Ghallaba

One of my favorite Lebanese dish that is sadly not available everywhere. I lived and worked in Kuwait for 3 years and was introduced to a lot of middle eastern food at that time. It is one of my favorite cuisines and I am totally in love with hummus. Most of the packaged stuff that we get here in America is nowhere close to the fresh and mild flavor of the hummus that I ate in Kuwait.

I tasted Ghallaba for the first time at a Lebanese restaurant in Detroit, MI. Its basically almond pilaf served with a very flavorful vegetable stew and hummus. The dish has really rich flavors of spices, lemon, parsley and mint and is served with a beautiful pink turnip pickle (turnip in vinegar) and  fatoush salad.

Its important to use basmati rice in this dish as you need the rice grains to be long and you don’t want the grains to stick together when you cook it. The rice is cooked with small vermicelli (available at Indian stores) and mixed in with some toasted slivered almonds.

For the longest time I made this dish without a very important ingredient called sumack. Its only recently that I got my hands on sumack when I found it at a Middle eastern store near where I live in Orlando (got excited and bought a very big bag!). Its a very versatile spice though, apart from this stew you can use it to flavor green salads and lentil soups.

I love the flavor of olive oil in middle eastern cooking, it just enhances the flavor of the dish so much- it is really important to use a nice quality olive oil. If you are going to make a trip to a middle eastern grocery store for sumack then get the oil from there as well, otherwise Whole Foods carries some nice brands.

Serving 2 people
Prep time 15 min
Cooking time 20 min

Things you will need:
1/2 zucchini
1 carrot
2 potatoes
1 medium sized onion
1/2 can of diced tomato
1/2 red bell pepper
few florets of cauliflower (optional)
chop all veggies in equal size so they cook around the same time
2 cloves garlic
1 green chili
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil for stir frying and for making the garlic sauce
1/2 cup basmati rice (uncooked)
1/4 cup vermicelli (uncooked)
handful of slivered almonds
hummus of your favorite variety and brand
Spices
1 tsp dried mint
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin powder
4 tsp Sumack
2 tsp dried parsley
salt to taste

Dry roast the vermicelli in a pan till it turns golden. In a rice cooker or in a deep pan add 1/2 cup washed rice, 1 cup water, very little salt and few drops of olive oil and cook covered over medium heat. When the rice is cooked halfway add the vermicelli and continue to cook. Once cooked through, fluff with a fork and add toasted slivered almonds.
Using a mortar and pestle crush garlic with 1 tbs olive oil, juice of half a lemon, green chili and some salt. Crush till it turn into a fine paste/sauce like consistency. In a small bowl mix all the spices together (except for salt) and keep aside.
In a large pan heat 1 tbs of olive oil stir fry the onions til they turn a lighter shade of brown. Take out form the pan and spread it on a plate- keep aside. Return the same pan to the heat and cook the garlic sauce till the garlic turns brown. Add a couple tbs of olive oil, then add the veggies and stir fry for about 4 min. Add the spice mixture, juice of half a lemon and continue to stir for another minute. Add the canned tomatoes, stir for 30 sec- till it coats all the veggies, cover and cook till the veggies are tender. Mix in the sauteed onion and taste to adjust the salt.
To serve- In a round plate spread the hummus in the center in a circular motion, arrange 2 spoonful of rice- like a ring around the hummus and finally put a ring of the vegetable stew around the rice. Garnish with some lemon rings!