by Lauren Kramer
One only needs to sit down in a few restaurants to notice a trend on the upswing: the proliferation of Mediterranean food. Interest in Middle Eastern foods in particular is on the rise, particularly among young consumers, according to research by Technomic.
“Some 27 percent of consumers say they find Middle Eastern foods and flavors appealing, including 39 percent of consumers ages 18 to 34,” says Lizzy Freier, Technomic spokesperson. “Using sauces and spices is one of the top ways we’re seeing Middle Eastern flavor elements incorporated on restaurant menus, as it allows consumers to trial these lesser-known ingredients in more familiar formats.”
“Forty years ago no one even knew what hummus or tahini were, but things are changing fast,” says Grace Ai-Najm Shea, owner of the Lebanese Taverna, with 11 locations in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. “In so many restaurants, you’re seeing blurred lines when it comes to the ethnicity of a particular food or sauce.”
Lebanese Taverna is a fast casual restaurant that’s been around four decades and sells many of its sauces in its marketplace. They shared a couple of their secrets in the most recent issue of the National Culinary Review.
Lebanese Taverna’s Laban Khayar
2 cups yogurt
1 tablespoons dried mint flakes, finely crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cucumber, diced, 1/4 Inch
1 clove garlic, crushed, with salt
1. Crush the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle.
2. Add the dry mint to the garlic mixture.
3. Peel and dice the cucumbers.
4. Combine the garlic mixture and cucumber and toss.
5. Last add the yogurt and mix lightly. Over-mixing can water down the yogurt.
Lebanese Taverna’s Garlic Sauce
4 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup peeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
1. In a food processor, puree the fresh garlic with salt, then add 1/4 cup of oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Run until incorporated.
2. Continue adding liquids this way until all are used.
3. Make sure the mix does not separate. Add a little extra lemon juice if mix separates.