Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Virtually No-oil Vegan Middle Eastern Feast

Mujadara and Israeli Salad

This past weekend I hosted a dinner for a friend of my daugther's and her mother. I spent pretty much the whole day in the kitchen (outside of a yoga class and a shower), and while that seems like a lot of time, I think it's worth it because we'll be enjoying the leftovers for days and days. 

The photograph above was taken on day 1 of leftovers. All I needed to do was warm up the Mujadara (lentils and onions) and Loubieh (stewed green beans), and then plate up the rest of the cold food. The toasted pitas keep ridiculously well in a large Ziplock baggie, so if you make some version of this meal, make sure to make a lot of toasted pita.

When I posted the photo onto Facebook and Instagram, I was met with a few requests for the recipes. Hence this blog post. I hope you enjoy.

You certainly don't need to make every single one of these recipes in one day in order to have a beautiful meal. Just pick and choose what looks good to you!

A Virtually No-oil Vegan Middle Eastern Feast Menu
(Where recipes were previously posted on HGK, the recipes are linked here. 
If not linked, the recipe is in this blog post, below.)

Mujadara (lentils and rice)
Israeli Salad
Loubieh (stewed green beans in tomato sauce)
Hummus (make your own using your favorite recipe or purchase some from the grocery store)
Tzatziki (yogurt sauce with cucumbers and herbs)
Toasted Whole Wheat Pita with Za'atar

Transcendent Tabbouleh
Serves 6-8

Traditionally a dish made with olive oil and feta cheese, you will be surprised at how wonderful and refreshing it is without those calorie dense ingredients!

¾ cup bulgur
1 cup boiling water
3 cups finely chopped fresh parsley, either curly or flat leaf or a combination of the two
Heaping ¼ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
Heaping ¼ cup finely chopped scallion
2 plum (Italian) tomatoes, diced small
1 cup small dice cucumber
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Place bulgur in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Seal bowl and let sit until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes. Place all other ingredients into a large bowl. Add cooked bulgur. Toss to combine.

Tip: Letting this dish develop its flavors in the refrigerator overnight won’t hurt it!

Israeli Salad
Makes approximately 6 cups

4-5 Persian cucumbers or 3/4 of a really large English cucumber, diced
2 ½ cups diced firm plum tomatoes (about 3 medium plum tomatoes), diced
¼ cup diced onion (optional)
¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt (or not)

Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and gently stir. Taste and add a tiny sprinkle of salt if necessary.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Loubieh (Braised Green Beans)
serves 6

2 cups yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
½ cup water
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

Dry sauté onions in a heavy pot over medium high heat for about 20 minutes. Add water or veggie stock to pan as needed. Add garlic and sauté another 3-4 minutes.

Add tomatoes and juices and cook for 3 more minutes. Add green bean, maple syrup and enough water to cover beans (about 1/2 cup).

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Taste and season with salt (or not) and pepper). Remove from heat and let cool before refrigerating. 

Best if served the next day at room temperature.
Toasted Whole Wheat Pita with Za'atar
1 bag of whole wheat pita
Za'atar (see below)
coconut or olive oil spray

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Using a knife to cut each pita around the edge, separate all pitas into two rounds. Place each pita half inside up onto cookie sheets. Lightly spray each inside surface (which is facing up) of each pita half with oil and then sprinkle with Za'atar.

Place cookie sheets in oven for four minutes. After four minutes, rotate and turn the cookie sheets. Bake for an additional four minutes or until the pita is crispy, crunch like a cracker. Watch that they do not burn, because this can happen if you are not careful!

I prefer to get my Za'atar from the market in Jerusalem, but that's not always an option! When I run out of that Za'atar, the one that makes my heart sing, I can either get some from Penzey's or make it myself. It doesn't exactly compare to the authentic stuff that is sold in the Middle East, but sometimes it just has to do. 

1/4 cup sumac (Penzey's carries this, as well as Za'atar if you don't want to make it yourself)
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Grind the sesame seeds in food processor or with mortar and pestle. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Store za'atar in a cool, dark place in a plastic zip bag or in an airtight container. When stored properly, za'atar can be used for at least 6 months.

Do you ever throw down in the kitchen, just for the hell of it? What's your favorite master meal to prepare?

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