Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Pistachios, and Mint

pomegranate chicken skewer tastefood
The secret ingredient in this recipe is pomegranate molasses, a viscous syrup made from the juice of pomegranates. Sweet, tart and sticky, it adds a unique flavor to marinades and sauces. I like to use it with chicken breast meat, because it gives a welcome flavor boost to the mild white meat, and the sugars help to caramelize the chicken while grilling. Pomegranate molasses is a popular Middle Eastern condiment, and can be purchased in the international section of your supermarket or at specialty stores.

I made these skewers for a cocktail party I catered a few weeks ago and posted a photo without a recipe on Facebook and Instagram. They were a huge hit with the guests – and my followers – and a number of you asked for the recipe. At last here it is.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Pistachios and Mint
Serves 4 to 6

Marinade:
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked for 30 minutes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon chopped mint

Sauce:
1 cup whole milk Greek style yogurt
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside about 1/4 cup for basting. Place the chicken in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and stir to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
2. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until use.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on the skewers. Grill the skewers over direct heat, basting once, then turn and continue to cook until the chicken is lightly charred and thoroughly cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning again as needed.
4. Arrange the skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle the 1/4 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup mint over the skewers. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon pistachios and 1 teaspoon mint over the dipping sauce. Serve with the chicken.

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken and Vegetable Skewers

pomegranate chicken skewers tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Memorial Day weekend is a week away, but why wait to grill? Any weekend (or any night, for that matter) is a good excuse to fire up the Weber. I made these skewers to feed a crowd, but the following recipe will generously feed a table of four. A Middle Eastern inspired pomegranate marinade infused with aromatic spices tenderizes and flavors the chicken, which is best left to marinate overnight. If you don’t have time for that, then 4 hours will do.

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken and Vegetable Skewers
Serves 4

Marinade:
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked for 30 minutes
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 red or orange bell peppers, stemmed and seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
Fresh mint and parsley leaves for garnish

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for basting.
2. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add the marinade and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on skewers alternating with onion pieces and peppers.
4. Grill over direct medium heat until nicely charred and chicken is thoroughly cooked through, turning as needed, 8 to 10 minutes, basting halfway through the cooking process with reserved sauce.
5. To serve, pile the skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired. Garnish with fresh mint and parsley leaves.

Shrimp and Tabbouleh Salad

Shrimp and Tabbouleh Salad

There is something intrinsically satisfying about a grain salad. Hearty, fresh and toothsome, brimming with greens and chopped vegetables, it’s both nutritious and versatile. Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad made with cracked wheat or bulgur. The grains are softened with water, lemon juice and oil and tumbled with spices and fresh herbs. I like to add shredded kale and grated carrot to tabbouleh. The sturdy greens are tenderized by the oil and lemon, and the sweetness of the carrot rounds out the tangy citrus and spices. The salad is delicious as is or stuffed into pita pockets with crumbled feta and a dab of harissa. In this recipe I’ve topped the salad with pan roasted shrimp for a light and healthy meal.  If you prefer another grain, feel free to substitute quinoa, wheat berries or couscous for the bulgur. For a vegetarian option, sprinkle with feta cheese.

shrimp bulgur table tf.jpg

Shrimp and Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 4.

For the bulgur salad:
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/4 cups hot water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce
6 large green kale leaves, tough stems removed, caorsely chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large carrot, finely grated
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup each chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, mint and cilantro

For the shrimp:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon

Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the salad:
Place the bulgur in a large bowl. Pour the water over the bulgur and stir to combine. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and Tabasco. Stir again. Set aside until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender but chewy, about 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Taste for seasoning. If necessary, add more olive oil to moisten the salad.

For the shrimp:
Heat the olive oil and the chili flakes in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the shrimp in one layer and cook  until pink in color and  just cooked through the center, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with juice from half a lemon.

To serve, arrange salad on a platter or divide among serving plates. Top with shrimp. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and chopped parsley. Drizzle with extra oil if desired.

Lamb, Bulgur and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Eggplant

lamb bulgur stew tastefood

The other day, for the first time I made kibbeh, the Lebanese version of kefta or croquettes. A key ingredient in kibbeh is bulgur (cracked wheat), which was a revelation to me. I was afraid the bulgur would add a mealiness to the croquettes, but in fact it remained firm, adding a satisfying bite (and crunch when pan fried) to the ground meat. I liked this combination so much I decided to try it in a stew with tomatoes, white wine and plenty of spices. The bulgur slurped up the liquid producing a thick and dense ragout. While it could easily have been served in bowls as a hearty stew, I spooned it over roasted eggplant to lighten it up a bit. The results resembled a deconstructed dolma or vegetable stuffed with ground meat and grains, typically served in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. All that was needed was a bit of crumbled feta and fresh mint to freshen up this lovely dish, and I know I’ll be making it again.

