Exploring the Rich Tapestry of Mediterranean Cuisine: Levant's Comprehensive Guide

~Mezze and Appetizers~


Originating from the Levant region, hummus is a beloved dip that has transcended borders. Its base of chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), garlic, and lemon juice makes it both creamy and rich in flavor. Historically, hummus was a staple in ancient Middle Eastern cuisine due to the abundant availability of chickpeas, a key legume. Today, it’s popular across the Mediterranean as a dip, spread, or side dish. Garnished with paprika, parsley, or olive oil, it’s often served with pita bread, providing a versatile complement to any meal.

Baba Ghanoush / Mutabal:

Baba Ghanoush is a smoky eggplant dip with roots in Levantine cuisine. Traditionally, eggplants are roasted over an open flame, which imparts a distinct smoky flavor. After roasting, they’re blended with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic to form a smooth and luscious dip. Culturally, baba ghanoush is a symbol of the region’s resourcefulness, as it uses common ingredients in inventive ways. The dip is often garnished with pomegranate seeds and olive oil, adding a burst of color and flavor.


Originating from Aleppo, Syria, muhammara is a spicy dip made from red pepper paste, walnuts, and olive oil. Historically, the dish was a way to preserve peppers and nuts for longer periods. The name “muhammara” comes from the Arabic word for “reddened,” referring to its rich, vibrant hue. Traditionally served as a mezze, it has a sweet and nutty flavor profile, thanks to the blend of walnuts, Aleppo pepper, and pomegranate molasses.


A yogurt-based dip with origins in Greece, tzatziki is a refreshing blend of yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and mint. It has ancient roots in Greek and Turkish cuisine, where yogurt was prized for its cooling effect. Tzatziki is often paired with grilled meats or served as a dip with pita bread. The cucumber provides a crisp contrast to the creamy yogurt, making it a versatile addition to any Mediterranean spread.

Dolma / Sarma:

The tradition of stuffed grape leaves (known as dolma or sarma) dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Grape leaves are filled with a mixture of rice, pine nuts, and herbs, then rolled and cooked until tender. Often served with a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil, these stuffed leaves represent the region’s culinary creativity. The fillings vary across the Mediterranean, with some including minced meat or bulgur.


Shakshuka is a North African dish of poached eggs in a spiced tomato and pepper sauce. The word “shakshuka” means “a mixture,” aptly describing its blend of bold flavors. It is believed to have Berber origins but became popular in the Middle East, particularly in Israel. Today, it’s enjoyed as a hearty breakfast or brunch, often accompanied by warm bread for dipping.

~Flatbreads and Pies~

Lahmajun / Lahmacun:

“Lahmajun” means “meat with dough” in Arabic, reflecting its simple yet delicious preparation. Often called “Turkish pizza,” it’s a thin flatbread topped with minced beef or lamb, tomatoes, and Mediterranean spices. The concept originated in ancient Mesopotamia but became popular throughout the Middle East. It’s traditionally served rolled up with parsley and lemon, providing a light yet satisfying snack or meal.


A Turkish flatbread resembling a boat in shape, pide is often topped with soujouk, minced beef, or cheese. The dough is kneaded and rested before being filled with various ingredients. Pide has been a staple in Turkish cuisine for centuries, offering a portable yet filling meal for travelers and workers. It’s usually baked in a stone oven for a crisp crust and a soft, chewy center.

Manakish / Man’oushe:

A Lebanese flatbread topped with za’atar, cheese, or minced meat. Manakish dates back to ancient Levantine societies, where it was a popular breakfast item. It’s traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven and enjoyed with yogurt, labneh, or fresh vegetables.


Sfiha, originating from Syria and Lebanon, is an open-faced meat pie filled with seasoned beef or lamb. Its roots lie in Levantine cuisine, where it’s often served as street food or during family gatherings. The pastry is topped with a flavorful blend of ground meat and spices, offering a savory and aromatic treat.

~Kebabs and Grilled Meats~


Kebabs are skewered meats grilled to perfection and come in many variations:

  • Chicken Shish: Chicken breast marinated in yogurt, lemon, and spices, then grilled until tender. It originated in Ottoman cuisine, where chicken was often marinated for days before grilling.
  • Beef Lulah / Adana: Ground beef or lamb mixed with herbs and spices, formed into skewers, and grilled. This kebab is associated with Adana, Turkey, and is traditionally served with flatbread and grilled vegetables.
  • Beef Shish Kebab: Skewered beef cubes marinated in olive oil, garlic, and herbs, then grilled. Its roots lie in Middle Eastern cuisine, where beef is prized for its rich flavor.

