Keftes, or Syrian Meatballs

These little Syrian meatballs are totally different from the ones we eat on top of spaghetti. Keftes tend to be smaller and are cooked in a sweet and sour tomato-based sauce and are eaten over rice. They’re one of my favorite Syrian dishes, and though they’re usually served as part of a whole spread of meats, salads and vegetables (sometimes they’re not even the only serve-over-rice dish), I like to make them the main event on a weeknight!

Keftes, or Syrian Meatballs


For the keftes:

  • 1 lb chopped meat
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal
  • salt and pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 (14 oz.) cans tomato sauce
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • salt to taste


  1. Mix all of the ingredients for the keftes together and form into balls, about 2 tablespoons in size.
  2. Brown the meatballs in a little bit of olive oil in a pot.
  3. Add all of the sauce ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower the fire, cover and let simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, making sure the keftes are cooked through.
  5. Serve over rice.

Oh, and happy birthday Rebekah!

Meatless Mondays: Spanach Jibben

We just hate all those commercials about how gross vegetables are that they have to hide them in gross fruit drinks! We love vegetables, so here’s a traditional Syrian way to eat them. It’s an easy way to get spinach into your diet, even for those picky eaters, and a great Meatless Monday dinner! Continue reading

Kibbe Mushroom

Kibbes are our version of little meatballs, and are a staple in the Syrian household. We cook them with peas, cherries, sour soup and many other savory dishes. Let’s just say it’s not Friday night without a kibbe (or many) at the table. Now don’t confuse these little kibbe meatballs with the bulgur-shelled and meat-stuffed kibbe torpedoes. They’re completely different. If that made no sense to you, continue reading this blog, we’ll definitely explain more about these middle-eastern staples soon! Continue reading

Syrian Style String Beans with Tomato

Lucky me, I picked up some string beans from my CSA yesterday, and now I know what I’m going to break my fast on tonight! They’re just what I need after a full 25 hours of not eating; a light dinner (and a lot of fluids) instead of a feast that will make me feel sick afterwords.

We’ve showed you how we make Asian-style string beans, but these are more true to our heritage: Syrian-style! They’re almost as easy to make, and have just a bit more ingredients. Sometimes we like to eat them with rice for a light dinner, but they really work best as a side dish where the protein is the star of the meal (you may recognize that we made them to serve with lamb chops once).

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Mejadra, or Rice and Lentils


It is customary to eat lentils in a time of mourning, based on the food that Yaakov cooked when Avraham died. (Another customary mourning meal is a hardboiled egg with a loaf of bread, which symbolizes the circle of life.)

Rice and lentils is a popular Syrian dish. It’s often served as a weeknight meal along with jibben or a light fish, but that’s not why we’re posting it now; it is a one-pot meal and is it’s our custom to eat this on the night before Tisha b’Av (which is tomorrow!). Serve it with some plain yogurt and you have a pretty balanced (and simple) one-pot meal. Serve it alongside a million other dishes, like pizza, jibben, salad, knishes, sambusak, etc, and you have yourself a typical Syrian dairy meal. Continue reading


When Ricky gave me a package of phyllo dough that he had defrosted and forgot to use, I brought it over to my sister’s house so we could make baklava together.

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Hameen, or Baked Chicken and Rice

While looking through a Syrian cookbook, I came across a dutch oven recipe for hameen, a dish that required a whole chicken, 5 hours, and long-grain white rice. It sounded delicious, but I definitely had to switch it up a little bit. This recipe is pretty simple and the ingredients are all really basic, and you should have most, if not all of them in your house already. Continue reading

Cooking Yebra

We taught you how to roll and freeze the yebra, and I’m sure you were eager to know how to actually cook at eat it…well here’s one way to do it!

Yebra is definitely a Syrian favorite. We eat it with sweet sauce, sour sauce, meat filled, and with rice and chick peas inside (a pareve version). Different families prefer it different ways. This is not how our mom makes it, but it’s a really yummy version with apricots, one of my favorites.

These take a long time to cook, so if you’re making it for Friday night dinner, make it on Thursday night and reheat it before dinner Friday.

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Rolling Yebra

Update: after you read this post and roll your yebra, go ahead and cook it!

Yebra, or stuffed grape leaves, is a traditional Syrian food that can be prepared in a few different ways. But before you can eat it, you have to actually stuff and roll the grape leaves with hashu (there’s a pareve version, too). To make a whole 16-oz. jar of grape leaves, you need to double the hashu recipe.

I actually used a slightly different recipe for hashu. This one is from a cookbook called Deal Delights, a pretty old book with traditional Syrian recipes.



grape leaves

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Bizir, or Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Bizir is the Arabic name for toasted pumpkin seeds. I’m not sure what the correct English spelling is; it can just as easily be bizid or bizit. There isn’t really a letter in the English language to substitute for the sound I’m trying to make, but it’s pretty much a combination of those three.


Anyway, bizir is something I grew up watching people around me eating. As a kid, it’s impossible to crack open the shell to leave an intact inside, so sometimes I would get frustrated and eat the whole thing (not a good idea). But now I’ve gotten the hang of it, and it’s a light and fun snack. My family often pairs bizir with dessert and after-dinner tea, but it can just as easily be a watching TV snack on its own.

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