Who needs Pita Inn when you can make flavorful Middle Eastern-inspired dishes at home? Here are a few recipes I’ve created to help liven up your culinary slump. Chick peas are cooked with onions, garlic, cumin, red chilies, and… peanut butter? Then pureed until smooth and enriched with cream. Fluffy couscous is flavored with olive oil, lemon juice,  and garlic. Then topped with toasted almonds for texture and crunch. For the health conscious, kebabs are prepared with ground turkey, garlic, cumin, and herbs. Serve with warm pita, yogurt sauce, and stay in!

Ingredients for Couscous with Toasted Almonds

1 cup instant couscous

1 1/3 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 clove garlic (minced)

zest of one lemon

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Method

In a large mixing bowl, add garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk to combine and set aside. Pour one cup dry couscous into a bowl. Bring 1 and 1/3 cup water to a boil, then immediately add to the couscous, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, mix and cover. Let stand for about 5 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed and couscous has plumped. Fluff with a fork and transfer to mixing bowl. Combine the couscous and dressing and then mix in onions, slivered almonds (toasted over the stove until golden brown), raisins, and parsley.  Fluff with fork and serve. Note: This dish tastes better as it sits, so feel free to make it a few hours, even a day or so in advance. The flavors marry over time.

Ingredients for Turkey Kebab

1 16 oz package ground turkey

3 cloves garlic (minced)

2 teaspoons cumin powder

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup breadcrumbs (about two slices white bread)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Method

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Gently mix all ingredients together, don’t overwork as this can toughen up the meat. Roll meat into 1-2 inch size balls and flatten into disc. Bake on greased baking sheet for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve with yogurt sauce, toasted pita bread, and chopped tomatoes.

Sauce:

1/2 cup yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

chopped parsley (handful)

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped cucumber

salt and pepper to taste

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