Monday, August 19, 2013

Middle Eastern Street Food

Middle Eastern Street Food
Bright, fresh, sweet, smoky, sweet, crispy, smooth... you name it.

All photos by Nick Foster
COOK with COOK recently ran another cooking class at Kristos Olive Oil in Olde Town Arvada featuring Middle Eastern Street Food. MANY years ago I spent the summer in Israel and fell in love with the simple staples found in small restaurants and in the carts of street venders. One of my fondest memories is of a small, dark, Arab bakery where fresh pita bread was served hot from the oven.

My next food memory comes from north along the Lebanese border at Kibbutz Dan. Wine country. Need I say more? At the class we enjoyed two wines from the Galil (the Galilee) as well as HUMMUS, BABA GANOUSH, FALAFEL, TABOULEH, CHICKEN KABOBS (the marinade, oh... the marinade!!!) and a sweet noodle dessert called HALAWET AHMAD.

Here are a couple of the recipes. You'll have to take a class or host one in your home to get the rest.

The falafel recipe takes a little planning ahead, soaking the chickpeas, but the results are worth it.


Yield: 24 falafels

2 cups dried chickpeas, picked through and rinsed

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

1 handful fresh cilantro, leaves coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying

8 warm pita breads, store bought or homemade

Tahini Sauce

Shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, chopped cucumbers


·        Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and add cool water to cover by 2 inches. Soak the beans in the refrigerator for at least 18 hours or up to 24; the chickpeas will swell to triple their original size. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

·        Put the soaked chickpeas in a food processor and pulse to coarsely grind, not until smooth but with no whole chickpeas remaining either. Add the baking powder, onion, garlic, spices, and herbs; process until the mixture is pureed; scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate while heating the oil, this should take about 15 minutes.

·        Pour 3-inches of the oil in a deep fryer or deep heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees F.

·        Roll the falafel mixture into ping-pong size balls. (Alternatively, use an ice cream scoop.) Carefully slip a few at a time into the hot oil, making sure they don't stick to the bottom. Fry until the chickpea fritters are a crusty dark brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 5 minutes per batch. Remove the falafels with a slotted spoon and drain on a platter lined with paper towels.

·        Open the pita bread halves to make pockets (don't split all the way) and put 4 fried falafels into each. Drizzle with the tahini sauce and layer with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Serve immediately.


Tahini Sauce:

Yield: about 1 cup

1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

1/2 cup plain yogurt or water

1 lemon, juiced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Pinch salt

Pinch paprika

·        Combine all the ingredients in a blender, process on high speed to make a smooth and creamy sauce. Adjust seasoning, to taste, and serve with falafels or as a salad dressing.
Serves: 4

2 lbs of skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
a small slice of lemon with the peel
15 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 tablespoons of plain yogurt (Greek yogurt)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar
2 teaspoons of ground white pepper
1/3 teaspoon of ground ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground thyme, or ground oregano
1/3 teaspoon of paprika
1+ teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
Roasted garlic to serve
·        Mix all ingredients well together while rubbing the chicken
·        Place in a container, cover, and let rest/marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours
·        Skewer the chicken right before grilling
·        Grill on medium heat for 12-18 minutes maximum.
READY?!? GO!!!


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