The Middle East is comprised of 18 countries and 12 languages and is the birthplace for major religions that are practiced worldwide. It’s a very economically, politically, culturally and religiously sensitive area and the conflict there has been felt for generations. One thing that the people of the Middle East — Jews, Muslims, Christians and all people in-between — can agree on is that the food is amazing and was part of the “clean eating” diet well before it became a major food trend elsewhere.
References to olives, garlic, honey, mint, figs and dates are found in the Torah, Quran, and the Bible. The most commonly used proteins in that region are lamb, chicken, and fish. While both Islam and Judaism forbid the consumption of pork, tilapia is found naturally in the Sea of Galilee — where the fishermen still use nets similar to the ones that the disciples in the Bible were said to have used. Olives, olive oil, pita, honey, dates, sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, and yoghurt are used daily throughout the region.
We are fortunate to have Chef Stefanie Martin at the PC Cooking School on Thursday, August 14th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for “A Night in the Middle East”, where you can warm up with some exotic spices from the Middle East! Chef Stefanie will treat you to a mouth-watering Middle Eastern menu featuring flavourful Dukka (toasted spices and nuts) with warm Pita Points for dipping, hearty Fattoush (bread salad), tender Marinated Lemon Yogurt Chicken with Jeweled Couscous and, for dessert, delectable Ghriba (Moroccan almond cookies).
Chef Stefanie was inspired to pursue a culinary career by watching her mother and grandmother create delicious meals, desserts, and preserves to be shared with family and friends. She has worked in the hospitality field for over three decades and has held various positions from Baker to Chef as well as in culinary management. Apprenticing with chefs from around the globe, she has gained invaluable experience and holds her Red Seal certification. Specializing in pastry as well as savory meals, her love of cooking is obvious and infectious. Dedicated to life-long learning, she strives to discover creative, appetizing and artistic techniques to prepare and serve food.
Register for Chef Stefanie’s class (or any of our exciting classes) online at www.pccookingschool.ca or call me directly at 705-749-6962 ext. 4.
In the meantime, here’s a little taste of the Middle East with a recipe for Lemon Couscous.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 2 lemons cut into wedges
- 2 cups (500 ml) of couscous
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) paprika
- 2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin
- 1 tsp (5 ml) ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger
- 2 cups (500 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) green olives
- Squeeze enough juice from second lemon to measure 4 tablespoons (30 ml); set wedges and juice aside.
- Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
- After adding next 5 ingredients (garlic and spices), stir 1 minute. Add broth and bring to boil.
- Add lemon wedges, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and half the olives. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil (uncovered). Add couscous, take off heat and cover.
- Add remaining olives and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
All photos by Elaine McCarthy