5 Delicious Middle-Eastern Recipes From the Chef at Tanoreen

These recipes from the cookbook "Olives, Lemons and Za'atar" by Rawia Bishara, owner and chef at Tanoreen, showcase the unique flavor of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Flourless Tangerine Apricot Cake

Courtesy Peter Cassidy

"As time goes on, more and more of my customers are requesting gluten-free dishes. Of course, cakes and pastries are a challenge, but one I was happy to take on. I experimented and found that a combination of ground almonds and pistachios result in a flour with wonderful texture. Grind the nuts in a nut grinder to a consistency similar to farina (a mild-tasting grain); take care not to grind too finely or it will affect the cake’s texture. Serve with whipped cream, fresh fruit or ice cream."

8 tangerines, peeled, sectioned and seeded
8 apricots, peeled and pitted or 1/4 pound dried
1 cup sugar 1 pound peeled raw almonds, ground to the texture of farina
1 cup pistachios, skinned and ground to the texture of farina
1 cup crushed walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
2 tablespoons baking powder
8 large eggs
4 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur (optional)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Makes 10 to 12 servings (one 16-inch round cake)

1. Place the tangerines in a large pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the fruit is soft, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
2. Transfer to a colander to drain, then put the tangerines in a blender and puree until smooth. Alternatively, use a hand mixer to puree the tangerines. Place the apricots in the same pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the fruit is soft, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on ripeness of fresh apricots or freshness of dried apricots.
3. Transfer to a colander to drain, then put the apricots in a blender and puree until smooth. Alternatively, puree the apricots using a hand mixer. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 16-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, coconut, if using, and baking powder. Set aside. 5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs until pale yellow. Add the pureed apircots, the Frangelico, if using, and vanilla and beat until thoroughly incorporated. With the motor running, gradually sprinkle in the nut mixture to the egg mixture and mix until smooth, three to five minutes. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
6. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen it. Invert a serving platter over the pan and flip it over to release the cake. Serve the cake warm.

Eggplant Salad

Courtesy Peter Cassidy

"One of the first things I make myself when I go home to Nazareth is the eggplant sandwich we often ate on Friday afternoons when I was growing up. I always dressed mine with tomato slices and a simple sauce of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Perfection. This salad, a staple on the Tanoreen menu, is inspired by that beloved sandwich. It is excellent with mujadara [a popular middle eastern dish with rice, lentils and onions) or falafel, tucked into a sandwich."

3 medium to large eggplants (3 to 4 pounds total), peel on, cut into large dice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing eggplant
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
8 plum tomatoes, cut into small dice, or 3 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into large dice (about 5 cups)
1 medium green pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley 3/4 cup Kalamata or green olives, pitted and chopped
3 shallots,
1 medium red onion or 6 scallions, white parts only, chopped
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 3 lemons (about 1/2 cup), or to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Divide the eggplant pieces between two rimmed baking sheets and brush them all over with olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and bake until the eggplants are lightly browned and softened, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, green and red peppers, parsley, olives, shallots, garlic, lemon juice, six tablespoons oil and crushed red pepper, if using. Mix well with a wooden spoon, then taste and adjust the lemon juice and salt.
3.Gently fold in the cooled eggplant, distributing it evenly and taking care not to crush it. Transfer to a platter and serve.

Sweet Pea and Kafta Stew

Courtesy Peter Cassidy

"Most Palestinian cooks make this with cubes of lamb and serve it with rice, but my mother made it with kafta (ground lamb mixed with parsley and onion and shaped into small kebabs) and served it with mashed potatoes. When tender whole snap peas in the pod are in season, I use them in place of the frozen sweet peas. If you don’t want to use kafta here, add two pounds seasoned and cooked lamb or beef during the last 5 minutes of simmering."
Kafta (below) or two pounds of beef or lamb
½ cup corn oil
3 shallots, diced
8 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
4 (16-ounce) bags frozen baby sweet peas
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 fresh plum tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 quart stock from lamb or low-sodium beef stock or water
1. Shape the kafta into 1½-inch-long by 1-inch-thick fingers. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, sear the kafta just until golden brown, turning once, about three to four minutes total. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the kafta to a paper towel–lined platter to drain.
2. To the same skillet, toss in the shallots and garlic and saute until lightly browned, three tofour  minutes. Add the coriander, allspice, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cardamom, if using, and stir until fragrant, about two minutes. Reduce the heat, add the peas and carrots and saute until just softened, about five minutes.
3. Tip in the fresh and crushed tomatoes and the stock. Raise the heat, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the reserved kafta fingers and simmer for five minutes more. Serve hot.

