We had a little taste of the Middle East this past weekend. Ro-Ri San took us to the Midtown Global Market in downtown Minneapolis. The market has fresh and prepared foods, restaurants, and arts and crafts from around the world. Our visit was centered around the Holy Land Grocery & Deli featuring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. The setting is like a bazaar with groceries spilling onto the aisles.
It was a busy place with lots to see and taste. There was a sampler spread of pitas, flat breads, feta, hummus, olives, and dates throughout the bazaar. The place was filled with the aroma of kebabs and grilled meats. It seemed like a world away from Minneapolis…..
We had a wonderful lunch at the Holy Land Deli. Some of the delicious food we ate were falafel, moussaka, kebabs and tabouleh, chicken gyro, roast chicken, and hummus. The falafel was excellent – crunchy on the outside with a soft inside. The vegetable moussaka was more like a stew but it was really good.
For dessert, we had kataifi and baklava. They tasted very similar to each other. Kataifi is made with a form of shredded phyllo pastry. Both have the same filling of walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and honey…..very sweet but delicious.
After lunch, I did some grocery shopping. I saw a great looking chunk of lamb shoulder roast and decided to change my Midwest Easter dinner plans for a Middle Eastern dinner instead. I immediately thought up a menu for the meal…
Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb
Saffron Pistachio Pilaf
Vegetable Moussaka…..post to follow
Spring Greens, Strawberry, and Feta Salad…..post to follow
Some of the other ingredients and foods I bought were sumac, pita, Deglet Noor dates, and Greek feta.
The first time I ever tasted sumac was at an Iranian restaurant. It has a slightly tart and lemony flavor and is great sprinkled on roasted meats. The pita breads are really fresh as they are made here in Minneapolis. Deglet Noor dates have a caramel color and is medium firm. I like it as it is not as sweet as other soft dates. It is really good as a snack and for baking. There were 4 kinds of feta being sold – Greek, Egyptian, Bulgarian, and French. They all looked very fresh and I had a hard time trying to decide which to buy. In the end, I went with the Greek feta. I will try the others in my next visit.
- 1 (4lbs to 5 lbs/1.8kg to 2.2kg) lamb shoulder or rib roast
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp sumac
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle salt and pepper all over lamb roast. Press sumac and rosemary over entire piece of lamb to form a crust. Drizzle olive oil over crust and let it marinade for several hours. If possible, leave overnight.
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
Place lamb on a shallow pan and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C) and continue roasting for another 1½ hours or until thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 160°F (17°C) to 165°F (74°C) for medium doneness.
Remove and cover with foil. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
Two other ingredients that are often used in Middle Eastern cuisine are saffron and pistachios. I combined both ingredients to make this fragrant and fluffy pilaf garnished with pistachios. The pilaf had a hint of sweetness from the golden raisins.
- ¼ tsp saffron
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cups (400g) basmati rice, rinsed and drained
- 2½ cups (600ml) water
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup (80g) golden raisins
- ½ cup (50g) toasted pistachios
Soak saffron in 2 tablespoons warm water for 20 minutes.
In a medium sized pot, add olive oil. Sauté onions until soft. Add basmati rice, stir to mix well with onions, about 2 minutes. Add saffron mixture and water. Bring to a boil, add salt and golden raisins.
Reduce heat and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Turn heat down to the lowest setting and leave pot on the stove for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and remove pot.
Allow rice to sit for 10 minutes. Dish onto plate and garnish with toasted pistachios.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!