Lamb, Bulgur and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Eggplant

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup white wine
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzos) drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage

1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise 3/8-inch thick
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crumbled feta cheese
Fresh mint leaves, torn

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic and lamb. Cook until the onion softens and the lamb browns, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, stock, bulgur, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander. Simmer, partially covered, until the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. The stew will have thickened at this point. If desired, add more water or stock to thin to desired consistency. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Stir in the chickpeas and cabbage and cook over medium-low heat until the cabbage is wilted, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the stew is simmering, arrange the eggplant slices in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil on the top rack of the oven until golden brown on both sides, turning once.

To serve, spoon the ragout over the eggplant. Sprinkle with feta and garnish with mint. Serve warm.

Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad

fattoush salad tastefood

~ Fattoush Salad ~

I’ve been on a barbecue bender. It’s not even June, and I need a time-out. This salad presents the perfect interlude. Fattoush is a Middle Eastern garden salad with pita bread. Toasted day-old pita shards serve as croutons while adding flavor and substance to the greens. They also provide a vessel for absorbing the tangy vinaigrette infused with sumac, a ground tart Mediterranean berry found throughout southern Italy and the Middle East. Light, fresh and vegetarian, Fattoush salad is a wonderful antidote to meaty excess and a light and healthy option for easy weeknight dining.

Fattoush TasteFood
Fattoush Salad
Serves 6

Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pita:
2 large pita breads
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

Salad:
2 cups arugula leaves
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, leaves torn in pieces
1 small bunch Italian parlsey leaves
1 small bunch  fresh mint leaves
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for garnish

Whisk all of the vinaigrette ingredients, except the olive oil, together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil in a steady stream until emulsified.

Preheat oven broiler or grill. Brush pita bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cut each pita circle in 6 triangles.  Broil or grill, turning once, until crisp and light golden. Remove from heat and cool. Break into pieces.

Combine the pita and the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle half of the vinaigrette over and toss to combine. Add additional vinaigrette to taste and toss again.  Serve garnished with extra feta.

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Egg and Chick Peas

Yes, I know it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s also hot in Tunisia, from where this recipe gets its inspiration. Shakshuka is a traditional Tunisian breakfast composed of simmered tomatoes, peppers, aromatics and poached eggs. It’s meant to be spicy which is a nifty DIY method for keeping cool in the Saharan heat. (The more you sweat, the more you cool off). As for me, I’ll take anything spicy for the sake of spice, regardless of temperature and geography – especially when it’s screams comfort food like this. The Tunisians call shakshuka breakfast, but I’ve added sausage, kale and chickpeas (why hold back?) and prefer to call it dinner. It’s delicious as is, served with crusty bread for mopping up the sauce and yolk. For a complete meal, spoon prepared couscous into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center of the couscous and ladle the ragout and and egg into the center of the couscous. All you need as an accompaniment is green salad, chilled wine – and a fan.

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Eggs and Chick Peas

Prepare this in a 10-inch deep skillet and serve family-style at the table. If you’re feeling fancy and are lucky enough to have cute individual skillets as pictured above, then prepare the ragout in one large skillet or pot. Before adding the eggs, divide the ragout between individual skillets placed on the stovetop over medium heat, and add one egg to each skillet. Serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian or chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 large garlic clove
6 ounces (small bunch) Tuscan/Lacinato kale leaves, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
1 32-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juce
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce, to taste
4 to 6 large eggs
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages. Cook, turning, until brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer sausages with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard the oil from the pan – do not rinse out the skillet. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion to the skillet. Saute onion over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits, until onion begins to soften, 2 minutes. Add garlic, paprika and cumin. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add kale and cook, stirring, until leaves brighten in color and begin to wilt. Return sausages to the pan. Add tomatoes, chick peas and salt; stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If desired, add harissa or hot sauce to taste. Simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat, to slightly thicken and allow the flavors to develop, 15 to 20 minutes. Make an indentation in the ragout with a spoon. Crack one egg in a small bowl. Gently slide egg into the indentation. Repeat with remaining eggs, taking care not to overlap the eggs. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Spoon ragout with one egg into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley. Serve with crusty bread or prepared couscous.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Lamb Stew with Raisins and Honey from TasteFood
Spinach Gratin with Hardboiled Eggs from Simply Recipes
Farro, Kale and Butternut Squash Soup from TasteFood
Baby Kale, Mozzarella and Egg Bake from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Swiss Chard and Kale Frittata from TasteFood
Egg and Cheese Strata from Leite’s Culinaria

Pearl Couscous Salad

If you haven’t met pearl couscous yet, then it’s high time you did. Despite its name, pearl couscous differs from the finely-grained North African semolina couscous, typically served with tagines. Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, is made of baked wheat instead of semolina, and its granules are much larger in size, similar to fregola sarda. It retains it’s shape while cooking, and, before simmering in liquid to soften, it should be sauteed in olive oil which imparts a lovely golden hue and toasted flavor. It’s delicious simply tossed with olive oil and lemon, or as a component of a chopped salad. Serve it as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish, or dress it up with chopped vegetables and herbs from the garden and sprinkle with feta for a vegetarian option.  Continue reading Pearl Couscous Salad

