The heart of a fool is in his mouth, the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.– Moroccan Proverb
Most people would be surprised that a big part of the mexican population is very familiarised with some arabic dishes. Even though we might not be the greatest conousseurs of the middle east traditions, Mexico has a huge variety of places that offer different arabic dishes and our love for the middle east gastronomy is so big that it had influenced the mexican culture very deeply. A good example of this are the famous “Tacos arabes” and the “Taco al pastor” which is one of the most famous taco in Mexico.
This is because Mexico has a lot of Lebanese immigrants! And this one is also the most economically powerful Lebanese community in the world (spoiler alert: Carlos Slim). There are many reasons why the Lebanese community decided to call Mexico their home, but the relationship started in 1892 with ships arriving to escape from the Ottoman Empire. But even if it’s been a long time, the Lebanese arrival to Mexico introduced a lot of of yummy dishes to the country including kibbeh and tabbouleh.
Needless to say, the Lebanese in Mexico not only taught us to say “habibi” but they also left us craving for more of their delicious gastronomy! Personally for me this meant a new culinary world to discover and new possibilities to surprise friends and family on a sunday evening. The consequence of that is two VERY EASY recipes that anyone who wants some middle east flavor in their home can make in less than an hour. I promise! Try them!
- 2 1/2 cups (1 lb 1oz/ 500g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cup (300ml) water
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon (15g) rose water (more or less according to taste)
- 1 tablespoon (15g) orange blossom water (more or less according to taste)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 3-2 cloves garlic, smashed or chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 (28 oz) cans diced roasted tomatoes or tomato puree
- 2-3 tablespoons harissa sauce (you can always add any red pepper spicy paste instead)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 can (14 oz) full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or basil, chopped
- 4 oz goat cheese
- Crispy or roasted chickpeas for serving
- Cook your bulgur and/or quinoa and set aside to cool.
- Combine in a small bowl the olive oil, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper.
- Thoroughly rinse parsley. Parsley is a dirty one! So be careful here! Once you are done make sure to dry the parsley very well from any excess water. Get it as dry as you can, this will make the difference between a good Tabouleh and a meh one. Pick the leaves and finely chop them (you can use a food processor but don’t over chop!)
- Finely chop the onion, garlic and tomato.
- Add the onion, tomato, parsley, bulgur/quinoa to the small bowl with the rest of the ingredients (step 2). Stir to combine, add salt and pepper to taste! You can serve with pita (or crackers if you are a lazy person like me) and Greek yogurt!
Directions (Tomato Soup):
- Heat your olive oil in a pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until the onion is fragrant and caramelized (you can add a bit of water in order not to burn the onion and the garlic).
- Add the thyme, paprika, and cumin, cook a minute or two.
- Stir in the tomatoes, harissa, and honey. Cook until bubbling and then add the coconut milk. Stir for circa 2 minutes.
- Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until mostly smooth (Its important not to blend the soup first so that the flavours intensify and the tomato taste is roasted). Return the soup to the pot and place over medium heat, Stir in the cilantro and half of the goat cheese. This is the right moment to season with salt and pepper to your taste. You can also thin the soup more by adding more coconut milk, personally i prefer this soup on the creamy side instead. Cook until warmed though, 5-10 minutes.
- To serve top with goat cheese, cilantro, and chickpeas.