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Snacks from the Middle East kindle memories of home

When families immigrate to Canada, they adapt many foods from their homeland using Canadian foods. Habeeb Salloum’s parents came from Syria to southwestern Saskatchewan in the 1920s. He has fond memories of traditional Arab snacks that his mother adapted.

This renowned Middle Eastern dish, called “the mother of all chickpea dishes,” has become a favourite appetizer for many people in Europe and North America.

Hummus is a thick sauce made from mashed chickpeas and seasoned with garlic, lemon juice and olive or sesame oil. When tahini is added, it becomes hummus bi tahini.

Tahini is a thick paste made of ground sesame seeds and is used to flavour Middle Eastern dishes.

In the Depression when tahini was unknown in Western Canada, Salloum’s mother used peanut butter as a substitute.

Chickpea dip — Hummus bi Tahini

  • 2 c. cooked chickpeas 500 mL
  • 1/4 c. tahini 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice 60 mL
  • 2 tbsp. water 30 mL
  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper .5 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. cumin .5 mL
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/2 small tomato, diced
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley 60 mL

Place all ingredients, except two tablespoons (30 mL) of the olive oil, tomato and parsley, in a food processor and process into a smooth paste, adding a little more water if necessary. Spread on a platter, then decorate with tomato and parsley. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil and serve with pita bread. Serves about eight for snacks. Adapted from Habeeb Salloum’s recipe.

Pita Bread — Khubz Arabee

The bread will puff up like a balloon while baking and then collapse when cooled. Loaves may be eaten immediately or frozen in plastic wrap or plastic bag. Defrost bread in the plastic bag at room temperature. Heat before serving.

  • 2 – 8 g pkg. traditional dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. lukewarm water 375 mL
  • 4 c. flour (white, whole wheat, or half of each) 1 L
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL

Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the water; then set aside for about 10 minutes.

Mix flour, salt and oil in a large bowl, add yeast mixture and the remaining warm water. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more water or flour if necessary.

Place in a well-oiled warm bowl, turning dough over to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl with a dry cloth and set in a warm place, allowing dough to rise until double in volume (about two to three hours).

Punch dough down, then knead for two minutes. Form into eight smooth balls, rolling them gently between the hands. Place balls on a dry cloth in a warm place, then cover with another cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 F (260 C).

On a lightly floured board, roll out balls into circles about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick. Bake the loaves about eight minutes on a preheated baking sheet with the oven rack at the centre notch.

As each loaf is cooked, remove and immediately cover with a towel, then a piece of plastic over the towel or place a towel in a large plastic bowl that has a lid. Cover the loaves with a towel and then the bowl lid. Place the next loaf over or next to the first and immediately re-cover. Follow the same procedure until all the loaves are cooked. If this procedure is not followed, the loves will become hard. Makes eight loaves. Adapted from Habeeb Salloum’s recipe.

Chickpea and Burghul Salad — Safsoof

This salad becomes crunchier and tastier if 1/2 cup (125 mL) of dried chickpeas is substituted for one cup (250 mL) of cooked ones. The dried chickpeas should be soaked overnight, then drained. Remove the skins from the chickpeas and place in a small cloth or plastic bag a handful at a time. Break up by rolling with a rolling pin.

  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice 60 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper 2 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne .5 mL
  • 1/2 c. fine burghul 125 mL
  • 1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 c. cooked chickpeas 250 mL (reduce to 1/4 c. (60 mL) if using crushed uncooked chickpeas)
  • 1 small bunch green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, about 6 inches (15 cm) long, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped fresh 375 mL
  • mint

To cook dried chickpeas, completely cover with cold water and soak overnight or for 12 hours. Drain and put into a large pot. Cover with twice the amount of water as chickpeas and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about one hour. Taste to see if they are tender enough for your liking. Drain and cool.

Soak burghul for 10 minutes in warm water, then press water out through a strainer.

Place olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl and mix to make a dressing, then set aside.

Place remaining ingredients in a salad bowl stir in the dressing. Chill for about one hour before serving.

Cooked chickpeas can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for a month.

Burghul, also called bulgur, is wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed. It is available in coarse, medium and fine grinds and has a tender chewy texture.

Burghul is not exactly the same as cracked wheat, even though the two are often confused. Burghul makes an excellent wheat pilaf or can be served in salads, vegetable or meat dishes. Serves eight. Adapted from Habeeb Salloum’s recipe.

Cucumber And Yogurt Salad — Khiyar bi-Laban

Whatever the season, Habeeb’s family often enjoyed this refreshing yet simple dish in their prairie home.

  • 3 c. plain yogurt 750 mL
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1/4 c. chopped mint leaves or 1 tbsp. (15 mL) dried-crushed mint 60 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper 2 mL

Peel and chop the cucumber. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then chill and serve. Serves about six as a snack. Adapted from Habeeb Salloum’s recipe.

Definitions are from The New Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst.

Habeeb Salloum has written several cookbooks that focus on Middle Eastern foods, including Bison Delights: Middle Eastern Cuisine, Western Style and The Arabian Nights: From Lamb Kebabs to Baba Ghannouj.

Appetizer Recipe Contest

Send us your favourite appetizer recipe and we will enter your name in our draw for an appetizer server. Entries must be received by Nov. 15. Send to TEAM Resources Appetizer Draw at or mail to Box 2500, Saskatoon, Sask. S7K 2C4. We will select a number of recipes to print in a December column.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

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