Middle Eastern Cuisine
Middle Eastern recipes draw together subtle, flavorful influences from this large and diverse region. Expect olives and olive oil, pitas, honey, sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, mint, and parsley in exotic yet accessible Middle Eastern cuisine.See Popular Middle Eastern Cuisine Recipes
Lavash can be a soft flatbread, but Jessamyn Waldman developed this recipe based on Armenian-style lavash, which is very crisp and dusted with seeds or spices.
A Syrian version of comfort food, kibbe (Middle Eastern stuffed meatballs) are braised in a supersimple, tangy yogurt sauce, a staple of Syrian cuisine. "Many Syrian cooks do not flavor the yogurt," Anissa Helou says, "but I prefer to lift it with herbs and garlic." She also suggests swapping in a few teaspoons of dried mint in place of the cilantro. Be sure to use very fine bulgur wheat, she adds, or else the kibbe mixture will be too coarse and hard to shape.
At Canlis, Jason Franey serves lamb two ways (as a ragout and as chops) with two sides (potato puree and Israeli couscous). But the ragout and couscous are amazing on their own, and less work to make.
Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad typically made with bulgur (dried and ground or crushed wheat berries that are parboiled). Here, warm brown rice takes bulgur's place.
Ana Sortun sprinkles house-made flatbreads with za'atar, the Middle Eastern blend of sesame seeds, herbs, and sumac. She serves it with a salad of spinach, peas, cucumbers, and lettuce, mixed with yogurt-like Lebanese lebneh. Bake store-bought pizza dough with za'atar, and make a simpler version of the salad with Greek-style yogurt.
Tahini, the creamy Middle Eastern sesame-seed paste, is the ingenious base for the dressing on this bold-flavored salad. The dressing would be terrific with any number of peppery greens, like escarole, watercress, or celery leaves.
This fresh-flavored, spicy recipe calls for both chicken breasts and thighs and a good deal of spices, added slowly as the dish cooks. Use only chicken thighs and add the spices all at once to cut back on the cooking time.
Before opening Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia, chef Michael Solomonov visited hummus parlors all over Israel trying to find the best recipe. "Hummus is the hardest thing to get right," he says. "It has to be rich, creamy and mildly nutty." To make his hummus luxuriously smooth, he soaks the chickpeas overnight with baking soda to soften them. While Americans now flavor hummus with everything from pureed red peppers to fresh herbs, Solomonov says among the fanciest garnishes you can find in Israel are whole chickpeas, paprika, and lemon-spiked tahini, used for hummus masabacha.
Rajat Parr braises succulent lamb shoulder in Syrah, then adds kalamata olives and dried sour cherries that he's soaked in red wine. The unusual combination makes the sauce deliciously sweet and savory.
For this appetizer, Pierre Gagnaire cleverly weaves together two major ingredients, shrimp and chickpeas: He quickly sears shrimp and uses the shells to make a stock to flavor the hummus. He then uses chickpeas to make the delicate cracker garnish. At his eponymous restaurant in Paris, it's part of a dish called Orientale, inspired by his walks in the desert. (He takes those walks when he's cooking at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire in Dubai and his newest place, Twist, in Las Vegas.) "I like the silence. The wind. The simple rhythm of the days," he says.
This refreshing pasta salad, with its cool flavors of mint and cucumber, is a nice accompaniment to barbecued meats and a welcome contribution to a potluck.