Cooked to Perfection: Hamza Mbareche and the Science of Delicious Dining

Hamza Mbareche is not your typical microbiologist. Yes, he has an impressive command of subjects central to his field, from genomics to bioinformatics, but he’s also skilled with a cast-iron skillet, firing up delicious creations that are based on his heritage and insatiable culinary curiosity.

As a scientist working for premier educational and research institutions in Toronto, he explores the hidden realms of bioaerosols and the microbiome, making new discoveries and advancing human understanding. But friends also know about his rich array of interests and experiences, from art and music to fitness, wellness and cooking.

During the day, Hamza Mbareche researches important topics related to air quality and atmospheric pollution. At home, he’s a man of varied interests and exquisite tastes. The kitchen is where he makes some of his most appealing discoveries, while achieving searing breakthroughs.

Although he’s been published more than 30 times in top peer-reviewed academic journals, Hamza Mbareche treasures the notes he has jotted onto napkins, scrawled on Post-its or typed into iPads while he’s stood over a stove, scattering spices across a simmering pan. These are the recipes he’s developed over countless meals, from quick lunches to candlelight dinners.

Remarkably, Canadian scientist Hamza Mbareche is not just a great cook, he’s also a generous one, willing to share some of his best recipes with friends, family — and here, with you:

Hamza Mbareche’s Moroccan Harira:

Ingredients:

1 lb. lamb or beef, cut into small pieces (you can also use chicken or leave out the meat entirely for a vegetarian version)

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1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt, to taste

1/2 cup uncooked lentils

1/2 cup uncooked rice

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup flour

Water, as needed

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the lamb or beef and cook until browned on all sides.

Add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas and enough water to cover everything by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Add the lentils and rice and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the lentils and rice are tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and flour. Add this mixture to the pot and stir well to thicken the soup.

If the soup is too thick, add more water to achieve the desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve hot with some crusty bread on the side.


Hamza Mbareche’s
Salmon Fillet with Dill Sauce and Risotto:

Ingredients:

1 lb salmon flllet

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

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2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the salmon fillet on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cooked through.

While the salmon is baking, heat the chicken or vegetable broth in a saucepan and keep it warm over low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add the chopped onion to the saucepan and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened.

Add the minced garlic to the saucepan and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add the Arborio rice to the saucepan and stir to coat in the oil. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until the rice grains are lightly toasted.

Add the white wine to the saucepan and stir to deglaze the pan.

Add the warm broth to the saucepan, one ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until each addition of broth is absorbed before adding more. Continue this process for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked through and the risotto is creamy.

Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and lemon juice.

Serve the risotto in bowls with a portion of the baked salmon fillet on the side. Spoon the dill sauce over the salmon.

Hamza Mbareche’s Tom Yum Soup:

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

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2 lemongrass stalks, sliced

3-4 kaffir lime leaves

1 inch piece of galangal or ginger, sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 red chili peppers, sliced

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup fish sauce

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

In a large pot, bring the chicken or vegetable broth to a boil.

Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal or ginger, minced garlic, and sliced chili peppers to the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium and let the soup simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the flavors have infused into the broth.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the soup and let it cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the soup and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they are pink and cooked through.

Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.