Buddah Bowls and How Not to Die


Our customers are so smart. Every week I learn something new and cool from them. One of my pals (@katievogel!) said it best…it’s like you are at a dinner party all week long!


One of them inspired me to start making weekly “Buddah Bowls”. She told me that short grain brown rice is not only difficult to find (she was so excited we carried it, she bought the whole bag!), but it is also super low on the glycemic index, even more so than long grain brown rice. Who knew!

Another of my customers is reading “How not to Die” by Gene Stone and Michael Greger. The gist of it is that combining veggies with different whole grains, fruits and fermented foods (LIKE PICKLES!) has been scientifically proven to sustain the health of many diverse cultures throughout history.

So, I’m giving it a try. It’s fun! Once a week, I make a few batches of grains, roasted and steamed veggies and interesting pickles or other sources of umami flavor.

I’m starting with Asian inspired. Last week I went to Saigon Market in Findlay Market and picked up some great pickled mustard greens, seaweed, holy basil, and this neat bunch of mixed grains from Taiwan.

Because I’m obsessed with all things small food business in Cincinnati, this week took me to Francis International Market on Colerain Ave. Such an amazing and weird place. I let my gut do the shopping, and came back with daikon, wood ear mushrooms (I tossed them with miso, tahini and tamari), bonito flakes, some kind of weird squash, taro cake and sweet, sweet carrots.


Freekeh with chickpeas and mushrooms

I will forever remember freekeh as the best meal that I’ve ever eaten in a Greyhound Bus station.

I guess I’m something of an anomaly. I seriously love the Greyhound Bus system. You can’t beat the price, you meet interesting people, and you are granted hours upon hours to do nothing but read, knit and think. Heaven. But the Greyhound is seriously lacking in one very important thing: anything to eat in the stations. They can’t even put in a Taco Bell or a Burger King …they have their own brand of pitifully cheap “restaurants” If you’re a vegetarian or like food that is not corn meal + corn oil + corn syrup + artificial flavoring, fuggettaboutit. The only options are limp grilled cheese, nachos, and brown salads with fat free italian dressing. Greyhound bus food is why god invented Tupperware.

I’m generally a poor planner and don’t have the foresight to pack food with me on long trips. But whenever I leave Ohio, my dad makes sure I have at least two backpacks filled with food, often extremely perishable, in glass containers, or melting. [I’ll save the story about the 6 jars of expired olive tapenede that exploded in the bottom of my suitcase for another time].

All this is to say that one time, I think last winter, he packed me up a big bowl of Freekeh, cooked with tender peas and mushrooms. And it was exactly, EXACTLY what one would want to eat cold, with a plastic fork, as they sit on top of their suitcase in Wheeling, WV. The wheatberries had a subtle pop and the mushrooms played with the earthy undertones of the toasted wheat. Comfort food.

Freekeh is a delicious and super nutritious grain made from roasted green wheat.  Because the grains are harvested while green, Freekeh has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than the same mature grain and other grains. It has up to four times the fiber of brown rice!

This recipe for freekeh is very much in tune with a certain niche I have been working to carve out for myself. Every cook has their specialty. A baker I am not, as has been made clear on numerous occasions, most recently my failed banana cupcakes. I suck at soups… I tend to make GIGANTIC pots that are mostly inedible due to oversalting, lifeless vegetables, and a flat-out refusal to bust out my food processor. Appetizers often require too many pans and seem like a waste of time.

My favorite recipes, the ones that give me the most joy, are the big, one pot recipes that involve a whole grain, a full serving of vegetables, and a protein source. Oh and that taste divine…Like, you could eat it at least once a week and not get sick of it good. Not like, wow, look at me I’m so healthy and yet so bland. Not like that at all. I like the challenge of a creating a healthy meal that tastes good, one that can be carted to work in my handy dandy lunch jar, frozen into ziplock bags for when I’m running out the door, or reheated after a long night of meetings. DIY convenience food.

This recipe for Freekeh is a perfect candidate. Its quick and nourishing, goes down easy but delightfully complex.

What I wish I had done:

  • Measured out the Freekeh and the water [I used too much water so my freekeh had a little bit of pasty going on.]
  • Used a wild mushroom mixture instead of the portobellos
  • Added a bay leaf, a sprig of fresh thyme and a cinnamon stick to the water

Freekeh with chickpeas and mushrooms

2 c. Freekeh
2 1/2c. Water
bullion cube
mushrooms [I used 1 box of baby portobellos and they worked fine. Oysters and shitakes would be geat], chopped
1 onion
1 can chickpeas
black pepper
**I added a dab of harissa, because it is my favorite way to make things spicy these days. You can use crushed red pepper or a teensy bit of cayenne].

Wash Freekeh thouroughly. Chop onion and sautee in large pot with olive oil. Add Freekeh and cook until Freekeh is toasted. Add water, bring to boil and then let simmer for 40 minutes or so. Oh, if you want you can dissolve a bullion cube in some of the water and add that. But if you do, go easy on the salt cause its real salty. In a large skillet, sautee mushrooms in butter or oil. Add can of chickpeas. Season with spices. When Freekeh is done cooking, stir in the mushroom mixture. Add more seasonings to taste.