Quinoa Tabbouleh

~ Quinoa Tabbouleh ~

I love a good tabbouleh. For the uninitiated, tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad chockablock full of grains tumbled together with fresh herbs and diced vegetables coated with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s infinitely satisfying – hearty and fresh at once. It’s also agreeably flexible, allowing for a variety of ingredients, including the choice of grain. Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur or couscous, but quinoa is a tasty and gluten-free alternative. I like to serve tabbouleh as a side to grilled meat and fish, or as a light vegetarian meal accompanied by pita bread and hummus.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa is a South American grain, originating in the Andes. It is complete in protein, rich in phosphorous, magnesium and iron, with a nutty flavor. Quinoa is a healthy alternative to rice, couscous and bulgur – and it’s gluten-free. When cooking quinoa, be sure to cook it long enough for the germ or tiny tail to release from the grain. Serves 4.

1 cup quinoa (I used a combination of white and red quinoa)
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded, membranes removed, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 red jalapeno or serrano chile pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch cilantro (or parsley), chopped

Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed and the germ, or tail, is released from the quinoa, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients except for the mint and cilantro. Toss to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 4 hours to allow flavors to develop. Before serving, stir in the mint and cilantro.

Fattoush Salad

~ Fattoush Salad ~

I don’t know about you, but I think I ate a month’s worth of meat over the weekend. With July 4th falling nicely on a Monday, it meant a 3 day weekend was entirely devoted to barbecues. Our house, friends’ houses, the beach: all locations involved a fire and platters of smoked and grilled ribs, steak, chicken, salmon. Now it’s time for a little break.  To begin this short week, I will invoke a brief barbecue time-out. Dinner tonight will be light, fresh and vegetarian – a Fattoush salad.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern garden salad with pita bread. Day old pita is toasted, crumbled and tossed with greens in a vinaigrette, adding texture and substance to the salad, while the dressing softens the bread. Extra Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives, feta, mint and sumac (a dried Middle Eastern spice with tart lemony notes) make this salad special and addictively good.  When the weather is warm, this is a perfect easy meal and a nice break from the grill – at least for a day.

~
Fattoush Salad
Serves 6

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
2 large pita breads
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arugula leaves
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, leaves torn in pieces
1 small bunch Italian parlsey leaves
1 small bunch  fresh cilantro leaves
1 small bunch  fresh mint leaves
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for garnish

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Mix all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, together in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until emulsified.

Prepare salad:
Preheat oven broiler. Brush pita bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Cut each pita circle in 6 triangles.  Toast in oven, turning once, until crisp and light golden. Remove from heat and cool.  Break into pieces.
Toss the pita pieces with the arugula, romaine, parsley, cilantro and mint in a large bowl. Scatter the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta over the salad. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to combine. Add additional vinaigrette to taste and toss again.  Serve garnished with extra feta.

Entertaining with Mezze: Recipes for Marinated Feta and Baba Ganoush

~
What are mezze? A delightful appetizer tradition integral to the cuisines of the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. Mezze consist of numerous small tasters, often simple and fresh, which are meant to whet the appetite before a meal along with a drink. The word mezze comes from the Arabic term t’mazza, which translates as “savor in little bites.” I can’t think of a more convivial and pleasurable way to begin a meal with a group of friends than with a sampling of mezze accompanied by a drink on a warm summer evening.

~
Mezze should always include a sampling of dips, such as hummus or tsatsiki, cruditees, bread and olives. For a more substantial selection add  meat keftas or brochettes, simple salads and dolmas (stuffed vegetables and filled grape leaves.) Keep the portions small, set a table in the sunshine and pour a refreshing drink. Enjoy!

Baba Ganoush

Baba ganoush is a traditional Middle Eastern dip made with roasted eggplant. In this recipe I have added chickpeas to give the dip more structure. Makes about 2 cups.

1 large eggplant
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
2-3 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Pita bread for serving

Preheat oven to 425 F. Roast the eggplant over a gas flame or on a grill until the skin is charred on all sides. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until very soft when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool. Peel away the skin and scoop the flesh into a bowl of a food processor. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Pulse to combine. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight to let flavors develop. Before serving stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves. Serve with pita bread.


Marinated Feta with Lemon
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound feta cheese, drained, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 fresh thyme sprigs
1-2 fresh oregano sprigs

Pita bread for serving

Place cheese in a shallow bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over cheese and gently toss to combine. Fold in thyme and oregano. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight. Before serving remove thyme and oregano sprigs. Serve with additional black pepper and pita bread.