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Mar 31, 2007 08:31 PM

Arabesque: Starters, Kemia, Meze, and Mezze

April 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, by Claudia Roden.

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the sections on starters, kemia, meze, and mezze here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. I seem to recall that these are all starters, but I lent my book to a friend - got to get it back! They were all delicious and pretty straight forward.

    Cucumber and Yogurt Salad (Cacik) - I used a greek whole milk yogurt, shredded the cucumbers in the food processor, did salt and drain the cucumbers for a while, and used a combination of fresh dill and mint for the herbs, which I liked.

    Zucchini Fritters (Kabak Mucveri) - these were very tasty and were even good cold the next day. I think I shredded the zucchini in the food processor, then chopped them a bit so they were slightly finer.

    Bulgar and Chickpea Salad (Safsouf) - used canned/drained chickpeas. The recipe calls for fine or medium bulgar, but I was doing this at the last minute and all I had was "bulgar" - nothing about fine or medium on the package. Tried to make it "fine" in the food processor, to no avail. You are supposed to just soak in cold water, not boiling water - I tried it with mine, but it was still hard, so I just ended up doing a new batch in boiling water, then rinsed in cold water and drained. Seemed just fine to me. This was probably my least favorite of the four.

    Eggplant and Tomato Salad (Batinjan Raheb) - a beautiful salad, and I only wish that I'd had the pomegranate seeds to sprinkle on top. I halved the recipe and it seemed like not so much eggplant compared to the rest of the ingredients - but maybe it's supposed to be that way.

    Photo attachment didn't work - here's a link to the photos -

    19 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      It looks very delicious. Can you tell me why you are supposed to drain the labne and for how long. Do I add salt to labne before I drain??????

      1. re: yummi

        My mistake - I fixed the text - you drain salt and drain the cucumbers - to get some of the liquid out ... I wrung them out in a towel actually.

      2. re: MMRuth

        Trying photos again.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I made the zucchini fritters too, and they were excellent. I chopped the zucchini, and I was worried that it would be too chunky, but after cooking it, it was fine.

          1. re: JasmineG

            I was just lazy about chopping so though that since I had the FP out anyway, I'd shred and do a quick chop through the shredded stuff!

            1. re: MMRuth

              No, I'm glad that you reported that, because as I was doing all the chopping, I thought "Hmm, wouldn't it be easier to shred all of this with my food processor?" Next time I just might do that!

          2. re: MMRuth

            CACIK FYI - In Sofra Cookbook, Huseyin Ozer (Turkish restauranteur) advises against shredding the cucumber, since it makes the dish watery. He only recommends salting the cucumber if you are grating it or making cacik way in advance. I favor his approach -- finely chopping the cucumber -- because it seems to involve less hassle and fewer dirty dishes!

            1. re: jjones21

              Are you differentiating between shredding and grating?

              1. re: MMRuth

                No, sorry. I meant shredding/grading as opposed to chopping.

                1. re: jjones21

                  Just curious - always open to learning more ;-)

            2. re: MMRuth

              To everyone who has made the cacik, how thick was it? I expected it to be like a dip, but I just made it and it's more like a spread. I used Greek yogurt (Fage), and salted and drained the cukes for an hour. TIA!

              1. re: Rubee

                I used Fage as well - it was thickish - but not really like a spread.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Thanks MMRuth! I added a little bit of the cucumber liquid that had drained, and it actually thinned out a little more the next day. Here's the results:

                  Cucumber and Yogurt Salad (Cacik - Turkey), p. 156

                  I used Fage Greek yogurt, and MMRuth's tip of using the food processor to shred one seeded cucumber. I salted and drained the cucumber for an hour, and then rinsed and squeezed out the moisture. Garlic and dill were the two final ingredients. As I mentioned above, it was a little too thick so I added some of the drained liquid. I served it the next day along with two types of pita chips - some sprinkled with zatar, some with sumac - and hummus (a non-Arabesque recipe - I add toasted and finely ground sesame, coriander, and cumin seeds - a tip from "A New Way to Cook" ; ) . The cacik was garlicky and good! I had a couple over for dinner last night and one had never had tzatziki or cacik before, and she loved it.

