Monday, February 16, 2009

A Middle Eastern FEAST

We have made a Valentine's Day tradition of having a exquisite meal in celebration of one another. Last year we had a Divine Italian meal. This year we decided on a Middle Eastern menu. Falafel with tzatziki in homemade pitas, hummus with crostini and store bought chili olives, baklava, and of course chocolate covered strawberries.

This was my second run at hummus and find that homemade is much better and more healthy than store bought. Cheaper too! As I've mentioned a few times in this blog I am a big fan of garlic. I added ALOT of garlic to my hummus and my husband commented that it may have been overload. I don't even know how one can use garlic and overload in a sentence. Doesn't make sense to me.

I wasn't sure how the pitas would come out. The dough is very simple and was trying to figure out how they would split themselves. I never figured it out. They just do. The puff right up in the 450 degree oven. These were ridiculously good. When possible I'd prefer to make them from scratch rather than buy them. They are so much better than the store bought kind.

The falafel was also crazy good. Very easy to mix together in the food processor. We topped ours with tzatziki (Greek yogurt, garlic, shredded cucumber, and a bit of S&P), onions, and tomatoes all stuffed into a pita. I honestly think this was one of the best main dishes to ever be created in my kitchen. I melted just a bit on my floor.

The baklava came out pretty good. Working with phyllo dough isn't my favorite thing to do. The recipe asks you to butter every two layers and of course they tear and split. The part I found the best of the finished product is the buttery bottom layers so I guess it was worth it. I probably won't make this too often but if in need of baklava I'd stick with this recipe. I threw in a few cloves to add flavor to the sauce.

Garlic Hummus
Yield: 2 cups
Source: Myself!
1 can chickpeas, drained
2-6 cloves of garlic
2 T parsley
2 T cilantro
1 T tahini
Juice of one lemon
I blend all of this in a food processor. For this meal I served this with crostini.

Yield: 8 pitas

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 packet yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar with mixer. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and mix all of the ingredients to form a ball.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes.
When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick - 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.
Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes.

Yield: 12 good size balls
Source: Epicurious

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Yield: 18 pieces
Source: Allrecipes

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool.


Cate said...

Everything looks sooo good! I love that shot of the pitas. They are so fun to bake - it's like magic when they puff up perfectly!

Megan said...

That all looks delicious!