Middle Eastern Flavors | Torrance Memorial

Published on February 26, 2022

Middle Eastern Flavors

Middle Eastern spices

By Christian Torres, RDN, and Jasmine Jesri, Dietetic Intern

Olive oil, fragrant spices, and fresh herbs like mint and parsley may be a few of the ingredients that come to mind when you think of Middle Eastern cuisine. Representing several countries, Middle Eastern cuisine is as diverse as it is flavorful. Nestled between Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Middle East became a hub for trade of different goods including spices and ingredients that influence the local cuisine.

Some of the most popular spices used in Middle Eastern cuisine include cumin, cardamon, turmeric, sumac, and Baharat. Baharat is the Arabic word for spices and can refer to various combinations of spices that differs by country and region. A commonly used blend is Sebeh Baharat which translates to seven spices. The exact spices included may differ based on the country or region, however, a popular blend of Sebeh Baharat is composed of allspice, cardamon, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. This blend of spices not only adds mouthwatering flavor to dishes but may also contain protective agents that can help balance blood pressure and reduce risk of coronary heart disease.

Our Middle Eastern recipe for this week is Beef Shawarma on Flatbread with Drizzled Tahini. This tasty wrap is made of garlic-spiced beef pieces, placed on a warm flat bread, topped with veggies and a drizzle of Tahini sauce. Tahini sauce is a popular condiment made of toasted, ground, and hulled sesame seeds. The pungent sauce not only boasts balanced flavors but also provides protein, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats, in addition to antioxidants that help protect against oxidative stress. To enhance this meal, consider adding a side of refreshing Sumac Salad. The vibrant red sumac spice not only creates a colorful salad but also has been suggested to help control blood sugar levels. With its simple and fresh ingredients, sumac salad beautifully complements the beef shawarma wrap. The combined flavors will not only make your taste buds happy but will also create a flavorful and nutritious heart-healthy meal.

Save the Date!

Join us for a free LIVE virtual cooking class on March 24 at 5pm where Torrance Memorial’s Executive Chef Sam Sellona will teach you to cook a healthy, tasty recipe from the comfort of your own kitchen!

Be sure to obtain ingredients prior to event. Spice packets and recipe cards available for purchase at TMMC cafes.

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Beef Shawarma on Flat Bread with Tahini, and side of Sumac Salad

beef shawarmaServings: Approximately 4 servings


Shawarma Spice Mix

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel, ground
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cloves, ground

Tahini Sauce

  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, fresh
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp salt

Beef Shawarma

  • 1 pound, beef sirloin or ribeye
  • 4 six-inch flat breads
  • 1 serving of shawarma spice mix
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup tomato, diced
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped


  1. In a small bowl, combine spices for the Shawarma spice mix (cumin, fennel, paprika, black pepper, allspice, cloves)
  2. In a food processor, combine tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water and salt. Puree until smooth.
  3. Cut beef into long strips, trimming off excess fat.
  4. Evenly season beef with shawarma spice mix and minced garlic.
  5. On a hot skillet, add oil and cook beef until desired doneness, about 2 minutes on each side.
  6. With a warm flat bread, add cooked beef and top with tahini sauce and tomato, onion, and cilantro.

Sumac Salad

Sumac SaladIngredients:

Sumac Salad

  • 4 cups cherry tomato (halves, sliced)
  • 2 cups Persian Cucumbers (diced)
  • ½ medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup mint leaves (chopped)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves (chopped)

Sumac Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon sumac
  • Pinch of chili powder (optional)


  1. Wash and slice cherry tomatoes in halves. Wash and dice cucumbers.
  2. Chop mint leaves and parsley. Finely chop onion.
  3. Combine all the chopped vegetables together and place in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, sumac and chili powder (optional).
  5. Once dressing is blended, pour over chopped veggies and mix well to evenly distribute.

If you are interested in learning more techniques to help build a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy Office or our Diabetes Self-Management Program to schedule a consultation! Located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance. Call 310-891-6707.

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