The bursts of flavor you will find in each dish at Manakish Oven & Grill are filled with aromas and nuances that are not always familiar to our palate. To help introduce you to the bold and welcoming flavors of Eastern Mediterranean food, we have prepared a glossary of our most commonly used ingredients.
7-Spice: 7-Spice is a famous Arabic spice mixture, also known as Bharat. This is the flavor behind many popular Eastern Mediterranean foods and is a finely crafted combination of 7-8 spices that create a perfect aromatic seasoning. A typical 7-Spice includes black pepper, paprika, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and cloves.
Akawi cheese: This is a Middle Eastern cheese made from cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk. It is a soft unripened brine cheese with a chewy, smooth consistency and a mild, slightly salty flavor. It is very popular in Eastern Mediterranean dishes, used as a table cheese or paired with fruit.
Almonds: Almonds are the edible seeds of an almond tree. They are native to the Middle East and are considered one of the world’s most nutritious and versatile nuts. Almonds have a sweet, rich flavor that blends well with both sweet and savory flavor palates.
Black sesame seeds: Black sesame seeds are often used in cooking for their taste, color, and texture, commonly used on top of different cheeses in Middle Eastern cheeses, as well as on loaves of bread and vegetables. These seeds are best after slightly toasting for a minute, which will bring out the earthy, nutty flavor.
Cardamom: This is a spice made from the seeds pods of plants in the ginger family that are ground. Black cardamom has a smoked-mint, almost menthol-like flavor that is mildly spicy, slightly nutty, aromatic and sweet that pairs well with many savory dishes.
Cumin: This is a spice made from dried seeds of a plant in the parsley family and is one of the most popular spices in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor with a tangy, musky scent that has both a sweetness and bitterness to it. Cumin is popular in both meat and vegetable dishes as well as in soups and sauces.
Fresh Produce: The most common fresh produce you can expect to find at Manakish include cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs.
Fresh Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella is considered a staple cheese of all Mediterranean cooking. It is a soft, tangy, milky white fresh cheese that has a gentle taste and aroma.
Green olives: Green olives are an expected sight at Mediterranean tables. They are served as a side dish at almost every meal, as well as cooked into main dishes. Cured olives are marinated in a variety of aromatics to create new layers of flavors.
Ground Coriander: Coriander is a spice that is as versatile as it is complex. Ground coriander has a raw, earthy scent to it that is punctuated by a surprising citrus twist. You can also taste hints of butter and thyme.
Hummus: Hummus is a well-known Eastern Mediterranean dip made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, or other beans, and blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic. It is used as a part of many dishes and served independently as a side dish.
Kefir: Kefir is a tart baking ingredient that is similar to yogurt. It is considered one of our ancient foods as people have been cooking and consuming, kefir for well over 200 years. It can be used as a foundation to dips, dressings, and spreads, but also used for cooking and baking as either milk or buttermilk, substitute.
Labneh Cheese: This is a creamy, tangy Middle Eastern yogurt that is ultra think. It is thick and spreadable, with a texture similar to mascarpone or cream cheese. It can also be further strained and served in balls, such as a mozzarella ball. It is served as a stand-alone side, as a dipping sauce, as an ingredient in favorite dishes or as a topping.
Manakish Dough: Manakish is similar to a flatbread dough or a pizza dough. It is a thing, slightly chewy, light bread that is hand-pressed and shaped to hold toppings.
Mint: Fresh mint, peppermint, and spearmint are ideal in Mediterranean cooking. The different variations of mint add an extra dimension to dishes. It is clean, refreshing and has a cooling effect on dishes that are bold or spicy. Mint is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Spearmint is slightly sweeter, while peppermint has a bold, menthol-like flavor.
Nabulsi Cheese: This is a white brined cheese made in the Middle East and throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. It is produced from sheep and goat’s milk. It is white and considered a semi-hard cheese. It does become soft and elastic when it is heated. It is typically eaten fresh as a salty table cheese or fried in oil as a side dish.
