Lucious, lip-smacking Tahini recipes; featured tea, iced Lebanese lemonade tea; featured poet, Michael Steffen

… If form follows function, 
it stands to reason that pain is the fate of all “brainy” things –
cauliflower, coral and raspberry clumps, the florets that sizzle
in my spiced tahini.
The Veggi Life by Michael Steffen 

Hummus photo above courtesy of Beyrouthhh under  CC BY  3.0  License

These dips are tasty with veggies for healthy, low-carb high-fiber snacking.  But first the tea ….

The PDQ version: Iced Lebanese lemonade Tea, combine equal parts unsweetened black tea with sweetened lemonade and a teaspoon of rosewater for each four cups. (You’ll find the most reasonably priced rosewater in ethnic groceries.) Add or pour over ice.

Here’s my  tahini collection: all good Greek, Lebanese and Turkish peasant food. They are not only healthy and flavorful but budget-wise.

TAHINI AND LEMON

Thin two-or-three tablespoons of tahini with fresh lemon juice for a quick and easy dip, spread, or sauce for falafel, fish or fried vegetables. I don’t care to thin it with vinegar, but some people do. If it sounds appeal, try this with white vinegar instead of lemon.

SPICED TAHINI AND LEMON

Makes about one cup of dip

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, best quality you can afford
  • Pinch of Aleppo Pepper, or to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh, cilantro, minced fine

Place all ingredients except for the cilantro in a blender and process.  If it is too thick, thin with added lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Place in a serving dish and top with the minced, fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with your favorite bread or crudités.

TAHINI WITH YOGURT

Makes about one cup of dip

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup thick Greek yogurt, can be nonfat
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skinned and minced
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of  Aleppo Pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced, fresh cilantro

Place all ingredients except the lemon juice and cilantro in a blender.  Add the lemon juice and process again. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Place in a serving bowl and top with the cilantro. Serve as an accompaniment to fried fish or vegetables.

TAHINI WITH GROUND ALMONDS

Makes about one cup of dip

  • 1 cloves of garlic, skinned
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Pinch of Aleppo Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Prepare as above and serve as an accompaniment to cold turkey, chicken, or ham or as a veggie dip.

TAHINI WITH EGGPLANT, Baba Ghanouz

Makes about two cups   

  • 1 large deep-purple eggplant, trim a slice off the ends
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley or cilantro, minced fine
  • 1/2 Roma tomato, diced
  • 3-4 Kalamata olives, pitted and minced

Wash and dry the eggplant and char it over hot coals (best) or under a broiler.  The skin should blister and blacken. When done, run the eggplant under cold water while gently removing the skin.  Squeeze out the bitter juices and then mash the eggplant by processing it in a blender. Slowly add lemon juice and tahini alternately.  Then add the cumin, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning as appropriate.  Place in a serving bowl and top with the tomatoes and olives.  Serve with gluten-free bread or crackers or crudités.

TAHINI WITH CHICKPEAS, “Hummus” or Hummus bi Tahini

Note: “Hummus” means chickpea and “bi” means with. The addition of tahini to other legumes does not turn them into chickpeas. So, for example, “white bean hummus” is not hummus. It’s  white beans with tahini. (Sorry!  This is a pet peeve.)

Makes about two cups.   

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, open and drain
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice or more to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, best quality you can afford
  • Smoked Hungarian Paprika
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced fine

Place the chickpeas, tahini, and garlic in the blender and process.  Taste and add salt and lemon juice as appropriate.  If the dip seems too thick, you can thin it with some more lemon juice.  Place in a bowl and top with a spoonful of olive oil, a dusting of paprika, and the minced parsley.

  • When pomegranates are in season, you can top the hummus bi tahini and baba ghanouz with pomegranate seeds instead of the above.

– Jamie Dedes


And now, our featured poet ….

MICHAEL STEFFEN is an American poet living in upstate New York. His collections are No Good at Sea, (Legible Press in 2002)  Heart Murmur (Bordighera Press, 2009) and Bad Behavior (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2012).  Winner of the 2008 Bordighera Poetry Prize judged by Michael Palma or Heart Murmur (recommended). Michael was awarded a 2002 Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. f. His work is published in many literary journals.  Michael has an MFA in Creative Writing Program from Vermont College. You can read more of his poetry on his website and order his poetry collections from there. Michael’s Amazon page is HERE.

Spinach Pilaf (Spanakorizo); featured tea, camomile; featured writer, Katherine Mansfield

“How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.”

Camomile Tea, Kathrine Mansfield

A calming herbal tea, camomile, and a nerve-steadying and calcium-rich Greek spinach pilaf makes a lovely lunch. Greeks love their camomile, and I’m told and have read that in Greece many like to collect wild camomile.

BICI Glass Teapot, Hand Blown Borosilicate glass, Stovetop Safe, Removable Stainless Steel Infuser and Flip Top Lid, includes an Infuser Saucer. 40 oz (4-5 cups)

Camomile Tea

Preparation:

Bring hot water to a roiling boil. Water should be at 183 degrees fahrenheit for tea. Pour some of the water into your teapot and swirl to warm the pot. Place one heaping teaspoon of  dried chamomile per cup into your teapot. Add boiling water.  Put the cover on the pot and allow to steep for five minutes.  I like it plain, but if you care to sweeten it with Greek Honey.  

Gluten-free Spinach Pilaf, Spanakorizo

The recipe:

Serves two as a main dish

1 pound of organic spinach*

1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh, sweet butter

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup of Lundberg Short Brown Rice, uncooked

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon each dried dill and dried mint

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Put the spinach in a drainer and rinse it thoroughly several times with cold water.

Put the olive oil and butter in a pan that is large enough to hold the spinach.  Over a low heat slowly brown the onions. When the onions are ready (golden), toss in the garlic and give it a stir or too. Add the spinach to the post. Cover the pan and cook until the spinach wilts, which will take about five minutes. Add the rice, tomato paste, the seasonings, and 3/4 cup of water. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover the pan and lower the heat.  Simmer for about one-half hour or until the rice is tender.  Serve hot with the crumbled feta on top.

Some fresh peaches or a fresh fruit salad would make a nice light desert.

We should only buy organic spinach. They’re on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the dirty (from too much pesticide) dozen.  I believe that list is up to fifteen now.

Photo: cup of tea with flower courtesy of Ekaterina Sysoeva, Public Domain Pictures.net

KATHERINE MANSFIELD (1888-1923) was born in New Zealand and eventually left to live in England where she became friends with well-known writers of the day.  She lead rather a bohemian life, was influenced in her writing (short stories) by Chehov, and wrote some poetry as well.  She died young of TB and as far as I know, a good body of her work was published posthumously. Katherine has been the subject of several biographies and movies. Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Stories is recommended.

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