Thursday Thirteen: Mona’s Middle Eastern Eats


I was surprised at the number of you last week who commented that you didn’t know what taboule is. You poor, sheltered people! This mixture of parsley, bulgur wheat, onions and/or scallions, and tomatoes, all tossed in a light, lovely lemony, garlicky, olive oil dressing… Oh, it’s to die for. The combination of flavors makes your tastebuds come alive.

So as I was thinking of a way to incorporate taboule into my second Thirteen in a row, I decided to create a new restaurant in my fictional town of Riverview. Why not? After all, I love Middle Eastern food. And since Mitchell likes his food on the healthy side (as opposed to Trevor, who thinks grease ought to be a food group), Mona’s Middle Eastern Eats came to mind.

On the menu at Mona’s…
1. Taboule, of course!

2. And hummus and baba ganoush. These purees (of chick peas and smoked eggplant, respectively) define Middle Eastern food for many. Mona’s makes both in-house and often hopes they don’t run out by the end of the day.

3. Falaffel is a classic. Chick pea patties are deep-fried and served with a yogurt sauce. At Mona’s, you can have them as a sandwich, wrapped in a freshly-baked pita, if you’d like. Or you can have the appetizer style: little balls of flavored goodness.

4. Most people know about grape leaves. Stuffed with either ground lamb and rice or other goodies like chick peas, these can be served either cold or hot, depending on your filling preference. Mitchell likes them cold ’cause they’re easier to pick up to eat. They are also fun to play with; they make great pretend cigars.

5. And then there’s Kibbee. You can usually get this lamb and wheat delicacy raw or cooked. With raw meat, there’s always a chance it can make you sick. (Sort of like oysters) Mona’s does its best to make sure the raw version won’t make you swear to never return, but it’s hard to find locally-grown, grass-fed lamb that’s processed in a clean enough plant. They are considering removing the raw option from the menu.

6. Shish Kebab! This can be chicken, beef, or even lamb. Chunks of meat slow-roasted on a skewer with lots of vegetables, served over rice… oh, the heaven. There’s a variation of this that Mona’s is famous for. It’s called kefta, and Mona’s makes it with ground beef and lots of cinnamon and other spices. It’s not the most appetizing to look at, but consider where it’s headed once you put it in your mouth. That’s what matters.

7. Greek salad. C’mon, does this need a lot of explanation? Iceberg lettuce, kalamata olives, rings of red onion, feta cheese, cucumber, all liberally doused in a light lemon-garlic-olive oil dressing. Very similar to the dressing for taboule. Only different.

8. Fatoosh. Take the flavors of taboule, add lettuce, baked pita chips, mint, cucumber, and chicken, and you’ve got yourself a main course. If you want to take your leftovers home, Mona’s will give you fresh pita chips, as they will get soggy if not separated out.

9. Spinach pie. dough baked with a spinach-and-onion mixture inside. Big enough for dinner and surprisingly heavy, thanks to the dough.

10. Stuffed cabbage. What, you thought the Eastern Europeans had the market on this stand-by? Not even close. Mona’s will stuff the cabbage leaves with a lamb-and-tomato mixture, and serve it in a homemade tomato sauce that is light and tasty.

11. Moussaka. Layers of eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and ground lamb smothered in cheese and accompanied by a light sauce. Mona’s brags that this is their signature dish, but they actually sell more of the kefta.

And for dessert:
12. Halva. Mona imports this sesame-seed candy from Turkey. It arrives wrapped in its own package, like a candy bar. And yes, there are some chocolate-coated varieties available. This is Eric’s not-so-secret indulgence. He never leaves Mona’s without buying a half-dozen — without the chocolate.

13. Baklava. This classic honey-and-nuts dessert in its light phyllo dough really needs no explanation. Unlike most else at Mona’s, this is not baked in-house. Rather, Mona employs an off-site baker whose job is to do nothing but bake trays of baklava, one at a time, with love and care. And lots and lots of honey.

