Bon Appétit is one of my forever favourites. The magazine, website, their facebook page, the youtube videos. It’s just the best food content that I could soak up all day long. I only recently discovered they have a podcast as well (of course they do!). I took a quick browse and found that episode 102, from March 2017 was “All About Middle Eastern Food (Perfect Rice! Man’oushe! Rose-Water Brittle!)“.
In this episode, Reem Assil, a first generation American chef talks about her business. Then BA Senior Food Editor Andy Baraghani talks about creating a feast for the Persian New Year. These are my notes from listening to this podcast. I tried to focus on what the two chefs were saying about Middle Eastern Food in general, and I got a lot out of it.
Reem Assil is a community organizer turned restaurant owner 2011
- Her restaurant is Reem’s Wraps (now Reem’s California I believe)
- She was inspired to make a career change because of the connection of food and community
- Restaurants, bakeries, and food in general can create a sense of home for immigrants
- A place to gather with people you relate to
- She is Syrian and Palestinian
- She sees a cross over between food and activism
- Food can bring people in, to build trust and to engage them in real issues
- Their signature dish is Levantine flatbread x California cuisine
- It’s called Man’oushe and flavoured with za’atar
- Za’atar is wild thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and olive oil. It’s like a pesto
- Bread is cooked in a high heat oven or griddle called a saj
- Topped with fresh veggies – tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh mint
- Also, labneh (thick strained yogurt) and avocado
- Or with shakshuka sauce – roasted peppers and tomatoes and aleppo-style pepper
- Other flavours are sumac, parsley, turmeric, pomegranate molasses, pine nuts, cardamom, and orange blossom
- Levantine region of the middle east is a temperate climate
- mountains, ocean and woods all in driving distance
Then, Andy Baraghani, a resident chef at Bon Appétit, frequent video host, talks about the menu he put together for Persian New Year, Nowruz, that came out in that month’s magazine.
- Nowruz is a 13 day holiday
- For the gig meal, rice is the most important dish
- Before cooking, basmati rice should have a golden hue
- Rinse the rice until the water is clear, then soak for hour at least
- Parboil it in salted water, then drain
- Add fresh herbs – cilantro parsley dill, a little fenugreek, tarragon, mint
- Put in back in the pot, piled up like a mountain. Poke holes in the top. Cover with lid and towel to absorb the steam. Cook on low heat for 25-35 mins
- Add butter 3/4 way through. More butter than you think
- Then, could invert the pot on a plate. This isn’t a tadig though, but it does retain its shape.
- Need lots of salt and butter
- All the food on table at once
- For the main dish – fish. Either a smoked whitefish (from store) or baked fish. Andy’s mom always made baked salmon with saffron, tumeric, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil
- There’s a cecipe for whitefish in March issue
- Also, Kuku Sabzi – Persian frittata
- This has LOTS of herbs – parsley, dill, cilantro. 4.5 cups total and only 5 eggs
- Fenugreek – bitter celery tasting leaf – just a sprinkle
- And a special yogurt with cucumber, somewhat similar to a tsaziki. With garlic, chopped and toasted walnuts, golden raisins soaked and chopped.
- Barbari Bread – a very thick flat bread. 4-5 feet long traditionally. With ridges on top from finger tips
- Topped with sesame and nigella seeds, sea salt.
- Brushed with a flour x hot water x baking soda mixture to help brown the top
- Serve with a platter of feta, herbs, and radishes
- After dinner, table games and brittle
– Sohan brittle – made with corn syrup, butter, saffron, rose water and topped with fresh pistachios, rose petals and sea salt. Mmmmmm
I found this podcast really interesting and will definitely be subscribing to more!