Showing posts with label Tahini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tahini. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sticky Pomegranate Drumsticks + Tahini-Lemon Brussels Sprouts

Yesterday's flavors, today's food.

That has been on my mind the last few months, as I've been pondering what to do next on this blog. Since I don't always have the time to cook traditional recipes, but my kitchen is always stocked with the basics of a Middle Eastern pantry, when it's time to cook dinner, I often find myself staring at cuts of meat, and a whole lot of blank slate.

That's when I throw open my pantry and reach for The Secret Weapon of Arabic Meat Dishes:  pomegranate molasses. And when I need to add more flavor to a roasted vegetable, I reach for one of the basic Arabic sauces - tahini and lemon.

It's really funny, if you think about it, because Arabs are dead against mixing sweet and savory, and yet, they use pomegranate molasses, a syrup made of cooked down pomegranate juice (recipe here). My mother tells of her tongue's culture shock when she first came to American and was served chicken cooked with pineapple, pork cooked with apples, lamb served with mint jelly.  Sweet, fruity with meat?  It just didn't make sense to her palate.

And yet:  pomegranate molasses. This remarkable tart-sweet syrup is a miracle worker in the meat department. Arabic cooks drizzle in a little into their meat stuffing, or over roasts or chickens.   Pomegranate has that tart acidity that the Arabic palate enjoys, and only a very slight sweetness, so I imagine that is what they enjoy.  In this recipe, though, I play up the pomegranate's slight sweetness, and bath the chicken in pomegranate molasses, to create a barbecue-like flavor that my more Western tongue enjoys.

(This marinade also makes a divine glaze for a pork roast.)

I paired this dish with a side of roast Brussels sprouts, a vegetable that my children enjoy immensely, and that I love, even though I never had it when I was growing up in the Middle East.  To make it feel a little more at home next to the tray of chicken, I added the tahini-lemon sauce, and a sprinkle of pine nuts on the sprouts.  And just like that, I think we have a new family favorite way to eat our Brussels sprouts.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Making "Fawaffles": An Experiment with Arab and American Cultural Identity

Last week, I ran across this post from the blog Food Republic, describing a collision of two of my favorite foods:  waffles and falafels.   

Enter the fawaffle.  


Really?  Fawaffle?  Make falafels in your waffle iron?  

I jumped right up on my soapbox, and began to mentally enumerate all of the ways that this dish was just.  plain. wrong.  Leave it to Americans, I thought to myself, to take a perfectly good falafel and squish it into a waffle iron.  Always innovating.  Always trying to change things up.  Always trying to improve on perfection.   


But.  I kinda wanted to do it.  My leftover falafel mix in the fridge beckoned me.  It would be so easy, I thought, so fast.  And who knows?  Maybe it will also taste all right.  Even if it doesn't, won't it be fun?

I walked around the house for a while, taking care of this and that, and listened to the two competing voices in my head.  One voice, calling for tradition and authenticity.  The other voice, calling for playful innovation.  And as I listened, I really heard these two voices clearly, maybe for the first time.  One, the collective voice of the neighbors, relatives and friends from my childhood in Palestine, extolling the virtue of authenticity, the beauty of tradition, vying between them to produce the best versions of classic dishes, laughing at strange variations. The other voice a quieter one, Western and pragmatic, but just as compelling.  It just shrugged and said, seductively:  what if it's great?  

What if?

I can't believe I'm about to do this.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sesame-Honey Fudge with Pistachio, or Halaweh


Halaweh, (also called halawa, halwa, halva)  is a dense, sweet, nutty-tasting confection, made with many variations throughout the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and  eastern Europe. It is a fudge made with tahini, or sesame paste, mixed with sugar that has been boiled to the hard-rock stage, and then formed into a block. You can find a number of flavors of halaweh in Middle Eastern grocers, including plain, chocolate or pistachio.

I am so excited to share with you a five-minute, five-ingredient, raw and wholesome version of this treat!  This recipe is sugar-free, and  allergy sensitive, without gluten, dairy, eggs, (and can be prepared without nuts). 

To read more and find the recipe, click over to my post on the blog MidEATS


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Welcoming Autumn: Hummus with Spiced Lamb, or Hummus bi Laham

The leaves are piling in drifts around my house, forming crunchy alleys for my children to march through. 

It is time to pull blankets more snugly around our shoulders, to wrap our fingers around warm cups of tea, to dip our bread into something a little warmer, a little more substantial.