Lamb Chops:

Marinated and grilled lamb chops are tender and succulent, often served with rice or mashed potatoes. Historically, lamb was a key source of protein in the Mediterranean and Middle East. At Levant, the chops are marinated in herbs and spices to enhance their natural flavors.

Beyti Kebab / Couplet Kebab:

This kebab is made from ground beef mixed with herbs and spices, wrapped in lavash, and served with yogurt and tomato sauce. It has Ottoman roots and is named after a famous Turkish chef who popularized the recipe.

~Main Courses and Stews~

Greek Moussaka:

Moussaka is a layered casserole made with eggplant, zucchini, and ground beef, topped with bechamel sauce. Its origins are traced back to the Ottoman Empire, but it’s most associated with Greek cuisine. It’s a staple dish in Greek households, baked until golden and served hot.


Tagine is a North African stew named after the earthenware pot it’s cooked in. The slow-cooked stew traditionally includes lamb, chicken, or vegetables, along with spices like saffron and cumin. It’s a communal dish, often shared among family members with bread for dipping.

Shrimp Stew:

Mediterranean shrimp stew is made with shrimp marinated in herbs and spices, baked with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It’s a light yet hearty dish that reflects the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea.


Often called “Greek lasagna,” pastitsio is a baked pasta dish layered with ground meat, bechamel sauce, and cheese. The dish has roots in Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine, where it evolved to include a creamy top layer.

~Seafood Delights~

Grilled Salmon:

Salmon fillet is grilled with Mediterranean herbs and olive oil, served with lemon and mixed greens. The use of herbs like oregano and thyme highlights the natural flavors of the fish.

Grilled Sea Bass:

Grilled sea bass is marinated in herbs, then grilled and served with lemon and greens. This dish is popular across the Mediterranean, where fresh-caught fish are a key part of daily meals.

Levant Grilled Octopus:

Octopus is marinated in Mediterranean herbs and grilled until tender. The marination process softens the octopus, while grilling adds a smoky flavor. It’s often paired with potatoes and greens for a light meal.

Levant Grilled Shrimp:

Shrimp marinated in herbs and grilled to perfection, offering a fresh and savory seafood option.

~Soups and Salads~

Lentil Soup:

Lentil soup has ancient roots in the Middle East, where lentils were one of the first crops domesticated. This hearty soup is made with red lentils, carrots, onions, and Mediterranean spices, providing a filling and nutritious start to any meal.

Avgolemono Soup:

Avgolemono is a Greek soup made with chicken broth, lemon juice, and eggs. The blend of lemon and eggs creates a creamy, tangy flavor that pairs well with rice or orzo pasta.

Caprese Salad:

A classic Italian salad made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was first made on the Isle of Capri and represents the colors of the Italian flag.

Greek Salad:

Feta cheese, olives, cucumber, oregano, and lemon juice are mixed to create a bright and refreshing salad. This combination is a hallmark of Greek cuisine, offering a light accompaniment to grilled meats.


Fattoush is a Levantine salad made with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber, and crispy pita chips. The tangy dressing is usually made with pomegranate molasses or lemon juice.

~Breakfast Specialties~

Levant Special Breakfast Spread:

A selection of Mediterranean cheeses, olives, jams, and bread, served with eggs or a soujouk omelet. The spread reflects the diversity of Mediterranean breakfasts, offering a little bit of everything to start the day.

Soujouk Omelet:

A flavorful omelet made with soujouk, a traditional Mediterranean beef sausage. The sausage adds a spicy, savory flavor to the eggs.


A Turkish bagel covered in sesame seeds, simit is often enjoyed plain or with cheese and jam. It’s a popular street food in Istanbul, where vendors sell them from carts in the morning.

Deep Fried Rolls:

Crispy rolls filled with cheese and fried until golden. These are often served as breakfast or snacks.



Baklava is made with thin layers of phyllo pastry, chopped nuts, and honey. It originated in the Ottoman Empire and became popular across the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Kunafa / Knafeh:

A dessert made from shredded pastry soaked in syrup and layered with cheese. It’s typically served with clotted cream or ice cream.


A caramelized milk pudding with a burnt top, giving it a unique flavor and texture. It’s often served with cinnamon and ice cream.

Rice Pudding:

Creamy rice pudding flavored with vanilla and garnished with cinnamon.


An Italian dessert made from layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese.


A creamy, delicate dessert with a buttery crust, offering a sweet finish to any meal.