Israeli Salad, Celery SaladLamb KofteTable with Persian Eggplant and other Salads
Fall is a wonderful time to enjoy planning and eating meals with heartier, earthier tastes, more complex spices, and lengthier preparations that still take advantage of the relatively wide array of vegetables in the markets. The other thing about this menu that is worth noting, is that it does not use terribly expensive or arcane ingredients, and though it is very tasty, its not too spicy, and it will produce very tasty leftovers.
I love making dinners that are very veggie based, with lots of small plates that allow personalizing by taste/predilection of my guests. In this kind of spread vegetarians can be as happy as carnivores, and depending on your time, talents, and the availability of take-out, this menu outline can suit cooks of all levels. Supplement with bowls of homemade or store-bought hummus, tahina, babaganoush, olives, stuffed grape leaves, harissa, and lots of fresh pita. If you really feel energetic, consider making the super-duper easy homemade pita at the end of the post.
A wonderful addition to this meal is the famous chicken, pomegranate, walnut dish that is a classic of the Persian kitchen Koresht Fesenjen here.
The first thing to do is take stock of your fridge. Pull out all those veggies and plan your salads around what you have. Onions, mushrooms, beans, rice, carrots, celery, squash, whatever–
then choose from the salads below depending on what you have. The more fresh herbs the better, as far as I am concerned- you will definitely want big bunches of parsley, cilantro, mint, chives etc…
Use the internet or a cookbook to enhance the selection below. This one is an all-time favorite of mine:
Claudia Roden, A New Book of Middle Eastern Food
The recipes below are just the framework. you can add or subtract any number of dishes, this is the basis of a REALLY GREAT potluck, have your friends bring any tabouli, quinoa, rice salad, or potato salad they want.
MORROCCAN CARROT SALAD
Wash and grate 4-5 large carrots into a mixing bowl. Mix in slivered black olives, and chives or cilantro.
Wash lemon, and grate the yellow part of the rind into the salad. Then squeeze the juice into the mixture. (Did you know that if you microwave a lemon for about 20 seconds, it makes it easier to juice? Ditto, roll it on the counter with the palm of your hand). Add in the olive oil, and about 1/2 tsp cumin (more if you love cumin) and salt and pepper.
- You can also add in grated radish for a spicier touch
- sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of honey or agave syrup and some raisins if you like a sweeter version
- mix in a can of chick peas, rinsed if you suddenly have extra guests
PERSIAN EGGPLANT- serves 4 Adapted from Marcella Hazan
This one takes a little bit of time, and clean-up, but they are so delicious, it really is worth it.
The process of slicing, salting, soaking, and rinsing is the key to success. The bigger the eggplant you use, the more benefit you will derive from the process. If you can find tiny, tangerine-sized eggplants, you can skip this step, and just fry the thin slices.
2 medium eggplants
Olive oil, (not Extra-Virgin) enough to come up a 1/2 inch on the side of a pan, plus refills if necessary
Fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
Fresh parsley chopped
2 lemons, sliced thinly
1. slice eggplants into 1/4-inch rounds. Layer the slices in a colander salting each layer liberally. Put paper towels between layers. Put in the sink let stand for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse the slices to remove excess salt, and put onto a kitchen towel and dry very well. You will notice that the eggplants are kind of leathery, or papery.
2. Put oil to a large skillet to come up a 1/2 inch on the side of the pan. Don’t let the amount of oil scare you. Cooked at the right temperature, the eggplant will absorb very little of the oil. Turn the heat to high and as the oil is heating,
3. When the oil is hot (read: immediate sizzle and bubble when you dip in a slice), slide eggplant slices in a couple at a time, in a single layer, not too crowded. Brown gently on both sides, turning as necessary and transfer to brown paper grocery bags to drain as they are done.
4. When cool layer decoratively on platter, sprinkle with chopped garlic and parsley, coarse salt, and intersperse with thinly sliced lemon.
5. Cover and keep at room temperature to preserve crispness. Can do several hours ahead.
LAMB KOFTAThese yummy bites will be familiar to anyone who has travelled in the middle east. There are many variations, and you can make them as spicy as you like by increasing the measurements of the spices. You can nestle them in pita (like falafel) and garnish with salad, tahini, or tsadziki. I like them with a good dose of spicy Harissa. This recipe makes enough for 4 if you have a lot of side dishes. You can also do it with ground turkey.
1 pound ground lamb
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 pinch cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or 1/2 tsp harissa
4 tbsp cilantro or parsley chopped plus more for garnish if desired
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mint
1 lemon cut into wedges
Mix the lamb in a large bowl with the onion, garlic, spices and cilantro and season well with salt and pepper. Mix well, until they are very soft, and the seasonings are well incorporated.
Shape walnut size lumps into oval shapes (if you will be grilling them, shape around small skewers) and arrange on broiler pan or plate. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. The mixture will firm up when chilled.
The kofta can then be broiled, grilled, or pan-fried in a bit of olive oil until done, about 12 minutes.
Arrange koftas on plate. Scatter with the mint and serve with the lemon wedges and your choice of accompaniments.
note: If you can find it at your local market a good shortcut is available: Sadaf Kabob Seasoning
You can order it online, (as well as an amazing array of ethnic delights) from Kalustyan’s, one of my absolute favorite markets. If you are in the NYC area you HAVE to go there sometime.
Ok. Now for the
EASY HOMEMADE PITA
2-1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for sprinkling while kneading
2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1 packet yeast or 2 tsp. (bread machine yeast or saf is best)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
8-inch squares of aluminum foil for baking
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500°.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
If not using immediately, stack and wrap them in a large piece of foil. This will keep the dough soft while the tops fall, leaving a pocket in the center.
To reheat, stack several in a pile, wrap with foil, and place in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.