Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MoFo 30: Arabian Feast

Last night we had a glorious feast of Middle Eastern flavors. I think Middle Eastern cuisine is one of my favorites. I love how many veggies and spices and flavors and grains there are... and there are so many dishes that are authentically vegan. I was sent a copy of "Modern Flavors of Arabia" to review - and as soon as I opened the package, I was already in love. The whole layout and look of the book is absolutely gorgeous. Each recipe has its own page - or there are 2 to a page if the recipes are short. There are ample pictures, the font is beautiful, and the whole thing is just a feast for the eyes.

However! This is NOT a vegan book. It's full of recipes that are vegan (or quite easily veganized), but also has lots of meaty/fishy recipes. So if that's a deal-breaker for you, be forewarned. Personally, I really like expanding my culinary horizons beyond the world of all-vegan cookbooks - and as you'll see, I already veganized a meaty recipe from this book with great success.

Check out this hummus!!! Can you see how the hummus is so velvety smooth, it's absolutely amazing?? Smoth enough to make grown men burst into tears of joy. This hummus recipe called for two things I've never put in my hummus before - ice cubes and yogurt (I used unsweetened soy) - and the end result was the creamiest smoothest hummus ever to hit my mouth. The flavor is mild and delicious, and I loved the suggestion to save some chickpeas to put on top.

Next up was the Roasted Cauliflower with Citrus Tahini Dressing. I know this isn't really the best picture ever - but the dish itself was quite stunning. You slice a whole cauliflower head into a few thick slices, roast them, and then drizzle on this amazing sauce. The richness of the tahini and caramelized onions, with the fresh citrus flavors, and the earthy almost-neutrality of roasted cauliflower was an excellent combo. I'll definitely make this again!

I also make the Roasted Beet & Purslane Salad with Citrus Dressing.
Except where's the purslane? I'm wondering too! When I went to the farmers' market on the weekend, the purslane man wasn't there, and I came home empty handed. Shucks. None the less, the roasted chiogga beets with lemon-orange-garlic dressing were absolutely fabulous. Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats loves beets so much... there were no leftovers!

Further in the book, there is a recipe for Spicy Chicken Wings - which obviously isn't going to happen around here. But the spices and flavors in the sauce seemed like they'd make a great tofu marinade, so I made Spicy Baked Tofu. I wasn't disappointed! I modified the recipe a little bit - reducing the heat and reducing the sweetener (agave & pomegranate molasses) - but basically I followed the recipe and just substituted tofu for chicken wings. Viola! These were absolutely delicious, and full of warming spices - cinnamon, cayenne, garlic... and also a touch of sweetness from the pomegranate molasses. All in all, a great success!

The final dish I made was the Baba Ghanoush Salad. I roasted my eggplants on the stovetop over the open flame, so they were really nice and smoky. The salad was chock full of fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes, toasted nuts, and the grilled eggplant. It was an absolute stand out. Super, super delicious and beautiful two. The toasted walnuts were especially amazing in this dish.

Also, it's worth noting that this cookbook inspired me to buy an ingredient that i haven't bought in YEARS: pine nuts. Oh yes, I did. After my horrible pine mouth experience, I have probably only eaten pine nuts 3-4 times - alway in social situations that required my good behavior. But finally, I overcame my fears (and double checked that my pine nuts weren't from China) and made the purchase. So far, so good - though it can take a few days for pine mouth to set in. Fingers crossed!

When I asked for doodle ideas on Facebook, someone suggested I draw little Stevie Wonder keeping me company in the kitchen while I cook dinner. She lies on the floor, exactly in the spot between the cutting board and the stovetop ... so that I have to constantly step over her. Of course, I don't mind, because she is the sweetest little love bug ever. Sometimes Snoopy hangs out with me in the kitchen, but that's just because he is hoping to score some scraps... whereas Stevie just hangs out because she actually loves me. She is an excellent little dog.

Final Book Thoughts:
I made 5 recipes from this book last night - and every single thing was delicious. Pretty much the only change I made was reducing the olive oil in pretty much every recipe. I'm sure everything would be all the tastier with an extra 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil, but I just don't roll that way. The recipes were well-flavored, easy to follow, and absolutely delicious. There are SO MANY more recipes in this book that I can't wait to make - many of which are naturally vegan - and there are a bunch more that I look forward to veganizing or using as an inspiration point for vegan dishes. 


