"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have". - Frederick Koenig

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lebanese S.O.S.

Ever since moving away from DC, I have been dealing with a serious deficit in the fabulous Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food that is so readily available in the district.  It used to be a rare week when Jay and I did NOT enjoy at least a few of those fabulous flavors for dinner, and were even able to have them delivered to our front door.  Ah, the memories!  Unfortunately, around these parts, those food options are mostly limited to a lacking hummus appetizer and, if you're really lucky, a schwarma pita; and forget about delivery unless you are just looking for pizza, subs, or chinese.

Add to that initial status quo, the fact that there was a pound of ground beef sitting in our fridge that needed to be used.  I'm pretty sure Jay had picked it up with the intention of making chili or something, but once that didn't happen, the likelihood of it finding a home in the garbage was higher than me picking it up and making something with it.  I don't know what it is, but unless ground beef is pattied and ready to grill, I seem to have some sort of mental block about it.  I truly can't think of anything more mundane or less inspiring than the standard 'pound of ground beef', and of course the first and only thing I can usually think to make with it is everyone's 'favorite' S.O.S. (Sh** on a Shingle) - also less than inspiring.  Yet this time, after thinking about how much I miss my Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food in the midst of the ground beef reality in the fridge, I decided I was feeling up to a culinary challenge and bit the bullet.  What could I do to liven up that mass of mediocrity just waiting to become the main ingredient in a soggy flour-gravy and toast concoction?  With a certain amount of skepticism, I set out to create my very own Lebanese-inspired S.O.S.!

I took the principal of hummus with meat on pita (kind of paralleling the ground beef and gravy on toast), and added a little more depth to flesh this out as a dinner by adding a spiced rice pilaf and using more of a fatayer recipe for the ground beef.  It truly turned out more amazing than I could have ever guessed, and if you had been in my kitchen at the perfect moment, you may have seen me doing a happy dance.  I never would have thought my SOS 'help' signal for Mediterranean food would have been answered by a modified version of  Sh** On a Shingle - the most boring dish on the planet, but I do love the outcome!  I suppose when you set the bar low, you really can end up delightfully surprised with the results.  :)

Ground beef with chopped onion & tomato seasoned with mint, lemon juice, cinnamon, & pine nuts in the foreground; Basmati rice w/ broken vermicelli, golden raisins, & almond slivers seasoned with beef broth, Kabseh spice (dry mix of lemon, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cumin, & galingal), cardamom pods, & allspice in the background.

Fantastic to have on hand if you can find it.

The final result, minus the pita "shingle" that was toasting at the time.  Spreading the hummus on the pita, then topping with the ground beef and rice mixture was truly heavenly.

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