May 31 2012
One of my favorite casual foods in all the world is a big plate of rice and salad all generously topped with some sort of cool, creamy dressing. Everything gets mushed together, you get the filling satisfaction of the rice, get to feel virtuous because you’re eating salad, and everything has a lovely creamy mouth-feel. I have been putting yogurt on my rice most of my life, but in most Mediterranean or middle eastern restaurants, such a thing happens because you ordered a kebab plate with rice and you get the salad and dressing as a bonus. As far as I’m concerned, though, the meat is an afterthought.
At New York-style halal carts, of which I am pleased (but my waistline is not) to report that there is a quite tasty specimen not 50 feet from where I work, the sauce is mayonnaise-based (we think). It tastes that way, anyway. Mayo with some lemon or vinegar and something.
But yogurt sauces work too, and since I am half-assedly trying to diet (and therefore only eating mayo on half the things, instead of everything) that is what I decided to make for dinner tonight. Everything else followed.
Note: I had strong-tasting yogurt and this came out a bit too bitter, so I wouldn’t follow it exactly. Add garlic instead of pepper? Oregano instead of mint? Add some, dare I say it, sugar or mayo? Or maybe just put it over iceberg like the halal places do instead of fancy spring mix, which already has a bitter flavor? Or just make some tzitziki and shush? What do I know? I just made this shit up. You get the general idea, though. There are no pictures because I already ate it, but it came out good-looking too.
==Rice and salad and faux-kofta plate recipe==
* Rice: cook some rice. Do a better job of it than I did. I seriously need to get a rice cooker. I guess if you were feeling fancy you could season it with something.
* Salad: acquire some salad. I used spring mix because it comes in bulk pre-cut at the coop and you don’t even need to wash it. See above about strong-tasting lettuce, though; butter lettuce or iceberg would work well. You could throw in a tomato or cucumber or something, again if you were feeling fancy.
* Sauce: this required me going to the store, because I didn’t have any of this stuff. But I needed to go to the store anyway so it was ok.
** yogurt — a cup or two poured out into a bowl for mixin’
** olive oil — important. Drizzle some olive oil into the yogurt. Yum.
** salt and pepper. I might skip the pepper next time. Too much. Salt’s important though.
** mint — I used dried spearmint. I was going for that cool, refreshing middle-eastern flavor of yogurt and mint. Oregano: also delicious, closer to Greek-style.
** feta — a couple-ounce chunk, crumbled up in there
** lemon juice — from 1/4-1/2 of a lemon
mix. taste as you go and pour over stuff. The poor man’s version has no feta. The more fattening but delicious version involves a healthy dollop of mayo with everything else.
* faux-kofta: I was thinking about lamb kofta, which are amazing. But they require a lot of spices to be done properly (and/or pine nuts, currents, etc.). Also there was only frozen ground lamb at the store. And I was feeling like a cheapskate. SO I got some ground beef instead and chopped some onion which I sauteed the heck out of in olive oil and then I mixed it all together with salt and pepper and fried them up like hamburger patties. I have never done such a thing with onions and ground beef before but it was very good, if a bit greasy. Anyway: the point is make yourself some delicious meat. Or, you know, not. You could make a pretty respectable version with veggie burger mix. I might eat the leftovers with fried-up tofu tomorrow.
Arrange on a plate. Pour yogurt sauce over everything. Devour outside on the hottest day of the year, and wonder if summer isn’t so bad after all. (Answer: it sucks. It was almost 100F today). Be pleased that you managed to cook yourself a filling, reasonably healthy dinner.
Hat-tip to Lauren and her awesome dinner blog for getting me started looking into halal cart recipes.
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