All posts filed under: Iraq

While I knew I'd like the pita bread, the date balls were another question entirely.

Monday Meal Review: Iraq

THE SCENE Mom smeared the cream cheese onto the shiny black date and offered it to me. I looked up at her, the way only a stubborn seven year-old can, and shook my head slowly. “Try it, you’ll like it,” she urged, popping one in her mouth herself. It looks like a roach, I thought. I watched her chew. “When is dinner?” “Not for a few more hours,” she replied. I wouldn’t budge. There was no way I was going to eat the cream cheese date. My stomach growled. I chewed my nails. I drank some water. Ten long minutes later, I caved. It was sweet. Too sweet. Leathery on the outside, creamy in the center. Roachy, roachy, roachy. I shuddered, barely swallowing what I had in my mouth before putting the rest back down on the plate. “No thank you.” I whispered and never ate another date again. Not, that is, until this week, during our Iraqi Global Table. The glorious, long-standing history of Pistachio Date balls were too fantastic to pass up. When I …

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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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