I’ve always cooked with pleasure, and part of that pleasure was anticipating the certainty of smiles of appreciation and enjoyment on our guests’ faces. However, this pandemic robs us of dinner guests! Yesterday morning, after an uncomfortable night of off-and-on painful sleep, I was inclined to lay on the couch and binge-watch something engrossing.
Incidentally, laying around being unproductive was never allowed in our home growing up unless you were very, very sick! We didn’t have a TV anyway until my later high school years.
Therefore, with that tape running in my head, I needed to quickly decide on which activity I was to plunge myself into before falling down the rabbit hole of impending blues. With pain and semi-immobility as my companions for the day, I chose sedentary kitchen table cooking. I selected the creative mindless kind for which a recipe is not needed and where inspiration comes from what is growing in the garden and what is hoarded in the pantry.
The menu was to be yaghne, or vegetable stew over rice, and tabouli. I had a forest of mint and parsley in the garden and could use quinoa instead of cracked wheat in the tabouli. I’ve shared the tabouli recipe with you before, so just scroll back to previous posts from last spring and you will find the complete how-to for tabouli.
The next dish I mindlessly made yesterday is called yaghne. It’s a traditional Lebanese comfort food that reminds me of coming home off the school bus and smelling the stew bubbling on the stove, knowing that my growling belly would soon be satiated.
To make this warm pot of yumminess, I start with browning the meat in olive oil and then adding the basic Lebanese foundation of chopped onion, smashed garlic with salt, and assorted spices. I cook this meat mixture till well browned, then add canned fire-roasted tomatoes. Yesterday, I added tender bite-size pieces of squash, but you can use any fresh or frozen vegetable at this point. Combine well with the tomato mixture and allow to simmer slowly till the vegetables are tender. Serve over your choice of rice. It is a complete meal in itself but can benefit from the acid tartness of a side salad like tabouli.
What comforting meal did you cook today?
1 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic mashed with 3 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lb finely cubed or ground meat
1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen vegetables (green beans, peas & carrots, squash, eggplant, or potatoes)
2 8 oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes
3 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp black pepper