Quinoa Salad with a Middle Eastern Twist

This colorful, flavorful, and interesting-textured quinoa salad is a perfect side for anyone and a great main dish for vegans or vegetarians. It’s a great way to take your leftover red quinoa and turn it into something amazing! Using what’s in season now this salad combines persimmons, fresh citrus, herbs, spices, pistachio, and red quinoa for an unbeatable flavor and texture.

Recipe for Middle Eastern Quinoa

Continue reading Quinoa Salad with a Middle Eastern Twist

High Protein Snack: Hummus, Eggs & Cucumbers

High protein snacks don’t have to be a bar or shake – a simple dish can do the trick! This is about 1/2 cup of hummus (6 grams of protein) and 1 egg (17 grams of protein) for a total of 23 grams of protein. Use the cucumber to scoop up the hummus or make mini sandwiches. If you’re a grain eater, place the ingredients between two slices of bread and there you go! Perfect for breakfast, a mid-morning boost or after the gym. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

High Protein Snack Continue reading High Protein Snack: Hummus, Eggs & Cucumbers

Vegan Lentil Salad with Cumin

Vegan recipes are not boring or flavorless, they just require a bit of creativity – and spice! Cumin, which originates in the Eastern Mediterranean and India, is a flavorful, healthy and easy-to-use spice that adds complexity to any vegan dish. You can find it in spice mixes, like curry, sofrito, garam masala, baharat, and many more, but plain ground cumin is tasty too.

Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Zucchini and Cumin Recipe Continue reading Vegan Lentil Salad with Cumin

Raw Food Snack

Raw food snacks can be fun! Check out this raw food snack – it’s super easy to make and is so beautiful it’s hard to think of it as “diet” food.

Raw Food Snack

Ingredients:

Lettuce

Cucumbers

Tomatoes

Red Onions

Sesame paste (tahini)

Zatar (or other dried herbs)

Instructions:

Chop the lettuce and spread it on the plate. Chop your veggies and arrange them nicely. Drizzle the tahini over the veggies and then sprinkle the zatar (or other fresh herbs). That’s it!

Kebab – The Middle Eastern Hamburger

Bored with hamburgers? Try kebab! You make it just like hamburgers, just in a different shape. Here is a recipe for lamb kebabs that anyone can follow. You can also make it with beef.

Recipe: Easy Lamb Kebabs Two Ways

Kebab with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Ground lamb meat (or beef) – if low fat, add 1 egg to mix

Cilantro (chopped)

Salt, Pepper

Instructions:

Mix together the herbs, spices and meat in a large bowl. Roll out the meat into long spheres (see picture below) and place on parchment paper or other non-stick surface.

Kebabs

There are three ways to cook the kebabs – on a grill pan (greased first of course), on a grill or in the oven. Your choice!  Grilling kebab on a cinnamon stick is also a fun way to mix things up. Here they are grilling on a pan:

Pan Grilled Kebab

And here they are baking in the oven:

Baking Kebabs

Yum! The kebabs are baked, now how to serve them? I suggest two different ways: with fresh tomato sauce, mashed potatoes and garnished with cilantro (as pictured on the top of the blog) or propped up on some fresh labane or thick plain yogurt.

Kebab with Yogurt

KEBAB TIP: While you can eat kebab with lower fat meat, it’s just tastier with fatty meat! If you can’t get fresh lamb meat, try mixing in lamb fat with beef.

Chicken Hearts: Recipe and Nutrition

What to do with chicken hearts? Eat them! If you’re on paleo diet, you have to try chicken hearts. Here are the highlights of chicken heart nutrition (per 1 cup or 145 grams), followed by a chicken hearts recipe:

  • 38 grams of protein
  • 73% of iron, 176% of B12 and over 20% of other B vitamins
  • 11 grams of total fat, 3 grams saturated
  • 351 mg of cholesterol (exceeds daily limit)
Recipe: Grilled Chicken Hearts

Ingredients

1 lb. (1/2 kg) chicken hearts

Metal or wooden skewers

Grill seasoning

Instructions

Skewer the chicken hears as shown in the picture while you pre-heat your grill (or ribbed iron pan). Sprinkle the chicken hearts on all sides with any kind of chicken grill seasoning or seasoning of your choice. We use a traditional Bulgarian grilling seasoning mix, but any dried seasoning that’s good on grilled chicken would be good on grilled chicken hearts (with the exception of citrus or dried herbs).

