Sweet Potato Shawarma Bowls

Thanks to our love of cooking, one of the gifts we most often receive are oils and spices from our friends and family after they go on a vacation. Over the years we have accumulated paprika from Hungary, tzatziki blends from Greece, olive oil from Italy, and more red spices from the Middle East than we could possibly know what to do with. To try and keep things fresh in our kitchens, we made a resolution to start using all of these pantry items up! While it’s fun to save them from memories of our own travel, the truth is that items like olive oils really are meant to be used as oils go rancid and spices lose their flavor over time.

One of the spices that we acquired was a shawarma seasoning blend. We love these flavors and cook with them often, but rarely use this spice mix. To mix things up from the traditional chicken shawarma that we know and love, we decided to make these vegetarian sweet potato bowls. The bowls are filled with crispy chickpeas, an herby tomato and cucumber salad, and of course, sweet potato fries. Everything comes together with a homemade tahini dressing for a lunch or dinner that is exploding with tons of flavor. We promise that this dish makes healthy eating truly enjoyable.

Sweet Potato Shawarma Bowls

  • Servings: 4
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  A hearty and healthy vegetarian recipe that is bursting with shawarma flavors.

Base ingredients for the Bowls

  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into large french fries
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (avocado or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup shawarma seasoning
  • 6 cups lightly packed arugula or your favorite leafy green
  • 2 cups cooked farro

Ingredients for the Tomato Cucumber Salad

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 Persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Tahini Dressing

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup cold water (or more if you prefer a looser dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Drizzle the sweet potatoes and chickpeas with the neutral oil and sprinkle with the shawarma seasoning and salt to taste. Toss well to coat. Lay the sweet potatoes and chickpeas on a large cookie sheet, making sure that there is enough room for the sweet potatoes and chickpeas to lay side by side in a single layer. If you need to divide amongst two cookie sheets, no problem. Bake the sweet potatoes and chickpeas for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, flip the sweet potato fries with a spatula and toss the chickpeas; cook another 10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and crispy on the outside.
  3. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, make the tomato and cucumber salad. Combine the ingredients (tomatoes – parsley) in a medium mixing bowl. Gently stir the ingredients and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Make the tahini dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients (tahini – 1/4 cup water) in a small blender. Blend to thoroughly combine and break down the tahini until it is nice and smooth. Depending on how you like the consistency of the dressing, you may add additional water to thin it to your desired consistency. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Make the bowls by layering 1 1/2 cups arugula (or other leafy green) and 1/2 cup cooked farro into each of four bowls. Divide the tomato cucumber salad, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas amongst the four bowls as well. Drizzle with a generous amount of tahini dressing to serve.


Spicy Chickpea & Harissa Stew

We love soups and stews and get giddy when the temperature starts to get cooler and it is acceptable to eat soup most meals of the week. This recipe incorporates all of our favorite Middle Eastern ingredients into one hearty bowl. You can easily make this vegetarian or vegan by eliminating the shrimp and feta cheese without compromising the flavor. For those unfamiliar with harissa, harissa is a Moroccan pasta made with garlic, red pepper and oil. You can find this is most supermarkets or online through Thrive Market and Amazon.

Spicy Chickpea and Harissa Stew
Makes: 4 servings 
Prep Time: 15 minutes     Total Time: 45 minutes 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 cans chickpea, drained 
  • 3 tbs harissa paste
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • 28 oz can of tomato sauce 
  • 28 oz water (reuse the can!)
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined 

Optional Toppings:

  • feta
  • parsley or cilantro
  • pita

Directions 

  1. In a soup pot, turn the heat to medium and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the shallot and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the chickpeas, harissa, cumin and salt and saute for 2-3 minutes until the chickpeas are coated with all of the spices. If you like your food extra spicy, you can bump up the harissa from 3 to 4 tablespoons. 
  3. Add the tomato sauce and use the same can to add the water. This will help ensure you get all of the tomato juice out! 
  4. Bring the stew up to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. 
  5. Bring the heat back up to high and add the shrimp. Put the cover on the pot and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until the shrimp are completely cooked through. 
  6. Serve hot in a bowl and top with feta cheese, parsley and a side of your favorite pita! 

Mother’s Day Lunch 2020

This year was a special Mother’s Day for a lot of reasons. This was the first year that Tate’s mom was celebrating being a mother to both a human and a fur child, and due to the pandemic, the first year that Tuck’s parents were home for Mother’s Day. We knew we had to do something really special to celebrate the big day. Tuck’s mom took the lead on menu planning and prep so that all the moms could have a relaxing day without being slaves to the kitchen. Here is how the menu and day played out.  

The Menu 

We tried to create a menu that had a little something for everyone. Our mom loves Israeli food and the restaurant Safta here in Denver in particular. When Safta opened she went to a food event with the head chef, Alon Shaya, which means we are all owners of his cookbook. We wanted to take elements from his book that we all love and create a menu from it. Originally we had planned to have appetizers and lunch as two separate courses, but decided having lunch as one big platter of food would serve the mood of decadence and be easier to prepare. It ended up being very family style, which feels appropriate to the day even if it isn’t the best social distancing practices. 

