Far East meets Middle East


Union County Farmers Market demonstration:

Green Beans Goma-ae and Fattoush Salad

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Those of you who have been following my content for a while already know my connection to Japanese cuisine – having visited Japan in high school, studied the language and culture in college, and cooked for the executives of Honda North America.

You may not know as much about my affinity for Lebanese food.  Many years ago, I worked for a restaurant company called Aladdin’s Eatery, based out of Cleveland.  I helped manage three of their Columbus-area locations.  That’s where I was introduced to the bright, fresh flavors of the Middle East – and I fell in love with them.

I mean, how could I not?!  Not only is the food delicious, but the national dish of Lebanon is called Kibbeh.

You heard correctly: the Lebanese have a dish named after me… well, not really.  I do enjoy eating it, of course – spiced ground lamb and pine nuts formed into small football-shaped patties, coated in bulghur and deep-fried.  There is also a raw variety, but it’s harder to find served in the States.

This brings me back to the farmers market.  As I mentioned in my video promo last week, we are getting into the prime time of the season when many of the iconic farm market ingredients are starting to show up on the tables, and I demonstrated a pair of simple yet delicious ways to utilize much of the seasonal favorites.

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Green Beans Goma-ae

The first dish I prepared was a Japanese dish called goma-ae, which loosely translates to “sesame-style.”  I took blanched green beans and tossed them in a simple sesame sauce.  It’s a preparation that works with other lightly-cooked and chilled vegetables as well, especially broccoli.  You’ll find the recipe below.

Are you familiar with the technique of blanching and shocking?  It’s quite a helpful little trick to get the most flavor and nutrition out of your cooked vegetables.  Simply put, blanching involves tossing your vegetable of choice into boiling water (lightly salted, of course) and cooking until it reaches the desired tenderness, after which the pot is drained and the veggies are placed into an ice bath to stop the cooking process – this is the shock.  The end result is a product that is cooked but not over-cooked.

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Fattoush - Lebanese Bread Salad

The second dish demonstrated at the Union County Farmers Market this past weekend was a beautiful Lebanese bread salad called Fattoush.  The dish is made with toasted pita bread and chopped fresh vegetables tossed in a tangy dressing that typically uses a unique Middle Eastern spice called sumac.  Sumac is hard to find here locally, so I added some fresh lemon zest to give the dressing a little more zip.

before you start cookin', make sure you have the tools to get the job done!


Green Beans Goma-ae

Serves 6-8
Prep time: 15 minutes

2# green beans, trimmed

2 T white sesame seeds, toasted
2 T white sugar
2 T lite soy sauce

1) Steam or boil the green beans until just tender, 8-10 minutes.  Drain and place into an ice bath to halt cooking.
2) In the meantime, place sesame seeds, sugar, and soy sauce in a small food processor and blend until smooth.
3) Drain the green beans thoroughly and toss with sesame sauce in a small mixing bowl.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Fattoush Salad

Serves 6-8
Prep time: 15 minutes

2 loaves pita bread, toasted, cut into 1" squares
2 T olive oil

1 ea bell pepper, julienne
1 ea cucumber, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
1 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ea green onions, chopped
1 small head baby Romaine or similar lettuce, rough chopped

1 ea lemon, zest and juice
1 t minced garlic (or one clove)
1/4 c vinegar, either sherry or white wine
1 T fresh mint leaves
pinch kosher salt
3/4 c olive oil

1) Place a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add oil and pita.  Cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until bread is crispy, about 5 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, combine vegetables in a large mixing bowl.
3) Combine dressing ingredients and blend to emulsify.
4) Add toasted pita to the salad and toss with dressing.  Serve.