The state of Palestine is not recognized world wide, but is found in the middle east bordering Israel and Jordan. Over time the size of this region has shrunk to a fraction of what it once due to results of wars, some conflicts are still ongoing. Palestine is known for several of the holiest sights and has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It is also home to the world’s oldest olive tree believed to be 4,000 years old.
Palestine is full of beloved traditional foods that spans maqlouba and knafeh to better known middle eastern delights like falafel and hummus. The cuisine can differ based on climate and region. The West Bank is known for taboon bread, lentils, and seafood; Gaza has more variable spices and enjoy chili peppers. For something sweet Palestinians turn to pastries filled with nuts, cheeses, or dates.
Today’s dish musakhan also known as muhammam is a Palestinian classic. Musakhan translates to “heated up” in Arabic and is accurately named because all the ingredients are heated up separately. This national dish is one of few ingredients yet still brings a burst of flavor and it has a standout flavor- sumac! I had never tried it before and was glad to check a new flavor off the list. It is said the darker the sumac the higher the quality. All of these ingredients are commonly found in the Palestine kitchen. It can be served with yogurt or soup, but often is eaten alone.
Oh my goodness, my poor eyes! Cutting all those onions made me run to the tissues! Unfortunately my local grocery store was out of pine nuts, but I could secure the rest of the ingredients. The taboon bread was substituted with flatbread which is pretty similar. Once I added the sumac to the onions this wonderful lemon aroma filled the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised!
This dish went two ways for us- I loved the vibrant, citrus notes of sumac with the sweet onions. The seasoning was warming and the flatbread was a nice vessel for the combination. If you’ve never tried sumac before you will like it if you enjoy lemon or citrus flavors, however Ian thought it was too much of a good thing. He felt the sumac was too strong and the dish was too different. I feel with some other vegetables added to the mix and slightly less sumac we could bump the rating higher. Maybe the pine nuts would have made a difference! Averaging it out we rated this one 7/10.
Let us know if you try it out or if you are a sumac lover too!
This Palestinian classic is so beloved it is considered their national dish. Full of spice and tanginess you can enjoy this dish with a side of thick yogurt, salad, soup, or as is!
1chicken cut into 4-6 pieces or 4-6 chicken thighs bone-in
2cupsextra virgin olive oil
2medium sized taboon breador flatbread
1/3cupsumac + 1 tbspthe darker the color the better
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepperto taste
pine nutsto garnish (optional)
First prepare the chicken. Preheat the oven to 375 and place chicken in a lined baking dish. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and rub the chicken evenly with the seasonings (except the sumac). Place in the oven and allow to cook 40-50 minutes or until fully cooked. I typically turn the pan half way through since my oven isn't convection.
In a large pot heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and allow to sauté for 30-40 minutes until softened, but not browned. By adding a little salt to begin with it will help with browning. Once onions are done you can add the sumac saving the last tbsp for garnish.
To assemble add the chicken to the oil/onion mixture allowing it to pick up the flavors, lay the onions evenly on the flat bread then top with the chicken. Evenly distribute the last tbsp of sumac over the dish and garnish with pine nuts if using. Optionally you can place the flat bread into the oven at 350 with the toppings and allow to crispen for 10 minutes or so. Enjoy!
Israel, apart of the Middle East is a country known for its religions and sacred Jerusalem. Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel is the only country to have revived a “dead” language and has made it their national language. This language is Hebrew. The Dead Sea, which borders Jordan and Israel, is the lowest point on Earth, nearly 420 m or 1377 ft below sea level and is 10x saltier which means there is no marine life hence “dead” sea.
The cuisine of Israel is a blend of Jewish, Middle Eastern, Arab, and Mediterranean cuisines. Like many other countries, the cuisine can differ depending on what region you are in. Holidays and celebrations of the Jewish and Arab cultures also have their special dishes for the occasion. It is said a meal without a salad is not a meal at all in Israel (oops I dropped the ball!). Common foods you can find throughout Israeli cuisine include chickpeas, couscous, fish, fresh vegetables, pita bread, and chicken to name a few components. Israel is thought to be a melting pot of cultures which brings a vast variety of foods and an ever growing cuisine!
For Israel I decided to attempt the beloved falafel, up until now I had never tried it before! Falafel is an unofficial national dish of Israel due to being the most popular street food, however it is also considered a national dish in several of the surrounding countries. Some believe that it was first created in Egypt over 1,000 years ago and brought to the Middle East and others claim India was the inventor of falafel 1,400 years ago. There is also talk that Egypt create falafel more recently in the late 19th century and originally was made using fava beans instead of chickpeas.
