Background Image

Edible South Florida Summer 2014 : Page28

MEDITERRANEAN MENUS In the Book of Genesis, Jacob convinces his older brother Esau to give up his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. So it’s not like interest in the food of the Middle East and its Mediterranean neighbors is a new thing. Over thousands of years it has persevered, and even periodically become trendy. A couple decades ago the Mediterranean Diet was all the rage, and more recently Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook, Jerusalem , sparked a renewed fascination with this ancient cuisine. Trends come and go, but there’s something inherently sensible about the diets of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. The focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lots of fish, moderate amounts of red meats and dairy, and olive oil as the primary fat is consistent with Michael Pollan’s mantra in In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto : “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Even better, it’s a delicious way to eat, which you can do at several South Florida places, both new and old. By David Rosendorf Photography by Robert Parente +1 ∙ summer 2014 ∙ edible SouthFlorida.com

Mediterranean Menus

By David Rosendorf Photography By Robert Parente

In the Book of Genesis, Jacob convinces his older brother Esau to give up his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. So it's not like interest in the food of the Middle East and its Mediterranean neighbors is a new thing.

Over thousands of years it has persevered, and even periodically become trendy. A couple decades ago the Mediterranean Diet was all the rage, and more recently Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's cookbook, Jerusalem, sparked a renewed fascination with this ancient cuisine.

Trends come and go, but there's something inherently sensible about the diets of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. The focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lots of fish, moderate amounts of red meats and dairy, and olive oil as the primary fat is consistent with Michael Pollan's mantra in In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Even better, it's a delicious way to eat, which you can do at several South Florida places, both new and old.

ETZEL ITZIK The waitress takes a table's order in Hebrew. Then she relays it to the kitchen in Spanish. That's perhaps the only giveaway that you're not in Tel Aviv, but on a stretch of West Dixie Highway in Miami, where Etzel Itzik Deli opened more than 15 years ago. To those unfamiliar with Israeli food, the menu may be nearly as inscrutable as the blackboard specials at a Chinese restaurant. Don't let that deter you. Start your morning with a breakfast of eggs and shakshuka, a spicy tomato stew, or masabacha, a rich, hearty version of hummus supplemented with extra tahini and chickpeas. Later in the day, get sabich, an Israeli street food staple: fried eggplant, hummus, hard–boiled eggs, Israeli salad, pickled vegetables, and pungent amba, all stuffed into a pita bread. Wash it down with a minty, citrusy limonana, served over crushed ice. You'll fit right in with the regulars whose photos cover nearly every surface of the restaurant's walls and tables.
Above: sabich and two icy carafes of limonana. Left: owner Itzik Younis

KABOBJI In North Miami Beach, hookahs adorn the outdoor tables of the Lebanese–owned Kabobji. Inside, fresh, warm pitas emerge from an oven that faces out to the dining room. Use them to scoop smoky baba ganoush, creamy labne, or maybe best of all, Kabobji's tomato kibbeh, a spin on the traditional minced raw beef dish which combines finely chopped tomatoes, walnuts, cracked wheat and spices into a result that may be even more delicious than the original. In addition to the typical shawarmas and shish kebabs, you'll also find intriguing things like sujuk, a spicy Middle Eastern sausage drizzled with pomegranate syrup, and m'jadra, a vegetarian rice and lentil dish topped with crispy fried golden onion slivers.

FALAFEL BENNY It's pretty easy to guess what the specialty is at a place called "Falafel Benny." Yes, it's falafel, the ubiquitous Middle Eastern snack made from chickpeas ground with garlic, herbs and spices, rolled into balls and fried. Benny Regev, who opened his small place in Hallandale a few years ago, says his are the best in town, and he may be right. Crisp and greaseless, light–textured and well–spiced, they make for good eating on their own. But they're even better stuffed into a pita along with a choice of among more than a dozen fresh salads, pickled vegetables and sauces. My approach: if Benny asks if you want it in your sandwich – say yes. Another sound strategy: order the shawarma, carved from the vertical spit, in your pita, and get a few extra falafel balls on the side.
Right: Benny Regev and his signature dish

FEZ A statue of a camel wearing the namesake hat stands outside Fez, a Moroccan restaurant that opened this past year along South Beach's Española Way. The food served is a bit more serious. The smoky eggplant dip in a trio of Moroccan spreads was the best of many I tried during this survey. Tender marinated and grilled octopus is artfully plated over a brushstroke of black garlic, dotted with saffron aioli and crowned with a tangle of shaved fennel. A chicken tagine elevates that often–bland protein with the perfume of preserved lemon and the robust briny flavor of green and black olives. Española Way has always had its charms, but it's regarded more as a tourist trap than dining destination.
A visit to Fez may change that impression.

ZAK the BAKER Despite having opened an actual storefront only a couple months ago, Zak the Baker (a/k/a Zak Stern) is already well known in certain circles for his crusty, characterful natural levain breads. Those circles include folks like chef Michelle Bernstein, who started serving Zak's breads at her restaurant, Michy's, a couple years ago. Now that he's moved into a full–fledged bakery in Wynwood, Zak has also opened a modest café in the space. The menu is short: mostly various good things on toasted slabs of that fantastic bread, like magenta–hued roasted beets with tangy feta cheese and za'atar, or rich, nutty tahini drizzled with silan, a sweet date syrup. It may not sound like much, but everything tastes delightfully fresh, vibrant and satisfying. As someone who creates so much out of nothing more than flour, water and salt knows: "simple" is not always easy.
Above: Zak Stern and chefs Sasha Ariel and Valentina Rodriguez; beets and feta on toast

BARMELI Bar Meli is a relative newcomer, but its owner Liza Meli is not. Area regulars may fondly recall her earlier restaurants, Anise Taverna and Ouzo's. The menu starts in Greece with things like taramasalata and tzatziki, but wanders further into the Mediterranean with octopus empanadas and crostini topped with dried tomatoes and tapenade. The simplest stuff is also some of the best: silverskinned grilled sardines, adorned with just a drizzle of good olive oil, and remarkably tender grilled octopus, served with a brightly flavored chickpea salad. Liza also has a great nose for unusual wines from Greece, Sicily, Sardinia and even Lebanon.

