I've always been curious and adventurous about cooking. When I was little, I used watch my mom cook in the kitchen. The aroma of the taalimpu or tadka (tempering of the spices) was so energizing. When she mixed those spices with the various vegetables, my mouth was watering and I couldn't wait to eat what she had made. It was that joy of cooking that drove me to learn to cook our ethnic food.
I feel that some of that energy or spunk has rubbed off on my dad as well. He's been testing out a lot of recipes he finds on the Internet and gets feedback from my mom.
This Mother's day was no different. He was catching up on his daily dose of world news and found an interesting recipe for a rich dish called Maqluba; a Middle Eastern dish that literally means "upside down", The dish includes meat, rice and fried vegetables in a pot which is then flipped upside down when served. Leave it to my dad to come up with the menu for this special day. He researched further and found a vegetarian version of this dish on the Serious Eats website.
Vegetarian Maqluba (Rice Layered with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Cauliflower)
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1-2/3 cups basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear
- 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/4" thick slices
- About 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium cauliflower, divided into medium florets
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4" thick slices
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
- Hot sauce such as sambal oelek, for serving (optional)
- Chopped fresh cilantro or coriander, for serving (optional)
Adjust oven racks to middle positions and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover rice with water, stir in 1 tsp of salt and let soak.
Stir together all the spices in a small bowl. (In our case, we measured the garam masala and put it in a bowl). In a large bowl, toss eggplant slices with 3 tbsp oil, 1/3 of the spice mixture, salt, and pepper to taste. Lay eggplant out on two rimmed baking sheets and roast, turning slices once, until eggplant is browned and tender (see example below), about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, with 2 tbsp oil, 1/3 of the spice mixture, salt, and pepper to taste. Lay cauliflower out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring once, until cauliflower is browned and tender, about 20 minutes.
Time to assemble the Maqluba
Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with a circle of parchment paper, then brush paper and sides with melted butter. Assemble tomato slices in a circle, covering bottom of the pot and overlapping the slices as you go. Follow with the eggplant, Arrange cauliflower over eggplant. Drain rice thoroughly, then spread over cauliflower. Stir remaining spice mixture and 1 tsp salt into vegetable, and pour over rice. Scatter garlic pieces over top.
Place pot over high heat and bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove pot from heat, remove lid, drape a clean tea towel over top of pot, and quickly replace lid, letting dish set for 10 minutes. Quickly invert rice dish onto a large round platter; do not remove pot for 2-3 minutes. Remove pot and circle of parchment and serve maqluba with plain yogurt, hot sauce and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.
Although we substituted some ingredients and used a different pot, our Maqluba dish still turned out well.
We also tossed together a healthy salad (my sister's recipe): baby spinach, cooked beets (purchased from Costco), walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, diced apples, flax seed powder, and diced carrots. This salad can be eaten as it is or with poppy seed salad dressing. Every since my mom tasted this salad at my sister's place, she always asks her to make it whenever she's visiting us.
I'm not a big fan of salads, but I love the ingredients in this recipe. I couldn't believe my sister came up with it on her own; she always seems to surprise me with her ingenuity.
For dessert, I made Dark Chocolate brownies with walnuts using Pillsbury brownie mix and just added chopped walnuts. After we all tasted these brownies, I don't think we're going back to the original kind. I don't feel as guilty eating these since the only calories are from the oil and cacao. Once in a while, it's okay, right.
My mom loved her Mother's day surprise dinner and we enjoyed cooking together after a longtime.
- We realized the importance of parchment paper after we flipped the pot into the serving dish. Some of the rice and vegetables fell out of place. If we had used the parchment paper as suggested in the recipe, everything would have stayed in place and looked more presentable.
- We forget to garnish the dish with fresh cilantro or coriander. It would have added more flavor. Lesson learned and looking forward to making it again.
- You can always cut down the recipe by half if you're making it for less people.
Have you made or tried Maqluba before? What did you do for Mother's Day? Please share your thoughts with us. Happy Mother's day to all the mommies and to be mommies!