                  (BTW, for dinner I made Beef Wellington for the first time. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Cook's Illustrated recipe (November/December 2001) . I used a different sauce, but the Beef Wellington itself came out perfect. )

                  1. re: Rubee

                    The cacik I've had in Turkey has always been pretty thick.

                    1. re: Rubee

                      Cucumber and Yogurt Salad (Cacik - Turkey), p. 156

                      FYI, this recipe is identical to the one listed on pg. 70 of tNBoEF.

                      I made a cold dinner last night since it was 1000 degrees in NE and about 750 degrees inside my apt. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration but it was almost 85 degrees in the house and I was feeling melty and miserable. It's too bad bc I've been dying to roast eggplants and tomatoes but haven't had the will to turn the oven on.

                      So, I dug in the fridge and found cucumbers from the farm and decided that this would be a perfect accompaniment to the rest of my dinner (tomatoes and bufalo mozzarella, corn on the cob, framani salami).

                      I made a half portion but was only able to salt the cukes for about half an hour. Then I dried them with a paper towel. I also used fage, which drained for the same half hour. I only had fresh mint and garlic on hand but I think dill would have been an excellent addition as well.

                      Cool and refreshing and a delicious way to eat cucumbers.

                      1. re: beetlebug

                        i'm just reading this late summer post, and thinking of all the wonderful produce of summer. ah, to have good tomatoes, corn and cukes now at the end of january!

                2. re: MMRuth

                  I also made the eggplant and tomato salad-- I agree about the relative amounts. I had two moderate size eggplants (it calls for 2-3, about 2lb; sorry, I didn't weigh mine) and after roasting and peeling there was not a whole lot left; it called for a topping of 4 plum tomatoes; I only used two because that more or less covered the eggplant! It was ok; I probably won't make it again--

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Made the zucchini fritters tonight as a side for meatloaf. Not crazy about the instructions, which kind of leave you hanging on the amount of heat and time for each batch. Stlll and all, a hit, probably more so with Lulu and me than with LulusDad (although he went back for seconds and took FOUR more, so ... who knows). Given that I'm not nuts about frying, and that I felt nervous not knowing how long these would take, I probably wouldn't make them again, but I really liked them a lot.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      If, you want a good recipe for zucchini fritters, I really like Nigella's.

                  2. We tried two starters from the Lebanon section last night. They didn't turn out wonderfully, but I place responsibility for that on my grumpy mood and some cooking mistakes.

                    We had eggplant with pomegranate molasses. I'm actually a little scared of eggplant. One of the reasons I was excited about Arabesque is that I think it will help me get past that. Well, I think I might have overcooked the eggplant a bit. I KNOW I've had eggplant that was not so slimy. The pomegranate molasses dressing was absolutely wonderful. I just couldn't get past the eggplant texture, but my partner really enjoyed it.

                    We also had spinach and bean with carmelized onions. Two errors on this one: First, I forgot that black-eyed peas are among my least favorite beans. I should have used chick peas. Second, I didn't read the recipe to the end (duh) so did not notice that the dish is supposed to be served cold. It was right off the stove hot for us. It was actually good hot, but we both tried it later at room temperature and it was much, much better. One of us will have it cold for lunch today. We also thought the amount of spinach could be increased, possibly even doubled, but we're kind of spinach freaks.

                    Both of these dishes came together quite easily.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: debbiel

                      Made the Cacik last night. only drained the cucumbers since I had to gp out gpt more yogurt. Mint was freh from the garden and was yummy

                      1. re: debbiel

                        Where did you find pomegranate molasses?

                        1. re: Megiac

                          I ordered online through the Spice House as part of a larger order, but I think a few of the international/specialty food shops in my town sell it.


                          1. re: debbiel

                            I just finshed a batch of the Baba Ganoush. After roasting the eggplant on my grill until it was balckenedand soft, I brought it in to cool. While I was peeling it I noticed a lot of the juices had drained away. Not being a masochist, the idea of putting the pulp in a fine strainer and pushing it all through with a knife seemed nuts. i just threw everything iin the food processor and let it whip. It is cooling in my fridge but tastes ptretty darned good. May have to add a bit of salt. I was making a half recipe so some stuff i had to guess at. It was a snap to make with the FP

                            1. re: Candy

                              Hi! I just found this thread today. I often make Baba Ganoush in the summer, and would like to share a few hints.

