Some Middle Eastern Side Dishes

When I made my lime- cilantro shrimp A Meal from the Middle East I also made some Middle Eastern side dishes to accompany the shrimp.  Couscous is a dish I make a lot when making Middle Eastern dishes.  It is so easy, and so healthy and delicious too.  I also made some Middle eastern spiced vegetables to serve along side the shrimp as well.  All the dishes went together very well.  The Middle East, along with India, is known for its wide variety of exotic spices, so all the dishes from these regions are very flavorful and aromatic.

I added some chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro to my couscous, making it even healthier.  Couscous is actually a pasta that looks similar to rice.  The ratio of water to couscous and water is almost a 1:1, with just slightly more water than couscous.  Bring the water with a little salt and olive oil to a full, rapid boil, then turn off the heat and add the couscous.  Mix everything together and let it sit for a few minutes before serving or adding additional ingredients.  That’s it.  Easy-peasy.

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The vegetables I made were almost as easy to make as the couscous, and were certainly very tasty too.  I used up some of my leftover vegetables and roasted them all together in Middle Eastern spices.  The house smelled so good while they were roasting.  It was a perfect, easy-peasy fall dinner.

Middle Eastern Roasted Vegetables

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1/2 zucchini, sliced

1/2 yellow or crookneck squash, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into a medium dice

1/2 red onion, medium dice

1/2 small pumpkin, medium dice

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp each allspice, cardamon, cumin and cinnamon

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

3-4 TBSP olive oil

butter, cut into chunks

 

Preheat the oven to 375* F

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Mix all the vegetables and spices together and toss in the olive oil.  Arrange the vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Place the butter chunks on top of the vegetables.  Roast the vegetables for about 30-40 minutes or until they golden brown and tender.  Serve along side your main dish and enjoy.

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A Meal from the Middle East

When I think of Middle Eastern food, I have to admit, shrimp is not the first thing that comes to mind.  I think more of lamb, hummus, baba ganoush, falafels or baklava than I do of shrimp and seafood.   But there are a lot of Middle Eastern seafood dishes as well, especially in the countries that border the seas.  I made a delicious Middle Eastern recipe with prawns that originated in the fishing villages of Beirut, Lebanon.  It was made with very simple, basic ingredients that I keep on hand all the time.  If I can, when I make ethnic dishes, I like the whole meal to be as ethnic as possible.  This dish was no exception.  I made sauteed prawns with lime and cilantro that I served over couscous with some roasted vegetables seasoned with typical Middle Eastern spices, warmed pita bread and hummus.  I finished it all with one of my favorite chardonnays that had hints of apples and melon, which paired very nicely with the warm aromatic spices in the vegetables and the fresh lime and cilantro of the prawns.

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Sauteed Prawns with Lime and Cilantro

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1 1/2 lbs large prawns, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1/4 red pepper, diced fine

3 TBSP olive oil

2-3 TBSP lime juice

2 tsp minced lime peel

1-2 tsp black pepper

salt to taste – easy on the salt though, because the lime juice will add a little  “saltiness” to the dish.

1 bunch cilantro, chopped rough

 

In a hot skillet, saute the garlic, lime peel and red pepper in olive oil for about 1-2 minutes, then add the shrimp and continue to cook until the shrimp is completely cooked.

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When the shrimp is cooked, add the lime juice and the cilantro.  Mix everything together thoroughly and serve over cooked couscous, rice or pasta.

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This is one of many, many variations of this simple and delicious recipe.  As with most recipes, there is not just one way to make it, but many.  Make them way you like them.

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Rays of Sunshine

More sunshine has come my way, in the form of another Sunshine Blogger Award nomination.  This time it comes from my friends over at Brother’s Campfire.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I am honored yet again to be nominated for this award.  It is always a big honor, because it tells me that in my own small way, I am making a difference and bringing a little sunshine to others as well through my blog, “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”.

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As for the Sunshine Blogger Award, it’s an award given by bloggers to other bloggers they find creative, talented and entertaining. Generally, it’s a great way of opening yourself to the community as well as to your readers, since you need to answer 11 questions from the blogger that nominated you. Moreover, you then write your own 11 creative questions and nominate up to 11 additional bloggers that need to do the same.

The questions that were asked of me:

  1.  How many days would you last in solitary confinement? How would you pass the time?

I don’t think this would really be much of an issue for me.  Even though I am by nature very social and gregarious, I am also an only child, and can easily find ways to entertain myself and pass the time.

2.  What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

When I was really young, I did not understand how television worked, and I thought that the actors were actually somehow inside the TV.

3.  Are you more inclined to “build your own empire” or unleash the potential of others?

Hmmmmmm.  I think a little of both.

