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Exploring Israeli Street Food - Shawarma (Not!)

By Billa


Shawarma is a dish that originated in the Ottoman Empire, consisting of meat cut into thin slices, seasoned heavily with spices, stacked in an inverted cone, and roasted on a slowly turning vertical rotisserie or spit for hours until well-charred, then stuffed into a pita with all sorts of fixings - tahini, pickles, fries, and amba (an Indian mango sauce). Traditionally made with lamb or mutton, it can also be made with chicken, turkey, beef, or veal. It is very common and popular in Israel, as it is everywhere else in the Middle East.


The spices usually include cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, sumac, and paprika. In Israel, shawarma is typically served with tahini sauce. In other parts of the Middle East, a yogurt-based sauce is used.


I’ve never tasted shawarma nor did I have any desire to do so because I am not a big fan of meat, and especially not of lamb.


A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published a recipe of vegetarian shawarma that used cauliflower instead of meat. This is a link to the recipe:


Here was my opportunity to try a version of this quintessential Israeli street food. As I prepared it, I thought, “This is not what shawarma is supposed to be. Where are the thin pieces roasting on a spit?” But, then I thought, “Even if I wanted to make an authentic shawarma with lamb, where would I find a vertical rotating spit?”


I tasted the dish and found it to be delicious. I liked the taste the shawarma spices imparted to the cauliflower and the tahini drizzle added just the right unctuous mellowness.

Consequently, I decided to experiment with making “shawarma” using other vegetarian ingredients. Cremini mushrooms seemed to be appropriate, as they have a meaty taste. I roasted them alongside fingerling potatoes. The pita bread wasn’t needed because there were enough carbs from the potatoes. A quick red onion pickle introduced a bright element to the roasted vegetables.

For my second “shawarma” creation, I roasted Brussels sprouts, green beans and grape tomatoes. These were served together with a bed of brown rice that was cooked with some shawarma spices and a beet pickle that provided freshness and juiciness.

My conclusion: Although these are terrific vegetarian entrees, they are not shawarma, rather they are inspired by shawarma. More correctly, they should be named vegetables infused with shawarma spices accompanied by a tahini drizzle and pickles.


THE RECIPES


Fingerling Potato and Cremini Mushroom “Shawarma”

For 2 servings


Ingredients

The Spice Mix

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 and 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


The Vegetables

1 and 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved vertically

8 ounces cremini mushroom, trimmed and halved


The Tahini Drizzle

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 and 1/2 teaspoons harissa

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup tahini

1/3 cup ice water (as needed)


Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425.

  2. Whisk together olive oil and spices. Divide into 2 bowls. Add potatoes to one and mushrooms to the other and mix well to coat.

  3. Spread the potatoes on a sheet pan in one layer.

  4. Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes, then toss and move to one side of pan to make room for the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and bake for another 10 minutes. Drizzle with more olive oil if it looks dry. Toss the potatoes and mushrooms and bake for a final 10 minutes.

  5. While the vegetables are roasting, whisk together all the tahini drizzle ingredients except for the water. Whisk in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes a drizzle consistency. Serve with onion pickle.


Quick Onion Pickle


Ingredients

1 red onion, sliced into thin half moons

3 cups water

3/4 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt


Preparation

  1. Bring water to a boil. Blanch onion in boiling water and drain immediately.

  2. In a bowl, mix together vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add onion slices. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Brussels Sprouts, Green Beans, and Grape Tomato “Shawarma”

For 2 servings


Ingredients

The Spice Mix

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 and 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


The Vegetables

12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved the long way

6 ounces green beans, trimmed

1 pint grape tomatoes


The tahini drizzle

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 and 1/2 teaspoons harissa

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup tahini

1/3 cup ice water (as needed)


Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. Whisk together olive oil and spices. Divide into 2 bowls. Add Brussels sprouts to one bowl and toss to mix. Add the tomatoes and green beans to the second bowl and toss to mix.

  3. Spread the Brussels sprouts on a sheet pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss and push to one side of the baking sheet. Lower the temperature to 425. Add the tomatoes and green beans to the sheet pan and roast for another 15 minutes.

  4. While the vegetables are roasting, whisk together all the tahini drizzle ingredients except for the water. Whisk in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes a drizzle consistency. Serve with pickled beets over a bed of spiced jasmine rice.


Shawarma-Spiced Brown Rice

For 2 servings


Ingredients

1 and 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup brown rice

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preparation

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add rice and spices. Cover, lower heat, and cook for 50 minutes. Let sit in the pot for 10 minutes before serving.


Pickled Beets


Ingredients

3 medium beets

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 and 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Fresh squeezed juice of one orange (optional, but nice)


Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Wash the beets, but do not dry. Wrap individually in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 1 hour for medium-sized beets.

  2. While beets roast, mix together the vinegar, water, salt, and orange juice in a bowl.

  3. When beets are ready, set aside until cool enough to handle. Trim ends, and use a paper towel to rub off skins, then cut into wedges.

  4. Place the beets into the bowl with the pickling liquid. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

6 comments

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6 Comments


Thank you for creating such inspiring recipes! I can’t wait to try them.

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dazzlingdinners
dazzlingdinners
Apr 17, 2023
Replying to

Thank you.

Billa

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I had the opportunity to enjoy both dinners. They are unique and flavorful. An inspired way to utilize shawarma spices in an entirely new way.

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dazzlingdinners
dazzlingdinners
Apr 16, 2023
Replying to

So glad you liked them.

Billa

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Thank you for these very outstanding creative recipes! YUM!


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dazzlingdinners
dazzlingdinners
Apr 16, 2023
Replying to

Thank you.

Glad you're enjoying the blog.

Billa

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