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Middle-Eastern cuisine fresh, fragrant and fascinating
February 21, 2016, 10:38 am
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The Middle Eastern treat of khubz-humus combination, with a dressing of virgin olive oil and fresh herbs, beats any fast food and wins hands down for its simplicity, naturalness, freshness and healthy filling factors. Ingredients such as olives and olive oil, pitas, honey, dates, chickpeas, mint, parsley, figs and much more provide a distinctive taste of the region and make Middle-Eastern dips multifunctional wonders that are worthy of being consumed on their own.

While good food is plentiful in the region and so are its skillful cooks, one does not have to visit specialty restaurants to get a taste of this delicious cuisine. Here is a list of five popular Middle-Eastern dishes that you can easily cook up yourself.

Hummus: 

Blend one can drained garbanzo beans (reserve the liquid), one tablespoon lemon juice, one tablespoon olive oil, one clove garlic crushed, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and two drops sesame oil in a food processor; stream reserved bean liquid into the mixture as it blends until desired consistency is achieved.

Chicken shawarma:

Stir together one clove minced garlic and ½ cup mayonnaise in a small bowl and set aside. Heat two tablespoons unsalted butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir two large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves-cut into bite size pieces in hot butter until white on the outside. Sprinkle with 11/2 teaspoons garam masala, and continue cooking until lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center. Add to pita bread along with garlic mayonnaise, fold and serve.

Arabic fattoush salad:

Heat one tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place two small pita bread pieces into the skillet without crowding. Fry in batches until golden brown and blot dry with paper towels.

Combine one large diced cucumber, three cups halved tomatoes, ½ diced red onion, ¾ cup chopped parsley, ¾ cup chopped fresh mint, two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, one tablespoon fresh lemon juice, one clove garlic crushed, kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste, and ground sumac in a bowl. Gently toss the salad with fried pita pieces. Adjust seasonings as per your taste.

Spread four pita bread rounds with garlic mayonnaise. Divide the chicken among the pitas, and place a pickle spear into each. Fold and serve.

Tabbouleh:

Place one cup cracked wheat in bowl and cover with two cups boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes and then drain and squeeze out the excess water.

In a mixing bowl, combine the wheat, three chopped tomatoes, two cucumbers peeled and chopped, three chopped green onions, three cloves minced garlic, one cup chopped fresh parsley, 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, two teaspoons salt, ½ cup lemon juice, and 2/3 cup olive oil. Toss and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving. Toss again prior to serving.

Shish tawook grilled chicken:

Whisk together ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup vegetable oil, ¾ cup plain yogurt, four cloves minced garlic, two teaspoons tomato paste, 11/2 teaspoons salt, one teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, ¼ teaspoon ground pepper, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom in a large bowl; add 1kg chicken breast halves cut into two inch pieces and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken mixture into a large plastic bag and refrigerate for at least four hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate. Thread the chicken, two onions cut into large chunks, and pepper onto the metal skewers. Cook until the chicken is golden and no longer pink in the center, about five minutes each side. Sprinkle one cup chopped parsley over the skewers and serve.

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