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
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
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.