Foods of the Mediterranean uses grandma’s recipes

Foods of the MediterraneanBy Mary E. Young — Reading Eagle correspondent The names of the dishes offered by Foods of the Mediterranean are unusual, but that's not the only reason the owners of the stand in Fairgrounds Farmers Market, Muhlenberg Township, list the ingredients on a sign for each one. Samirah and Jimmy Ghobrial of Macungie want to emphasize the healthiness of foods that come from a blending of their heritages. Customers will find traditional dishes from Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Greece. "They are grandma's recipes," Samirah said. "These are things you don't find anywhere else, because we combined our family backgrounds." One example is koushere, a dish sold at carts on streets in Egypt, she said. It is made of lentils, chickpeas, rice, pasta, fried onion and homemade tomato sauce. The stand has a supply of take-home menus so customers can see the ingredients in other dishes, with names such as tabbouleh, burghl, megadara, fattoush and pastitsio, and decide what they want before going to the market. Familiar-sounding items on the menu include stuffed grape leaves, Greek salad, pita sandwiches, chicken kebabs and hummus. The stand also has desserts, beverages, soup and breads. Suitable for vegetarians Many of the items are suitable for vegetarians and vegans because they contain mixtures of beans, lentils, vegetables and grains, Samirah said. "We try to make something different every month," Samirah said. "We introduce different things to see how it works. It's healthy, but it tastes good. If people try it, they would love it." Workers at the stand will recommend different combinations of dishes for a meal, and mix salads together for customers. They will make dishes to order, eliminating ingredients a customer doesn't like or want, or add meat to vegetarian dishes. Catering for events also is available. Talking about ingredients and menus doesn't mean the family is willing to share recipes. It's the proportions of the ingredients that make the difference, Samirah said. Opened in 2013 The location in the Muhlenberg Township market opened in May 2013. It is the family's second. The other is in the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market. To draw customers, the business provides discount coupons online. The website also has its menu, history and philosophy and links to health information. Cathy Beaver of Sinking Spring said she is a frequent customer at the local stand. "I love Greek food," Beaver said. "I love the green beans. They let you sample to see if you like it. I pretty much like everything they have. It's a quality product. They really do a great job, and I'm a Pennsylvania Dutch girl." Hearing customers say that sort of thing feels good, Samirah said. "The next day they're back, saying they love it so much they can't stop eating it," she said. "It makes me feel we're appreciated, and that they love what we're making. That's what makes all the work worthwhile." Plus, it's an opportunity for their son, Christopher, 15, and daughter, Mariam, 12, to learn responsibility by working a few hours when they don't have school or other activities, Samirah said. When your daughter loves to talk to the customers, and kids help, it's nice, she said. "It makes them people-oriented," Samirah said. "It builds their personality. My daughter loves to talk to the customers. "We take pride in our food. We make it with love. We feel good about feeding people this food. It's enjoyable work and fun." Contact Mary Young: you1949@gmail.com.

A bark for a bite at Fairgrounds Farmers Market

500x500_236566034A new stand at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market caters to canines By David A. Kostival Reading Eagle Correspondent It’s no secret that people love their pets and are willing to shell out big bucks for them. The American Pet Product Association is estimating that Americans will spend $55.53 billion on pets in 2013. So it’s not surprising to see new businesses catering to man’s best friend. It might be uncommon, however, to find one of those businesses in a farmers market. But that’s what Loretta M. Carter, 53, Wyomissing, did when she opened Scooter’s Canine Creations LLC at a stand in the Fairgrounds Farmers Market. Carter sells homemade, all-natural dog treats and cakes. The stand opened in April. Carter previously sold products from home. The business traces its roots back six years when Carter’s daughter, Emma, now 19, wanted a dog. “We wanted to get a small dog, but ended up rescuing a 65-pound Dalmatian/English setter mix,” Carter said. “The dog was having some health issues, and I wanted to learn how to make all-natural dog treats for him.” Carter began experimenting with recipes to make treats and cakes that were nutritious for dogs. Her sister, Stella Volpe, was working as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania at the time and enlisted the help of veterinarians working at the school. In 2010, Carter began selling her treats to friends, and the business snowballed. It was only fitting that Carter should name her new business after the family dog, Scooter. “Dogs with health or allergy issues can tolerate these treats, but all dogs love them,” she said. The dog treats are certified by the state to ensure that dog lovers know what they are feeding their pets. Carter said she started selling the treats at craft shows, other events and wholesale to a handful of area stores. Last fall, Carter noticed a vacant stand at the market. She was encouraged by her son, Benjamin, to take a risk and try selling her products at there, she said. From November to April, Carter and her two children worked to furnish the stand with food cases and custom-made displays. “I knew exactly how I wanted this stand to look, so it took a little longer than we first expected,” she said. The shoppers have been receptive. “We’re lucky because there are so many businesses at this market,” Carter said. “We see a huge influx of people shopping here each week.” Natosha Brown, Reading, has a dachshund/Chihuahua mix that was found to have a cancerous tumor on his pancreas. She buys special treats for Rocky there. In addition to the treats, Carter sells small cakes for dogs in the shape of a paw print, and for a birthday celebration she makes a dog cupcake that looks very much like a human cupcake from the neighboring bakery stand. Carter said she always knew that she had wanted to have her own business, but envisioned a coffee shop. “I never thought I’d be doing something like this, but I believe when something is meant to happen things do fall into place,” she said. Contact David A. Kostival: 610-371-5049 or money@readingeagle.com.