Spices, Grains and Nuts
- Allspice (B’harrat)- allspice berries are ground into a rich dark powder that tastes like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
- Nuts – keep walnuts, almonds, pistachios and pine nuts (snobar) in the freezer.
- Bulghur (burghol) – this grain is available in three sizes – fine, medium and coarse – and is sold by the pound. Use the correct size specified in the recipe.
- Chick peas – round legumes used to make hummus and are an essential ingredient in many foods.
- Cinnamon - dried cinnamon is either ground or in sticks. Sticks are useful in sugar syrups or stews with prunes. Use cinnamon with allspice in meats.
- Coriander (kisebrah) - nutty flavored spice made from dried seeds of the cilantro flower.
- Cumin (kamoon) – a main ingredient in Syrian cooking, this ground spice comes from a plant native to the Nile Valley.
- Lentils - red, and brown lentils are used in soups and rice dishes.
- Mint - dried and ground – used in stews and other cooked dishes.
- Paprika – is made from finely ground sweet red bell peppers.
- Parsley – although flat leaf has more flavor, many Spehardim prefer the curly leaf parsley.
- Rice - store both long grain and converted rice in your pantry.
- Salt – keep Kosher (coarse) and table salt on hand at all times.
- Semolina (smead) – a pale yellow flour is an essential ingredient mixed with flour
- Sesame Seeds (simson) – add a nutty flavor to savory foods and pastries and are used as a garnish.
- Sugar - granulated sugar is used in baking.
- Za’tar - a combination of thyme, sumac, marjoram.
Dried Fruits, Pastes and Sauces
- Apricots – Use prepackaged apricots as they are softer and moister than loose apricots.
- Dates (Adjwah) – dried Mejool are preferred because they are moister and meatier. Buy them pitted.
- Prunes - Dried prunes are often used in stews.
- Rose or orange blossom water – used in pastry
- Tahini – is a sesame paste used as a sauce on falafel or mixed with hummus.
- Tamarind paste (temerhindy) – a paste made from cooking the pulp of the tamarind fruit, straining it and then simmering it until thick. The flavor is rich and tart and this last in your refrigerator for years.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Herbs – parsley, dill and mint
- Eggplant – the pulp is used in dips and spreads.
- Fruit – whatever is in season
- Kerbies (or other types of cucumber)
- Peppers – green and red
- Potatoes – red and brown
- Tomatoes - cherry, grape, roma, beefsteak (in season)
- Bread – Pita or pocket bread is used for dipping and sandwiches. Best if bought and used daily, but can be stored in the freezer and toasted.
- Cheeses – there are several cheeses usually kept in a Mediterranean pantry. Muenster, mozzarella, white cheese, strong cheese and keshkevan (salty hard cheese) are essential.
- Grape leaves – remove them from the brine and soak in cold water for 15 minutes before using.
- Matzo meal – used year round like bread crumbs in meatballs, and crusts.
- Oil - keep vegetable and olive oil on hand.
- Phyllo dough - this paper- thin dough is used for pastry and other delights. Buy fresh just before using it.
- Puff pastry dough – buy frozen and store. Easy to use in making hor d’oeurves, desserts, and other items.
Photos above by Mark Greenberg