Monday Meal Review: Iraq

While I knew I'd like the pita bread, the date balls were another question entirely.

THE SCENE Mom smeared the cream cheese onto the shiny black date and offered it to me. I looked up at her, the way only a stubborn seven year-old can, and shook my head slowly. "Try it, you'll like it," she urged, popping one in her mouth herself. It looks like a roach, I thought. I watched her chew. "When is dinner?" "Not for a few more hours," she replied. I wouldn't budge. There was no way I was going to eat the cream cheese date. My stomach growled. I chewed my nails. … [Read more...]

Recipe: Tabbouleh

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Serves 4 If you're feeling a bit cloudy, a bit rainy, a bit under the weather - let the bright flavor of lemons and parsley uplift you. Tabbouleh is a quintessential Middle Eastern salad recipe. No mezze is complete without it. While most authentic recipes include more parsley than bulgur, you can play around until you have the quantity you like best. NOTE: All parsley, green onion, and mint quantities came out rather heaping (see photos) Ingredients: 1/2 cup bulgur (I used coarse, … [Read more...]

Recipe: Muhammara (Char-grilled Red Pepper Dip)

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Makes 3 cups If you're wilting and melting and generally crying for a reprieve from the heat, try Muhummara. This Middle Eastern roasted pepper dip takes the heat out of summer in the most fingerlicking way. The walnuts add body, but you don't taste them. The pomegranate syrup gives a slightly tart tang and the cumin gives earthy warmth, but the ingredients are so balanced and subtle you'll be seduced before you know it - and you won't exactly know why. Just like falling in love with the most … [Read more...]

Recipe: Pistachio Date Balls

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As far as I'm concerned, the best - and quite possibly the only way to time travel is to cook. Reading gets us only partway there - we dream ourselves into other times, other lands. But they remain just that - dreams. Visiting ruins gets us a little closer. But, at the end of the day, ruins are simply ruins - fragments of the splendor that what once was. But, when it comes to cooking food from ancient times? Instant time travel. In my mouth. When I cook I am potentially eating … [Read more...]

Recipe: Grilled Whole Wheat Pita Bread

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Makes 8 Pita Light, airy, grilled pita bread spells summer. Flip flops and ice water. Sunglasses and big smiles. Making this recipe just might help you get to know your neighbors. After all, the fresh smell of grilled pita bread is nearly impossible to resist. As long as you're willing to share... So, let's take a cue from the fine people of Iraq and enjoy pita, just like they have in this region (not only the Middle East, but the Mediterranean and also the Balkans) for millennia. … [Read more...]

Menu: Iraq

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Let's be real. If you live in my part of the world it's hot in the summer. Really hot. Most days, the thermometer reads 100F before noon. So, instead of making our air conditioners work harder than they have to, let's avoid the stove. Completely. Deal? While it sounds difficult, it's really rather simple. We can just throw together an Iraqi mezze. This is the Middle Eastern equivalent to tapas, in many ways - many small dishes. Mezze can start off a big banquet, or it can provide the main … [Read more...]

About the food of Iraq

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So, here's the humbling truth: there's lots of things I thought I knew about Iraq, thanks to the constant stream of current events infiltrating my subconscious. But, when it came right down to it, I actually knew nothing about Iraq. Nothing. So I began digging. After just a few minutes, I found this lil' tidbit out: from the northern mountains to the windswept deserts, Iraq is known as the cradle of civilization. What? Hold the presses. While you might have known this rather … [Read more...]