Tabbouleh with a Twist

Tabbouleh is an Arabic dish comprised of bulgur and fresh herbs and vegetables. It is served as part of a mezze (Middle Eastern appetizers) and can also accompany many dishes as a refreshing side dish. I decided to give the classic tabbouleh a small twist, by omitting the cucumber and combining it with a salad that my grandmother used to make to accompany heavy meals. The salad included roasted eggplant, parsley, tomatoes, lots of garlic and lemon juice. Combining these two dishes together worked very nicely. The dish has some bright flavors of garlic, lemon and salt, and I love it!

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Ingredients:
1 cup coarse bulgur
2 medium eggplants
2 large tomatoes, diced
6-8 small cloves garlic, minced
½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Juice from 1 large lemon (or 1 ½ if you are me)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt

Preparation:
Place the bulgur in a medium bowl. Cover with boiling water, about 3 inches above the bulgur, and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Drain to remove excess water.

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Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast under the broiler or on the grill. Poke the eggplant with a knife in several places to prevent it from exploding when on the grill. Let the skin get charred, then turn the eggplant 90 degrees and roast until charred. Repeat the process until the eggplants are well charred all around. Remove from the heat and leave on the side to cool.

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When cool enough to handle, scoop out the meat of the eggplants, using a spoon. Chop the meat on a cutting board. I also like to chop a little bit of the charred skin. It adds a great smokey flavor to the eggplant.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix together. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the bulgur to absorb the flavors.

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Cabbage Puff Pastry Roulade

An easy and fun appetizer for a festive meal, that can also serve as a main dish with some salad on the side. This year this appetizer will be part of our Rosh HaShanah table. Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish new year and usually we celebrate it with different edible blessings. One of the main blessings is for us to be the head and not the tail or in other words we are wishing to be leaders and lead by example. The food which symbolizes this blessing is the head of a cow or lamb (cheek meat) and in some communities it is the head of a fish. This year, though, as we turned vegan, we can’t do either, so we decided to be creative and use a head of cabbage. Hence the following recipe. For more about Rosh HaShanah recipes check my Rosh HaShanah Blessings and Recipes.

Wishing a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year to all who celebrate!

Ingredients:
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 tbs oil
½ cabbage head, thinly shredded
12 mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package frozen Puff Pastry sheets (2 sheets)
Sesame/nigella seeds (optional)

Preparation:
In a large saucepan heat the oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the cabbage and keep sautéing, while stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and slightly seared.

Add the mushrooms and the spices and give the dish a good stir.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15-20 minutes, covered, until the cabbage and mushrooms are very soft, and all the liquid evaporated from the pot. If there are liquids left, remove the cover and raise the heat to let all liquid evaporate.

Remove from the heat and set aside.

Defrost the frozen puff pastry at room temperature for about 40 minutes. The dough should be defrosted but cold enough to handle, otherwise it’s too hard to work with.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place one of the pastry sheets on a work surface and roll it out to a rectangle. Place ½ of the chilled cabbage filling in the middle of the sheet lengthwise, to create a cylinder. Fold the short side edges of the dough on top of the filling, then fold the top and the bottom edges, one on top of the other, to close the roulade.

Place the roulade, sim down, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and repeat the process with remaining ingredients.

You may brush the top of the roulades with egg wash and sprinkle sesame or nigella seeds on top.

Bake in the preheated oven until the roulades turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and chill for a few minutes before serving.

Eggplants and Bell Peppers in Vinegar

This dish is a Moroccan salad served as part of a mezze table. It is one of my favorite salads ever! The combination of eggplants (my favorite veggie) and peppers with garlic and vinegar is divine! In our house we eat it as a side dish or on a sandwich. It is best to make it a day before you plan on serving it, to let the flavors combine.

Ingredients:
3 eggplants, cubed
oil spray
4 bell peppers, grilled
5 sprigs parsley, chopped thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons oil
Salt

Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 400F.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with oil spray. Spread the cubes of eggplant on the baking sheet in one layer and spray on top with the oil. You may need more than one baking sheet to accommodate all the eggplant. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is turning golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Peel the grilled peppers, discard of the stem and the seeds, and cut the flesh into ½ inch strips.

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In a large bowl, combine the strips of peppers, roasted eggplant, parsley, garlic, oil, salt and vinegar. Mix well and let sit for a few hours to a day before serving. This salad tastes best the following day, after all flavors are absorbed.

