Middle Eastern Side Dishes
January 17, 2014 11:05 PM   Subscribe

I need a really good vegetable side dish. Twist: Middle Eastern.

A friend is coming over tomorrow with homemade falafel. It's been a running thing between us that we both have a great deal of interest in cooking, but this is the first time we will have eaten each other's food. I have been asked to contribute side dishes for dinner; I'd like to do a vegetable in addition to the prerequisite rice to balance out the meal, but many of my staples are not thematically appropriate. Poking around on the usual food blogs gives me a lot of Middle Eastern vegetarian main dishes (which I'd like to avoid) and many vaguely "inspired by" things that don't look particularly exciting. So I draw upon the hive mind: What's your favorite Middle Eastern veggie dish?

What I have: access to time, a fully equipped kitchen, and lots of international markets. A passing familiarity with Morrocan, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian and Israeli food. Decent cooking skills and comprehension. A lot of enthusiasm.

I must win this, Metafilter. The honor my house (well, kitchen!) has been challenged!
posted by WidgetAlley to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Yottam Ottolenghi's recipes are highly influenced by middle eastern cooking. Here is a large collection of vegetable ones.
posted by girlgenius at 11:22 PM on January 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Does it need to be a hot vegetable? Tabbouleh (salad with parsley mint and bulgur wheat), can be delicious.

Otherwise I have fond memories of my grandmother's spinach pies, although I don't have a recipe on hand.

Another great vegetarian side dish, although not a vegetable, is manoush, you can often by the main ingredient, Za'atar ready mixed to which you'd just need to add olive oil.

Stuffed grape leaves are usually filled with a meat and rice mix, but perhaps you could do a vegetarian spin on that.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 11:34 PM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is there anything better in the world than baba ghanoush? Yum!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:34 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Get the frozen chopped leaves (any middle eastern grocery) and serve it over rice!
posted by jbenben at 11:46 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stuffed grape leaves are very easy to find canned without meat, and if you want to do your own it should be easy enough to find a meatless recipe.
posted by Sara C. at 12:01 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second the spinach pies! One of my favorite foods, absolutely delicious. If you're having trouble finding a recipe, maybe try looking for "fatayar." (Also seconding the manoush!).

If salad is OK, fatoosh is very little work and usually a huge hit. Yogurt salads (with tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, etc) are also wonderful but they're more labor intensive.
posted by rue72 at 12:07 AM on January 18, 2014

Carrot salad, dolma and of course tabbouleh.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:18 AM on January 18, 2014

I mean, baba ghanoush, yes?
posted by valkyryn at 12:21 AM on January 18, 2014

My Lebanese husband goes crazy when I make Kousa Mehshi (zucchini stuffed with beef and rice then stewed in tomato juice, use V8). You could also roast up some zucchini in the oven and drizzle it with pomegranate molasses and a smidge of lemon juice.

My favorite is roasted cauliflower tossed in a garlic tahini sauce and shredded basil- ohmygodthisisheaven!! I make at least one head of cauliflower per person when I do this, but maybe that's just our obsession....
posted by PorcineWithMe at 12:40 AM on January 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

posted by Sophie1 at 3:09 AM on January 18, 2014

I am a Turkish cuisine partisan - not a falafel in sight there - but they do amazing things with vegetables in the former Ottoman Empire. Try Binnur's Turkish Cookbook on the web, or this impressive site on Turkish Cuisine.

Most Middle eastern cuisines set out a lot of small plates with different simple salads and appetizers to go with a main dish, called meze. Suggestions? Fattoush is an Arabic salad using dried bread. Mucver are Turkish fried zucchini patties. Also a simple salad of fried eggplant or zucchini cubes drenched in yoghurt with a sprinkle of dill or parsley as a salad. A simple dip of mashing a can of chick peas with garlic and olive oil is a lot simpler than making a hummus. A plate of olives is always good. And a pile of pita bread, lavash flatbread (big flour tortillas will do in a pinch) or Turkish bread if you can get it.
posted by zaelic at 5:47 AM on January 18, 2014

Mutabal with some homemade pita or chapati? Homemade toum is impressive and simple to make, too. (Also, please invite me over.)
posted by VioletU at 6:57 AM on January 18, 2014

Ha, I should have mentioned that I'm already making baba ghanouj and fattoush. But there are a lot of other great suggestions here, thank you all so much! In fact, there are so many that I think I will take up zaelic's suggestion and do a meze.