MINA's MEDITERRANEO First–time restaurateur Yasmine Kotb's Mina's Mediterraneo is housed in a spacious converted warehouse with expansive clerestory windows that let in the afternoon sun. Mina's menu looks all over the Mediterranean and sometimes beyond for inspiration: Traditional mezze like dolmas and kibbeh share space with more modern interpretations like falafel or gyro "sliders," as well as a few outliers like osso buco and coq au vin. Some of the most interesting dishes, though, are those that stay close to the owner's Egyptian roots, like the besara, a hummus–like dip made from fava beans instead of chickpeas, and the pizza topped with basturma, sharp Egyptian rumi cheese and a fried egg.
Left: Yasmine Kotb; right, Egyptian pizza

{ A Mediterranean Glossary }

(Note: virtually all of these may have several alternate spellings)
AMBA– a pungent, mildly spicy mango pickle similar to Indian achar.

BABAGANOUSH – a dip of roasted eggplant, usually mixed with some combination of diced onions, tomatoes and tahini (or sometimes mayonnaise).

BASTURMA – a salted, spiced and air–dried beef, & probably Turkish in origin.

BESARA – a thick dip similar to hummus, but , made with fava beans instead of chickpeas.

DOLMAS – generically, stuffed vegetables, but most typically, grape leaves stuffed with rice and, sometimes, ground beef.

FALAFEL – fried balls of chickpeas ground with garlic, herbs and spices.

FATOUSH – a salad of toasted or fried pita bread shards tossed with greens and chunky vegetables, usually dusted with sumac.

FOUL MEDAMES – a thick stew of dried fava beans.

HUMMUS – a thick paste of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and olive oil that is arguably the most popular foodstuff of the Middle East.

ISRAELI SALAD – a chopped salad of tomato, cucumber and onion dressed with olive oil and lemon juice served at nearly every meal.

KAFTA– Middle Eastern meatballs, usually beef or lamb (but sometimes chicken), often shaped into an elongated cylinder around a skewer and grilled.

KIBBEH – a dish of minced meat, onion and spices, coated in bulghur, rolled into a football shape and fried; kibbeh nayeh uses similar ingredients but the meat is served raw, like beef tartare.

LABNE – a thick, creamy cheese of strained yogurt, often served drizzled with olive oil, dried mint, thyme or za'atar.

LIMONANA – a refreshing drink of fresh lemon juice and mint, often served mixed with crushed ice like a slushie.

MASABACHA– a rich version of hummus topped with chickpeas and extra tahini.

MEZZE – small dishes or snacks; the Mediterranean version of tapas.

M'JADRA– a hearty stew of lentils and rice, usually topped with crisp fried onions. This could well be the dish for which Esau sold his birthright.

SABICH – a common Israeli street food dish of fried eggplant, slow–roasted or hard–boiled egg, hummus, salad and pickles in a pita bread.

SHAKSHUKA – a spicy stew of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers, typically served for breakfast with an egg poached right in the stew.

SHAWARMA – meat (usually beef or lamb) stacked on a vertical spit and grilled on a rotisserie, then shaved off to serve. May be served on its own, over hummus, or stuffed into a pita.

SHISH KEBAB – meat on a stick, grilled. Shish Tawook is chicken; kafta kebab is with minced meat instead of whole pieces.

SILAN – date syrup, sweet and sticky like honey or molasses.

SUJUK – a spicy, dry beef sausage, usually served cooked.

SUMAC – a reddish spice powder with a tangy, citrusy flavor made from the dried berries of a bush that grows throughout the Middle East.

TAGINE – a slow–cooked stew cooked in an earthenware dish with a domed lid.

TAHINI – a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds, with a texture similar to peanut butter. Used as a sauce on its own or as a component in dips such as hummus and baba ganoush.

TARAMASALATA – a dip or spread made with salted, cured cod roe as the primary ingredient.

TZATZIKI – a dish of creamy yogurt, cucumbers and garlic, used both as a dip and a sauce.

ZA'ATAR– a Middle Eastern spice blend that often includes some combination of dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, salt and other spices.

Mediterranean Taste

BAR MELI
725 NE 79th Street, Miami
305–754–5558
barmeli.com
(Tue–Sun 5pm–midnight)

ETZEL ITZIK DELI
18757W. Dixie Highway, Miami
305–937–1546
(Mon–Thu 8am–7:30pm; Fri–Sat 8am–4:30pm)

FALAFEL BENNY
658 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd.,
Hallandale
954–455–2118
falafelbenny.com
(Sun–Thu 11am–6pm; Fri 11am– 4pm)

FEZ
512 Española Way, Miami Beach
305–672–4469
fezmiami.com
(Sun–Thurs 5:30pm–11pm; Fri– Sat 5:30pm–midnight

KABOBJI
3055 NE 163rd Street,
North Miami Beach
305–354–8484
eatkabobji.com
(daily 11am–11pm)

MINA'S MEDITERRANEO
749 NE 79 Street, Miami
786–391–0300
minasmiami.com
(Tue–Thu 6pm–10pm; Fri 6pm–11pm; Sat 12pm– 11pm; Sun 12pm–10pm)

ZAKTHE BAKER
405 NW 26 Street,
Miami
zakthebaker.com
(Sun–Fri 9am–4pm)

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Mediterranean+Menus/1758958/217027/article.html.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here