Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Middle Eastern Manti & Mixed Fresh Vegetable Salad

Today we head to the Middle East. Joanne over at Eats Well With Others is hosting Regional Recipes. A new country is picked each month so we can all take a culinary tour of the world, while sitting in the comfort of our own homes! Check out the details on her blog if you'd like to participate and find out what country we'll be visiting next month.

The first thing I thought of when I heard Middle Eastern food was hummus. My love for hummus runs deep. But I have made many versions of hummus so this was not a challenge for me and I wanted this to be somewhat of a challenge. I saw many recipes for falafel. While I have never made falafel, I have several recipes that are on the back burners just waiting to be made so the challenge was still set before me:

**Find something that you wouldn't ordinarily think to make and is out of your comfort zone**.

Ok, so I found a Turkish recipe for
manti. Turkey is in the middle east, right? It was in the middle eastern section of Allrecipes.com so I went with it. It essentially is homemade ravioli with a garlic yogurt sauce. I have never made this before nor would ever think to make this. This works. Totally out of my comfort zone, and it sounded intriguing. I did choose to use ground beef over the lamb, I didn't want to venture too far out of the zone. I was skeptical, it sounded like a lot of work for some basic ingredients. I was amazed how it all came together and was unbelievably delicious! Garlic yogurt! Who would have thunk it! I also never make home made doughs. I didn't even have a rolling pin. So I did have trouble making the manti and getting the dough thin enough.

They weren't pretty.

By the end I pretty much got the hang of it and figured out how to get them thin enough. It was quite time consuming but they really were delicious. My red pepper oil didn't turn out as well as it should have either. I don't know if I used the wrong kind of flakes or something but the oil didn't turn red at all and it didn't flavor as much as I think it could have. I think I would have rather just use the garlic yogurt and a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes on it.

The onions. I use onions in everything. I have cut them into chunks, chopped, diced, minced, blended, everything. My eyes were always fine. I thought my eyes to be impermeable. But I had never grated. This was different. Holy cow, I never knew about the huge amount of juice in an onion! Grating an onion is like juicing an onion! I read the directions to drain the onion and I'm thinking "Are you kidding me?" The jokes on me apparently because yes indeed, you need to drain the onion. If I had thought of it, I would have saved the juice as it probably would have tasted good in a sauce or something. Or even funnier to put it in a wine glass and give it to the husband.

I needed a side dish.

So we headed back to the middle east to see what they would have prepared. I found a recipe for Salatit Khodar Meshakel. That sounded interesting for sure. It's basically just a mixed fresh vegetable salad. Yet, I enjoyed cutting the veggies in a small dice, as I don't usually do that.

I also was careful about the presentation. I feel that a family in the middle east wouldn't just toss lettuce from a plastic bag into to a bowl and throw some veggies and dressing on it as we often do for dinner. So I chopped then all into a small dice and made it look pretty before we all dove in. It really didn't take that much longer and somehow I enjoyed it more because I took the time to make it look nice.

I've never been to the middle east but I certainly enjoyed the small amount of culinary knowledge that I picked up while researching recipes for the middle east. I can't wait to see what others prepared. I would make this again. It would be a great dish to serve to company. If you can make your manti pretty and all the same size, which I feel I could do now that I have "practiced", it would be an impressive meal.

Manti (Turkish Dumplings)

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tbsp. water, or as needed for dough
2 onions, peeled
1/2 lb. ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
3 - 4 cloves pressed garlic
8 oz. plain lowfat yogurt

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and the water, mixing well with your hands. Add water as needed to form a soft dough. Cover and set aside for about 30 minutes.

Shred the onions with a grater and place them in a colander and drain the juice. Discard the juice or save it for something else. Combine the onion and ground beef, season with salt and pepper as desired. Mix well.

Divide the dough into 2 portions and lightly flour a work surface. Roll the dough as thin as you can into a rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 2 in. squares with a knife. Place about 2 tsp. of the meat mixture in the center of each square. Seal the dumplings by gathering the edges of the dough and pinching them together at the top to form a bundle. Transfer the finished manti to a floured plate and sprinkle more flour to prevent sticking. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in small skillet over low heat just until the pepper flakes have started to color the oil, don't let them burn. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Stir the minced garlic into the yogurt and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the manti until the filling is no longer pink and the dough is tender, about 20 - 25 minutes. Drain well. Divide the manti among 4 plates, spoon the yogurt sauce over the manti and drizzle each serving with the hot pepper oil. Enjoy.
Total calories = 1923 calories
4 servings = 481 calories per serving
1 serving Middle Eastern Manti & Mixed Vegetable Salad = 631 calorie dinner

Salatit Khodar Meshakel = Mixed Fresh Vegetable Salad

This is a popular Arab salad that is different from conventional Western salads in that all the ingredients are finely chopped and absorb the dressing and each others flavors better. Do not prepare it too long before serving as the ingredients will wilt. Dress it just before putting it on the table. Ingredients can vary according to taste.

1 small romaine lettuce bunch
2 small cucumbers or 1 longer one
2 tomatoes
2 green onion
1/3 cup cauliflower
1/4 cup carrots
3 tbsp. finely chopped parsely
1 tbsp. finely chopped dill (optional)
1 tbsp. finely chopped mint (optional)

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed with salt
Salt and pepper

Wash lettuce, shred. Cut vegetables and herbs into a small fine dice and mix with lettuce. Mix the dressing ingredients thoroughly, sprinkle over salad and toss well.

Total calories = Varies depending on how much dressing you used and what veggies. This recipe with this dressing is about 500 calories.

Calories calculated from Calorieking.com, some numbers are rounded and approximate.


  1. You definitely got the hang of it - I think it looks great!

  2. I'm so excited for your submission! Turkey is definitely in the middle east. Those ravioli look fantastic!

  3. Little ravioli like morsels with a garlicky sauce? Hell yeah, I'm there! Very different, but it sounds exquisite.