While Mona’s is entirely fictional, this sort of Middle-Eastern menu isn’t. For help and inspiration, I used the guidelines of my own knowledge of these foods (especially as the Tour Manager makes them), as well as the menu from local favorite ali baba. What their website lacks, their food more than makes up for.

Happy eating this week! If I’ve inspired you to try something, be sure to come back and let me know — unless you didn’t like it. No need to make me feel bad!



  1. FickleMinded

    April 1, 2009 8:58 pm

    I’ve heard some of those but never tried any, I’m not that brave in trying new foods.

    FickleMinded’s last blog post..Thursday 13 Week 5

  2. Nicholas

    April 1, 2009 9:05 pm

    I’ve had 6, 11 and 13. Still a way to go though!

  3. orneryswife

    April 1, 2009 9:06 pm

    I <3 cabbage rolls. Mmm. I haven’t tried much else on the list, but it was a good one!

    orneryswife’s last blog post..Thursday Thirteen: Things I Love

  4. Adelle Laudan

    April 1, 2009 9:09 pm

    I’ll take #6 and 13. Not sure I want to try any of the others lol Not very adventurous when it comes to food and I hate chickpeas Gag
    Happy T13!

    Adelle Laudan’s last blog post..

  5. jenn

    April 1, 2009 10:02 pm

    I love this! I want to try so many of these…

    jenn’s last blog post..Thursday Thirteen ~ Ten

  6. Janet

    April 1, 2009 10:24 pm

    Man all that food reminds me of my boyfriend in high school; he was of Lebanese descent and I had the most delicious grape leaves at his house…and baklava and other things you mentioned.

    Lately, my favorite sandwich is kalamata olives and hummus…delish!

    Janet’s last blog post..Snapshot: March 2009

  7. Zorlone

    April 1, 2009 10:47 pm

    Tabou.. what again? He he he! Makes my mouth water! We have several middle eastern restos here in my country and so far, I think I have tried Hummus, shish Kebab, and stuffed cabbage. I am not familiar with the others on the list, however, I may have tasted some of them but forgot the names.

    bon appetit, rather Noosh-e jan!


    Zorlone’s last blog post..Result of the WOOF contest!

  8. The Mother

    April 1, 2009 10:56 pm

    Middle Eastern is one of my favorite cuisines. I’ve been learning to cook it. Great, and healthy.

    The Mother’s last blog post..Help! Aliens are Taking over my Living Room!

  9. Cindi

    April 1, 2009 11:28 pm

    Mmm Susan! It all sounds delish! 🙂

  10. Hootin' Anni

    April 2, 2009 12:33 am

    I love stuffed cabbage.
    Ironic tho….

    My 13 is all about ‘icky’ foods. Won’t you join me for a bite?!!!

    Hootin’ Anni’s last blog post..

  11. Robin

    April 2, 2009 2:14 am

    Very fun idea for a thirteen. Sounds like your Ali Baba is Arab-owned. If it was an Israeli middle eastern restaurant the sauce on the felafel would be tahini (and often hummous, hot sauce or curry sauce too + a huge amount of other fillings – including french fries(!), pickles and salad), and the kibbee would be called kubbeh. Same stuff though, it’s Iraqi in origin.

    (By the way, if anyone’s interested I have a great “cheater” recipe for kubbah where the semolina is mixed right in with the meat instead of coated on and then fried. Healthier and a lot easier, and the taste is almost identical :).)

    Robin’s last blog post..Playin’, playin’ in the band

  12. Shelley Munro

    April 2, 2009 4:19 am

    Okay, I do know what taboule is – a duh moment on my part! I love Middle Eastern food and have tried most of these. I wondered if you’d have baklava for dessert. I think you need Turkish coffee as well. 🙂

  13. Rasmenia

    April 2, 2009 7:47 am

    *wipes drool from keyboard* I so love food-related posts. 😉

    I’ve actually had all of this stuff. My husband is French-Arabic & I have some in-laws living in Lebanon, so I’ve been lucky enough to have been introduced to some fabulous dishes by all of them.

    Many of those are popular foods here in France – we’re actually planning on picking up a couple of Turkish döner kebabs for dinner tonight. 🙂

    Happy TT to you!

