Thursday, January 21, 2010

My cup runneth over

Zaatar pita - Kamils Kebabs, Melbourne Central...

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; 
(973) 742-7125
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  1. Me and my wife and son were about to go there last night, but I was not sure if they had children's seats so we ended up passing. Sounds like you had a great meal.

  2. Give them a call. I'm sure they do. Yes, I ate way too much.

  3. Victor, do you ever make arayes at home? It is very simple.

  4. I tried once, but it wasn't that good. Do you have some tips for me?

  5. For the meat - use beef & lamb mixture. Add finely chopped onion, red pepper and parsley. Add salt, some sumac, ground allspice and Aleppo pepper to taste (you can also add a bit of tomato paste). Mix with hands. Use fresh Syrian bread - split the bread in half. Spread the meat mixture on the bread. Put this in a 450 degree oven on a cooking sheet. In about 5 minutes they will be ready. My mother used to make this as a simple dinner for me when I was a young boy.

  6. No, do not cook the meat mixture. Apply it to the bread raw. It will cook very quick because the layer of meat will not be too thick.


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