Kafta is common and popular across North Africa, throughout the Middle East(kefte or kufta) and in Greece (keftedes), Turkey, Iran, and all the way to India(kofta). The name, in all its variations, is derived from kuftan, which means “ to grind” in Persian. Every country, town, village, indeed, every cook, has a version of kafta. It is prepared in myriad ways—it can be baked, broiled, boiled, grilled, fried, steamed, poached or simply spread on a sheet pan, rolled into balls or folded into thirds over a filling like a crepe. Many believe kafta is Turkish in origin, but Syrians from Aleppo believe they are the best at making it. If using lamb, select meat from the leg only; the shoulder is too fatty.
1½ pounds each beef and lamb, coarsely
ground or 3 pounds total of either
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 plum tomato, finely diced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sea salt or to taste
4½ teaspoons ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1. In a large bowl, combine the meat with the onion, tomato, parsley, pepper, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cumin, if using, and mix together with your hands. Transfer to a clean work surface and knead the mixture with your hands until smooth. Shape according to recipe instructions.

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Spiced Lamb Shank

Courtesy Peter Cassidy

"We rarely, if ever, prepared lamb shanks in Nazareth, because when we purchased lamb, we got the whole animal, which meant there were only four shanks for a family of seven. The meat on this part of the lamb is particularly tough—it is full of connective tissue that, when cooked over low heat for a long time, tenderizes the meat. Though the meat braises for three hours, very little of this time is active cooking time—and the meat falls right off the bone. Serve with rice pilaf or Basmati Vegetable Rice."

2 tablespoons ground allspice
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 large lamb shanks
1 cup olive or corn oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 plum tomatoes or 3 beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sea salt
6 baking potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick half moons
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick half moons 2 chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1. In a small bowl, combine the allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin.
2. Rub half the spice mixture all over the lamb shanks. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 cup oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the shanks all over, about three to five minutes per side. Remove the shanks to a plate. Toss in the onions to the skillet and saute until soft and golden, three minutes.
3. Add the remaining spice mixture and garlic and saute, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the basil, parsley and cilantro and cook until the herbs begin to turn color, two to three minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute, stirring occasionally, until they become soft, five to seven minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and salt and turn off the heat.
4. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place the potatoes, carrots and chile peppers, if using, in a large deep roasting pan, and brush them with the remaining 1/2 cup oil. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the shanks on top of the vegetables.
5.Using a large spoon, place a scoop of the remaining onion and spice mixture on top of each shank. Fill the pan halfway with hot water, cover the shanks with waxed paper and cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake for one hour, check the water level and fill to halfway again if some of the water has evaporated. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake for one hour more. Check the water level and add enough water to return it to its original level; bake for a final hour or until the meat falls easily off the bone.
6. To serve, place each lamb shank on a plate and spoon the vegetables next to it.

Brussels Sprouts with Panko

Courtesy Peter Cassidy

"Brussels sprouts were not part of the Palestinian kitchen when I was growing up. I discovered them here in the States and very eagerly tried to push them on my children. To that end, I did what any good mother would do—I pumped up their flavor by adding a little tahini sauce and sweet pomegranate molasses. It worked! In fact these Brussels sprouts were so delicious that they made it onto the original Tanoreen menu and I’ve never taken them off."

Corn oil for frying
4 pounds Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, cut in half
1 cup tahini sauce
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
Pinch sea salt
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 inch corn oil in a large skillet and place over a high heat until hot. To test the temperature, slip half a Brussels sprout into the pan; if it makes a popping sound, the oil is hot enough.
2. Working in batches, fry the Brussels sprouts, turning occasionally, until they are browned all over, two to three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the tahini sauce, yogurt and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Add the panko and stir constantly until the crumbs are golden brown, about two minutes.
5. Stir in the salt and remove the breadcrumbs from the heat. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to cool. Place the Brussels sprouts in a serving dish, drizzle with the sauce and top with the panko crumbs. Serve immediately.

About the book:

Courtesy Peter Cassidy

For more recipes, pick up Rawia Bishara's cookbook, "OLIVES, LEMONS & ZA'ATAR:The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking," which is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.

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