Spicie Foodie Nancy Lopez-McHugh takes a closer look at An Edible Mosaic, a cookbok focusing on Middle Eastern cuisine.
By Nancy Lopez-McHugh
I am not sure when my love for foreign foods began, but what I do know is that ethnic foods are my favorites. High on the list is Middle Eastern cuisine. This exotic and flavorful cuisine has also been on my list of cookery to learn. I love how fresh, healthy, and delicious it tastes. So when I heard about the latest Mid-East cookbook to hit the market I knew I had to have it.
A couple of weeks ago I treated myself to a Kindle copy of An Edible Mosaic: Everyday Fare with Extraordinary Flair. This cookbook is written by Faith Gorsky who writes the blog titled by the same name, An Edible Mosaic. If you are familiar with her blog you’ll know that Faith is an excellent cook and talented photographer. Her passion for food and art really shine through both in the cookbook and blog. Within two days I had read the book cover to cover and bookmarked many recipes to try.
An Edible Mosaic includes over 100 authentic Middle Eastern recipes, countless beautiful photographs, tips that will make all the difference in your dishes, prep techniques, and very informative explanations on the exotic ingredients and techniques of Mid-East cuisine. The recipes were mostly taught to Faith by her mother-in-law, Sahar. Faith then took that knowledge and demystified the exotic ingredients, tools and techniques and made them very approachable. Even if you are a complete beginner you will feel Faith’s gentle hand guiding you along the way to creating a successful Middle Eastern dish or feast.
Sprinkled throughout the recipes and photographs are some personal stories of how Faith was introduced to the dish. She recounts cooking and learning in her mother-in-law’s kitchen and experiencing the exotic foods for the first time. Additionally she explains how many of the dishes form part of traditions and celebrations around the region. But overall I think the recipes can be incorporated into your everyday cooking routines. Faith says it perfectly “…they cross cultural borders and can be used in different applications in any number of cuisines from around the world.”
I have already tried out a few of the recipes. In fact one of them I already shared with you, the Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves. The other was for her lentil soup which is fantastic and I’ve made several times already. The latest was for these Spiced Shawarma Chicken wraps that are to die for. Shawarma is one of the foods we most order at our favorite Mid-East restaurant, so hubby and I were excited to make it at home. Immediately after taking the first bite my husband asked when I was making it again. Yes, it is that good! The brining method that Faith instructs really made all the difference as the chicken was tender, juicy and very flavourful. We normally eat our Shawarma as part of a platter which then is rolled up in the bread to make wraps. That is how I served Faith’s recipe -as a platter and part of a meze style meal. It was the best meal of the week.
- 1 batch Shawarma Spice Mix
- ½ cup (125 ml) plain yogurt
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 lb (1 kg) boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing
- 16 ?atbreads Garlic Mayonnaise (page 24)
- Pickles (page 27)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¹/ 8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne) (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle with ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg whites or 1 large egg
- 1 cup (250 ml) oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- • Prepare the Shawarma Spice Mix.
- • Combine the spice mix with the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
- • Preheat oven to 350°F and spread 1 tablespoon of oil on the inside of a large baking dish.
- • Scrape off any excess marinade from the chicken with your hands. Starting in the center of the oiled dish, arrange the chicken so that it overlaps, and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top. Bake (uncovered) 1 hour, or until the chicken is fully cooked; cool. (It’s done when you cut into the center and there is no pink.)
- • Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer it to a large cutting board; slice it very thinly across the grain, then transfer it back into the pan it was cooked in to soak up the juices (the chicken can be refrigerated this way for up to 3 days before continuing with the rest of the recipe, or you can continue after 10 minutes).
- • Coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat with oil. Once hot, add the sliced chicken and sauté until crispy and golden brown (you may need to sauté the chicken in two or three batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded).
- • Spread some Garlic Mayonnaise in the center of each piece of bread; add some chicken and pickles (and any other vegetables you like) and roll it up.
- • Toast the sandwiches on a dry griddle or a ?at sandwich press so that the bread gets golden brown and slightly crispy.
- • Serve as is, or cut into small rounds; serve with additional Garlic Mayonnaise for dipping.
- • Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until it forms a smooth paste.
- • Whisk together the garlic paste and egg until well blended.
- • Add the oil, drop-by-drop, while whisking (after you’ve added 1 tablespoon of oil drop-by-drop, you can add the oil a little faster). Make sure the oil you add is fully incorporated before adding any more.
- • Once you’ve added ½ cup (125 ml) oil, alternate between gradually adding the oil and lemon juice and continue mixing until fully incorporated.
- • Add the cold water and mix until smooth and creamy.
An Edible Mosaic: Everyday Fare with Extraordinary Flair is a gem of a cookbook. If you’ve ever been interested in learning to cook Mid-East food this book is the best place to start. Being that the recipes are true and tried family recipes you can expect to have great results. Plus you may already have all of the ingredients to start cooking right away. One of the things I love most about Faith’s cookbook is that there is a big selection of vegetarian recipes as well as meat ones. They are all healthy, light and best of all they won’t break your budget. Plus if you have a sweet tooth Faith has you covered.
The cookbook is available worldwide at bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you are looking for a great Christmas gift for foodies in your life An Edible Mosaic is the perfect one!
*Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission. The opinions express are my own.
Nancy Lopez-McHugh is a food blogger, photographer and published author. Most recently she has published "Yummy Pics: A Food Blogger's Guide To Better Photos".