Today’s mouthwatering dinner menu comes to us from a very special guest. Maureen Abood is the blogger-turned-author behind Rose Water & Orange Blossoms, and ever since her book arrived on our office doorstep we’ve been mesmerized by her fresh and classic Lebanese recipes. Think flower waters, fresh herbs and vegetables, toasted nuts, grains, lean meats and spices like za’atar and sumac… yummm. She joins us now to share 4 gorgeous recipes that, when served together, make the perfect summer meal. Take it away, Maureen!
There is no better time of year for Lebanese cuisine than summer — we are known for creating fabulous menus around succulent grilled kebabs. I love to welcome my friends and family to dinner alfresco with a refreshing cucumber spritzer in beautiful glasses, and a unique, delectable appetizer. My crostini topped with creamy labneh and roasted tomatoes are lovely and always a huge hit (the tomatoes are dusted with za’atar, a Lebanese spice blend of wild thyme, sumac, and sesame.) The star of the meal, my classic chicken skewers are moist and tender thanks to the yogurt marinade, with a wonderful contrasting char from the grill, and a drizzle of garlic sauce takes the flavor over the top. Refreshingly, tabbouleh is grilled meat’s best friend, aromatic with parsley, mint, and lemon. My version includes avocado and is served in little lettuce cups, making them festive and light. Best of all, everything can be made ahead of time, and the skewers only take a few minutes to grill, so even the cook can sit back and enjoy!
Za’atar Roasted Tomato Crostini with Labneh
The tomatoes take a couple of hours to roast, but they can be made ahead by several days and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator; just don’t eat them all up before making these! It’s tempting, so I always roast a lot of tomatoes and keep them on hand for sandwiches, salads, pastas, and to eat just as they are. Assemble the crostini just before serving.
Get the recipe here
Avocado Tabbouleh in Little Gems
Tabbouleh was always a special-occasion salad at our house as a labor of love, and we always appreciated it for that (it is tempting to use the food processor to chop the parsley, but that method turns the parsley to mush quickly). Tabbouleh is all about its fresh parsley and mint flavor, with a supporting cast of tomatoes, onion, and a very little bit of bulgur (too often, misunderstood tabboulehs are more bulgur than herb). Traditionally tabbouleh is eaten with long leaves of romaine. I like to nestle my tabbouleh in tender Little Gem cups and to stud the salad with avocado, which loves all of the lemon in the dressing. Pick up the Little Gem boats filled with tabbouleh with your hands and eat them that way, casual and fun. You can prep the ingredients a day or two in advance and combine everything when you’re ready to serve, making tabbouleh a much swifter affair.
Get the recipe here
Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers with Toum Garlic Sauce
This is simply the most tender, succulent chicken you can eat — thanks to the yogurt marinade, which is a great tenderizer. These skewers are wonderful grilled, but broiling under high heat is delicious too. If you use wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 15 minutes before using them, so that they don’t burn before the chicken is cooked.
Get the recipe here
Cucumber Mint Spritzer with Mint
My brother Tom has what can only be described as an unquenchable thirst. He is always looking for something lemony and refreshing to drink, so I thought of him when I created this, in hopes that it would quench his thirst. The cucumber syrup, which is a lovely shade of green and has a summery melon like flavor, can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. A splash of gin or vodka and a big squeeze of lemon juice makes this a satisfying cocktail, one Tom approves of wholeheartedly.