Month: July 2011



Serves 4 If you’re feeling a bit cloudy, a bit rainy, a bit under the weather – let the bright flavor of lemons and parsley uplift you. Tabbouleh is a quintessential Middle Eastern salad recipe. No mezze is complete without it. While most authentic recipes include more parsley than bulgur, you can play around until you have the quantity you like best. NOTE: All parsley, green onion, and mint quantities came out rather heaping (see photos) Ingredients: 1/2 cup bulgur (I used coarse, but medium or fine is traditional) 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (measured, then strained) 1 bunch parsley, minced (1 heaping cup) 2 tomatoes, diced 3 green onions, minced 1/4 heaping cup minced mint 1/3 cup olive oil salt Method: Rinse bulgur in a little water. Then add to a bowl and pour on the strained lemon juice. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. The bulgur will absorb the lemon juice as you work. Chop a mountain of parsley, mint, tomatoes, and green onions. Whistle while you chop. Ahh, beautiful. As …

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Char-grilled Red Pepper Dip | Muhammara

Makes 3 cups If you’re wilting and melting and generally crying for a reprieve from the heat, try Muhummara. This Middle Eastern roasted pepper dip takes the heat out of summer in the most fingerlicking way. The walnuts add body, but you don’t taste them. The pomegranate syrup gives a slightly tart tang and the cumin gives earthy warmth, but the ingredients are so balanced and subtle you’ll be seduced before you know it – and you won’t exactly know why. Just like falling in love with the most wonderful person you know. NOTE: Some like to add hot paprika or cayenne to this recipe. I liked the mellow sweetness without the spice, but feel free to punch it up a notch. Ingredients: 4 red peppers, roasted or grilled until blackened 2 cloves garlic 1 cup walnuts 1/8 cup pomegranate syrup (available at health stores and Middle Eastern markets – or you can reduce your own juice) 1/8 cup olive oil 1 tsp cumin salt pepper Method: First step? Let’s go to the market and pick …

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Pistachio Date Balls

As far as I’m concerned, the best – and quite possibly the only way to time travel is to cook. Reading gets us only partway there – we dream ourselves into other times, other lands. But they remain just that – dreams. Visiting ruins gets us a little closer. But, at the end of the day, ruins are simply ruins – fragments of the splendor that what once was. But, when it comes to cooking food from ancient times? Instant time travel. In my mouth. When I cook I am potentially eating exactly what someone long ago ate. I can shut my eyes and focus in on the beautiful flavors of that time and place. I might as well be there. Want to join me? Let’s do it. Introducing date balls. One of the world’s earliest treats. Fit enough for a king. The most amazing thing about Date Balls is exactly how long they’ve been around. You’ll find them in Iraq today, but you also would have found them in ancient Babylon, when they were called Mersu. …

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Grilled Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Makes 8 Pita Light, airy, grilled pita bread spells summer. Flip flops and ice water. Sunglasses and big smiles. Making this recipe just might help you get to know your neighbors. After all, the fresh smell of grilled pita bread is nearly impossible to resist. As long as you’re willing to share… So, let’s take a cue from the fine people of Iraq and enjoy pita, just like they have in this region (not only the Middle East, but the Mediterranean and also the Balkans) for millennia. Today, let’s serve it up with your favorite Middle Eastern food – falafel, kababs, muhummara, and tabouleh. Come to think of it, any way is a good way to eat pita. Based on the recipe in The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman. You can also bake this recipe. Simply cook on a stone or cast iron pan in an oven set to 500F for a few minutes per side. Ingredients:  1 cup whole wheat flour 2 cups all purpose flour 2 tsp salt 2 tsp yeast 2 tsp …

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Menu: Iraq

Let’s be real. If you live in my part of the world it’s hot in the summer. Really hot. Most days, the thermometer reads 100F before noon. So, instead of making our air conditioners work harder than they have to, let’s avoid the stove. Completely. Deal? While it sounds difficult, it’s really rather simple. We can just throw together an Iraqi mezze. This is the Middle Eastern equivalent to tapas, in many ways – many small dishes. Mezze can start off a big banquet, or it can provide the main sustenance for a light meal. For the most part, it is made up of an assortment of refreshing salads, dips, and other small plates. Count me in. What sounds good to you? Grilled Whole Wheat Pita Bread [Recipe] Spend a few minutes banging together this healthy dough and, after one rise, you’ll have the softest, best grilled pita. Ever. Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper Spread) [Recipe] An alluring, sweet blend of roasted red peppers, walnuts, garlic, cumin, and pomegranate syrup. Perfect to dip that homemade pita bread in. Tabbouleh [Recipe] …

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About the food of Iraq

So, here’s the humbling truth: there’s lots of things I thought I knew about Iraq, thanks to the constant stream of current events infiltrating my subconscious. But, when it came right down to it, I actually knew nothing about Iraq. Nothing. So I began digging. After just a few minutes, I found this lil’ tidbit out: from the northern mountains to the windswept deserts, Iraq is known as the cradle of civilization. What? Hold the presses. While you might have known this rather fundamental piece of history, it was news to me. (Perhaps I should have taken a greater array of history classes in college – 89% of my courseload was centered on Medieval French Arthurian legend, specifically during the time of Crétiens de Troyes – but now is a good a time as any to keep learning.) Anyway – formerly known as Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers (Tigris & Euprhates), Iraq was built upon the fertile crescent plains, where rich soil facilitated healthy crops and plentiful pasture for cattle. From this bedrock Uruk and Ur built …

