During the last nine months — shocking how long it’s been! — we’ve rediscovered the joys of takeout food.
Prior to March, takeout was simply a stopgap — an option for those nights when you didn’t feel like cooking, and didn’t feel like going out because, oh you know, the latest episode of “The Bachelorette” was on. And there are priorities, even in this age of pandemic and plague.
Thanks to the sundry delivery services, takeout is easier than ever to order. And frankly, it’s a great way — perhaps the only way at the moment — to help support your favorite eateries. It may not be a satisfying substitute, financially speaking, for the income generated by dining in. But until that returns, it’s the best any of us can do to keep the industry afloat — or at least treading water.
I recently offered my favorite options for takeout barbecue, Chinese food and fried chicken — every one of which offers great satisfaction. Now, let me include the cooking of the Mediterranean, which has served well as a grab-and-go chow for several centuries. Also, pizza — perhaps the most classic of takeout foods — along with sushi, which, like pretty much everything on my list, travels very well.
My favorite Mediterranean food for takeout
Ammatoli Mediterranean Bites
285 E. 3rd St., Long Beach; 562-435-0808, www.ammatoli.com
Getting a rotisserie chicken is certainly one of the easiest ways of ordering at Ammatoli. You have a choice of a quarter white or a quarter dark, a half, a whole, or a family chicken feast of two birds. The first options come with a choice of two side dishes; the last comes with four, drawn from crowd-pleasers like the hummus and the spicy hummus, the tahini salad and (for a bit extra) the tabbouleh, the grape leaves, the baba ghanoush and more.
There’s a spicy, garlic, lemon chicken as well, half a bird with rice and two sides, which may actually be even better than the standard-issue rotisserie chicken, though that does strain credibility. Or at least the capacity of my taste buds. And in terms of the menu, that’s just the proverbial tip of the Middle Eastern iceberg. (I know: A bizarrely mixed metaphor!)
Indeed, Ammatoli approaches the encyclopedic in terms of its selection of dishes. One can, of course, as always, make a perfectly good meal out of nothing but the mezza — the small dishes — which come (if you want) as a six-dish combo, or a three-dish combo. A meal of hummus, tabbouleh, grape leaves, fried lamb kibbeh, falafel — what’s not to love?
I’m especially fond of the hummus variation, topped with a choice of meats and pine nuts — ground beef, shawarma beef or shawarma chicken. It doesn’t much matter to me, for they’re all good. And I love the way the innate creaminess of the hummus lays off the semi-soft crunch of the pine nuts, and the salty-crispiness of the meats, sort of a celebration on your tongue.
Also, the fried cauliflower, tossed with scallions and parsley makes cauliflower taste about as good as cauliflower can taste. But if you’re in the need of more, certainly the lamb, chicken, beef steak, and ground beef kabobs are a source of much happiness.
If you want to get away form the familiar, try the dish called samkeh harra, a grilled fish filet marinated in an unexpectedly spicy habanero pepper sauce. Habaneros? In the Middle East? Well, why not?
There’s a Moroccan spiced salmon as well, sweetly described on the menu as “Your True Hearty Choice!!” A true hearty odd turn of phrase, complete with double exclamation marks!!