When planning a menu as extensive as this one, it is important to be strategic in time management and designating specific areas to extend the most energy. The first step to doing this is buying as many items that are pre-made as possible. We bought all of the “snacks” from our favorite Middle Eastern market, Arash. They have better hummus than we could ever make on our own and it is an easy way to eliminate a lot of prep work. Making homemade pitas with a menu this large would be absurd, so we bought those as well and threw them on the grill so that they were hot and crunchy when we sat down to eat. We marinated the chicken kabobs and lamb meat the day before, so that all that was left to do the day of for those dishes was to cook them on the grill. The pound cake is a favorite recipe of ours from the Safta cookbook and easily can be made the day before, which eliminated having to spend a lot of time Sunday morning on dessert. 

The final preparation for lunch was pretty easy with the help of a few extra hands. We had Tate’s dad grill the lamb and chicken in the backyard, Tuck’s dad on roasted cauliflower duty, and the Tuck’s mom assembling the platters. The key to any platter, as you can read from our cheese board assembly posts, is that more is more. We divided the dips into small ramekins so that each platter had a little bit of everything and filled the boards with veggies and pitas once the entrée kabobs were cooked. The visual is stunning and almost overwhelming- they are always a crowd pleaser! 


Spicy Green Tahini Sauce

We. Love. This. Sauce. We sometimes forget in everyday cooking how transformative a great sauce can be. Most high end restaurants have a saucier solely responsible for a restaurant’s sauces, dressings, and gravies; that is how important they are. We are trying to introduce a few game-changing sauces that will help you transform a basic dinner recipe. Today’s sauce is Spicy Green Tahini Sauce- a rich and creamy sauce made fresh and bright with herbs, lemon juice, and a jalapeno. We love this sauce on chicken kabobs but it also would be an excellent accompaniment to grilled vegetables, skirt steak, or as a dipping sauce on a veggie tray. It comes together in just a few minutes and livens up anything you add it to. 

Spicy Green Tahini Sauce 
Makes: 4 servings 
Total Time: 5 minutes 

Ingredients: 

  • 1/3 cup tahini 
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley or cilantro 
  • 1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed 
  • 2 tbs olive oil 
  • up to 3 tbs water 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Put the first six ingredients (tahini – olive oil) in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add as much as 3 tbs of water to the sauce to get it to a pourable consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper to serve. 

Lamb Kofta Meatballs

We have been making variations of this Lamb Kofta recipe for years now- it’s one of our go-to recipes for entertaining. Although we aren’t doing much entertaining these days, we found ourselves missing all of these flavors and made a trip to Arash, our local Middle Eastern grocery store. In just about 45 minutes we made this entire Middle East Feast for our little quarantine family! There is nothing better than homemade tzatziki and a fresh cucumber tomato salad to pair with rich, lamb meatballs. We love this kofta recipe because the fresh herbs, hint of jalapeno, and loads of spices brighten up the rich lamb for a dinner we can eat all year round. 

Lamb Kofta Meatballs 
Makes: 6 servings 
Prep Time: 15 minutes    Total Time: 35 minutes 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 lbs ground lamb (can use a mix of ground lamb and beef)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and stems removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley 
  • 1/2 cup mint 
  • 1/3 cup walnuts 
  • 2 tsp coriander 
  • 1 tsp cardamom 
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2 tbs olive oil 
  • salt and pepper, to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Use a small blender to chop the jalapeno, garlic, parsley, mint, and walnuts. The consistency should be chopped but not paste-like. Put those ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and olive oil. Whisk together.
  3. Add the lamb to the mixing bowl. Get your hands dirty and mix everything well to combine. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. 
  4. Form meatballs with the lamb mix that are roughly the size of large golf balls. Place them into rows on a large cookie sheet. 
  5. Bake the meatballs for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with hummus, pita, tzaziki, and cucumber tomato salad. 

Homemade Tzatziki

Tzatziki is an essential component to any Greek or Middle Eastern menu; you can serve it as an appetizer with pita and sliced vegetables or as a condiment with your entree. It’s cool temperature and flavors help balance out the spicier flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine, like our Lamb Kofta recipe coming tomorrow. You can buy a pre-made version of this in any grocery store, but we prefer to make it ourselves because it takes just a few minutes to make and we can really control the flavors this way. Tate’s mom likes it with extra garlic and Tuck’s mom prefers it with extra lemon zest. 

Homemade Tzatziki 
Makes: 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes     Total Time: 5 minutes 

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cucumber, diced or grated 
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt 
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, packed and minced 
  • zest of 1 lemon 
  • juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 tbs olive oil, separated 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Directions 

  1. The consistency of the tzatziki is up to you. We prefer a chunkier version and dice the cucumbers; if you prefer a smoother version grate the cucumbers into a medium sized bowl. 
  2. Add the yogurt, dill, zest and juice of the lemon, garlic, and 1 tbs olive oil to the cucumber mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  3. Serve the tzatziki chilled to room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Serve with crudite or pitas.