I have to admit that my enthusiasm over the 50 Countries challenge is waning. It's a lot of work to figure out what country to do each week, what recipe to make to keep things fresh and interesting, as well as which recipes are more "authentic" or definitive of that country than others. It's exhausting. In the midst of a very busy time at work (that will continue through the summer) and wedding planning (which will also continue through the summer), this often seems like an unnecessary burden. BUT, I'm committed to at least making the recipes, even if I half-ass the research or authenticity. So, I'm taking a moment here to pep myself up: Yes you can! You will! 50 Countries Challenge rocks!
Now, onto this week's challenge: Kushari from Egypt. Kushari is one of Egypt's national dishes. It is an inexpensive, very popular dish made of noodles, rice, lentils, fried onions, and a spicy tomato sauce that many Egyptian restaurants serve and specialize in. Wikipedia tells me that Kushari is thought to reflect the diet of Coptic Christians during lent.
When I saw this recipe, I was like, "For serious? That is a lot of carbs on one plate, Egypt, and I am a carbaholic." I also thought it sounded kind of boring. I mean, spicy tomato sauce on three types of carbs...whoopdedoo, right? But, please refer to paragraph one. I was desperate for something quick and easy to satisfy the challenge, and this fit the bill. Fortunately, Kushari is unexpectedly uber-nummy and REALLY easy to make.
Kushari (adapted from TracyFood and the "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics" cookbook)
-5-6 cups fresh chopped or canned diced tomatoes (roughly two 28 oz cans will do)
-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
-1 large jalapeno, roughly chopped
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or less to taste)
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1 teaspoon coriander
-1 small-medium onion, chopped
-Extra vegetable oil for frying the onion
-1 cup uncooked brown rice
-1 1/2 cups uncooked whole grain macaroni
-1 cup uncooked lentils
NOTE: If you have a rice cooker, this recipe will be MUCH easier to do all at once (as it will not use up all of your burners, plus one). If you do not have a rice cooker, I suggest making at least one or two of your carbs ahead of time.
1. Cook your rice, macaroni, and lentils in three separate pots/cookers. Start these at least 20-30 minutes before beginning the sauce preparation (particularly the brown rice, since it takes extra long to cook).
2. In a blender or food processor, add the tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, vegetable oil, red wine vinegar, salt, cumin, and coriander. Process until smooth.
3. Place the tomato mixture in a saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20-30 minutes.
4. In a frying pan, heat the extra vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and fry until medium-dark brown. Set aside until the rest of the food is done.
5. Place lentils, rice, and noodles in a bowl, or in separate lumps on a plate. You may put the sauce over the carbs, or on the side. Serve garnished with the fried onions.
-Serves: At least 4, if 6 generous servings.
-Calories: Unknown, but if you're not concerned about a boatload of carbs, this isn't too bad for you. There's a relatively small amount of oil. Plus, the lentils and tomatoes give you great nutritional bang for your buck.
Verdict: WAY better than I thought it would be. The sauce is flavorful with a great spicy kick (the kind that takes a while to kick in). Plus, the carb hog in me had a great time pigging out on a variety of grains and legumes in one bowl.