Have I mentioned how much I love Middle Eastern Food? Well I love Middle Eastern Food and last night’s dinner was a variety of dishes from the Middle East. There was not a lot of anything but rather it was like having tapas for dinner only instead of being Spanish it was Arabic. We started with an appetizer of zucchini feta and herb fritters. The main meal included lamb kabobs with mint and cherry tomatoes, tabouli salad and falafels served with tahini sauce. Gillian made some baba ganoush and I made some tzaziki so we had a selection of flavours to add to the dishes.
The book for my inspiration this week was Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen cookbook. This cookbook is wonderful for anyone who likes making ethnic dishes. The type of food he covers includes: British, Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Indian and American. I have made dishes from the Thai, Middle Eastern and Greek sections and they’ve all been wonderful. I highly recommend this book.
The two recipes from this book I used last night were the Zucchini, feta, and herb fritters on page 134, and the falafels with tahini sauce on page 138. The other recipes are included in this post.
The Zucchini fritters were drop dead easy to make except when it came to cooking them. The recipe called for heating a thin layer of olive oil in a wide skillet and then dropping the fritters in by spoonful spacing them apart and cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Well, here’s a photo of what that looked like after the first four fritters:
Trying to turn these over to cook the other side was virtually impossible with the amount of crust that ended up on the pan. I realised very quickly this process was not going to work for me. So I decided to put the remaining fritters on some greased parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven. This was probably a healthier way to do them, but it also relieved the stress I had around trying to cook 20 of these fritters in a frying pan. I ended up cooking the fritters at 400 degrees for 20 minutes on one side, flipping them and cooking for another 10 minutes and here’s the result:
They were delicious with a little drizzle of lemon, but all by themselves as well. You could taste the flavours of the zucchini, feta and pine nuts, and you could have them either hot or cold.
Falafels are pretty easy to make as well. Essentially you take chick peas, spices, a bit of lemon, garlic, onions and cilantro and whiz them in the food processor until they are the consistency of bread crumbs. You then shape them in rounds the size of golf balls, chill for ½ an hour and then fry them for 5-6 minutes until they are golden brown. You can serve them on thier own, or with some baba ganoush or tahini sauce which is a bit sweet but very yummy. Falafels are often served in pita bread with tomatoes and onions and baba ganoush or hummus. They are fabulous for lunch or dinner.
I make my tabouli with quinoa because of Dennis’ intolerance to gluten. Usually tabouli is made with bulgur so you can replace the quinoa with bulgur if you wish. Tabouli is a moist, light Turkish salad that is a great alternative to rice or potatoes, and the onions, tomatoes, parsley and mint tossed into it create a colourful and savory flavour.
Here’s the recipe:
- ½ cup dry quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 Tbsp. minced fresh mint
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup virgin olive oil
- 2 cups minced fresh parsley
- ¾ cup chopped green onions
- 3 large tomatoes, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly and place in saucepan, add the 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down and let it cook for 12 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir the cooked quinoa, take it off the heat and let it cool.
- Mix the lemon juice, mint salt and pepper in a bowl and slowly stir in the olive oil.
- Pour the dressing over the quinoa and stir it until it is evenly spread.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients until they are thoroughly distributed.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (I know it’s hard to resist tasting it, but the flavour is much better if you let this sit for a few hours).
- Simply have this with some pita bread, or serve it in a salad bowl or as a side dish to fish, chicken or lamb.
Finally the lamb kabobs. Again these are very straight forward and easy to make.
- 1 1/2 lb boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1” cubes
- 2 tsp. finely grated lemon rind
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- Grape tomatoes (small box should do)
- Fresh mint leaves
- 8 Bamboo skewers
- In a large bowl combine lemon zest and spices including salt and pepper and mix.
- Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the spice mixture mix it up and put lamb pieces in the bowl.
- Mix thoroughly until the lamb pieces are covered with the spice and oil mixture.
- Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for an hour.
- 20 minutes or so before you start to cook, place the skewers in luke warm water and let them soak up the water. (this keeps them from burning as you’re cooking the meat)
- Heat barbecue grill to medium-high.
- Thread lamb, mint leaf, and tomatoes on the skewers and continue this pattern until ingredients are used up.
- Grill the kabobs until lamb is medium-rare, 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Serve with lemon wedges and or tzaziki.
Lamb kabobs Baba Ganoush
This was definitely a wonderful collection of exotic flavours and amazing spices. Garlic was definitely included in the dishes so if you have an intimate lunch the day after you eat this food, beware! I work from home, so I don’t have to speak to anyone face to face.
Because of the focus on the main portion of the meal, I thought I’d make a simple dessert of fruit salad. I had some blueberries and raspberries in the freezer so I made them the base and added a mango and a few grapes I had in the fridge. It was a wonderfully simple dessert with an added treat from Gillian of some ginger chocolate chip cookies from her local gluten-free bakery.
Its fun doing a meal like this, the ingredients needed to these dishes are easy to find and purchase. If you are looking for a more adventurous dinner, I challenge you to think Middle East and give your taste buds a thrill!
Until next time… Have a wonderful week and please come back and visit us for another edition of Sunday Night Dinner at Julia’s Place next Monday.