Hummus Fattah (Syrian)


Like the diet of much of the eastern Mediterranean, Levantine foods consist of fresh fruits and vegetables as olive oil, garlic, and chickpeas are used extensively. As trade and communication developed over time new introductions were added to the diet. Foods from the Mediterranean continued to be imported, such as lemon and spices from the east were also regularly integrated into the cuisine, primarily from Persia.  In the 16th century, the Turks introduced lamb to the Levantine menu.

Fattah, crumbs or pieces of bread, is originally a Syrian dish that uses pieces of stale, toasted or fried pitta bread as a foundation upon which various ingredients are added on top.


  • 2 pitas, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 can chickpeas  drained and rinsed
  • Salt
  • 2 cups Greek plain yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsps cumin
  • 1 tsps curry
  • 1 tsps nutmeg
  • 1 tsps black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)



Heat up a pan and add two spoons of olive oil. Add  the medium onion with 1 tsps of salt, 1 tsps nutmeg and 1 tsps of black pepper for 6 to 8 minutes and saute it until the onion becomes translucent.



Add the ground meet and brown it for 4 minutes. Then cover the pot and let it simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to see if the meat needs water or chicken stock.  You can add 1/4 cup of chicken stock at a time and let it simmer again.



Meanwhile, cut the two pitas into 1-inch squares. Place them on a cookie sheet  and drizzle them with two tbps of olive oil, 1/2 tsps of cumin, and 1 tsps of curry.  Place the cookie sheet in a 425 F oven for 10 minutes until the pita pieces are crisp and brown.



In a bowl, add 2 cups of Greek yogurt, 5 minced cloves of garlic, 3 tbps of lemon, 2 tbps of Olive Oil, and 1 1/2 tsps of salt. Mix very well and set aside.




Toast 1/3 cup of pine nuts in a heated one  tbps of butter in a hot pan for 2 minute until brown. Remove the pine nuts from the hot pan immediately because they continue to darken in color.

When all four layers are ready start layering your Fattah in a serving dish.  First start by layering  pita bread, ground meat, chickpeas, and yogurt sauce. Drizzle the top with 1 tbps of olive oil and cover it with toasted pine nuts.




Serve immediately and Bon Appetit!


Fesenjan – Duck with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce (Iran)



Fesenjan is a kind of Persian stew prepared with poultry, which could be  duck or chicken with a thick sauce of walnuts and pomegranates.  Fesenjan originated in the province of Gilan bordering the Caspian Sea, which was known for its wild duck population. The dish was much favored during the fall season in Persia when the pomegranates matured. Fesenjan was also considered to be a Persian Rosh Hosanna dish. Iran has one of the oldest known Jewish communities, going back over 2,500 years to when Jews fled the land of Israel after the destruction of the First Temple.

Onion, but not garlic, is ubiquitous. The Persians used to thicken their savory or sweet dishes with powdered walnuts,  an idea that was passed on through conquests of Arabs and Romans. The beauty of the Persian cuisine that it does not rely on fats excessively and puts a big emphasis on herbs and spices for flavor. Some ruins from the ancient capital of Persepolis show that as far back as 515 BCE, early Iranian pantry staples included walnuts, poultry and pomegranate conserve. Today, fesenjan is a popular dish on the menus of  Iranian weddings and special occasions.


2 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds skinless duck legs or breasts

2 tsps salt, plus more, to taste

2 yellow onions, finely diced

1/4 tsps nutmeg

1 1/4 tsps saffron

2 tbps sugar

2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground

3/4 cup pomegranate molasses

2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water

1 cup peeled and grated red beets

2 limes (juice of)

Pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish (optional)






Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Lightly season duck with salt and sear until well browned, 6-7 minutes per side, then transfer to a plate.



In the same skillet, sauté onions with saffron and nutmeg over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until lightly browned.




Add walnuts, chicken stock, pomegranate molasses, sugar, salt and lime juice. Stir to coat the onions. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and return duck pieces to stew. Cover and cook 25 minutes. Stir in beets and cook, uncovered, until stew is thick and beets are tender, 15-20 minutes. Salt to taste.




