Life Extension Magazine®
Humus from Salma Hage’s cookbook that embody the Mediterranean diet

Issue: Oct 2016

Healthy Treats from the Middle East

Salma Hage’s book The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook provides a wide variety of recipes that embody the best of the Mediterranean diet. Here, we sample some of the most delicious foods from her latest cookbook.

By Garry Messick.

The fabled virtues of the Mediterranean diet have been well-known for years. Associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol and reduced incidence of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, its main components—olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains—are heavily featured in a new book, The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook by Salma Hage (Phaidon 2016).

Born in Lebanon in 1942, Salma developed a strong interest in the dishes of her native land while growing up on a farm as the eldest of 12 siblings. “I learned quite a bit from my grandmother…Then I learned a lot from my mother-in-law and from my sisters-in-law. I had five sisters-in-law who were all wonderful cooks.”

Along with her husband, Heni, and their son, Joe, Salma emigrated from Lebanon to England in 1967. The young housewife soon found employment as a kitchen hand and eventually climbed the ladder to the position of head chef for a large catering company.

She says her cooking has changed significantly in recent years, after Joe and her grandson, George, became vegetarians. “I wanted to continue preparing delicious, healthy, and satisfying meals for them, but, admittedly, I felt perplexed,” says Salma, who adds that it was “a big upheaval to cut out meat and fish from my home cooking.” But Salma soon became accustomed to going vegetarian.

Salma explains that her new book combines recipes that she modified from meat dishes with traditional Lebanese dishes that were vegetarian or vegan to begin with. “I never imagined that most of the meals I cook would become almost completely vegan, and totally vegetarian,” she says.

Her cookbook contains a wide variety of dishes, listed in categories such as: drinks, breakfast, dips and mezzes, salads, vegetables, legumes and grains, and desserts. Vegan and gluten-free dishes are noted with specific symbols.

What follows are four tasty, healthy recipes drawn from The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook—three entrees and one refreshing beverage. Reprinted by permission of Phaidon.

Eggplant and Pomegranate Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Eggplant and Pomegranate Salad  
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 eggplants peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Gluten-free flour, for dusting
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Handful baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • Handful pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the Dressing:
  • 4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Juice ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°. Put the coriander and cumin seeds into a mortar and crush them with a pestle. Toast them in a dry skillet or frying pan for a few minutes or until fragrant.

Put the eggplants into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle on the toasted coriander and cumin seeds.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil onto a baking sheet. Dip the eggplants lightly in the flour. Place them on the baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until chargrilled and slightly crisp. Let cool.

While the eggplants are roasting, mix all the dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Put the roasted eggplants into a bowl, pour 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes so the dressing can absorb.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and lightly toast the pine nuts until golden.

Add the chopped parsley, spinach and pomegranate seeds to the eggplants and toss together well. Sprinkle on the toasted pine nuts and serve with the remaining dressing.

Bulgur Falafel

Bulgur Falafel  
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 25 minutes, plus 6-8 minutes to cook the patties.
  • Makes 8
  • ½ cup fine bulgur wheat
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup dried green lentils, rinsed
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 small bunch parsley, leaves only
  • 1 small bunch mint, leaves only
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Lebanese 7-spice seasoning (see below)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Soak the bulgur in 1/3 cup boiling water for 15 minutes, or as directed on the package. Drain well.

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water for 8 minutes, or until tender. Drain and let steam dry, then transfer to a bowl.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, boil the lentils in plenty of unsalted water until tender. Drain well.

In a blender or food processor, combine the potatoes, lentils, bulgur wheat, ½ teaspoon pepper, and all the remaining ingredients except for the oil. Pulse to combine, but do not overprocess. The mixture should be smooth but retain some texture. Season well.

Mold the mixture into 8 equal patties, ½-3/4 inch thick. Flour them to prevent them from sticking, if necessary.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Cook the patties in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden, crisp, and heated through. Serve warm.

Lebanese 7-Spice Seasoning

Lebanese 7-Spice Seasoning  
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
  • • Makes about 1 ¾ cups
  • 5 tablespoons ground allspice
  • 3 ½ tablespoons pepper
  • 3 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons ground fenugreek
  • 4 tablespoons ground ginger

Green Lentil Tabbouleh

Green Lentil Tabbouleh  
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 15 minutes
  • Serves 2
  • ½ cup green lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (stock)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Lebanese 7-spice seasoning (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock for 10 minutes, or as directed on the package. Add more broth (stock) if needed. Drain well.

Transfer to a bowl and add all the remaining ingredients.

Mix together well, season with salt and pepper, and serve.


  • This refreshing, sugar-free drink can be prepared in 5 minutes.
  • Serves 2
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint
  • Plenty of ice, to serve
  • Mint sprigs, to garnish

Add the yogurt and milk to a large pitcher and stir well. Add the sea salt and dried mint and stir again. Serve over plenty of crushed ice, with fresh mint for garnish.

The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook
Item #34117

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

To order The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook, call 1-800-544-4440