Every gardener and every friend of a gardener I know is currently faced with the dilemma of what to do with late summer's overflowing gardens. Zucchini as big as a football, copious amounts of eggplant, mounds of herbs, peppers and bushels of tomatoes are a long-awaited blessing. What to do with all this produce can be daunting so I thought sharing a recipe for Maqluba would be helpful. Maqluba is the perfect recipe to make use of summer's bounty and one you are going to love.
Maqluba in Arabic means, “upside down” and refers to a dish of rice, vegetables and meat that is cooked in a deep pot and inverted onto a plate. If you look online, there are many versions because this is such a versatile recipe. At times, whole pieces of meat are cooked inside the Maqluba and in others, the meat is braised or cooked before being added. Maqluba is traditionally made with lamb or chicken but you can easily substitute beef, pork or it can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and leaving out the meat entirely.
Traditional vegetables are eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes, but you can add any vegetable you want. Peppers, greens and beans are also great. Traditional seasonings are ras el hanout or Baharat, both being a combination of warm spices like paprika, pepper and cumin, mixed with sweet spices like cinnamon, coriander and cloves. It is easy to change the spices to your taste. The version I made for this blog was made with Za'atar, which is a traditional Lebanese spice that doesn’t have the sweet spices traditional to this dish. Instead, Za'atar has a more earthy profile with heavy emphasis on thyme and sesame. Feel free to season with whatever spices you like and even include a handful of fresh herbs from your garden. Play around with the seasonings, meats and vegetables and have some fun with this recipe.
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Serves: 8 to 12
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Start to Finish: 2 hours
3 cups jasmine or basmati rice, uncooked
1 cup (approximately) extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons (approximately, fine sea salt
3 tablespoons (approximately) Za'atar
1 pound (approximately) eggplant, sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
1 pound (approximately) zucchini, sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
1 pound (approximately) tomatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
1 1/2 pounds, ground lamb, beef, chicken or pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
For the garnish:
2 cups plain yogurt
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, sliced or diced (optional)
Fresh erbs (optional)
Step 1: Soak the Rice
Place rice in a bowl and fill with water, swish the rice with your hand to release the starch on the rice. Pour off the water and repeat until the rice water is clear. Cover rice with water and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Cook Vegetables and Meat
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle each piece of eggplant with salt and Za'atar on both sides. Add a few tablespoons of oil to the pan and place the eggplant slices into the pan. If you don’t have a 12-inch skillet, you will need to cook the vegetables in batches. Sauté the eggplant about 3 minutes on the first side, flip over and cook until the eggplant just starts to get tender approximately 3 to 4 minutes. You want a little texture in whatever vegetables you add to the Malquba since the dish will be cooked an additional 20 minutes. Add additional oil if the pan looks dry once you flip the eggplant over.
Repeat this exact same process with the zucchini.
Once you have finished cooking the vegetables, wipe out the pan if needed and add a tablespoon of oil to the heated pan and add the ground meat. Break up the meat with a heavy wooden spoon to crumble it and sauté until cooked and lightly brown. Add the garlic, shallots, 1 tablespoon of Za'atar and 1 teaspoon of salt to the meat. Sauté until garlic and shallots are aromatic and turn off the heat.
Step 3: Assemble
Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of oil in a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven. Lay eggplant in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. The more you overlap the vegetables the more vegetables you can fit into the Maqluba so don’t be afraid to put all of the vegetables you have cooked in the dish.
Repeat with zucchini.
Repeat with tomato slices.
Spread the cooked meat over the vegetables.
Drain the rice in a colander and place it on top of the meat along with 2 quarts of chicken stock, cayenne pepper, black pepper and 1 tablespoon of Za'atar. I use homemade chicken stock which has no salt so I use one tablespoon of salt here. If your chicken stock is already salted, you will only need one teaspoon of salt.
Step 4: Cook
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the Dutch oven on the stove and bring the contents to a boil. The pot is very full so that when we unmold it the Maqluba doesn’t have as far to fall, which will help it hold together properly.
However, being so full means you need to be careful it won’t boil over, so watch the pot closely and as soon as it starts to boil, turn it off, put on the lid and place it into the oven for 20 minutes.
If the rice isn’t fully cooked at the top, give it a few more minutes. Once the rice is cooked, take the Maqluba out of the oven and let set for 30 minutes before unmolding.
Note: You can also make Maqluba in a rice cooker! This is a great option if you don’t have a 5 1/2 quart Dutch or French oven.
Step 5: Unmold and Serve
Run a knife around the edge of the pan to make sure the rice isn’t sticking. Place a serving platter on top and turn it over.
The Maqluba should slide out easily and onto the serving platter.
Note: It does take a big serving platter so make sure you have one bigger than your Dutch oven before you make this dish. Although it's not as pretty, you can use a sheet pan to unmold as well. The Maqluba will spread out a little, but it isn’t meant to be perfectly stiff and the little bit of extra moisture is really welcome.
Serve the Maqluba with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of green onions. Hot peppers, red peppers or fresh herbs like basil, mint or cilantro add a refreshing texture and taste too.
I hope you enjoy this dish both during the heat of summer and in the cooler months to come. Although we are getting a little sad that summer is coming to an end, we are going to squeeze every last opportunity to celebrate it before it does. We'll be grilling outdoors on our Lincoln Square patio as long as Mother Nature allows so check out an upcoming grilling class.
If you want to learn how to use the produce you'll find at local farmers markets this month, join us for Farmer's Market Demo at Lincoln Square on Thursday, September 16 at 6:30pm. Our chef will shop the Lincoln Square Farmer's Market and put together an impromptu dinner featuring the season's bounty teaching you cooking techniques along the way. Your delicious meal will include an appetizer, an entrée and dessert!