Here is a way to "spice up" your hummus:  serve it topped with warm, spiced minced lamb and toasted pine nuts. Add a pile of hot Arabic bread and some fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and you have a hearty spread, guaranteed to satisfy and delight.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Middle Eastern Spiced Meat Pies, or Sfiha

These Middle Eastern savory meat pies, topped with toasted pine nuts, are a traditional Arabic dish, popular throughout the Levant  (and also in parts of South America, where there is a significant expat Arabic community).  They are small, hand-held "pizzas," made with ground lamb or beef, seasoned with lemony sumac and allspice.  Tahini, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice add a complex flavor and a creamy texture to the meat, and for the more adventurous, a little zing of hot peppers finishes the effect.  Dip the warm pies into plain, sour yogurt, if you want to eat them like an Arab. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just as Good as Hummus: Palestinian Smokey Eggplant Dip

Now if you love hummus, (and I know that a lot of you just can't get enough hummus), you have got to try its smokey cousin:  eggplant dip.   It's a hearty dip made from the same ingredients as hummus except with eggplant instead of chickpeas.  This dip has it all going on: creamy, smokey, garlicky, a little nuttiness from the tahini, and texture from mashed soft eggplant.  Mmm, mmm, mmm. 

For many years, my (American) father preferred hummus over imtabbal.  It wasn't until my Uncle Yousef came to visit us in Jerusalem after years of living in Texas, and made this dish for our family one afternoon, that my father fell in love with it.  What did my uncle do differently?  Nothing really.  He just added a handful or two of garlic.  A handful or two.  We couldn't stop eating it and we've been eating it ever since.  My mother goes easy on the garlic, but I still like it extra garlicky. 

Let me give you five reasons to try eggplant dip instead of hummus:

1.  No food processor needed.  Just mash with a fork or a masher.  Easy peasey. 

2.  You don't have to soak or cook anything.  Throw your eggplant on the grill, stir up the tahini and lemon juice, and you'll be done in no time. 

3.  This is dip is mostly vegetable.  Besides soft, warm Arabic bread, I also love to dip red peppers into this dip, or even a sweet carrot stick.  Vegetables dipped in vegetables? Maybe not strictly tradition, but definitely healthful and delicious.

4.  Your tahini jar is getting a little bored.  I am not a one-trick-pony, she says.

5.  This dip will wake up a party, picnic or barbeque.  Everyone seems to bring hummus to a potluck but who bring eggplant dip?  You do, that's who!

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Make Tahini, or Sesame Paste

If you want to cook Middle Eastern foods, you're going to want to have a jar of tahini in your pantry.  This creamy, nutty sesame paste is the cornerstone of so many wonderful Middle Eastern dips and sauces (hummus! kefta! baba ghanoush! tahini-lemon sauce!).  Plus, it has the shelf life of a jar of peanut butter, and is highly nutritious to boot (read more about its health properties here). What's not to love? 

Well, the price, for one.  Tahini can be expensive.  Also, in some parts of the country, it can be difficult to find in your regular grocery store.  This would be a serious impediment to making many Arabic dishes, so when several readers asked me if I knew how to make tahini, I started to play around in my kitchen. 

After a few false starts, I was delighted to see a beautifully creamy sauce coming together in my food processor.  This sauce is rich and nutty, and while a little grainier than commercially prepared tahini, I think it will be wonderful in many Palestinian dishes.  I was surprised by how easy and utterly affordable this tahini is.  The whole process takes about fifteen minutes, and costs a fraction of what store-bought tahini costs.  I think I might have to switch to homemade tahini for some of my recipes. I haven't tested this tahini in my recipes yet, but I think it will work especially well for dips, such as hummus and zucchini dip (recipe forthcoming!). 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lacto-Fermented Hummus

Do you sometimes make a double (or triple!) batch of hummus and then find that it still sitting in your fridge a week later?

I do.  Maybe you don't, because everyone in your house attacks it immediately, which does often happen here.  But sometimes, we just can't eat it all quickly enough. 

And then I become sad.  Because who would want to throw away such beautifully smooth and delicious hummus?

You see, I really like making large batches of hummus.  The best hummus is made from hot, just-boiled chickpeas.  As I shared in my post on hummus (How to Make Really (Smooth) Authentic Hummus), if you want smooth hummus, you need to either peel the chickpeas or make your hummus with hot, freshly boiled chickpeas.  So after I have gone through the work to soak and boil my chickpeas, I try to make as much hummus as I think we can manage to eat before it goes bad.  Otherwise, I have to freeze the chickpeas and peel them the next time I want to make hummus (not fun).

