cooking fresh on a budget

Savor the Middle East

By Amy McCoy | March 07, 2017
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Welcome Spring with Bright Flavors and a Pop of Color


There may be no better way, food-wise, to usher in spring than with the flavors of the Middle East. From sweet and savory spice blends, to tangy dried fruit paired with nuts, to piquant pomegranate molasses, bright citrus and refreshing mint, Middle Eastern food celebrates bright, bold, fresh flavors.

This season’s recipe takes its inspiration from those flavors with a nutty-sweet bulgur wheat salad made colorful and flavorful with roasted beets and refreshing mint. The salad is paired with fragrant lamb patties topped with a vibrant yogurt-beet sauce.

Don’t be afraid to experiment:

• Try spring peas and pea tendrils with the bulgur. Purée ¼ cup of blanched green peas and a tablespoon of water before blending with Greek yogurt and mint to make pea-yogurt dip. Grill artichoke hearts or asparagus, then mix the zest and juice of 1 lemon into the yogurt to serve alongside the salad.

• In the mood for some orange color? Substitute roasted spring carrots for the beets—and then make a roasted carrotyogurt dip instead, or use tahini in place of the yogurt for a nuttier take on the veggie-based dipping sauce.

• Substitute the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar for the Aleppo pepper in your lamb patties (see note below).

• Use ground local chicken or turkey instead of lamb for a variation on the patties.

• Look to other grains to make salads that can be enjoyed hot or cold, such as Middle Eastern pearl couscous with toasted almonds, canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed), the zest and juice of 1 orange and a sprinkling of pomegranate arils. Or try freekeh with chopped dried apricots, walnuts and chopped parsley.

• Consider other ways to use Middle Eastern flavors, such as chicken marinated in a mixture of yogurt, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice and garlic. Try chicken or fish simply seasoned with za’atar and grilled. Or vegetables or meat glazed with pomegranate molasses.

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