Hi Feast in the Middle East Family!
In my last blog I discussed the proliferation of Arab delicacies in Trader Joes, from kibbeh to kunafe. In this blog, I want to focus on how smaller niche companies like Cortas are bringing ready made Arab food into the mainstream. I want to preface that this isn’t a paid endorsement for Cortas, this is an honest review of ready made foods I am really excited about. These aren’t foods you would typically find in a Middle Eastern restaurant, rather, these are home cooked style meals you would find in the kitchen of a Lebanese or Palestinian home. This particular food line presents vegan dishes:
Their package of four entrees include:
1) Bulgur pilaf with onions and tomatoes
2) Eggplant, tomato and chickpea stew
3) Green Bean and Tomato Stew
4) Mujadara, or lentils with rice and onions
These entrees are not frozen, rather they are vacuum sealed at room temperature, ready to heat up in the microwave or stovetop. So in a nutshell, what were our impressions? The pros are the meals are free of inflammatory seed oils, artificial colors or flavors, and pesticides. I love that they use real olive oil, and the produce in these meals, like the tomatoes, eggplant, and green beans really shine. If you have done any traveling to Europe or the Middle East, you will find simple produce like tomatoes, eggplant, and even legumes have a more robust flavor than produce in the United States. Part of the reason for this is the industrial style farming on soil that is really depleted. Food grown abroad in those regions in particular are grown organically, in small batches on nutrient dense soil that give the fruits and vegetables depth of flavor.
Now the cons are, in their quest to make these meals mainstream, Cortas really held back on the seasoning. I found myself wanting to add salt, allspice, or cumin to the entrees to mimic the Arab food I grew up on at home. But perhaps someone uninitiated might like more toned down versions of these dishes to get started with middle eastern cuisine. At the end of the day, if I wanted to have some easy ready made meals in case of an emergency, I wouldn’t hesitate to stock up on this meal bundle. I know the quality is most definitely better than most ready made foods on the market, and I can always add my own special touches to bring out the flavor. If you are interested in checking them out, you can get them on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3bIZtgR
I would love to know your impressions in the comments below if you give them a try! Also, if there is one middle eastern dish you would like to buy ready made, what would it be? To see my mom and I taste testing these dishes and our immediate impressions, check out our new video below: