I judge the greatness of a vacation by the happiness of my taste buds. Coming home five pounds heavier than I left indicates I had a marvelous time; indeed! I love me some middle eastern cuisine. The seasonings of choice of the Jordanian culture include thyme, sage and mint; you can’t go wrong with those in the mix! In general, breakfast was not exciting but filling. Middle Easterners start their meals with Mezze plates, small plates of salads, dips, breads, and other small bites of yumminess. One can quickly fill the tummy with these delectable yummies. Those who know me know the first thing I do at meals is whip out my phone and snap photos of the food… not on this trip; I was too busy grabbing those small plate appetizers! While in the Wadi Rum, we had Zarb, a Bedouin barbecue. In Madaba, our guide took us to his family restaurant where we devoured small bites, roasted chicken and drank Limonana, ahh the Limonana… We truly enjoyed the cuisine of Jordan, and now it is time to recreate some favorites.
On the menu today are Shawarma wraps and the ever-refreshing Limonada. Shawarma is typically made by stacking slices of meat and fat onto a spit and then roasting on the spit for hours. The meat is then shaved off with a large knife and served. Instead, we are making a convenient crockpot version that is not as labor intensive yet just as tasty. The shawarma will is served in a Khubz or, as we know it, pita bread and a salad drizzled with a lemon tahini dressing. On the side, we will plate some Za’atar with olive oil and wash it down with a heavenly Limonana.
Whoa, you say! What is Za’atar, you ask? Za’atar is a delicious, aromatic, ancient spice mix of herbs, including dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. You can make your own Za’atar, purchase it on Amazon, or travel to the middle east.
Never heard of Sumac? Oh my, you have been missing out on a rich spice. Ground sumac is a lovely red-colored spice with a tangy lemony flavor. Sumac is a potent anti-inflammatory used to treat cardiovascular disorders and hypertension. Sumac can be found in some grocery stores and on Amazon; if you haven’t tried it, now is the time! Alrighty let’s get to cooking!
Frozen Limonana for One
- 1 large lemon or 2 limes, juiced (if extra juicy use less juice)
- 8-10 fresh mint leaves
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 cup ice
- garnish with a mint leaf
Add juice, water, mint, and sugar in a blender until lemon/lime is smooth and sugar is dissolved. Add ice, and blend on low increasing speed as the ice breaks down. Blend till the mixture has an ice constancy. Garnish with a spring of mint and drink up! I recommend tasting your mix before adding the ice to see if you want more juice or sugar. **Tip, use crushed ice from the fridge, then blend to the ice constancy using a hand blender.
Those who want to take it up a notch might want to add vodka or whiskey; Our guide also suggested blending in a kiwi.
Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma
- 2 lbs chicken breasts , boneless, skinless
- 1/2 cup water
Place chicken and water in the crockpot and cook on high for 2 hours or till tender but holds together. When done, remove from pot, cool and slice. This step can be done in advance and refrigerate in a sealed container till you’re ready to sauté.
* while your chicken is cooking mix up the LEMON TAHINI DRESSING and MIDDLE EASTERN SALAD recipes are below.
- 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/4teaspoon ground sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fine ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of ground cloves
Mix spices together save 1/2 teaspoon of mix for the tahini dressing, set remaining mix aside till it’s time to sauté the cooked chicken.
Chicken is ready; spices are ready; let’s turn this is to a tasty Shawarma Wrap! First drizzle 1 Tablespoon of oil on the sliced chicken, sprinkle spices and stir lightly. Next, preheat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy pan; I’m partial to cast iron. Once the oil and pan are good and hot, add the seasoned meat to the pan, allow to cook till the chicken gets a little crispy, then flip and repeat cooking chicken is a little crispy. If needed, add more oil to the pan during cooking.
While your chicken is cooking, cut your pita bread in half, and heat lightly in a skillet or microwave. I prefer to pop the pita in the microwave. Cover the pita with a damp paper towel and microwave for 15-20 seconds.
Once the chicken is ready, stuff the salad and chicken into the pita. If desired, squirt the lemon tahini dressing inside the pocket or drizzle on scrumptious bite after bite! I love the slight crispness of the chicken, and the flavor is divine!
LEMON TAHINI DRESSING
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
- 1 tablespoon tahini paste
- 1/2 teaspoon Shawarma Spice Blend
Whisk ingredients together or if you prefer a creamier sauce you can emulsify in the blender.
MIDDLE EASTERN SALAD
- 1/2 cup minced red onion
- 1 cup of white balsamic vinegar
- 2 fresh tomatoes, cut into large diced cut
- 1 large cucumber, seeds removed and medium diced cut
- 1/4 cup chiffonade fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup flatleaf parsley chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 Tablespoons
- 2 Tablespoons of extra Virgin Olive Oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- romaine lettuce (optional)
While onions are marinating whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper
Marinate the onions in the balsamic vinegar for roughly five minutes, drain off the vinegar.
Add all veggies together and refrigerate till ready to serve. When you are ready to serve, stir in the juice-olive oil mixture.
Don’t forget to set out warm pita bread triangles, a plate of Za’atar, and a small bowl of olive oil. Dip the pita into the olive oil, then the Za’atar… oh my goodness, life is tasty!
Now its time to put on some Jordanian Music, kick back and enjoy your meal.
Bil-hanā’ wa ash-shifā’
بالهناء والشفاء / بالهنا والشفا
May you have your meal with gladness and health
2 thoughts on “Bites and Sips of Jordan – Let’s cook”
loved this one.. but can i use normal vinegar in the salad?
Normal vinegar lacks the boldness found in balsamic vinegar. In a pinch it will work but won’t be as complex. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of balsamic or other flavored vinegar to highlight your dishes!