Featuring the essential staples, ingredients, tools, and substitutes for any cook interested in the cuisines of the Middle East & Mediterranean. If you want to know what to do with saffron (or how to do without), how to use a tagine on a gas stove, or how to pickle lemons in a flash, read on or browse on Pinterest.
Herbs & Spices
Mastika (Arabic Gum)
Ras al Hanout
Why the name?
The name was inspired by the work of Ammiel Alcalay, a translator, poet, and critic. His first book, After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture, explores the history of cultural exchange, dialogue, and contestation that occurred between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures throughout the broader Levantine and Mediterranean worlds. His work refers often to “the Levant writ large.” Reading his work was especially formative for me as a way to start rethinking the cultural and political borders and boundaries we are handed when we read and learn about the Middle East today. It’s also particularly useful in rethinking the categories of food and cuisine in this part of the world, which have often been drawn along the same political and cultural lines. (Read more here.)
Levantine, as inspired by this way of rethinking the world, refers to a broad spirit and a dream of both new and old forms of cosmopolitanism and openness, of telling stories and explaining cultures. I think of it as hugging the curves of the lines of terroirs that produce olive oil along all shores of the Mediterranean, or the ones that connect elements of Persian and Moroccan court cuisines, rather than the lines that stand out on your average map.
“Levantine” here extends beyond just the Eastern Mediterranean to include a more broadly, and perhaps less precisely, defined region of connected places around the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean.
The Writ is a nod to the fact that many of the foods that I feature here have long histories that have been written and recorded and placed in conversation with literary cultures.
Larder, of course, is what this page is about: the ingredients, staples, and supplies you’ll need to acquire, make, or improvise in order to cook the greatest hits (plus the under-appreciated gems!) of the cuisines of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.
The page is a work in progress and I’m adding to it all the time. If there’s an item you’d like to see here, let me know and I’ll get right on it: