Of this I am sure: I will never grow tired of hummus, falafel, and shawarma. It’s a simple truth; there’s just no such thing as too much.
The evidence is indisputable:
First the first eight days of our visit to Israel we were stuffed with these foods, and on the ninth and final day, bagel sandwiches and wraps were put out for lunch. I made the executive decision that Ben and I should not eat with the group, and instead hold out for free time later on, when we could get our last and final fill in.
Within a day of being back to work, I learned that a Middle Eastern cafe existed right down the street from my office. How I’ve been here five years without knowing that is beyond me, but I needed to make up for lost time, stat. Ben and I planned a lunch date. For the following day.
During our first full week home, I dreamed up the perfect Friday night dinner: a shawarma pizza. When one of Ben’s vendors offered him two tickets for a dinner cruise, with limo transportation to and from the port, on that same Friday night, I hesitated. Shawarma pizza or free fancy night out? I finally agreed to be his date, but with much reluctance.
But before all of that, there was this recipe I had spotted before I went away, and never stopped thinking about. It’s not falafel, or shawarma, or hummus, but it does hail from the same part of the world. And thus contains some of the same coveted elements: warm, earthy spices like cloves and cumin, nutty tahini, and crisp salad. Cucumber tomato salad, to be exact, though over there, you just need to say “salad.”
It was the very first thing I wanted to cook when we returned home, and it was so good that we had it again, less than a week later.
So what exactly is it? Sfeeha are Lebanese meat pies: ground meat seasoned with tahini, pomegranate molasses, and plenty of spices in a flaky pastry crust. Sounds good, right? But since most of us don’t have the time or inclination on a busy weeknight, the genius idea behind this recipe is to make the sfeeha filling, shmear it onto a pita, and bake until crispy. And of course, you’ll want to top it with salad. A cucumber and tomato salad studded with glorious tart and juicy pomegranate seeds. Pomegranate seeds make everything a little extra special, don’t you think?
I put my healthy touch on it by using my favorite low-carb tortillas instead of pita bread, and swapping ground turkey for the beef or lamb that would typically be used. A little dollop of yogurt keeps the meat nice and tender, though I imagine it could be left out if you’d like to keep it kosher. The spices are out of this world, and a perfect contrast to the fresh, crisp salad. The crisp tortillas layered with flavorful meat and fresh vegetables reminded me of a Mexican tostada with Middle Eastern flavors, so that’s what I’m calling them. Oh, and those pomegranate seeds? Just consider them the crown jewels. De-lish.
2 oz chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of seven-spice*
1/2 teaspoon of sumac**
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 low-carb, whole wheat tortillas, such as Trader Joe’s
3/4 cup (4 oz) grape tomatoes, quartered
3/4 cup chopped, peeled cucumber
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 teaspoon za’atar**
pinch of allspice
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place the onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Add the ground turkey, tahini, pomegranate molasses, yogurt, salt, seven-spice, sumac and cayenne pepper. Pulse several more times, until the mixture is thoroughly combined and forms a loose paste.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a metal cooling rack on top of it. Similarly, a broiler pan can be used. (This is so that the fat drips away from the meat and tortillas as it cooks, so that the tortillas become crisp and not soggy.) Mist the metal rack with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the ground turkey mixture evenly among the tortillas and spread into an even layer with a spatula. Place each one on the rack. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the tortillas are lightly browned and crispy.
Meanwhile, prepare the salad by combining the grape tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, scallions, olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate seeds, za’atar, and allspice.
To serve, top the hot tostadas with a generous scoop of the salad mixture.
*There are many recipes for seven-spice online, since the mixture varies from family to family and region to region. It may be available in Middle Eastern markets. Mine did not have it, but was more than willing to put something together from their bulk spice collection. The seven-spice recipe I found called for equal parts nutmeg, ginger, allspice, fenugreek, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. Since many other recipes also call for cumin and I happen to like it, I had them add that as well.
*Sumac and za’atar are available in Middle Eastern markets, or can be purchased from Penzeys.
Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat 25.5 g
Saturated Fat 4.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 7.4 g
Cholesterol 80.0 mg
Sodium 983.9 mg
Potassium 457.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 38.0 g
Dietary Fiber 8.8 g
Sugars 11.0 g
Protein 34.4 g