Orange Zest: Orange zest is a fragrant and vibrant addition to many Eastern Mediterranean recipes. The orange zest is the colorful outer peel of an orange that holds flavorful oils. It is used to deepen the orange flavor of dressings, sauces, or condiments. It adds a citrus flavor without changing the balance of the ingredients.
Paprika: Paprika is one of the most commonly used spices in Middle Eastern cooking. Paprika has a pungent taste when heated, with flavors reminiscent of peppers. Paprika is a powder that is made from grinding the pods of ground bonnet pepper, bell peppers or relatives to chili peppers. Flavors can range from mild to spicy.
Phyllo Dough: This dough is used in a variety of sweet and savory Mediterranean dishes, including baklava, meat rolls, and cheese dishes. This dough is used in tissue-thin layers for flaky pastries. It is considered incredibly versatile and is considered one of the ancient ingredients of Eastern Mediterranean cooking.
Pickled Turnips: Pickled turnips are the pickles of the Middle East. They have a bold vinegar taste and offer a bit of heat. They get their bright pink hues from marinating with beets while they are being pickled. These are staples of Middle Eastern meals.
Pine Nuts/Pine Seeds: Pine nuts are the editable seeds of a pine tree. The seeds are found in the inner part of an incredibly hard, and inedible, nut casing. Pine nuts are a traditional ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. These seeds are very high in oil, which gives them a luxurious buttery texture with a mild, and sweet flavor.
Pistachios: Pistachios are native to the Middle East and a common ingredient in many Eastern Mediterranean dishes. The flavor of pistachio is a deep nutty, yet delicate flavor that is versatile in pairing. Interestingly, it is also considered a fruit, and not an actual nut by biology.
Pomegranate: A pomegranate is an orange-sized fruit with a tough, reddish outer skin that has chambers of pleasantly sweet, slightly tangy, red berries. Pomegranates are native to the Middle East and have long been cultivated throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Pomegranate Molasses: Pomegranate molasses is one of the most commonly used, and versatile, in Eastern Mediterranean kitchens. It is a think, sweet and sticky syrup that is used to flavor sweet and savory dishes. It is used as a marinade or as a simple ingredient in different sauces and dips.
Rosewater: Rosewater is flavored water made by steeping rose petals in the water. Rosewater is sweet and has a fragrant flavor. It has been a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking for centuries, added to jellies, syrups, cakes, puddings, and other savory delicacies.
Rubbed Sage: Rubbed sage is similar to a more familiar ground sage. However, the flavor is a bit lighter and less concentrated. It is made by rubbing dried whole sage leaves together to create a light and fluffy mix. Rugged sage is earthy, warm, and highly aromatic.
Saffron: Saffron is considered one of the most precious spices in the world. It originates from Greece, but today is primarily grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India. Saffron has a subtle and fragrant – with a slightly sweet and rich flavor.
Sumac: Sumac is a spice that stems from a sumac bush, native to the Middle East, which produces deep berries that are then ground into a coarse powder. Sumac is a versatile spice with a tart, lemony flavor that also adds a pop of color to dishes.
Toasted Sesame Seed: Sesame seeds are a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Toasted sesame seeds are crunchy and have a subtle, nutty taste.
Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice that stems from the ginger family. It is a mildly aromatic spice that has notes of ginger and orange. It has pungent, bitter overtones. It is also used frequently for color, as it has a brilliant yellow hue.
Za’atar: Za’atar is an herb or a mixture of herbs and spices, that is very popular in Eastern Mediterranean dishes. It is a woodsy, herbal, and citrusy spiced blend that has a deep red color and balanced tannin and tart taste. Others describe the staple as tangy and nutty. The mixture typically includes a blend of roasted sesame seeds, thyme, cumin, dried sumac, and salt. The ratio of ingredients changes depending on the household and the region.