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Date Posted: 04:35:54 02/04/16 Thu
Author: robin
Subject: Iraqi cuisine

Levantine cuisine is the traditional cuisine of the Levant, Mashriq, or Greater Syria area. Although now divided into Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Palestine, the region has historically been more united, and shares most of the same culinary traditions. Although almost identical, there is some regional variation within the Levantine area.

In general, Levantine foods have much in common with other eastern Mediterranean cuisines, such as Greek and Turkish cuisine, as well as Armenian cuisine.

Some of the basic similarities are the extensive use of olive oil, za'atar, and garlic, and common dishes include a wide array of mezze or bread dips, stuffings, and side dishes such as hummus, falafel, ful, tabouleh, labaneh, and baba ghanoush.

It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned with lemon juice—almost no meal goes by without including these ingredients. Most often foods are either grilled, baked, fried, or sautéed in olive oil; butter and cream are rarely used, other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled, as well as cooked. While the cuisine does not boast a multitude of sauces, it focuses on herbs, spices, and the freshness of ingredients.

Iraqi cuisine utilizes more spices than most Arab cuisines. Iraq's main food crops include wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, and dates. Vegetables include eggplant, okra, potatoes, and tomatoes. Pulses such as chickpeas and lentils are also quite common. Common meats in Iraqi cooking are lamb and beef; fish and poultry are also used.

Soups and stews are often prepared and served with rice and vegetables. Biryani, although influenced by Indian cuisine, is milder with a different mixture of spices, and a wider variety of vegetables, including potatoes, peas, carrots, and onions. Dolma is also one of the most popular dishes.

The Iraqi cuisine is famous for its extremely tender kebab, as well as its tikka. A wide variety of spices, pickles, and amba are also extensively used.

In the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jordan, the population has a cooking style of their own, involved in roasting various meats, baking flat breads, and cooking thick yogurt-like pastes from goat's milk.

Musakhan is a common main dish, famous in northern Jordan, the city of Jerusalem, and northern West Bank. The main component is taboon bread, which is topped with pieces of cooked sweet onions, sumac, saffron, and allspice. For large dinners, it can be topped by one or two roasted chickens on a single large taboon bread.

The primary cheese of the Palestinian mezze is Ackawi cheese, which is a semi-hard cheese with a mild, salty taste and sparsely filled with roasted sesame seeds.

Maqluba is another popular meal in Jordan and central Palestine. Mujaddara, another food of the West Bank, as well as in the Levant in general, consists of cooked green lentils, with bulghur sauteed in olive oil. Mansaf is a traditional meal, and the national dish of Jordan, having roots in the Bedouin population of the country. It is mostly cooked on special occasions such as Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr, a birth, or a large dinner gathering. Mansaf is a leg of lamb or large pieces of mutton, on top of a markook bread that has been topped with yellow rice. A type of thick dried yogurt made from goat's milk, called jameed, is poured on top of the lamb and rice to give it its distinct flavor and taste. The dish is garnished with cooked pine nuts and almonds.

Levantine cuisine is also famous for its wide range of cheeses like Shanklish, Halloum, and Arisheh. Kishk is also a famous Syrian soup, alongside many soups made of lentils. Lebanese food also has a wide range of dips like Hummous, Baba Ghannouj, and Labneh, and also caters many raw meat dishes. Syrian food could be either extremely vegetarian or a meat lover's paradise. Lemon, oregano, za'atar, paprika, and various other Mediterranean spices and herbs are used in Syrian cuisine.

To top it off, Levantine cuisine also incorporates wines made in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine and the Levantine equivalent of the Greek Ouzo, known as Arak.

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