  14. Leah Braemel

    April 2, 2009 7:51 am

    Oh, I love Taboule. And Hummus. The only ones I haven’t tried on this list is Kibbee and Fatoosh. Considering I haven’t even had my first morning cuppa, you’re making me hungry. I wish Mona’s MEE was near me. I know where I’d be going for a long lunch today.

  15. Carmen

    April 2, 2009 8:34 am

    hummus and baklava, appetizer and desert for me!

    Carmen’s last blog post..Thursday 13 – Interview with Rekaya Gibson

  16. Brenda

    April 2, 2009 9:22 am

    I love hummus! I have it as often as I can.

    Brenda’s last blog post..In Celebration of Fools

  17. Barbara

    April 2, 2009 10:30 am

    I’m hungry! I think I need to have something to eat.

    Barbara’s last blog post..Thursday Thirteen

  18. Gattina

    April 2, 2009 11:06 am

    I love taboulé and we eat it quite often in summer cold in winter warm. Most of your plates I know my grandma used to make stuffed cabbage, but Baklava I don’t like it’s too sweet !

    Gattina’s last blog post..

  19. Cascia @ Healthy Moms

    April 2, 2009 11:41 am

    I’m not to familiar with those foods. After navigating your site a little bit here I noticed that you are a lot like my daughter. She has a very creative imagination and an fictional world just like you do. She’s talked about writing a book someday, but she is only 12 so that might change. You have a very interesting blog. Thank you for visiting Healthy Moms and for your comment!

    Cascia @ Healthy Moms’s last blog post..Virtual Great American Bake Sale for

  20. On a limb with Claudia

    April 2, 2009 2:07 pm

    Gosh, Mona’s sounds like my kind of place! Yummy! Do you cook this food? I love fresh from the garden baba ganoush – but I love all things eggplant anyway!

    On a limb with Claudia’s last blog post..Thursday 13 – When they came….

  21. Celticlibrarian

    April 2, 2009 2:45 pm

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this right before lunch. Now I’m starving.

    Celticlibrarian’s last blog post..13 Days of April 2006

  22. Becky68

    April 2, 2009 2:55 pm

    I’ve had many of these things, I think my favorite (other than the greek salad) is taboule though.

    Becky68’s last blog post..Thirteen Things On My Desk At Work (many of which aren’t mine)

  23. Clara

    April 2, 2009 3:15 pm

    Excuse me, I need to get a napkin. I’m drooling. It sounds so good. I have to admit, the only item on your list I’ve had is baklava. I’m pretty timid about trying different tastes. But I think I may have to try some of these things.

    Clara’s last blog post..Thursday Thirteen – Things That Begin With ‘B’

  24. Alice Audrey

    April 2, 2009 4:36 pm

    They didn’t know about taboule? I love taboule!

    Alice Audrey’s last blog post..T13: Thirteen Stray Thoughts

  25. Patricia

    April 2, 2009 7:13 pm

    I just recently posted my recipe for tabouleh! I love it. Actually, I love most of the dishes you list.

    Patricia’s last blog post..Readers and Droppers Show Perfect Attendance in March

  26. Sandra

    April 2, 2009 8:15 pm

    I adore Shish Kebab! 😉
    Great list you’ve got there!

    Sandra’s last blog post..Some New Pics…

  27. Julia Smith

    April 2, 2009 8:15 pm

    Stop – you’re making me hungry and I don’t have any of that in front of me…

    Julia Smith’s last blog post..I’m blogging at Popculturedivas – Scroll down for Thursday Thirteen

  28. Christi

    April 2, 2009 8:32 pm

    Very interesting! I’m going to suggest my husband (a big foodie) read this too!

    Christi’s last blog post..Thursday Thirteen: Things I do not like

  29. Lesley

    April 2, 2009 10:02 pm

    Darn it, woman! Now I’m starved! I love middle eastern food SOOO MUCH! Especially fallafel! mmmm Falaffel! I’ve never tried the stuffed grape leaves. I’ll have to give them a go!

    Lesley’s last blog post..Coming Up for Air

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