Samarkaand Came To My Kitchen
February 17, 2017 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I was just very, very generously gifted with some Lebanese pantry items. Help me find recipes to use them up!

Through work, I regularly collaborate with about five or six people around the world, and they all came to NYC for a team conference. The guy from Beirut insisted that he wanted to bring me something, and asked me in advance what my hobbies were; when I said that I liked cooking, he said he'd bring me something to cook with. I was expecting maybe one small jar of something, but today, he gave me:

* a bottle of pomegranate molasses
* A big bag of sumac powder
* A big bag of dried wild thyme
* A half-litre of rosewater

Plus a cookbook. I am really eager to play with them, but the sheer amount I got has me a little concerned that I won't use it all up in time and things might go bad. And the things in the cookbook, while delicious-sounding, actually don't use a lot of these particular ingredients.

So I am very much in the market for ideas to use the foodstuffs. (I'm pretty sure rosewater is used in other cuisines, so it doesn't have to be Middle-Eastern as such.) So - suggestions, web site recommendations, cookbooks, you name it; hit me!
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
This recipe for m'sakhan was discussed on an episode of Splendid Table a while back. It uses a half cup of sumac, and hearing it described filled me with greed. Haven't made it myself but Saveur's recipes tend to be well-written IME.
posted by little mouth at 5:48 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can freeze your surplus of sumac and thyme and refill a small shaker as needed. I don't know if pom molasses (a little goes a loooooong way) or rosewater ever go bad, technically, if kept in the fridge.

I use sumac a lot on chicken and fish (it will turn things pink, just be warned) when I want a citrus flavor and not a lot of liquid, like broiling or grilling. It's also good to finish with, and should be sprinkled over hummus before or after a drizzle of good olive oil. Every time I've bought it, even from markets where it should get a lot of turnover, it's been pretty subtle-flavored so you can be heavy-handed with it, but taste yours to see.

Rosewater can be found in lots of Persian recipes, mostly sweets - cake, frosting, ice cream, rice pudding, cookies, candy, faloodeh - and beverages. I've had this carrot jam bookmarked for ages, been meaning to get around to trying it.

I have not found a ton of use for the pomegranate molasses I have, except this brussels sprouts recipe that's the reason I bought it. It's pretty good, even though I never remember to have walnuts on hand. Or labneh. I should do something about that.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:49 PM on February 17, 2017

None of those are going to go bad that quickly.

Make za'atar, obviously, and then make za'atar manaeesh. Grill aubergines and drizzle with yogurt, sumac and a little pom-molasses. Make a sumac/olive oil rub for roast chicken. Sprinkle it on fish that you grill or bake. Make fattoush. Toss thinly-sliced red onions with sumac and leave to marinate a little while, then use them as a condiment for kebabs or sabich or something in that vein.
posted by holgate at 5:50 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here is a very easy way to have awesome healthy lunch/breakfast/dinner/main vegetarian dish whenever you want, with a couple of very simple prep ahead steps:

lentils with za'atar (spoiler: it's bare boiled lentils with za'atar on top)

Gently toast some sesame seeds, combine with thyme and sumac, put in a small jar. That's Za'atar. Find a recipe if you want, but really, just whatever proportions you want (I do about equal, maybe a bit more sesame seeds).

Boil a bunch of lentils. Don't add anything. Freeze half, put the other half in glass containers so you can reheat/eat out of the same container.

Oh, buy a small cruet. I like this one a lot (I have a couple). Put some olive oil in the cruet.

Instant great food:

Put warm cooked lentils in a bowl. Drizzle on some olive oil from the cruet. Generously sprinkle on some za'atar. Fancy!

(People may try to talk you into using chickpeas. Don't fall for it, unless you just love chickpeas. They are not as nutritious and basically become mush; lentils have more protein and, I think, a better texture.)

You can also put za'atar on a lot of other basic things to transform then from "main ingredient" to "complete and interesting dish".
posted by amtho at 6:43 PM on February 17, 2017

Chop watermelon in to chunks, douse with rosewater, sprinkle with chopped roasted pistachios. A lovely summertime dessert/snack, which is always a huge hit at parties. Tastes like Turkish delight, minus the cloying sickly sweetness.
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 6:58 PM on February 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

This recipe for lentil stew with eggplants and pomegranate molasses is good:
posted by yarntheory at 7:10 PM on February 17, 2017

Muhammara is delicious, a hummus-like spread but spicy, and uses pomegranate molasses. i haven't ever made it so can't rec that recipe specifically. But the molasses will last a long time, so a teaspoon here, a teaspoon there, for 8 months or so, and you're done! I also second all the suggestions made so far for other uses of the other ingredients.
posted by holyrood at 7:35 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I put rose water in lots of stuff like chai, custard, and whipped cream. Pom molasses really elevates baba ganoush and is great to drizzle on veggies before roasting.

Also these amazing lamb kebabs:

1/2 lb ground lamb
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp minced onion
2 Tbsp pom molasses

Mix everything and make 6 long, flat meatballs. Grill on skewers or broil for a few minutes per side. Serve on pitas with tzatziki sauce, feta, sliced tomatoes, and sliced red onion.
posted by ananci at 8:36 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

My wife and I literally cooked pomegranate-glazed lamb meatballs last night. It is one of our favorites - a pound of ground lamb, a few other minor ingredients, and then toss 'em in pomegranate molasses after. Recipe says "brush with" but we just dump them in a bowl hot out of the oven, drizzle a bit, swirl to coat, and plate. Fast enough to do after work with no hassle.

