Monday, October 29, 2007

A Middle Eastern Fare

by Priyanka posted at 12:03 AM 14 comments

From Left to Right: Kalamata Olives, Tabouleh, Baba Ghanouj, Kalamata olives Tapenade, Hummus, Pita Bread, Center: Falafel

Umm Ali !!! (with some Vanilla icecream)

Blog-hopping is a wonderful thing because it provides you with an opportunity to learn so many new things and in the world of cooking its akin to a treasure cove. A discovery to a magical land or so i felt when i chanced upon Nupur's recipes for Hummus and Kibbeh and Sia's Green and Red Thai curry. Its been days since i cooked anything other than Indian cuisine. Since we moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL , we have been scouting for places to eat out. However, sadly enough, for food lovers like us, there are hardly any options- be it Indian or any other cuisine for that matter. So, when i came across two of my favorite cuisines, it inspired me to roll up my sleeves, don the apron and try them out over the weekend. I didnt get a chance to cook Thai this week because, not the exams (this is the first week in 3 months that i can breathe normally), but because i was just lazing around, enjoying the peaceful respite. But the Middle Eastern meal that i cooked more than makes up for it.

Middle eastern cuisine comprises of food from various countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Greece (partly), Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan and many others. Recipes for most of these cuisines are mostly similar except for one or two ingredients.

You will need a good food processor for most of these recipes.

Baba Ghanouj (literally means Father's nose)


1 eggplant
1 tablespoon (tbsp) Tahini paste*
1 tbsp Lime juice (freshly squeezed)
2-3 cloves garlic (finely minced)
Salt to taste
1 tsp olive oil
parsely for garnish

* Tahini paste is a key ingredient- If you cant get it at a grocery store (i got mine from Whole Foods), you can make it at home by toasting white sesame seeds (1-1/2 cup) for 5-10 min in the oven at 350 F- do not let them turn brown. Cool and add 2-3 tbsp olive oil and put it through a food processor to get a smooth paste mixture. Add more olive oil as required to get a pourable yet thick consistency. Will yield 1 cup tahini. This lasts in the fridge for several months.

1. Roast the eggplant over medium flame till the outer skin is charred yet soft on the inside and the oil oozes out. Alternatively, you could also broil the eggplant by making holes into the eggplant with a fork and cooking it in the oven (preheated) for 20 minutes at 350 degree F. However the roasted one tastes better and lends a more smoky flavor to the dish. (Initially when i had P taste it, he didnt care much for the smoky taste, but when he had it with the freshly baked warm pitas straight from the oven, he changed his opinion. Whether to broil or roast the eggplant, depends on your taste.)
2. Cool the eggplant, and remove the outer charred skin. Scoop out the seeds from inside. (you will get 1/2 cupful from a small eggplant and 1 cupful from a big one)
3. Mix the eggplant, minced garlic, salt, lime juice and tahini and put it through a food processor till it is finely blended.
4. Add the olive oil and process it once more. Garnish with parsely.
5. Serve with warm pita.

***There are many variations to this recipe. The quantity of olive oil and garlic depends on your taste. Some people also add cumin powder and paprika, but we like ours just plain. In some cuisines, the tahini is also omitted.***

Pita bread

I got the recipe for the pitas from the following website and i modified it a little to suit the ingredients that i had on hand

You can always get readymade pitas but the joy of relishing a warm pita straight from the oven is just heavenly. The pitas that i made are part wheat and all-purpose flour. Next time i am going to try out the whole wheat pitas.

Makes 10 pitas


1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup warm water (105–115°F)

2 cups all-purpose flour,

1 cup whole-wheat flour

3 tbsp olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water (1/4th cup) (as per the package directions). Add 1 tsp sugar to foam the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. If the yeast mixture doubles in quantity, it means that the yeast is active. Simultaneously preheat oven at 500 F.

2. Mix both the flours , add the salt and olive oil and mix. Add 1/2-1 cup of this mixture to the yeast mixture and mix finely in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/4th cup of water, and keep on adding the flour and kneading the mixture till it all comes together in a dough. Coat with some olive oil and place aside for 1 hour till it doubles up in size.

3. Make small balls out of it (by dividing it into 10 equal parts) and roll it out on a flat surface with a rolling pin to get 7 " of round pitas.

4. Place the pitas on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 2-4 minutes, turning it over when it browns a little. You can also place it on the oven rack after the pitas puff up and remove them after they when they turn golden brown.

5. Drizzle some olive oil or butter and serve.



1/2 cup freshly chopped parsely

2 tbsp finely chopped mint

1 big tomato

1/2 cup bulghur (presoaked for 2 hours)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lime juice (freshly squeezed)

salt to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients together and serve as a side dish/salad.