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Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush is a Middle Eastern spread/appetizer that has made fame in the U.S, following its better known relative, the hummus. Baba Ganoush is a spread made from pureed roasted eggplant and tahini paste. In Baba Ganoush, the eggplant is literally burned on the grill, which gives this dish its special smoky, burned, distinctive flavor. You may also grill the eggplant in the oven, but burning them on the grill gives them the burned aroma from the fire, which makes a big difference.

2 medium grilled eggplants
½ cup raw tahini paste
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ – ½ cup water
salt

Use the grilled eggplant when it is at room temperature. Scoop the meat out of the skin onto a cutting board and chop very thinly to a puree consistency.

In a bowl, mix the eggplant puree with the tahini, crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt and ¼ cup water. If the spread is too thick, add a little bit more water and mix well.

I like to add chopped parsley to my Baba Ganoush, for additional brightness.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

This cooked carrot salad is a staple in our home. We eat it as a side dish or as part of a mezze spread (Middle Eastern tapas). It goes very well with meats, eggs, legumes, and Middle Eastern foods.

One of the things I love about this salad is that I can make a large quantity of it, and keep it in the fridge for up to a week (not that it lasts this long…)

To get the full authentic Moroccan cuisine experience, use 1 tbs of chopped pickled lemons (found in Middle Eastern stores) instead of the lemon juice in the recipe.

Ingredients:
8 medium carrots, peeled
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped thinly
6 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp harissa or sriracha
1 tsp ground cumin
salt
Juice from ½ lemon (optional) or 1 tbs pickled lemon

Preparation:
Place the carrots in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until carrots are just tender. Drain and let cool.

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Slice the carrots into ½ inch rings and place in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro or parsley, the crushed garlic, the oil and the rest of the igredients. Stir well and let sit for a few hours, to bring out the flavors.

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The salad tastes even better the next day.

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Tahini – The Middle Eastern Super Food You Want to Get to Know

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One of the staple ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines is tahini – a velvety, earthy paste made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, lecithin and iron, and is high in vitamin E and B1, B2, B5 and B15. It has 20% complete protein, which is more protein than in most nuts.                             

It can be enjoyed either in its raw form or combined with other ingredients to create savory dips, condiments, salads, or desserts.

In it’s raw form, tahini has a consistency that is a little thinner than almond butter. It can be eaten with a spoon or as a spread on a piece of bread. Mixed with some honey or date molasses it yields a halvah-like sweet spread – the Middle Eastern version of peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Halvah, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a Middle Eastern sweet delight made of tahini, usually in the form of large slabs. Persian halvah has a softer, smoother consistency. Basic halvah is made from raw tahini, sugar, and vanilla and can be found in supermarkets and in Middle Eastern stores in the U.S. Some other traditional halvah flavors, such as marble (chocolate swirl), chocolate, and pistachio are mostly found across the Middle East and in some Mediterranean countries. In recent years in Israel, halvah, like many other traditional and local specialties, has become a gourmet item sold in boutique and specialty stores. The number of halvah variations you can find is enormous. Nuts, chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, spices, candies, etc. are just some of the creative variations you may come across. The picture below, showing a large selection of halvah blocks, was taken at a halvah store in the Machaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

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At home, we like to drizzle raw tahini on vanilla ice cream. It makes it taste like halvah ice cream. Another Middle Eastern dessert we love making at home is Halvah Cookies. It’s a real treat saved for special guests.

In the U.S, tahini is known mostly in its savory form, as a Middle Eastern dip that is sometimes combined with Hummus. But good tahini dip doesn’t need the hummus in order to shine. It is delicious on its own and can be served with raw vegetables, or as a savory spread in sandwiches (with or without hummus). It may also be drizzled over cooked meats and veggies. Tahini is also a key player in baba gahnoush spread. In Middle Eastern cooking, tahini is sometimes added to meat, chicken, and vegetable dishes and baked in the oven. Stay tuned for some of my favorite recipes that feature tahini. But in the meantime, here is my recipe for tahini dip

Ingredients:
½ cup raw tahini paste (found in health food or Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocery stores)
Juice from 1 lemon
¼ tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup water

Preparation:
Combine all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, and mix well until a smooth paste is formed. You may also choose to use a blender to mix the ingredients.

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In either case, the consistency should be that of a dip. If the paste is too thick, add more water and stir. If too loose, add a little more of the raw tahini. You can keep the prepared tahini in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. The dip gets thicker the following day and is better used as a spread. If you want to thin it out, add a little bit of water and mix well.

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