Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mediterranean Delight

Since my best friend from growing up just moved back to Chicago, I decided to make her a Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern meal inspired by our favorite Lebanese restaurant in Ohio-the Beirut. If you've been to Toledo, Ohio, then you've definitely been to the Beirut since it's a place where everyone knows your name (and life story).  And on top of its warm atmosphere, it has spectacular food to boot. 

Some of the spices in these dishes are hard to find (like sumac and za'atar), but if you live in Chicago you can buy them at The Spice Market in Old Town. It's quite the destination for an avid cook if you haven't been there already.  

Here is what I served:
Grillled Lamb Meatballs with Apricot, Pine Nut, and Feta Couscous and Fattoush Salad
(recipes after the jump)



Grilled Lamb Meatballs with a Yogurt Cucumber Dipping Sauce:
Servings: 5

1 pound ground lamb
2 heaping tablespoons dry bulgur or brown rice, soaked in 1 cup water until soft (about 30 minutes), then drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, grated and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
*I used paprika and cilantro

1) Mix together everything but the oil with your hands. Form the mixture into ovals about the size and thickness of small hamburger patties.
2) Put the meat on skewers (as shown) and brush it with the oil. Grill or broil the patties for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Alternatively, grill the meatballs in a grill pan (or on a grill) for 4-5 minutes per side, flipping to make sure they don't burn. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 for well done. 
3) Serve with the dipping sauce:

Yogurt Dipping Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt (I use 2% Fage)
1 diced cucumber
1 Tbsp minced parsley
1 pinch each of ground cumin and salt

Stir together all ingredients and set aside. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Couscous, Apricot, and Pine Nut Dressing 
(The recipe calls for bulgur, but I use couscous)
Servings: 8

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup pine nuts (3 1/2 oz)
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups) (I used half an onion)
1 cup coarse bulgur* (I used couscous)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dried apricots (preferably California; 3 oz), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 oz feta, coarsely crumbled (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Sky's additions:
1/2 tsp za'atar
1 squeeze of a lemon

1) Heat oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook pine nuts, stirring constantly, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

2) Add onion to pan, then reduce heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. 

3) Stir in water, apricots, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Add couscous, stir, remove pan from heat, and let stand, covered, about five minutes.  Fluff with a fork and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in nuts, feta, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. I added a 1/2 tsp of za'atar at the end and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Servings: 7


4 teaspoons ground sumac, soaked in 4 teaspoons warm water for 15 minutes

3 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons (or more) pomegranate molasses (I used honey)

2 small garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons (or more) white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried mint 

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt


Combine sumac with soaking liquid, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses, garlic, 2 tsp. vinegar, and dried mint in a small bowl. Gradually add oil, whisking constantly, until well blended. Season with salt; add more lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and vinegar to taste, if desired.


2 8-inch-diameter pita breads, halved, toasted until golden brown, broken into bite-size pieces 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 pound Persian cucumbers, or one 1-pound English hothouse cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

6 scallions, thinly sliced (I only used 2) 

2 Little Gem or baby romaine lettuces, or 1 small head romaine lettuce, trimmed, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch strips (I used 3/4 bag of romaine lettuce)

2 cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves (I did not add this to the salad)

2 cups purslane leaves or additional 3/4-inch-strips romaine lettuce (I didn't bother with this either)

1 cup fresh mint leaves (optional) (I didn't use this)

Ground sumac (optional)


1) Place pita pieces in a medium bowl; pour oil over and toss to coat. Season pita to taste with salt. Toast in a 400 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, turning often until golden brown and crispy. 

2) Mix tomatoes and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. 

3) Add 3/4 of dressing; toss to coat, adding more dressing by tablespoonfuls as needed. Season with salt. 

4) Add pita; toss once. Sprinkle sumac over, if desired.

PC: Cookie Magazine, Gourmet, and Bon Appetit

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