Category Archives: Middle-Eastern

An Ode to Simplicity: Watermelon & Fresh Lime Juice

The best things in life are often the simplest ones. This is of course, also true for food. At friends’ Eliot and Rebecca’s last night, we had a great dessert composed of a winning combo: watermelon and fresh lime juice. Who Knew?

//epicurious.blogs.com)

Watermelons (from http://epicurious.blogs.com)

Turns out, watermelon has been around a long time. Packed with Vitamin C and A, and some good B  vitamins, evidence of this fruit and plant has turned up in the Nile Valley  as long ago as the Second Millenium BCE.

Mark Twain once said that watermelon was “chief of the world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”

Science Daily reports that watermelon may have a viagra effect, which the Jerusalem Report covered last week (reportedly setting off an unprecedented surge in watermelon sales in a country that already appreciates the fruit for its other delights).

Did you know that we are in the midst of “National Watermelon Month”? (Neither did I). Made up of 90% water, it’s no surprise that it’s a summer favorite and a favorite for those of us trying to shed a bit of our winter insulation. But have you tried it with lime???

Delicious Limes

Delicious Limes

According to the very trusted (!) Wikipedia entry on limes, the name for these little citrus fruits is derived from the Perian, “limu”, and was introduced to Europe during the Crusades. There are of course, many kinds of limes, but they are also a great source of Vitamin C, and have an “antibiotic” effect.

In several villages in West Africa where cholera epidemics had occurred, the inclusion of lime juice during the main meal of the day was determined to have been protective against the contraction of cholera. (Cholera is a disease triggered by activity of the bacteria called Vibrio cholera). Researchers quickly began to experiment with the addition of lime juice to the sauce eaten with rice, and in this role, lime juice was also found to have a strong protective effect against cholera.

So now, to the point:

Cut up some juicy watermelon into little chunks and squeeze fresh limes all over them. For a stronger flavor, you can zest the limes as well. It’s a refreshing, delicious and surprisingly nutritious way to end a meal (or begin one).

For specifics, see this recipe in the San Francisco Gate.

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Filed under Breakfast, desserts, Israeli, Middle-Eastern, Salads, sides

Homemade Whole-Wheat Pita in a Flash!!

As part of our award-winning breakfast- I’m convinced the closer was Shira’s homemade pita.

shira.jpg
Shira!

Whole-wheat, warm and delicious, this pita was made from scratch (!) and was ready in under an hour. During the competition, we were given active yeast – the real deal (not the stuff in a paper packet)- and we’re convinced it made the difference.

The pitas puffed up right at the end – and clarified, there is no need for store-bought pita anymore. Try it. (Would be especially good with Eli Shem-Tov’s Chummus).

Ingredients
1 package yeast or 2-ish teaspoons active yeast
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 whole wheat flour
1 1/2 white flour

Directions

  1. Set oven to 500 degrees
  2. Proof yeast with lukewarm water and sugar
  3. Once yeast begins to bubble (15-20 min), add oil and honey; mix well
  4. Add both flours, fold and incorporate
  5. Knead dough for about 5-8 minutes
  6. Place in a warm place to rise for 25 minutes
  7. After dough has risen, break off handfulls of dough and form into pita circle/shapes
  8. Put each onto an oiled cookie sheet and let sit for 5 minutes on top of oven
  9. Bake pita for 4 minutes on each side; should puff up while in oven

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Filed under Appetizers, Bread, Breakfast, Israeli, Middle-Eastern, sides, Snacks

Muhammara: Red Pepper, Pomegranate Molasses and Walnut Dip

Okay – had dinner last night at hands-down the best Middle-Eastern restaurant I’ve been to since I moved to NYC. Nestled on Third Avenue in neighboring Bay Ridge, Tanoreen is a must.    

Owned by chef Rawia Bishara, who circulates the restaurant throughout the evening checking to make sure every table is happy and enjoying themselves, Tanoreen has been reviewed by the NY Times and listed in the “Best of NY” in New York Magazine on more than one occasion.  

Rawia Bishara

 One of the great dishes we had last night was Muhammara – a delicious blend of walnuts, pomegranate and red peppers. While we can’t get our hand’s on Rawia’s recipe for it – here is Paula Wolfert’s (from the great website: Leite’s Culinaria), the author of “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.”

 

Paula Wolfert’s “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean”

 

Ingredients:

2 and half pounds of sweet bell red peppers

1 small hot chili pepper

1 and 1/2 cup of walnuts

1/2 cup wheat crackers

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (If you search at the top of the page, I’ve included a recipe for this elsewhere on this site)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

salt to taste

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Click here for directions. 

