in anticipation of Meatless Monday

When Meatless Monday rolls around, sometimes it is difficult to figure out what to make/eat when all sorts of meaty alternatives are so already in the fridge and handy. Yesterday we watched a show on Human Planet (Mountains: Life in Thin Air) and watched as hunters snared giant bats by the use of tree nets. The bats were roasted over an open fire and would feed the men and their families for the next two weeks. It was quite interesting and involved a tremendous amount of effort. ┬áThe whole show made me feel uncomfortable for having such readily available food…so much, in fact, that many of us, myself included, are overweight.

And then I also questioned my squeamishness regarding various types of meat. On many an occasion I’ve stated that if I had to eat (fill in the blank) I would go completely vegetarian. ┬áBut, as I realized watching this show, even being able to make that choice is an indicator of great privilege. In the show the men’s children were clamoring for bat meat, as they were hungry for protein. I don’t know what, if any, vegetarian choices were available in that part of the world. Just as many people don’t have the option to choose to eat meat, many people don’t have the option to choose not to eat meat. Some people have to work so very hard for their food. We who have the choice and have food readily available are indeed privileged.

I don’t know what our meatless food will be tomorrow. But I suspect it will involve lentils and/or beans as that is what we have on hand. We are so fortunate.

Rose Water: a flavoring used in Turkish cooking

Rose water, a flavoring made from unsprayed rose petals, is used in some Turkish desserts, especially asure, a cold, sweet, non-dairy pudding traditionally served on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The pudding is made from a wide assortment of rehydrated dried fruits, mixed with nuts, pomegranate seeds, chickpeas, rehydrated grains, and water and flavored with rose water. It is also used to flavor some varieties of lokum, the traditional Turkish gelled candy, cut in squares and dusted with powdered sugar or coconut. Rose water has a light distinctive flavor, which is often refreshing but also a bit surprising, especially to those unfamiliar with the taste.

Using Sumac

Sumac is a spice I’ve used for many years, but recently have become quite a fan. Sumac is a tart, purply red spice that adds tartness, much like lemon, and a beautiful color to food. It is made from the fruit of some types of the sumac plant, but I do not know which species so please don’t experiment on your own. It can be purchased online from a number of spice merchants and from many Middle Eastern markets.

Most recently, I tried a recipe using sumac in the mix for making kofte. It was terrific. It is also one of the key ingredients in making zaarter, a wonderful spice blend. I used that to make a marinade for grilled chicken thighs. There are several recipes online for that. There are also a number of recipes for zaarter online. The simplest calls for sumac, oregano (or thyme), salt and sesame seeds.

Sumac is indispensible in many Middle Eastern salads. A very simple salad consists of slicing an onion very thinly, sprinkling it with salt, letting it rest at least 15 minutes, then squeezing the onions well with your hands and rinsing off. Add to that finely chopped parsley and sumac and you have a delightful accompaniment to kofte or fish.