Who doesn’t love grilled chicken on a stick? A little while ago I tried the Greek version, Chicken Kalamaki, and I was sold on grilled chicken marinated with Mediterranean ingredients. This time I wanted to explore Lebanese grilled chicken, or “Shish Taouk,” which is first marinated in a blend of yogurt, tomato paste, herbs and spices, garlic and lemon juice. The combination sounded amazing and I figured it would go well with the Hummus and Tabouleh I had already prepared. The chicken smelled so good while it was grilling and the outside started to caramelize nicely from the tomato paste. I used pita bread as the vehicle to serve all 3 foods (dab pita in the hummus + a scoop of tabouleh + piece of chicken on top= heaven!) Everything worked so well together and it was a great way to celebrate the end of summer.
Tabouleh is a Mediterranean salad made with fresh herbs, tomatoes, lemon juice and Bulgur wheat. It’s a traditional side dish in Lebanese cooking and it makes a perfect partner for hummus and pita. Lebanese recipes don’t use a lot of the bulgur wheat, so I didn’t really make it in the most traditional way as I wanted a more hearty side dish. If you want to make it more traditional, just use half of the bulgur wheat and think of it more as a garnish than as a main part of the salad. I loved the flavor of the fresh herbs, tomatoes, garlic and lemon juice all mixed together. It tasted great with the hummus, so I will definitely make these again sometime!
Hummus is one of those foods that is easy to pick up at a grocery store and not really give it a second thought. That’s what I did for a long time until I decided to explore Lebanese food a little more. Years ago, my family would get take-out from a local Lebanese deli and since then I have loved that food. Since I had been craving Lebanese food I decided to make my own version of the deli’s menu.
Hummus is so simple; I couldn’t believe I had never made it before! All you need is a blender or food processor, 2 cans of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Tahini is just a paste of ground sesame seeds and can be found at asian stores or whole foods. Now that I have made hummus it would be tough to go back to store-bought!
Coppa is an Italian cured meat made from thinly sliced pork shoulder. It is a perfect meat for sandwiches and goes well with melted cheese (then again what doesn’t?) I thought the tangy, Spanish Manchego cheese would go nicely with the flavors of the coppa. I read online that coppa is usually seasoned with white wine before curing so I marinated the tomatoes in white wine, then roasted them in the oven. I patted down the tomatoes a bit so that any wine vapor wouldn’t make the oven catch fire! The result was a wine infused roasted tomato and a fire-free kitchen. On top of the roasted tomatoes I added a layer of basil and grilled it all together. I really liked the sourdough bread with the slightly sour/tangy manchego. The roasted tomatoes provided sweet acidity and the pork was flavorful and a little smoky. All the ingredients were nicely balanced and it was an all around tasty sandwich!
Eggplant has become a recent favorite food over the last 2 years. Before that I just never gave it a second thought. It’s an under rated vegetable and that might be due to the trickiness of cooking it. There’s acid in eggplant so it’s good to press some of the juice out to remove the bitterness. Grilling eggplant is one of the best ways to cook it just because it chars the eggplant and gives it a smokier flavor. I chose some roasted tomato slices to compliment the eggplant along with fresh mozzarella and olive tapenade. The roasted tomatoes were especially good because they are in between fresh and sun-dried. The tomato is concentrated like a sun-dried tomato but it remains just juicy enough to eat on a sandwich. It was so good! I really liked all the flavors together and I will definitely make this again.
I had the idea of using couscous in a warm Greek salad for a while now. I decided on Israeli couscous just because the pasta is larger and works better as a salad. The recipe reminded me a lot of the Lebanese Tabbouleh, though the flavors are definitely grounded in Greek cuisine. The recipe resembles a classic Greek salad as it contains olives, lemon juice, feta cheese, tomatoes and red onions. What gives the recipe a twist is that the salad is warm and the onions and tomatoes are lightly sauteed. The result was a delicious side dish that was great with the Chicken Kalamaki.
Kalamaki (or Souvlaki) is a Greek food that can be made with chicken, beef or vegetables. The meat is marinated and grilled on a skewer. I marinated the chicken in lemon, yogurt and oregano for a few hours before grilling. It was a simple marinade of fresh ingredients that went really well with the flavors of the grilled chicken. Putting the chicken on a skewer is optional but it does end up being more fun to eat.
I have a lot of preserved lemons now that they are ready to use. I thought that a nice pasta dish would taste great with those lemons and this is what I came up with. It came out pretty well and all the flavors tasted good together. The sun-dried tomatoes, lemons, olives, and capers were delicious. I was originally going to use diced tomatoes but when John suggested sun-dried tomatoes I had to try it. I didn’t add any cheese but I think this recipe would be great with a little feta or parmesan on top.
In keeping with my love affair with quick breads, I adapted a recipe for olive bread from The Joy of Cooking. I wanted to try a light, savory quick bread that wasn’t too sweet and this seemed like the perfect recipe for that. The original recipe was pretty simple, so I added some new ingredients to amp up the flavors. The new ingredients (the garlic, oregano, and parmesan) worked really well with the standard ones. The texture of the bread was great–very soft and crumbly. I bet this bread would be good if it were made with yeast too. I might make a version of it again in the future!
Lasagna is a great staple dinner but I wanted to experiment a bit with the ingredients. Instead of using ricotta cheese I used a Bechamel sauce with goat cheese and feta. Bechamel is a white sauce made from milk, cheese, and butter. The goat cheese and feta added a tangy flavor that was good with the roasted red peppers. This recipe was very unique and it was a lot of fun to make and the results were great. Lasagna takes forever (about 2 1/2-3 hours) to prepare and cook so take some time to try this one out.