4 Healthy Middle Eastern Recipes You Should Try

It’s hard not to love traditional Middle Eastern fare. The carbs! The meat! The fried goodness! Unfortunately many signature dishes like sabich, shakshuka, shawarma, and falafel don’t exactly tend to be waist-friendly. Luckily while Middle Eastern cuisine does embrace fried foods, it also embraces fresh produce and lot of fiber, vitamins, and mineral-rich chickpea-based recipes. Here are four such delicious and healthy recipes to try now.

1. 12 Chairs Cafe Babaganoush

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Source: 12 Chairs Cafe

This eggplant-based dish is typically served as a dip. It’s easy to make, vitamin and mineral-rich, and makes for a great alternative to run-of-the-mill guacamole. This recipe is via 12 Chairs Cafe and yields 4 to 5 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggplants
  • 8 ounces mayonnaise
  • ½ ounce  squeeze lemon juice
  • 1 ounce olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ounces Kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons black pepper

Directions: Roast the eggplants in a grill oven heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour until eggplant is soft. Let the eggplants cool for about an hour. Cool in the fridge for another 2 to 3 hours. Take the chilled eggplant from the fridge, and the peel the burnt skin off. Mash the eggplant with a whisk. Mix in a big bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

2. 12 Chairs Israeli Salad

sliced cucumber

Source: iStock

An Israeli staple, this salad is often served at lunch. It’s not only both light and filling, but you can easily add protein (chicken, salmon, tofu) to beef it up. This recipe comes from 12 Chairs Cafe and yields 1 to 2 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces finely chopped tomatoes
  • 8 ounces finely chopped cucumbers
  • ½ ounce finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of cumin

Directions: Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl.

3. 12 Chairs Hummus

Source: Thinkstock

It doesn’t get more traditional than hummus, a blend of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil. This recipe lends itself to several variations, so feel free to add in avocado, garlic, peppers, cumin, cilantro, or any other herbs or spices of your choosing. The recipe, from 12 Chairs Cafe, yields 5 to 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (32-ounce) bags of garbanzo beans
  • ½ (32-ounce) can of tahini
  • 4 teaspoon of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of lime salt
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions: Spread chickpeas on a platter, and rinse several times until water is transparent. Soak chickpeas overnight in water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Cook the chickpeas until they get soft enough to crush easily (4 to 6 hours). Refrigerate for several hours. Run chickpeas in a food processors for a few minutes, add tahini, run for 2 more minutes, and add the rest of the tahini. Add salt and lime salt. Garnish with a touch of olive oil, parsley, and paprika.

4. New Israeli Salad

Plum tomatoes, halved

Source: iStock

If you’re not up for experimenting on your own, the below recipe offers a variation on traditional Israeli Salad which works to ramp up its nutritional value and flavor. The recipe yields 5 servings and comes from The JCC Culinary Arts Studio on L3 and Shaya Klechevsky, chef and owner of At Your Palate.

Ingredients:

  • 6 seedless cucumbers, thoroughly washed and diced (skin-on)
  • 4 plum/roma tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
  • 2 large shallots, diced, or 5 scallions, finely sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 3 lemons, zested (either with a microplane/zester or by finely chopping with a knife)
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, thoroughly washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (flakes if you have it)
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ½ cup first cold press olive oil

Optional

  • 1 tablespoon extra-fine bulgur wheat (for added nutrients, especially fiber)
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (great fresh flavor)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid amino acids (to substitute part of the sea salt and provide additional protein)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (for added B-vitamins and extra flavor boost)

Directions: Thoroughly wash all the ingredients and pat dry. This is especially important for the herbs like parsley and optional mint. Remove about ¼ inch from each end of the cucumber. Slice it in half, and then cut long strips along the entire length of the half of each cucumber. Turn the slices 90 degrees, and slice and dice to your preferred thickness (to match the thickness of the long slices). Add all the cucumber dice to the bowl. Quarter each plum tomato lengthwise from stem to tip. Starting from the opposite end of the stem, slice the internal rib that holds all the seeds inside the tomato along with the seeds to completely de-seed each quarter.

Proceed to cut slices lengthwise, then turn slices 90 degrees, and slice and dice to your preferred thickness (to match the thickness of the long slices). Add to the bowl with the cucumbers. Remove any peel from the shallots and dice like you would an onion, by cutting the shallot in half, cutting slices lengthwise, then turning and cutting dice. If you prefer to use scallion, make sure that the stem is removed and that any dark, discolored, or black tips off the green ends are removed, and then thinly slice the entire length of each scallion. Add the diced shallot or scallion to the bowl. Slice the top of the red bell pepper which has the stem on it to expose the inside “bell” which holds all the pepper seeds.

Just twist to remove the inner bell, then turn the pepper cut-side down and pat the bottom to release any seeds that may have remained inside the pepper. Quarter the pepper, cut thin strips lengthwise, and then turn to cut dice like you did with the cucumber and tomato. The trick is to try to keep the dice uniform. Add the dice to the bowl. Working in batches, roll up the washed and dried parsley leaves into tight bundles, and finely chop the herb. Add to the bowl.

Optional: If adding mint, chop the same way as the parsley and add it to the bowl. Thoroughly wash the lemons you’ll be using, and then scrape the surface against a microplane justonce. The trick is to zest just the very most outer layer of the lemon peel in order to extract the essential oils into the salad. You want to avoid zesting until the white pith is exposed since those layers contain a lot of bitter flavors. Add the zest of the lemons directly into the bowl.

Optional: If you have extra-fine bulgur wheat (also sold as quick-cook bulgur wheat), sprinkle it into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Also optional: If using nutritional yeast, add it at this stage.

Toss all the ingredients together, allow to sit, and allow the flavors to meld. Prepare the dressing in a separate bowl by adding the olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If you’re adding the liquid amino acids, only use about 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Gently whisk all the ingredients, pour over the salad ingredients, toss, cover, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or until ready to serve.

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