I'm so excited about last night's (almost) from scratch Mediterranean dinner success that I have to post!
I have come a long way to where I got yesterday. First, when I made this dinner, I would make falafel from a mix, raita (which is actually an Indian name, but I know there's cucumber yogurt sauce in the Mediterranean, too) from scratch, and sometimes hummus from scratch. Then Jon would bring home the rest of the dinner from a little store near his work. This actually cost just about as much as going out to eat.

Then I graduated to making the hummus all the time, too - I now use a recipe that Jon's brother and sister-in-law gave us in a homemade cookbook one Christmas. But still Jon brought home most of the dinner.

Recently, Kelly inspired me to make my own tabbouleh, so I ordered some bulgur wheat and tried a recipe about a month ago. That time, the only pre-made item I bought for the dinner was the pita bread.

Last night, I took the plunge and tried making the pita bread, too! Serina's post on frugal living gave me the inspiration for that. (The link to the recipe is in the comments.) I had a miserable experience the first time I tried to make pitas, but she said it works for her and tastes so much better, so I thought I could try her recipe.

It was a great success! I followed the recipe exactly (using whole wheat bread flour for the first cup, but all-purpose for the rest - next time I'll try all whole wheat and see what happens) and my last two pitas, with careful watching, puffed all the way! This was facilitated by another Christmas present from Ben and Cinnamon - a heavy-duty frying pan that really holds heat and spreads it evenly (I don't have the "heat diffuser" specified in the recipe.) I also used the tip for gas stove users included in the recipe - to put the pita directly over the flame for a few seconds to help puff it up. They were delicious, so much tastier than store-bought versions.

The pitas did take a significant amount of work - I took advantage of it being Saturday and the fact that I had already had my nap and Jonathan was napping separately. The recipe says it's no more work than regular handmade bread, but I disagree because rolling out the dough and cooking each pita separately is surely more work than sticking loaves in an oven.

So there was our dinner - hummus, pita, raita, tabbouleh all from scratch, the falafel still from a mix. It was great and it gave me such satisfaction to prepare it all from fresh ingredients.

Here are my recipes:
6-8oz plain nonfat yogurt
1 tomato, seeds removed, chopped finely
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed, chopped finely
~1/2 tsp ground cumin
~1/4 tsp dried mint leaves
Stir all together. Serves 2.

1/4 c packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1/2 c tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
In a food processor, process the parsley and garlic, then add the other ingredients and process until smooth. Add olive oil, water, or lemon juice to desired consistency (recipe as is will make a thicker hummus than most.) Tastes best if refrigerated several hours before serving. Serves a lot.

1/4 c bulgur
1/3 c boiling water
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp olive oil
1 c chopped parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tomatoes, diced
salt to taste
Place the bulgur in a small mixing bowl. Add the boiling water, half the lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix together, let stand for 1 hour.
Combine the rest of the ingredients, then add the bulgur and mix well. Serves 2-4.

All three of these I prepare ahead of time and refrigerate until dinner. I fry the falafel just before serving time.
Posted by Heather Daley on April 9, 2006, 7:15 pm | Read 2986 times
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Congratulations! It sounds delicious!
Posted by SursumCorda on April 9, 2006, 9:16 pm

Oh! Hummus! Tabbouleh! If they have greek food in Japan, I haven't found it yet. :(
Posted by Harp on April 9, 2006, 11:06 pm

Tabbouleh is one of my favorite summer dishes to prepare/eat - now I'm craving it! Kenny makes a great hummus that we eat year-round (he adds cumin to taste). I agree that hummus served COLD is best! :) Now I can't wait to try the homemade pitas! ~liz
Posted by liz on April 10, 2006, 12:13 pm

Congrats! Sounds yummy! The pitas take more time than work, and I agree that it's more work than baking bread. (Though we all know how I feel about kneading...) By the way, I generally use all whole wheat flour, and it comes out great. But I do the two rises, which helps. Once, I used half whole wheat, half spelt, and they were delicious!
Posted by serina on April 10, 2006, 9:06 pm

I forgot to mention--in case you're interested, you can (relatively easily) make bulgar wheat, too. I've done it. Basically, it's sprouted, dried, and ground up wheat. If you want the details, let me know...
Posted by serina on April 12, 2006, 7:58 pm

Thanks, but I'm not there yet. Nowhere near even grinding my own flour yet. Maybe I can ask you in 5 years. (: I'm just venturing into alfalfa sprouts - that's as close as I'll get for a while!
Posted by joyful on April 12, 2006, 9:55 pm
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