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About Middle Eastern Cuisine
People living in Middle Eastern and West Asian countries
consume a “Middle East” cuisine, a unique
diet comprised primarily of hummus, falafel, tahini,
tabouleh, baklava, pita bread, baba ghannouj, foul mudammes
and lokum. Various meats and vegetables are also included
in this diet which incorporates heavy use of olive oil
and a diverse variety of pungent spices.
What is Falafel?
Americans would consider falafel a kind of Middle Eastern
“fast food”. Sold as a sandwich by street
vendors, falafel can also be served as a pita bread
sandwich stuffed with tomatoes, tahini and lettuce or
as an appetizer with salad, tahini or hummus. Vegetarians
love falafe because it is meatless, containing ingredients
such as chickpeas, onions, garlic, parsley and flour.
Falafel balls are fried in a small amount of oil until
What is Tahini?
Tahini is ground sesame seed paste used primarily to
make hummus. Middle Easterners buy tahini in cans, jars
and in dehydrated form. While unhulled and hulled tahini
is available, most people purchase hulled tahini because
the unhulled type is extremely bitter. Usually mixed
with salt, garlic and lemon juice, tahini is also used
in soups and sauces as well as a substitute for peanut
What is Tabouleh?
Made with olive oil, spices and fresh vegetables, tabouleh
is a salad eaten with pita bread or alone with a fork.
Large grape leaves are often used as a scooping utensils
when pita bread is hollowed out and filled with tabouleh.
Vegetables frequently used to make tabouleh include
cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and carrots in addition
to flavor enhancers like parsley, mint and lemon juice
What is Baklava?
Baklava is a pastry containing layers of sweet, buttery
phyllo pastry, nuts and spices. Phyllo pastry is extremely
thin pieces of unleavened flour dough popular throughout
the Middle East and the Balkans. After the baklava is
baked, a spicy mixture of lemon and honey is poured
over the phyllo pastry until it is soaked with the syrup.
A slightly different version of baklava is Arabic baklava,
flavored with syrup made from sugar and rose water.
What is Baba Ghanoush?
Made from eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and
olive oil, baba ghanoush is a creamy dip with a smoky
flavor traditionally accompanying pita bread, tortilla
chips or potato chips. Baba ghanoush is always garnished
with olive oil and sometimes enhanced with cumin, parsley
or crushed red pepper.
What is Foul Mudammas?
A traditional Middle Eastern breakfast made with mashed
and seasoned fava beans, foul madammas also contains
garlic cloves, cayenne pepper, tahini, lemon juice and
chopped dill. Topping for this dish is a mixture of
tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, parsley, feta cheese,
olive oil and salt and pepper.
What is Lokum?
Said to have been created in response to a Sultan's
dislike of hard candies, lokum (rahat lokum or “Turkish
Delight”) are soft, gel-like confectionary cubes
made from sugar, nuts, pistachios, rosewater and lemon.
Lokum cubes are dusted with powdered cream of Tarter,
icing sugar, mint or cinnamon.
Middle Eastern cuisine is a healthy diet promoting less
consumption of saturated fats, refined flours and sugars
and incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables than
the traditional Western diet. Research into the effects
of eating a Middle Eastern diet indicate that it can
reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes
and osteoporosis when used in conjunction with a regular