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Jan 20, 2008 12:36 PM

Suggestions for simple MIddle Eastern Dishes


I recently had a meal in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Toronto. The dish was a collection of tastes of ME foods. Fallafal, hummous, pita bread. baba ganoje(sp), pickled turnip tabbouli and tahinni sauce. .............................Very satisfying. I loved it.

Can you suggest some other simple Middle Eastern dishes that I can prepare at home?.....Thanks Chowhounds

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  1. "middle eastern" is a really broad geographic descriptor. it encompasses israel, turkey, lebanon, persia...and each of these regions has its own culinary nuances and indigenous dishes or styles of preparation.

    can you be more specific about what you're looking for? meat dishes? vegetarian? desserts?

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      The dishes Frugle mentioned are all from the Levant, the area now politically divided into Lebanon/Syria Israel/Palestine. Each village and ethnic community has its own variations on a fairly common culinary repertoire.

      I love Muhammara - seems that is more specific to Syria, and I believe particularly to Armenian communities there, but that is a story told me by a Lebanese person, and you will get as many versions as persons...

      You will find several simple, good recipes on Paula Wolfert's website.

      1. re: lagatta

        I would suggest shwarma or kibbe for a meat dish. Pita bread is quite easy to make if a stone is available. A Persian rice dish for the starch.

      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Most Turks would be insulted at your suggestion that they are "Middle Eastern."

        OP obviously went to a Lebanese resto and almost all "Middle Eastern" places in Canada are Lebanese.

      3. Hummous, baba ghanouj and tabbouli are all quite easy to make, just search for some recipes and buy some good pita bread to go with it, preferably at a middle Eastern market or at a supermarket if necessary.
        I also love to make muhammara, a red pepper walnut dip that packs a huge flavor punch. It's fairly easy to make and well worth it.

        1. Labne is a middle eastern yougurt-cheese that is dense and tangy. You can buy it in any middle eastern market. Swirl some on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, maybe drop a olives on it, and use pita to scoop. Yum!

          2 Replies
          1. re: sebetti

            I've just learned that labne/labneh is just pressed yogourt. You cover a bowl with a double layer of cheese cloth, pour the container of yogourt on top of the cloth and let sit for a couple of hours as the liquid drains off. Soon you have a large 'Blotch' of labneh. Firmer and cream cheese like (but cant be used in place of CC in baking I've learned) substance that I find tastes quite a bit sweeter than straight yogourt. Delicous and less expensive than the pricier labneh.

            1. re: fruglescot

              Yes, it is, but you need REAL yoghourt, not the ultra-low-fat crap augmented with all kinds of dodgy modified starch.

              It is still far less fatty than cream chesse, which is why it can't replace the latter in all recipes. However it can in some. It is also more sour.

          2. I just posted this on a post about lentils. Mujadarrah is brown lentils and white rice. Very easy to do. Just google it to find a ton of recipes. You basically just cook lentils until near done and then add rice and finish cooking. Top with lots of caramelized onions

            1. Go to the library or bookstore and look at Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food. If you like it, you might find a cheap used copy someplace. It really has everything you need for the basic stuff that you mentioned and a lot more.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Kagey

                1) Season ground beef or lamb with salt, cinnamon, garlic, dill, lemon juice, and mint. Form into oval meatballs of 1/4 lb each and put in baking dish. Cut a couple of zucchinis in chunks and add to the dish. Mix a 8-oz can tomato sauce with a little lemon juice, cinnamon, garlic, dried dill, lemon juice, and dried mint and one can of water. Pour over the meat and zucchini. Bake. Serve with rice or cous-cous.

                2) Puncture a whole eggplant with a fork, lay it on a foil-covered pan, and bake it at 400* until it's soft. Cool. Remove insides with spoon but don't scrape the peeling real close. Put insides in Cuisinart with a little chopped onion, salt, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and just a bit of olive oil. Process. That's baba ganooj. Keeps in refrigerator abour 10 days.

                3) Drain a can of garbanzos. Put in Cuisinart with a little chopped onion, salt, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini. Process. That's hummos. Keeps 10 days.

                4) Cover a cup of bulgur wheat with cold water and let it sit while you
                chop a bunch of parsley, fresh mint, and scallions. Drain wheat and press out all water. Mix with the vegetables. Some people add cucumber and/or tomato. Toss with a spoonful each of lemon juice and olive oil. Salt. That's tabooleh. Keeps in refrigerator for a week. I only make this when I can get the fresh mint---makes a big difference.

                5) Peel and slice a large eggplant. Arrange slices on pan and bake them at 400* until they look about half-done. Put these in a big Pyrex baking dish. Saute ground beef or lamb with a little chopped onion. Season this with salt, cinnamon, and lemon juice and add an 8-oz can tomato sauce. Pour this over the eggplant. Make a white sauce using 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and 1 quart milk and/or chicken stock. Beat up two eggs, add a little of the hot white sauce, keep beating, add the egg stuff to the white sauce pan, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour this over the meat layer. Bake this for 1 hour at 350. That's moussaka. (When it gets cold you can cut it into squares and freeze it wrapped in Saran and a plastic bag.)

                6) Mix cooked rice with an equal amount of frozen chopped spinach cooked and drained. Season with salt, lemon juice, and cinnamon. That's a Greek dish called spanakorizo (spinach-rice) that goes perfectly with moussaka.

                7) Tear up a stale pita and douse it with LOTS of olive oil, vinegar, and garlic. Let it sit while you chop lettuce, parsley, tomato, cucumber, and scallions. Toss all together. That's fatoosh, a salad with buried treasure bits of the soaked pita.

                In summary: buy some dried dill and dried mint and keep tahini and a bottle of lemon juice on hand. Season meat with cinnamon and lemon juice. Add lots of dried dill to cooked rice. I find my Chinese cooking turns to slop and my success at Indian cooking is sometimey but Middle Eastern dishes ALWAYS turn out well. This is an easy, dependable, delicious cuisine.

                1. re: Kagey

                  Lucky me, I found a Claudia Roden from 1968 - year of printing, I believe - at a church bazaar. There is a recent revised edition of the book.

                  Claudia Roden is wonderful and you will find a lot more on her recipes by googling. She is Egyptian. (Roden is her husband's name - they are both Jewish - she Sephardi - he Askenazi) and she has written much on the fields of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Jewish foods. Great scholarship.