Lazy summer nights are the perfect time to explore cooking foods from different cuisines and Middle Eastern recipes are a good place to start. Most people know hummus as the staple Middle Eastern dish, but there is so much more to the cuisine than that. Do some exploring in the kitchen and transport your taste buds to a whole other land.
Popular Middle Eastern Foods
Hummus: One of the most well-know Middle Eastern dishes, hummus, is a delicious chickpea based dip typically served with pita bread and vegetables. It is a light and refreshing summertime appetizer or snack and has the benefit of being very healthy. Hummus is very simple to make and is a great beginning to a Middle Eastern meal. You can even get creative and add different flavors like dill, olive, or sun-dried tomato.
Baba Ghanoush: Another dip or spread that is popular in Middle Eastern countries and has recently gained popularity in restaurants and kitchens across the United States is baba ghanoush, made from eggplant. Usually, the eggplant is roasted or baked, then peeled and mashed with tahini (sesame seed pste), lemon juice, and various other spices and served with toasted pita bread. This dish is also very simple to prepare and makes a light and healthy appetizer or summer snack.
Kebabs: Grilled meat kebabs are a very common Middle Eastern dish and they work great for a summer backyard BBQ. Chicken, lamb, or steak make for tasty kebabs, especially when marinated in a tasty marinade of garlic, olive oil, and smoky spices. Alternate vegetables with the meat for added texture and taste.
Fattoush: This Lebanese salad is made from pieces of pita bread mixed with greens and lots of vegetables. This dish compares to our classic garden salad and is usually served with a citrus vinaigrette. The salad usually contains a combination of cucumber, tomato, lettuce, onion, mint, and toasted pita bread (usually day old) and sometimes also contains feta cheese, peppers, carrots, olives, and garlic. You can of course add whatever vegetables you have on hand to make a delicious and unique summer salad.
Mujadarra: This dish combines two very popular Middle Eastern ingredients, rice and lentils. This salad can be served hot or cold and as a main dish or a side. This dish is usually sautéed with lots of onions and served with a light olive oil dressing. Either red lentils or green lentils can be used along with long-grain rice and is a delicious and healthy protein packed salad.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 large eggplant
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Large handful of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more if needed
Preheat grill to high heat. Poke holes in the skin of the eggplant with a fork
Place eggplant on grill and cook 20 to 30 minutes or until skin is wrinkled and insides are soft
Remove eggplant from grill and let cool long enough to handle. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out insides, discarding as many seeds as possible
Place eggplant insides in a food processor and add lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and parsley. Turn on food processor and pulse until well combined. Drizzle in olive oil, gradually, and pulse to mix well. Only add enough olive oil as needed for desired texture. Serve with toasted pita wedges