This month in America is Arab-American Heritage Month, where Arab-Americans and their contributions to society are celebrated. The Arab world consists of twenty-two countries including some in North Africa. You can find a full list here.
To celebrate Arab-American Heritage month today, I want to share a little about my family’s history. My great-grandparents came to America from Syria and Lebanon in the early half of the twentieth century before eventually having eight children together. One of those children would become my grandfather we called Jido. Jido, and his wife whom we called Teta, passed their love of Lebanese food down to each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. From kibbeh, to grape leaves, to hushweh (Lebanese meat and rice), they ensured that Lebanese food was passed down to the younger generation to enjoy.
Growing up, some of my favorite family memories are attending our monthly birthday celebrations. Because my family was so large, there were always numerous birthdays each month, so we combined them into one big celebration once a month. During these parties, Teta, Jido, aunts, uncles, and cousins all came together to celebrate the honorary guests and eat all sorts of amazing Lebanese food. In honor of Arab-American Heritage Month, I wanted to share some of my personal favorite Middle Eastern foods with you.
Seasoned beef and rice wrapped in a grape leaf. This dish is characterized by its sour taste and tender filling. Grape leaves are named after the grape leaves that grow on vines and are picked to hold the meat and rice. Some countries simply fill the leaves with rice and call it dolma. This is my absolute favorite Lebanese food.
This salad is made with bulgur, mint, parsley, tomatoes, and diced cucumber with an olive oil and lemon dressing. This fresh salad can be served as a side dish or appetizer.
One of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes, hummus is made of pureed chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon. Can be served with pita bread or pita chips. Sometimes garnished with pine nuts or paprika and served with bread.
A crispy on the outside, soft on the inside ball of ground chickpeas seasoned with an assortment of spices. Falafel can be fried or baked but is traditionally eaten in a pita bread sandwich and topped with tahini or hummus. Can be eaten with a pickled turnip, also known as the pickle of the middle east.
Seasoned lamb combined with chopped onion and parsley. Usually rolled into balls or made into kofta kebabs. My family enjoys making them into patties and eating them with toum and Lebanese rice.
Couscous is a rice-like pasta made from semolina and wheat flour from the durum plant. Traditionally, it is steamed three times before serving. Couscous is known for its versatility, as it can be eaten in a variety of different ways. In some countries, couscous is eaten with the hands.
Pistachio Baklava (Baklawa)
Ground pistachios sandwiched between layers of phyllo dough, covered in a simple syrup. Usually served as a dessert cut into diamonds or squares, but in some places, are rolled into finger-shaped rolls and called baklava fingers. In certain Arab countries, baklava is made with other nuts such as cashews or walnuts.
Thank you for reading about some of my favorite Middle Eastern foods! I hope you enjoyed and that you get the chance to taste some of these if you haven’t already. I encourage you this month to learn more about Arab cultures, foods, and traditions and the amazing Arab men and women both in and outside of America.