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Volume 39, Number 2March/April 1988

In This Issue

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Recipes: For Starters

Photographed by Bob Wilkins

Mazzah – Middle Eastern hors d'oeuvres – range from the inspired simplicity of ripe cantaloupe slices served with pieces of salty feta cheese, through multitudinous salads, pickles, vegetables and dips, to elaborate preparations like herb-stuffed sardines grilled in vine leaves. Many a diner has browsed his way to the discovery that mazzah alone make an ample, delicious and various meal. Here are three stars from this culinary constellation: tabbulah, the salad of parsley, mint and cracked wheat that is one of the best-known mazzah outside the Arab world; baba ghannuj, also called mutabbal, a smoky-flavored eggplant dip; and green bell peppers stuffed with a spiced rice mixture, strangely refreshing when served cool.


85 grams (3 oz., ½ cu.) burghul

2 bunches flat-leaf parsley (about 30 gr. before washing, or 1½ cu. chopped)

1 bunch fresh mint (about 10 gr. before washing, or ½ cu. chopped)

3 green onions or 1 small onion

1 large tomato

90 milliliters (3 oz., 6 tbs.) lemon juice

60 milliliters (2½ oz., 4 tbs.) olive oil


1 romaine lettuce (optional)

Wash the burghul and squeeze out the water. Wash and chop the parsley, mint and green onions very fine. Dice the tomatoes. Combine all ingredients including burghul. Add salt to taste, lemon juice, olive oil and mix well. Serve in a bowl lined with lettuce leaves. This salad can be eaten with a fork, but the traditional way is to scoop up a bite of the mixture in a lettuce leaf and pop it into the mouth.


6 green peppers

180 grams (6 oz., ¾ cu.) pine nuts

4 large onions

250 grams (9 oz., 1½ cu.) olive oil

450 grams (1 lb, 2 1/3 cu.) long-grain rice

125 grams (4 oz., ½ cu.) currants

5 grams (1 tsp.) salt, 3 grams (1 tsp.) pepper

15 grams (1 tbs.) sugar, water to cover

7 grams (½ cu.) mint

4 grams (1 tsp.) allspice

lemon slices, tomato wedges

10 grams (½ cu.) chopped flat–leaf parsley

30 milliliters (1 oz., 2 tbs.) lemon juice

Choose medium-sized green peppers. Wash them and cut out the stems. Core with an apple-corer or paring knife. Make the stuffing by lightly frying the pine nuts and chopped onions in olive oil. Add the washed rice and cook, stirring, for five minutes. Add the currants, salt, pepper and sugar. Pour in water to about twice the depth of the other ingredients in the pot and simmer until the water is absorbed. Add mint, allspice and lemon juice. When cool, stuff each pepper loosely, as the rice will swell. Cover open end of pepper with a slice of tomato like a lid. Set the stuffed peppers in a single layer in a large pan or dish. Sprinkle with salt and sugar, drizzle a little olive oil and 250 milliliters (1 cup) of water over them and simmer very slowly until the peppers are just tender. Decorate with chopped parsley, lemon slices and tomato slices or wedges, and refrigerate. Serve cool.

Other vegetables stuffed in the same manner are tomatoes, zucchini (courgettes), eggplant (aubergines), cabbage leaves or grape leaves. Both kinds of leaves should be briefly parboiled to make them tender and flexible.


1 large round eggplant (aubergine)

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

60 milliliters (3 oz., 4 tbs.) tahinah

60 milliliters (2 oz., 4 tbs.) lemon juice

salt, red pepper

olive oil

chopped parsley,

slices of red bell pepper to garnish

Cook the eggplant in a hot oven or on a fork over the flame of a gas stove. When it is well cooked through and the skin is blackened, douse in cold water, peel and chop into small pieces. Mash two or three cloves of garlic to a paste with about the same volume of salt. Add eggplant, mash to a smooth consistency and blend in the tahinah and lemon juice to make the Arab version of this dish; omit the tahinah for the Turkish version. Serve in a bowl with a little olive oil on top and garnish with chopped parsley, red pepper slices and a dusting of red pepper. Serves five.

This article appeared on pages 10-13 of the March/April 1988 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for March/April 1988 images.