Lately, I’ve been reading The Aleppo Cookbook by Marlene Matar. The book has a permanent spot in my living room. When I’m feeling nostalgic, I pick it up and read through some of the recipes. It’s a beautiful tribute to Aleppo’s legendary cuisine. The photography is simple and elegant, with a focus on the natural beauty of ingredients and the finished dishes. The cover is a wonderful close-up shot of pomegranates, which are quintessentially Aleppan. It reminds me of the day trip I took to Basouta, a Kurdish farming village outside of Aleppo. Basouta is famous for its pomegranates.
Zaalouk (زعلوك) is an incredibly delicious Moroccan salad prepared with fresh eggplants cooked with ripe tomatoes, roasted peppers, and warm spices. It’s a celebration of spring and all the delicious vegetables that are right around the corner. I can already begin to feel the rays of the sun stretching further and the days getting warmer.
Seattle was beautiful and I cannot wait to show you pictures, but first, there’s a salad I’ve been meaning to tell you about – it’s called fattoush (فتوش).
It seems like the market for Middle Eastern salads (outside of the Middle East) is disproportionally dominated by tabbouleh, a salad, that when made right, combines ultra-finely chopped parsley with tiny pearls of fine-ground bulger wheat and other finely chopped vegetables. Fattoush is quite the opposite, at least when it comes to preparation – it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes, in a very rustic and hearty way that’s all about flavor rather than embellishments. Tabbouleh is delicious though, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, however, I just want a quick and tasty, no-frill salad, and for moments like these I make fattoush.
What’s with all the lies? No, it’s more than just a lie, it’s a conspiracy. Parents pass it on to their kids, who in turn pass it on to their little ones, who just don’t know any better. The lies stop here my friends. I am nipping this one in the bud: when life supposedly hands you your lemons, don’t make lemonade. Instead, make some حامض مرقد.
While in Italy, I noticed a great deal of attention was given to the palate and the way in which food was perfectly orchestrated from preparation to consumption. Meals had an order to them; appetizers actually opened up my appetite (shocking, right?). Chicken wings swimming in a puddle of sauce or a mountain of nachos forgotten under a cap of plastic-like cheese was simply unheard of. I loved how food made sense there.
Breakfast was usually small and quick – un caffè accompanied by a biscotti was delicious and typical. Ordering a “decaf grande, half-soy, half-low fat, double-shot, marble mocha macchiato, no foam, 2 Sweet-n’-low, extra hot” was grounds for excommunication with a side of public humiliation. Lunches were equally enjoyable, and I can continue to rant about how fabulous the al fresco dinners were, but that’s not what this entry is really about. This entry is my little tribute to the Sicilian classic, Fennel and Orange Salad.