Tag Archives: Middle Eastern food

Cracked Wheat, Feta, Mint and Pistachio Salad

Y’all.  I’m so excited!  We’re going to have a wedding!  Yes!  A wedding!  My niece, Elizabeth, the daughter of my sister, Cynthia, (you know! Remember on Cynthia’s birthday a few years back I wrote the recipe for Key Lime Pound Cake with Key Lime Cream Cheese Icing? Yes, her.). Well, anyway, Elizabeth is engaged.  Her darling boyfriend, Jinal, proposed to her about a week ago on the way to dinner in San Francisco where they both live and the whole family is beyond thrilled.  They were good friends before falling in love, having met in graduate school, and have a most solid foundation for their relationship.  I’m not losing a niece… not at all… I’m gaining another boy to spoil.  So, in their honor, I put together some of their favorite foods and came up with this brilliant dish.  Elizabeth and Jinal are not big beef people so I aimed for a salad that would be happy crowned with a filet of dolphin or several shrimp in addition to being a salad good enough to stand up alone and on its own.  And it is.  This salad a true flavor bomb, mixing bright, clean herbs such as mint and parsley with satisfying bulgur wheat and chick peas.  Sheep’s milk feta, red onion and pistachios add to the salad’s savory aspect while a sizeable amount of chopped cucumber amplifies the crunch factor.  This is a super salad to serve as an entrée or a side.  It’s great for parties as it feeds a crowd and is muy good-looking mounded on a platter.  The salad is easily refreshed a day or two later with a few spritzes of fresh lemon juice and a quick toss.  It’s cooling meal and a snap to put together when you’re fighting the heat of summer as well as substantial in cold weather when you want a salad with a bit of heft.  Salad girls know you can’t live on romaine leaves alone.  A pint of grape tomatoes halved are a lovely addition to this salad as are a handful of pomegranate seeds.  I’ve also added about 1/2 cup roughly chopped Greek olives for a “meatier” dinner.  Play around with this thing.  It’s a no-fail!

Aren’t they just precious?!

Cracked Wheat, Feta, Mint and Pistachio Salad

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup bulgur or cracked wheat
  • 1 cup water
  • zest of two lemons, from the lemons you’re going to juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup good quality olive oil plus more if needed
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 3/4 – 2 cups chopped cucumbers, the mini-cucumbers in a bag in your grocery’s produce section work great as they’re not really watery and I find them crunchier than conventional ones
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup sheep’s milk feta, crumbled by hand
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl combine the cracked wheat, water, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Stir, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 45  minutes or until the wheat has absorbed most of the liquid.
  2. When most of the liquid has been absorbed, fluff the wheat with a fork and add the garbanzo beans, cucumbers, mint and parsley and toss well.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients including the unused olive oil and toss well.
  4. Taste for any needed salt and pepper, cover and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes for all the flavors to marry:)
  5. Scatter any leftover mint and parsley over the mounded and serve.



Falafel, Bible Fast Food


I have a great recipe for those who can’t eat anymore rich, holiday food.  And I am one of those people.  I CANNOT choke down another butter cookie and, believe me, I’m your carb-girl so if anyone could it would be me.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.  Take away the beef tenderloin, the hot crab dip, the egg nog.  Away with the cheesecake bites and the whole ham stuffed with greens.  I need clean food.  I crave it.  That said, I made falafel the other night.  Crispy on the outside, green, warm and crumbly on the inside.  Falafel date back to the bible and it is pretty much agreed that it is a Middle Eastern food.  But that’s where the agreeing stops.  Arguments abound with a plethora of countries claiming the birthright of falafel.  Whether if sprang from Egypt, Syria or Israel…well, I give thanks!  I’ve long left canned beans for everything except hummus.  I’m not going to soak and cook dried chickpeas to then puree them into a spread.  But for just about all my other bean dishes I use dried beans.   Canned have way too many additives, are processed too much and end up mushy.  Canned beans, quite frankly, have very little flavor left.  I used several recipes more for guidance than anything else as you don’t have to measure if you have an eye for general amounts.  I wanted clean food with flavor.  I thought falafel served with tsatziki, freshly sliced radishes and cucumbers and warmed, whole wheat pita for those who wanted, was just the ticket.  In my largest mixing bowl I put a 1 pound (16 oz.) bag of chickpeas and covered them completely with room temperature water.  There was probably 3″-4″ of water covering them.  I did this on Friday to make the falafel Saturday night.  But when Saturday night rolled around we decided to go out.  I changed the water in the bowl and aimed for Sunday night.  But lunch on Sunday was so late in the day we never wanted dinner.  Monday it is.  I rinsed the chickpeas and changed the water again.  When I made them they were gorgeous!  I’m crazy about fresh herbs and sometimes double or triple the amount called for in recipes so feel free to hold back a bit if you’re not too crazy about a particular flavor or add more if you like.  If you’d like to cut back on some more calories feel free to place the balls or patties on parchment paper lined baking sheets, cover lightly with a canola or olive oil spray and bake in the oven at 375° for approximately 15-20 minutes depending on their size.  The end result is still crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  This recipe makes a ton of them but they freeze magnificently.  I always freeze half of the falafel once they cool for a quick dinner on that rainy night when I get home late.  To reheat just take them straight from the freezer and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until hot all through.  I like mine with tsatziki but if you’d rather have a tahini sauce, (sesame sauce), I’ve posted a quick tahini at the bottom of this page.




  • Servings: 6-8 or 14 to 15 patties. Or 40 small balls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) dried chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 large clove garlic
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper, (optional but I love it)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • about 3 cups canola, sunflower or vegetable oil
  • salt, a couple of good pinches
  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water.  Soak them for 24 hours and check every now and again to add more water in the event the chickpeas have absorbed it.
  2. When ready to cook put the drained chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro in the food processor and process until contents are minced or grainy looking but not mushy.
  3. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture gets “stuck” in the processor.  Try to keep the mixture as dry as possible.  Transfer the chickpea mixture back to the large bowl.
  4. In a small bowl mix cumin, pepper, coriander, cardamom, baking powder and flour.
  5. Pour the dried herb mixture into the large bowl with the chickpeas and using your hands mix well.  Blend it well until the mixture is smooth and uniform and all ingredients are completely integrated.  Taste for salt, pepper or spice adjustments.
  6. Pour the oil into a heavy medium-sized  frying pan or saucepan until the oil comes 3 inches up the sides of the pan.  Heat to 350° or medium high.
  7. Keeping your hands wet, form the mixture into balls or patties using a tablespoon or a melon ball/ice cream scoop.
  8. Fry the balls or patties in batches for 4-5 minutes until well browned and cooked all the way through.
  9. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Tahini Sauce

  • 5 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced or 1-2 tablespoons
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste
  1. Mix all ingredients well in a small bowl adding a bit of salt to your taste.  The consistency will be slightly runny.