Book Reviews · Cookbooks · cooking · Dessert

Book Review: Modern Flavors of Arabia

Rarely does a cookbook make me swoon with delight. I did when I saw Modern Flavors of Arabia: Recipes and Memories from My Middle Eastern Kitchen this past week:

It is gorgeous – lushly shot photographs, a deep blue theme and the recipes? It makes me want to eat it every night. And while this is a omnivore cookbook, there are many plant-based recipes and many more can be easily tweaked to it.  So even while drooling over the appetizers, light dishes and mains, you probably know where I ended up: the dessert section. Where an unbaked pastry stopped me. It was simple: flour, dates, butter and spices. And chocolate. Easily adaptable to vegan by using Earth Balance Buttery stick instead of butter and you have a delicious treat that stores well. I also used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. The Medjool dates melt into the recipe, even “date haters” will enjoy this treat, if you “forget” to tell them it has them in it.

Be ready to get messy but really the recipe is easy. And delicious! And no baking needed!

Date Pastries (Batheeth) Adapted from page 167


  • 1 stick Earth Balance Buttery stick or butter (for non-vegan)
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups Medjool dates, measured after pitting, chopped
  • 10 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate


Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the buttery stick over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the spices and set aside.

Meanwhile heat a heavy large saucepan over medium. Add the flour and stir constantly till toasted (it will darken a bit and smell toasted). Using a heavy wooden spoon or spatula, mix dates in, working it till mixed and dates are softened. Drizzle the butter over and stir in till mixed. Take off the heat and knock out onto a work surface. With a bench scraper cut into quarters and carefully start kneading each section (it will be warm), till it comes together as dough, then knead ten sections together. Roll out with a rolling-pin, cut out shapes with cookie cutters as desired, rolling the scraps out to make more. Transfer the cut pastries to the lined baking sheets. Once cut out, add the chocolate to the top of a double boiler, melt over medium-low.

Drizzle the chocolate over the pastries, set aside to set.

While the author doesn’t mention it, after the pastries were set I packed them away in a glass storage container, dividing the layers with parchment paper and refrigerated them I found the spices developed over night and became tastier. They stay soft and chewy even when cold.

How many it makes depends on your cutter size. The book calls for 2″ cutters and makes 5 dozen. My cutters were bigger and I got a bit over 3 dozen. Also, it depends if you like a thin or thick n’ chewy pastry. Mine were about ¼” thick.


FTC Disclaimer: We received a review copy of this book.

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