New and cool in the store!



Pickles a la Mediterranean Imports


Thanksgiving Appetizer is DONE

Rosemary Red Pepper Cashews

Our Rosemary Red Pepper Cashews


We’re Hiring!

Mediterranean Imports is a fun and laid-back work environment. We are a family that LOVES food, so it helps if you do to. We are a small business and consider our employees like our family (for better or worse, haha). We are looking for someone who can make at least a 1-2 year commitment, with excellent customer service skills, who works well with others but can work independently as well. We are located in Cincinnati’s Historic Findlay Market. We offered a competitive salary with scheduled increase.

To apply, please email a resume and cover letter to katezaidan@gmail.com

Positions Available:

Backroom Manager and Delivery Driver

Part-time (Tues-Fri 9am-2pm)

Job Description:

Receive and put away shipments
Break down and package merchandise
Fill Bulk Bins
Mix spice blends
Roast Nuts
Manage Stock
Assist with minor repairs
Maintain a clean, safe, secure and friendly store

Must be able to live 60 lbs with valid drivers license, car and insurance.

Prepared Foods/Deli Manager

Part-Time (Tue-Sun 10-3)

Mediterranean Imports is seeking an experienced, hard-working, detail oriented person to fill the position of Prepared Foods/Deli Manager. This position will be responsible for all aspects of operations for the Prepared Foods departments and refrigerated/frozen products within our store. Responsibilities include menu planning, packaging, food preparation and ensuring excellent customer service.  We offer a wide range of items including traditional Lebanese fare, hummus, olives, and cheese.

Required qualifications include: Experience managing a restaurant or deli, familiarity with Mediterranean foods, excellent communications skills and demonstrated ability to handle multiple demands. A minimum of two years management experience, culinary degree or other relevant experience required.



Hot Sauce and the Gift Economy

Hot sauce made my morning.


In truth, you could top a Blue Oven English Muffin with cat litter and it would still taste good. But our breakfast, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms topped with egg, inspired by a Joy the Baker recipe, benefited from a few key ingredients from our store, namely Syrian Mix, horseradish from Gene Goldschmidt (the Findlay Market Mustard King), and the aforementioned Tropical Chili Hot and Honey Hot Sauce.

English Muffins grace our table every Sunday morning thanks to a terrific bartering arrangement we have going at the market. One of our regular customers trades us the muffins (which I know he waits in a crazy line for) for a handful of cashews,  assuming, I’m sure, that the staff, not want to ingest 1200 calories in one sitting, will be inclined to share them.

Oh contraire. Seeing as how all day is spent grazing on various treats and taste-tests, the muffins are left on the counter at the end of the night. I casually grab them as I’m locking up the store, like “oh shucks, those silly staff people forgot to  take these home”, already planning my Sunday brunch. It’s a terrific system, really.

We humans tend to like symbols. Food means home, money means power. An economy, any economy, is simply a trading of symbols. I spent a lot of years as an activist trying to devise a perfect system, one that works on a large scale, that values people over profit. Now, as a business owner, I have to think about profit. It is how I feed my family, and how my staff feeds theirs.

This particular trade isn’t the only one that happens on a Saturday, or any day really. We trade sesame sticks for fresh honey candy, eggs for pumpkins, spices for homemade wine. Bartering is one of my favorite things about our store, and one of the many ways The Market is a break from commerce as usual.

A lot of times, the numbers of these trades and exchange don’t add up (though I’m not entirely sure, because looking at them gives me a mild panic attack). But in a gift economy, a sharing economy, a relationship economy, they don’t always need to.

At the end of the day, if our bellies are full, what does it matter how the got that way?

Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Hash over English Muffin

Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 shallot, chopped

1 pint baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

4 cups shredded Brussels Sprouts

Garlic powder


Olive oil

Syrian mix

2 eggs

2 English muffins

Tropical Chili Hot and Honey hot sauce

1 tsp Gene Goldschmidt horseradish

2 tbsp mayo

Sautee shallot in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add Mushrooms and sautee until they are brown and release their water, about 4 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until tender. Season with garlic powder and Syrian mix.

In another pan, cook eggs over easy.  Season with salt and Syrian.

Toast English muffins. Mix horseradish and mayo. Assemble open faced sandwiches by first smearing the horsey sauce on to the muffin, topping with the Brussels sprout hash, and finishing with the egg and hot sauce.

Moroccan Anchovies vs Peruvian Anchovies

It was a weird, slow week at Market. Call me a new age weirdo, but I’m blaming the harvest moon. Life always gets a little bit strange when the universe’s patterns and predictability are askew, like a great cosmic toe-stubbing.

