Tag: middle eastern

Kafta Kebab

Kafta Kebab

If there is only one way to eat meat, it should be kafta kabob. So juicy, tender, flavorful, and perfect with bread, rice, or salad. This kafta is seasoned with spices, onions, peppers, and tomato paste. This is one kafta recipe you can count on […]

Maamoul Pastry Cookies

Maamoul Pastry Cookies

Maamoul is a traditional cookie enjoyed throughout the Middle East come Ramadan, Eid, Spring time, Easter, and basically year round. But it is especially imperative during the holidays! Maamoul is a scrumptious butter cookie made with butter, flour, semolina and some rose extract and filled […]

Kunafah Apple Pie

Kunafah Apple Pie

apple kunafah
Jump to Recipe

Nothing is as American as apple pie, and a true Midwestern girl that I am, I love everything apple: apple picking, orchards in the fall, caramel apples, cider mills, and of course, apple pie. This epic dessert takes the mouthwatering flavors of juicy, sweet, buttery, apple pie and fuses it with the incredible textures of buttery Egyptian kunafah that my mom makes with nuts, cinnamon, and sugar. Kunafah Apple Pie uses the shredded phyllo dough, known as kataifi, as the crust.

apple kunafah slice missing

If you read my other kunafah post with vanilla bean creme filling, then you know about how versatile kunafah dessert is. Endless possibilities of fillings for a delicious crust, made this apple pie concoction a no-brainer for me. My mom’s classic kunafah has always been the kataifi dough rolled in butter and filled with an irresistible mixture of nuts, cinnamon, sugar and raisins. She would manipulate the shredded dough and roll it into a beautiful log shape, and it would be served sliced up, soaking in the delicious simple syrup made at home. It smells divine and the flavors of the crunchy, toasted, cinnamon and sugar nuts with this kunafah dough is perfection.

penas and walnuts in brown butter
Brown butter and cinnamon coating each and every delicious pecan and walnut….

You know that amazing buttery-brown sugar scent that fills the air when you smell cinnamon nuts toasting at a carnival (Navy Pier South Dock!), or when you walk by Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago? Well, yea, this is what that smells like. And OH MY GOSH I cannot tell you how good it tastes and smells all at once. Try to slow down when enjoying, and refrain from indulging too much so you don’t end up with a stomach ache like I did…The smells, texture, and flavor is just too good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is definitely on my Thanksgiving menu this year, and I also made it to bring to a few dinner parties. It’s that easy to make, and so good to share. I hope you and yours enjoy!

Kunafah Apple Pie

A sweet, buttery, cinnamon apple pie filling fused with the incredible textures of buttery Egyptian kunafah.
5 from 9 votes
Course Dessert
Cuisine egyptian, Middle Eastern


For the Kunafah Crust

  • 1 Package of Shredded Phyllo Dough, Kataifi
  • 1 c unsalted butter, melted (8 oz or 2 sticks)

For the apple filling

  • 5-6 apples, peeled, and chopped
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 c white sugar
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 c chopped pecans and walnuts
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


For the Kunafah crust

  • Remove the kataifi dough from the freezer and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight, or on the counter for a few hours. The dough must be thawed and at room temperature before using.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (f).
  • Separate and loosen the kataifi dough strands in a large bowl. Be sure to cut the long strands of dough with kitchen shears a few times so they aren't too long. Pour 1 cup of the melted butter all over the kataifi dough and rub it gently until all the strands of dough are well coated in the butter, otherwise it will be dry and have no flavor.
    kunafah dough
  • Using half of the dough, press it into a pie pan, pressing up the sides of the pan.
    kunafah dough in pan

For the filling

  • Mound the chopped apples and 1/2 cup of nuts into the center of the pie pan, on top of the kunafah crust.
  • Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat.
  • Slowly stir in the flour to create a golden paste, making sure to smooth out any lumps with a spoon.
  • Add the brown sugar and 1 cup of the white sugar, 1/2 c of water, and cinnamon and stir well.
  • Allow the sauce to simmer on low for 3-5 minutes.

