Here it is!  My Middle Eastern inspired Valentines day spread for a little get together or a party of 2:)   Another excuse to celebrate and get together and make heart shaped sandwiches!  The heart sandwiches are a must for me every Valentines day, but this year I added Muhammara as a spread with mint, basil, smoked Turkey and muenster cheese on Dave's Killer Sliced Bread.  It's the only sliced bread I get because it has 21 whole grains and you can literally see the seeds and grains plus they have a great mission for change.  I haven't been able to get any other sliced bread since I discovered this one. (btw, this is not an ad lol)

I think the key to a successful spread is to have a variety of color because people feast with their eyes.   Add raspberries or strawberries for an easy instant pop of Valentines day colors.  In addition to making your spread colorful, another trick is to make sure your table has dimension.  Laying every plate just flat on the table tends to look unappealing to the eye.  Using height by either using cake platters or using wrapped boxes and placing the plates on top of them is an easy and inexpensive way to add dimension.  

Buttery popcorn with sumac seasoning elevates regular popcorn to a middle eastern gourmet item.  The tartness of the sumac and the savory butter are a perfect combination.  They can be served in cute small batches or in one big bowl to watch with a movie after dinner.

I remember in Damascus we would have limononana (lemon and mint) drink every.single.day.  Maybe multiple times a day.  It's the most refreshing drink ever and for this Valentines Day spread I added raspberries and sparkling water to it for a little addition of pink.   {The recipe is posted in my archives just substitute sparkling water for regular water and add raspberries at the end)

Instead of tea or coffee, I served Arabic coffee which I just brought back with me from my recent trip to the Middle East.  It's so aromatic and filled with flavors of cardamon and cinnamon.  I have to do a separate post on Arabic coffee and Turkish coffee because it's so interesting and so different.  Turkish coffee is actually the preferred coffee in the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, etc) while Arabic coffee is consumed in the Gulf states (Dubai, Kuwait etc)  But back to Valentines Day.

I actually spent 2 or 3 Valentines Day in Damascus as a teenager and I remember how big of a deal it was.  Literally the entire country would become pink and red and hearts galore.  I even remember they used to sell little baby chicks at the farmers markets and actually spray painted all the chicks pink and red.  Keep in mind Damascus is a city, not country, so people don't have backyards.  But every home had a balcony and thats where the pink and red chicks would be raised. 

The amount of love and romance that is in the Middle East, and I speak specifically of Damascus and Beruit only because I know those two the most.  Arabic songs are sooo romantic and oozing love.  They're such passionate people and you can feel it.  In Damascus its a city so everyone lives in buildings and like I mentioned they all have balconys.  It is verrryy common for people to fall in love with the neighbor and have a "balcony love affair".  If a girl is on the balcony watering the flowers and the neighbor in the adjacent building catches a glimpse of her and they exchange a smile, that's the beginning of a love relationship.  I remember my cousin was in love with the neighbor for years, constantly peeking out the window just to catch a glimpse of him.  They exchanged numbers by putting their fingers up and would then signal to eachother when it was a good to call.  I remember she would listen to Arabic songs and would blast a song whose words delivered a message that she wanted him to know so he could hear it.  Songs with messages like "i'm thinking of you" and "you're on my mind" It was a thrilling time for the both of them, all the hiding and sneaking around.   They eventually married and have 3 beautiful children.

Times have changed now but I remember a decade ago having a boyfriend in the less conservative areas of Damascus was present but not "allowed".  The fathers were protective of their little girls and the brothers the same.  If a guy wanted to have a relationship with a girl he would have to talk to the family and ask permission to get to know her.  They would talk and have chaperoned dates.   Every boy was a Romeo and every girl was a Juliet.  They loved love and passion and Valentines Day was the perfect way for everyone to express that. 

I found heart shaped pasta at a little Italian shop and thought it would be perfect.  Unfortunately, after I boiled it the colors faded and the pasta lost its shape.  It still tasted amazing tossed in a garlicky cream with basil, mint, parsley, and arabic cheese. 

The tulip flowers is another item that I made in the past that's easy and always a fun hit.  Cherry tomatoes stuffed with any kind of cheese, I used Nabulsi cheese this time, but usually I use goat cheese.  I used chives for the stem and used a toothpick to create a hole in the tomato so it was easy to insert the chive.  It's so easy you can put your 2 year old to work.  #toughboss #mylittlehelperJust kidding, she was a great helper but none of the ones she attempted to make turned out presentable lol but still edible. 

I hope this Middle Eastern inspired Valentines Day spread inspires you to have fun this holiday.  Don't get caught up in the "rules" of Valentines Day, you don't need to have a boyfriend or husband.  You just need love in your life, and that comes in a lot of forms.  Celebrate the love of friends, family, neighbors, life, or love.