Apr 21, 2021
Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month
Growing up in Syria, I was surrounded by a vast array of delicious homemade meals cooked by moms, grandmas, and aunts. Food was a language of love. Sharing it was a sign of care, and a way to heal. My fondest childhood memories revolved around food – helping to shop for it, watching them preparing it, tasting, bantering, and sharing it around a table with loved ones.
While I think back fondly about these elaborate meals, what I crave most now is the street food. A piping hot zaatar manousheh on the way to school (a flatbread topped with a blend of spices and seeds with olive oil); a warm and messy shawarma pita roll enjoyed on a building stoop with friends; or a perfectly griddled brined cheese sandwich paired with a "cocktail" of milk, bananas and honey.
The two recipes on the next page are a modern adaptation for the home cook forgoing the long preparations and specialized equipment but maintaining the bold and deep flavors. I am salivating as I type this. I hope you will while preparing them.
Shukran (thank you),
A quick, easy, healthful, no-cook, minimal clean up recipe that is delicious as is, served with a variety of dippers from veggies to breads and chips, as a base for a whole variety of mix-ins or toppings, or as a spread for a sandwich.
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 (16-ounce) jar tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and ½ cup liquid reserved
- 1 cup ice water
Add to a food processor the lemon juice, salt, and tahini (making sure to scrape it all out of the jar). Process about 1 minute to a coarse texture.
Pour in the chickpea liquid then the ice water, a little at a time, with the motor running. Process just until the sauce becomes smooth and lightens in color.
Add the chickpeas to the tahini sauce and process for about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go, until the chickpeas are completely blended and the hummus is smooth and uniform in color. Add more ice water if needed.
Taste and adjust seasonings – maybe a little more lemon juice?
Transfer to a serving bowl and top with olive oil, ground cumin, paprika and/or Aleppo pepper or use as a base or spread.
Mix-In or Toppings Ideas:
- Mashed roasted garlic cloves or garlic confit
- Finely chopped jalapeno and cilantro
- Sautéed mushroom and toasted pine nuts
- Strips of roasted red peppers, chopped toasted walnuts and some flat leaf parsley
- Pitted olives and capers
- Caramelized onions and a harissa swirl
- Blistered grape or cherry tomatoes with their juice
- Spicy chili oil and sautéed scallions
OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN SHAWARMA
No rotisserie needed for this version of the classic Middle Eastern street food. Serve with spreads (no-fuss hummus, tahini, baba ghanouj, whipped garlic), veggies (diced cucumbers, halved grape tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, fried eggplant disks, pickles), all inside a pita or over a bowl of warm rice.
- 6 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ C. olive oil
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into half moons
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley chopped
In a large 1-gallon Ziploc bag or bowl, combine the minced garlic with the salt and spices. Mix to combine. Add the onions and chicken then mix well to coat. Store in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
When ready to cook, heat oven to 425 degrees Fahreinheit.
Add the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar to the bag and mix into the chicken and onions.
Spread the chicken and marinade evenly on a rimmed sheet pan and roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven, allow to rest 5 minutes, and then cut into thin slices.
Transfer to serving platter and garnish with chopped parsley.
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