I am so sorry it’s been so quiet around here! The truth is, behind the scenes things have been anything but: for the past few weeks, I’ve been busy working on the final edits for my One Simple Change book (they were due yesterday). I’ve also been writing up a new book proposal!

I’ve missed this space, though, so I am happy to be back, and today I want to share an intriguing Middle Eastern meat and vegetable casserole with you. The recipe comes from my friend Faith, who runs the gem of a blog An Edible Mosaic. It’s found in her first cookbook (a collection of Middle Eastern Recipes also called An Edible Mosaic); the book was released a few months ago, and I’ve been dying to tell you all about it.

Faith has a very personal connection to the Middle East, and Syria in particular. Her husband’s family has roots there and she’s traveled to the country several times. On each visit, Faith has spent much of the time in the kitchen of her mother-in-law (and various other family members and friends) learning how to cook the foods her husband grew up with and loves. Sadly, her in-laws recently had to leave Syria because of the civil war.

Faith’s love and respect for the recipes she learned from her new family comes through beautifully in her book. She does an excellent job making difficult recipes seem completely accessible for any home cook, and the numerous photographs are just lovely (she’s a really talented photographer). I made at least six of the recipes the first week I received the book; My family loves Middle Eastern food, so I’ve gone back to make many more of them since.

I decided to post about this meat and vegetable casserole (aka Kowaj) because the flavor combination is unusual, and it’s delicious. I’ve completely fallen for it! Choose grass-fed beef or lamb (I used organic, grass-fed beef that was sent to me from America’s Farmstand) for a tasty, nutrient-dense meal. Faith recommends serving this over flatbread or noodles; I loved it on its own, drizzled with more pomegranate molasses.

Recipe for Meat and Vegetable Casserole with Pomegranate (KOWAJ)

Yield: Serves 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Ingredients:

*2 tablespoons olive oil
*2 onions, diced
*1 lb (500 g) lean ground lamb or beef
*1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
*¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 lb (500 g) tomatoes, peeled and diced
*1 lb (500 g) potatoes, peeled and cubed (I left these out)
*1 lb (500 g) marrow squash, zucchini, or peeled eggplant, cubed (I used both zucchini and eggplant and doubled the amount since I left out the potatoes)
*2 tablespoons tomato paste
*2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
*½ cup (125 ml) water
*¼ bunch fresh parsley leaves, minced
*Flatbread or Rice with Toasted Vermicelli Noodles

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion and sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the meat, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper; turn the heat up to high and cook until the meat is fully browned and the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Add the garlic and tomato and cook 5 minutes more.

3. Transfer the meat mixture to a medium-sized casserole dish along with the potato and marrow squash (or zucchini or eggplant); stir to combine.

4. Whisk together the tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, water, and remaining salt in a small bowl; drizzle on top of the casserole.

5. Cover the casserole dish and bake until the veggies are tender, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes.

6. Stir in the fresh parsley leaves and serve with Arabic flatbread or Rice with Toasted Vermicelli Noodles.

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

I strongly recommend you pick up Faith’s cookbook, and be sure to check out her blog, well. Faith’s recipes are eclectic and fun, and her photography is really beautiful. Also, Faith wrote an incredibly informative 6-part series on writing a book. It’s great reading, and starts here.