Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen: Pita

Welcome back to my casual series, “Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen.” Just over a week ago we had a first go at making New Yorker Rye. This time, we’re off to the Middle East to make some homemade pita to go along with this deconstructed baba ganouj


Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen #6: Pita

This recipe comes from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook‘s section titled “Slightly Elevated: Leavened Flatbreads”. The breads in this section still count as flatbreads — think naan, injera, focaccia — but use some sort of fermentation (time, yeast, yogurt) to create a bit of rise. Since I wanted to make this deconstructed baba ganouj, it seemed like the right time to try my hand at homemade pita, called khubz (“bread”) in Arabic, according to the recipe’s introduction. 

Pita stack! Some puffed, some didn't.

Pita stack! Some puffed, some didn’t.

Pita requires the basic bread-making ingredients of yeast, white and whole wheat water, flour, salt, and olive oil. I dutifully followed the instructions to combine ingredients and mix them for a while, but even after I mixed the dough for 10 minutes until my hands started cramping up (a stand mixer is on my wish list!), the pita dough was still very wet and sticky. I wasn’t sure if the gluten was fully developed, by my hands were tired so I started the rise. And wow, does this pita dough rise! After just an hour, the dough almost reached the top of the bowl it was rising in.

After rising, I had to pull the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 16 pieces, rolling each into a ball. The dough was still very sticky at this point, so I used my bench knife to cut it and generously floured my hands to roll the dough into balls. After a ten-minute rest, it was time to bake. Baking pita is definitely a two-person job: I was glad F could help take the baking tray in and out of the oven and flip the baking pitas while I rolled/flattened each dough ball into a flat, oblong.

From what I’ve read previously and from what this recipe says, pitas should puff in the oven to form that classic pocket you can stuff fillings into. Suffice it to say the minority of our pitas puffed in the oven. I’m not sure if that was because I flattened them too vigorously or what, but some ended up with pockets and some didn’t. The pitas tasted great: soft and tender, and delicious with the baba ganouj I made. However, I can’t say that homemade pita will enter my regular bread-making rotation, due to the stickiness of the dough and requirement of two people during the baking portion of the process (I could’ve done it on my own, but it would’ve taken twice as long). It was a fun and tasty adventure, nonetheless!

Have you ever made your own pita before? How did it go? Leave a comment below!


What’s Been Cooking? Late Summer Edition

Gosh, the summer has flown by. Was it the same for you?

This blog has fallen a little by the wayside… I’m still here, just less frequently and with fewer of my “own” recipes, especially now that I can save all my favorites to NYT Cooking. Even though I’m posting fewer recipes doesn’t mean I’ve stopped cooking…on the contrary, our kitchen remains an exciting and comforting place amidst the stresses of daily life.

Here’s a peek into what F and I have been cooking over the past few months, in no particular order.

IMG_1421Ottolenghi’s “Chickpea Saute with Greek Yogurt” — light and bright summer flavors went beautifully over rice with a rich and creamy Greek yogurt sauce on the side. Highly recommended and very easy to throw together on a weeknight.
IMG_1163Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta and Basil, courtesy of David Tanis at NYT Cooking. Creamy and rich yet summery, thanks to lemon zest and basil.

IMG_1407Smitten kitchen’s takeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber. Simple and delicious — I made them when F was away at a conference and managed not to get too tired of them despite having them over the course of 4 meals in two days…
IMG_1455The Woks of Life’s Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly — it took 3 hours but was totally worth it for the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the pork belly in rich, sticky sauce. So so good. We will definitely make it again on our next leisurely weekend.

