Many Snacks, In a Middle Eastern Style

Technically “snacks” aren’t a major menu item for Hel’s Kitchen, but I am a big believer in the theory that the best salads come from putting a snack food on lettuce. Witness the salad with baked chickpeas, lemon-roasted sunflower seeds, citrus, and pepper-mint spice blend from the Middle Eastern(ish) menu. That’s got two snack foods on there – the chick peas and also the sunflower seeds. And was the most popular item on that menu. Here’s how to make them:

Crunchy Chickpeas

Chickpeas deserve greater credit than I usually give them – they’re so durable and not at all fussy about being tossed willy-nilly into recipes for added protein in a pinch. As a snack food, crunchy chickpeas can be kind of addictive. And healthy. I make them using Andrea Chesman’s recipe from The Roasted Vegetable. Weirdly, there are many different chickpea roasting strategies online, but I can’t find anyone who has posted her recipe, which involves twice baking at two different temperatures. Since it’s such a simple technique, I’m going to count it as something that belongs in the public sphere and post it:

Heat your oven to 350-degrees. Drain and rinse two 15.5 oz cans of chickpeas (or 3 cups cooked). Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and spread the chickpeas out in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes – until dry to the touch. Remove.

Now turn the oven up to 425-degrees. Drizzle with about 3 Tb olive oil and toss with spices. [The original recipe gives a spice blend that I’m omitting since I don’t have permission – but it’s not what I used anyway, I’ve listed my spice mix below].

Roast 15 – 20 minutes until crispy and lightly brown. I stopped them just shy of super-crunchy for the salad top application. Cool completely.

For my spice mix I used 1 tsp sumac, 1/2 tsp ginger, 2 tsp powdered sesame seeds, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt. You can use whatever blend you want. BBQ seasoning would be good, as would Old Bay.

Lemon Roasted Sunflower Seeds

The second snack-y item, lemon roasted sunflower seeds, are made as follows. 

Heat an oven to 325-degrees. In the small bowl of a food processor, throw in half of a lemon with the seeds removed (rind still on), 1 egg white, 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 2 1/2 Tb. sugar, 3/4 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp black pepper. Whirr until well mixed. Now, toss these with 2 3/4 cups of sunflower seeds. On a well oiled baking sheet with a rim (that part is important) spread out the sunflower seeds. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until they’re browned and fragrant. I like them quite well browned, which usually leads to several patches of slightly-burned. Let cool on the baking sheet. 

 Add together lettuce tossed with a simple vinaigrette, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, orange & grapefruit sections, and a sprinkle of toasted black peppercorns ground with dried mint to make a salad.

Add together lettuce tossed with a simple vinaigrette, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, orange & grapefruit sections, and a sprinkle of toasted black peppercorns ground with dried mint to make a salad.

Dukkah Spice

The sunflower seeds also go well with Dukkah Spice, as a snack mix.  You just mix the two, about 60-40 spice mix to sunflower, then eat.

Dukkah is an Egyptian mix of seeds, nuts, and spices. If you want an extended description, you can find it at this Serious Eats article “Do You Dukkah?“. Different authors have different versions, and my favorite is the one from David Lebovitz – which is on his blog in this post

It works quite well over roasted vegetables, and My Paris Kitchen recommends (quite rightly) to put it on roasted cauliflower. This is the cauliflower roasting technique I use for that.

Dukkah is also good on hummus on toast, and one customer recommended it on avocado on toast.

You can also use this spice blend on popcorn to good effect. I grind it a little finer then combined with honeyed butter and tossed with the popcorn – if you want an exact recipe there’s one in this dukkah recipe post. I want to try it whole (ie not additionally ground) in place of peanuts in this caramel popcorn recipe, I suspect deliciousness. 

Za’atar Sauce

This sauce counts as a snack because you can eliminate the cream, substitute sour cream for the yogurt, chill it, and use it as a dip. Generally, though, I use it as a sauce for kofte (Middle Eastern meatballs). It’s pretty simple:

  • 4 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 Tb Olive Oil
  • 2 Tb za’atar (if you don’t have this, you can mix your own – I’ll include a recipe below)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 28 oz. can ground tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole milk, not Greek)
  • 1 Tb tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup cream

In a large pan, saute the garlic gently in the olive oil, you don’t want to brown it just cook it. Add in the spices and cook until fragrant (won’t take long). Dump in the remaining ingredients except the cream and whisk together until smooth. Simmer for 10 minutes, lightly, to encourage flavor mingling. Whisk in the cream and bring to temperature. And then you’re done – easy, quick recipe. 

*Za’atar: I make mine by mixing 1 1/2 Tb sumac, 1 Tb cumin, 1 Tb sesame seeds whirred lightly in a spice grinder, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 1/2 tsp dry oregano, 1 tsp mint (the leaves in my dried mint are king of large, and I whirr them in a spice grinder)

And that’s it – many snack type recipes with Middle Eastern flair. The dessert recipe I was going to end with – Egyptian Palace Bread – got used up in yesterday’s post, so you’ll just have to flip back a day to see it.

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