                              After grilling (my DH puts soaked woodchips on the charcoal, and that adds a lot of smokey flavor), he places the eggplant in a bowl to catch the juices. After it cools, I slice the eggplant lengthwise and use a large spoon to scrape out all the flesh. I find this to be a lot easier than peeling. The flesh goes into the bowl with the leaked-out juices ( first, I remove the pieces of charred skin from the bowl!), and I just mash with a fork--a potato masher would work well, too. Then I add tahini, crushed garlic, lemon juice, s & p, a little olive oil, etc.
                              Easy, and only a fork, knife, spoon, and cutting board to wash.
                              FP is good too, but needs washing, and I am soo lazy. I also like the chunkier texture.
                              Take care, p.j.

                          2. re: Megiac

                            Trader Joe's has a house brand of pom molasses in the stores now . . .

                            1. re: snarlsdottir

                              the TJ's one is of the too sweet category that Rodin mentions -- and suggests doctoring with vinegar

                        2. Since I'm going to be out of town for a couple of weeks, I did a big bit of cooking from Arabesque last weekend for a dinner party.

                          I made all courses from the book:

                          Starters, kemia; meze; orange, olive and onion salad; mashed eggplant and tomato salad; cucumber and yoghurt salad with mint (I only had dried Egyptian mint which wasn't as pungent). I also made, Muhammara, a spread from Paual Wolfert's Mediterranean Cooking, and served it with crackers to start. It's a great spread, made of red peppers, ground walnuts, some crumbled crackers, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pomegranate molasses - all whirled in the food processor. If you serve this with dukkah with drinks or wine, it'll be a huge hit. The pomegranate molas. really adds to the dish.

                          ORANGE, OLIVE and ONION SALAD: I thought this salad from Morocco was one of the best things I ever tasted. I've made similar salads from other Wolfert and Roden before, but I'd forgotten how delicious it is. Onions and oranges are great together, and the added saltiness of the olives makes it perfect. The oranges all came from my CSA box in the past few weeks and so were probably more tasty and juicy than regular supermarket oranges. Still, this would be great with regular oranges, too.

                          MASHED EGGPLANT and TOMATO SALAD: (Morocco): I used Indian eggplants (they were on sale) and roasted them in the oven. Then you skin and chop/mash them and squeeze out extra juice. The recipe calls for the tomatoes to be sauteed with garlic. I didn't have time and so just chopped them and the garlic raw. I mixed all this together with some chopped olives, cilantro, parsley and salt and let sit for an hour or so. The recipe calls for the olives to be served alongside, but I chopped and folded them into the salad. Very, very, very good.

                          CUKE SALAD (Cacik - Turkey)- I used Fage Greek yoghurt mixed with a little Pavel's lowfat organic. The cukes were on special at Berkeley Bowl - a bag of Persian cukes for 99 cents a pound! I cut cukes into chunks and left the peel on. This was terrifically refreshing and the cukes were very crispy. Very good.

                          LITTLE PUFF PASTRY PIES (Lebanon). One of our guests is a vegetarian and I made these for him. Pretty easy since I bought the puff pastry. Filling is mozzarella and feta mixed with egg to bind. I added a few chopped green onions to the mix, as well as some pepper. Baked in oven til browned. Served with a bowl of yoghurt for dipping. These were fabulous. How could they not be? Cheese in puff pastry?? I mean, sheesh!

                          Main Course was CHICKEN AND ONION PIE (Morocco). It's a real winner. Filo-topped chicken and onions baked until crisp and brown. I added some cumin to the spices and cut down on the butter (actually by mixing with olive oil for brushing the filo). I also added a small amount of homemade chicken stock to the chicken/onion mixture because it seemed a bit dry. You line the pan with filo, spoon the filling over and then fold the rest of the filo over the top of the filling, buttering between each layer. This was also delicious and not that big a deal to make, especially if you relax about the filo and don't worry about it ripping or cracking - doesn't matter. Recipe calls for sprinkling the top with cinnamon and powdered sugar, but I left off the sugar.

                          YOGURT CAKE - This cake is made with only 3 Tbsps flour. It's like a souffle but rises and falls while cooking. It's flavored with lemon and zest. Roden serves it with a lemon and orange syrup to pour over but says she likes it better without. I made the mistake of serving it with some thawed frozen raspberries/blackberries which overwhelmed it, completely knocking out the lemon flavor. We had a piece later w/out the berries, and it was great. It's almost spongelike, with a lovely tang of lemon zest. Next time I'll serve it plain.

