Middle Eastern Food:

The Food of the Middle East

Middle eastern cuisine is a broad term that encompasses a range of cooking styles from a number of different countries. Arabian, Syrian, Moroccan, Greek -- the various cuisines of the middle east share a great deal -- and have many differences.

The food of the Middle East is a celebration of life. No matter the country, the staples are fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in the hills. The spices and flavors of Middle Eastern food awaken the senses, sparkling against the thicker, richer tastes of the main ingredients. Mints, lemon, garlic, rosemary -- all have a fresh, astringent, refreshing quality. Throughout the region, the cuisine varies, but these things remain the same: fresh ingredients, astringent and piquant spices, olive oil, and only a little meat.

Syrian
If Syria had contributed nothing else to world cuisine but pita bread and hummus, it would still be worthy of note. But there's far more to the cuisine of this small Middle Eastern country, though. Baba ganoush (pureed eggplant), stuffed olives and figs, peppers in olive oil -- Syrian food celebrates the fruits of the earth and blends them to bring out the textures and flavors in surprising ways. Shish kebab and rice pilaf are two of the more well-known dishes, and while most people think of Greece when they hear baklava, Syrians claim it is based on their own dessert of batwala.

Lebanese
The tiny country -- about the size of Connecticut -- is nestled into the shores of the Mediterranean Sea at the very crook of the fertile crescent of old. Its contributions to the cuisine of the entire Middle Eastern region of the world are unmistakable. The flavors that spice the foods of all the surrounding lands can be found here in abundance -- olive oil, lemon, garlic, and mint. Lebanese cuisine features such staples as kibbeh (ground lamb with bulghur wheat) and tabouleh (parsley, mint and bulghur wheat salad). The food is simply prepared, with the flavors blending together into a complex medley of earthy, fruity tastes and scents.

Arabian
The Bedouin people of the desert once based their diets on dates and yoghurt with the occasional camel or goat to provide meat. Over the centuries, the nomadic tribes fused spices, meats, and vegetables from other cultures into their cuisine. Today's Arabian cuisine is a mingling of influences from India, Lebanon, and nations further west. Lamb is the meat most often used in cooking, prepared in a number of ways including shish kebab, spit-roasted, or stewed. The cuisine relies heavily on mint, turmeric, saffron, garlic, and sesame. Rice and kasha are the most frequently consumed grains, and the spicing is fresh and astringent.

Throughout the Mediterranean Middle East, the cultures and people have intermingled and carried with them their foods and traditions of eating. No other place in the world is there such a blending of cultures that has mingled so much, yet maintained their distinct, national flavors. Healthy, fresh, and delicious, it's little wonder that the cuisine of the Middle East is so popular with diners all over the world.





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