Grill until the hearts get crispy. Serve on the skewer. In order to eat them, hold one end of the skewer and slide the chicken heart off with your fork.

TIP: Where can I find chicken hearts? – Not every store will be overflowing (OK, or even sell) chicken hearts depending on where you live. In the Middle East, it’s no problem, but worldwide the availability varies.

– If you frequent a butcher, just ask:)

– Supermarkets that cater to Asian food (like 99 Ranch)

– Know any restaurants that serve them? Ask them where they get them.

 

Labeneh: Greek Yogurt’s Cooler Cousin

Greek yogurt is huge all over the world, but its Levant cousin, labaneh, can be much tastier and has a much more sophisticated texture and flavor. What Americans and Westerners eat as Greek yogurt, isn’t really what the Greeks eat. When in Greece, a yogurt is generally thick, fatty and usually comes from sheep’s milk. It’s sour, it’s complex and it’s good. While Greeks do eat yogurt for breakfast with sweets like honey & walnuts, in the Levant it’s not eaten with sweets. Here is a simple appetizer with the complex flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. Do not use Greek yogurt in this recipe! Commercially produced Greek yogurt is too mild, not fatty enough and has a gel-like texture, not a creamy texture.

Labaneh Greek-Levantine Appetizer

Labaneh Snack

Ingredients

Labaneh (Here is a great labaneh recipe, 2 ingredients: yogurt & salt!)

Cucumbers

Mixed Nuts (mostly pine nuts & walnuts, some pumpkin & sesame seeds)

Kalamata Olives OR Cured Black Olives

Olive Oil

Sumac

Zatar (optional)

Instructions

Start dry toasting your nuts on parchment paper. While you are going this, spread labaneh onto the middle of a plate. Slice and arrange the cucumbers – peeling is optional. When the nuts are starting to smell toasty, take them out and sprinkle them on the labaneh and arrange the walnuts as in the photo above. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sumac & zatar and then decorate with Kalamata olives.

Kalamata Olives TIP: Kalamata Olives are extremely tasty, but also more difficult to take the pit out. Save yourself the trouble and preserve more olive by eating them directly off the pit.

Spicy Middle Eastern Eggplant Slices

Eggplant is a staple in our house, but can get a bit boring.  Here is a fun, easy, quick and tasty way to do eggplant – without turning your house into a smelly mess!

Eggplant Slices

Spicy Middle Eastern Eggplant Slices

Ingredients

Eggplants (classic Italian, though you can use other large ones)

Parsley

Spicy Red Peppers

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Instructions

With a very sharp large knife, very carefully slice the eggplant vertically into 1/4 inch slices. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper and bake on parchment paper.  Turn the eggplant over once it begins to brown.  Cook until soft, but still slightly firm.  While your eggplant is cooking, in a jar with a lid mix 1/4 cup of quality olive oil with diced hot peppers and finely chopped parsley.  Shake vigorously and pour the mixture on the eggplants when they are finished cooking.

Eggplant TIPS:

1. Choose a firm, if not hard eggplant.  While many believe it’s seeds that make them bitter, it’s actually over ripeness eggplants.

2. Never store it in the refrigerator – eggplants are a warm weather veggie and do not do well refrigerated.

Read more on eggplants.

Cinnamon Stick Kebab

Kebab is the burger and hot dog all-in-one of the Middle East.  It’s made from meat, fish or veggies (type varies based on tradition) mixed with herbs and spices, and then grilled or baked on a stick.  Take any kebab recipe or just make up your own and try something new: cinnamon stick kebab!  The cinnamon stick adds a wonderful flavor and a bit of fun to a classic dish.

Cinnamon Stick Kebab

Doner Kebab TIP: There are more kinds of kebabs than you would ever think.  Each country, region and ethnic groups has its own traditions.  One thing to know, however, is that the doner kebab is much different.  In many places it’s called a shwarama.  If you order a doner kebab, expect sliced up meat, not a stick of meat (pictured below).

Doner Kebab

Kebab TIP: You can put anything on a stick and call it a kebab. In our house, we like to eat a lot of different organ meats. Organ meats are inexpensive, healthy, holistic and ecological. We try to eat all parts of the animals, here is a more “exotic” selection of items we have used on kebab: chicken hearts, chicken liver, chicken kidneys, turkey testicles.

Vegetables are also great, just be sure to coat in a bit of olive oil or fat. Brain, sweetbreads and tripe are not good candidates for kebab! Read more on organ meat here.