Put a few pieces of duck on each plate, along with plenty of sauce. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve with rice.




This dish tastes better the next day as the spices and pomegranate molasses infuse into the duck meat and become more detectable. Also, I tried cooking this dish with and without the duck skin. I prefer it with the duck skin, which you could remove later, because the duck fat adds a unique richness to the dish.

Lamb Tagine With Honey And Apricots (Morocco)


This is an Emeril Lagasse recipe that I found on the Food Network website.  I loved it because of its simplicity and because it combines my favorite middle eastern spices: saffron, turmeric, and ginger, which are staples of the Moroccan cuisine. More important is lamb, the dish’s main ingredient. The gamy smell of lamb reminds me of Eid El-Adha, a major Muslim holiday I grew up celebrating, when able Muslims sacrifice a sheep in a charitable effort to feed the poor.

I love the deep earthy flavor of saffron with its orange yellow color. Although the existence of  saffron in any dish is very subtle, it always dominates the dish.  The best kinds of saffron come from Spain and Morocco, and pound for pound, saffron is as expensive as gold.

I also very much like the bitter peppery taste of turmeric and the deep yellow color it imparts on food. It grows in India and is used in cooking in Asian and Middle Eastern food, especially Iran.

Ginger, which is indigenous to China and Japan, was brought to North Africa by the Arabs. The fragrance, spiciness and sweetness of dried ginger are very unique and they remind me of a hot ginger drink Egyptians are used to drink at traditional coffee shops. In Egypt, they like to drink it hot and very sweet and love it for its medicinal properties.

I have always been intrigued by the Moroccan cuisine and its variety and richness. The original inhabitants of Morocco were Berbers and the strongest influence on the Moroccan cuisine was the Arab invasion in the seventh A.D.  They brought with them new breads, exotic spices, and other foods made from grains. The spices they introduced included cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin, and caraway. They also introduced sweet-and-sour cooking, which they had learned from the Persians.  In modern times, the French and the British made contributions to Moroccan cuisine. 

When I first got interested in Moroccan cuisine, I read a little bit about tagines, the ceramic or cookware that is popular in North Africa. Tagines are used for slow cooking of  stews and vegetable dishes.  Tagines were used in North Africa, which is primarily a desert because its cone-shaped lid traps steam and returns it to the pot. With this water condensed in the pot, a minimum amount, of water is needed to reach the required tenderness.  This method of cooking is very practical in areas where water supplies are limited or where public water is not yet available.





2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
8 threads Spanish saffron, crushed
16 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied together with a cotton string
1 cup dried, pitted apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Usually when I am working on a new recipe, I like to have all the ingredients in one place before I start. The ingredients shown below include: salt,  turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, black pepper, cilantro, dried apricots, honey, and chicken stock.




Cut lamb into 1 1/2-inch cubes and place in a medium-sized bowl. Season the lamb with turmeric, ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt.



Heat a tagine or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the seasoned lamb. Cook the lamb until browned on all sides, 4 minutes.  I always like to cook in a Dutch oven just out of  habit.  Then I like to transfer it to a tagine before eating just to give the dish the feel of authenticity.

Return the  browned lamb to the pan and add the diced onions. Cook for 4 minutes and then add the garlic and cstook for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, saffron, and cilantro bundle and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender.



Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the apricots and raisins and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain and set the fruit aside.



 Remove the meat, place it on a clean plate, and keep warm. Bring the remaining liquid in the pot to a simmer. Add the sliced onions, apricots, raisins, honey, cinnamon, ground pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Return the liquid to a simmer and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until mixture is slightly thickened. Add the cooked lamb back into the sauce and cook to heat through, about 2 minutes. It could be served with couscous or basmati  rice.  And Bon Appetit. 


