Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kibbeh Shiftah B'Shwandar

Turkey? Ha! Anyone can do turkey. For Thanksgiving I tried something new, an old Iraqi Jewish dish, Kibbeh Shiftah B'Shwandar.

It took some time but the flavors emerging from the complexity of ingredients were surprisingly good.

Kibbeh Shiftah B'Shwandar (Lamb Meatball & Beet Stew with Tumeric Rice)


  • 2T Olive Oil

  • 1 Red Onion, chopped

  • 1 LB Ground Lamb

  • 4 T Dried Currants

  • 2 T Parsley, chopped

  • 1 t Smoked Paprika

  • 1 Egg, beaten

Sautee onions in oil over medium-high until carmelized, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. In a large mixing bowl add onions and all other ingredients. Hand mix until blended. Roll mixture into 15-20 balls, placing them on a wax-paper lined container. Place container in refrigerator for at least an hour, this will firm them up for what comes later.

Tumeric Rice

  • 1 1/2 C Long Grain White Rice

  • 2 C Water

  • 1 t Tumeric

  • 1 t Sea Salt

  • 1/8 t Cinnamon

  • 1/8 t Clove

Soak rice in water for 20 minues. Drain in fine mesh colander, then rinse several times. Over medium-high heat, bring rice and water to a low boil. Lower heat to low then add other ingredients. Cook covered for 20 minutes. Keep warm. (Ordinarily I would use brown rice but it will not work for this dish)


  • 6 Red Beets, peeled and quartered

  • 6 C Lamb Stock

  • 1 Red Onion, chopped

  • 1/2 C Tomato Paste

  • 6 T Olive Oil

  • 1 T Butter

  • 6 Garlic Cloves, smashed

  • 1 T Coriander

  • 1 T Cumin

  • 1 T Sweet Curry Powder

  • 2 t Tumeric

  • 2 t Smoked Paprika

  • 1 t Ground Ginger

  • 1/2 t Cayenne

  • 1 t Red Pepper Flakes

  • 6 T Lemon Juice, fresh

  • 2 T Sugar

  • 2 T Parsley, chopped

Unless you are feeling very energetic, I would not try making lamb stock from scratch. There is a perfectly good off-the-rack lamb stock by a company called "More Than Gourmet".

Bring lamb stock to a boil, add beets, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook beets for 30 minutes. Remove beets with slotted spoon, reserve beets and beet/lamb stock liquid.

Make a spice paste. Add smashed garlic, 3T olive oil, coriander, cumin, curry, tumeric, paprika, cayenne and pepper flakes to a small bowl and mix until a paste is formed. Reserve.

Add remaining oil and the butter to a large sock pot (large enough to hold everything, including beets and meatballs, about 6 Qt). Sautee onion over medium-high heat until carmelized, about 7 minutes.

Add spice paste and tomato paste and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure to stir continuously so nothing burns. Stir in a cup or two of the reserved beet/lamb stock liquid. Blend the liquid with the spice/tomato paste, scraping up any bits that make have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add all remaining reserved beet/lamb stock liquid, stir to blend. Add lemon juice and sugar, stir to blend. Simmer mixture for 10 minutes, uncovered.

Gently add meatballs to stew, simmer covered for 15 additional minutes. Do not stir during this time, give the meatballs time to firm up.

Uncover the pot, skim the foam off the surface, then add beets. Stir several times, then let simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings (you might want more salt since the flavors here lean heavy to hot/sweet).

To serve: Place a cup of tumeric rice in the middle of a wide, shallow bowl. Spoon stew around the rice, then top with chopped parsley. A dollop of thickened yogurt is also a good addition, particularly if you've made a hotter version.

One note, in case you have not worked with beets or tumeric. They stain. Badly. I cover my chopping board in wax paper before working with beets. And I wear black. Also, any plastic containers used in the process will naturally be sacrificial.

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Monday, November 16, 2009


While I had some issues with the filming style, the plot and acting were great. I walked away from the film having a small but gritty and moving view of what it might be like to live with schizophrenia.

Well-known critics dismissed this film; some saying it wandered and that the dialogue was not cohesive. Others criticized the multiple, simultaneous voice tracks as not adding value and detracting from the drama. Granted, those aspects are not entertaining, however I have to imagine people suffereing from this mental illness are not entertained by it either. Schizophrenia does not so much lend itself to linear thought process or scheduling internal voices to talk serially. Besides, sometimes there needs to be a break from entertainment for some other activity, I dont know, lets just say learning, for example.

Its a good thing I routinely ignore anyone who is a self-professed expert or critic, they often miss the larger more important message for surface deformities and other irrelevant details.

Jamie Foxx, who has racked up some stellar performances, definitely captures the dischord and misalignment with reality whole heartedly. He has moments of bone-crushing brilliance that make the film worth watching. Even Robert Downey, who frankly has never rated very high in my book, captured what I can imagine to be the frustration of trying to communicate with someone who can be several personalities at once and prone to spontaneous and sometimes violent espisodes.

This story of the prodigy Julliard cellist turned LA homeless man is based on a true story, and it is not uncommon. Since I started walking my 7 miles a day to and from the Cancer Shoppe, I too have run into my share of mentally ill and homeless in Houston. Watching this film doesn't change their plight in any way but maybe I understand what they face just a little better.

The Soloist

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


Wow, I am a pathetic blogger. Its been so long that blogger did not automatically log me in and I had to go searching for my username and password! Sheesh.

High level summary: Work, School, Work, School, cook, WorkSchool. Cook is intentionally written with a lower case "c" :) Work and School are one in the same since both involve digging into the representation and processing of genomic cancer data. Good thing I love it since I do it about 90 hours a week.

More later (later as in sometime before Thanksgiving!)