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A Spice Shop in Nazareth by Lynn Dugan

A few months ago, I experienced great culinary inspiration in a teeny tiny shop in Nazareth, Israel. I was beckoned by the enticing scent of spices before I even recognized the shop’s entrance. Following the scent, I found a small wooden door with stone steps leading me to the shop below street level. Once inside, the inspiration began. Big sacks of spices covered the entrance. Large bins of spices were displayed side by side on tables throughout the remaining square footage. Some spices were names found in my own kitchen: varieties of cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Others were less familiar to me…sumac, saffron, and spice blends like za’tar and Baharat. There were many I had never cooked with like amber, whole cardamon pods, and turmeric. I also discovered enticing teas, a large variety of salts from regions in the Middle East and Mediterranean, and an overwhelming variety of peppercorns too.

I came home with almost all of the spices listed above, and I began trying to cook with my new spices even before unpacking from my 10-day trip. In less than an hour of walking through my front door, I had fragrant saffron rice steaming on my stove while I also enjoyed a new cup of herbal tea. A day later, I had recreated a salad recipe that I had tasted on the trip. Since then, I have had fun in my kitchen creating the flavors of the Holy land: Beef and Lamb Meatballs in Tahini Sauce featuring cumin, lentil and rice with turmeric, Bethlehem hummus (not yet mastered) garnished with sumac, persimmon and fennel salad with black Mediterranean sea salt, and Shakshuka with cumin and paprika. I hope to bring these flavors to a Marcel’s class later this year entitled “Taste of the Holy Land”. Look for it on the 4th quarter calendar! In the meantime, I do have some of these recipes already posted on my website. Please check it out!

Today I am sharing one of my new favorites: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Dip. I serve it with lightly toasted pita bread cut into triangles for easy dipping. Enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant Dip
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Ingredients
  1. 2 eggplants
  2. 6 cloves garlic
  3. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. 5 medium tomatoes
  6. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. ½ teaspoon sumac
  8. pinch of ground cayenne
  9. 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches below heating element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and place cut side down on baking sheet. Broil for 20 minutes, until blackened and collapsed. Remove from oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh from eggplants. Place in a colander to drain. Discard skin and any large pockets of seeds. Squeeze out extra juices and chop eggplant.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan with boiling water, blanch tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Skin should peel easily from tomato. Slice peeled tomato in half and remove seed pockets. Chop remaining tomato flesh.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add tomatoes, garlic, cumin, sumac, salt and cayenne. Cook for about 20 minutes until tomatoes have created a sauce and most of the moisture has evaporated. Add eggplant. Using the back of a spoon, crush any large lumps. Stir in cilantro and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until a moist thick mixture has formed. Fold in lemon juice (and a little extra olive oil, if desired, for consistency). Season with salt, to taste, as needed. Serve at room temperature with toasted pita bread. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. This dip can be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container for 2-3 days.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

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