In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

Does the word “hummus” bring up mouth-watering thoughts? How about “baba ganoosh?”

If there’s one thing unique about Americans-it’s their love for trendy foreign foods, going all the way back to a little restaurant in Boston that began selling pizza, and the Italian craze was on. Of course, there’s always been a love of foods originating in other countries.

And now, the rage is for exotic dishes from the Middle East with their tantalizing, new flavors. Maria Khalif’s beautifully illustrated “The Middle Eastern Cookbook” is packed with tasty, exotic dishes some simply made with traditional foods, others more complex with ingredients available in places like the Keweenaw Coop. Here are a few samples:

BABA GHANNOUJ (bah-bah ganoosh), an eggplant & tahini dip:

1 large eggplant

1 peeled garlic clove

1t salt

2 oz tahini

2T yogurt

juice of a lemon

Parsley sprigs and

2T olive oil (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 425. Pierce eggplant with a fork. Place it on a baking sheet & bake or grill over a charcoal fire about 30:00, until soft, turning frequently. Cool under running water.

Peel off the skin, remove the stem. Mash the pulp to a pure.

In small bowl, crush garlic with salt & add to eggplant pure. Stir in yogurt & tahini. Gradually blend in lemon juice, mixing well. Pour into small serving dishes & garnish with parsley & olive oil.

HUMMUS BI TAHINI (tahini & chickpea dip)

1 1/2c canned chickpeas

1 garlic clove, peeled & crushed

3?4c water

4T tahini

1/2c lemon juice

pinch of salt

Parsley springs, some paprika, & 2T olive oil for garnish

Reserve 1t chickpeas for garnish. In a food processor or blender, put chickpeas, garlic & 1/4c water until smooth.

Dissolve tahini in remaining water & lemon juice, then blend with chickpea mixture until thick & smooth. Season with salt.

Pour mixture into small dishes & garnish with the reserved chickpeas, parsley sprigs, paprika, & olive oil. Serve with ita bread and/or barbecued meat or chicken.

WARAK INAB BIL ZEIT (Stuffed grape leaves)

1# vine leaves

1 medium potato, peeled, cut into thick slices

1 medium onion, peeled, cut into thick rings

1 medium tomato, cut into thick slices

For the stuffing:

4c parsley

1 medium onion, peeled & chopped

salt to taste, 1?2 pepper

3/4c short-grain rice, rinsed & drained

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/4c lemon juice

1/3c olive oil

Remove, discard vine leave stems. Place leaves in boiling water, remove immediately, drain

For stuffing, remove & discard thick parsley stems, chop finely & place in a large bowl. Mix chopped onion with s&p, add rice, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, & toss.

Line a deep pan with the potato slices, onion rings, & half the tomato slices. Place a generous T of stuffin the in the center of each leaf, on the stem side. Fold the leaf sides over the stuffing, then roll up firmly but not too tightly. Repeat with all remaining leaves.

Pack the rolls flap-side down in the pan. Top with remaining tomato slices. Add water to cover the rolls, then place a plate on top of rolls to keep them intact during cooking. Bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer gently, 45:00, until rice is tender. Serve hot or cold.

Another book, a household treasure, comes from Ralph Nadar’s mother, Rose, who wrote “It Happened in the Kitchen: Recipes for Food & Thought.” No illustrations, just 180 pages in paperback, stuffed with delicious Lebanese recipes including the best rice pudding ever interspersed with thought-provoking information on how to raise a family, far more sensible than what comes from so-called authorities. When asked which of her children she loved most, for example, she came back quickly with “the one who at the moment needs me the most.”

Both books can be found at


Rotten Tomato averages: “Side Effects,” A-; “Silver Linings Playbook,” B+; “Identity Theft,” D+