Sumac Chicken – Roasted over Onions and Pita Bread

Sumac Chicken - Roasted over Onions and Pita Bread

This recipe for sumac-dusted roast chicken is not only easy to prepare, but is also an excellent introduction to the spice called sumac, and by extension, the charming simplicity of Lebanese cookery. The purple-maroon spice is used extensively in this cuisine; canisters of ground sumac take the place of ground pepper in most Lebanese restaurants I’ve visited.

A sour spice ground from dried shrub berries to a gritty consistency, sumac is used much like vinegar, lemon juice, or tamarind. It has a pleasant tanginess similar to tart apples, making it seem less harsh than the other aforementioned souring agents. Sumac is probably best known as an essential component in the savory spice blend Zaatar, where it is mixed with thyme and toasted sesame seeds.

Sprinkled with sumac and olive oil, the chicken is roasted over a bed of slivered onions and pita bread. The outer edges of the pita bread will crisp, contrasting sharply against the moist center soaked with olive oil and juices from the roasting chicken. The pita bread essentially turns into a Lebanese take on stuffing, but with a bit of crunch.

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Brunost / Gjetost – Brown Cheese from Norway

Brunost Gjetost - Norwegian Brown Cheese

Finding this Norwegian brown cheese at the local cheesemonger means that I finally get to break 90% with the omnivore’s hundred list. Cue applause here. If you’ve been living under a foodblog-free rock the past month or so, you can find the original list at Very Good Taste. I’m probably only 1 of 3 people who bothers to update my list, getting a rush whenever another item gets marked off, but it’s all in good clean fun.

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Horchata de Melón – Melon Seed Drink

Horchata de Melon

Horchata de melón, a refreshing drink splashed with lime juice, uses parts of the melon typically discarded in the North American kitchen. The netted cantaloupe rind, you’ll be relieved to hear, won’t see any blender action here. The glistening seeds, however, encase delicately flavored kernels rich in protein and beneficial oils. Strained to remove the coarsest bits of the brittle outer shell, the resulting nectar makes the most of what melons have to offer within its rough exterior.

The melon seeds also thicken the drink slightly, just enough to be satisfying without being exceedingly heavy. Chufa or tiger nuts serve this purpose in the original Spanish horchata while rice and almonds followed in the Yucatecan adaptation. All three have the subtle and nutty sweetness of each respective ingredient but this humble version alone boasts of fresh cantaloupes and lime.

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Baba Ghanoush – Eggplant and Tahini Dip

Baba Ghanouj - Eggplant and Tahina Dip

Whenever pita bread is puffing up in my oven, a bowl of baba ghanoush glazed with olive oil is surely waiting nearby. In this classic Middle Eastern appetizer, roasted eggplants are mashed and flavored with tahini, a sesame seed paste equally useful in Asian cookery, particularly in Japanese Cuisine, where it can be used in savory dips and sauces.

Long considered the other Middle Eastern dip, baba ghanoush unfairly takes a backseat to hummus as the accompaniment of choice to pita bread wedges. I have a slight preference for the texture of the roasted eggplants in baba ghanoush. Whereas the chickpeas in hummus have to be pureed, using a fork instead of a bladed machine to tease the baba ghanoush into a light puff of beige makes all the difference.

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Whole Wheat Pita Bread – How to Get Pockets

Country-Style Whole Wheat Pita Bread

When trying out a new recipe, do you sometimes get the feeling that it’s just not going to work? Finding out towards the end of cooking can be frustrating but luckily, the warning signs for this country-style whole wheat pita bread were obvious early in the process. While kneading by hand, the dough basically refused to come together for me.

Using the highest recommended amount of whole wheat pastry and all-purpose flour, I ended up with an excessively sticky paste that no amount of slapping and folding improved. It kept tearing and kneading wasn’t an option — it stubbornly adhered to fingertips, palms, and countertops. The whole wheat pastry flour I used must have been really low in protein and unsuitable for making bread dough (using conventional kneading methods, that is).

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