Middle Eastern Cuisine and Recipes

Middle Eastern cuisine has variances by region, but when in Saudi Arabia, some typical ingredients include:

Meats: chiefly lamb or chicken; also sometimes beef, camel, or goat
Dairy: chiefly white cheeses and yogurt; also butter, eggs
Grains: rice and wheat
Legumes: chiefly lentils, chick peas, and fava beans
Fruits and Vegetables: cucumbers, eggplant, okra, onions, citrus fruits, dates, figs, pomegranates
Herbs, spices, greens: mint, thyme, parsley, sesame (especially tahini, a sesame paste), saffron, turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and sumac
Other: olive oil, lemon juice

Following are some popular appetizers:

Tabbouli (also Tabbouleh) (a salad)

1/2 cup fine bulgur

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup boiling water

2 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

2 medium tomatoes (cut into 1/4-inch pieces)

1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Stir together bulgur and 1 tablespoon oil in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve, pressing on bulgur to remove any excess liquid.

Place bulgur in a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients, including remaining 2 tablespoons oil, until combined well.

Servings: Makes 4 to 6 side-sized servings.

Baba Ghanoush (an eggplant spread or dip)

2 medium eggplants (approximately 1 pound each, halved lengthwise)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tahini

tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, chopped

(for accompaniment: pitas)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously oil rimmed baking sheet. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, on sheet. Roast until eggplant is very soft, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Using spoon, scoop out pulp from eggplant into strainer set over bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, allowing excess liquid to drain from eggplant.

Transfer eggplant pulp to processor. Add 1/4 cup oil, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic; process until almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to small bowl. (Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Serve with pita.

Servings: Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Hummus (Chick pea dip)

4 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 19-ounce cans chick-peas, drained and rinsed (if using dried chick peas, soak overnight, then place them in a pot with about one inch covering them, bring them to a boil and then simmer over medium heat until the beans are very soft, 1 1/2 to 2 hours)

2/3 cup well stirred tahini

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste

1/2 cup olive oil, or to taste

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted lightly

(for accompaniment: pitas)

Mince and mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. In a food processor, puree the chick peas with the garlic paste, the tahini, the lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the oil, and 1/2 cup water, scraping down the sides, until the hummus is smooth and add salt to taste. Add water, if necessary, to thin the hummus to the desired consistency and transfer the hummus to a bowl. In the food processor, cleaned, puree the remaining 1/4 cup oil with the parsley until the oil is bright green and the parsley is minced transfer the parsley oil to a small jar. The hummus and the parsley oil may be made 3 days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Divide the hummus between shallow serving dishes and smooth the tops. Drizzle the hummus with the parsley oil and sprinkle it with the pine nuts. Serve the hummus with the pita.

Servings: Makes about 4 cups.

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