Smoky Ethiopian Lentils

Eat Well

When the temperatures are low and the winds are biting I crave all things warm and exotic from the kitchen. Consistently better weather, minus spring tornado season, is just moments away, but while we wait, bring on the spicy complexity of North African and Middle Eastern flavors and foods.

Smoked paprika and Ethiopian berbere — a mix of spices that includes dried red chiles de árbol and a slew of aromatics — steal the show here, with red onion, garlic, spicy fresh ginger and rich sun-dried tomatoes rounding out the earthy black lentils. A splash of balsamic vinegar swirled in at the end as a subtle but bright touch bringing everything together.

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North African Spice Blend: Ras el Hanout

Eat Well Edibles Recipe

I’ve often dreamt of walking through the colorful and bustling markets of Fez or Cairo. Exploring the tightly packed covered stalls, enveloped by irresistibly enticing sounds, sights, smells, tastes. The beautiful music, the banter between sellers and buyers, the sizzling skewers on tiny portable grills, the vibrant cloths draped overhead swaying in the warm perfumed breeze, the animals and children weaving through the crowds, the baskets of spices and herbs in every hue imaginable.

Though a dream it most likely shall remain, I was once blessed with gifts from the Old Town souk (market) in Dubai. Special edible treats to add to my global pantry, still enjoyed with great fondness, as we very much like to get away from the ordinary in our kitchen. Most unforgettable, a small bag, clearly hand-packed with care, layer upon layer upon layer of kaleidoscope powders. As deliciously aromatic as it was beautiful.

Ras el Hanout. A fragrant and spicy blend of up to 30 or more dried spices, roots, peppers, and leaves, some traditional versions up the ante with specialty ingredients like saffron and rose petals. This lends to a price tag of about 150 dirhams per kilogram, or roughly $20 per pound — fortunately, its well-balanced heat and complexity ensure that a little bit goes a long way in cooking!

Ras el Hanout spices pre-blend Continue reading