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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Tahini & Turmeric; Whole Roasted Cauliflower
Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018.

Tahini & Turmeric; Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Middle Eastern cookbooks are popping up like weeds in my overgrown vegetable garden in August. So, what makes Tahini & Turmeric; 101 Middle Eastern Classics- Made Irresistibly Vegan, a standout?

Start with the authors’ unusual background story. They’re sisters who call themselves “Jewish-Lebanese-now American Spaniards”. Toss in easy to follow, dairy-free, vegetarian, kosher recipes inspired by their fascinating family history. Include bold food photos that they style and shoot themselves. And finally, start cooking!

I believe you’ll be taken by their spin on the classics and their highly original, drool-worthy recipes with their distinctive imprint on them.

vegan kosher cheesecake
Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranate. @Tahini&Turmeric

The authors, Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox, grew up in Barcelona with Syrian Lebanese parents who brought their families’ flavors to the table in un-fussy, weeknight family dinners. Their Mami, a vegetarian determined to feed her family healthy meals, handled meat for their Papi and the rest of the family. Papi was a passionate gardener, growing veggies and fruit that inspired her seasonal cooking.

It was a way of life that deeply impacted the recipes they’ve created in their popular food blog, May I have that Recipe, and finally, in their first cookbook. Their creations will inspire anyone who wants to dig deeper into Middle Eastern cooking without being overwhelmed by difficult to find ingredients and long recipes.

vegan kosher cauliflower green tahini
Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018.

I started by preparing this whole roasted cauliflower (recipe below) dressed in tahini brightened by lemon juice and a hefty three cups of parsley, cilantro and dill. A quick whirl in the blender brought the dressing together while two barely anointed heads of cauliflower roasted and softened as I prepared the rest of our dinner. I increased the roasting time by 50% but heads vary in size, so no gripe there.

The Mains chapter (where this cauliflower recipe lives) includes the heartiest of the recipes, each with two/three recommendations for best accompaniments. I took the sisters’ advice and simmered the Fava Bean and Fried Artichoke Basmati Rice (Kicked-up Rice chapter). Living in the northeast in winter means sometimes turning to frozen ingredients so I wanted to test out how the frozen artichokes and fava beans would play out in this unfamiliar rice dish.

It was a hard choice between the Basmati Rice and this Wheat Berry, Fig, and Pistachio Salad but knowing that figs are impossible to find at this time of year in CT, I leaned into using frozen beans and artichokes.

Wheat berry salad vegan kosher
Wheat Berry, Fig, and Pistachio Salad; Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018.

Their warning to dry the artichokes before frying them prompted me to lay out the frozen veggies and beans on a paper towel lined sheet pan in the fridge overnight. Drying out the artichokes was essential as they crisped up perfectly in my cast iron pan. The aromatics and beans dressed up the rice and included a valuable protein for my vegetarian dinner guest. Prep time was even less than the 20 minutes listed on the recipe.

Vegan kosher rice mjadra
Wild Rice Mjadra; Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018.

Another classic from this recipe is Cohen and Fox’s Wild Rice Mjadra. Shown here with cashew or coconut yogurt mixed with finely diced cucumbers and mint, I’m remembering how much my son loved lentils and rice as a toddler. Laced with sweet sauteed onions, this is a comfort dish perfect for all ages.

I’ve been planning breakfasts around some of the gems in the Day Starters and Brunch Nosh chapter. Tahini Smoothie Bowl with cherries and figs may have to wait for summer but alternative ingredients like pomegranate arils and pistachios (suggested in helpful header notes) will do just fine in the colder months. Falafel waffles and the veganized Shakshuka (chickpeas for protein and sliced polenta to mimic eggs) are all top picks.

I can only imagine the sisters’ debate over whether to include or not include a hummus recipe in their Appetite Teaser chapter. Yes, we’ve seen a zillion hummus recipes but this volume would seem incomplete without the authors’ basic versions (two of ’em), a deconstructed hummus (seasoned chickpeas atop a pool of savory tehini), Tangy Roasted Carrot Hummus (seasoned like Moroccan carrot salad with its sweet/savory balance), and at least three other bean dips that will delight your guests not only because they are not hummus.

vegan kosher meatless pies
Crispy Mini Meatless Pies; Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018.

In the same chapter, I was taken by the Crispy Mini Meatless Pies, reminiscent of a version the sisters’ Mami made with homemade pizza dough topped with sautéed  ground beef and pine nuts. What appears to be relatively complex is simplified here by using readily available spring roll wrappers as a base with boldly seasoned tofu as a substitute for the ground beef.

Thankfully, Dairy free desserts made with wholesome and unadulterated ingredients (anyone remember Cool Whip in a tub? We loved it but even back then, we called it “chemical whip”) is no longer an anomaly.

For ice cream lovers, there’s a flexible five minute recipe for Pistachio “NiceCream” with Halvah Sauce (cardamom scented!), traditionalists will love Kataifi (shredded phyllo dough available in markets) with orange blossom syrup, clever Black and White Tahini Cookies and finally, this sweet Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranates.

vegan kosher cheesecake
Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018.

Upshot: This cookbook is a beautifully photographed, user-friendly and inspired collection of easy Middle Eastern recipes. Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox share helpful shortcuts to readily available ingredients. For kosher keepers, vegetable lovers, those interested in Middle Eastern preparations and vegans, this cookbook is a winner.

 

Watch for our giveaway of one free copy next week. Can’t wait to take your chances? You may buy Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics- Made Irresistibly Vegan by clicking here.

 

All images and recipe are used with permission and excerpted from Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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