I didn’t cut any corners here, except for the use of my air fryer of course! I allowed my chickpeas to soak as the recipe warned it wouldn’t work otherwise. I followed the recipe but had difficulty getting them to stay in perfect ball shape. A lot of them would crumble with any pressure. This recipe also is VERY time consuming, just prepare ahead! Shaping every ball alone is time consuming. The recipe recommends frying in a pan which would allow more to cook at once but the air fryer decreased the grease. This could have lead to the falafel being on the dry side.
This meal had good flavors with roasted garlic being a highlight on our palettes. Hummus was key to balance the dryness of the dish and the fresh vegetables brought a refreshing crunch and more moisture to the meal. This was my first attempt at falafel and I think it was a decent go at it. We rated it 7.5/10.
Doesn’t Buddas of Bamiyan look like something out of Star Wars? Welcome to Afghanistan, a landlocked country situated between Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. It holds the title for the most flag changes out of any other country- a total of 26! This country is known for its extreme weather due to its large range of elevation of 23,734ft between its highest and lowest points and contrasting arid and mountainous terrains. The world’s oldest oil paintings have been found in Afghanistan and date back to 650 BC. Lastly did you know Afghans have been asking for their national game buzkashi or goat grabbing to become an Olympic sport? Wouldn’t that be interesting..
The cuisine of Afghanistan has influence from India, Persia, and Central Asia. Rice using usually found at the base of every meal accompanied by meat (lamb and chicken mostly), nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Tea like in many countries is a sign of hospitality and often shared between family and friends. The recipe I decided to make is called Kabuli Palau, also known as Qabili Palau which is Afghanistan’s national dish! This decadent dish was first made by the upper class Afghans, but over time as society became wealthier the dish was made all over the country despite status. The name then changed from Kabuli Palau to Qabili Palau. Its said that the ability of a Afghan woman to make this dish will effect her marriage prospects (dramatic eye roll)..
To help myself out I decided to cook the carrot, raisin, and almonds the night before so that I wasn’t so crunched on time during the week. The recipe was easy to follow and used basic cooking techniques. The chicken smelled so lovely while it cooked!
What a beautiful dish! I knew from the get go it was going to be delicious. The warmth from the seasoning for the rice and meat is well balanced with the caramelized carrots, almonds, and raisins. Overall it left me feeling completely satisfied! We have already made this meal again since it was originally made, it is now part of my repertoire. We rated it 8.75/10.
Afghan Kabuli Palau
This savory meal has layers of flavor including tender chicken, well seasoned rice, and a caramelized carrot, almond, and raisin topping. This meal is one of our favorites
Heat 4 tbsp oil in dutch oven/large pot on medium heat and cook onions until golden. Then add garlic cooking for 3 minutes or until fragrant.
Add the chicken to the onions and garlic allowing chicken to brown on all sides. While chicken is cooking add all the spices and salt and pepper.
Once chicken is browned add 1 1/2 cups water and cover. Allow chicken to cook for one hour at a simmer.
While the chicken is cooking prep your carrots and almonds. Heat pan at medium heat and toast almonds. Once slightly colored remove from pan. Fill pot with water and add 1 tbsp salt, get this boiling for the rice.
With the pan still at medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil the carrots sautéing until they are slightly colored. Next add the raisins and cook until raisins "plump up." Add the sugar to the pan and mix raisins and carrots together. Once everything is caramelized return this mixture to the almonds and set aside.
Once your water is boiling add the rice and cook about 6 minutes or until rice starts to soften (YOU DON'T WANT TO FULLY COOK RICE). Drain the water from rice.
When the chicken is finished remove from pot and reserve 1/2 cup of broth. Add rice to remaining broth and layer chicken in the rice making a few "holes" in the rice to allow steam through. Pour the reserved broth on top. Place pilaf mixture of carrots, raisins, and almonds in tin foil pouch and place on top of rice/chicken.
Allow rice to cook fully at medium heat with pot covered. Once rice is done it is time to assemble the meal! Layer chicken with rice then pilaf mix. Enjoy!
Hey everyone, we are in Turkey today! Turkey is a Middle Eastern country southeast of Europe and west of Asia.It is bordered by three seas- the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. It exports 75% of the world’s hazelnuts and is the birthplace of Santa Claus! Above is a picture of Cappadocia, Turkey a truly unique place of unworldly land formations of rock that can shoot over 100ft into the sky. Many of these house-like formations are known as fairy houses.
Turkish cuisine has Ottoman roots and can vary based on the location. It is thought to be a blend of Balkian, Central Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Armenian, and Mediterranean cooking styles and flavors. Vegetables often dominant their dishes.
This dish is traditionally made with eggplant, however this blog uses a zucchini and summer squash combo. I was happy to find another recipe that has been made throughout several generations knowing it was authentic as well as a “keeper.” This dish is full of cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, and squash mostly and is baked until the top layer has become crispy and golden brown.
