Grilled eggplant dip with yogurt garnished with roasted seasoned almonds, red pepper, parsley, drizzled with olive oil (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Recipe Corner: Faye Levy’s Flavorful Middle Eastern Dips for All Seasons


(Recipes reprinted from the Orange County Register)

By  Faye Levy and Yakir Levy

From velvety dips and spreads to vibrant salads to rosewater-spiked treats, Middle Eastern cuisine is as colorful as it is delicious. You may have noticed hummus rising in popularity over the past few years, with a huge array of flavors available at most grocery stores and markets. But you might not have tried the colorful variety of other Middle Eastern dips out there. Never fear: We’ve gathered an array for you to try soon. Grab fresh pita, pita chips, flat bread or favorite crackers and get ready to taste some wonderful favorites.

“Middle Eastern cuisines are known for a variety of meat dishes but cooks make many colorful and healthy vegetable dips as well, to serve as appetizers or side dishes. Armenian, Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian or Palestinian meals sometimes begin with an array of such dips. At home, we make those savory, easy to prepare dips and spreads mostly from pantry foods combined with one or two fresh ingredients,” says Faye Levy, culinary columnist and award-winning author.

Faye is the lead cooking columnist for the Jerusalem Post and the author of 23 critically acclaimed cookbooks, including Feast from the Mideast and 1,000 Jewish Recipes. She has won prestigious prizes for her cookbooks, including a James Beard Award. A syndicated cooking columnist, she has contributed many articles to the country’s top newspapers, as well as to Gourmet, Bon Appetit and other magazines. One of Faye’s cookbooks, Feast from the Mideast, offers a veritable banquet of authentic, tempting dishes and is the ultimate all-in-one guide to the wholesome cuisines of these historic, sun-drenched lands:

“For almost four decades, Faye Levy has shopped, cooked, and dined her way through the Mideast, and her enthusiasm for this flavorful, unfussy cuisine will inspire you to make these ancient culinary traditions your own. Featuring the bold flavors and simple, healthy techniques of more than ten countries, this collection has dishes for every occasion, from dinner-party feasts to quick and healthy weekday meals. Faye’s repertoire of fresh, mouthwatering specialties ranges from a simple sandwich enlivened by a zesty Grilled Eggplant Sesame Dip to elegant Grilled Lamb Chops spiced up with Garlic Cumin Tomato Salsa. Chef Faye takes readers beyond hummus and falafel-although she offers stellar recipes for both of these classics.”

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“Here are some examples of fresh Middle Eastern dips to enjoy any season of the year,” says Faye.

Grilled eggplant dip with red peppers drizzled with olive oil, garnished with chopped parsley (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Three-way Grilled Eggplant Dip

The easiest way to cook eggplants is to grill them whole. You can make them into Middle Eastern eggplant dip with tahini, Persian-style eggplant with yogurt, or reddish-orange eggplant dip with roasted red peppers. Globe eggplants are traditional but we like to use Chinese eggplants too. For garnish, use mint sprigs, olives, toasted almonds or pomegranate arils, or the customary chopped parsley and ground red pepper. Serve these dips with fresh pita bread or other Middle Eastern flatbreads.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


2 globe eggplants (total about 2 pounds), whole

3 large garlic cloves, minced

4 to 5 tablespoons tahini, stirred in jar until blended before measuring, to taste

3 to 4 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice, to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

About 2 or 3 teaspoons minced Italian parsley (garnish)

Aleppo pepper (coarsely ground, semi-hot Middle Eastern red pepper), coarsely ground hot or sweet paprika or cayenne pepper (garnish)


Preheat broiler or prepare grill with medium-hot coals.

Prick each eggplant 5 or 6 times with a fork. Set eggplants on a broiler pan, lined with foil if you like, or on grill. Broil or grill, turning eggplants a few times, until they are very tender, about 20 minutes. They should look collapsed and their skins should be charred; check for tenderness by pressing on neck end or piercing it with a fork – it should go in easily.

Remove eggplants from oven or grill. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut off eggplant caps. Halve eggplants lengthwise. Scoop and scrape out eggplant pulp from inside skin. Put pulp in a colander; leave for 5 minutes to drain off any liquid. Chop pulp fine with a knife or by pulsing in a food processor. Transfer eggplant to a bowl. Add garlic and mix well.

