Easy, Satisfying Winter Dinner Recipe: Green Pea Stew

As I mentioned last week, my mom was in town this month, and I wanted to make the most of the opportunity to learn how to make some of my favorite foods from growing up. (I’ve been trying to recreate some of the Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes I remember with simple recipes for every day.)

One of my favorite meals was always this hearty green pea stew, “Bazalla.” I think when people think of Lebanese or Middle Eastern food, they are likely to think of kababs (and hummus). But in reality, for family dinners in homes you’re more likely to find stew-type dishes, even one-pot meals. You’ll often have a vegetable-and-meat dish, sometimes with beans and grains, served over Lebanese rice. And a lot of them will have a similar tomato/onion sauce base.

I had a feeling this meal was simple and quick to make, but was definitely still surprised by how easy it is. The total cook time is about an hour, but once you’ve chopped the onions, there’s no real work to do. You can multitask while doing work (in my case writing) or other things around the stove while it cooks. This makes about 6 large servings, so unless you’re a big group there should be plenty of leftover for a couple of days.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 large yellow sweet onions
  • 1 pound stir-fry beef of your choice
  • 3 packs of frozen green peas (12 oz each)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Ground allspice
  • Ground cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)

Instructions

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat.

2. Add the onions and garlic to the oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir often, until golden brown, around 15 minutes.

3. Add the meat. Season well with salt, allspice and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Stir frequently until the meat is browned, 3-4 minutes.

4. While the meat is cooking, combing the tomato paste with 1 cup of water. Whisk well. Add to the onions, garlic and beef, and bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

5. Stir in the frozen peas and 1 cup water to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. The cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it stand covered for five minutes.

Optional: Pour it over rice 

I like it both on its own as a veggie and meat dish, or poured over rice, “Bazalla ou Rez” (which is how most of these types of dishes are served in Lebanon).

Lebanese rice has a special, delicious twist that’s really worth it:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1/3 box vermicelli
  • 3 tbsp butter

Instructions

1. Boil 4 cups of water. Remove from heat. Soak 2 cups white rice in the hot water for around 20-30 minutes. (You could do this while the recipe above is simmering).

2. Break up the vermicelli to 1-inch pieces by hand.

3. Once the rice is soaked and vermicelli is ready, melt 3 tbsp butter on medium-low heat in a large pot. Drain the rice and discard the water.

4. Add the vermicelli to the melted butter. Stir until evenly brown, about 3 minutes. Then add the soaked rice. Stir together for less than one minute.

5. Add 3 cups of water and 2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil on high heat.

6. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes, or until the water drains. Just before turning off the heat, stir well.

Enjoy! So good.

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DIY: Homemade Lebanese Pickled Turnips

Last time my mom visited me, I learned how to make the simple Lebanese pickles that I love: just cucumbers, vinegar, salt, and garlic.

This time around, I wanted to take it to the next level by learning how to make delicious Lebanese pickled turnips (“lefet”). It’s so easy, and so worth it. Should take 20-30 minute tops! A perfect project for a rainy afternoon that will feel so satisfying. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 large turnips
  • 1 small beet
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • One loaf of pita bread
  • 1.5 tsp sugar, heaping
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tbsp rock salt, heaping
  • 1 Large jar, about 2 qt.

Instructions

1. Place a layer of pita bread at the bottom of the jar. This should cover the base.

2. Pour 1 tsp of sugar over the bread.

3. Peel and cut one beet in half, then quarter that half. Place one piece on the bread and sugar, and save one piece for later. Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar into the jar.

4. Peel and slice the turnips.  You want thin slices that aren’t too large. Place the turnips in a wide pan.

5. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water and 4 tbsp of rock salt to a boil. As the water begins to get hot, stir the salt until it melts completely.

6. Pour the water over the turnips. Make sure all the pieces are in the water. Let the, rest in the hot water for a minute or two.

7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the turnip pieces to the jar. Press down with the spoon so they’re compact and you can add more.

8. Pour the hot water into the jar to cover the turnips completely. Press down again to make sure it’s compact. Discard any water remaining.

9. Add the second beet piece on top of the turnips, and press it down with a wooden spoon. Watch with delight as the water begins to turn pink.

Around 15 minutes after sealing the jar
A little less than two hours after sealing the jar

10. Seal the jar and wait 10-12 days keeping it at room temperature before opening it again. Refrigerate after opening.

 

Here’s my family’s recipe for the perfect cucumber pickles.