serves 4-6.
I used tubettini and whole wheat fettuccine, because I had both on hand. If you wanted to be really good you could use whole grain pastas and brown rice, but I think the result just wouldn’t be the same. Yes, there are a few carbs in this dish, but it has a good amount of fiber and very little fat if you go easy on the fried onions, so its kind of good, wintery semi-diet food (in my twisted mind at least). I have trouble deep frying things as the idea of CUPS of oil makes me a little sick, but it is worth it for this dish. I managed to fry my onions in under half the oil originally called for, which means nothing about the onions’ outcomes but everything for my peace of mind.
4 oz ditalini or macaroni, cooked
2 oz spaghetti, cooked
4 oz brown lentils, rinsed
1 c cooked basmati rice (optional)
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 c canola oil
1/4 c flour
2 med onions, thinly sliced
1 T ground cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t ground ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 c canned crushed tomatoes
2 T white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
- In a large bowl, combine the pastas, rice, and set aside
- Bring the lentils and 4 cups salted water to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (~20 min)
- Season with salt, if needed, and add the lentils to the pasta and rice
- Heat the oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat
- In a medium bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper; toss the onions in the flour until coated
- Fry the onions in batches until well-browned, transferring them to paper towels as you go
- When finished with the onions, pour out most of the oil, leaving 1-2 T in the pan
- Over medium heat, saute the garlic, cumin, cayenne and ginger for about 1 minute
- Add the tomatoes and vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper
- Spoon the pasta/rice/lentils mixture into a bowl and top with tomato sauce, followed by the onions
- Can be served warm or room temperature
**Can you imagine how good with would be with a fried egg on top!?!?**