Spoon tahini into a medium-size bowl. Gradually stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water. Add to eggplant and mix well. Season generously with salt, add pepper to taste and more lemon juice for a sharper taste or water for a milder taste or thinner dip. If you like, stir in more tahini; taste again for seasoning. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours to blend flavors. To serve, spread eggplant mixture in a thick layer on a plate, making edges slightly thicker than center. Drizzle center with olive oil. Garnish with parsley and Aleppo pepper.

Hummus (chickpea tahini dip) garnished with chickpeas, chives, edible
flowers, red pepper, drizzled with olive oil (Photo by Yakir Levy)


Grilled Eggplant Dip with Yogurt

Omit tahini, lemon juice and water. Mix 1 1/2 cups whole milk yogurt into eggplant-garlic mixture. Add 1/2 teaspoon dried mint or more to taste, and, if desired, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons roasted peeled hot peppers such as jalapenos or pinches of cayenne pepper to taste. Taste for salt; add more yogurt if desired.

Grilled Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip

Broil and peel 1 1/2 to 2 pounds red bell peppers, following steps 1 and 2 in recipe for Spicy Walnut and Red Pepper Pâté. Purée broiled peppers in a food processor. Add chopped broiled eggplant, minced garlic and tahini sauce to processor and blend until smooth. Taste for salt, and add 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or cayenne pepper to taste. Serve drizzled with olive oil and, if you like, garnished with roasted red pepper strips.

Chickpea and Tahini Dip (Hummus)

When time allows, we cook dried chickpeas for hummus; their cooking liquid enhances the flavor. In addition to the usual garnishes – a drizzle of olive oil, and pinches of chopped parsley and ground red pepper, you can add chopped chives, mint sprigs, edible flowers, cooked chickpeas or toasted pine nuts.

Yield: 8 servings


1/2 pound dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) (about 1 1/4 cups) or two 15-ounce cans

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup tahini, stirred in jar until blended before measuring

1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

1/2 cup chickpea cooking liquid or water

Salt to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Aleppo pepper, paprika or cayenne pepper (garnish)

Chopped Italian parsley (garnish)


Pick over chickpeas, discarding any pebbles and broken or discolored peas. Rinse well. If you like, soak chickpeas 8 hours or overnight in water to cover generously; this cuts their cooking time slightly and helps improve the texture if peas are old. Drain soaked chickpeas and rinse.

Put chickpeas in a large saucepan and add 5 cups water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until very tender. Drain well, reserving cooking liquid. Cool slightly. If you like, rub chickpeas gently to remove their skins.

Chop chickpeas in food processor. Add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and 1/4 cup chickpea cooking liquid or liquid from the can. Puree until blended and chickpeas are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl. Gradually stir in more chickpea cooking liquid or water until puree is a smooth spread. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. To serve, spoon hummus onto a serving plate. Spread it so edges are thicker than center. Drizzle olive oil into center. Garnish with pinches of Aleppo pepper and chopped parsley.

Faye Levy and Yakir Levy are culinary columnists of the Jerusalem Post, a position Faye has held since 1990. The Levys have lived on three continents, and Faye has written 23 cookbooks in English, French, and Hebrew, including five on Jewish cooking. Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook won a James Beard Award, and Classic Cooking Techniques, Chocolate Sensations, and Fresh from France-Vegetable Creations won awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Faye’s latest cookbooks are Feast from the Mideast, Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home, 1,000 Jewish Recipes and Jewish Cooking for Dummies. The Levys have contributed many articles to the Los Angeles Times Food Section, and Faye has written numerous features for Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Chocolatier, Vegetarian Times and other magazines and major newspapers. Faye’s dishes have graced the covers of Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazines.

Faye began her career in Israel as the assistant of celebrated cookbook author Ruth Sirkis. Next Faye enrolled in a six-week course at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. The Levys lived in Paris for almost six years, during which Faye obtained professional chefs’ training and worked as La Varenne’s cookery editor. The Levys enjoy expanding and sharing their culinary and cultural knowledge at every opportunity, whether around town or traveling across the globe.

Faye and her husband, writing and photography partner, Yakir Levy (Photo by
Yakir Levy)


For dip recipes, go to:

For more recipes, go to:

For Faye’s famous Israeli Salad California Style, see:

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© Copyright 2022 Faye Levy. All Rights Reserved.

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