If you are planning a luncheon, and want to serve a vegetarian friendly menu, then a great choice of food would be Middle Eastern cuisine. There are lots of delicious dishes that don’t require any animal ingredients. Some of them are even vegan, which is great if you have guests who are not just abstaining from animal flesh, but also dairy. Most of these dishes can be picked up at your local grocery, which is great if you are not the type who loves to cook.
This is a very popular dish all over the Middle East, and is even found across north Africa. It’s tiny semolina balls that are similar to rice. When you go to the market, you can find it on the shelves in packages, but the deli section will also have it already cooked and prepared. The prepared couscous will often times have spices, and vegetables and other ingredients (slivered almonds, pistachios, dried fruit). This dish is great as a main course.
This is a popular salad in countries such as Israel and Lebanon. The salad is made with tomatoes, mint, parsley and bulgur. The salad is dressed with a simple vinaigrette made of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Different countries have slightly different recipes, so one grocer might make it slightly different than another. For example, in Lebanon, there is much more “green” in the tabbouleh, with quite a lot of parsley. In Israel, the salad has less “green”, and sometimes the Israel recipes might even call for couscous instead of bulgur.
Hummus is a classic at parties, and it is definitely something you want if you’re throwing a Middle Eastern style luncheon. You can get this premade in almost any store. It’s a super healthy dip made with chickpeas, tahani, olive oil, and salt. There are even versions that use sun dried tomatoes.
This is another salad that is popular, particularly in Israel. Unlike tabbouleh, this salad has no bulgur (or couscous). It is a raw salad made up of tomatoes and cucumbers (with some onions). The key feature of the salad is that everything is diced super small. Also, unlike tabbouleh, which has a oil based dressing, a classical Israel salad will have yogurt as a salad dressing. If you don’t see this one for sale in the deli section, then it’s really easy to make yourself as long as you don’t mind spending the time dicing up all of the vegetables.
Middle Eastern Style Flatbread: Pita and Taboon
Of course you are going to want to have some bread. In the Middle East, the most popular types of bread are flatbreads. You should definitely have two varieties on hand. Pita is the most famous Middle Eastern flatbread import. It’s used when eating falafel, as well as a side for tabbouleh. You can also cut it into wedges and serve it alongside the hummus.
Another good flatbread to get is Taboon. This bread gets its name from the classical oven of the ancient Middle East, and it has a unique texture when compared to pita. It’s a bit more substantive, thicker, and more chewy than pita. To get a better idea of your options, you can contact companies like Klosterman Baking Company.