I tasted hummus for the first time when I moved to Los Angeles and began frequenting a local Middle Eastern restaurant known for huge rounds of pita bread, heaping platters of salad, and the three rambunctious brothers who owned the establishment. I’ve been hooked ever since.

2 15-oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbs. tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

Place first five ingredients in a food processor and combine. Add olive oil while mixing until a smooth paste is achieved. Add salt to taste. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and serve as a dip for raw vegetables or with wedges of pita bread.


Haroset is a Passover tradition with many regional variations around the world. Rabbis originally created the sweet, fruity, and flavorful dish to counter the bitter herbs used in the Passover Seder. Haroset is a delightful addition to your Passover table.

3 sweet apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 to 3 Tbs. sweet red Passover wine (or more, if necessary)

Place chopped apples in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add chopped cherries, walnuts, zest, sugar, and cinnamon. Moisten with wine to make a thick paste. Adjust seasonings to your liking.

baba ghanouj

When eggplant is in season and plentiful, we stock up and make huge batches of this Middle Eastern classic. You know, even people who think they don’t like eggplant like baba ghanouj.

2 medium to large eggplants
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbs. tahini
3 Tbs. lemon juice
Salt to taste
Olive oil
Parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Slice eggplants in half lengthwise. Pierce each half several times with a fork and place on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Bake eggplant halves until tender. Cool.

2. Peel eggplant and mash in a colander; drain juices.

3. Combine first five ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth (if you don’t have a food processor, stir ingredients together in a large bowl, mashing eggplant as you work). Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with parsley sprigs or chopped parsley, and serve with pita bread.

tahini sauce

Tahini makes a terrific topper for falafel sandwiches.

1 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with paprika for a colorful garnish. Drizzle over falafel and other pita fillings.

brown rice pilaf

Sue and I were curious as to where rice pilaf originated, and a quick Web search revealed a long, complex history for this dish. (The short answer: the Middle East and Central and South Asia.) Prepare our brown rice pilaf with pine nuts (and a creamy sauce) and think about how many people before you have enjoyed a similar dish throughout history.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 cup brown rice
1 14-oz. can vegetable broth plus water to equal 2 cups
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until onion is golden (about 5 minutes). Add rice and sautè for 1 minute.

2. Add broth, water, wine, mushrooms, thyme, and salt. Simmer until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed (about 50-55 minutes). Check rice occasionally and add water if necessary.

3. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix in pine nuts immediately before serving.

vegan moussaka II

vegan moussaka

vegan moussaka II

There are as many versions of moussaka recipes as there are vegetables to add to this hearty dish (see another version here). Some versions of this dish are made with potatoes instead of eggplant, and some add zucchini. In England, sometimes a layer of mashed potatoes is used on top instead of cheese. This vegan version is filling and delicious, especially when served with a chunk of crusty bread. It’s great for an early fall supper when the nights start getting cooler.

1/2 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
1 large eggplant
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 14-oz can garbanzo beans
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated non-dairy cheese (optional)
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

1. Place lentils, stock, and bay leaf in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. While lentils are cooking, oil an 8″ x 8″ baking pan; set aside. Drain lentils and set aside.

2. Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil in a large saucepan. Slice the eggplant into 3/8-inch slices. Cook the slices until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Set slices aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. In the same saucepan, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add onion and garlic, and sautè for about 5 minutes. Add lentils, mushrooms, garbanzos, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1/4 cup water. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.

4. Place half of the eggplant slices in the baking dish. Spoon half the lentil mixture over the slices. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices and lentil mixture. Bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted and dish is bubbling. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Variation: If you’re not a fan of non-dairy cheese, try the English version of moussaka and add a top layer of mashed potatoes before popping in the oven.

tabbouli salad

Tabbouli, tabbuli, tabouleh: how many ways can you spell the name of this crunchy, nutritious salad? It’s a refreshing yet filling dish that’s especially good in the summer.

Tabbouli salad’s main ingredient is bulgur (cracked) wheat. To prepare bulgur wheat for the salad, measure 1 cup bulgur into a bowl, and then pour 1 cup warm water over it and let stand for 30 minutes. Yields 2 cups.

2 cups presoaked bulgur
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup green onions, chopped
2 cups fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt to taste (try 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Mix first seven ingredients together (bulgur through salt), and then add fresh lemon juice. Stir to combine.

2. Refrigerate ingredients for about an hour. When ready to serve, add olive oil and black pepper. Mix well.

Notes: Fresh ingredients are absolutely necessary for good tabbouli. A large lemon usually nets 1/4 cup of juice. A large bunch of fresh parsley can yield 1, 2, or 3 cups chopped; use as much as you want. Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil is best for salads, and although mint leaves add a unique flavor, they can be omitted in a pinch (sometimes it’s hard to find fresh mint). Cooking is an art, not a science, so have fun and experiment!

vegan moussaka

Moussaka is a layered eggplant casserole that traditionally contains lamb or beef and a rich dairy-based sauce. Although Greece seems to be the birthplace of moussaka, many other regions of the world claim their own versions, including the Middle East, Ethiopia, and Eastern Europe. Our version uses broiled eggplant instead of fried and includes a creamy vegan sauce.

1 large eggplant
2 Tbs. olive oil plus additional for brushing eggplant
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. vegan cream cheese (we used Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese)
1/2 cup of your favorite non-dairy milk

1. Oil an 8 x 8 baking pan; set aside. Heat the broiler. Trim both ends of the eggplant and cut 1/4″ lengthwise slices (peeling the eggplant is optional). Place slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Slide baking sheet under the broiler and bake until slices are nicely browned. Turn slices over, brush with olive oil, and brown the other sides. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. While browning eggplant, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large saucepan. Cook onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add next 8 ingredients (red wine through black pepper); stir to combine. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes.

3. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine vegan cream cheese with soy milk. Stir occasionally until cream cheese is melted.

4. Place half the eggplant in the baking dish. Spoon half the tomato sauce over the slices. Repeat with remaining slices and sauce. Spoon the cream cheese sauce over the casserole. Place baking dish in oven under broiler until top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a green salad.

Variation: If you like to cook with meat substitutes, add a vegan beef or sausage to the tomato sauce mixture.