Thursday, August 16, 2012

Making Mediterranean at Home

     Our family has always enjoyed eating foods from all different cultures and countries.  One of our favorite types of food is what I guess you could call  Mediterranean.  At the present time, the restaurant of choice for birthdays and such is a place called "The Mediterranean Grill".  The food there is very yummy, but also very expensive!  The last time I was there, I asked a few questions and made some observations.  The manager of the restaurant told me that all the meat was seasoned with Green Za'atar.  My friend Marina, who has lived in Israel, introduced this mixture to me a while back.  It's actually a blend of roasted thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.  Although Marina and I bought it in a Middle Eastern shop, I have seen it in the international isle in our local grocery store.  I tried it out in some kabob marinades and the results were delicious.   In this post I have also included a healthy salad that includes lentils, tahini sauce, a "relish" to serve with the kabobs, and some spreads we love on pita bread or sliced vegetables.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention that mixing some tahini sauce into the "relish" is really delicious with falafils. (I do not make falafils from scratch - I use a store bought mix!)  After serving these dishes to company several times, these recipes are now family favorites that I am glad to share!



If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 20 minutes.  Cut your choice of meat up into cubes.  Whisk up the marinade and pour over the meat cubes.  Cover, refrigerate, and let the meat cubes marinate for a couple of hours.  Then, thread the cubes (and vegetables if you wish) on the skewers.  Place on a medium hot grill and cook about 5 to 7 minutes a side.


Marinade for four chicken breasts

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon Green Za'atar

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Marinade for a pound of top sirloin

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Green Za'tar

  2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 clove garlic, put through a press

Tahini Sauce - (from the jar of Ziyad Tahini)

1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 clove garlic, put through a press

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup hot water

Mix the ingredients together.

Mediterranean "Relish"

1 cucumber

1 tomato

1 small bunch of parsley

2 tablespoons diced red onion

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and then in half lengthwise again.  Run a knive down each cucumber length to get rid of the seeds. Quarter the tomatoe, get rid of the seeds, then dice it.  Finely chop the parsley leaves.  Mix the cucumber, tomato, parsley, and onion together in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.  Mix well.

The "relish" is clean and fresh as is, but it is absolutely fabulous if you mix in about 1/4 cup of the Tahini Sauce and serve it with the kabobs or falafils (made from astore bought mix).

Chickpea Spread

                        1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed                      

2 tablespoons of lemon

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle of paprika for garnish

Blend well in food processor. Put in serving bowl, drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle the paprika on top. Serve with veggies or pita bread.

 Yogurt Walnut Spread

                    1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt                  

1/2 cup crushed walnuts

2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons diced red onion

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Mix all the ingredients together. Put inn serving bowl.  Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Both the chickpea and the walnut yogurt spreads are great when served with pita or  Middle Eastern type bread that has been brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with Green Za'atar, and warmed in the oven.  Sliced cucumbers or other vegetables are good  as well.

Mediterranean Salad with Lentils

1/4 cup lentils, cooked according to package directions     

1 cucumber, sliced

1 tomato, cubed

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon mint, chopped

1 "jumbo" romaine heart

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

4 thin slices red onion

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries (optional)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 clove garlic, put through a press

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

Wash the romaine lettuce and put on the serving platter.  Arrange the cucumber and tomato pieces on top.  Sprinkle with the parsley and mint.  Scatter the lentils all around.Put the thin slices of red onion in the middle and shake the sumac(if you are using) on top. Disperse the feta over the whole thing.Then whisk the oil, vinegar, salt, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, pepper,and marjoram together.  Pour the dressing mixture over the top and serve.

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