Makes 24 pieces of falafel


2 cans chickpeas

1/2 big onion (finely chopped)

1/4th cup sesame seeds

1/4th cup presoaked bulghur

1/2 cup parsely

1/2 cup coriander

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp lime juice

1-1/2 tbsp crushed hot red pepper

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 tsp baking powder

4-6 tbsp all purpose flour

2 tbsp gram flour/besan

salt to taste

1. Put the chickpeas and the onions through the food processor. Add just a little water (3-4 tbsp).

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and again put through the food processor till all the ingredients are properly mashed and mixed (the mixture shouldnt resemble a puree). The mixture should be firm, and dry to be able to be moulded into small balls.

3. Heat oil in a wok at 350 degrees and when its hot enough, fry the balls - a couple of them at a time till they turn brown.

4. Remove and serve with tahini or Harissa hot sauce or hummus dip.



1-1/2 cup precooked chickpeas

2-3 cloves garlic

4 tbsp tahini

4 tbsp lime juice

salt to taste

2 tbsp olive oil

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight or atleast 4 hours prior to cooking. Add 1-2 cups of additional water and cook the chickpeas on medium flame (for 1-1/2 hour) till they can be smashed easily with the spoon. (remove the white froth that floats up while boiling)

2. Cool the chickpeas.

3. Add the garlic, tahini and salt to the chickpeas and put them through a food processor till you get a thick paste like mixture. Add a little water if its too dry.

4. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil and serve with the pita.

***There are many variations to this recipe- you can also make a garlic or a olive hummus dip by adding the ingredients of your choice to the mixture above. The quantity of olive oil and garlic depends on your taste. Some people also add cumin powder and paprika, but we like ours just plain.***

Kalamata olive tapenade

I found the recipe for this online here and made it verbatim and i must say that it is just awesome. I decided to try it out because i had this dip at one of the restaurants in downtown and just loved it. However i couldnt get P to even try it out (since he doesnt care for olives in any form)


1 cup pitted kalamata olives

1 cup pine nuts

3 garlic cloves

1-2 cup fresh parsley

2 tbsp olive oil

ground black pepper

1. Mix all the ingredients and put them through the food processor till you get a thoroughly mixed mixture. Serve as a side dish or with pita.

Umm Ali

This Egyptian dessert (equivalent to the American bread pudding) is pure bliss- one of the easiest, yummiest desserts that is sure to appease your palate.

1/2 pack frozen puff pastry (8 ounces)

1 can sweeetened condensed milk (14 ounce)

1 cup whipping cream

1/4th cup almonds

1/4th cup pistachios

1/4th cup raisins

1/4th cup coconut flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and place three sheets of the frozen puff pastry on a baking tray and cook till they turn golden brown.

2. Remove and cut into further smaller pieces. In the same baking tray, add in the nuts, coconut and condensed milk. Top it with the whipping cream and bake at 400F for 20 minutes.

3. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla icecream.

Comments 14 comments
Sirisha Kilambi said...

Thanks for all the recipes Priyanka.......They all are very useful....Lovely pics too dear :-)

Rachna said...

wow priyanka ... u r so talented...loved yur whole platter an wanna try each and every dish....

Asha said...

Great post Priyanka. I baked Um Ali at Aroma, have you seen it: We loved it. Great Arabi thali, yum! Wish somebody hosts International cooking event, so we can cook from other countries too!:))

Tee said...

Wow! how much time did you spend making all this? :) Looks amazing and middle eastern cuisine is my favorite...wish i can just take this off from the screen :)

Tee said...

Hey Priyanka,
send a mail at this address withthe URl of our blog and let them know that you want to be part of FBD. That should be sufficient :)
Hope this helps.

sagari said...

looks greattttttt thanks for the new recipes

TBC said...

Wow! You made all that!
Very nice:-)

Sandeepa said...

Wow your MIddle eastern spread looks very authentic.

Richa said...

wow priyanka, kay jabardast menu ahey :) all the dishes look lovely, u sure r one enthusiastic cook :) falafel looks yum and u made the pitas urself, wowieeee !! jevayla yeooo ka ;)

Shweta said...

What a mouth watering platter! I am inspired :)

Mishmash ! said...

What a spread!! Can imagine all that effort gone behind this meal. Hats off to you ! and Umm ali...heavely isn't it, I tried it from Asha's blog :)


vimmi said...


Hi Priyanka,

Everything looks so amazing. Will try on some of the things soon. U seem to have put in a lot of effort. Thanks a lot.


Sia said...

what a wonderful spread priyanka... i am floored... donno which one to choose from:)
glad to know my thai curries are next in line. i hope u enjoy them as much as we do:)

Roopa said...

wow what a spread :)!loved all of them i am flat at tha unique spread!

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