Cooking Middle Eastern With Joyce

Joyce Goldstein has written 28 cookbooks, been a chef at Chez Panisse and her own Mediterranean restaurant Square One in San Francisco. Currently she is a consultant to restaurants and for product/recipe development. Her recipes present the foods of Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.

She has selected some recipes for our readers from two of her books, The New Mediterranean Jewish Table and Saffron Shores.


       Chickpea Puree with Sesame Tahini

 Not only is hummus a classic dip (spread) beloved in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel, but versions of it seems to be appearing in every supermarket refrigerator case often “enhanced” with other ingredients. I prefer to make my own so I can control the texture and the amount of tartness and garlic. It’s become the perfect pre-meal appetizer and probably is lunch for many a person trapped at the desk.

Serve hummus with warm pita bread or spears of cucumber, radish, carrot, and green onion. It also can be a rich and creamy garnish for Egyptian falafel.

 Serves 6

1 cup dried chickpeas


6 tablespoons sesame tahini (stirred well before use as sesame paste settle to the bottom and oil rises to the top)

2 cloves garlic, minced very fine

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice or more to taste

cold water

pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cumin (optional)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of sweet paprika or Aleppo pepe flakes to taste (optional)

3 tablespoons chopped flat leafed parsley

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

warmed pita bread

Soak chickpeas in cold water overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse well. Place in a 2-quart saucepan, cover with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until very soft, about an hour or more.

Add 2 teaspoons of salt after 1/2 hour. Drain chickpeas and transfer to the container of a food processor.( Reserve liquid for thinning if necessary.) Pulse to purée. Add tahini gradually, tasting as you go (as some brands are stronger flavored than others); plus garlic and lemon juice, and purée again. Pulse in enough cold water to achieve a spreadable consistency and season with salt to taste. If you are serving this right away, spoon hummus onto a shallow plate. Smooth it with a spoon or spatula. Sprinkle with olive oil, paprika, parsley and toasted pine nuts.

Serve with warm pita bread. The easiest way is in a microwave oven. Cover the breads with a glass lid and heat for 30-40 seconds.

If you make the hummus hours in advance, the mixture will thicken as it stands, so you will need to thin it with water or the reserved cooking liquids to regain the proper consistency.


    Chickpea Croquettes


Andalusia was known for it’s many shops specializing in fried foods. The Sephardic passion for fried foods spread to the Italian Jews who love a good fritto misto, and to the Middle East as well. Falafel exemplify the Sephardic fritter tradition at its best. These crunchy chickpea croquettes are Egyptian in origin but are now equally popular in Syria, Lebanon and have become a signature dish of Israel. The crunchy fried falafel are tucked into warm pita bread with chopped tomato, cucumber and tahini dressing, possibly enriched by a dollop of hummus (see above). Instead of using bread and flour to bind the mixture, some cooks add 1/2 cup soaked bulgur. Others don’t cook the chickpeas but merely soak them. I think the falafel are better with cooked chickpeas but you don’t have to cook them for a long time. And, yes, you may used canned chickpeas, but the texture will be softer.

Yield- about 16 falafel

1 cup chickpeas 

1/3 cup chickpea cooking liquids, or as needed

1 thick slice rustic white bread, crusts removed

2 tablespoons flour plus about 1 cup for dipping before frying

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leafed parsley

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt to taste

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Warmed pita bread

2 chopped tomatoes,1 chopped cucumber (allow 2 tablespoons per person)

Sesame tahini dressing (recipe follows)

Soak chickpeas in cold water over night in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse. Place in a 2-quart saucepan, cover with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of salt after 20 minutes of cooking. Drain chickpeas and reserve liquids. Grind the chickpeas through the coarse blade of a meat grinder or pulse in food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Form into 1-inch balls, flatten these slightly in your hand. Pour oil to the depth of 3 inches in a wok or large deep saucepan. When the oil reaches 375 degrees, dip falafel into flour and deep fry in batches until golden. Drain on paper towels. Tuck into warm pita bread, along with the chopped tomatoes and cucumbers and a generous drizzle of tahini dressing (see below) and some hummus if you like.


      Sesame Tahini Dressing

Yield : 2 cups

1/2 cup sesame tahini

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup water

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Salt to taste

Pepper or pinch cayenne pepper

Combine all in food processor and puree. Thin to spreadable consistency for dip, thinner for salad dressing.

Roz me shareyeeh

        Syrian Rice with Vermicelli

Rice and noodles are a popular side dish in most of the Arab countries. You can make this with long grain rice, preferably basmati. If it is to be served at a meat meal use oil and water or meat or poultry stock. If served at a dairy meal you may use butter and water or vegetable broth.

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups rice

1/2 cup fideos or vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons butter or oil

3 cups water or broth

1 teaspoon salt

Rinse the rice and drain in a strainer.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté noodles over medium heat, stirring often, until they are golden brown. Add the rice and stir it in the oil as well until all grains are coated. Add the water or broth, 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. When the water has been partly absorbed and little holes appear on the top of the rice, cover and reduce heat. Let cook until rice is tender about 20 minutes. 

Joyce Goldstein’s website.

Try several more recipes from her book The New Mediterranean Jewish Table published on EatDrinkFilms with interviews and videos of Joyce in action in the kitchen.

Interviewed at the JCCSF about The Mediterranean Jewish Table (2016)

Joyce Goldstein joins Leslie Sbrocco on a classic Check, Please! Bay Area show.

Joyce Goldstein is a prolific cookbook author, cooking teacher and lecturer. As a consultant to the restaurant industry she improves existing recipes, adds new ones to complement the menu and works with culinary staff to refine flavors and execution.

For twelve years she was Chef/Owner of the ground-breaking Mediterranean restaurant, SQUARE ONE. Her menu presented the foods of Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa. SQUARE ONE won numerous prestigious industry awards for food, wine, and service. Prior to SQUARE ONE, Joyce was chef of the Cafe at Chez Panisse for 3 years. She also served as Visiting Executive Chef of the Wine Spectator Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley.

Joyce was voted San Francisco Magazine‘s Chef of the Year in 1992 and received the James Beard Award for Best Chef in California for 1993, and the lifetime achievement award from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, of which she is a Founding Board Member.

She is a prolific cookbook author. Many of her 28 books have won industry awards. Her most recent book is Jam Session: A Fruit-Preserving Handbook.

She also writes for magazines such as Fine Cooking, Cooking Light, Wine & Spirits, Food & Wine, Vegetarian Times, the Sommelier Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle and EatDrinkFilms. 

The Wisdom of Joyce Goldstein

Read more from Joyce on EatDrinkFilms including her recent article about the movie new movie BREAKING BREAD.

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