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Category Archives: Middle Eastern

Meatballs served with Pita and Tzatziki Sauce

Meatballs and Tzatziki Sauce 2

I think this recipe came about while I was reading some magazine and drooling over a chef in the mid-west cooking eastern-european food. He was making meatballs and serving them in pita bread like bread topped with a tzatziki sauce like concoction. I love tzatziki sauce- creamy, garlicky and cool tasting.

While I was in college, I would go help out at my family’s deli. We would serve delicious gyros with the tzatziki sauce. My Mom would make it with sour cream and grated cucumbers. I remember eating the sauce with fries- aah, the good old days when I could eat anything I wanted and not worry about gaining weight. All of these memories prompted me to make the sauce with the meatballs I had already concocted in my mind. I made my sauce with zero fat greek yogurt. It has all the creaminess and texture without the fat. Adding some fresh mint made it delicious.

While I was putting the ingredients together for the meatballs, I thought of falafels which are the middle-eastern meatless balls made out of a chickpea mixture. I decided to add some chickpeas in mine. It reminded me of shami kebabs – which are Indian kebabs made out of lamb and chickpeas. This ended up being a multi-cultural meal. 

I served the meatballs in pita breads topped with the creamy tzatziki sauce. I also had store-bought hummus which I thinned out by adding some lemon juice. I needed some color for garnish- so took some tomatoes from my backyard and let them sit in some salt and minced garlic. It was all very delicious- especially with the oven fries on the side. I opened a Malbec Rose with the meal and all was good!
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Easy Chicken Recipe: Moroccan Chicken with Apricots

moroccan-chicken Sometimes I get into a rut and make the same chicken dishes time and time again. I had chicken thighs in the fridge and I wanted to make a different preparation for a change. Nothing was coming to mind until I was flipping through a William Sonoma catalog. They were featuring a tagine and had a recipe for a chicken cooked in the contraption. I noticed the recipe included olives and apricots- I had both in the fridge- so I started cooking. 

I sprinkled salt and pepper on chicken thighs- my favorite part of the chicken. Thighs are great to use in such dishes- they can be cooked for a long time and not get tough on you, plus they have great flavor. I made a simple spice mix with cinnamon and coated the chicken. I then browned the pieces and sauteed them with garlic and onions. I decided to add some grated carrots- to add some veggies- no one was able to detect anything healthy!

The olives and apricots really gave the chicken an incredible flavor and texture. I love the two ingredients together… The sweetness and chewiness of the apricots complimented the saltiness of the olives really well. I went to a few local stores to find preserved lemons (often used in Moroccan dishes) but was not able to. The olives I had were marinated with lemons- so that is what I used. It worked really well but I am sure using the actual preserved lemons would have been delicous too.

The dish was yum- I made cumin couscous with it. My daughter until recently didn’t care of couscous, but once I told her it is pasta in another form- she was a little more receptive. I made a green salad with our dinner and opened a bottle of red wine. Delicious!

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A Mediterranean Condiment: Nancy’s Spicy Hummus

Nancy's Hummus This condiment is my new favorite thing to eat. It’s my friend Nancy’s secret hummus recipe. She has been making it for years now. I remember eating it in her house and thinking it’s delicious but somehow was never curious enough to make it myself. When Eden Gourmet– a specialty food store- opened in our area, Nancy mentioned that all the ingredients for this spicy hummus are available there. She mentioned a Moroccan hot pepper mixture (schug) that makes this hummus special. I went to the store to find the secret ingredient and didn’t have any luck- that was a few months ago. 

Last week we went to Nancy’s house for dinner and she brought out the yummy hummus with bread, crackers, olives and cheese. Of course everyone remarked how delicious the dip was- and so she proceeded to make me something she calls ‘heaven’. She took a slice of crusty bread, toasted it and proceeded to spread a thick layer of hummus. She then, added a grilled spicy serrano pepper (serrano peppers are grilled till charred and then cooked in olive oil and lots of fresh garlic). Well, it was delicious- definitely ‘heaven’. The crusty bread was perfect with the creamy, spicy hummus- and the small punch of the serrano chili was amazing on top. It’s definitely not for people who can’t handle spicy foods- my husband for example- did not even try it- the pepper was too intimidating.