Turlu (from Turkey)



I grew up eating this vegetable dish in Egypt but it was called Turly and I have been told it is originally Turkish.  I decided to start making it relying on my memory of  the smells of the coriander, the cinnamon, garlic and mint and the tastes of the caramelized vegetables from my childhood. However, when I tried different versions they did not,  for the most part,  taste like the one from my childhood. So I started researching the history of Turly, Turlu (the Turkish version) and the Turkish influence on the Egyptian cuisine in the 17th, 18th and 19th century.

It turned out the Egyptian Turly dish is an improvised version of the original Turkish version, Turlu, with a small change in the ingredients. Egyptians added more tomato past to the mix, did not use Fenugreek in Egypt because the Egyptians  are used to drinking and not eating it, and for the most part they rarely used meat as it is one of the more expensive food items in Egypt.

The Turkish influence of the Ottoman Empire rule over Egypt for more than 300 years can still be detected in Egyptian cuisine today as well as some traditions and language. The “Pashas”, the Turkish ruling elite, living in Cairo at the time employed Egyptian natives to work as cooks in their palaces. This is how the Turks shared their cooking secrets with the natives and how many Turkish dishes became part of the Egyptian cuisine

I also read an article in the New York Times about Turlu and its French cousin, Ratatouille,  written by Martha Rose Shulman on October 5, 2010. This is what she wrote about Ratatouille: “When I began exploring the cuisines of the Mediterranean, I discovered that beloved ratatouille like dishes exist just about everywhere you go. It’s no coincidence: Mediterranean cuisines have long had an affinity for eggplant, and eggplant has an affinity for olive oil, garlic and onions. When the new foods that came from the Americas — peppers, summer squash and especially tomatoes — took hold in the region, a number of closely related dishes were born, including what we call ratatouille — and a man from La Mancha calls pisto, an Ikarian Greek calls soufiko and a Turk calls turlu. The dishes are all made with abundant olive oil and simmered slowly and for a long time, traditionally in earthenware pots. They are recognizably different, though, because of their seasonings. The beguiling sweet and savory flavors in a Turkish turlu — cinnamon and coriander, fenugreek, mint and dill — are nothing like the earthy flavors in the layered parsley and oregano-seasoned Greek briam, the paprika and vinegar-spiked juices of an Andalusian alboronía or the thyme-scented essence of a ratatouille”.

After researching so many Turlu recipes, I decided to go with this version because the final dish tasted very much like the original dish I grew up eating. I hope you like it.




1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsps sugar
1 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsps ground coriander
1 tsps dry oregano
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped dill
1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise and sliced about 1/3-inch thick
4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to taste
2 medium onions, sliced
2 green bell peppers, cut in 2-inch slices
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 medium zucchinis, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
1 pound tomatoes (about 4 medium ones), thinly sliced

Yogurt, for serving (optional)


1. Stir together the tomato paste, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, half the parsley, mint and dill.


2. Heat a large heavy pot or preferably a dutch oven over medium heat. Toss the eggplant slices with 2 tbps of the olive oil and salt to taste. Saute the eggplants for 3 minutes and then turn the slices over and saute for 3 more minutes. Remove the eggplant to another dish for now.

3. Turn the heat down slightly and add 1 tbps of oil and the onions to the skillet. Add salt, pepper and 1 tsps of ground  coriander. Stir often until they soften, about 5 minutes, and add the peppers. Stir for 8 minutes and add half the minced garlic. Stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Remove the onions and pepper to another dish.  Add another tbps of oil and the zucchinis to the pot and saute for about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the remaining garlic, stir for 30 seconds to a minute, and add back the eggplant, onions, and peppers to the pot.


4. Add the tomato paste mixture to the pot and bring to a boil.  Then add the tomatoes, bay leaves, 2 more tablespoons olive oil,

5. Cover, reduce the heat and cook gently for 1/2 an hour. Stir in the remaining herbs and simmer for another 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Then place the pot  in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes until the tomato s;ices start to caramelize and turn brown.


If possible, refrigerate overnight before serving warm or at room temperature, with yogurt and chopped herbs.


Why am I starting this blog?





