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Mediterranean-style cooking

By Staff | Oct 30, 2015

BARBARA LAMMERS and her husband, Paul Lammers, taste-tested a traditional Syrian-Lebanese meat dish prepared for their church’s Mediterranean Market Day, held Friday. The Lammers are longtime members of Sioux City’s St. Thomas Orthodox Church. The event and public church dinners have been an important part of the church’s community outreach efforts for 80 years.



SIOUX CITY – Tasty and nutritious are among the words used by Barbara Lammers, of Sioux City, as she takes a break from assisting with the preparation of a variety of Syrian-Lebanese foods in the kitchen of St. Thomas Orthodox Church.

Church members were preparing for their Oct. 24 Mediterranean Market.

What’s more, Lammers said, among the foods favored long ago are heart-healthy ingredients being rediscovered by 21st century U.S. consumers – yogurt, flat bread, hummus and bulgur wheat and cinnamon-flavored foods.

THE TALAMEE, a Syrian bread, gets high marks from those tasting it for the first time, Barbara Lammers said.

These are ingredients found in grocery stores’ organic or natural food aisles, Lammers said.

Her love for cooking is due to her Lebanese mother, who got her cooking and baking start during the first 10 years of her life on a farm in Lebanon.

Lammers said both of her parents emigrated to the United States. They taught her to cook and understand that good cooking can take considerable time.

“It was from my mother I first learned how yogurt was made in her home country,” Lammers said. Goat herding is a big ag industry in Lebanon, she said, sustaining families.

“The goat milk was used as a starter for the yogurt of the day and the preparation was admittedly a time-consuming part of the day,” Lammers said. “Another of our own family’s favorites growing up were hummus and flatbread, as well as yabrah (cabbage rolls) often flavored with cinnamon.”

THE TALAMEE, a Syrian bread, gets high marks from those tasting it for the first time, Barbara Lammers said.

The wheat in her mother’s youth, Lammers said, was harvested from the Lebanese roadside by fellaheen (farmers), washed in rivers, boiled and dried. The women separated the grain from the chaff before it was cooked in iron cauldrons to be made into flatbread.

The Lammers, both retired Sioux City school teachers, said they have continued to share their own interest in Mediterranean cooking and appreciate having been able to pass the tradition onto their children and grandchildren.

“Giving others the opportunity to add to their cooking experiences has been important to us as well,” Barbara Lammers said. When trying something new, it offers not only new taste adventures, but healthy, nutritious dishes.


(Cabbage rolls)

1 pound diced 90 percent beef, or lamb

1 cup rice

1 can tomato sauce (diluted)

1 large cabbage

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix meat, rice and seasonings together.

Parboil cabbage until wilted. Remove from water and separate cabbage leaves on cutting board.

Cut each leaf so it can be rolled. Place about 1 tablespoon of meat mixture on center of cabbage leaf and roll like a cigar.

Lay additional cabbage rolls on bottom of kettle or pan to prevent rolls from scorching. Place rolls in pan and cover with diluted tomato sauce to provide sufficient liquid.

Add seasoning.

Cover rolls with plate while cooking.

Cook 30 minutes on high and then lower for last 15 minutes , testing occasionally for doneness.

Serves 8 to 10.



2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb

1 1/2 cups cracked wheat, fine

1 large onion, ground

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup cold water

Rinse wheat in pan of water and drain with cupped hands and squeezing out all moisture.

Add ground meat, onions, salt and pepper and grind together twice.

If grinder is unavailable, knead all ingredients together well.

After grinding or kneading add the cold water to soften and knead again.


Raw kibbe

1 pound ground beef or lamb

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup pine nuts (if preferred)

Add salt and pepper along with cinnamon (if preferred)

Grease a 10-by-14-inch baking pan with clarified butter.

Spread one-half of the raw kibbe smoothly over bottom of the pan.

Simmer meat (not raw kibbe) in butter and add cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Brown pine nuts in butter and add to meat.

Spread evenly over raw kibbee in pan and cover filling with remaining raw kibbee.

Smooth surface well.

Using a knife, score kibbee. Loosen edges from pan with spatula.

Pour 1 cup clarified butter over top.

Bake in moderated 350-degree oven until bottom is golden brown (approximately 25 minutes) and then place under broiler until top is golden brown.

Serves 8 to 10.

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