The Middle Eastern Plate

Incorporating a vast array of vegetables, fruits and good-for-you fats, Middle Eastern cuisine is healthy, vibrant and delicious.

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Middle Eastern cuisine is a unique and vibrant cuisine worth getting acquainted with. It is considered very healthy with far less consumption of saturated fats and refined sugars than the traditional Western diet. Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are incorporated into almost every dish. What’s not to love? 

MEZE

The term meze, or mezze, refers to a selection of small dishes served as appetizers. In Muslim regions, where alcohol is uncommon, meze is often served as part of multi-course meals, whereas in Greece and Turkey, mezes function more as snacks while socializing with others. Typical dishes can include halloumi cheese, white fish with flatbread, artichokes and stuffed vegetables such as bell peppers.  

Falafel is a well-known Middle Eastern recipe and the national dish of Israel.

FALAFEL

Falafel is a well-known Middle Eastern recipe and the national dish of Israel. After hummus, falafel is the second most common dish made of chickpeas. Originally, though, it was made with broad beans and that is still the case in Egypt today, where it likely originated from. It is eaten in many Arab and Mediterranean countries, but you can find it all over the world, often sold as street food. How it is prepared will depend on where you have it. In the middle-east, it is eaten inside pita bread, with tahini. In Israel and most all Arab countries, you’re also likely to get it with French fries and pickled red cabbage wrapped in pita or what is known there as taboon bread. If you’re in Europe, especially in Berlin, Germany, where it is particularly common, you’ll find it served in Turkish toasted bread, with a salad, and an assortment of hot sauces.

These deep-fried, crunchy pucks of goodness make a wonderful vegetarian option.  They are typically made of soaked chickpeas, coriander, garlic and cumin, but some recipes include onions, parsley and paprika as well. Falafel is quite easy to make at home, as long as you have a food processor and a good recipe.  If fat content is a concern, falafel can be baked instead of deep-fried. While tahini (a delicious sesame seed paste) is easily found in grocery stores and online, it’s a great recipe for home cooks to challenge themselves with, and it’s cheaper!

Falafel is high in protein and fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, as well as Vitamins B and C. If it’s fried in healthy oil (such olive or canola) you can limit the calories. Then it’s up to you how many toppings you add. A 3.5 ounce serving of deep-fried falafel – without pita or toppings – has approximately 330 calories. Not bad for street food!

Parsley is a key herb In the Middle East, used in a range of dishes, including tabbouleh and falafel.

DIPS AND MORE

Middle Eastern cuisine is well known for its plethora of flavorful dips and pastes. The lineup of delectable Middle Eastern spreads is long! Tahini, as mentioned earlier is a sesame paste that is used as a condiment and spread. Hummus, made of chickpeas is found on every table and lends an earthy creaminess to everything from pita wraps to chicken and salads. Muhammara is a spicy dip made of walnuts, red bell peppers, pomegranate molasses, and breadcrumbs. Then there is the beloved smoky-sweet baba ghanouj, made with eggplant and lemon. 

Parsley is a key herb In the Middle East, used in tabbouleh and falafel. Tabbouleh is a simple, yet delicious salad that consists of very finely chopped vegetables, lots of fresh parsley and bulgur wheat, all tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. All In all it is a refreshing and healthy option, as is much of Middle Eastern fare.