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Middle East Feast

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Posted by Mariah | Posted in Appetizers & Sides, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas | Posted on 25-10-2009

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Feast your eyes on the feasting table.

Feast your eyes on the feasting table.

Middle Eastern food is one of my absolute favorite cuisines, so it was important to me to make sure my kids liked it from day one. We make homemade hummus here on a fairly regular basis and use pitas for everything from pizzas to sandwiches. However, this post is focused on several recipes and ideas that you can use to create a full-on Middle Eastern feast!

The basis of this particular feast is chickpeas, of course! I received some sprouted chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans, from my friend, Cara Ullrich. Cara works at Roots Market, and is a bona fide food guru. She explained to me that sprouted garbanzos contain much more protein and nutrients than your average canned variety, and are also much more flavorful — and she was absolutely right! These beans made some of the tastiest hummus I’ve had to date! NOTE: If you can sprout your own garbanzos, I highly encourage it. However, you can used dried or canned garbanzo beans to make the hummus included in this post.

The next item on the feast menu is falafel. I’m seriously CRAZY about falafel. In fact, I had some leftover from the feast and I ate with some Sriracha sauce for breakfast (but I seriously never eat anything considered “normal” for breakfast).

Unfried falafel patty.

Unfried falafel patty.

Falafel is a fried ball or patty made from spiced chickpeas and/or fava beans. Wikipedia tells us this is a popular fast food in the Middle East and I so wish this were the case here (although they do serve some great falafel at the Pita King in Waterloo). You can make your own homemade falafel, but this takes time.

Instant falafel -- just add water!

Instant falafel -- just add water!

For my personal feast, I opted to use the Fantastic Foods boxed mix, simply because it’s easy and delicious. If you want to make your own falafel from scratch, here’s an excellent recipe from Epicurious.

Now, onto the fun part — the tzatziki sauce! My version of this is probably not technically tzatziki, but I’ve found a combination of flavors and textures that everyone in the family, especially Chris, loves. My sauce is pretty simple — just Fage Greek yogurt, green onions, fresh lemon juice and a little garlic powder. Chris literally ate every bite of the batch I made and practically liked the serving dish!

So, how do we serve all of this stuff? Creatively. I will be blatantly honest right now and say that the kids aren’t big fans of falafel. This is really frustrating to me, since it IS a version of fast food, is brown and fried and very nearly resembles a chicken nugget. So, I tuck these little critters neatly inside a warm pita, add some fresh spinach and slather lots of tzatziki and hummus all over it. The kids can have more hummus, tzatziki and pitas after they try their sandwiches.

As for mom and dad, we make several different types of mini sandwiches out of our pitas — falafel/tzatziki, hummus/chili garlic sauce, falafel/tzatziki/hummus/chili garlic sauce.

Because this post contains so many recipes, I have created individual pages for each and linked to them below. For the falafel, either follow the recipe above or buy the Fantastic Foods mix! Even if you don’t make the feast all at once, I encourage you to try at least one of these recipes and introduce this delicious and nutritious cuisine to your family.

Our friends, falafel and pita, waiting to be slathered in tzatziki and hummus.

Our friends, falafel and pita, waiting to be slathered in tzatziki and hummus.

Middle East Feast Menu

1 package whole wheat pita (you can make these into pita chips as well)
1 package Fantastic Foods falafel mix
1 large bunch or bag of fresh spinach
kalmata hummus recipe
tzatziki sauce recipe
Sriracha or chili garlic sauce to taste :)

Kalmata Hummus

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Posted by Mariah | Posted in 21-Day-Adventure Cleanse, Appetizers & Sides, Meal Ideas | Posted on 25-10-2009

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DSC02173If you love olives, you will love this hummus recipe, plain and simple. This is my newest spicy/salty creation, taste tested by coworkers to rave reviews!

I’ve been making hummus for 15 years and I never make it the same way twice. However, this recipe was inspired by my hubby’s cousin, Margaret Buckton, who uses kalmata olives in her hummus to utmost deliciousness. So, I followed her basic recipe and added some fresh cilantro and parsley for good measure. Tahini is an absolute must in any hummus recipe and can be found in local natural or organic food stores everywhere. I always buy mine organic and unsalted, but any old tahini will do!

Tip: My kids love hummus (eat it with a spoon) but it’s an acquired taste. Skip the pepper in this recipe if making it for the kiddos.

NOTE: Serve this hummus as part of the Middle East Feast!

Ingredients:

1 can garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup kalmata olives (seedless)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. cumin
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 red chile pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. fresh parsley
Sea or kosher salt to taste
1 glug olive oil

For “Plain” Hummus:

Omit the kalmata olives, chile,  pepper, cilantro and parsley above.

DSC02171

Directions:

1. Drain beans and save the “juice.”

2. Measure above ingredients into food processor, with the exception of the garbanzo bean juice, salt and olive oil.

3. Process and add garbanzo bean juice a little at a time, until you reach a smooth consistency.

4. Add olive oil.

5. Taste and then add sea salt to taste, 1/4 tsp. at a time.

6. Chill and serve with veggies, pita chips, tortilla chips and possibly even a little plain goat cheese or feta!