Belated Saturday Night

On Saturday, Corbett and Clementine came over for dinner, sans kids. We had tons of produce, and so I was looking to use as many fresh vegetables as possible. I turned to a book I mentioned earlier, Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which I really love, as well as a few other sources, and put together a Middle Eastern mezze dinner.

I had a bunch of beautiful eggplants.

So I made baba ghanouj. I really like baba ghanouj – and it is super good for you, even if tahini is kind of fatty (but good fatty).

I had a bunch of tomatoes, so I made batrik, a salad of bulgur, kind of like tabbouleh, where the bulgur is rehydrated with a pureed tomato (link is not to Roden but is very similar). I had a couple huge ones, as you can see.

It pureed up nicely, and I added it to the bulgur.

Then when I served it I added some onion soaked in wine vinegar, chopped walnuts, and chili pepper. It was delicious

I also made a fattoush, basically a chopped salad. I cut everything on the mandoline, including some radishes and cucumbers I had, and soaked the onion in wine vinegar for a while to mellow it. The dressing is basically just olive oil and lemon juice – simple but good.

I also made tomatoes stuffed with lentils, bulgur, pine nuts, raisins, and spinach. This is a fun recipe for me because it was one of the first challenging dishes I ever cooked when I got interested in food and, much to Diane’s shock, ordered Gourmet. Now it seems easy, but the first time I made it was anxiety producing, and I was inordinately proud when it was done. The picture looks kind of odd, but these are pretty good, especially with a garlic yogurt sauce.

I threw together a quick black eyed pea and tomato salad, that was fine but really does not merit a picture. The link is really a suggestion more than anything – you can noodle on that sort of salad endlessly.

Finally, I made fatteh bel djaj. This is one of my favorite Lebanese dishes. We always ate it at Lebanese Taverna, a restaurant we loved in DC. A Google for fatteh djaj turns up tons of recipes, all of which are slightly different even if they have key similarities. I hunted around forever and finally found a recipe on Chowhound that basically tastes like I want. The basics, with my notes, are below, but I think you could do lots of variations on this, including especially if you made it with lamb, which I love but Diane does not often countenance:

For chicken and broth:
1 chicken, whole or quartered, or buy the ones already cut up
1/2 lemon, cut into quarters
1 Tb ground cinnamon
1 tb salt
1 onion with 3 cloves stuck in it
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 large can chickpeas

in large dutch oven or stockpot, put chicken lemon quarters, ground cinnamon, and salt. Add enough water to cover, onion with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Simmer until chicken is tender. Remove chicken and let cool. Strain and skim broth, using some to cook rice or cous cous, and pour remainder over chickpeas and cook for 15-20 minutes.

to put the dish togehter:
1 quart plain yogurt, ideally labneh or, failing that, thick Greek yogurt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup mints leaves, torn
1 cup pine nuts
3 Tb butter
2 pita breads cut into 1 inch squares
1/2 a pomegranate (if available)
some crunchy vegetables, sliced thin, ideally radishes

  1. Mix yogurt with garlic and let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Fry pine nuts in 1 tb butter until brown. set aside
  3. fry pita cubes in remaining butter until crisp
  4. skin and bone chicken meat, leaving it in chunks.
  5. put chicken in bottom of serving dish.
  6. pour warm broth with chickpeas over it.
  7. spoon yogurt mixture on top
  8. sprinkle on the pine nuts, pita, mint, and pomegranate.
  9. serve in shallow soup bowls.

Enjoy. I did.

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