4.  In what area of your life are you immature?

I can be very naive at times.  Some also say because I am blunt, that I lack diplomacy.  Those both might be considered immature to some.

5.  When do you find yourself singing?

I used to sing all the time, but I don’t so much any more.  To many years of teaching in pools has ruined my voice.

6.  What are you willing to die for?

I am willing to lay down my life fighting for things I strongly believe in, like my freedoms or my country, or my family and loved ones.

7.  What job would you be terrible at?

Any job that would keep me stuck doing the same old mundane things day in and day out.  I constantly need to learn and grow in order to thrive and prosper.

8.  What kind of art do you enjoy most?

Art is subjective.  It’s hard to say what will inspire me or speak to me, or when.

9.  What is special to you about where you grew up?

I grew up in a community where we all knew our neighbors, and we would all help each other out.  This is lacking in society today.

10.  What small things make your day better?

You said it.  It is the small things.  Coming home to all of my fur babies, lovingly greeting me at the door; children playing or laughing; seeing people truly in love and happy.

11.  If all jobs had the same pay and hours, what job would you like to have?

These are two completely different and separate things.  If all jobs had the same hours and pay, that would not be right or just, and would be very boring and a lot less productive.  I say follow your heart and do the things you love, and the money will come.

 

As I have said many times, there are so many wonderful, fun, creative and provocative blogs out there, which makes it very difficult for me to narrow it down to select those who stand out.  Rather than nominating a whole bunch of bloggers, I will stick to just nominating a few.  They are:

Rozina from

Catherine from
and
My questions to all of you are:
1.  What is your favorite holiday and why?
2.  Who would you want to have dinner with and why?  It could be anyone, dead or alive, real of fictional.
3.  What do you do when not blogging?
4.  Do you like animals?
5.  Do you have any pets?
6.  If you do have pets, are they just pets, or are they part of the family?
7.  If time travel was real, would you use it to travel in either the past or the future, or both?
8.  Where is your favorite place to visit?
9.  What is your favorite type of food?
10.  What was your favorite subject to study in school?
11.  Would you want to be famous?
Best of luck to all, and to all of you, please keep up all the good work and your great blogs.  I think by sharing our thoughts and our worlds we are helping to bring the world together.  In our own ways, we all bring a little sunshine to others.
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The Tradition Continues

My friend Priscilla and I have been making our caramels together for quite a few years now.   It is become our annual tradition.  Making Caramels  Our friends and family from around the world have learned of our tradition, and have sampled the goods, so every year our request list grows by leaps and bounds.  It is getting harder and harder to meat those demands, but we keep on trying.    Awwwww!  The price of fame I guess.  🙂  Yesterday was our designated caramel day.  As usual, we made two double batches each.  One is the plain caramels and the other is chocolate pecan.  It only takes about 45 minutes to actually make one batch of the caramels.  It is the cutting and wrapping them all individually that is so time consuming.  We usually stand side by side stirring our batches on the stove, talking and laughing the whole time.

Our caramels are at different stages at this point.  Priscilla’s has almost reached it’s first boiling point, and I am still melting the butter in mine.

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Priscilla is on batch #2, the chocolate pecan batch.

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And now, they cool.  They have to cool completely for at least about 4 hours before they are ready to cut.

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The cutting and wrapping process has begun.  I just finished cutting and wrapping all the chocolate pecan caramels.  I will start the process all over again tomorrow with the plain caramels.  Every now and then, there are a couple of strays that randomly need to be tested, you know, for quality control, just to make sure we haven’t lost our touch.  This year, so far, they are even more delicious than last year, so we’re still good.

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Quick and Easy Gyros

Gyros (pronounced yeer-ros) are delicious sandwiches that are made with finely sliced meat, topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, raw red onions, sliced very thin and tzatziki sauce all wrapped together in warmed pita bread.  The origins of this delicious sandwich are up for debate.  Are they Greek?  Are they Turkish, where they are known as doners? Or did they come from other parts of the Middle East, where they are known as shawarma?  Regardless of where they come from, they are all very similar and are always very tasty.  Some say they date back as far as the days of Alexander the Great.  Others say they were invented in Turkey and then migrated to other parts of the Mediterranean.  Then there are those that claim they are Greek- American and were first introduced in either the 18th or 19th century.  Bottom line, no one really knows for sure where these wonderful, meaty sandwiches come from or how long they have been around.  The only thing we can agree on is how good they taste.

