A Little About Me

New York, New York
As a newly married woman, it has become my mission in life to learn how to cook. Gone are the days of picking up sushi and ordering curries. In order to jump-start my education, I enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education's Fine Cooking I course where I learned the basics, from roasting to boiling to mousse-making (ok, maybe not that basic)! I've attempted to replicate some recipes - somewhat successfully- and create a few of my own. This blog is for friends and foodies and is intended to document my cooking adventures (and occasional fiascoes). Enjoy the pictures and bon appetite!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Zaatar, Zaatar, Everywhere!

Over the weekend, it became my mission to prepare a meal using as much zaatar as humanly possible since I had recently purchased a bag of it at a street fair. For those of you who have never heard of zaatar, it's a popular Middle Eastern condiment made of dried herbs like sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Zaatar is very versatile - I've enjoyed it on everything from cottage cheese (sounds weirder than it is) to chicken! For our dinner, I felt like sticking to somewhat of a Greek theme. The end product? Zaatar marinated lamb and vegetable skewers, zaatar hummus, zaatar sprinkled pita chips, and stuffed peppers with orzo, feta, spinach and tomatoes! Everything turned out delicious thanks to my amazing husband who did an amazing job manning the grill!

Lamb Skewer Ingredients
lamb, cubed (figure 3 pieces per skewer)
3 tbsp zaatar
5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thick pieces

Before you start assembling your lamb skewers, marinate your meat for 4-5 hours in 2 tbsp zaatar, 3 tbsp lemon juice and 3 tbsp olive oil. Cover your meat with saran wrap, stick it in the fridge and get working on your veggies!

Slice your peppers and onions and place in a bowl with the cherry tomatoes, 1 tbsp zaatar, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well, making sure to coat all the vegetables. If you are using wooden skewers, now would be a good time to soak them in water for a while to prevent them from burning and splitting on the grill. Once everything is ready, skewer the lamb and vegetables onto the sticks.

Preheat your grill on medium heat before placing the skewers on. Allow each side to cook for a minute or two and turn so the other sides can cook as well. It's hard to say exactly how long the skewers will need. Just keep am eye on them, turning them every so often to make sure they don't end up charred. At one point, remove a skewer from the grill and cut into a piece of meat to check for doneness.. If you want it more done, put it back on the grill for a couple of minutes.

Ingredients for Greek-Style Orzo Stuffed Peppers
4 large peppers (any color)
1 cup orzo
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Start by cutting the tops off the peppers and removing the membrane and seeds. Place the hollowed out peppers in a greased baking dish with high walls (they'll help support the pepper when it's cooking in the oven.)

Cook the orzo, following the instructions on the box. I like to substitute some of the water for chicken or vegetable broth because it adds a lot of extra flavor. When making orzo, I look to see when all the initial liquid has been absorbed and add more as I go along, mixing frequently. When the orzo is ready, set aside while letting it drain in a strainer.

Next, mash the garbanzo beans into somewhat of chunky paste using a food processors, or your hands, if you're strong enough, which I am not.

Prepare your onions, spinach, tomatoes, oregano and feta cheese.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Start by cooking your onions, then thrown in the spinach, oregano and tomatoes. Let it all cook for a minute before adding the orzo, chickpea mash, feta cheese, vinegar, salt and pepper. Combine well. Also, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop the mixture into the peppers, cover with tinfoil and place in the oven for about 35-45 minutes, depending on how good your oven is.

While your peppers are in the oven, prepare the pita chips and hummus. For the chips, brush some olive oil onto both sides of the pita and sprinkle with zaatar. These will cook on the grill with your lamb skewers for a few minutes. For extra crunch, I tossed them under the boiler for about a minute.

Next, make your hummus (I provide the recipe in a previous post), only this time make sure to throw in about a tbsp of zaatar and garnish with a few remaining garbanzos.

Once all your components are ready, assemble on a plate and serve! Everything tasted really really good .... so good that these photos hardly do it justice! Hope you enjoy this greek themed zaatar feast! We most certainly did!

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