Middle Eastern cuisine is richly flavored, regionally nuanced, delicious food that showcases classical ingredients. Exploring the world of cooking can be just as exciting as traveling there, expanding your palate without the cost of travel tickets. Food is central to our festivities, and so is it central to global festivals. Specific traditional dishes have become part of Middle Eastern holiday celebrations, such as Christmas.
Today, we'd love to share some Middle Eastern Christmas recipes to try at your table this year. We think you and your family will love them!
War'a Dawali – Stuffed Grape Leaves
- 26 grape leaves, fresh, frozen, or preserved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ pound raw minced lamb or beef
- 1 and ½ cups long-grain rice or basmati
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 1 tablespoon mint
- 1 tablespoon of basil
- ½ cup pine nuts, raw (optional)
- 8 cups vegetable broth divided
How to Make:
- If grape leaves are preserved, remove them from the jar. Whether fresh or frozen, gently rinse them thoroughly under cold water to prevent tearing. Pat them dry and place them on a cutting board or a flat surface.
- If there are any stems, remove them with a small, sharp knife.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, and basil. Cook until onions are soft and fragrant, roughly 6 minutes.
- Add the rice and pine nuts* (*optional) and saute, often stirring, for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add 4 cups of vegetable broth, and bring to a low boil. Turn down the heat once it boils to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender.
- Once the rice is cooked, set aside.
- Over medium-high heat, add minced beef or lamb, crumbling while you cook in a cast iron frying pan. Cook approximately 6-8 minutes or until no pink bits remain in the beef or lamb.
- Place the cooked meat and rice in the center of the grape leaf. Grab the lower two parts of the leaf, grab the sides, and then roll as tightly as possible upward to make it hold its shape.
- Place the rolled grape leaf with stuffing, seam side down, in a large pot big enough to lay the rolled grape leaves in a single layer.
- Continue repeating step 8 until all grape leaves are rolled and in the pot.
- Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Pour the remaining 4 cups of vegetable broth over the grape leaves to cover.
- Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 hour, careful not to boil. Add water as needed if the liquid uncovers grape leaves.
- After 1 hour, remove the pan from heat, uncover, and let cool for 20-30 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and serve cold or at room temperature.
Fattoush salad is your quintessential salad in Lebanese restaurants and the Middle East. It's a bright, fresh dish, made with seasonal vegetables and topped with fried pita bread.
- 1 large head of romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 large vine-ripe tomato, diced
- 2-3 Persian cucumbers quartered
- ½ large green pepper, chopped
- 5 radishes, diced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
- ½ teaspoon dried mint
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Fried Pita Bread:
- 1 large double-ply pita bread cut into triangles
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
How to Make:
- For the dressing, wisk together the lemon juice, garlic, sumac, pomegranate molasses, dried mint, salt, and pepper. Slowly stream the olive oil, whisking until it is emulsified and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add the pita bread triangles and season with salt and pepper. Cook, often stirring, until the pita bread turns golden in color, about 5-7 minutes, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, place the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, green onions, and parsley in a large serving bowl. Pour the dressing and toss to combine.
- Add the fried pita bread to the salad before serving, and enjoy!
Riz bi Haleeb
Creamy, orange blossom, and rose water-flavored rice pudding, a dreamy, delicious dessert.
- ½ cup short grain rice or jasmine rice
- 1 cup water
- 5 cups milk, whole, low-fat, or plant-based, with ¼ cup reserved
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
How to Make:
- Add unwashed rice to a medium-sized pot with one cup of water over medium-low heat. Cook until the water is gone, about 5-7 minutes, frequently stirring to avoid rice burning or sticking.
- Add the milk, except for the 1/4th cup set aside, and sugar to the pot, mixing well. Keep cooking over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and soft. Stir to prevent sticking.
- Add cornstarch to the ¼ cup of milk you reserved and mix to combine well. Add the cornstarch slurry to the pot and keep stirring until the mix thickens for about five more minutes.
- Add the rose water and orange blossom water and mix well. Transfer the mix to 4 or 5 small bowls and allow to cool to room temperature before storing them in the refrigerator.
- Once cold, eat as is or add toppings such as crushed pistachios or shredded coconut.
While the Christmas menu varies widely across the Middle East, with ingredients and preparations unique to the families that make them, these are just a few of the Christmas dinners you'll find on the menu throughout the Middle East. We encourage you to explore the world at your own kitchen table, one delicious bite at a time.
At Wholey, we love what we do! From inspiring new meal ideas to delivering the freshest ingredients to your door. Make your next meal something you, your family, friends, and guests will talk about for days after with our help!