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Posts Tagged ‘pita’

I made this dish last Monday, so I’m a little late putting up here. A couple of our friends had a party for us since we’ll be new parents in a couple of months, and we came home with leftovers. We had some vegetables from the veggie tray as well as some leftover catered Middle Eastern food. Looking in my cupboard I found some lentils and thought a simple stew would go well and help use up the ingredients.

We had brought home some celery and carrots that I diced. I also diced an onion, minced 3 garlic cloves, minced an inch of ginger, chopped up 3 skinless chicken thighs, and got out 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes, and 1 cup of lentils.

I heated up a pot and then added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I threw the ginger and garlic in for about 30 seconds, then added the onion, carrots, and celery. I let them sweat down for about 6 minutes and then added the lentils. I wanted the lentils to sort of saute for about 2 or 3 minutes before adding anything else.

Then I poured in the chicken stock. Once it started to boil I added the can of tomatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper. I noticed that I had a big sprig of rosemary, so I tossed that in as well. Once everything started to boil again I added the chicken. I let it come to a slow boil, covered the pot, and turned the heat to med-low. I let it stew for about 15 minutes.

I realized that I had some spinach in the fridge, so I chopped up a large handful, threw that into the stew, and let it go for another 10-15 minutes.

I served the stew with leftover hummus with pita and some Jerusalem Salad which consisted of chopped cucumber and red bell pepper with a parsley and lemon vinaigrette. I added some red leaf lettuce. The sides were all from Salam.

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Belly Shack has been open for, I don’t know, a little more than a year now. I remember freezing my nads off with my buddy Nick early last winter walking 2 blocks from his place for our first taste. I’ve been there at least a half-dozen times since. But this weekend Yuki and I met up with one of our friends there and they both wondered why I haven’t blogged about it yet. So ladies, here it is, my blog about Belly Shack.

Located right under the Western “L” stop this is Chef Bill Kim’s second joint. Like its counterpart, Urban Belly, Chef Kim fuses Asian and Latin seamlessly. It’s also similar to Urban Belly in that it is counter service, communal dining, and recycled fixtures. They differ in that Urban Belly is based on ramen noodles while Belly Shack is sandwiches.

During this trip I ordered the special that they had running, a pulled pork sandwich with pickles. I’m not a big pickle guy, so Yuki polished those off for me. The sandwich was fantastic though. Pulled pork served with sautéed mushrooms, bean sprouts, melted cheese, cilantro, salsa verde, and Korean chili paste. My only problem with it was that they cut the pita bread and served it like a Western-style sandwich. With all of the juice it was a sloppy sandwich. It would have been better served Middle Eastern-style stuffed into the pita. Oh well, still a delicious sandwich well worth gorging on.

Yuki ordered our favorite sandwich on their menu and one of the best sandwiches in all of Chicago, the Asian Meatball. Juicy, tender meatballs of pork and beef served inside a pita with somen noodles, bean sprouts, mint, and Korean chili paste. Just thinking about this sandwich makes my mouth water.

Our friend ordered the Korean BBQ Beef. Extremely tender beef that just falls apart. The beef has sliced scallions and fried garlic chips on top along with some ssam paste. Next to it is kimchi and some flat bread. For this dish you make your own little sandwiches, much more Asian in presentation. I have no beef with this dish, it was outstanding.

She also ordered the Togarashi Fries. French fries topped with togarashi and lime zest served with a curry mayonnaise.

Belly Shack isn’t the cheapest sandwich in town at $9 a pop, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more flavorful, well prepared one. This place is definitely worth the visit.

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My buddy Tony and his wife Sandra took Yuki and I to Salam for lunch this past Saturday. Tony’s been talking about how fantastic their hummus is for a long time as he’s an even bigger hummus snob than I am. He took me up there for lunch a while back only to find they were on vacation, so I never got to try it. Well, Saturday worked out. We went and we dined. I have to say, that hummus is not only the best I’ve had in Chicago, it’s right up there with the best I’ve ever had period! I lived in the Middle East for a year so I know a thing or two about hummus. For the life of me I have no idea how they get such a creamy texture. Fantastic! Funny enough, Yuki found online that their hummus voted the best in Chicago by WGN Sunday night.

At any rate, when we were there Saturday I had the shawerma and Yuki had the chicken kifta, both also fantastic, but neither of us tried the falafel. Craving that hummus and wanting to not only try their falafel but also their baba ganouj we decided that we ought to go back for Meatless Monday.

We were meeting a close friend for dinner up there and got there early, so we walked around a little bit. Albany Park is a great neighborhood full of culture that I need to explore more of. We walked into the Tannourine Bakery just to check things out. They hand bake all of their own goods, including their pita bread. After chitchatting with Mike, the head honcho there, we ended up buying some spinach pockets, cheese pockets, and thyme manakeesh. He and I hit it off so he not only gave me a discount, but he also threw in a box of free anise cookies. Everything is so delicious and you can tell they care about their goods. I will definately head back to Mike when I need some good pastries.

Back to Salam. We started off with baba ganouj, hummus, and lentil soup. Believe it or not what you see in the pic are the smalls! Huge portions, only order large if you’re feeding an army. One of the best lentil soups in Chicago and that baba just might qualify as the best in town as well.

The falafel is also outstanding. If not the best in town, definately in the conversation and definately one of the largest falafel sandwiches! Perfectly cooked fresh falafel, diced tomato and cucumber, and tahini…a classic.