Assembly of the Kunafah

  • Slowly pour half of the sauce all over the apples and nuts, reserving the other half of it to drizzle on top of the kunafah at the end.
  • Using the remainder of the kunafah dough, layer it on top of the apples to cover them completely, making sure to close up the edges of the dough by pressing it together. The dough will be very stringy and parts may stick up. Press them down as best as you can.
  • Bake on the lower middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes. (The top of kunafa browns quickly).
  • Replace the pot of remaining caramel sauce on the stove at low heat. Add 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 c of white sugar into the remainder of the sauce. Stir it until well incorporated and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice.
    penas and walnuts in brown butter
  • Stir the remainder of the nuts into the caramel sauce.
  • After removing the kunafah from the oven, promptly pour the sauce all over the kunafah top.
  • Serve warm and enjoy with ice cream, coffee, or tea!


If you are baking the kunafa in advance of serving, reserve the caramel sauce on top for pouring right before serving. When ready to serve, simply reheat the kunafa in an oven warmed to 250 degrees for 15-20 minutes. After removing from the oven, pour the sauce with nuts all over the top and serve. 
Keyword apple, apple pie, brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, knafeh, kunafah, nuts, pecan
Kunafah bil Kishtah (shredded phyllo with pastry cream)

Kunafah bil Kishtah (shredded phyllo with pastry cream)

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Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Malfoof or Mahshy Kromb)

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Malfoof or Mahshy Kromb)

 One of the best dishes to originate from Middle Eastern cuisine, this delicious and savory blend of rice, fresh herbs and tomatoes wrapped in a juicy cabbage leaf will leave everyone begging for more! This healthy dish is easily an all time favorite and comfort […]

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad

Tabbouli is my absolute favorite salad! If you have not tried it yet, you simply must! It is so fresh with the bold lemon and parsley flavors. The texture is delicate with tiny perfectly diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and bulgur. In this variation I boost the protein and filling factor by using quinoa instead of bulgur wheat. The quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH) is a tiny super grain food that is an excellent substitute for high sugar starchier carbs such as rice and wheat products such as pasta. Quinoa has a significant amount of protein, enough to serve as a protein source on its own. Quinoa is also rich in heart-healthy mono saturated fats (ALA-Omega 3), and is also concentrated in anti-inflammatory flavonoids. It is also an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, and iron. It cooks slowly and is very easy to prepare making it a wonderful pantry staple. The grain is perfectly small, round, and fluffy making it a perfect substitution to rice or bulgur as it is used in tabbouli salad. 

2014-03-07sugarandgarlic2014-5 2014-03-08sugarandgarlic2014-16

Back to the tabbouli; this salad originates from the Middle-East, particularly Syria and Lebanon, and is a staple appetizer popular now all around the world. This salad is full of parsley, at least 1-2 bunches or 2 cups. It is finely chopped, and we typically use flat leaf as it offers a more favorable texture and scent. The curly parsley can sometime feel and taste too dry on the tongue. You will also need firm roma tomatoes, Persian or English cucumbers, green onion, and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice. The salad dressing recipe used here is my mother’s popular Arabic dressing and is the perfect dressing for almost any lemon based dressing, so gather round for the secret! It consists of FRESH lemon juice (do not use from a jar!), olive oil, sumac, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. My daughter is becoming a finicky eater, like most toddlers, but she absolutely LOVES this salad. She had 2 full servings, so I am a happy mother! 


Preserve left over parsley stems (and other fresh herbs such as cilantro or mint) by steeping in a cup of water in your fridge; it will last at least a whole extra week!2014-03-07sugarandgarlic2014 2014-03-08sugarandgarlic2014-17 2014-03-08sugarandgarlic2014-20

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Quinoa Tabbouli Salad
Serves 4
A fresh and nutritious salad full of protein rich quinoa and zesty lemon juice.
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
For the salad
  1. 2 cups of flat leaf parsley
  2. 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  3. 3 firm roma tomatoes, about 1 cup diced
  4. 3 green onions, about 1/2 cup diced
  5. 1 cup diced cucumber
  6. 1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
For the dressing
  1. 1/2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
  2. 1 tbsp of minced fresh garlic (2 large cloves)
  3. 1/3 c olive oil
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. pinch pepper
  6. 1 tsp oregano
  7. 1 tsp sumac
  1. First cook the quinoa according to directions. 1 cup gain cooks in 2 cups of liquid. So boil 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup of water. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and bring down to a simmer over low heat once it boils. Remove from heat as soon as all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes) and toss into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator to cool.
  2. Finely dice the tomato by slicing into thin circles, then crosswise and lengthwise to produce perfectly small cubes. Do the same with the cucumber.
  3. Chop the green onion into thin circles as well, and if it is a large diameter, cut those slices in half.
  4. Wash the parsley carefully, stem by stem (dirt and bugs typically hide in these leaves), then pull the leaves off and into a colander or napkins to remove excess water. Place the leaves into a food processor and pulse slowly until it is finely chopped. Be careful not to puree into pesto!
  5. Combine all chopped ingredients into a large bowl. Add the cooled quinoa.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt and other spices and stir well. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss with tongs or a large fork. Be careful not to smush the quinoa or tomatoes.
  1. Small grain wheat bulgur is traditionally used in this recipe in lieu of the quinoa.
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic https://sugarandgarlic.com/





