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Middle Eastern Breakfast: Mouth-Watering and Tasty

posted on: Feb 19, 2020

Middle Eastern Breakfast: Mouth-Watering and Tasty

By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer

I enjoyed what was to me, the `mother of all Arab breakfasts’ during my first trip in the early 1960s to Damascus, Syria’s capital.  In my many ensuing trips to the Middle East, I was to relish many similar breakfasts. However, I have never forgotten that first early morning meal in the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city.

After a comfortable night’s sleep in one of the modest hotels in the heart of that bustling city, I awoke famished.  Soon downstairs in the hotel’s restaurant, I was relishing the top morning dishes, eaten for thousands of years in that part of the world.

From among these were: hot Arabic bread,  Za’tar (thyme seasoning), baba ghannooj (eggplant purée), and piping hot manakeesh (both cheese and thyme pies) as well as a half a dozen other dishes.  As I gazed at the goodies before me, I thought to myself “It’s a royal morning spread.”

These two dishes that I relished during my Damascus trip form the core of the foods often served as part of a Middle East breakfast.

Eggplant Purée – Baba Ghannooj

Middle Eastern Breakfast: Mouth-Watering and Tasty

1 large eggplant, about 2 pounds punctured with a fork about half a dozen times

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 small tomato, finely chopped

extra olive oil

pomegranate seeds (optional)

Place eggplant in a pan; then bake in a 375°F oven, turning frequently for 1 hour or until the skin is crisp and the pulp turns tender.  Allow to cool, and then remove and discard skin. Mash the pulp well in a mixing bowl then set aside.

Place remaining ingredients, except the parsley, tomato, and extra olive oil,  in a small food processor and process for a few moments then stir into the eggplant.  Spread on a platter then garnish with the parsley and tomato. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and pomegranate seeds then serve.

Cheese Pies – Manaqeesh bi Jiben (cheese)

 Makes 12 pies 

Middle Eastern Breakfast: Mouth-Watering and Tasty

Served hot out of the oven, they are at their best.

1 1/2 pounds frozen or homemade dough

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons marjoram

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 medium onion, grated

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups crumbled feta cheese

Prepare the dough then set aside.

In the meantime, combine remaining ingredients then set aside.

Form dough into 12 balls then, place them on a floured tray.  Cover with a cloth then keep in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Roll balls into 1/8-inch thick rounds then place on well greased cookie tray. With tips of fingers flatten inside of rounds, leaving the edges at a little higher level.

Just before continuing, again thoroughly mix remaining ingredients then spread mixture evenly over flattened inside of rounds.  Bake in a to 350° F preheated oven for 20 minutes or until edges of rounds turn light brown.

Serve immediately.