Middle Eastern food at home.
June 3, 2011 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Making Middle Eastern food at home.

Middle Eastern cuisine is one of my favorites, but since I have had to go gluten free I am not able to go out to eat it and I would like to recreate some of those things I love to eat at home. Except I don't know where even to start. Spices, cuts of meat -- no clue.

What are your favorite recipes and techniques?

I have a pita recipe that I'm willing to try, but everything else is on the table. Don't worry if your recipe has gluten -- I am willing to try conversions on stuff that's not as gluten-full as bread.

Some of my favorites are falafel (of course!) and the various kebabs. I still dream of a chicken souvlaki that I ate when I lived in Albuquerque ten years ago. I am not up on the veg options but am willing to learn. Also, any recipes for that lentil soup?
posted by sugarfish to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Tell me where you ate your souvlaki, and I'll do what I can to get the recipe out of them.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:28 AM on June 3, 2011

Pars Diner. Apparently it is still there! (Also, you're awesome.)
posted by sugarfish at 7:30 AM on June 3, 2011

I posted this awhile ago, maybe it will help you too.
posted by LN at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2011

Here's the souvlaki and kofte recipes we use. Hummus is also super easy to make, and there's a ton of recipes out there.
posted by ansate at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2011

I love (love love love) the blog Almost Turkish. So many great ideas; I believe it's written by a Turkish expat living in the US, so the recipes are often adjusted for American ingredients, which is handy. This recipe for a sort of lasagna-y thing with cabbage instead of noodles has me drooling right now.

I'm not a Middle Eastern gourmand by any means, but most of the spices and things in Mediterranean foods are totally simple and ordinary - red pepper, paprika, cumin, garlic, parsley, stuff like that. You can use spice mixtures like Za'atar, but I hardly ever bother.

Oh, I bet you would love kibbeh if you don't already! Here are some nice recipes. I always bake it in a pan or pie plate, much less work.
posted by mskyle at 7:45 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shephered salad (choban salatasi) is the best and so easy to make -- I never have a Mediterranean meal without it! There's a million recipes out there, but the basic is parsley, diced tomatoes, cukes and red onion in olive oil and a bit of cider vinegar and lemon juice. Grate feta on top and stud it with a few black olives. So good.
posted by griphus at 7:46 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

try adding some pomegranite molasses to that dressing
posted by JPD at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a fan of Claudia Roden's cookbooks
posted by pointystick at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have two favorite Persian dishes:

1) Mirza Ghasemi. I posted this recipe on my website, but I have simplified this recipe a lot since then. I chop 1/2 of an eggplant. Saute it with the garlic and olive oil. Chop the (uncooked) tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the pan when the eggplant is golden-ey. Cook the whole mixture for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes cook a little. Then I add the egg and cook until the consistency is right.

2) Khoresh Fesenjan...I use this recipe with sauteed chicken breast (instead of thighs) and no cardamom (so expensive!).
posted by Kronur at 7:52 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like to make this falafel using these bread crumbs.
posted by geekchic at 8:56 AM on June 3, 2011

Laban is super easy. Take some full fat plain yogurt. Get a 1 cup Melitta plastic filter holder. Put filter in it. Place over coffee mug. Fill filter with yogurt. Put in fridge overnight. The top will hold laban, the mug will hold whey (which you can drink, use to preserve meat or make other things with).

To serve, swirl it out on a plate. Eat with lettuce to scoop it up. To fancy it up a bit, put a bit of good olive oil on it, some za'atar (or any spices that make you happy, really), a few good black olives and maybe some turnip pickle.

All gluten-free, too. Very refreshing in hot weather.
posted by QIbHom at 9:32 AM on June 3, 2011

DeDeMed does a variety things really well, and relatively easily.
posted by oflinkey at 9:54 AM on June 3, 2011

When I'm making Middle Eastern food, I like to use kalamata olives instead of the bland canned black olives on most American supermarket shelves. If your market has an olive bar, even better. I also like to use olives that still have the pits in them. Pitted olives sometimes absorb too much brine and become too salty for my taste.
posted by marsha56 at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2011

Hummus is mega easy. Buy a can of chick peas and throw them in the blender with some olive oil, tahini and paprika. impossible to f-up.
posted by cyberdad at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2011

Bulgar is used in a lot of middle eastern recipes. This Chowhound thread recommends substituting millet, teff or quinoa for bulgar.

Here's one of my favorite bulgar recipes: Lemony Bulgar Salad with Olives, Raisins and Pine Nuts.
posted by marsha56 at 11:13 AM on June 3, 2011

My former mother-in-law taught me to make a lovely Palestinian potato salad: boiled potatoes, cut in large chunks, and chopped tomatoes dressed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little chopped parsley. Lovely.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Buy a can of chick peas and throw them in the blender with some olive oil, tahini and paprika.

And lemon juice, garlic and parsley. What are you, a savage?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:18 AM on June 3, 2011 [11 favorites]

Turkish Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper is the #1 best at-home recipe for chicken I've found. My partner and I eat this regularly. We've fed it to all our friends. It's worth it to special order the aleppo pepper. Definitely works on the grill better than in the oven, although we've done both.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2011

I just had thier chicken souvlaki last night. It has a reddish tint, which is different from most souvlakis Ive had. Maybe they are using a more uncommon spice, because the rice it was served on turned yellow, not orange or red. The first thought that came to mind was paprika, but I don't think that was it. Not the right flavor. What about saffron? I think turmeric is more eastern.
posted by annsunny at 1:04 PM on June 3, 2011

I used to make a quinoa tabbouleh for my gluten-free friend all the time. Cook quinoa as you normally would, then combine with finely chopped tomato, salt, tons of curly parsley, some mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and green onion. I also like to add chopped cucumber, some briny olives and feta to mine, but it's strictly a personal preference.

Tzatziki is yogurt (i prefer strained yogurt), chopped cucumber, garlic, dill, salt, olive oil. Other add-ins i've seen are lemon juice and mint.
posted by kerning at 1:12 PM on June 3, 2011

Most things with bulgar can be made with quinoa instead. If you were still here in town I would send you over to Yasmin's Cafe, which has the most amazing falafel I've had in the states. Last time I was in, I buttered them up enough to get the trick: don't chop the chick peas too finely, and make sure the oil is VERY hot when you cook them. Essentially, you want to form the meal just enough to have it hold together in a ball, but don't work it any more than is absolutely necessary. This will make it nice and flaky. It will take practice for them not to fall apart, but they will be worth it. The basic idea is for there to be plenty of air inside the ball.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2011

Do you have an Armenian market nearby? Many sell ready to grill kebab mixes and around here they are far more delicious than I've managed to make myself. Lula Kebab is my favorite.

Here's an article with some grilling tips. Everything tastes better when grilled on the sword things.

If you can find it, I recommend getting some Sumac. I find myself sprinkling it on everything these days. It's easy to crave the sour, bright flavor.
posted by tinamonster at 5:11 PM on June 3, 2011

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