One thing to note is that you should squeeze out as much liquid as possible prior to combining the ingredients. I had squeeze mine out several times, but noticed it was a little more liquidy than I was have liked. Nevertheless I had made a little cheesy pie/quiche.
I feel my downfall here was too much liquid from the squash which made the texture all wrong. The flavor of the dish was pretty good but unfortunately it was a little bit on the blander side. If I maybe cooked it longer (glass container may have also affected the cooking time) and/or drained more liquid from the squash I would have been successful. We rated it 6/10. I will strive to repeat this dish sometime in the future or try another Turkish dish, let me know what you think I should try!
Growing up in the United States, discussions of Iraq were often about war and conflict. Despite the media’s portrayal, we know this country is full of amazing, kind people and has a very rich history.
Iraq has two major rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. Seated between these rivers is part of the region known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is considered by many as the birthplace of modern civilization and is home to the world’s earliest known forms of writing, mathematics, and the wheel.
Masgouf is Iraq’s national dish. This dish typically involves a large carp fish covered in curry and a well-spiced tomato-based sauce which is traditionally cooked over an open fire. The recipe we used is here. In this recipe, she also recommends baking and finishing with the broil setting which is what I did.
Rub the fish with curry and salt and then begin to prepare the sauce.
Prepare your ingredients and begin by sautéing onion and garlic briefly first.
Add the chopped tomato, parsley, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, water, salt, curry, and cayenne pepper mixing well. Occasionally stir the sauce while it simmers for 5 minutes. Since I didn’t prepare this over an open fire, I added some liquid smoke to bring some of that element into the dish.
Cover the fish with your sauce and top that with slices of tomato and onion. Bake this in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375-degrees. Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-5 minutes to add a char to the dish.
Finally, serve with your favorite rice! The sauce for this dish was delicious and the addition of liquid smoke helped give this dish the authentic flavor. We felt however the dish was missing something.. Final score: 7.5/10. This sauce would pair well with any meat!
Welcome to our 11th week of traveling by taste bud! Today we travel to Azerbaijan “the land of fire.” I had never heard of this country until last week! This region of the Middle East has it all- the dramatic mountains, mud volcanos, and beautiful beaches on the Caspian Sea. It has bustling cities and quaint villages up in the clouds. It is even home to a city that is completely supported by stilts!
Today I will be making a dish that pertains to a special group of individuals that live high up in the mountains in a town called Gyrmyzy Gasaba. “The Mountain Jews” are the world’s last surviving pre-Holocaust Jewish village also known as shtetl and see themselves as a separate Jewish ethnic group.
This khoyagusht recipe is one a blogger was able to write down when visiting this community. She was fortunate enough to experience authentic Mountain Jew cooking in action! Khoyagusht is a dish that is made up of chestnuts, meat, and egg. Other elements such as onions and potatoes might be added. Spices such as turmeric and paprika give a flavorful kick to this omelet dish.
I was skeptical at first when I tried a chestnut for the first time and was thrown off by its texture, but alas the finished meal proved me wrong. The chestnuts brought a nice sweetness to the dish which was well paired with the spices and onion. The chicken and its’ broth brought a familiarity to the plate. All in all it was a pleasant surprise.
We rated this dish 6.25/10 making it just above average ranking. These dishes have been becoming more of a challenge to rate as they are starting to blur together! Next we will go to Europe to visit Bulgaria!
Greetings from Oman! This old country (one of the oldest inhabited countries in the world dating back over 106,000 years) is home to some of the best ship builders of the world. Oman is also known as one of the more elite Arabian horse breeders. Port Sultan Qaboos (pictured above) is the largest port of Muscat and is the main connection between India and the Far East to Oman.
To celebrate one of Oman’s delicacies I made omani shuwa which is a slow cooked lamb dish. As stated in a previous post we are not huge lamb eaters, but I was able to substitute short ribs for lamb shanks. Traditionally, this special occasion meal takes days to prepare. The first day it marinates in Omani spices, then it is wrapped in palm or banana leaves and is places in a sand oven underground slowly cooking for 1-2 days! I was able to follow this recipe for a modified version.
I ended up letting the meat marinade two days and cut slashes in the meat as recommended to allow the flavor to absorb into the meat. Then I slow cooked the ribs in my crockpot for 3ish hours with 1 cup of water and a little extra lime juice. Above is the end result served aside a bed of spinach, turnip fries with middle eastern inspired seasoning, and red peppers for garnish. The meat was so delicious and we loved the punchiness of the lime with the dynamic garlic and ginger duo. Personally we felt the meat choice was a little too fatty, but we would definitely use this marinade and slow cooking method for other cuts of beef or even chicken. We rated this dish 7/10!
Next week we will arrive in Romania for a totally new dish unlike anything I’ve ever had before! Talk to you soon!