33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (2024)

There are more than 20 countries that can be categorized as Middle Eastern and many influences to the region's cuisine. Israeli cuisine, for one, is characterized by a blend of flavors from the larger Middle East and Mediterranean as well as traditional Jewish foods — while an Israeli staple like hummus is as ubiquitous in Egypt, Greece, Iran, Palestine, and Syria. The stunning and aromatic Middle Eastern recipes here represent many countries' influences and traditions, including a za'atar-spiced beet dip with goat cheese and hazelnuts, hummus masabacha with paprika and whole chickpeas, lamb-stuffed eggplant, nutty tabbouleh, meltingly sweet halvah, and more.

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Kubba Hamuth (Sweet and Sour Soup with Stuffed Dumplings)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (1)

This Iraqi-Jewish soup is tangy and rich with lemon juice, beets, and chicken dumplings.

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02of 33

Za’atar Chicken

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (2)

This juicy, crisp-skinned roast chicken from chef Zachary Engel of Chicago’s Galit, a popular Middle Eastern restaurant in Lincoln Park, Chicago, is finished with herbaceous and toasty za’atar, a fragrant Middle Eastern spice blend.

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Knafeh (Shredded Phyllo-and-Cheese Pie)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (3)

Michael Solomonov, chef at Zahav in Philadelphia, and Reem Kassis, author of The Palestinian Table, formed an unlikely friendship around their shared, though much disputed, food heritage. They both love this knafeh, a sweet, cheese-filled dessert, encased in shredded phyllo pastry (kataifi) and soaked in a fragrant syrup laced with rose and orange blossom.

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Feta-Stuffed Marinated Olives

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (4)

Fragrant za'atar, a spice blend ubiquitous across the Middle East, flavors these briny, feta-stuffed olives with its notes of thyme, marjoram, sumac, and sesame seeds. Lemon, chile, and parsley cut through the rich, herbaceous flavors, adding a bright freshness to these easy, bite-size appetizers.

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Amba (Pickled Mango Sauce)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (5)

A blend of unripe green mango, white vinegar, and spices like fenugreek, cumin, and tart sumac punches up this sour condiment, a diaspora food that tells the story of the Jews of Iraq.

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Dinner Hummus with Spiced Chicken and Cauliflower

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (6)

Serving hummus at the center of the table is common practice in the Middle East, where it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The creamy chickpea spread is often topped with sautéed mushrooms or eggplant, browned ground lamb and onions, saucy fava beans, or similar hearty add-ons. Leah Koenig's version is capped with a generous layer of chicken and cauliflower and flavored with a shawarma-inspired array of spices — cumin, smoked paprika, and coriander.

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07of 33

Kubaneh

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (7)

Camille Cogswell shares her recipe for the traditional Yemenite Sabbath bread, which she served with swooshes of brown-sugar ricotta or piles high with shockingly pink salt-roasted beets and labneh at K’Far in Philadelphia.

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08of 33

Lemon-Maple Halvah with Pistachio and Apricot

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (8)

This sweet and crumbly confection from Adeena Sussman is packed with nutty tahini, dried apricots, rich maple syrup, and fruity sumac.

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Date and Walnut Rugelach with Tahini Glaze

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (9)

Rugelach, a 20th century adaptation of the filled, crescent cookies from Central and Eastern Europe known as kipfel, are a popular Jewish food enjoyed year-round and often served for Hanukkah and Shavuot.Faith Kramer flavors hers with a sweetened tahini glaze, the creamy Middle Eastern sesame seed paste.

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Khagineh (Stuffed Persian Sugar Omelet)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (10)

This dish originated in Iranian Azerbaijan. Filled with a cinnamon-and-cardamom-spiced crumble made from ground walnuts and Medjool dates, this sweet, pancake-like omelet from cookbook author Louisa Shafia gets an extra dose of sweetness from a drizzle of golden saffron syrup and a dollop of rosewater-infused whipped cream.

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11of 33

Sweet Potato and Feta Bourekas

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (11)

Bourekas are crisp, savory little parcels filled with anything from vegetables and cheese to ground meat. Inspired by his grandmother's recipe, chef Michael Solomonov's version is stuffed with sweet potato, feta, dill, and olives. At Zahav, Solomonov prepares them with housemade laminated dough, but this recipe calls for prepared puff pastry, which makes it easy to make at home.

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12of 33

Persian Split Pea and Rice Soup with Lamb Meatballs

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (12)

This bright, herbaceous porridge from cookbook author Naomi Duguid is a staple of Persian home cooking. Traditionally calledash,this soup can be made days in advance and reheats beautifully.

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Cauliflower Salad with Yogurt Sauce and Pomegranate

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (13)

Inspired by her mother's (much richer) fried eggplant salad, cookbook author Reem Kassis tops fried cauliflower with toasted nuts, pomegranate arils, and lemon-and-garlic-laced yogurt.

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14of 33

Persian Love Cake

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (14)

“This enchanting cake reminds me of a Persian garden in the late spring, adorned with the floral scent of rose water and citrus, and decorated with bright green pistachios,” says cookbook author and blogger Yasmin Khan.

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Shakshuka with Fennel and Feta

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (15)

While working on a kibbutz one summer in Israel, Gail Simmons developed an ardent affection for humble egg dishes like shakshuka, often known in Italy as Eggs in Purgatory. "It's a popular dish throughout the Middle East and perfect for any meal of the day."

