Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Molokhia with Eggplant, Yellow Squash and Brown Basmati Rice

     Archeological timelines are always a matter of opinion and not fact.  For a very long time, the opinion was that there was no human history before 2,000 BC.  The ruling elite preferred that the truths of history not be known, because limiting public belief is a form of exerting control.  Carbon dating changed ancient timelines.  Historic archeological references were proven to date back nearly 10,000 years with this technology.  Now carbon dating has been proven to have flaws and many ancient sites are estimated at being well over 20,000 years old.  
     Recent finds in the western hemisphere have given reason to toss out all previous theories about Mesoamerican history.  Western ancient history was clouded by the demands of western religions and the powers that support its influence.  Some sites that are under water in the Gulf of Mexico and South America actually are estimated as being being on a timeline equal to the oldest know sites in India.  Evidence also shows periodic cataclysmic cycles of advanced civilization and technology alternating with periods of semi-primitive redevelopment that are on a timeline of over 100,000 years.  To think that the last 500 years is the highest level of advancement for mankind may not be wise, because a 100,000 year timeline is a very long period of time.
     Ancient India is where many vegetable plants were domesticated and hybridized, just like in sites like Cuzco in South America.  Celery is one example of ancient Indian plant domestication skill.  Jute is another good example.  Jute was domesticated in India several thousand years ago.  Jute was developed even further in the middle east and Egypt.  Fibers from jute stems and stalks are used to make carpet.  The leaves of jute are called molokhia and they are an important historic food source.  Most written history about molokhia refers to its use during the age of the pharaohs, but it was a staple food long before that age came to be.  
     During recent years, public interest has grown in ancient super grains and ancient foods as a whole.  Public distrust over modern highly processed food and genetically modified food has caused many to seek ancient food that has not been retouched.  Those who have made ancient grains, heirloom vegetables and natural ancient food part of their diet seem to boast about having better overall physical and mental health.  
     Even a small amount of stress related to what one eats can contribute to a decline in well being.  Stress related eating disorders become more problematic when worrying about whether modified modern food is safe to eat.  Those who realize how dietary stress can affect well being, have taken action and changed their own personal diet to alleviate worries.  This does not mean that drawing the conclusion of strict vegetarianism being the only answer to the problem, because alternative meats like wild game and insects have also come into focus in recent years.  
     Natural food is a theme of this food and recipe site.  The food ranges from high end rich haute French cuisine recipes to basic healthy traditional Native American cuisine and everything in between.  Variety is the spice of life.  When ancient food or alternative healthy food is the theme of a recipe, I let it be known and readers take notice.  
     There are thousands of good molokhia recipes in the middle east and many have been cooked the same way for thousands of years.  Many vegetarians in the western world overlook middle eastern, Persian, Arabic, Egyptian and North African cuisines when they seek recipes.  A high percentage of the food in these cuisines is vegetarian and the flavors cannot be beat!   

     Brown Basmati Rice:
     Basmati rice requires a special middle eastern cooking technique!  Soaking and rinsing produces a light fluffy elongated basmati rice grain. 
     Soak 1/2 cup of brown basmati rice in cold water for 2 hours.
     Rinse the rice 7 times with cold water.
     Place the rice in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Cook the rice till it becomes tender.  (about 15 minutes)
     Drain off any excess water.
     Keep the brown basmati rice warm on a stove top.
     Molokhia Soup:
     This recipe makes 1 serving!  Some call molokhia a soup and some call it stew.  It is both!
     Traditional recipes for molokhia do not require complex cooking techniques!  Fresh molokhia leaves are not commonly available outside of its region of origin.  Frozen blanched minced molokhia can be found at middle easter markets and it is a high quality product.
     Place 1 1/3 cups of thawed pre-prepared frozen minced molokhia in a sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of vegetable broth.
     Add 3 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 of a chopped green onion.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of mace or nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sumac berry spice.
     Add 2 pinches of fenugreek.
     Add 1 pinch of cardamom.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter) or pomace olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Simmer till the vegetables become tender and till the soup becomes a medium thin puree consistency.  Add vegetable broth if the soup becomes too thick.
     Keep the molokhia soup warm over very low heat. 

     Eggplant and Yellow Squash:
     Yellow squash is also call summer squash.  Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil when it is cooked, so a good olive oil blend is needed.  
     Blended olive oil is pomace olive oil that is mixed with a vegetable oil that has a higher smoking point.  Blended olive oil can be made at home by combining oil in a small container.  For pan searing temperatures, blended olive oil will not smoke and turn bitter.  Straight olive oil can only be used at moderate saute temperatures.  Virgin olive oil can only be used for very low temperature saute cooking and it is usually only added for flavor late in a recipe. 
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add enough blended olive oil for 1/8" deep layer of oil.
     Add 2 partially crushed cloves of garlic.
     Saute till the garlic turns a light brown color.
     Remove the garlic from the pan.  (Snack on the garlic or add it to the soup!)
     Add 4 thick pieces of eggplant to the garlic oil in the pan.  (About 1 1/2" to 2" cube shaped pieces are good.)
     Add 3 thick pieces of yellow squash that are about 1 1/2" to 2 " thick.
     Saute the eggplant and squash on all sides, till it becomes lightly browned and tender.  Add more blended olive oil, when the eggplant soak the oil up in the pan.  The eggplant will become saturated with oil by the time it finishes being seared.
     Remove the pan from the heat when the vegetables are ready.

     Molokhia with Eggplant, Yellow Squash and Brown Basmati Rice:
     Use a ring mold to place a portion of brown basmati rice in a shallow soup bowl.
     Ladle the molokhia soup into the bowl.
     Arrange the squash and eggplant in the bowl, so they look nice.
     Garnish the rice with thin sliced roasted red bell pepper strips.
     Garnish the roasted red pepper with a cilantro or Italian parsley sprig.

     Molokhia has a mucilaginous texture and a great flavor that takes well to complex spice combinations.  This is a tasty vegetarian soup!  Yum!  ...  Shawna  

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