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Posts Tagged ‘Syrian’

Marinated olives! Easy, quick, and tasty. Photo by Stacey Young.

Once, many moons ago, I didn’t like olives. Yes, I know, hard to believe, right, especially seeing as I pretty much live for them now! I think my dislike stemmed in part from the fact that up until a few years ago, most olives available in the United States were mainly canned or jarred and not so high quality. Too salty, to briney, sometimes too mushy. Plus, it didn’t help that the only olives I’d ever really seen were in martini glasses (chic, but not an everyday drink–at least not for me  😉 ) or embedded in bologna (ick).

A beautiful olive tree. To me, olive trees look like a cross between a shrub and a tree. Either way, they're gorgeous. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com.

At a long-ago dinner party, though, all of that changed. My friend Amy brought some marinated olives to the gathering, and I decided to take a chance and try them. Boy am I glad I did. They were so fresh, and the herbs (rosemary and parsley, I think) and that extra dousing of olive oil really made their flavors sing.

Look at their silvery leaves! I think those leaves are so beautiful, not to mention the olives themselves.

During my trips to Syria and Spain, I fell a bit deeper in love with the humble yet mighty olive. Their trees are almost more like a cross between a shrub and a tree. They look so non-descript at first, with their cute little silvery leaves. Yet they’re so powerful. One might even say mythical. The amazing olive (and its branch) has played a role in history since ancient times. Even the Koran namechecks the olive, mentioning it six times.

Today’s recipe couldn’t be simpler.  Pick the most gorgeous olives you can find. Drizzle them with the highest quality olive oil you have on hand. Bits of garlic and herbs add color and punch. These marinated olives make a great dinner party appetizer! Remember to put them in the fridge if you don’t gobble them in one sitting.

Levant Style Marinated Olives

1 cup of olives of choice

Olive oil for drizzling

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Herbs of choice (I like parsley best)

Directions:

1. Toss olives gently in a few glugs of the olive oil. Add in herbs and garlic, and toss again.

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Shakshuka with eggplant. This is one variation, as there are many types of shakshuka.

Shakshuka is a dish popular in many different countries of the Middle East. Before anyone gets up in arms and says today’s recipe isn’t done “right,” 😉  please consider this: This is but one version of shakshuka.

Shakshuka is many different things to many different people. There are numerous versions, all too delicious and unique to have one “correct” version. Some use meat; some use eggs; still others are vegetarian. This is the type of food, by the way, that often tastes better the next day.

The shakshuka we’re exploring today is eggplant-based, earth-toned, and mild, but others are spicy and/or pepper based and reddish. There are other differences, which I personally think it’s great, because it means there are infinite ways to enjoy this dish. So if anyone wants to chime in in the comments section with their own take on shakshuka, feel free!

Chinese eggplants, they're called. I love their mild flavor and festive purple hue, but regular eggplants work just as well.Photo: http://www.Stock.Xchng.com

My sources tell me that shakshuka (pronounced shake-shoo-kuh) is a popular dish to use up vegetables and meats, which may explain why the dish is so flexible and has so many variations. Today’s version, while Syrian in origin, somewhat reminds me of Persian eggplant koresh (Koresh e Badenjan). However, that that stew has its own special flavor, which we’ll explore another time.

Speaking of Persian, the Persian girl in me loves shakshuka served over rice with dollop of yogurt on top, but for a more traditional presentation, you could ladle some of the stew on top of warm pita bread or serve the pita on the side. Do try to sprinkle some parsley or fresh cilantro on top for a color pop and flavor boost. Use more water to make the shakshuka more stew-like. For a dip, use less liquid.


Slow Cooker Shakshuka

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh cilantro (about 1 cup, rinsed. Leaving stems on is okay–they have good flavor)

1  medium onion, halved

4 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt (can use more or less, according to your  to taste)

1 teaspoon black pepper (can use more or less, according to your taste)

4 Chinese eggplants, or one large eggplant (about 1 pound of eggplant total)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup ketchup (better to get the kind without cornsyrup if possible)

1 Tablespoon paprika

3-4 cups filtered water

Optional: 1 14-16 ounce can of chickpeas, drained

Optional: Freshly chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish

Directions:

1.  In a blender or food processor, blend the half of the onion plus the cumin, coriander, cardamom, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper until this all forms a pesto-like paste. Add water as needed to keep things moving.

2. If removing peel from eggplant, remove. Then chop the eggplant into 1/2 inch disks or half moons, or chunks. Chop the remaining onion and add it, along with the tomato paste, ketchup, and paprika, to the slow cooker. Add water and stir everything thoroughly.

3. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or on low for 8 hours.

4. A few minutes before serving, add in the drained chickpeas and stir. Check seasoning and make any adjustments to the amount of salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh herbs (if using) and enjoy!

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