Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking

June 11, 2009

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Middle Eastern Flavors

It’s true. There are times when I do cook things besides Italian food. I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboard the other day and ran across a bag of zatar-a spice blend used in middle eastern cooking. It’s a combination of herbs and spices which usually includes thyme or oregano, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. I love using this as a rub for roasted chicken and seeing it there with my spices inspired me to make a meal with flavors from the middle east. I have a great cookbook called Arabesque by Claudia Roden, whch features the cuisines of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. I knew I was going to use the zatar for the chicken, but went to this book for ideas for a starter and a side dish.

There are so many things that I want to try from this cookbook but this time I settled for two-a starter and a vegetable dish. I had made some pita chips and purchased hummus and so decided to make another dip-one with roasted peppers. There’s something addictive about this-I could eat it with a spoon!

Bell Pepper Puree from Morocco

6 red bell peppers
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4-5 tablespoons vinegar
pinch of ground chili pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Peel of 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped (if you don’t have this, use a little lemon juice)

Roast peppers either on a grill or under the broiler. Turn them until their skins are blackened and blistered all over. To loosen the skins, place the peppers in a plastic bag, close it shut and leave for about 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove and discard the seeds and stems.

Blend the peppers to a puree in a food processor with the garlic, vinegar, chili, cumin, olive oil and a little salt to taste. I like to leave the peppers with a little texture, not totally pureed. Put into a bowl and mix in the chopped parsley, cilantro and preserved lemon peel. Serve with pita chips.


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