Non-photographed but just as tasty dishes:

  • Melissa Clark’s Lunchbox Harvest Muffins (NYT Cooking) are moist and not dense at all, despite using only whole wheat flour. They’re packed with grated apple, carrot, and zucchini and made great afternoon snacks for F and me during the workweek.
  • We made Martha Rose Shulman’s Spicy South Indian Cauliflower for the second time. F browned some cubes of paneer cheese to add in and I made naan bread to go on the side.
  • I had always wanted to try making bircher muesli and finally did this summer. I used Nigella’s “basic bircher muesli” recipe and it turned out exactly like I’d hoped. Last week I made a double batch, which got us both through two weekday breakfasts.
  • These blueberry pancakes are SO FLUFFY, thanks to whipping the egg whites before folding them into the batter.
  • Rather have blueberry muffins? I made some of those, too: Call Me Cupcake’s blueberry lemon muffins were just right and didn’t even need the cardamom topping, in my opinion.

What have you been cooking?


Recipe: Baba Ganoush

I understand that eggplant (aubergine) isn’t for everyone. It seems to be one of those foods you either love or hate. I’m in the former category, as you can probably tell from all of these posts. But despite all the eggplant recipes on my blog, until this week I hadn’t made baba ganoush, a Middle Eastern eggplant dip. It had been on my “to make” list for a while, so on a quiet Monday, inspired by Minimalist Baker and frugal feeding, I decided to give it a go.


It was easy. You don’t need to char the eggplant over an open flame. You can use one eggplant or multiple. You can use cumin and/or chili powder, or not. Parsley is also optional. Adjust olive oil, garlic, and tahini to your taste. (The Guardian recently featured a piece on how flexible baba ganoush can be.)


Enjoy silky, homemade baba ganoush with crackers, pita bread, or another flatbread. Put it on sandwiches or serve it over falafel. The options are endless.

Baba Ganoush (adapted from Minimalist Baker and frugal feeding. Makes ~1 cup; double or triple the recipe for more)


  • 1 medium-large eggplant
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp whole or ground cumin (I used whole)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • optional: pinch or two parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).
  • Pierce the eggplant a few times and put it on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the skin is starting to blacken and the flesh feels soft.
  • When the eggplant is ready, remove it from the oven and scoop out the flesh; set the flesh aside and discard the skins.
  • In a food processor, combine all ingredients with the eggplant flesh, and process until smooth.


Recipe: Tabouli

Since my dad has made this tabouli three times in the three weeks since I’ve been home, I finally decided to post it. While I haven’t participated in every single step of the tabouli-making process, I’ve done enough of it to confidently assure you that it is straightforward to make and delicious to eat.

This recipe comes to us from Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood Cookbook (the original, not “The New Moosewood”), a lovely book with parchment-like pages and hand-written recipes (or at least fonts made to look handwritten). My parents have made Moosewood’s tabouli every summer for as long as I can remember. The freshness of the citrus and vegetables plus the lightness of the bulgur wheat and the bite of the garlic make it perfect for a hot summer’s day — and we’ve had a lot of those recently. It is great alone for lunch, or alongside barbecued chicken for dinner.


just add tomato

Like many of the best recipes, this one is open for experimentation and variation. We generally use what’s in the fridge and on the counters — sometimes green pepper, sometimes summer squash, maybe feta and maybe not. In my eyes (mouth?), the tabouli must have tomatoes and chickpeas. We always use way less salt and way more garlic than is called for; adjust everything to your taste. I’ll give you my favorite version of the recipe and let you take it from there!

Tabouli (adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook)


  • 2 cups dry bulgur wheat
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of 1.5 lemons
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • to taste: ground black pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2-3 scallions, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled & grated
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • optional:
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 summer squash, sliced thinly
    • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
    • 1/2 cup feta cheese


  • Put the bulgur wheat into a large bowl and stir in the salt; pour the boiling water over the bulgur, cover the bowl, and let it stand for 15-20 minutes.
  • After the bulgur has soaked up the water, stir in the citrus juice, garlic, mint, olive oil, and ground pepper. Cover and put in the fridge for 2-3 hours to marinate.
  • Just before serving, add the chickpeas, diced/grated vegetables, parsley, and feta (if using). Mix to combine and enjoy!

