“Joz ‘aw jibneh??” (nuts or cheese??); my favorite is stuffed with nuts. Atayef are traditional tiny, filled-pancakes usually prepared during Ramadan. The first time I ate ‘atayef was at a Ramadan iftar at the local mosque and they were prepared by a Libyan friend. Like many middle eastern recipes, the recipe involves several steps and according to my husband “everyone thinks they know how to make ‘atayef but they don’t” and in Hebron the best ‘atayef come from Dar Karakeh. I beam with satisfaction whenever he says that my ‘atayef are as good as karakeh’s ‘atayef. Deep-fry them for the best result, but alternatively you can brush melted butter (or samne baladiya) all over them and bake in the oven. Another version called ‘atayef asaferi can also be made by stuffing them with ‘ishta (kind of an arabic clotted cream) and leaving them partially open and dipping them in crushed pistachios.


atayef stuffed with walnuts


atayef asaferi


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Nut stuffing

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon rose or orange blossom water


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon rose water


  • For the pancakes, mix all the ingredients except the baking soda and 1/2 cup warm water until smooth.
  • Let it rise for one hour or until doubled in volume.
  • Stir in baking soda and remaining water.
  • Warm a griddle or a non-stick skillet on medium. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and hold it about 5-8 inches above the skillet when you pour the batter, this helps it stay a nice circle. The pancakes will start to get little bubbles all over the surface and lose the shine. When they are not too shiny, remove them from the skillet (under two minutes), they will be a light brown color on the bottom, transfer them to a plate and cover with a towel until you finish doing the rest.
  • If the ‘atayef seem to thick, thin the batter with a little water.
  • Prepare the nut mixture by mixing all ingredients in a bowl.
  • Prepare the ‘atar by combining ingredients over medium heat until a clear syrup.
  • To stuff the pancakes, hold one in the palm of your hand and gently fold it in half pinching the edge together so you make kind of a cone, fill it with 1 tablespoon of the nut mixture, and pinch all around the half-circle to close it shut. Do not over-stuff. Repeat with all the pancakes.
  • Heat oil for frying over medium-high heat, and fry until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes, turning once. Drain on a paper towel.
  • Alternatively, to bake: melt a stick of butter and brush the ‘atayef liberally and place in a baking dish or sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden, turning them over once during the cooking time.
  • Then, slide the hot pancakes in to the cold ‘atar, remove and place on serving plate. Sprinkle crushed pistachios over the top.






Helbeh (fenugreek cake) is one of my favorite Palestinian desserts. It’s traditionally prepared for new moms but anyone can enjoy it! The dense cake is similar to basbousa but the fenugreek seeds add a distinct flavor which is often compared to maple syrup. There is no sugar in the cake because after the cake is done baking, ‘atar will be poured over the top to soak in and sweeten it. You can also dust each individual piece with cinnamon prior to serving.



  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 3 cups farina
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup fenugreek seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water


  • In a 9 x 13″ baking dish, slick the tahini all over the bottom and sides to coat.
  • Bring the fenugreek seeds to boil in the water, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • Combine the semolina, flour, olive oil, vegetable oil, butter and mix together until absorbed and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the fenugreek seeds and reserve the water. Add the seeds to the flour mix.
  • If the reserved liquid is less than 1 1/4 cups, add a little more water.
  • Add the salt and baking powder, yeast and the liquid slowly and mixing with your hands until it forms a dough.
  • Spread the dough in the baking dish and score into diamonds.
  • Let it rise for 30 minutes in the dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake on the lowest rack for 40 minutes.
  • Prepare the ‘atar by combining ingredients over medium heat until it is a clear syrup, set aside to cool.
  • While cake is hot, pour ‘atar slowly over cake, you may not use all of the ‘atar.
  • Dust with cinnamon prior to serving.

Braised Cornish Hens

I just made these today and they turned out excellent. To round out the meal, serve with roasted potatoes, salad, and perhaps some good, crusty bread to soak up the broth.