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Sabich (Israeli Roast Eggplant, Hummus and Pickle Sandwiches)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (16)

At Butcher & Bee in Charleston, South Carolina, owner Michael Shemtov and his team prepare this messy, incredibly tasty vegetarian sandwich, called a sabich, with vegetables, hummus, house-baked pita, and herbs from a garden right behind the restaurant. "The sabich is Iraqi-Israeli, just like me," Shemtov says. "It's a personal dish."

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Sharab Rose Raspberry Shrub co*cktail

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (17)

This drink was inspired by the rose-flavored drink known as sharab el ward that you can find in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan. Inspired by the Lebanese version, this recipe also nods to the tradition of the shrub, which is a vinegary, pungent drink that was made with alcohol or a vinegar syrup in 17th-century England. This is the nonalcoholic vinegar syrup variety.

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Za'atar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (18)

Beets have a strong presence in the cuisine of almost every ethnic group in Jerusalem, chef Yotam Ottolenghi explains. They color pickling juices on the Arab table and form the basis for a soup of Jewish, Iraqi, and Kurdish origin. Ottolenghi purees them for this luscious spread.

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Hummus Masabacha with Paprika and Whole Chickpeas

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (19)

"Hummus is the hardest thing to get right," says legendary hummus maker Mike Solomonov. "It has to be rich, creamy, and mildly nutty." To make his hummus luxuriously smooth, he soaks the chickpeas overnight with baking soda to soften them.

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Baba Ghanouj on Pita

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (20)

The creamy Middle Eastern eggplant dip called baba ghanouj is traditionally served with warm pita and an assortment of salads. Here, we top the pita with the dip and a mixture of romaine, tomato, and cucumber for an extraordinarily tasty meal.

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Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (21)

This cinnamon-scented recipe is chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's take on a dish made by Elran Shrefler at Azura Restaurant in Tel Aviv.

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Bastani Irani (Rosewater-and-Saffron Ice Cream)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (22)

This fragrant ice cream is redolent with flavor. It’s traditionally served between two thin wafers to make ice cream sandwiches, but it’s equally delicious on its own.

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Mhalabiyeh (Fragrant Milk Pudding with Cranberries)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (23)

Mhalabiyeh — the Palestinian version of panna cotta — is commonly flavored with mastic, which has a pleasant flavor reminiscent of licorice or pine. Alternatively, you can substitute one teaspoon of rose water or orange blossom water.

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Kuku Sabzi

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (24)

Kuku Sabzi is the Persian version of a frittata. Shredded carrots, onion, zucchini and potato give it excellent texture — light and airy but deeply satisfying — while saffron adds the distinct Persian flavor.

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Chilled Persian Yogurt Soup

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (25)

Filled with herbs, nuts, and raisins, this summer soupfrom Zaré at Fly Trap in San Francisco was a staff favorite according to Iranian chef Hoss Zaré.

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Nan-e Barbari (Persian Flatbread)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (26)

Nan-e barbari is a classic Persian flatbread that gets crisp and golden in the oven, thanks to roomal, a flour paste that's spread over the bread before it's baked. Jessamyn Rodriguez likes to serve it with feta and olives.

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Tabbouleh with Pine Nuts and Almonds

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (27)

Chef Yousef Hanna's nutty, crunchy take on the classic Middle Eastern salad is mainly herbs and vegetables with a smattering of fine bulgur.

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Walnut Snowball Cookies

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (28)

These buttery, crumbly, sugar-dusted cookies are irresistible. Jerusalem cooks personalize them with different nuts and aromatic flavorings, like rose water or cardamom.

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Syrian Pita Bread

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (29)

Chris Hanna learned to make these airy pitas from her Syrian grandmother, and she still insists on baking them from scratch when servingshwarma. "It isn't that hard to make your own, and the flavor and texture are far superior to the flaccid, sweet kind you find in most grocery stores," she says.

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Tangy Muhammara (Red Pepper and Nut Dip)

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (30)

The classic Syrian nut dip muhammara typically contains walnuts, bread crumbs, Aleppo pepper paste, and pomegranate syrup, but there are endless variations. The bright-flavored take here has a chunky texture from pistachios, cashews, and freshly toasted pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts, and tangy sweetness from onions and red bell peppers.

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Palestinian Spinach Pies

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (31)

The spinach filling in these fatayer, inspired by a recipe from Palestinian-born baker Maha Ziadeh, isn't flavored with feta, as it is in the more common Greek spinach pies. Instead, it's spiked with lemon and sumac, a tangy Middle Eastern spice.

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Spiced Harissa Ragù with Tahini Yogurt

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (32)

With warm spices, fiery harissa, and chopped pistachios, this meaty ragù from Tel Aviv chef Salah Kurdi is solidly Middle Eastern.

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Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Smoky Tomato Sauce

33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (33)

This simple lamb kebab is inspired by a great summer recipe from Gaziantep, Turkey, in which lean lamb is marinated with garlic and pepper, grilled, then cubed and simmered with wood-fired tomatoes.

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33 Middle Eastern Recipes Featuring Feta, Phyllo, and Fragrant Spices (2024)

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