Recipe: Dukkah

If you’ve been reading food blogs recently, you may have noticed quite a few recipes for dukkah floating around. This is an Egyptian spice/nut/seed mix that is traditionally consumed by dipping a hunk of bread in olive oil and then into the dukkah. I found that it is delicious stirred into this couscous salad, atop other salads, and mixed into yogurt for a savory snack. It’s also good as-is, out-of-hand.

monochrome but delicious

monochrome but delicious

Whichever way you choose to consume your dukkah, know that it is super easy and quick to make and can be made in any number of ways. I compared three recipes before embarking on my own dukkah-making adventure. The basic ingredients are nuts, seeds (usually sesame), coriander, and cumin. I ended up using a mixture of ground almonds, peanuts, and walnuts (yes, I was lazy and bought a bag of pre-chopped nuts). The Kitchn says you can add other spices, herbs, or seeds at your will.


toasty spices



  • 1 cup nuts (I used a mixture of almonds, peanuts, & walnuts. Hazelnuts are the classic nut for this dish.)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • to taste: ground black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 325F (160C). Spread the nuts and sesame seeds on a baking pan and roast for 5-10 minutes or until they are golden-brown. Chop or grind the nuts after they are toasted and cool.
  • While the nuts are roasting, toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a pan on the stove over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Grind the spices with a mortar and pestle.
  • Combine all the ingredients with the salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir and serve.


Recipe(s): Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas, Lamb Meatballs, & Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

Yes — another post with multiple recipes! Four, to be exact. Though each component would taste fine on its own, I couldn’t put them in separate posts because it’s the combination of all four that really makes the meal. This calls for a new blog category: “full meals,” a category you can click on if you’d rather just open one window in your browser and make a whole meal from that single page.

This delightful combination of Middle Eastern-flavored dishes comes from the glorious smitten kitchen cookbook, which I pulled down last week to sort through and mark new recipes for F and me to try. First I took Deb’s advice for how to make granola form clusters. But I also saw this great-looking recipe entitled “roasted eggplant with yogurt-tahini sauce and cumin-crisped chickpeas.” I am an eggplant (aka aubergine here in the UK, or baklazhan if you’re in Ukraine) fan, and F is too, so when we were contemplating Sunday dinner ideas, I showed the recipe to him and we decided to go for it.

messily artistic & totally delicious

messily artistic & totally delicious

The recipe suggests sautéing some ground lamb for more meatiness — we liked that idea so F said he’d take it a step further and make lamb meatballs/patties. I loved the creaminess of the yogurt-tahini sauce; it complemented the slightly spicy lamb and crispy chickpeas and added nice depth of flavor to the eggplant. I am so looking forward to eating the leftovers.

garlic gives it some kick

garlic gives it some kick

Before we get on to the recipes themselves, one word of advice: you’ll need the oven for both the chickpeas and the eggplant. I’d recommend roasting the chickpeas earlier in the day so you’re not stuck in the kitchen for too long before dinner. You could mix up the lamb ingredients while the chickpeas are cooking, then pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to form and fry the meatballs.

I’ve separated the recipes so they’re easier to follow; make them in the order they appear, but don’t cook the meatballs until you’ve put the eggplant in the oven. You can of course prepare any one of these separately as a complement to another meal (the sauce would be delicious with falafel or roasted root vegetables).

Crispy Chickpeas


  • 2 cans (~3 cups) chickpeas, rinsed & patted dry
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin (I used a combination of whole seeds and ground)
  • to taste: pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 425F (215C). Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Spread them on a baking sheet and bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are browned and crispy.

Lamb Meatballs


  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1-2 onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup quinoa-bulgur mix
  • 1/4-1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 eggs
  • to taste: salt, pepper, minced parsley, cumin, red pepper flakes


  • While the chickpeas are cooking, mix everything together in a bowl (don’t be afraid to use your hands!). Cover the bowl and stick it in the fridge
  • When the eggplant goes in the oven, take out the lamb mixture and form smallish patties. Fry the patties in oil over medium heat until browned and cooked through, 5-7 minutes per side.

