The Middle East is where many different cultures from three different continents all come together and meet. It is the melting pot for South Eastern Europe, Western Asia and the Eastern parts of North Africa. There are many different countries within this region of the world as well, but most of the culinary influences hail from three countries – Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. These three countries make up what is known as the Fertile Crescent. Though these three countries all share a common language and have the same cultural heritage, they all three have their own unique and distinct personalities. These regional distinctions are also found in the foods from these areas. Lebanon is famous for its wide array of mezze or little dishes, similar to tapas in Spain. Jordanian recipes are renowned for the meat dishes, and the Syrians are best known for their piquant or spicy dishes that are meant to be eaten with breads. “The cuisines of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are generally regarded as Arab food at its best”, The Food and Cooking of the Middle East. Dinner had bits and pieces of all three of these Arabic regions. It was full of flavor and full of color. We had grilled shrimp marinated in lime juice and cilantro, that I served with roasted pumpkin with pomegranate and pepita seeds, cous cous and pita bread with hummus. I completed the meal with a crisp chardonnay that had hints of apples and melon.
Shrimp with Cilantro and Lime
15-16 large shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined
2 TBSP lime juice
1-1 1/2 TBSP garlic
salt and pepper to taste
3 TBSP olive oil
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped in a rough cut
Mix everything together and marinate the shrimp for about 1/2 an hour and chill. I skewered the shrimp and grilled them, but you can also pan-fry everything together as well.
Save the marinade. Once the shrimp is cooked and ready to serve, heat up the marinade and top the cooked shrimp with it. YUM!
Roasted Pumpkin with Pomegranate and Pepita Seeds
3 lbs of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP honey
pomegranate dressing (optional)
1 shallot, minced fine
1 bunch of parsley, chopped in a rough cut
1/3 cup toasted pepita seeds
1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
Preheat the oven to 450*F
Toss the pumpkin cubes with half the olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, stirring after about 10 minutes. Once the pumpkin is cooked, remove from the oven and let cool.
Once the pumpkin has cooled, toss it with the pepita seeds, pomegranate seeds and parsley. Mix together the lemon juice, honey, olive oil and pomegranate dressing, if using. I had some left over pomegranate dressing and used that for some extra flavor. Then toss everything together and serve. I really like this dish served warm, but you can eat it cold too.