 

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Zalabia: Middle-Eastern Chanukah Fritters in Syrup

As the Jewish holiday of Chanukah fast approaches (this year, it begins on the evening of Tuesday December 4th), recipes for latkes and other deep-fried delicacies will abound. Here is a recipe from our favorite – Claudia Roden – for “Zalabia” – deep-fried yummies, which she writes are from Egypt.

To purchase this book, click here.

I’ve copied and pasted the Q & A below, but you should check out the whole article here. Of course, recipes embody cross-cultural influences and often you’ll find many recipes for the same dish, each region claming it as their own and/or emphasizing the traditional tastes of their own locale.

The politics of the Palate.

If you click here, you’ll find the “Horesh Family Recipe index” (Horesh is a common last name of Iraqi Jews – and there are lots of good recipes here) . They list the Zalabia as being Iraqi Chanukah Fritters.

So whether these are Egyptian, Greek or Iraqi in origin – who cares? Enjoy!

There are many different recipes for Loukoumades, called Zalabia in Egypt. They are served soaked in sugar syrup or dusted with icing sugar. I use a recipe that is delicious although the fritters do not come out quite round. It is not an easy recipe but I hope you enjoy making it.

ZALABIA
Serves 6
For the sugar syrup
1kg sugar
500 ml water
The juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon rose or orange-blossom water

For the batter
500g flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 packet fast action dry yeast
750 ml warm water (1 part boiling to two parts cold)

Light vegetable oil for deep-frying.

Directions

For the syrup, put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until it is thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the rose or orange-blossom water and simmer a few seconds longer, then chill, covered.

For the batter, put the flour in a large bowl, mix in the salt and yeast, then stir in the water gradually, beating vigorously for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for at least 1 hour, then beat the batter once more and let it rise again.

Make the fritters in batches. Pour little balls of batter by the teaspoon or tablespoon (they can be small or large) into sizzling but not too hot oil and fry until puffed up, crisp and golden, turning them to brown them all over. You may find it easier if you dip the spoon in oil so that the batter rolls off easily. Lower the heat a little so that the fritters have time to get done inside before they are too brown. The batter is light and produces irregular, rather than perfectly round, shapes. If the oil is not hot enough to begin with the batter tends to flatten out.

Lift the fritters out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and dip them in the cold syrup for a few seconds, or let them soak up the syrup for longer. They are at their best hot, but are also good cold.

For variation, you can pour over the fritters honey heated up with about half the quantity water. You can also sprinkle instead with icing (confectioner’s) sugar and cinnamon.

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Filed under Cookbooks, desserts, Holidays, Iraqi, Middle-Eastern

Fancy Bourekas: Phyllo Triangles with Basil, Zucchini & Pine Nuts

This recipe is for when you have a little bit of time on your hands – and I promise, it’s worth every second. If you haven’t worked with phyllo dough before, remember that patience is a virtue. I used olive oil instead of butter – and much less than the recipe called for. A pastry brush is helpful to have on hand, and garnishing the ‘bourekas’ with sesame seeds is a nice touch. You can use the oil to glaze the bourekas, or a beaten egg will do nicely as well. These are great for a dinner party – and truly impress. I brought them to a tapas party last year and they went quickly.

I got the recipe from Epicurious.com. Click here to see it on the site.

Ingredients

12 ounces zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 chopped onion
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup packed grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 egg
6 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Sesame seeds

Preparation

Toss zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain zucchini well; roll in kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add zucchini; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Mix in basil, parsley and garlic; add wine. Cover skillet; simmer 3 minutes. Uncover; stir until any liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini mixture to large bowl and cool. Mix in both cheeses, then pine nuts. Season filling with salt and pepper. Mix in egg.

Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface with 1 short end parallel to edge of work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel.) Brush phyllo sheet lightly with butter; cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips, each about 4 inches wide. Place 1 generous tablespoon filling at bottom end of 1 strip. Fold 1 corner of phyllo over filling. Repeat folding down length of strip as for flag, brushing twice with butter and forming triangle. Place pastry on prepared baking sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets and filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic and chill.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush pastries with egg white. Sprinkle pastries generously with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

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Filed under Appetizers, Links, Middle-Eastern, sides, Veggies

Flavors of the Middle East in Brooklyn

Minus the slightly orientalizing tone of the article (“exotic oasis in Brooklyn”) I was happy to see this in the NY Times Travel section today. And so close by..,

 

Moustapha helps a customer at the Oriental shop. [Matthew Weinstein for The New York Times]

I guess to the author of the article Middle-Eastern folks are still “exotic” and “other,” but that of course would be the subject of a whole other post – and it’s too early in the AM for that one. Keeping it light….

Check it out here.

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Filed under Links, Middle-Eastern

Video: Dr. Shakshuka in Yaffo

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Filed under Breakfast, Israeli, Middle-Eastern, Uncategorized, video