Roasted Eggplant


  • 3 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • to taste: olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Lightly oil a baking sheet (or just use the pre-oiled sheet that you baked the chickpeas on). Put the eggplant halves flat side up on the baking sheet. Brush the flat sides with olive oil.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, then carefully flip the eggplants over and bake another 10 minutes.

Yogurt-Tahini Sauce


  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt (I used fat free but feel free to use full fat or something in between)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • to taste: minced fresh parsley


  • Vigorously mix everything together in a bowl, tasting and adjusting flavors as you prefer.

Serve the eggplant and meatballs topped with sauce and sprinkled with chickpeas. 


a little cider doesn't hurt

a little cider doesn’t hurt


Recipe: Spicy Homemade Falafel with Minty Yogurt Sauce

We’ve been experimenting with chick peas recently. We wanted to learn how to recreate hummus at home rather than buying it at the store, for frugality’s sake and just for fun. Today I bring you homemade falafel, another great Mediterranean dish featuring chick peas. This recipe was adapted from one over at The Modern Home Kitchen, and the falafel patties turned out really well — they were great reheated, too. I accidentally added quite a bit of cayenne pepper, which made them quite spicy little guys. Luckily, the minty yogurt sauce cut the spice. The falafel were easy to assemble and cook — all you need is some patience to wait during the hour of chilling, and a big appetite to enjoy them!

Spicy Homemade Falafel with Minty Yogurt Sauce


  • Falafel (makes 14 small patties):

    • 1.5 cups chickpeas (I used canned ones)
    • 1 small-medium onion, roughly chopped
    • 2-4 tbsp parsley, chopped
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (even this much made the falafel quite spicy)
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 4-6 garlic cloves
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 6-7 tbsp flour
  • Yogurt Sauce:
    • 1 cup Greek yogurt (full fat is best!)
    • 2-3 tbsp fresh mint, minced
    • to taste: salt & pepper
    • drizzle of olive oil


  • Prepare falafel: In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the baking powder and flour. Pulse until the mixture is relatively smooth. Add the last two ingredients and blend to combine. Refrigerate for one hour.
  • Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce by mixing together all the ingredients. Refrigerate.
  • When the falafel mix is done chilling, remove it from the fridge and use your hands to form small balls or patties. Fry them in oil for 3-5′ per side, or bake at 400F/200C for 10′ per side. Serve with the yogurt sauce, roasted root vegetables and a salad.


Recipe: Homemade Hummus

IMG_4130F and I love hummus. It makes such a good snack with a celery or carrot stick and/or some crackers. Eating hummus makes you feel a little bit virtuous, too. Most stores sells pre-made hummus, and many brands are delicious. I’ve known for a while that it is not actually that difficult to make from scratch — I just never got around to doing it until F and I were talking about it last week after coming across (yet another) awesome-looking smitten kitchen recipe. She peels her chickpeas, but we decided not to do that. Also I used canned chickpeas (lazy me, I know) rather than dried ones. Despite those changes, the hummus turned out really well; it’s a fun dish because you can personalize its garlicky-ness, lemony-ness and saltiness as much or as little as you wish.

Happy hummus-ing!

Homemade Hummus (adapted from this recipe)


  • 1.75 cups (15oz/400g can) of chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp cold water
  • to taste: olive oil (for serving); any other spices you’d like — cumin and/or paprika would work well


  • Blend the chickpeas in a food processor until they form a coarse meal.
  • Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt; blend until smooth, drizzling in tablespoons of water as necessary to get your desire thickness.
  • Rest the hummus for 30′ in the fridge, then serve with a drizzle of olive oil and your choice of veggies, crackers, and/or pita wedges.