New year literally brought a new beginning into our lives. I erased our presence from the beloved apartment with a gallon of Clorox, turned my keys in, and hugged the managers whose eyes mirrored mine and sparkled with tears. A new family was moving in, and I had to smile at the three girls jumping and skipping around, excited about their new home, remembering my two daughters and their happiness just a year ago. I drove off with my clothes piled up on the back seat of the old Bonneville, while the fountain in the courtyard and the pink facade slowly disappeared from my sight.
My girls and I are almost completely unpacked, with just a few odd items disrupting the harmony of our new abode. We have roses in the front yard and an orange tree in the back. We have an adorable poodle who makes our feet warm on these surprisingly chilly California nights. This holiday season ended with a miracle for us and I cannot even try to explain the gratitude I feel for my dear friend who opened her home to us and welcomed us in with a huge embrace and even bigger smile, erasing the scary thoughts of homelessness and shelters that occupied me for days.
We are slowly adjusting to our new routine, getting to know the pathways through the house and learning to live with the unusual noises. My friend has a house full of vintage cooking props and I cannot wait to use them in my photos. In turn, she is hungry for my cooking, and even a simple fried egg I make for her in the morning makes her face beam. I am humbled by her generosity and if she asked me to prepare a pheasant under glass, I would gladly do it, even if I had to go in the Sierras and catch the bird myself!
My life is slowly getting back to normal. A different, new normal, filled with uncertainty and mystery, but comfortable and welcoming nevertheless. The beast of anxiety and fear is still a frequent daily guest residing on top of my chest, but the promise of a wonderful year ahead gives me strength to shake it off and force it to go away.
I miss writing. I miss my camera. I miss the feel of a few keys that slightly stick under my fingers as I type yet another blog post. I miss my friends, real and virtual, and feel as if I were in exile for months. But as I disassemble the last of the packing boxes and send them to a recycling bin, I know that I have not only come home, but returned as well. And I am so ready to start living again!
What can be better to announce the beginning of a life much richer, fuller, and more satisfying, than a beautifully photographed cookbook filled with brightly colored fruits and vegetables of the Middle East, with authentic recipes for fragrant and aromatic foods of Syria, Tunisia, Morocco simplified and adjusted to the markets of the west? I am proud to be a part of the team involved in promoting Faith Gorsky’s lovely book, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with an Extraordinary Flair.
If you remember, the six of us each picked a different recipe from the book several weeks ago, and prepared a prix fixe virtual meal for our readers. My family enjoyed Spinach Turnovers and it makes me feel good that it’s also one of Faith’s favorite recipes she learned from her Syrian mother-in-law.
I would like to invite you to join us again, this time in real time, for the Twitter party Cook, Tweet and Eat this coming Saturday, January 12th, at 4:00 pm EST. Let’s have fun preparing Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Onions together, exchanging tips and ideas, posting photos, learning from one another and from Faith! I have participated in a few Twitter events in the last couple of years since I’ve been blogging, but this one will be special, as so many of us will be making the same dish and I cannot wait to see different takes, variations, and creations.
Hashtag for this event will be #AnEdibleMosaic. Casey of Kitchen Play helped us form our group and formulate a plan for promoting An Edible Mosaic. After Cook, Tweet&Eat party, she will put up a photo album of all the photos submitted on Twitter, with links and credit.
If you are interested, you can RSVP here. I hope to see you at the party on Twitter!
LENTIL AND BULGUR PILAF WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS (MUJADDARA BURGHUL)
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 50 minutes, plus 10 minutes to let the bulgur sit after cooking
- 1 ¹/3 cups (275 g) dried brown lentils (or 2 cans brown lentils, rinsed and drained)
- 6 cups (1.5 liters) water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 pods cardamom, cracked open
- 2 cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (185 g) coarse-ground bulgur wheat
- 1½ cups (300 ml) boiling water
- Plain yogurt (optional, for serving)
- Sort through the lentils to remove any small stones or pieces of dirt, and then rinse with cold water in a colander. Bring the rinsed lentils and the water to a boil in a lidded medium saucepan. Cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary so that they’re always immersed; strain.
- While the lentils cook, heat the oil and the butter in a large skillet over moderately-high heat; add the onion and sautee until completely softened but not yet browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer half the onion to a small bowl and set aside. Continue cooking the remaining onion until deep caramel in color, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water as necessary if the onion starts to get too dark. Set aside.
- Put half a kettle of water on to boil. Transfer the sauteed onion (not the caramelized onion) to a medium saucepan. Add the bay leaf, cardamom, clove, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add the bulgur and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Add the boiling water, turn the heat up to high, and bring to a rolling boil.
- Give the bulgur a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the bulgur sit 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and gently stir in the lentils. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, and olive oil if desired.
- Transfer to a serving dish and top with the caramelized onion. Serve with plain yogurt to spoon on top, if using.