Friday, November 20, 2009

Lost and Found in Aisle 20

I recently stopped shopping at my regular supermarket. The one I've been going to for at least 30 years. The prices had become astronomical- imagine a 2.75 oz can of cat food costing the same as a 5 oz can of tuna! Plus, the products I'd been consistently buying suddenly became unavailable. I live in the burbs and just about every market around here has gone gourmet, which I think is great. You can sit down and eat pizza or sip a latte in a cafe-like atmosphere, pretend you're buying cheese in France, and acquaint yourself with products that were unavailable around here a few years ago. Very sweet. But just try and find that container of whole wheat orzo you bought a month ago. You're not going to be successful. Every shopping trip progressively became a traumatic experience- remember I LOVE to cook and LOVE to shop for food. By the time I'd reach the check out counter I was frustrated, my blood pressure was soaring and my spirits deflated.

So while I was contemplating my next move, a very nice market not far from my home started courting me. With lovely coupons- Spend fifty dollars and we'll take off ten. Here's a free box of organic chicken broth for just being a customer. This has been going on now for close to eight weeks. And if you're wondering, cat food is 12 cents cheaper, wheat orzo is readily available and my previously gone from the shelf Lean Cuisine Mushroom and Spinach Pizza is waiting for me every week. I can't say I'm in love, but I'm not sniveling and clenching my teeth at the register anymore.

I'm getting used to my shopping trips, feeling my way around the new digs (it's very hard to teach an old dog new tricks) and making friends with the buyers and staff. And last week when I was lost in aisle 20 I came across a product I hadn't been able to buy in my old market for at least 8 months. Joyva Tahini, that yummy, silky, creamy puree of sesame seeds. I'm a lover of Middle Eastern food and grabbed the container, did a quick 180 back to the produce department and got the necessary ingredients for a Mediterranean inspired salad that would be the bed for my creamy blanket of lemon tahini dressing.

Lemon Tahini Dressing
3 T tahini
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3T)
1 T garlic finely chopped (about 4 cloves)
3 T lite soy sauce
5 T canola oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp (or less) ground cayenne pepper
note- before measuring the tahini, mix it with a blunt knife or spoon to remove any lumps and keep the oil from separating.
Combine all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake to incorporate. Dressing is done.

Mediterranean Inspired Orzo Salad
1/2 cup uncooked orzo (I like RiceSelect whole wheat orzo)
1 pint grape tomatoes halved
1/2 cup scallions cut 1/2 inch
1/2 cup Kalamata olives halved
1 cup cucumber seeded and diced 1/2 inch
1/2 cup chick peas
1 cup feta cheese crumbled
1/2 cup mint chiffonade

Cook orzo according to package directions and set aside to cool. Combine cooled orzo with tomatoes, scallions, olives, cucumbers and chick peas. Add about half the dressing and toss. Refrigerate until serving time. At serving time add the feta, mint and additional dressing if needed.

Re-Mix: Let's start with the dressing. If you can't find tahini, substitute 3 tablespoons of store bought hummus and cut down by half the amount of garlic. You'll also want to add a few tablespoons of water if the dressing seems too thick.
And now the salad. If you're not an orzo fan, omit it and serve the dressed veggies and cheese on a bed of crisp lettuce. Or serve them in a warm pita pocket.
Grape tomatoes are great raw, but they're even better in this salad when they're roasted. Leave them whole and place them on a baking sheet, mist with cooking spray, sprinkle with kosher salt and ground black pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until they start to split. This is a nice change and complements the earthiness of the dressing.
One more ingredient that I think works well in this salad is golden raisins. If you're a raisin fan, give it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
And I can't forget my favorite topping: Sliced hard boiled eggs.

One more note- I also made cookies with tahini and chocolate chips. They weren't bad but the tahini seemed to lose it's nutty flavor in the baking. Anyone been successful ? I'd love to know.

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