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How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?

posted on: Nov 22, 2017

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?

By: Kameron Dreher/Arab America Contributing Writer

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and if you are like me you cannot wait to indulge in roasted and fried turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato yams, and of course pumpkin pie. The significance of Thanksgiving is primarily focused on the importance of family and friends, but for some, a close contender is a food. Instead of bringing the same old side dish to your gathering check out these 8 traditional Thanksgiving dishes with Arab American twist!

1. Hashwa

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?

Photo: Courtesy Sitti’s Foods

Hashwa is the Arabic word for “stuffing.” This recipe is more than a century old, yet still very versatile for today’s palate.


  • 3/4 pounds lamb, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 3  cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • dash turmeric
  • 1 cup rice (like Jasmine or Basmati)
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4  cup each pine nuts, slivered almonds or a mixture of both

To make stuffing: Soak rice for about 30 minutes. This will make the rice fluffier.  In the meantime, brown the lamb in olive oil.  Add onion, garlic, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. Saute until lamb is browned.  Set aside. Now time to prepare the rice. Add the butter to a saucepan, and stir in rice, salt to taste, and a dash of turmeric.  Then add the chicken broth. Once the mixture starts boiling cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed by the rice. In a separate skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to nuts and sauté until golden brown.  To serve as a side dish, plate the rice, and top with the meat, then the nuts. To stuff, a bird, mix everything together so the flavors and textures are evenly distributed.

2. Falafel-Spiced Deviled Eggs

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?


For the Falafel Spice:

  • 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Deviled Eggs:

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons hummus
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Falafel Spice, for sprinkling
  • Torn mint, for sprinkling
  • Torn Italian parsley, for sprinkling

To make falafel- spiced deviled eggs: Start by making the Falafel Spice. Combine garlic, sumac, red pepper, coriander, cumin and kosher salt in a small bowl, stirring until evenly combined. Set aside. Cook breadcrumbs in olive oil in a medium skillet over heat until golden and crunchy (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Separate the egg yolks from egg whites. Place the yolks in a medium bowl, and the whites on a large plate. Add mayo, hummus and lemon juice to the bowl with the yolks. Using a fork, mash and mix to combine. You don’t want any big chunks of yolk remaining. Season to taste with kosher salt. To serve, spoon or pipe the yolk mixture into the well of each egg white. Top each egg with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and falafel spice (you’ll have leftovers of both). Finish with a sprinkling of torn mint and parsley.

3. Lubee

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?

Lebanese Green Beans (Lubee) are a warm, spiced green bean dish, combining tomatoes, green beans, cinnamon, and cumin.


  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. green beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To make lubee: Heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté for 2 minutes {if you are using meat, it can be added here and sautéed for an addition 4 minutes}. Add the green beans, cumin, cinnamon and diced tomatoes and mix together. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until green beans {and meat if using it} are tender, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste as well as salt and pepper. Serve warm over rice or quinoa with a side of pita.

4. Fareej ma’ Hashwa

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?

Roasted Cornish hens with lamb, pine nuts, and rice stuffing

Ingredients for stuffing:   

  • 1 1/2   pounds lamb, finely chopped  
  • 1/4   cup ( 1/2 stick) butter  
  • 1   onion, finely diced  
  • 2   cloves garlic, minced  
  • 1   teaspoon salt  
  • 1/2   teaspoon lemon pepper  
  • 1/2   teaspoon ground allspice  
  • 2   cups converted rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)  
  • 3   cups chicken broth  
  • 2   tablespoons olive oil  
  • 1   cup pine nuts, or slivered almonds or a mixture of both  

Ingredients for Cornish hens:  

  • 6   Cornish game hens  
  • 1   tablespoon salt, divided use  
  • 1   tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1   tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1   tablespoon ground allspice  
  •  Juice of 1 lemon  
  • 2   tablespoons olive oil  
  • 2   teaspoons paprika  

To make stuffing: In a large pot, brown lamb in butter. Add onion, garlic, salt, lemon pepper and allspice. Cover and cook until onions are soft. Add a little water if needed to prevent burning. Meantime, soak rice in hot water for 30 minutes. When meat is cooked, add chicken broth and heat until boiling. Strain rice from water, and add it to the boiling mixture. Taste for salt. Once the mixture starts boiling again, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed by the rice. In a separate skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to nuts and saute until golden brown. Reserve.

To make cornish hens: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash exterior and cavity of game hens. Pat dry with paper towel. Make a rub by mixing together 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon lemon pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon allspice. Sprinkle rub throughout cavities. Sprinkle juice of 1 lemon over hens. Brush hens with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Make a rub of 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons lemon pepper, 2 teaspoons allspice, 2 teaspoons garlic powder and 2 teaspoons paprika. Rub all sides of the hens with the mixture (there may be some left over). Roast hens, uncovered for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Baste hens with juices, then return to oven to bake for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting every 30 minutes.To serve, put stuffing on the bottom of a large serving platter. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Cut hens in half. Arrange hens on top of the rice stuffing, and serve.

5. Mudammas Potato

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?


Arabic mashed potato is silky and smooth one. It’s easy to make, and low in fat compared to traditional American mashed potato. It’s healthy and minimal.


