(Middle Eastern chopped salad)

4 servings

1/3 cup of cracked bulgur wheat, fine grain
1 ½ cups of finely chopped Italian parsley
2 diced ripe large Roma tomatoes
½ cup of finely chopped mint
3 scallions finely chopped, white and green parts
1 Persian cucumber, peeled and finely diced
¼ cup of fresh lemon juice, to taste
¼ cup of olive oil, to taste
Salt to taste

Rinse wheat in a sieve with warm water and let sit 15 minutes to soften; squeeze excess water out. Place in a large mixing bowl with chopped vegetables; add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and mix. Check  seasoning. Leave to macerate for one hour and taste again before serving chilled. Serve with hearts of romaine lettuce for scooping and grilled pita bread.

Baba Ghanoush
(Smoky eggplant dip)

8 servings as an appetizer

2 medium eggplants
2 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
½ cup tahini paste
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the BBQ on high with as much flame as you can. Rinse and dry eggplants; lightly prick skins. Place the whole eggplants on the hot BBQ, turning occasionally until all the outside skin is charred and soft to the touch. This should take approximately 25–30 minutes. Check frequently. Set aside until cool to the touch and then rinse under cold water and peel off the skin. Place onto a cutting board, cut off the top and bottom and discard. Chop the flesh roughly and then place into a food processor with the garlic, tahini, lemon juice and salt. Pulse until smooth yet chunky (do not overmix). Add water to thin if necessary. Check for seasoning. To serve: Drizzle with high-quality olive oil, garnish with pomegranate seeds (optional) and offer warm, fresh pita bread or raw veggies for dipping.

Traditional Hummus
(Chickpea sesame dip)

8 servings as appetizer

1 cup dry chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup tahini paste
3 peeled garlic cloves, smashed
Juice of 1 large lemon

Wash the chickpeas and soak overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain water; rinse. Add cold water again to cover; add salt and baking soda and cook slowly until very tender, about 1½–2 hours. Add water as needed to make sure chickpeas are submerged. Drain, reserving some cooking liquid. Set aside a few of the cooked whole chickpeas for garnish. Add the cooked chickpeas to a food processor with the tahini, smashed garlic and lemon juice and pulse into a smooth purée. If it seems too thick, thin by adding some cooking liquid or cold water until you achieve desired consistency.  Correct the seasoning with salt and serve with a little drizzle of good olive oil on top with a dusting of paprika, cumin or cayenne pepper. Good with warm pita bread, pita chips and raw veggies. Refrigerate any remaining hummus and use within two days.