Please feel free to keep the recipes coming, though, I'll make them all eventually! Yum.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:20 AM on January 18, 2014

Since you're doing fattoush and baba ghanouj and your guest is bringing falafel, I wouldn't add rice as a side. What you need is some lovely authentic pita and some sort of sauce for the falafel. I like tzatziki but I'm a freak - if you make the cauliflower I recommended above, make a little extra tahina to drizzle over the falafel. My ideal falafel sandwich is fresh pita, falafel, salad (here's where your fattoush comes in) and tzatziki all wrapped up- yum!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:45 AM on January 18, 2014

Lebanese green beans (made with tomatoes, onions, and garlic) are wonderful, and have a high proportion of actual vegetable--green beans--rather than starch (garbanzo beans, rice, etc.). Mainly, though, they're delicious. I always order them when they're available at a restaurant, and I had a bunch of them last night.

(I haven't tried this particular recipe, but I wanted to find a recipe for you that had a picture.)
posted by amtho at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I learned amtho's green beans as a Greek dish (fasolakia), but by any name they are just wonderful and would go perfectly with the rest of your dinner: From the Splendid Table.

I don't think the recipe amtho posted would turn out as well, since part of the point of this dish is that the green beans are braised for quite a longer time than we're used to, which is why they're sweet and delicious and unusual. The Splendid Table has great, detailed recipes.
posted by palliser at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not sure if Afghan would count, but if so, you might try kaddo bourani or kaddow bowrani, which is baked pumpkin with garlic-mint yogurt sauce. Many recipes online, I don't have a specific one to recommend. It's simple and delicious.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:14 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Moujadra - here's a decent recipe, although I typically add twice the amount of lentils over rice. Makes excellent leftovers too.
posted by motdiem2 at 10:07 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fool [fava beans] and Hommos are decent additions to a falafel dinner.

Falafel here is usually eaten as a sandwich with pickled cucumbers, pickled turnips, pickled chilli peppers, taratour [a tahini sauce], and parsley.

Seconding a few things that have already been mentioned: Rice isn't usually included with any of these dishes, Tabbouleh goes well with them [although if you're making Fattoush then that works too!]
posted by xqwzts at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2014

My Palestinian ex-mother-in-law used to make a nice potato salad that I haven't seen anywhere else. Boil potatoes until tender, then cool and cut into large chunks. Add cut up tomatoes, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Chill before serving. Simple but delicious.

A good source I've found for Middle Eastern dishes is this site. I particularly like her roasted tomato crostini--just made them again the other day and they're delicious with regular grocery store tomatoes and ricotta. I like to rub a garlic clove on the bread and add some chopped herbs to it before topping it.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 5:21 PM on January 18, 2014

That recipe does look good, palliser! Even the photo in my link is not completely correct, it's true -- the beans are cooked more. Less oil is probably a good idea, too. However, I'd definitely leave out the cayenne unless you're sure everyone will appreciate it. I've never had a spicy version of this dish (one of the reasons I love it so much, and that it's so popular with others, I think).
posted by amtho at 8:49 PM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine a falafel and salad meal that didn't include good pitas and hummus. Ottolenghi's hummus recipe is the best, and foolproof. You say your friend is coming over tomorrow so you don't have time to soak chickpeas overnight, but you can use canned, rinsed and drained, instead of soaked, then do the next steps starting with the frying with baking soda.

Have you ever made homemade pitas? Not hard, you just need an oven that gets properly hot. I don't know where you are, but it is rare to get decent pitas in the USA -- mostly you find those terrible thin leathery abominations -- a good pita is fluffy and soft yet chewy and sturdy enough to contain a fat serving of falafel and salad and hummus all together… so, so so good...
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:10 AM on January 19, 2014

This is one of my favorite recipes. I make it very lemony by including the optional lemon peel. I should say that this is too much lemon for many people, but I love it that way. And it becomes a side salad rather than the main dish if you leave out the smoked chicken, and I always leave it out. Oh, and I forgot to say when posting the recipe earlier, but I always use golden raisins, rather than regular dark raisins.

I got this recipe from an "American" cookbook, but I think almost every ingredient is used extensively in many Middle Eastern cuisines.
posted by marsha56 at 12:05 PM on January 19, 2014

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