The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

May 9, 2012

Koshary a filling vegetarian dish from Egypt

JOPLIN, Mo. — To enjoy authentic koshary, you’ll need to travel to Egypt. Or spend a couple hours in your kitchen.

But hoping for some middle ground, I decided to see if I could craft a weeknight-friendly version of this classic vegetarian Egyptian street food.

But first, some basics of what you’re in for. Admittedly, koshary seems like a confused dish -- a little Middle Eastern, a little Italian, perhaps a nod to Asian. But once you take a bite, you realize that amalgamation of unlikely influences is what makes it so wonderful.

Of course, there are countless recipes and variants of koshary around Egypt. I’ve tried to stay true to the basic ingredients and flavors, while speeding up the process.

Most koshary starts with a base of rice. Layered over that are seasoned chickpeas and lentils, followed by fried onions, followed by a boldly vinegary and spicy tomato sauce.

I saved a bit of time -- as well as a few pots and pans -- by cooking the onions, chickpeas and lentils together. No flavor is lost, and everything gets mushed together when served anyway. I also opted for canned chickpeas and lentils, rather than cooking dried. Few weeknight cooks can afford the time or patience to cook dried beans.

The tomato sauce was the easy part. Saute a little garlic in olive oil and seasonings, then dump in canned crushed tomatoes and let it simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Note that I didn’t include an amount for the vinegar used to season the tomato sauce. Traditional recipes of this volume call for 1/4 cup or more of vinegar. That might be a bit much for many people, so I decided it was best for people to add that item as it suits their taste.

Also, while elbow and ditalini pasta are the traditional choices, any variety of small pasta is fine. You also could use leftover cooked pasta. Just skip the browning step and add at the same time as the chickpeas and lentils.

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