  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 3-4 Cornish hens
  • 2 cups chicken broth


  • 5-10 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped sage
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime, set aside and keep the halves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a food processor, combine the marinade ingredients until smooth.
  • Clean the hens with salt and vinegar, then pat dry. Rub the marinade inside and out of the hens.
  • Over medium-high heat, brown the hens on all sides and place in baking dish.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over hens and stuff with celery, onions, and the lemon halves. Sprinkle with additional salt.
  • Add chicken broth to pan.
  • Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.



hens served with roasted potatoes


marinating the hens


Sfiha are popular small pizza-like meat pies with many variations. They can be made with either ground beef or ground lamb, some prefer to cook the meat filling prior to baking or mix the meat raw with the other filling ingredients and bake. There are two traditional variations, one with tomato and the other with tahini. I first ate sfiha in Hebron, Palestine. My brother-in-law’s wife made both tomato and tahini versions and I can still smell the garlic-scented meat mixture and remember her removing the baked sfiha from the fourn and covering them with a cloth on the tray to stay warm and soft.


tomato sfiha


  • 1-2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, optional

Meat filling

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons pine nuts


  • Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes until it bubbles.
  • In a large bowl, combine yogurt, milk, flour, baking powder, olive oil, and salt. Add yeast mixture. Knead until it forms a dough, add more flour and/or olive oil if too sticky.
  • Cover and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • In the meantime, prepare the meat filling.
  • In a medium-size pan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, green pepper and garlic, stir until softened, 3 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden-spoon until it looses the pink color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste and pine nuts until well-incorporated and set aside to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Form dough into equal-size balls and flatten into 1/4-1/2 inch thick circles a little bigger than the palm of your hand.
  • Place dough circles on oiled baking sheet and spread 1-2 tablespoons of the meat filling on each circle leaving an edge around the filling, press the mixture gently into dough.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Cover with a clean kitchen towel after removing from oven. Serve warm or room-temperature.




Basbousa is a traditional middle eastern sweet cake soaked in ‘atar with many variations. It’s made with semolina and coconut is one popular ingredient. It can be topped with pistachios, or a single slivered almond on each piece. I learned this version from my sister-in-law. Cut in squares and serve with tea or arabic coffee.



  • 1 cup semolina
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup oil or 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, optional


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water


  • pistachios, finely chopped
  • slivered almonds, toasted


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter/grease a 2-quart baking dish.
  • Combine ingredients, mix well and spread into baking dish.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned.
  • While the cake is baking, prepare the ‘atar by combining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until clear. Set aside to cool.
  • While cake is warm from oven, pour cold ‘atar over the top and allow to soak in.
  • Garnish with pistachios or almonds.

Salatat Rumman سلطة رُمّان

Salad with pomegranate + walnut + goat cheese. This salad is created from a description my husband gave me about a delicious salad he ate while at a conference. It had walnuts and cranberries, but I chose to use pomegranate and also add tangy goat cheese. Serve as a side dish with fish or chicken.



  • salad greens of choice (romaine, arugula, spinach)
  • walnuts, roughly chopped
  • pomegranate seeds
  • goat cheese, crumbled


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad greens in large salad bowl.
  • Top with walnuts, pomegranate, and goat cheese.

Khaliat Al Nahl

Honeycomb bread (khaliat al nahl) is a pull-apart bread filled with cream cheese and soaked in honey. I learned it from a former neighbor originally from Saudi Arabia. We got together almost weekly for tea time and she became a dear friend. The dough measurements are approximations as the “real recipe” calls for measurements using coffee cups, tea cups, and dinner spoons.



  • 1-2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package cream cheese


  • sesame seeds
  • habbat al barakah (black seeds, Nigella Sativa)
  • honey


  • Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes until it bubbles.
  • In a large bowl, combine yogurt, milk, flour, baking powder, olive oil, and salt. Add yeast mixture. Knead until it forms a dough, add more flour and/or olive oil if too sticky.
  • Cover and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Form dough into walnut-size balls. Flatten the ball somewhat and spoon 1/2-1 teaspoon of cream cheese in the center. Roll into a ball shape again and place the filled dough balls onto the baking tray or pie plate in a honeycomb pattern. Don’t crowd them too much.
  • Lightly press the sesame seeds and/or black seeds onto the top.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  • While still hot from the oven, drizzle honey all over the top and serve warm.