This Middle Eastern staple has made its way all around the world and is a huge hit! This perfectly flavored chickpea puree provides fiber, protein, and healthy omega 3 fats that are filling, satisfying, and perfectly low in calories. Chickpeas are quite high in fiber, […]

Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)

Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)

This dip is SO flavorful, zesty, and delicious! Roasted eggplant, fresh garlic, lemon juice and a dash of tahini sauce are what make up this delicious spread. Traditionally the eggplant is charred or grilled first to impart a smoky flavor, and some people use some […]



Literally, maqlooba means upside down or flipped over. That is exactly what this dish is- a pot full of deliciousness, flipped over onto a plate for serving. The first time I had this was at my friend’s house for dinner, and yes she is Palestinian. Maqlooba is traditionally a Palestinian dish, although it is commonly cooked in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and all over the Middle East with some variations. Generally, maqlooba is a one pot stop of all things delicious: a combination of spiced rice, layered with chicken or lamb-or chickpeas for my plant based version- and a variety of fried vegetables that include cauliflower, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and of course, garlic! 

eggplant, cauliflower, carrotschicken maqlooba chicken maqlooba

This dish is unbelievably delicious, and worth every effort to assemble. This is not a difficult recipe, but it does take a few steps. 

I stuck to the classic recipe and tips given to me by my trusted sources, and combined fresh spices to make my favorite mix of flavor. I did cut down on frying for personal preference, but frying is a traditional part of maqlooba. My family cut out the meat to include this meal in our regular rotation of plant-based dinners because it is so flavorful and full of vegetables. Hopefully my modifications won’t be offensive to the traditional Palestinian kitchen! I highly recommend you try this recipe as it is so memorable and comforting. The first few times I have tried this dish, it has left such an impression on me that I NEEDED to develop my own recipe!

Helpful tips

  1. First, I would say that frying is the traditional method and there is nothing wrong with frying. I simply don’t like to fry in my home for several reasons; splattering oil and fear being amongst a few. I find that I get wonderfully incredible results, with golden crispy veggies by roasting in a sheet pan. So I am 100% okay recommending this method.
  2. It is essential to soak the rice. It will cook faster, and be less starchy. This will make for a nice fluffy rice grain that is not overly mushy because you had to add more water to cook it through. Add 1 cup more liquid than cups of rice. If you have soaked the rice, this amount of liquid will yield perfect rice that is not mushy. 
  3. Use basmati as first choice, or long grain rice.
  4. Salt the eggplant. People freak out about this step, but it literally takes 10 extra seconds to do. You’ll be amazed how much water comes up. Blotting away this water removes the supposed bitter juices (I guess I should taste those droplets to confirm), but more importantly it aids the eggplant in cooking to a crispy exterior and tender flesh. It loses that spongy texture that causes people to mislabel eggplant as an undesirable vegetable.
  5. Combine your own fresh spices. I am BIG on using quality ingredients from a reliable source. So I prefer to use my own combination. If you like it more earthy, add more cinnamon and allspice. If you want more warmth, add more cardamom or ginger. It’s great to be able to purchase a spice labeled “maqlooba mix” but I often find some things in there that I don’t want, like MSG or too much salt. 
  6. Use a good pot that gives you even cooking. I rely heavily (pun intended 😉 ) on my Staub cast iron pot for perfect rice. This pot is my choice for many reasons, but especially for rice because of the awesome lid designed to master the collection of condensation. Seriously, if you are a rice guru you know all about the towels, the domed lids, the Persian rice lid bonnets, etc. I found that this pot solves all problems when it comes to rice. 

eggplant and cauliflower eggplant and cauliflower

Vegetables: Roasted or Fried?