  • 5 medium Potato pieces
  • A handful of Parsley
  • 2 Tb of plain yogurt
  • 2 Tb of Tahini
  • Juice of half lemon or more, if you desire
  • Few garlic pieces
  • 2 tsp of Salt
  • Olive Oil for drizzling

To make Mudammas Potatoes:

  • Crush the garlic pieces and put in a big bowl.
  • Chop the parsley very fine and add it to garlic.
  • Boil potato until it’s soft.
  • Drain the potato, and put it over the garlic, and parsley.
  • Add yogurt, tahini and start mashing with a fork.
  • Add salt and lemon juice.
  • Serve it hot or at room temperature.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers.

6. Saffron Roast Turkey

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?


  • 1 lemon
  • Good pinch of saffron strands
  • 3 large onions, 2 thinly sliced, 1 quartered
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 tbsp coriander seed, lightly crushed
  • 2 tsp cumin seed, lightly crushed
  • 140g dried cranberry
  • 100g pistachio, roughly chopped              
  • 100g couscous soaked in 300ml of cold water
  • 2 x 20g packs flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus generous sprigs to garnish
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 ½ – 6kg/10-12lb turkey, giblets removed
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Bay leaves to garnish
  • 2 x 450g packs good-quality pork sausage
  • 2 tbsp harissa paste
  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 600ml turkey or chicken stock
  • Redcurrant jelly, to taste (optional)

To make saffron roast turkey:

  • Peel the zest from the lemon, then cut into strips, finely chop and set aside. Now cut the lemon in two, squeeze its juice into a bowl with the saffron and mix together. Fry the sliced onions in the oil until soft and starting to color, then add the coriander, cumin, and lemon zest and cook for 1 min more. Remove from the heat, stir in the cranberries, nuts, couscous and chopped parsley, then season well. When cool, beat in the eggs.
  • 2. Wash and dry the turkey, removing any feathers with tweezers. Pull out the giblets and neck and discard, or use to make stock for the gravy. Lift up the skin that covers the neck opening, then push some stuffing into the cavity, packing it in well. Secure tightly underneath with a skewer or two cocktail sticks. Shape the rest of the stuffing firmly into balls and chill until ready to bake. Put the onion quarters in the turkey cavity with any leftover stalks from the parsley. Can chill at this stage up to 1 day ahead.
  • Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Weigh the stuffed turkey and calculate the cooking time, allowing 40 mins per kg (20 mins per lb). Put the turkey in a roasting tin. Mix the butter with the saffron mixture and brush generously onto the turkey. Pour 500ml water into the tin, then roast for 1 hr. Brush with the butter mixture again, then loosely cover with foil and roast until 15 mins before the time is up. Mix the honey into the remaining buttery mix, brush over the turkey and cook uncovered for 15 mins more until golden.
  • Pierce the turkey thigh through its thickest part – the juices should run clear. If not, return to the oven for another 20 mins and test again. Leave to rest on a platter, covered with a clean tea towel. Reserve the juices in the roasting tin to make the gravy.
  • Meanwhile, twist the sausages in half and snip to separate. Toss with the harissa, oil and onions in another roasting tin, then roast for 1 hr until golden. After 40 mins roasting, add the stuffing balls to the tin.
  • To make the gravy, drain the juices from the tin into a jug and skim off the excess oil. Put the roasting tin over heat, pour in the stock and loosen the savory bits on the base with a wooden spoon. Add any juices from the resting bird to the mixture along with the onions from the sausages, then simmer for about 10 mins. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth and thick. Taste and season, or add a little redcurrant jelly to sweeten, if you like.  
  • To serve, put the turkey on a platter and surround with the sausages and stuffing balls. Garnish with parsley sprigs and bay.

7. Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?

Mediterranean Herbs, like cilantro and mint, add a fresh note to this cranberry sauce. Pomegranate molasses lends a bit of sweetness—and an extra shot of color.


  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
  • 1/4 teaspoon (scant) dried basil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sliced fresh mint

To make cranberry sauce:

  • Stir sugar and wine in heavy deep medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil over medium-high heat until syrup is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 8 minutes.
  • Add cranberries; boil until berries begin to pop, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in pomegranate molasses and basil.
  • Cool completely. Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Stir in chopped cilantro and sliced mint.

8. Sweet Potato Kibbeh

How to Enjoy a Terrific Thanksgiving with an Arab American Twist?


  • 2.5lbs (or a little over 1kg) of sweet potatoes
  • 1¼ cups fine bulgur wheat
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil

To make Sweet Potato Kibbeh:

  • First you’ll want to cook the sweet potatoes. I prefer baking them, but you can also boil them. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the bulgur wheat by soaking it in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, then drain it in a sieve and let all excess water drip away.
  • Prepare your baking pan by adding 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and arranging the sliced onion pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mash the sweet potatoes with a masher or rice them with a potato ricer until smooth.
  • Combine them and the drained bulgur in a very large bowl with the grated onion, salt, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic, cilantro, and flour.
  • Combine everything thoroughly with a large spoon or spatula. Now plop large spoonfuls of this mixture evenly over the sliced onions in the pan. Use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the entire surface. You want an even level of this mixture.
  • Use a knife to score diamond shapes (or any pattern you like) into it, going almost all the way through.
  • Evenly pour the ¼ cup of olive oil over the entire surface of the kibbeh and swirl it around to coat. Bake for around 50 minutes or until it is golden brown. I like to bake it on a lower shelf in the oven. If after 50 minutes it doesn’t brown sufficiently, use the oven’s broiler function for a minute or two to brown it. (This is preferable to baking it longer and drying it out too much) Remove from oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to cool down slightly.
  • Now you can re-score any cuts that may have sealed over. Use a spatula to remove pieces of the kibbeh, making sure you scrape up the delicious caramelized onions on the bottom.