Arabic dishes are flavorful and decadent, and feature a number of spicy, sweet and savory flavors. The dishes also contain several health benefits, which makes the food both delicious and nutritious. If you’re interested in learning how to make Arabic food, here are a few easy dishes that will build up your confidence as you perfect the art of preparing Middle Eastern cuisine.
1. Chicken Kabobs (Shish Taouk)
These kabobs are easy to prepare and make a great entree or appetizer when entertaining guests. To make the dish even simpler, you can ask your butcher to cut the chicken into cubes so you’ll be ready to marinate the meat immediately. To prepare the chicken marinade, you’ll need:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon pepper
The chicken should marinate for at least two hours, but you can also marinate it overnight for a more flavorful dish. Take the chicken from the marinade and place the meat on skewers (about five pieces on each skewer). Grill the chicken on each side for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. You can also add vegetables such as onions and bell peppers to the skewers and serve with rice for a complete meal.
This spiced ground beef dish is a Middle Eastern alternative to meatloaf. This dish is also cooked on a skewer, but is usually removed from the skewer and placed on a bed of rice before serving. Since kofta requires finely ground beef, you may need to ask your butcher to run the meat through the grinder an extra time or two before taking it home to cook. To make this dish, you’ll need:
- 3 pounds of finely ground beef
- 1 large onion
- 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Combine the parsley and onion in the food processor, then add the mixture to the ground beef. Add salt and pepper. Form the meat into balls and place about five balls onto a skewer. Once the meat is on the skewer, form the meat into a cigar shape so that it will cook evenly. Bake the kofta for about 30 minutes, or grill it for around 25 minutes. This dish is delicious served with white rice.
3. Butter Cookies (Ghoraibi)
These cookies are delicious and make a great edible gift for family and friends. The dough also freezes well, so you can save it for weeks at a time and make this sweet treat whenever you like. To make ghoraibi, you’ll need:
- 2 cups of softened butter
- 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 cups of blanched almond halves
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter for about five minutes, then add the confectioner’s and white sugar. Add the almond extract, and add the flour in a little at a time.
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or up to an hour. Flour a flat surface and roll the cookie dough out. Roll the dough into a rope shape that is about 1.5 inches thick. Cut the rope in diagonal shapes and placed the cookies on an un-greased cookie sheet. Press an almond into the center of each cookie. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes and place them on a rack to cool.
If you’ve been to a Middle Eastern restaurant, you’ve likely had pita bread with your meal. This Arabic staple is also easy to make at home. Pita is traditionally made in a brick oven, since these ovens cook food at very high temperatures. However, if your oven is at the right setting, you can make a delicious pita that your family will love. For this recipe, you’ll need:
- 1 package of yeast (regular or quick rising)
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 cup tepid water
Pour the yeast into 1/2 cup of warm water and allow it to dissolve. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, or until it is frothy.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour and salt. Make a small well in the flour mixture and pour the yeast mixture in. Slowly add the cup of warm water and stir the dough until it becomes elastic. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, or until it is elastic and smooth.
Coat a bowl in vegetable oil and place the dough in a bowl. Turn the dough around in a bowl to ensure that it is completely covered in oil. Place the bowl in a warm spot for about three hours, or until the dough rises to double its original size.
Roll the dough out in a roll and pinch off about 12 small pieces. Place the balls on a floured surface and let the dough sit covered for about 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and make sure there is a rack at the very bottom of the oven. Preheat the baking sheet as well to ensure the pitas have the right consistency. Roll out each piece of dough into a circle.
Bake the pitas for about 4 minutes or until the dough puffs up. Turn the pitas over and bake them for two additional minutes. Use a spatula to gently flatten the puffiness in the middle of the pita and place the bread in a storage bag immediately. The pitas can be used to soak up sauces from meats and vegetables, or you can add the protein or vegetable of your choice inside of the pita to create a sandwich.
These are just some of the delicious and simple Arabic foods you can create. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll likely make these recipes often and be motivated to learn even more about Middle Eastern food.