The word gyro, along with the words doner and shawarma, all mean to turn or turning.  They get their names because the meat used is usually thinly sliced meat that is carved from meat that is on a rotating spit.  The meat can be lamb, beef, pork, chicken, or a combination of any of those, depending on where you find them. In Greece, gyros are served with tzatziki sauce, but in other parts of the Middle east, they are not.  Tzatziki sauce is a yogurt sauce made with garlic, cucumbers, olive oil, and lemon juice, and sometimes with dill, mint or parsley.  It is always served cold, often as an appetizer or a starter.

Most Americans think McDonald’s was the one of the originators of fast food, but the Greeks would strongly disagree.  The gyro was actually one of the first global fast foods to be found, and is believed to have been eaten by the ancient Greeks as Greek street food.

I made my gyros from my leftover lamb.  I added some of my leftover lemon sauce to my yogurt for my tzatziki sauce.  Roasted Lamb with a Mustard Herb Crust  I also combined my lentils with the spinach and mushrooms and some white rice, to serve as a side dish.  Oh, the Queen is so proud of how I am always recreating from leftovers.  🙂

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Just heating up the lamb and the pitas.

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All you need for a quick, simple tzatziki sauce.  My marinade that I used for my lamb already had all the other ingredients necessary for tzatziki.  It was made with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs, along with Dijon mustard.  I added about 2 TBSP of my leftover sauce to the yogurt to make the perfect tzatziki sauce for my gyros.

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It’s all wrapped up and ready to eat.  D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!  I LOVE gyros.  I think they are among my favorite Greek foods.

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Stir-Fry Pork and Vegetables

We all have heard of and most likely eaten many stir-fried meals.  We also all know, a stir-fry dish is an Asian way of cooking that was created in China, many centuries ago, and then traveled to other parts of Asia, and eventually to many other parts of the world.  Stir-frying is a method of cooking foods with a small amount of very hot oil, traditionally cooked in a wok.  You can use just about any kind of meat and/or vegetables in a stir-fry.  Stir-fry is just the name used to describe the cooking method, not necessarily the ingredients used.  The term “stir-fry”, however was never used to describe this method of cooking until 1945, when the Chinese cookbook author Buwei Yang Chao coined the term in his cookbook, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese.    There are many reasons why this is a preferred method of cooking. It preserves the nutrition and the freshness of the foods and ingredients used; it needs very little oil; it saves time; and the foods have a very nice presentation.  

A wok is a type of cooking pan that is rounded at the bottom and has high sides which allows the food to be seared at a very hot temperature while it is cooking, without using a lot of cooking oil.   Today, many people, myself included, use a skillet rather than a wok to achieve the same results.  I have a wok, but I actually prefer using my skillet.  Sometimes, using a non-stick skillet instead of a wok is actually better.  It is usually healthier because you use even less oil than you would by using a wok, by about 1/2.  A non-stick skillet can actually cook the food at a higher temperature too.  Most woks can withstand temperatures of about 400* F, whereas, the non-stick skillets can withstand temperatures of over 500* F.  Otherwise, there is not much difference between cooking your stir-fry in a wok vs. a skillet.  It all boils down to your personal preference.

 

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Pork Stir-Fry with Vegetable

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1/2 lbs pork, cut into small, thin strips

1-1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 onion, red or yellow, sliced very thin

1/2 bell pepper, red, yellow or orange, or a combination thereof, sliced into thin strips

1/2 jalapeno, diced very fine

1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1 1/2 TBSP ginger

2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 TBSP honey

2 tsp Chinese 5 Spices

1/2 cup corn starch

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP peanut oil

 

In either a very hot wok or skillet, heat the oil and cook the vegetables, the garlic and the ginger, stirring constantly until they are cooked, but still with a bit of a snap to them.  Remove them from the pan and set aside.

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While the vegetables are cooking, coat the pork strips with the cornstarch and seasonings, making sure to completely coat the meat.  Once the vegetables have been removed from the cooking pan, add the pork to the hot oil, and cook until the meat has a light crust and is completely browned.

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To make the sauce, combine the orange juice, honey, soy sauce and red pepper flakes together.

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Put the vegetables back into the hot skillet, and add the sauce.  Once everything is combined well, add the meat back into the mixture.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for about 5-7 minutes.

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Serve immediately over cooked rice.  Top with green onions, cut in Asian style or at an angle, if you choose.  I served this with some potsickers (store bought, I know) and a dry white wine.  The dry white wine will go very nicely with the spice of the dish, although it is a mild spice.

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Technical Difficulties Today

I have been trying to make my post today, but for some reason, my computer is not accepting my pictures from my camera disc today.  I have no idea what is going on, since everything was working just fine yesterday.  So I thought I would do my back-up plan, and feature a new guest chef, but I am having problems downloading her recipes and her pictures too.  Hang tight.  I will soon have all these technical difficulties worked out.  Thank you for your patience.

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