First of all, I fry the sliced potatoes in the pot to be arranged around the base. The sizzle and get some color before I arrange everything else on top of them. There is no need to fry them separately. The potatoes won’t be fried on the top side that is covered with the rice mixture. They will absorb all the juicy flavors of the rice mixture and also keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Instead of frying everything else, I roast them in the oven with a generous amount of sunflower oil in a sheet pan. The eggplant can absorb quite a bit of oil, simply because they are like sponges, so it is important to use the salt method to prevent them from being so spongy. I dislike an oily rice, so I love this variation of roasting the vegetables and then adding them to my pot of rice. I simply roast the cauliflower and eggplants on a sheet pan at 475 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Carrots can dry out in the oven, so I lightly fry them in the pan I mix the onions and rice in. First I fry the carrots with garlic slices, then remove them. I sauté the tomatoes, onions, and garlic together in that same oil before I stir in the rice with spices.  I love the flavor tomatoes impart to this dish so I use them diced, in a paste, and sliced fresh arranged on the base of the pot.  😉

A Vegan Option

This recipe is perfect for a vegan and plant based dinner option. It is also a whole lot faster to prepare without meat. It is definitely a filling dish without any meat, and we also add in some chickpeas sometimes for some extra protein. It’s so delicious and definitely a must in your dinner rotation. 



layering the pot

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A delicious one pot dish of savory spiced rice layered with roasted cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, carrots, and your choice of meat, chicken, or chickpeas.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern


For the optional meat:

  • 2 lbs lamb chunks or chicken cut into cubes (leg or shoulder) OR 2 lbs chicken legs, thigh, and breast
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For the vegetables and rice Preparation

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c cauliflower florets 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 c sliced eggplant 1-2 medium eggplants, salted then washed to remove the bitter and prepare for frying
  • 2 large carrots, sliced diagonally 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic 1 minced, 2-3 sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 large tomatoes one sliced, one diced
  • 1-2 potatoes thinly sliced
  • 1 c cooked chickpeas
  • 4 c long grain or basmati rice soaked in water for 30 minutes

Spice Mixture

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper (black is fine)
  • 1 tsp salt about 1 tsp salt for rice, 1 tsp for meat


If using meat:

  • In a large pot or in a pressure cooker, brown the lamb or chicken pieces then sauté with the diced onions, minced garlic, 1.5 tsp of the spice mixture and 1 tsp of salt. Add enough water to just cover the meat if cooking in a pressure cooker, or about 3 inches above the meat if in a regular pot over the stove. Cook under high pressure for about 12 minutes or simmer on low in a pot for about 1 hour. Meat should cook tender, and broth will be flavorful. Reserve the broth by straining into a measuring cup for cooking the rice.

Vegan Preparation, and the remainder of process

  • Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.
  • Slice the eggplant and sprinkle with salt to draw out any bitter juices as well as to help them crisp up when roasting.
  • Line up eggplant and cauliflower in a sheet pan and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of sunflower oil so that they are well coated. Roast for 20 minutes at 475 degrees (f). For the traditional method, fry these vegetables and let them drain on a kitchen towel.
  • In a separate pan, over medium heat, lightly fry the carrot slices and garlic slices until they turn golden. Remove and set on a plate until assembly.
  • In the same pan, using the same oil infused with garlic sauté 1 diced onion until it turns yellow.
  • Add a tsp of minced garlic, and the tomato paste and stir for another minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes. Add the rice, 1 tsp of salt, the remaining spices, and toss well until the rice is well coated.
  • Now you are ready to assemble the pot of maqlooba. Lightly brush the bottom of the pot with some olive oil so that the dish flips out easily. First layer the potatoes, nd aloow them to brown a bit.
  • Next, layer on some tomato slices. Add the chicken, meat, or chickpeas if using. Otherwise skip to the next step.
  • Arrange the cauliflower, carrots, and eggplant interchangeably and spread out so that you get a bite of each in every spoonful!
  • Top with the seasoned rice. Place a plate or heavy weight over the mixture to prevent it from separating while boiling and adding liquid.
  • Mix the broth with some water so that the total volume is 5 cups. The liquid should be just covering the plate and measure about 5 1/2. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat down to low and remove the plate. Cover and simmer on low until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • Allow the pot to cool for about 15 minutes before attempting to flip. Place a round serving platter on top of the pot and quickly flip it over. It helps to leave the pot upside down for a few minutes before lifting off to allow any lingering pieces to fall downward, and for the rice to keep its form.
Keyword carrots, cauliflower, chicken, chickpeas, dinner, Eggplant, meat, one pot, rice, vegan