I got kind of carried away with dessert in November and December (maybe you can relate?). There were 2 cakes (baklawa-filled honey cake and persimmon upside-down cake), three cookies (tahini molasses cookies, cardamom and tea ghraybeh, and rosewater and cardamom gingersnaps), and I even kicked off January with nine healthy-ish stuffed date versions of classic dessert recipes.
When I wasn't pushing carbs and sugar, I was posting lots of holiday recipes and sides, which aren't always great for easy, healthy, weeknight cooking. So one of my New Year's resolutions is to post a few new weeknight meals every month, and to get back to some balance. January's going pretty alright so far, with succotash shakshuka, jajik chicken with za'atar potatoes, flat bean stew, and this delicious chickpea and rice dish to close out the month.
If you're a Cardamom and Tea regular, or if you eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, you might already be familiar with jajik. It's really similar to other Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Mediterranean yogurt sauces, and it can involve a lot of different herbs, veggies, and even a few different dairy products. There's no one magic, authentic jajik formula, and everyone makes theirs a little (or sometimes very) differently.
The herb and spice blend, za'atar, has the same reputation for variety. It's often made with the same components (thyme, sumac, and sesame), but many varieties use entirely different ingredients, and just about everyone makes it with their own particular ratio. So this particular meal is pretty infinitely customizable, and it will change a lot depending on how you make (or buy) your jajik and za'atar. But don't worry, you kind of can't go wrong.
za'atar chickpeas and rice with jajik
yield: 4 to 6 servings
active time: 15 minutes
total time: 35 to 40 minutes
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1 cup basmati (or another long grain) rice
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 pinch saffron (optional)
1 1/3 cups water (plus more for soaking and rinsing)
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 425° F (for the chickpeas).
Soak the rice for 5 minutes, covered by about an inch of water. Swish it around, strain it, and then rinse it with new water for about 15 seconds. Let the excess water drain away. If the water that drains away isn't clear, soak it for 2 more minutes and repeat.
Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the turmeric and saffron and stir it for just a couple seconds.
Add in the drained rice, 1 1/3 cups water, and salt, stir together, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Once simmering, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 14 minutes. Do not stir it or open the lid while it cooks (work on the chickpeas while you wait).
Once 14 minutes have passed, turn off the heat and let it rest, covered. Do not lift the lid at any point.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons za’atar *
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 of 1 lemon, thinly sliced into small pieces
Combine the olive oil, za’atar, garlic, and salt.
Place the chickpeas and lemon in a pile on a sheet pan. Pour the spice oil over them and mix together with your hands to coat everything evenly. Shake everything out into a single layer.
Roast for about 20 minutes (stir halfway through), until light brown and crispy. Discard any burnt bits of lemon (they did their job).
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 to 2 cloves garlic (to taste), crushed through a press or finely minced
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons minced herbs (any combination of cilantro, parsley, dill, and/or mint)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
8 radishes, cut in half and thinly sliced
While the chickpeas are roasting and the rice is cooking/resting, combine the yogurt, garlic, 1/4 cup of the herbs, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, and salt. Stir until the oil is no longer floating on the surface.
Once the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork and place it in a large serving bowl. Top with the chickpeas and stir just a little. Top with a few spoon-fulls of the jajik, the radishes and 1 tablespoon minced herbs.
Serve with more jajik, radishes, herbs, and lemon wedges on the side.
* If you can't find za'atar, feel free to blend your own. If you don't feel like making your own, the chickpeas are still really good with 1/2 teaspoon of plain old black pepper.