We usually serve alongside some version of couscous and cherry tomatoes.
posted by komara at 10:10 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's a strongly-flavored side dish I often eat with breakfast or lunch:

1 can fava beans, drained
1/8 of an onion
2 cloves garlic
3 bird chilis
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
juice of 1/2 a lemon
cumin and salt to taste

Mince onion, garlic, and chilis. Mix all ingredients. Leave to marinate overnight in the fridge. This goes very well with yogurt.

Fesenjon, an Iranian sweet-sour stew, is another tasty dish with pomegranate molasses (as is muhammara, already mentioned above). Don't worry about using it quickly -- pomegranate molasses lasts pretty much forever even at room temperature.

Rosewater is a nice flavor for ice cream or sorbet!
posted by aws17576 at 10:34 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rosewater: Get some fresh berries, sprinkle generously with caster sugar and heat in saucepan until berries *just* start to break down and the sugar has dissolved. Pour in shot of rosewater and cool. Serve over pancakes or icecream. A shot of Framboise or Cointreau is also good with it, but the rosewater really makes it.

Sumac: Slice some red onions very finely into rings, put in a colander and pour boiling water over them until they go a little limp. Drain, turn into bowl and anoint liberally with good extra virgin olive oil and a healthy heap of sumac. Stir until combined and serve alongside fatty meat dishes like roasts or stews.
posted by ninazer0 at 12:09 AM on February 18, 2017

Rosewater - Buy nice vanilla ice cream. Soften it a bit. Stir in some rosewater (a teaspoon per cup of ice cream?) Mix well. Re-freeze. So good.

Rosewater - also good in lemonade and in cocktails.

Pomegranate molasses - look up recipes for Sephardic Haroset. I made some once with apple, dried apricots, chopped toasted pistachios, and pomegranate molasses, and it was a hit at an Ashkenazi Seder.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:25 AM on February 18, 2017

I have no special expertise in this cuisine, but I did just buy more sumac, largely to put on eggs and rice. It's really good on eggs and rice, as is za'atar if you make some per above.
posted by limeonaire at 4:49 AM on February 18, 2017

I've been keeping an eye out for pomegranate molasses so I could make shorbat rumman ever since I saw a recipe for it in The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups.

Rosewater was the flavoring of choice in the late 18th & early 19th centuries in the US. Have a taste of the past by making Amelia Simmons' Apple Pie with rosewater (I'd adapt closer to her recipe--using lemon zest and mace and your favorite pie apples). Or use rosewater instead of vanilla extract in bread pudding, pound cake, or custard.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:16 AM on February 18, 2017

Pomegranate molasses is really delicious in salad dressings. Here's a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette similar to what I make (I would use red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, though). Here's another vinaigrette that looks to be on the sweeter side.
posted by ourobouros at 7:19 AM on February 18, 2017

Fesenjan for using up a good amount of pomegranate molasses. Anytime I have ever introduced Persian food to my friends they have raved about Fesenjan, it is also the meal my grandmother makes if she really wants everyone to come to dinner.
posted by Swisstine at 8:01 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rose water makes a wonderful addition to simple syrup, just add a small amount (maybe one or two teaspoons) to the water when you cook it. You can always add more at the end if you want the flavor more intense. My favorite use for rose simple syrup was blending with plain yogurt and mint and freezing for yogurt pops. I've also used it to moisten a pound cake I over cooked! .
posted by Swisstine at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2017

Have a look at some of the recipes on Yotam Ottolenghi's website. His food is modern Middle-Eastern, and everything of his I've made has been totally delicious.
posted by essexjan at 9:18 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Instant great food:

Put warm cooked lentils in a bowl. Drizzle on some olive oil from the cruet. Generously sprinkle on some za'atar. Fancy!

I am actually eyeing a multi-bean soup recipe from the cookbook this weekend, which calls for "250 grams cooked lentils"; I only have dried, so I was going to cook them all up and just measure out how much I need of the cooked. And this will let me do something with the inevitable leftover, I'm sure!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on February 18, 2017

This salad turned me on to sumac as a stand-alone seasoning:

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

essexjan's Yotam Ottolenghi recommendation is spot-on - that's where this salad came from!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2017

We're big fans of a salad/side of sliced red onions, flat leaf parsley, a ton of sumac and maybe a little olive oil (if the red onion is strong I usually soak the slices in ice water for about five minutes and shake to dry, in this case I would skip the oil since the residual water is enough to get the sumac to stick). A little salt and you're set. Great with grilled or baked meats.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:35 PM on February 18, 2017

Pomegranate molasses goes so well in a marinade for grilled chicken that I had to buy two bottles of it the last time I was at a Mediterranean grocery. My first bottle didn't last long enough.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 1:59 PM on February 19, 2017

I'm going to thank y'all now, but I'm not going to mark this resolved yet because I don't want to stop anyone from making suggestions becuase they think I'm not reading. :-)

Also, the guy from Beirut is still here (I think he's here until tomorrow afternoon) and I am going to try making the za'atar and having that with the leftover lentils for lunch tomorrow so i can tell him what I think. I made a bean soup recipe from the cookbook and he was impressed that I tried something already (not least of which because it was easy enough that I was cooking at 6 am - but it was just beans, water, chopped onions, and some spices, so it was a very good "I'm half awake" thing and I can share the recipe in thanks if you'd like).

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2017

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