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Middle Eastern Lunch--Help me with my menu

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  • abud May 5, 2008 11:49 AM

I am making lunch for 15-16 people mid afternoon next Sunday. Many of the recipes I am considering come from May Bsisu's cookbook, The Arab Table. I would love to hear your suggestions on how to improve this menu.

STARTERS:

Arab Flat Bread
Goin's fava bean spread

Pull-away cheese rolls

Olives

MAINS:

Chicken Shawarma
Marrakesh Vegetable Curry (from Allrecipes--lots of veggies chickpeas and almonds)
Sauteed Greens with Crispy Onions
Basmati Rice

DESSERT:

Semolina Pistachio Layer cake
Heidi Swanson's Vanilla Frozen Yogurt (what to mix in?)

OR, I could keep dessert lighter

Roasted Apricot Sorbet
Almond Cookies

Or some combination?

Thank you!

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  1. I would have a selection of olives in one dish. Not sure that pull away cheese rolls are arabic? I would do skewered meat - selection of chicken, lamb and beef. I like your veggie ideas and basmati rice. I would keep dessert lighter. Do you have a recipe for your roasted apricot sorbet? It sounds delicious. How about pistachio cookies? Or, maybe I would do both the sorbet and frozen yogurt and serve with a cookie. People always eat more when they go out. I have caught myself more than once cooking like I was eating at home and it isn't enough food when you have guests. They love good food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarah galvin

      I like your idea of a selection of olives. Thanks. Yeah, the pull away cheese rolls were a surprise for me too. They were in Bsisu's book (and on Epicurious with good reviews).
      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
      The sorbet recipe is also from epicurious
      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
      I have just the opposite problem--I always cook way way way too much.

    2. Sounds like a great introduction to Middle Eastern cookery with a menu that spans the Arab world. I've got to agree, though, that I never came aross pull-away cheese rolls and shawarma is more casual than food for company, but the flavors are all there.

      If you want to start your meal with a bang, maybe you can serve a variety of dips and mezze along with your flatbread and foul. Baba ghannouj and muhammara can be prepared the night before and hummus is always popular. If you want to add a cheese course, maybe labneh can sub for the cheese rolls.

      Your mains sound delicious, but a crisp green salad would provide a nice foil to the cooked foods, especially the shawarma. Fattoush is easily prepared and the tartness of sumac and lemon would be a palate cleanser next to the curry.

      For dessert, I would love to tuck into your pistachio layer cake. If you want to go the route of yogurt, maybe you could do a yogurt panna cotta instead of plain Jane frozen yogurt.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JungMann

        Oh, Labneh's a good idea. Would sure save me a lot of work if I didn't do the rolls. Plus, I'm not sure I need two breads.
        Good suggestion of a crisp green salad instead of sauteed greens. I think I'll do that.
        I'm also going to look into yogurt panna cottas. Saw a few recipes on food and wine that may let me incorporate apricots into the dessert course afterall. Thanks!

        1. re: abud

          Just a thought but as far as green salads go middle eastern cuisine does not seem to include a Western type salad-(dressed lettuce green combination). Instead there is a starter plate which can be used in combination with the entrees of shawarma,rice,kebobs which would include quartered raw yellow or white onions, radish, fresh basil and tarragon, feta cheese, and a flat bread. If more fresh like salad is desired then a Shiraz salad can be made up consisting of finely chopped onions,cucumbers,and tomato with a light vinegar dressing. Or a good thick yogurt with dill weed, cucumbers,and onion sometimes sweetened up with the addition of raisins.(Mast khear-yogurt and cucumber)

          1. re: foodseek

            I love these salads. But I am worried they will not go so well with the Marrakesh curry. The marrakesh dish is a busy-in-veggies and busy-in-spices dish (see recipe link below). How will it look on the plate and how will it taste with a busy herby side?

            1. re: abud

              That's why I recommended fattoush, which is general enough in the Middle East and should be simple enough to blend into your meal. It's not much more than romaine, parsley, mint, purslane, onion, cucumber, green pepper and tomatoes tossed in a dressing of a lemon juice, olive oil and sumac. The entire salad is garnished with crisp pita triangles which provide flavor and textural contrast.

              I'm not certain about the basil/tarragon salad mentioned above (neither of which are used extensively in Middle Eastern cuisine), but salads containing mint, parsley, coriander or dill should blend in.