I decided to visit Eden Gourmet the next day and made this yummy concoction. It’s very easy to put together since everything is store bought. I processed the hummus till it was smooth and delicious. I added two teaspoons of the hot schug, but you can adjust according to the spice level you can handle. The sundried tomatoes give the dish a tangy creamy texture.

I love having this spicy dip in my fridge- I have been putting it on everything, including my naked finger… thanks for the recipe, Nancy!

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Smoky Hummus

smoky-hummus-2I really enjoy hummus, especially all the different flavors that are out there. It a delicious accompaniment with vegetables, chicken, fish or even with some pita and a salad- it’s a complete meal! My husband loves it with a warm tortilla or on a piece of toast for breakfast. In the past I have always purchased it from the super markets but since I was hosting a book club, I decided to make it at home. I already had plenty of tahini leftover from the baba ganoush I made last week and I had plenty of canned chickpeas as well- so I was all set.  A neighbor had offered her Mom’s recipe and I was thrilled because you know one can’t go wrong with a Mom’s recipe!  I modified it to my taste, of course!  I like things spicy, especially if they have a smoky aspect to them. When I was thinking about making hummus, chipotle in adobo came to mind. I love the flavor the smoked jalapenos impart in all the dishes. I decided to pair it with smoked paprika- which I consider a magic ingredient- it brings any ordinary dish to another level. It is great in stews, soups and potatoes.  I make a citrus chicken where the main ingredient is smoked paprika- it’s delicious.  The smokiness reminds me of eating tapas!  

In this case, I served the hummus with pita chips.  Mostly we have it with fresh veggies or spread thick on a nicely toasted piece of baguette topped with a fresh ripe tomato- it is out of this world.  

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil- plus more for drizzling
  • 4 tablespoons water or liquid from chickpeas
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (use more if you like it more spicy)
  • Sprinkle of sweet paprika

Process all the ingredients in a big processor until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Add more liquid if needed.
Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.

Baba Ghanoush

baba-ghanoushWhile we were at Wilson Farms in Boston I did some grocery shopping.  I bought these lovely looking Sicilian eggplants.  I had never seen purple and white eggplants that looked like large tomatoes before and so I had to buy them- really not knowing what I would do with them.

I get obsessed with an ingredient and keep using it repeatedly. Dill is it this week.  I still have some in my fridge left over from the potatoes I made last week.  I felt I needed to use it in an eggplant dish. I thought of Caponata but wasn’t sure if I could use dill in it.  I remembered an Indian dish called Baingan Bharta that is made out of grilled eggplant, onions and tomatoes,etc. I also thought of Baba Ghanoush– which is a middle eastern eggplant dip eaten with pita and vegetables.  I decided to incorporate the two dishes and make my own.  So I grilled the eggplants; cut up some onions and garlic and cooked them with olive oil and cumin seeds.  I then processed everything together including tahini, cilantro and dill. We had a different kind of a dinner that night- more like the one you have on a summer night sitting out on your deck. I decided to serve a baguette with the eggplant spread. I needed a protein and of course chicken sausages came to mind. I bought some cilantro sausages and feta cheese.  I made a green salad with some fresh herbs and that was it.  I had forgotten how much I love feta cheese. The salty flavor went really well with the creamy spread. We had a cabernet with the extravaganza although in the summer I think I would wash the meal down with a crisp rose!

  • 2 medium eggplants, about 1 pound- Sicilian Eggplants are recommended but any will do
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus some extra for coating the eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup dill, coarsely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pierce the eggplants in a few places with a fork, so steam has somewhere to go when you cook them.
Coat the eggplants with some olive oil and place on a grill, until the skins are wrinkled and black, and the eggplants are shriveled and soft; turning often. (Eggplants can be roasted in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 30 minutes)
When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, split them open and scoop out the flesh, discarding the skin and as many seeds as possible. Keep aside.
In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic and cumin seeds. Cook on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes till the vegetables are soft.
In a food processor, combine the onion and garlic mixture, tahini, lemon juice, cilantro and dill; puree until smooth. Add the eggplant; season with salt and cayenne pepper, pulse again to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.