Caper and Scallion Spread

The recipe is based on a traditional Lenten (vegan) meze from the island of Tinos. Serve as an appetizer with fresh, crusty bread or toasts, or use as dressing for steamed potatoes, cauliflower or even toss with pasta for a cold summer dish. The quality of capers plays a very important role, of course, so I wouldn’t suggest you make it with the cheap, jarred capers you get from any supermarket. Greek, or Sicilian salt-packed capersare the best choice.

CAPER-spread_430

Serves 8-10 as an appetizer (more…)

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Za’tar, the spice blend

I heard that in the old days, Lebanese schoolchildren ate warm pita bread spread with a mixture of za’tar and olive oil before leaving home on exam days. People believe that the fragrant spice, herb and sesame mixture gives strength and clears the mind. The sweet flavor of toasted sesame seeds is wonderfully complemented by the red, sour-tart sumac in this classic Arab spice blend. There are many version of the spice mixture throughout the Middle East:The green Lebanese za’tar consists of toasted sesame seeds mixed with just the local herb za’tar and sumac. In Syria the gold-colored blend may have more spices –cumin, paprica, caraway, fennel seeds etc.

Oil--Zaatar

The particular kind of Syrian or Lebanese thyme –za’tar in Arabic — is different from the Greek or the European common thyme, or the hyssop that you will see listed in some recipes for the spice mixture. As the particular kind of Middle Eastern herb is not readily available, I prefer to use a combination of dried thyme and savory. But as with all spice mixtures, the ingredients and proportions are a matter of taste, so feel free to experiment with the variations, additions and substitutions that you prefer. (more…)

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Zhug, Hot Yemenite Sauce

This is my version of the sauce, from my book Mediterranean Hot and Spicy

Zhug was brought to Israel by Yemenite Jews and is now the hot condiment of choice in Israel.  You will find zhug (also called z’ houg)  made with green or red chilies in falafel stands and in the kebab restaurants that serve shawarma –vertically skewered pieces of meat– accompanied by many different salads, spreads, relishes, and freshly baked pita bread. Zhug is made with fresh chilies, garlic and coriander, cardamom and other spices.  It is usually very hot, so you should start with a small amount.  Mixed with soaked and ground fenugreek, it becomes Hilbeh.  I prefer to make my zhug with green chilies, to distinguish it from the other red hot sauces of Eastern Mediterranean.

fenugreek
Photo by zoyachubby

OTHER USES:You can add a little Zhug to soups, pasta, and bean dishes, besides  serving it as a condiment with Falafel or any fried vegetable slices.  To make a delicious low-fat sauce or dip for vegetables, mix it with reduced or nonfat Greek yogurt. (more…)

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Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes, Peppers and Onions

2-3 pounds firm green tomatoes, large or small
1 large or 2 medium onions, quartered or cut into 8 pieces
4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
3-4 bell peppers, red or green, seeded and each cut into 6 long pieces
3-4 fresh or dried chilies, halved lengthwise with scissors but left attached at the stem
4 bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons coarsely crushed coriander seeds

The Brine:
1 quart white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons salt
2 cinnamon sticks

299
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