                          All in all, this was a great success. I didn't forget to take pix, but was too shy and didn't want to field comments about how weird it is when the cook starts photographing her meal. Now, of course, I regret it.

                          A couple of days later, I made the ZUCCHINI FRITTERS from Turkey. I could tell they'd be great by just reading the recipe (since I'm something of a fritter maven). I had no fresh mint and again used dried Egyptian mint. I also added some crumbled feta to make the batter go farther since I didn't have enough zukes. Served with bbq lamb patties (flavored as in kofte) and yoghurt, garlic, green onion, cilantro dip. GREAT!

                          Okay, off to New York and Massachusetts for the next couple of weeks. Hope to eat great stuff in NY, espec. the Georgian bakery on Neptune Street (sorry - I know this isn't the correct board, but...)

                          I love this book. There are a bunch of other things I want to try. Maybe I'll have time before the end of the month.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: oakjoan

                            I just tried the orange, olive, and onion salad yesterday and it was great. I used less onion (a quarter of a large red onion, finely minced) than the recipe calls for, though. I had the salad today with some tabbouleh and some cold Moroccan spiced chicken for lunch and the salad was even better having spent time in the refrigerator, though the oranges had macerated overnight and given up quite a bit of juice so the salad looked kind of funky in the bowl (quite soupy). I was having a hard time imagining the ingredients together before I made it, but I'm really glad I tried it. Warm, summery, delicious.

                          2. Last week I decided to try the recipes for babaganoush, hummus, and tabbouleh. Predictable, I know, but I wanted to see her versions of the basic trio. The baba was a bit blah, and I felt the urge to give it a bit more character by adding considerably more lemon, a bit of cumin, and just a hint of liquid smoke (to compensate for my inability to grill this time of year). The addition of the yogurt was unusual, but I liked it. I used some realllly thick labny, which could be why I needed to crank up the flavors a bit.

                            The tabbouleh was just right. Nothing remarkable, but perfect in its own way.

                            The hummus was terrific. Very simple (and I used canned chickpeas, I'll admit) and very nice. It's easy to forget how good fresh, homemade hummus is compared to the dreck in the plastic tubs from the supermarket.

                            These all went nicely with her simplified kibbeh recipe (which isn't a very good recipe, but leads to good results if you can read between the lines) and her pilaf ("vermicelli rice"), which was the Platonic ideal of pilaf -- light yet rich, delicate yet satisfying.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Rick_V

                              We made the Orange, Olive and Onion Salad tonight. It was terrific. I julienned the red onions and soaked them in ice water for about 20 minutes, rather than dicing and adding them directly to the oranges. The dressing with cumin and paprika was very nice. I'd like to try it with argan oil next time. I used aleppo pepper instead of ground chili pepper. We could eat this salad with many different items, including BBQ! It was refreshing and earthy at the same time. We served it with Chicken with Caramelized Baby Onions and Honey, which I will post about on the entree thread.

                              1. re: zataar

                                I just added the onions to the oranges and let them take care of mellowing the onions. I agree that his salad is great.

                            2. I've made a number of the starters in the past few weeks:

                              Bell Pepper Puree (p. 40) (Slada Felfla): This was good, but a little thinner than I would have liked. I served it as a dip, but the notes say that it can be served to accompany fish, and I think that this would be a better use of it. My guests like it, though, and the flavors were good, I just wish it was a little thicker. Next time I'll use more bell peppers.

                              Little Pies with Fresh Goat Cheese and Olives (p. 63) (Briwat Bil Jban): I didn't love these, I think that they needed a little more seasoning, but more importantly, the mouthfeel was a little too chalky.

                              Meat Cigars (p. 64) (Briwat Bil Kefta): I loved these, and would definitely make them again. My only complaint, though (and I experienced this with a few other recipes, as have others that I know), is that the spicing was way too mild. I increased the spices anyway, and next time I make it, I'd double the spicing. But these were a very fun starter, and looked very impressive.

                              As I already noted, I made the zucchini fritters, and loved them. I'll definitely make those again.