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Middle Eastern cuisine has been growing in popularity in the West for several years. The tastes, exotic flavors and ingredients are not so alien any longer, inspiring many people to attempt to make them at home. While recipes are easily come by, sometimes the ingredients are not. Additionally, some ingredients in the natural or raw state may be surprising in their texture, smell or appearance.
Understanding where to purchase ingredients and what to look for to ensure freshness and quality can make culinary cooking with Middle Eastern foods easier than ever before.
Ingredients of Middle Eastern Cuisine
So many of the ingredients used in cooking Middle Eastern foods, are those that were easy to cultivate, available year round and inexpensive to produce. This does not always mean that they are easy to acquire in the West.
While some ingredients, like tahini, are available at local grocery stores (normally located near gourmet cheeses) some ingredients may be easier to find in nature, or to produce at home.
If roses are readily available, it is possible to make rose water cheaply and easily at home.
Ingredients and Utensils
- Fresh Rose Petals
- Large Stock Pot
- Bowl – large enough to sit in the bottom of the stock pot and rise above the water when filled at least 3 cups deep
- Minimum of 3 Cups of Distilled Water
- Lid for Pot
- Fill the bottom of the stock pot with the water and rose petals
- Place the bowl in the bottom of the pot, ensuring it rises above the level of the water
- Place the lid on the pot, inverted so it forms a dish
- Bring the water to a boil and fill the lid with ice cubes
- Allow the water to boil until gone – the ice will condense the water vapor and drip the distilled rose water into the bowl
- Orange Water can be made the same way, substituting orange peels for the rose petals.
Stuffed grape leaves can be purchased readymade at most grocery stores. Ready to stuff grape leaves are also available, precooked and ready to roll. If there are grape vines and leaves nearby, it is simple, and much more flavorful to make the leaves at home.
- Select dark green leaves, 5 – 6-inches across in width. Check to make sure they are free of blemishes, holes or decay.
- Wash the leaves well in cold water and pat dry.
- Bring a pan of water to boil on the stove and carefully lower the leaves into the pot.
- Boil for one minute until the leaves are soft and blanched.
- Remove them from the water and spread them out on a paper towel until ready to fill.
While tahini can be purchased in cans, readily flavored with chocolate and vanilla, tahini can also be made quickly at home.
- Toast fresh sesame seeds in an oven heated to 350-degrees for ten minutes, or just before they brown.
- Place the toasted seeds in a food processor with 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse until smooth. (Here’s some olive oil dispensers you may like)
- Flavor with vanilla beans, dark chocolate or leave plain.
Making Middle Eastern foods at home can seem challenging or odd at first, but with time will become second nature. Give a try to cooking any Middle Eastern foods using the freshest ingredients available and add some culinary cooking from the Middle East to the family diet.
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!