Thursday, January 21, 2010
My cup runneth over
I was really fortunate to be invited last night to one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants by an acquaintance, who also was nice enough to pick up the bill.
My 12-year-old son tagged along for a great meal at Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson, including one of his favorite appetizers, arayes, seasoned meat sandwiched between two halves of toasted pocket bread. But he also loved the lamb-and-beef kabobs with bread, both soaked in an imported sweet-sour cherry sauce.
The five of us started with a bunch of appetizers besides arayes: pureed lentil soup with cumin and lemon, stuffed grape leaves, raw kibbe, meat pies, spicy muhammara dip, small, donut-shaped falafel with tehina sauce, and salad.
Our entrees were the kabobs with cherry sauce and charcoal-grilled quail, whole red snapper and chicken served over red rice and peas with yogurt. For dessert, we shared a dense honey cake.
I made sure to stop first at Fattal's Bakery to pick up Syrian bread, sardines (99 cents to $1.29), olives ($2.99 a pound) and two kinds of sour-salty thyme mixture, called za'atar. The one from Lebanon (Salloum Bros., $3.49 a pound) contains thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt; the one from Syria (Al-Amin, $3.39 a pound) adds cumin, fennel and anise.
I sprinkle za'atar over sliced tomatoes and eggs or press it onto chicken pieces before roasting. You can also dip bread into olive oil and the thyme mixture (store-bought za'atar bread is in photo above).
Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main St., Paterson;
973-977-2244. No alcohol permitted.
Fattal's Bakery, 975 Main St., Paterson;