Trend Spotting: Mediterranean Flavors Found at Laffa

By on May 29, 2014

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One of the hottest food trends for 2014 is Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern spices and flavors.  If you are looking for a palate make-over, look no further than right here in Tulsa proper to sample some of the most unique and tasty dishes that put these exotic spices to work in very creative ways.  I had a chance to sit down with blonde bomb-shell and long-time Tulsa restaurateur Miranda Kaiser and get an inside look at her interpretations of this “spicy” trend.
At the hot spot corner of Brady and Main street you’ll find the best of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine around.  Laffa restaurant and bar has become a local destination for exploring and enjoying the unique eats and tasty treats from a not-so-local cuisine and culture.  For those of you who don’t know, chef and owner Miranda Kaiser is a culinary force to be reckoned with.  From her experience in some of Europe and the Middle-East’s finest restaurants to marrying a local boy and settling down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Miranda’s relationship with food is far from ordinary.
Laffa, Miranda’s second restaurant made her debut in early 2013 with a delightful and refreshing menu and atmosphere that bring an exciting cultural and cuisine option to the downtown landscape.  There are few places in town where you can enjoy the food and drink options that Laffa has to offer.  But when you say ingredients like sumac,  and ras el hanout to Miranda, it’s like saying salt and pepper to a regular chef.

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I had a chance to catch up with Miranda in her kitchen and discuss the “spices” that bring pizazz and panache to her extra-ordinary menu.   We started with a familiar base, Caesar salad.  Most diners have enjoyed this classic salad either at home or at their favorite restaurant.  Over the years I’ve seen as many variations in this salad and it’s dressing as there are stars in the sky.  This version however, took my understanding to a whole new level.  Miranda used the spices sumac and zatar to characterize her signature Caesar. As she offered me a sample of sumac to smell, she explained the use of these spices in Israeli street food.  She noted that the sumac really pairs well with meats such as chicken or lamb because of it’s tart citrine flavor and smell.  She particularly likes adding it to salads last minute which is obviously why she was prefacing the dark chili powder looking spice. She brushed a piece of laffa or bread (you could use naan or pita) with olive oil, sprinkled the surface with salt and sumac, sliced it into cubes and popping it into a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes to toast.  Meanwhile, we moved onto the meat.

The zatar spice blend she described next was not something I had seen before.   It was a combination of Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, marjoram and oregano.  She described the indigenous varieties as being much more pungent than the ones we can get here.  She coated a succulent piece of chicken breast with the mixture and grilled it to perfection.  While the meat cooled, we composed the salad.   Miranda began with tossing romaine lettuce into a mixing bowl.  She likes the hearty texture as it pairs well with the meat and creamy dressing.  Next she added cherry tomatoes, feta cheese crumbles and the diced croutons that have already cooled on the counter.  Finally, the dressing, meat and garnish.  Miranda’s Caesar dressing has every ingredient that makes a Caesar royalty but with all the spunk and sizzle that lends it to the flavor profiles of her unique past.  Combining classical French emulsifiers like Dijon with a more Mediterranean dairy base like Greek yogurt, this Caesar dressing had my mouth watering.  She finishes the dressing off with, your guessed it, sumac and then adds a little Parmesan love just for fun.

To plate, Miranda adds the vegetable mixture, drizzles the luscious dressing all over, slides the seared chicken breasts on and then garnishes with toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta cheese, chopped parsley and more sumac.  I could hardly wait to sink my teeth into this flavor packed salad.  The dressing was light and creamy, the chicken was juicy, flavorful and tender while the lettuce, veggies, croutons and spices all married well in taste and texture.    The sumac and zatar were definitely spice forces to be reckoned with and could each be distinctively tasted and identified in a very pleasurable way.  I savored every bite of this dish and wanted more.  I thanked Miranda for giving me a glimpse into her food world and for graciously sharing her Caesar salad recipe with me.  I hope you enjoy it and have fun exploring two of the unique spice trends for this year.

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CAESAR SALAD LAFFA STYLE:

Serves 4

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/2 Cup of Olive Oil

2 Tbsp Fresh Oregano Chopped

2 Tbsp Fresh Marjoram Chopped

2 Tbsp Fresh Thyme Chopped

2 Pieces of Naan or Pita Bread

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Sumac

SALAD INGREDIENTS:

2 Heads of Romaine Lettuce Washed and Shredded

1 Cup of Cherry Tomatoes Halved

1/2 Cup of Feta Cheese Crumbled

1/2 Cup of Toasted Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp of Parsley Chopped

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Combine the 1/2 cup of olive oil and chopped herbs into a medium dish or bowl.  Add chicken breasts to mixture and coat thoroughly. Grill until cooked to 165 degree F internal temperature.  Allow to cool and then slice into strips.

2.  Brush 2 Tbsp of olive oil onto flat bread and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of sumac.  Dice break into croutons size pieces and bake at 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.

3.  Combine lettuce and tomatoes into a large bowl.  Add Caesar dressing (below) to desired amount.  Toss to combine.

4. To serve, layer lettuce mixture, chicken and croutons onto plate.  Garnish with cheese, pine nuts, parsley and sumac to finish dish.

CAESAR DRESSING
1 tsp chopped anchovy fillet (in oil)
1 cup good mayo
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon
1/2 tsp Worcester
few drops of Tabasco
Black pepper
Salt
BLEND WELL IN FOOD PROCESSOR
STIR IN
1/4 cup parmesan
ADD
Zest of 1 lemon
2 big tbsp crumbled feta
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 a 1 tsp sumac

Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant and Bar
111 N Main St
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103
(918) 728-3147
https://www.facebook.com/LaffaTulsa/info

About Tiffany Poe

Hi, I'm Tiffany Poe, I've been sharing my love for food, cooking and creativity for more than a decade. My life is food and my passion is sharing food with others. If I'm not in my own busy kitchen working on recipes for all my projects, I'm using food or hospitality to inspire people from all walks of life. I see everyday as one big gastronomic adventure to be savored and shared! Write your life recipe. Chef Tiffany Poe is a Certified Executive Chef and graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York. She enjoys blending her experiences from the hospitality, education and corporate world into the style of teaching, styling and coaching she now share with her clients. She is the owner of Tiffany Poe Culinary Services (a consulting, food styling and corporate coaching company). Her clients have included national food media companies, education institutions and corporate hospitality and industrial teams. Her and her husband Steven have been married for fourteen years and have four small children. They are the owner/innkeepers at The Grandview Inn, a historic bed and breakfast near The Tall-Grass Prairie in Osage County Oklahoma. She is also partner of Plum Delicious Mobile Events and the author of Gastronomy Mommy, a blog where she shares her perspectives on food, life and the gastronomic adventures as a chef foodpreneur and mommy. She'll be bringing you interesting perspectives from the Tulsa Food scene and beyond.

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