I used to love exploring Aleppo by cab. Occasionally I’ll catch myself daydreaming about these simple, ordinary memories: leaning forward from the sidewalk of a bustling street; hailing a cab in the ancient city. The experience made me feel like a local, like a halabi.
Today I want to share with you the beginning of a new stage in my life.
It started last year when I decided to apply for a Fulbright research scholarship. My proposal: to conduct an anthropological study of Syrian cuisine; specifically, lunch. My perspective is slightly biased since both sides of my family are originally Syrian, but I believe Syrian food is among the best in the region. This is particularly true in Aleppo — Syria’s second largest city and headquarters for the Syrian Academy of Gastronomy.
Middle Eastern spreads are plentiful, but very few have been able to jump the cultural divide into restaurants and homes in the States. In the Middle East, families, neighbors and even strangers gather around these homemade delicacies to talk for hours about absolutely anything.
Hummus is by far the most recognized Middle Eastern spread, but you don’t need to look far to find plenty of others that are just as tasty (or tastier!). Baba Ganoush is a traditional spread that uses charred eggplants to create a rich smoky pulp that is out-of-this-world delicious. For maximal fire-roasted goodness, roast the eggplants over an open flame. For those of us, however, who are only granted this luxury 2 weeks out of the year (if we’re lucky), we must turn to other alternatives. When it’s subzero outside I use my broiler or grill pan and find that both deliver a comprable fire-roasted flavor.