Just look at how green and fresh the inside of that falafel is. I know the picture sucks, but trust me, that falafel was heaven in a fried chickpea.

I also ordered the spinach pie, but honestly, I was so stuffed from the huge falafel sandwhich that I didn’t even touch it. I’m going to eat it tonight. Judging by everything else I’m sure it’s one of the best spinach pies in Chitown.

We ordered the combo plate full of kifta and kabob on rice with a tomato and cucumber salad to go along with six more falafel balls. The idea being that we had a bunch of left over hummus and baba that we ought to just have leftovers for lunch today. Not only did we have leftovers for lunch, we still have enough for dinner tonight as well. For about $40 we both got 3 full, healthy and delicious meals. You can’t beat that.

Service is also pretty good. It’s a bare bones little restaurant, but very attentive. I’ll definately make this little joint a regular stop in my rotation. I just cannot say enough good things about Salam except for “Peace be with you”.

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I’m on the tail end of a bad cold and Yuki is in the midst of battling one too. In light of that, last night’s Meatless Monday was all about getting healthy. There isn’t much more healthy than quinoa, except for maybe the hemp seed. I also wanted to keep it really simple.

I first sautéed a bunch of chopped green onions in some vegetable oil for a few minutes, then added three chopped garlic cloves. A couple minutes later I tossed in a diced carrot and a diced yellow pepper. I didn’t want the veggies to get soft, just slightly cooked so shortly after they were sweating I added a cup of rinsed red quinoa. When you saute quinoa for a few minutes it brings out some of the nuttiness in its flavor. After that I poured in a cup of vegetable stock, a drained can of chickpeas, a drained can of sweet corn (I can’t wait for corn season!), about a half cup of peas, salt, pepper, garam masala, and a dash of turmeric. I brought that to a simmer and covered over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Once everything was cooked and most of the liquid had evaporated I took it off the heat and let it sit for a few more minutes. Then I fluffed the quinoa and served. A salad of green leaf lettuce and tomatoes with a shiitake vinaigrette on the side along with some toasted pita. Our immune systems got a nice boost last night.

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Last night I made some delicious Lamb Kofta with the leftover berbere spice from the Doro Wat. I thought I’d stick with a Middle Eastern theme by serving it with some homemade Baba Ghanoush, roasted red pepper and yellow string beans, and an Israeli Couscous and Tomato soup. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some pita.

Before I made the kofta, I roasted two eggplants on the burner for the baba ghanoush. Once the skin was nice and charred I set them in a bowl, covered them with plastic, and let them sit for an hour.

So, to make the kofta I mixed in the berbere spice (there was about 1.5 tablespoons left), 1 teaspoon of turmeric, salt, pepper, 6 grated garlic cloves, half an onion grated, 1 jalapeno seeded and diced, 1 slice of bread crumbed, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, some chopped cilantro, and the juice from a half lemon into 1 pound of ground lamb. Once mixed I let it rest for a half hour covered in the fridge.

After the meat was rested, I wet my hands and formed 8 patties. They were set aside until time to cook.

Then I started on the couscous. I sautéed half an onion in some olive oil for about 10 minutes, then I added three grated garlic cloves. A few minutes later I threw in a diced carrot. That cooked for about 6-7 minutes, then I added a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and two cups of chicken stock. Once that was all mixed together I grated three more garlic cloves and tossed them in along with some salt, pepper, and about a tablespoon of cumin and a teaspoon of cayenne. I let that simmer for about 10 minutes covered over med-low heat.

After that I turned on the broiler and drizzled olive oil on the red pepper slices and yellow string beans. I seasoned them and threw them under the broiler. I left them there for about 10-15 minutes, during which time I finished the baba ghanoush.

I peeled the skin off the eggplants and mashed them up real good with a fork. I added 2 cloves of grated garlic, about 8 tablespoons of tahini, the juice from 1 lemon, and about a half teaspoon of cumin.

Then I heated some oil in a pan and cooked the kofta. I left them on for about 6 minutes each side, that gave them a nice crust, but kept them juicy. I also added about a cup of Israeli couscous to the tomato soup at this point to let it cook while the kofta was going.

Once everything was done I added a handful of chopped cilantro to the soup and plated it all up. The leftovers made a fantastic pita sandwich for lunch today!

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We picked up some pita bread yesterday so we decided to make some vegetarian pita sandwiches for Meatless Monday. The beauty of something like this is that you can fill them with absolutely anything! We went with a more Middle Eastern flavor.

I sliced a Japanese Eggplant into quarter inch thick slices. I also sliced one large red pepper and one large green pepper into quarter inch slices. On a baking sheet I drizzled some olive oil and laid them all on. Then I drizzled some more olive oil on top of the veggies and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. I roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then I took the eggplant off the sheet and put the peppers back in for another 5 minutes.

While those were roasting I sautéed some diced purple potatoes in olive oil for about 10 minutes to color the surface. Then I added some chopped onion and garlic and sautéed for another 7 minutes. After that, I added a half cup of chicken stock. Scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan I mixed in some salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Then I added a drained can of chickpeas and let it simmer until the liquid was almost completely evaporated. After turning off the heat I added the juice from one lime.

I put a couple of pitas into the oven while it was still hot for a couple of minutes to warm them up. After slicing the top off I filled them with all the goodies plus some tomatoes and avocados I sliced. Then I shoved some cilantro into whatever little crevice wasn’t filled yet.

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