Monthly Archives: May 2008


Or do you prefer to spell it koshary? Because the name of this dish is transliterated from Arabic, there are variations in English spellings. But whatever way you spell it, this is a tasty dish from Egypt—and because I’m heading for Egypt tomorrow, I thought it would be an appropriate recipe to leave you with, until my return.

In Egypt, they’ve been eating lentils for almost as long as the legume has been cultivated. In fact, most of this dish’s ingredients have been available in Egypt for millennia. Cinnamon, cumin and olive oil are spoken of in the Old Testament, and the book of Numbers records this lamentation of the wandering Israelites: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt, also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Aside from noting the antiquity of a few ingredients, the verse suggests some of the things you could serve with this dish—cucumber salad on the side, melon for dessert. Enjoy.

6 ounces (1 cup) brown lentils
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
4 plum tomatoes (or 2 regular tomatoes), chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup plain yogurt (optional)

Soak the lentils in water to cover for 1 hour. Drain, place in a saucepan, cover with water by 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. salt, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until just about tender. Continue reading


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Which Came First?

Eggs for sale in Morocco

A farmer in Morocco sells free-range eggs by the side of the road.

On this blog, it was the chicken, but elsewhere, the question still remains, which came first—the chicken or the egg?

That eggs are worthy of admiration has been recounted by many of the great chefs and gastronomes of the last few centuries. The sixteenth-century historian Benedetto Varchi wrote a treatise on boiled eggs, while the renowned seventeenth-century French cook Pierre François de la Varenne produced a cookbook that contained sixty different recipes for eggs. In his masterwork, Le Guide Culinaire (1903), the legendary Auguste Escoffier wrote that “Of all the products put to use by the art of cookery, not one is so fruitful of variety, so universally liked, and so complete in itself as the egg.” He then went on to detail nearly 150 recipes for eggs. So the humble hen’s egg is no culinary slouch. In fact, it is said by some that the number of pleats in the traditional chef’s toque corresponds to the repertoire of egg dishes he or she has mastered. Continue reading

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Galinha Cafeal

The recipe below is a tasty, slightly exotic, but relatively simple way of preparing chicken. It comes from Mozambique, part of Portuguese Africa. Enjoy

Galinha Cafeal
Grilled Chicken with Coconut Sauce

1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3-lb. chicken, cut up
1 Tbs. vegetable oil or melted butter
1 cup coconut milk

Place the chicken in a large, deep bowl. Combine the garlic, lemon juice, red pepper, and salt, and pour it over the chicken. Turn the pieces several times to be sure each is covered with marinade. Marinate chicken for 2–4 hours at room temperature or for 4–6 hours in the refrigerator. Turn every 20–30 minutes, to keep marinade evenly distributed.

Arrange chicken pieces, meat side down, on the rack of a broiling pan. Mix the oil or butter with the coconut milk and brush each chicken piece with the mixture. Broil chicken about 5–6 inches from the heat source for 8 minutes. Baste the chicken with the coconut mixture, and broil chicken another 8 minutes. Turn chicken over, and repeat the basting and broiling on the other side. Continue reading

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A Chicken in Every Pot

Hen and Rooster

A chicken in every pot was not first promised by American politicians but by a French king. Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) said, in the 16th century, “I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” Nowadays, chickens outnumber humans worldwide, and just about everybody can boil up a bird once considered so sumptuous that it was forbidden for religious fast days.

Today’s chicken, regardless of the variety, is descended from Gallus gallus, a wild red jungle fowl indigenous to south Asia. First domesticated in India about 4,000 years ago, the chicken was originally a sacred bird sacrificed for the sake of augury. However, it is likely that chicken made it to the table early on, though documentation seems to show that eggs and cockfights were of greater initial interest to those who later adopted the fowl as food. Continue reading

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