But then we have to EAT all of that hummus.   And even though Palestinians often serve hummus breakfast, lunch and dinner, we don't.   But I do love having hummus on hand all of the time.  I think Americans must love that, too, because Costco sells massive boxes of single serving tubs of hummus and they sell like hot cakes.  Because of the preservatives, store-bought hummus will last a long time in the fridge, but fresh hummus will usually only last about a week.  

So, here is a very easy way to extend the life of your homemade hummus.  It takes no time, doesn't change the flavor, and is as easy as stirring.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tahini-Lemon Cauliflower Bake

Do you have a gorgeous head of cauliflower?  Instead of making a cauliflower gratin, try this simple and easy recipe - cauliflower baked in a tahini-lemon sauce. 

Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and its mild flavor pairs well with creamy sauces.  The nuttiness of the tahini is particularly lovely against cauliflower.  And given all of the health benefits of tahini, I am happy to see my children eat this nutrient-dense side dish. 
This is a rich and hearty side dish, perfect served alongside fish, grilled or roasted chicken, or even spooned over brown rice as the main course.  While not a standard Palestinian recipe, this is the kind of food that my mother and I like to  make, day in and day out:  simple, flavorful, nourishing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Make Really (Smooth) Authentic Hummus

Hummus . . . a creamy, garlicky, lemony,  protein-packed dip.  It's all the rage in this country now, the most ubiquitous Arabic food to reach the American table.  I am not sure when hummus became so popular here, because when I would travel back to the States as a child and teenager, most Americans approached our plate of hummus with a great deal of, um, suspicion, and rarely tasted it enthusiastically. My, how things have changed. 

The word hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea (also known as a garbanzo bean).  In fact, this dip is technically called hummus bi tahini, meaning chickpeas with tahini.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

Remember that neglected jar of tahini in your pantry?  You know, the one that you use for making the occasional batch of hummus?
Well, let me tell you, that jar of tahini is about to bust out of prison. 
Nutritious, delicious, versatile, here is one more way to use tahini:  as a salad dressing for a simple cucumber tomato salad!   
A week ago, I posted a recipe for tahini-lemon sauce.  So easy to make, and a hundred ways to enjoy it.  I think that this one might be my new favorite?  The creamy tahini, garlic and lemon juice take this simple salad to a new level, the sort of dish that would be delicious served as part of a  mezze lunch along with (dream with me) hummus, baba ghanoush, cured olives and feta cheese, or as part of a summer picnic, with kebabs or burgers or grilled fish.  Mmmm.  Can you tell that I am anxious for warmer weather?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Basic Tahini-Lemon Sauce, with Fish

Looking to add a new flavor to some of your basic recipes?

This sauce balances the rich nuttiness of tahini against the acidity of fresh lemon - a classic Palestinian combination.  (Read about all of the nourishing benefits of tahini here).  I love this sauce because it is so very versatile.  Drizzle over fish or chicken, pour over vegetables, use as a dressing for a salad or a sandwich - Palestinians use this sauce in many ways.  You already may have tried this sauce over kefta, a Palestinian meatloaf, but if you haven't, you should.  Sometimes without the parsley, this also makes a simple stand-alone dip for Arabic bread.  It is also the base for other dips, such as hummus and baba ghanoush. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spotlight on: Sesame Paste, or Tahini


Like any regional cuisine, the Middle East has a distinct flavor profile, cultivated by using a handful of ingredients over and over.  One of these ingredients is tahini.  To many non-Arabs, tahini is a slightly exotic ingredient, one that you have to hunt for in the grocery store. Thankfully, you will usually find it these days, sometimes in the natural foods section, sometimes by the peanut butter.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Palestinian Meatloaf: Lamb Kefta, Two Ways


Kefta is meatloaf, really.  Ground meats, mixed with seasonings by hand, pressed into a dish, smothered in sauce.  There are differences, of course.  Instead of beef, pork and veal, we use lamb and beef.  Instead of bread crumbs, we use minced parsley.  The lamb is spiced with cinnamon and allspice.  On top, we skip the ketchup and pour a creamy tahini and lemon sauce, and sprinkle with pine nuts. Or, if you are in the mood for tomatoes, we pour a little tomato sauce and arrange sliced fresh tomatoes.

I remember the first time my mother explained kefta to an American family:  your loaves of bread are high, and so that is how you make meatloaf.  Our loaves of bread are flat, and so that is how we make meatloaf.