  1. Thank you for this review! I love MIddle Eastern Cuisine, and I've been looking for just the right books to round out my collection.

    Like you, I have cookbooks that aren't vegan, but that I use all of the time with vegan adjustments. It's a great way to show my friends that I don't actually need to go out of my way to be vegan.

    I'll definitely check this one out.

  2. Anonymous10:07 AM

    I'm glad you decided to review this book, I'm always looking for new and interesting cuisines to attempt at home. I'll definitely be adding this one to my wish list.
    That cauliflower dish looks incredible, but then I pretty much love anything covered in tahini sauce.
    So what was the purpose of the ice cubes in the hummus recipe?

  3. Anonymous10:23 AM

    Ooh, I just got a review copy as well. Will have to try the hummus as well! Love the drawing - so sweet :)

  4. I just requested this book at the library. I'm happy to see you are enjoying it too. I love Middle Eastern flavours too. Looking forward to trying that hummus especially now.

  5. yum, amey! everything single thing you posted has left me wanting. especially the baked tofu, i have never never found a baked tofu recipe that i enjoy.

    i bought some pinenuts earlier this year, too. i hope you'll come through unscathed.

    ice cubes in hummus?????


  6. Everything looks delicious! I especially love the veganized spicy baked tofu. Yum!! And that may be the creamiest, dreamiest hummus I've ever seen.

  7. I should very much like to eat that spicy baked tofu RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!! :)

  8. Oh how I adore Middle Eastern food! I have so many ME cookbooks--it's so complex and there are so many variations, and, as you said, so much of it is naturally vegan. I don't have this one but now need to investigate, despite my recent, self-imposed cookbook buying hiatus (Went from well over 200 to about 100--it was out of control). The hummus looks like pure silk and I need that cauli with tahini right now.

    On another note, I spent a lot of time in Syria and it just breaks my heart to see what's happening there now.

    I love the Little Stevie Wonder story. You should consider doing a book. xx

  9. Anonymous1:09 PM

    omg everything looks so delicious. Especially that cauliflower, I want it!

  10. Aaaargh, pine mouth! I've never had it but the stories of pine mouth have made me kinda frightened of them! That hummus looks amazing.

  11. all these things look amazing!!

  12. I always love reading your reviews Amey. The dishes you make always look amazing! I want to run out and buy the book. And that Baba Ghanoush salad and roasted cauliflower...Yum!

  13. It sounds amazing - just that super creamy hummus alone is probably worth the cost of the book. I have stopped buying non vegan books since they have become some abundant and diverse - but you've encouraged me to sometimes look past the words on the cover to the delicious recipes inside. I'm a smart girl I could veganize a few things and enjoy learning more about a new cuisine.

    I am going to miss your daily drawings once mofo is over.

  14. Sounds like an amazing book, I think I need it just for the tahini dressing recipe! And that tofu looks amazingly good, too!

  15. Anonymous11:48 PM

    I would love a book of your sketches. They seriously make me so happy!! I am wishing I had slippers to wear while cooking now!! Oh, and those foods look amazing.

  16. Makkah Market is one of the few super market offering the best middle east food like shish kebabs, falafel sandwich etc. in Philadelphia, with the excellent taste and quick assistance.

    Middle east food

  17. I'm now extremely tempted by this book! Thanks!

  18. The Spicy Baked Tofu looks so good! I always notice the tofu pictures first because I am so deprived of it. I also enjoy reading non-vegan cookbooks and blogs. These days there is almost nothing that can't be veganized in one way or another!

  19. Anonymous1:43 PM

    The author of this book is my sister. I am also a vegetarian (not vegan,mind you) and I remember once asking her whether she could write a cookbook with all vegetarian/vegan recipes,her reply, "there [are] vegetarian recipes in this book already!" and she was right. Its a wonderful book and the recipes are outstanding. Although I've been spoiled having tried them first hand. :)

  20. I am so hungry, I am on a diet, but these looks so delicious and good for my diet.

  21. That is quite the feast! I was going to ask if those were pine nuts I spied :) Glad that all is well with the pine nut results so far. And, I wonder what the purpose of ice cubes in the hummus is? Does it deliver a different texture than just adding water would, once it comes to room temperature?


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