Turkish Salad

In Israel, this salad is known as Turkish salad and is sold in every supermarket under this name. I’m not sure that this salad actually originated in Turkey, since I haven’t found any supporting evidence for it when looking for recipes. However, I don’t know what else to call it, so I’ll just go with the name I know.

We make many different salads at home on a regular basis but Turkish salad wasn’t one of them. For no good reason, really. But we did eat it every time we dined in Middle Eastern grill restaurants in Israel. And my kids loved it. So I decided to look for the recipe and make it at home. As I’m sure you know, as with any recipe, there are so many different versions and I wasn’t sure which one to try. And then I met this Israeli woman who owns a bakery/grocery store in Boca Raton, where I buy really good pita bread. She also makes her own salads, one of them was this Turkish salad. When I asked her how she makes it, she gave me the recipe without hesitation, which I thought was very nice of her. And this is the recipe I use. It tasted pretty good to us, so we stuck with it. It is a salsa-like salad, and is a great accompaniment to main dishes or on sandwiches. We especially enjoy it with good pita bread or a fresh homemade challah. Hope you like it, too.

Ingredients:
4 tbs oil
3 red bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
½ cup water
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup thinly chopped cilantro
½ cup thinly chopped parsley

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the peppers for 3 minutes on medium high heat.

Add the garlic and keep sautéing for 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, mix it in well and cook for 1 minute contently stirring it so that it doesn’t burn.

Add the water and the spices, lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the onion, cook for 2 more minute, then remove the pot from the heat.

Add the cilantro and parsley and mix well.

Z’houg

The fresh aroma of cilantro, robust flavor of garlic, and stinging hot pepper are combined together with spices to create this perfect spicy condiment. Z’houg is the Yemenite version of hot sauce, although it is not exactly a sauce, but rather a paste. It has so much character. Some people even eat it on its own straight from the spoon. My grandfather used to fill a small bowl with Z’houg and eat scallions dipped in it. You can add Z’houg to anything just like you would use any other hot sauce. But there are some dishes that call specifically for Z’houg to compliment them, such as Jachnoun.

You can buy ready-made z’houg in kosher or in Middle Eastern grocery stores (in the refrigerators) or make it at home. Like many ethnic foods, Z’houg has many variations depending on the region, the cook, and so on. The z’houg recipe brought here was passed down to my mother by my Yemenite grandfather (her father), and I learned it from her. I don’t make Z’houg very often as we like to eat many different types of hot sauces. But when I make it, I make sure that I make enough to have some Z’houg in the freezer, so we never run out.

Z'chug veggies

2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
5 large bunches cilantro
3 ½ oz dried red-hot chili peppers (the amount of pepper may be changed depending on their level of spiciness or your level of tolerance)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt

Soak the peppers in boiling water for ½ hour. Discard of the water and remove the stems (if there are any).

Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the garlic cloves, the cilantro and the peppers into a large bowl. Add in the spices and mix well.

Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. The z’houg tastes best when it is fresh. To ensure freshness, divide the z’houg into small portions, keep one container in the fridge and the rest in the freezer in airtight plastic bags.

* Optional – add to the z’houg mixture ¼ tsp ground cardamom and ¼ tsp ground clove, to enrich the flavor.

Z'chug in jar

Preserved Lemons

Recently I’ve been in the mood for everything sour, starting with tart fruit, lemony dishes and desserts, and ending with different kinds of pickles that I devour straight from the jar. And no, I’m not pregnant. If anything, it may have to do with some pre-menopause weirdness. So as part of this crave, I had to make these preserved lemons that I love sooo much. I’m not sure if the recipe originates in Morocco or Tunisia, but I know it is very well loved in both countries, and is a favorite condiment in Israel, where I come from.

These preserved lemons are served as a condiment with meat and fish, in sandwiches, and in salads. You can also use them in cooking. One of the ways I like to use it is in Moroccan Carrot Salad.

lemon ingredients

Ingredients:
8-9 lemons (about 2lb) rinsed well
4 tbs salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Pepper flakes
Sweet paprika
Olive oil

Preparation:
Cut 2 lemons into quarters lengthwise, then slice each quarter into ¼ inch slices. If the lemons have many seeds in them, cut the white film on at the top of the wedge that connects all the membranes, as shown in the picture. This opens the membranes so you can easily remove the seeds.

Place the lemon slices in a pickling jar and press them down using your fist.
Sprinkle on top 1 tbs of salt, 1 sliced clove of garlic, a tiny pinch of pepper flakes, and a small pinch of the paprika.

Repeat the process with the remaining lemons, pressing every two lemons down with your fist and topping them with the spices. Fill the whole jar and make sure the lemons are well pressed. If needed, add more lemons until jar is full.

When the jar is full, top the whole thing with a little bit of olive oil to cover the lemons and ‘seal’ them. This will prevent the lemons from going bad.

Seal the jar with the lid and refrigerate. The lemons will be ready to eat in three days, and will last for up to a month refrigerated.

lemon closed

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

tehini

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.

halvah

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.

tahini making

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.

tahini made