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Spice, Heat, Exotic Flavor in ‘The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian’

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It’s not just meatless Monday for some of us anymore. It’s less meat, more days of the week.

This turns out to be fairly easy, even for non-vegetarians, who like to cook.  Last week, I picked up Sally Butcher’s  “The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian” (Interlink, $35), and I couldn’t be happier.  The book’s subtitle is “Modern Recipes from Veggistan,” but its 260-plus pages do include dishes with eggs and cheese. The author isn’t vegetarian and admits to a “terrible weakness for chorizo, yet she does cut a broad swath of delicious territory that even vegans will want to explore.

As Butcher points out in her introduction, the Middle East is an area where “constituent nations are simmering, bubbling and bursting with sumptuous vegetarian traditions and recipes.” In this book, for instance, the list goes from bread, pastries, desserts, herbs, salads and soups to legumes, grains, sauces, pickles and preserves.

One of the author’s goals in “The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian” is to offer a guide to the aromatic, even exotic ingredients found in the culinary treasure chests of these countries. Fortunately, in San Antonio, we have stores and markets that import and sell most of them. Our particular favorite is Ali Baba International Food Market at 9307 Wurzbach Road. (We’ve seen many of the ingredients in this book on their shelves, plus they offer a pita bread bakery and halal meats.)

The recipes are tempting, enough so that you will want to go boldly out to find mint sauce, fresh turmeric, harissa paste, date syrup, truffle oil and more. (These may, in fact, already be in your pantry!)

The three recipes we include, linked below, are meatless options from the book that we’d suggest for a day of good dining: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Cheese-Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes

Spinach, Apricot and Bulgar Salad

Black-Eyed Pea and Lemon Hotpot

The author of “The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian,” Sally Butcher, is a London-based food writer and cookbook author. She also runs the acclaimed Persian food store Persepolis. Her first book, Persia in Peckham, was published to critical acclaim and was short-listed for the 2008 André Simon Award. It was also selected by the Sunday Times as their Cookbook of the Year.





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