Make It Middle Eastern


On May 2, Israel honored her war heroes in a day of remembrance called Yom Hazikaron. It is a somber day, beginning with the blares of sirens, when everything comes to a standstill, remembering the nation's fallen. Places of entertainment are closed, and loved ones are mourned in ceremonies in every community. Then, at sunset, the mood swings to joyous celebration as Yom Ha'atzmaut – Independence Day – begins.

Our U.S. Memorial Day, not quite as grave these days, is marked by similar rituals, plus a good showing of American flags on balconies, windows and front yards. We wait a month before our own Independence Day is celebrated on July Fourth.

In addition to the other rituals, grills are unveiled on Memorial Day to mark the official start of backyard barbecues and picnics, as we invite friends and neighbors to kick off the season of outdoor entertaining. Typically robust, meat-based all-American favorites highlight the menu.

But salads are important, too, and Middle Eastern ones make the grade. The non-meat eaters among you can incorporate these sides into the main meal.

Barbecued Beef Ribs

9 lbs. beef ribs (about 20 meaty ribs)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup ketchup
2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. curry powder

Preheat grill.

Simmer ribs in a large pot of water 30 minutes.

While ribs are simmering, in a small saucepan, cook the garlic in oil over a moderately low heat, stirring, until golden.

Stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder, and simmer, stirring, until thickened slightly, about 1 minute.

Transfer ribs to a large plate, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill ribs on a rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals, meat-sides down, until golden, 10 minutes. Grill ribs on edges until golden, about 3 minutes on each edge, and grill, bone-sides down, until golden, about 3 minutes.

Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce and grill, continuing to baste, until barely charred, about 1 minute on each side.

Serves 6 to 8.

Turkey Burgers With Two Mustards

2 lbs. ground turkey
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
2 Tbsps. hot-sweet mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsps. chopped parsley
2 Tbsps. chopped green onion
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Form into 8 to 10 patties.

Then, on a preheated grill, cook about 5 minutes per side.

Serve with toasted buns and relishes.

Serves 8 to 10.

Tabbouleh Salad

11/2 cups cracked wheat or tabbouleh
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
3 Tbsps. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 hot-house cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of ground cumin

Soak the cracked wheat in cold water for 30 minutes.

Drain in a fine sieve, squeezing out any excess water.

In a large bowl, combine the cracked wheat with the remaining ingredients.

Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 6 to 8.


Israeli Couscous Salad

8 oz. Israeli couscous (available in Middle Eastern food shops, kosher or pasta sections of supermarkets; sometimes referred to as "pearl pasta")
3 cups boiling water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. caraway seeds
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsps. finely chopped mint
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsps. white-wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
freshly ground pepper

Cook couscous according to package directions. Drain; set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the corn, onion, coriander and caraway, and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

Add the couscous to the bowl, along with the bell pepper, jalapeños, scallions and mint.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, canola oil, vinegar, honey and lime zest.

Add to the couscous and toss.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 8 to 10.


Olive Salad

1 lb. mixed green and black olives, pitted
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 slices lemon
1 tsp. chili powder or to taste
pinch of red-pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, cook olives in water to cover. Bring to a boil and then drain. Repeat the process again.

In another saucepan, combine tomatoes, oil, garlic and tomato paste. Simmer a few minutes, and add the olives, lemon and spices.

Add a little water and simmer about 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove lemon and let cool.

This may be served as an appetizer with pita or crackers, or as a relish.

Makes about 2 cups.


Pickled Peppers

2 yellow or orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch strips
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch strips
21/2 cups white distilled vinegar
11/4 cup sugar
21/2 cups water
8 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsps. salt
6 sprigs of dill

Place peppers in a large bowl Cover with boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain.

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, water, garlic, oil and salt. Simmer 10 minutes. Let cool.

Fill a large jar with tight-fitting lid with the vinegar mixture. Add peppers and dill.

Serve as a side dish or relish.

Makes about 4 cups.



(Lebanese Bread Salad)

3 six-inch pita breads, toasted and broken into small pieces
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 ripe medium-size tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 mint leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin seed
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, moisten pita with 3 tablespoons lemon juice.

Add the cucumber, scallions, pepper, tomatoes, beans, parsley and mint. Toss again.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining lemon juice with garlic, cumin and olive oil.

Toss with salad, and taste for salt and pepper.

Serves 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.




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