              1. re: JungMann

                Thanks, JungMann. I found a nice fattoush recipe in allrecipes. I plan to serve it Sunday.

      2. Once I took Maida Heatter's lemon/date bars to a Middle Eastern themed dinner. (They were a hit ...)

        7 Replies
        1. re: foiegras

          Yes--I love dates! Which cook is that recipe in?

          1. re: abud

            -I was going to say to puree dates and swirl in the froz yogurt
            -I second the fattoush salad idea
            -Also, someone mentioned turnips above - nice way to brighten up your olive tray - they are a pretty purple color and a nice, snappy contrast to some of the oily and slightly bitter olives

            1. re: HSBSteveM

              Love these suggestions! I think I will do the fro yo/ with dates. I have never tried turnips with olives. Are they simply roasted?

              1. re: abud

                You buy them pickled either in a jar or out of the barrel at your middle-eastern grocer. They should be with or near the olives, or ask someone.

                I don't have a recipe, but if you try to make them, remember that the appeal is their bright purple color.

            2. re: abud

              Sorry I don't remember--I'll take a look tonite. I believe it's her regular lemon bar recipe (which is super lemony) with dates pitted and halved on top of each bar.

              1. re: abud

                It's Palm Springs Lemon Squares with Dates, in Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Cookies.

                1. re: foiegras

                  thank you--I happen to have that book.

            3. I've been to Marrakech twice and I can't say I've ever had a curry! I would go for more dips for the starter, with maybe some pickled chillis as well as olives. The pistachio layer cake sounds heavenly.

              1 Reply
              1. re: greedygirl

                Haven't tried the layer cake yet but have tried the curry. It is wonderful.
                http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Marrakes...

              2. Perhaps something with eggplant among the starters?

                1. I did this Nigella Honey semifreddo for a Middle Eastern dinner. It is super easy, super rich and the flavours are perfect after the spices from the mains. The only caution is that it melts fairly quickly so you couldn't really leave it out for any length of time.
                  http://www.channel4.com/food/recipes/...

                  And absolutely do some Lahneh with fresh mint and fresh chilli.
                  Have a fantastic lunch.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Mila

                    Thank you Mila! I was thinking about Honey ice cream. I will check out the recipe.
                    What exactly do you mean by "fresh chilli"?

                    1. re: abud

                      I took store bought labneh and julienned some fresh mint with finely diced red serrano chile which is not too spicy but gives a little zing.

                      (bad spelling - chilli)
                      : )

                      1. re: Mila

                        Wonderful, I'll do that--thanks!

                  2. What about Tabbouleh? It's nice and light and goes really well with Chicken Shawarma. One of my favorite salads.

                    Don't forget the tea! :-)

                    1. Thanks everyone for your suggestions! The lunch turned out great. Bsisu's recipes were all in all pretty solid if a little lemony. I went through DOZENS of lemons. I look forward to making more of her meals.
                      Here was the final menu:
                      assorted olives, fried nuts, lebneh (I made it--so delicious) sprinkled with za'atar.
                      fava bean spread and roasted eggplant spread served with sliced cucumbers and flat bread (bread was Bsisu's recipe--all in all the flat breads were very good although the recipe says we can roll out, stack on top of each other and refrigerate until ready to bake--well, I should have known better because all the individual pitas stuck together and i had to break up and reroll when ready to bake--also recipe could have used more salt--i sprinkled with garlic salt)
                      MAINS:
                      Chicken Shawarma (a little too lemony but the meat eaters said it was very good)
                      Marrakesh Curry
                      Cooked bulgur (Bsisu's recipe--I didn't have a heat dispenser but followed rest of recipe exactly and it was very good)
                      White Basmati rice
                      Fatoush (a real winner--used a recipe from Allrecipes)
                      DESSERT:
                      Roasted apricot sorbet (epicurious recipe--pretty good but not phenomenal)
                      Frozen Yogurt with date puree swirled in (very good taste but consistency was a tad grainy)
                      Pistchio Semolina layer cake (Bsisu's recipe--VERY good, not so sweet, strong rose flavor--had some problems making the Kashta--the cream filling--I will start another post about that)
                      Lemon tuiles (annoying to make but very nice--weren't as crisp as I would have liked)
                      served with some tart leftover apricots on the table.
                      Thanks again for your help!

                      1. for future ref, scubadoo's turnip pickle recipe:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/50063...