“Arayes,” is an Arabic word which means “brides.” It’s also the name of this irresistible (Lebanese) meat-stuffed pita bread. Another way to describe them is as Middle Eastern grilled pita sandwiches. Traditionally the pita bread is stuffed with ground lamb, which is how I prefer it. However, feel free to substitute the lamb with beef or ground turkey. Another great option is to make arayes with cheese. I guess that would be the Middle Eastern equivalent of a quesadilla.
How Do You Make Arayes?
Start with a nice leg of lamb, and run it through a grinder. Next, run the onion through the grinder too. If the meat is already ground, just grate the onion or use a food processor. Make sure to drain the excess liquid before mixing the onion with the meat. Add the spices and allow the flavors to come together for at least a few hours. Next, you’ll need to bake pita bread. Just kidding, store-bought is fine. Just make sure the pita isn’t too flimsy, or it may not hold up when you stuff it. Speaking of the meat, it should be in a thin layer so that it cooks quickly. In other words, resist the temptation to overstuff the pita pocket. Once the pitas are filled, brush them with olive oil and bake them in the oven. Or you can grill the pita pockets on the barbecue.
What to Serve with Arayes
Arayes are pretty delicious on their own and perfect as appetizers. In fact, Scott calls them Iraqi tacos. What can I say? He’s a real joker! If you plan on serving them for a meal, a salad would be the perfect side dish. Better yet, serve them with tabouli or fattoush, which are both Lebanese dishes. If you want to make it an over-the-top Middle Eastern meal, serve some pickled turnips, or pickled mangos on the side. How’s that for a healthy meal that can keep us both on track in our quest to eat healthier?
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Don’t forget to check out my Classic Middle Eastern Food Combinations.
Lamb-filled pita pockets, served as an appetizer, snack, or part of a healthy dinner.
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 small onion
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sumac powder
- 1 tsp. kubba seasoning (or 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. cloves)
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 pita bread (cut in half)
Grind lamb, if using, and place in a bowl.
Grind or grate the onion and drain out most of the liquid. Add to the bowl with the meat.
Add the seasonings and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and allow the flavors to come together for at least a few hours.
Divide the meat into eight equal portions. Cut pita bread in half and carefully stuff with the meat, forming a thin layer of meat in each pita pocket.
Brush both sides of the pita pockets with olive oil, and bake in a 375 F degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
Cut each pocket into two pieces. Serve as an appetizer or a snack, or with a salad as a full meal.