Savory Syria: Recipes From Diane Sawyer's Trip

Hummus bi Tahina (Chickpea and Sesame Dip)


125 g (4 oz) chickpeas, soaked for a few hours

Juice of 2 lemons

3 tbsp. tahina

2 garlic cloves, crushed



1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. paprika

A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped


Drain the chickpeas and simmer in fresh water for about an hour or until tender. Reserve the cooking water. Process the chickpeas in a blender (or food processor) with the lemon juice, tahina, garlic, salt and enough of the cooking liquid to obtain a soft creamy consistency. Serve on a flat plate, garnished with a dribble of olive oil, a dusting of paprika (this is usually done in the shape of a cross) and a little parsley. Serve with warm pita bread for dipping. Serves 4-6.

From "Mediterranean Cookery" by Claudia Roden

Baba Ghannouj (Eggplant Dip)


1 large round eggplant (aubergine)

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

60 milliliters (3 oz., 4 tbsp.) tahina

60 milliliters (2 oz., 4 tbsp.) 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 with 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 the tahina and lemon juice to make the Arab version of this dish; omit the tahina for the Turkish version. Serve in a bowl with little olive oil on top and garnish chopped parsley, red pepper slices and a dusting of red pepper. Serves five.

Salatat Bathinjan (Eggplant Appetizer)

Eggplant, often called "the poor man's meat" or "the poor man's caviar," is one of the staple foods of the Middle East, valued for its great versatility.


1 large eggplant, peeled and thickly sliced


8 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1 medium hot pepper, finely chopped

3 tablespoons lemon juice


Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt. Place in a strainer or colander, top with a weight, and allow to drain for 45 minutes. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the eggplant slices and fry on both sides until they are golden brown. Remove the eggplant slices, dice them, then set aside in a bowl. Mash the garlic cloves with salt. Add to the diced eggplant along with the hot pepper and lemon juice. Chill slightly and serve.

Arabic Pickled Turnips

1. Boil in water until tender; peel, cool, quarter and set aside:

1 large beet

2. Drop into boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes:

4 small turnips or 3 medium-size turnips, quartered

3. Remove turnips and peel them. They will have a silky texture.

4. Place in hot sterilized 1-pint wide-mouth jar, packing between each turnip:

1 cooked beet quarter

2 to 3 slivers of garlic clove

2 to 3 sprigs young celery leaves

5. Combine and bring to boil:

½ cup each white vinegar and water

1 tbsp. coarse salt

6. Fill jar with vinegar mixture, seal and store in warm place 10 days. Makes 1 pint.

Salatit Khodar Meshakel (Mixed Fresh Vegetable Salad)

This popular Arab salad is different from conventional Western salads in that all the ingredients are finely chopped and absorb the dressing and each others' flavors better. Do not prepare it too long before serving, as the ingredients will wilt. Dress it just before putting it on the table. Ingredients can vary according to taste.


1 small romaine or cos lettuce or ½ large one

2 small cucumbers or 1 longer one

3 tomatoes

1 to 2 red Italian onions if available, or 1 large mild onion, or 1 small bunch scallions

6 radishes, thinly sliced (optional)

4-5 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill or chervil (optional)

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp. dried crushed mint (optional)


3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice or wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, crushed with salt (optional)

Salt and black pepper


Wash the lettuce, if necessary. Peel the onion or scallions. Shred the lettuce; cut the cucumbers (peeled or unpeeled, as you wish) into small dice. Dice the tomatoes (remove the seeds and juice first), and chop the onions finely, using a sharp knife, or an Italian mezzaluna chopper if you have one. Put the prepared vegetables into a salad bowl and mix lightly with the radishes and herbs.

Mix the dressing ingredients thoroughly, sprinkle over the salad, and toss well.

Serves 6.

Lentils With Spinach


1¼ pounds fresh or frozen leaf spinach

1 medium-size onion, peeled

5 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 cup dried lentils, picked over, washed, and drained

1½ to 1¾ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin seeds

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Separate the fresh spinach leaves and wash well. Do not discard the pinkish roots. Wash them as well. (They will taste very good when cooked.) Bunch up a few leaves at a time and cut them crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips. Cut each root into 2 to 3 pieces. If using frozen spinach, cook according to directions, drain and chop coarsely.

Cut the onion in half lengthwise, and then cut the halves into fine half rings.

Heat the oil in a heavy, wide, casserole-type pot over a medium flame. When hot, put in the onion and garlic. Stir and saute for 2 minutes. Now put in the lentils and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat and simmer about 25 minutes or until lentils are just tender. Add the spinach leaves and roots, salt and cumin. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes or until spinach is tender and well-mixed into the lentils. Stir gently a few times during this period. Put in the black pepper and mix again. This dish may easily be made ahead of time and reheated.

Serves 6.

Lentils and Rice (Mujadarra)


4 medium yellow onions, peeled

3 tbs. olive oil

1 cup lentils

3½ cups cold water

1 cup long-grain rice

2 tsp. salt


Dice 3 of the onions. Heat a large frying pan and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the diced onions. Saute until quite brown and set aside. In a 4-quart covered pot place the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, covered, and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the cooked onion to the lentils, along with the rice and salt. Cover and simmer 20 minutes until rice and lentils are soft. If a bit of water remains unabsorbed, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes and it will soak in. Slice the remaining onion into rings. Heat the frying pan again and saute the rings in the remaining olive oil. To serve, top the lentils with the sauteed onion rings. Accompany with plain yogurt and a lemony green salad, with tomato wedges on the side. Serves 8.

Arabian Bean Salad (Ful Madammas)


1 cup dried ful, small-size bean, rinsed and drained

8 cups water

1 medium ripe tomato, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

¼ cup chopped parsley

1 cup peeled and thinly sliced yellow onion


½ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Place the beans (ful) in a medium pot and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and let stand 1 hour, covered. Drain. Return the ful to the pot and add 4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, covered, and reduce to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes or until the beans are tender. Drain. Mix the beans with the tomato, garlic, parsley, and onion. Prepare the dressing and toss with the vegetables. Chill before serving. Serves 4 as a salad.