The flavors derived from Middle-Eastern cooking have been a revelation. I mistakenly thought that Middle-Eastern cuisine was similar to Indian foods but there are big and delicious differences. True you will find some similarities (think curries) but Middle-Eastern flavors are savory and not fiery hot. In my mind the best olives, olive oil, sesame seeds, and tahini come from Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel. In the U.S. we are seeing a growing number of Middle-Eastern restaurants (Glasserie and Zahav) showing up on the top-10 lists as chefs and writers discover the wonderful flavors and textures of the region. In Portland we enjoy, Tusk, Tar Boush, Dar Salam, and Nicholas Restaurant.
A friend sent me a link to David Lebovitz’s web article about Yafo, a lovely Middle-Eastern restaurant in Paris, France. While like me, many of his readers wont be able to able to visit the place anytime soon, his point is that there is a growing world-wide interest in Middle-Eastern foods and seasonings. I enjoy the wonderful scents, flavors, and textures of Middle-Eastern foods. My Palestinian friend, Ahmed, serves as my taster, letting me know if I’ve gotten it right. Thus far he highly approves of my Hummus, Lemon Chicken Pasta, and Pastitsio, a dish served throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.
My Hummus recipe, courtesy of Zahav’s, strongly urges using a good tahini. Lebovitz’s article stresses the same. They both specifically mention using Soom brand tahini, something I order from Amazon in quantity to have on hand. Zahav’s recipe asks you to process your garlic in the lemon juice, let the flavors infuse, and then strain the liquid throwing away the solids. This lends a subtle garlic flavor that I prefer. I also like to start with dry chickpeas, soaked overnight in water and baking soda. The hummus recipe in Lebovitz’s article suggests that using canned or jarred chickpeas has the advantage of instant hummus, but I suggest you use the overnight soak for a super-authentic dish.