Middle Eastern Feastern

Welp, I'm back on one of my Middle Eastern kicks. I thought I'd enjoy the journey with you and yours since I've been enjoying myself and am quite proud of the whole thing here to boot.

And, best of all, all of these recipes are available online for free due to the generosity and creativity of several geniuses listed below...

Now, I'll say first off that normally I'd make my own hummus. However, the store was out of tahini (or doesn't carry it anymore? I'd swear I've seen it there before). So, store-bought on that count. Otherwise, however, I'm partial to Mr. Smith's recipe, for the record. I just tend to up the garlic (yeah, because that's necessary, given the rest of this meal).

First up in actual cooking? The turnips. You should actually do these a few days in advance (not one day in advance, like me). They take a few days to get that excellent salt-vinegar tang to them. However, mine have finally achieved perfect color (get a big beet).

The recipe is in this thread, but I'm going to list it below as well in case Chowhound decides to archive their forums or some such.

Okay my recipe for pink turnip pickles is as follows

2 lbs of turnips
1 beet peeled and cut
3 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup vinegar
2 Tbs salt
3/4 tsp of sugar

Chop vegetables into appropriately sized sticks. Mix liquids with seasonings until dissolved. Combine them, stir, leave covered approx five days. Once finished pickling, refrigerate.

The above makes an awful lot, so I've halved the liquids/salt/sugar and chopped up 2 turnips and a large beet to make the picture above.

Next up: Thoom (Garlic Sauce)

I'm going to tell you straight-up that I still haven't got the trick of this one. Basically, the idea is that if you emulsify enough oil with the garlic, you get this light, fluffy sauce. I've yet to get it as smooth or as creamy as other creators seem to and I've tried it a couple times. My only hints so far? Add oil very slowly and do not try this with a food processor. Too big.

In today's version, I tried this person's method after picking up and discarding several other recipes and websites. I haven't tried adding the egg white--that may be the next trick I give a shot. Also, while I'm going to tell you straight up that I used an immersion blender, you can also grind the garlic to a paste using a mortar and pestle and then emulsify with a whisk.

Next up: Tabouleh

I find tabouleh to be a critical part of my Middle Eastern Feastern because a) the parsley tone is critical, to my mind and b) tabouleh was one of the first Middle Eastern foods I ever fell in love with. Thank you, Mega Wraps Guy in conjunction with My Mom for getting me to try it all those years ago.

While the base is here, I've modified a bit in that picture. I knew I'd want some cucumber so that's in there; a little bit of garlic (a no-no in traditional circles); and I switched out the bulgur wheat entirely. I wanted some more protein, some more cals-per-bite since this is going to be my primary belly-stuffer. So, quinoa, that holy "complete food". I should add, however, that bulgur wheat does in fact have a good bit of protein in it and significantly less fat. I also just like quinoa and am trying to fill this sucker out.

Next up: Falafel

Here's where it gets ugly. Up until now, we've had thrilling colors, creamy consistencies, bright salads... Falafel is ugly. It crumbles, it's a funny shade of yellow-green and uncooked it's about as appetizing as any other mash.

Aren't you excited?

For my first real homemade falafel (read, not out of a box mix falafel), I used the lovely Mrs. Charmian's recipe. I followed her lead and soaked some chickpeas overnight. This meant I ended up with fewer peas than I'd meant to (I get very loose with my dried bean measurements).

I also, see above, did not have the called-for tahini. So. Some adjustments.

Double the spices. I'm telling you that now. I like the combination, but my first few patties were not that flavorful. This is just too much chickpea to flavor with individual teaspoons. And add some cayenne. I also had some zata'ar on hand so I added a couple heaping teaspoons of that.

What did I do instead of tahini? I improvised. I dumped in nearly a quarter cup of sesame seeds and added olive oil as I went for texture. I think with the lack of tahini, my mix was overall dryer, so I was easier on the breadcrumbs in the final step as well.

Next up: Pitas

Well, we gotta have something to put all this stuff in, don't we? Enter the humble pita.

These bad boys are thrilling to make since, when you make them right, they're a little show in your oven as they puff.

Now, I don't care what measurements this man's website gives you about rolling. Make them as thin as possible. Thin, thin, thin! This gives you the best puff for your buck.

This recipe gave me pitas with fluff and absolutely fantastic pockets. They came open so easily it was ridiculous. Lastly, I made mine with 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour for some additional texture.

And that, my friend, is a Middle Eastern Feastern, vegetarian style. I have some plans in the making for a chicken shwarma recipe of my very own, but you all will just have to wait until we've at least gotten past Meatless Monday. Jeez.