But, If poison dart frogs and the Smokey Mountains teach us anything, it is that the universe is oriented toward the right thing at the right time. Our illustrious weekday staff (known on this blog as F. and J.) spent the extra time clearing overstock shelves and categorizing our olive oil by country, a project that I have wanted to complete for, oh, 2 years or so. I made some serious headway on some of my big ideas, and oh yeah, we sampled anchovies.

The first time I had an anchovy was shortly after I started working at the store. We had a can of salt packed whole anchovies go past it’s date (even though food expiration dates mean absolutely nothing), so I graciously volunteered to take them home. That afternoon, this 25 year veteran of vegetarianism, only newly eating fish, spent an entire afternoon ripping the heads off the suckers and tearing out their teensy tiny backbones. They were OK, but they were a little violent for my liking.

It was A Tavola Pizza that turned me on to anchovies again, with their white anchovy and fontina pizza. Oh my. That is one of the best things I have ever eaten, anywhere. And I eat A LOT. Now I am obsessed. I can eat them by the jar, or tin, or however they come.

It was J. who noticed our Roland anchovies came from two different places, Morocco and Peru. The packaging is deceptively similar, but the products are completely different. My hunch was right. The Moroccans are worlds apart. The Peruvians were mushy, almost like a paste, and, at the risk of sounding obvious, salty. Extremely saltly, with little else in the way of flavor. The Peruvian s are wild caught, which does not always mean better, environmentally speaking.

The tin of Moroccan anchovies, however, was picked clean by the end of the day. They were also salty, but the salt amplified their richness. J. shared a wedge of Danish chedder and all three of us rewarded our efforts with a Seamark cracker topped with cheese and a Moroccan anchovy. It made our slow day a little bit fancier.

Freekeh and Pearl Couscous with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon

I was a little worried to try this dish for our debut at Eat Local for the Globe, Findlay Market’s annual fundraiser. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as the “healthy” table among the barbeque and pork chops. While sometimes I do worry about my fair city’s relationship to comfort food, the fact that it was healthy-ish was a happy accident (I was going to make fried cheese but I couldn’t get the logistics to work out). I wanted to make something distinctly Mediterranean, feature a product that was well known and widely enjoyed (preserved lemons), alongside a product that was less familiar, but interesting and delicious (freekeh).

Ask anyone from Lebanon about how to cook freekeh properly, and their eyes will get sort of water-y while they talk about winter mornings in the mountains, or warm soups their grandmother made. It is a kind of comfort food, and it happens to be extremely nourishing and nutritious. While it is not gluten-free, it is essentially “baby” wheat, picked completely green and then roasted, imparting a wonderful smokey flavor. Because it is picked when it is young, it is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals.

Eat Local for the Globe is really a dreamy event, and kudos to The Corporation for Findlay Market for putting it on. It has the feel of the nicest wedding you’ve ever been to, in a gorgeous place, with minimal but elegant accoutrements done by Justin at Zinzinnati, and packed with people full of warm hearts and fuzzy feelings for this little corner of Over the Rhine.


Eat Local for the Globe 1 Eat Local for the Globe 2 Eat Local 3 Eat Local 4

A million thanks to Vicky Tewes at Thistlehair Farm for the butternut squash,my bff and former Senate staff Marissa Geiger, and my wifey Karen Zaino for all their wonderful help.

Freekeh and Pearl Couscous with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon Yogurt

(adapted from Gourmet Magazine)


  • 1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous or Maftoul (Palestinian couscous…it’s exactly the same thing)
  • 1 1/2 cup Freekeh
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Greek Yogurt Topping

  • 1 16oz container Mediterranean Imports Greek Yogurt (we make it ourselves!)
  • 3 preserved lemons chopped finely or pureed in a food processor



Preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil and salt to taste in a large shallow baking pan and spread in 1 layer. Roast in upper third of oven 15 minutes, or until squash is just tender, and transfer to a large bowl.

Cook onion in 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to turn golden. Add to squash.

Cook couscous with cinnamon stick in a large pot of boiling salted water 10 minutes, or until just tender, and drain in a colander (do not rinse). Add couscous to vegetables and toss with 2 tablespoon oil to coat.

Cook freekeh seperately, in vegetable broth, for 7-10 minutes. If necessary, drain in a colander.

Add  parsley, nuts, raisins, ground cinnamon, and salt to taste. Toss to mix well.



Here is the long and short of it: two years ago, I moved back to my hometown of Cincinnati to be closer to my family after 10 years of living on the East Coast. I had a good job in the field I went to college for, a serious girlfriend, and a vibrant community life as an activist in Philadelphia.

On the worst day of my life, I found out that my dad, owner of a sweet little shop in Findlay Market, had a serious and likely terminal form of cancer.  I moved back to Ohio with no regrets and no questions.

On the best day of my life, I found out that my dad’s cancer went into remission. It was too late to turn back…the house was bought, the plans were made. Anxious hugs were already doled out to old friends and our kitties were groomed, nails clipped and ready for the long trip. We left that big city in favor of something a little more nourishing, a little more interesting.
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