As I rarely use canned beans, I have to think ahead and soak legumes and grains the night before. On those occasions when I forget, lentils are usually the solution because they require little soaking time, if any at all. Here peppery marble specked French Puy lentils come together with Middle Eastern tahini and cumin flavors in an easy but nourishing and palate pleasing dish. Puy lentils hold together well when cooked and they don't need soaking. In this case, simply simmer them up until tender and then add them later in the dish. Spicy, nutty and fresh, served with brown rice or some olive oil coated lightly toasted pitas, everything you need for a nourishing meal is here, especially when a side salad or vegetable dish makes an appearance at the table.
My first taste of this popular Middle Eastern herb and sesame seed blend was an extraordinary burst of tangy, zesty and salty flavors. I make a lot of spice blends for my kitchen from scratch, but never one that tasted so good just on its own. In fact, it is eaten almost on its own, often served with just bread and olive oil. Highly aromatic as well as delicious, consider using za'atar to make simple oil or yogurt dressing or sprinkle it on fresh tomato slices or Middle Eastern vegetable dishes.
Although recipes for za'atar — also spelled as "zahtar", "zatar" or "zaatar" — vary from region to region and even from family to family within the Middle East and North Africa, each preparation features a combination of dried herbs such as thyme, oregano or marjoram mixed with ground toasted sesame seeds and salt. Other seeds or herbs are also sometimes added according to the local or family custom. This version includes black salt — also called rock salt — and dried fenugreek leaves to impart a smokier and tangier flavor. Dried sumac — the berry of a small temperature deciduous shrub — is also commonly added. Ground to a powder, sumac is easily found in any Middle Eastern grocer and in many Asian grocers.
Oatmeal is pretty standard breakfast fare around my house, but it's usually simply cooked on a stove-top and served plain with a little milk, maple syrup and some berries. But I do enjoy going the extra step once in a while to make a baked oatmeal pudding, and with plenty of pumpkin purée in the freezer, it was an easy choice to go with a baked pumpkin oatmeal with all the pie spices that fill the kitchen with delicious aromas.
Soft, creamy and chewy, this oatmeal pudding comes out of the oven like a flour-less coffee cake, and is as nourishing as it is simple to put together. Soaking rolled oats in plain good quality whole fat yogurt overnight before baking breaks down the grain's complex proteins into easily digestible components and results in a delightful spongey and almost custardy texture in the finished cake. And, of course, there's pumpkin and some toasted pecans… It's not too sweet, either, sweetened with just a quarter cup of maple syrup, but you can make it a sweeter dessert pudding cake by increasing the maple syrup to a half cup. You can use canned pumpkin easily as long as it is not the already spiced and sweetened pumpkin pie filling.
Considering how much I adore legumes and how important a role they play in my daily diet, I suppose it's no wonder they recently showed up in a dessert. Mind you, these earthy brownies are not too sweet and healthy enough to eat for breakfast in addition to a snack. The beans, combined with the dried cherries, cocoa and vanilla add an almost coffee-like taste and if you wish, to bring that out further, add a few teaspoons of brewed strong coffee to the mixture.
I could hardly wait for these to cool in the pan before eating a few. Because they have black beans in them, they are more substantial than most brownies I've encountered, and as a consequence, I put off eating dinner because I was rather stuffed!