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Monday Meal Review: Iran

THE SCENE Beep. Beep. Beep. I was waiting to pay at Whole Foods, watching my food come down the belt with one eye and shooing Ava away from the chap stick display with the other. Other than that, I might as well have been asleep. I’ve been working hard. Lately, that’s all there’s been time for. Working to be a good mom. Working to be a good wife. Working to not melt in the 100F temperatures Tulsa has been sustaining for a month now. And, of course, working on work. My brain was tired, and the steady beep of the scanner only lulled me deeper into a trance. So, when the happy voice said “What’s the pomegranate syrup for?” it took me a few seconds to realize they were talking to me. I looked up, unglazed my eyes, and smiled. “What?” I said, looking vaguely at the bottle in the girl’s hand and then up at her name tag. Farisa, it read. “The pomegranate syrup?” Farisa was bagging my groceries. She was friendly, polite, and interested in …

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Iranian Cucumber Salad

Serves 2-4 Would you like to create a mosaic in a bowl? Capture the beauty of Iran in a bite? This bright, crunchy, sour Iranian side dish is at once cooling and hydrating – perfect for these dog days of summer. Also, it tastes a heck of a lot like a quick pickle. If you add the big bits of coarse ground pepper, you’ll be bitten by a teasing taste of heat. Recipe adapted from The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley. You can find more recipes and fascinating history on her blog Silk Road Gourmet. Ingredients: 1 large cucumber peeled, seeded, and cut into small pieces 1 small onion, finely chopped 14-16 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 Tbsp) 1 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar 1 lime juiced (about 2 Tbsp) salt coarsely cracked pepper Garnish: Ground sumac Method: The beauty of this salad is how easy it is. Simply cut everything up, and toss together. Cover and place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, lay on …

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Kabab Koobideh

It’s been a long week. You’re tired. You might even be cranky (I won’t tell). I’ve got good news. Now is the perfect time to put on your superhero cape and make kababs on swords. (Ok. They aren’t really swords. They’re sword-like skewers. But they might as well be swords because they are that wonderful. You can buy them at your local Middle Eastern market and you’ll be forever glad you did.) Iranians – and people all across the Middle East – love to use these mega skewers to make their kababs – meat, tomatoes, all of it! After cooking, they slide the sausage-like portion either into pita bread or next to rice. Koobideh is almost always served with whole grilled tomatoes (on the skewers). Serves 4-6 Ingredients: 1 onion 2 lbs ground beef or lamb 1 Tbsp turmeric 1 Tbsp sumac 1 or 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 1 egg, beaten Method: Today’s stove top travel takes us to the old city of Kharanaq. The golden tan against the deep blue sky bursts …

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“Doogh” you like fizzy yogurt? (w/ poll)

Have you ever taken a big swig of a drink expecting to taste one thing, but getting another? I have. Here’s what happened: I was little. I woke up in the middle of the night, crazy thirsty, and wandered blind into the kitchen to get a drink of water. Because we bottled our own spring water from Cape Cod, there was a lot of it – all stored on the side of the fridge in jugs. I felt my hand over the top of one and hoisted it up. I took several giant gulps before I realized it was most certainly not water. Nope. It was apple cider vinegar. My throat burned. I sweat. I shook. Then, I sweat some more.  I’ll always blame that moment as to why I have an immunity to vinegar. The more the better. Even though the story turned out well for me, I don’t want you to burn, sweat, or shake. Nope. I want you to know what you are in for with doogh. #1 It looks like a …

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Persian Sour Cherry Rice

Serves 6 Take a look around you. I mean really, really look around. Every little thing – that weathered window sill, the sparkly vase, even that fuzzy gray pillow – they can all be your inspiration. Your muse. The catalyst to the next great idea. Take this Persian Sour Cherry Rice, for example. When I look at this masterpiece in form and taste – I can’t help but wonder what inspired someone to create such a dish. Who was the clever soul that first made this tower of deliciousness infused with cinnamon, nutmeg – punctuated by soft pistachio nuggets, sour cherries and sweet caramelized onion? What were they looking at that sparked the idea? There had to be something. Let’s see if we can make some guesses… Recipe adapted from The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley. You can find more recipes and fascinating history on her blog Silk Road Gourmet. Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice 2 Tbsp butter (or vegetable oil/vegan butter) 1 medium onion, sliced 1 tsp gr0und cinnamon 1/4 tsp nutmeg salt …

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Menu: Iran

It’s the dog days of summer over here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All but two days in July have been over 100F. And there’s no end in sight. All day long the sky shimmers and the pavement radiates. My neighbor’s giant tree is dropping leaves. Our crusty grass hasn’t been green in weeks, and I haven’t worn a pair of socks since May. In honor of this painfully persistent heat wave, I’ve put together a refreshing summertime meal, straight from the heart of Iranian cooking. When it gets this hot, for this long, the only way to survive is to swim a lot and eat a good meal after the sun goes down. What sounds good to you? Persian Sour Cherry Rice [recipe] Delicate grains of basmati rice cooked with plump sour cherries, caramelized onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, and shelled pistachios. Kabab Koobideh (Iranian Spiced Beef Kabab) [recipe] One of Iran’s most famous kababs; our version is made with ground beef, seasoned with turmeric, sumac, onions, and pepper. For a special treat, dip kabab pieces in sweet/tart pomegranate …

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