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Style Chef Craig Harding’s six key ingredients for a Middle East feast

Photo styling by Wilson Wong.

joseph saraceno/The Globe and Mail

When a crew of Toronto’s top culinary minds come together, the results can be pretty mouth-watering. Such is the case with AlterEgo, a partnership between Campagnolo’s Craig Harding and Alexandra Hutchison, and the team behind Mercatto. Last summer, they masterminded the buzzy La Palma, and this year, they’ve added Constantine to the mix. Located inside the new Anndore House hotel, the eatery is an artful blend of Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. “We wanted to tell the story of how food and history have shaped the way people eat across the Mediterranean today,” says Harding.

The chef and his team visited the region to source inspiration for Constantine’s menu, which features reimagined staples like a lamb burger topped with harissa aioli and a chickpea paella with grilled halloumi. “In travelling to Turkey and Israel last year I experienced an approach to food that was very similar to that of Italy. Chefs are using what is available locally and preparing it in a style that respects what they grew up eating and have been perfected from generations before them,” he says. “The real aha moment came from visiting the spice markets. I had never tasted singular spices so fresh and explosive or spice mixes so interesting.”

Here, Harding distills those lessons into six of his favourite Middle Eastern ingredients.

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Chef Craig Harding of Toronto restaurant Constantine.

Rick O’Brien

Sesame Seeds

“There is no limit to how this ingredient can transform a dish, from toasting it to finish a kale, feta, pomegranate and rutabaga salad to mixing tahini with labneh, lemon and olive oil.”

Organic hulled sesame seeds, $9.99 at prana.bio.

Olive Oil

“The elixir of the gods…it’s one Mediterranean ingredient that is always within arm’s reach.”

Mandrova extra virgin olive oil, $35 at Pusateri’s Fine Foods.

Chateau Musar wine

“It’s one of the top wines produced in Lebanon and in my opinion, it’s one of the most impressive Bordeaux style wines outside of France.”

Chateau Musar Cinsault, $62 at LCBO.

Pomegranates

“They provide texture, colour, sweet and sour notes and are incredibly versatile.”

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Pomegranate, $6.99 at Harvest Wagon.

Preserved Lemons

“Lemons, fresh or preserved, are my go-to balancing agents, from preserved lemon gremolata to lemon juice in salads.”

Oualili preserved lemons, $7.99 at Cheese Boutique.

Fresh Dill

“Dill is an undervalued but amazing herb that I’m using a ton.”

Fresh dill, $2.49 at Loblaws.

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