I  have been thinking about this blog for a quite some time. I am an Egyptian who has been living in the US for 18 years, worked in banking  in New York city where one can try any kind of cuisine 24 hours 7 days a week.  I have also been travelling extensively around the world for the last twenty years, trying and sampling food where ever I go, considering food my first medium to understand the culture. My husband and I love good quality food. When we first got married and were living on a budget, we used to look for restaurant reviews about cheap eats under $25 per person every week in The New York Times dining section. We used to dine at these restaurants and come home and try to remake the dishes we liked the most. One of the simplest and tastiest salads I remember from these years, is a salad made of wild arugula, beets, caramelized walnuts and the sharp bite the of gorgonzola cheese with a simple tangy balsamic vinaigrette. I remember vividly the sweetness of the beets and bite of the gorgonzola cheese and the freshness and high quality of the ingredients. Another dish I loved and savored every bite of was foie gras (duck liver pâté) stuffed ravioli with reduced balsamic sauce and caramelized onions at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo.

In Paris, in the spice market at Lafayette Gourmet, I found that the most exotic and expensive spices are the middle eastern ones. I started to fall in love again with all these spices I grew up eating like Cumin, Coriander, Nutmeg, Cardamom and Bay Leaves. Also, I started appreciating and researching other spices and found at the spice market, like Sumac, Turmeric, and Curry and other middle eastern ingredients as well as Rosewater, Pomegranate molasses, Mustic and Orange Blossom.

Every time I go back to Cairo for a visit, I would indulge and eat endless meals of good home-made middle eastern dishes and desserts at friends’ and family’s houses. Coming back, I would suffer from severe bouts of homesickness and the only thing that would always help alleviate this homesickness is remaking the dishes I ate in Egypt and enjoying the smells and tastes I enjoyed there. So I decided to start this blog and share with my readers, my love for cooking, baking, spices and for the middle eastern dishes that I grew up with. This blog is a shared effort  to get in touch with my middle eastern roots and see how my cooking has evolved over the years to incorporate my experiences as an Egyptian living in the US, a cook and a world traveler.  I would like to think of the food I am going to make here as middle eastern fusion cuisine.

Spinach Turmeric Noodle Soup (Iran)


I first tried the original version of this soup in an Iranian Restaurant in New Jersey and loved it right away.  I  loved the smell of the curry, the yellow color of the turmeric next to the green color of the spinach, cilantro and parsley. Spinach originated in Persia and has become a very popular ingredient in the middle eastern cuisine. Ash reshteh is a type of thick . winter soup made commonly in Iran. Ash means thick and Reshteh is thin noodles.

Before looking up the recipe online, I tried to use the ingredients I had in my pantry at the moment and came up with an improvised, quick, very delicious and hearty version of the Iranian Ash Reshteh soup.


1 lb spinach

3.5 oz of spaghetti noodles or Japanese Udon noodles (if you do not have scales, this a 3″ circumference bunch)

1 14-oz can garbanzo beans

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 chopped yellow onion

8 cloves garlic (minced)

2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp curry

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 tps black pepper

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

lemon juice (optional)

sour cream (optional)


Heat up the olive oil in a big stock pot and add chopped onions, turmeric, curry, salt and pepper.


Ash Reshteh 1


Saute the onions for 5 minutes until they start to caramelize. Add  the garlic and saute for 3 minutes.


Then add the chopped parsley and cilantro and saute with the onion and garlic mix for 5 to six minutes.



Add the spinach gradually as it wilts down, one cup at a time.


Usually it takes 3 to 4 minutes to cook down.


Add the 6 cups of chicken broth and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the garabanzo beans and let it simmer for 5 minutes. The final ingredient to add is the noodles and I prefer to use Japanese udon noodles because they do not get saggy if the soup is cooked ahead of time.  They take exactly 4 minutes to cook.  And then you serve the soup hot. Adding lemon juice and a dollop of sour cream is optional but highly recommended as they add a lot of  flavor to the soup.  You can always add salt to taste. Bon Appetit or as Egyptians say Bel hana wel shefa.