Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fattoush (Bread Salad) & "The Language of Baklava"

Good books can transport you to different times, different places, and different cultures. The Language of Baklava, Diana Abu-Jaber's engaging memoir about growing up in the United States and Jordan, takes readers on a culinary journey through her childhood. Food is woven throughout Ms. Abu-Jaber's stories. Her descriptions of the dishes prepared by her family are so vivid that you can almost smell the rose-scented syrup in the knaffea pastry, and taste the crunchy spiced falafels. Well, almost. In anticipation that readers will want to experience the food described in the memoir themselves, each chapter includes at least one recipe (some veg, some not).

I read The Language of Baklava while I was traveling last week. During that time, I had an incredible craving for Middle Eastern food. When I got home, I rushed to the store to buy fresh vegetables, dug some pita bread out from a corner of my freezer, and made fattoush using a recipe from The Language of Baklava. Preparation was relatively simple: chopped cucumber, tomato, red bell pepper, scallions, mint and parsley are combined with toasted pita bread, romaine lettuce and an olive oil dressing. (In my haste, I forgot to get the scallions called for in the recipe, which is why you see red onion in the photos. I also added some toasted pine nuts, for protein.) The result was a tasty and pleasantly crunchy salad which I expect to make again. In fact, it would have been a great salad to make this summer...

Other recipes to try in the future include a vegetarian lentil soup, a "tea" infusion made from chopped pistachios and spices, and muhammara (a dip with walnuts, red bell peppers and pomegranate juice among its ingredients).


Kitt said...

That's great book! I've made some of the recipes, too, and they turned out great.

I'm reading one of her novels now, "Origin." It's pretty good, though I liked the memoir better.

Beatrice said...

I haven't read any of her novels yet, but I intend to. (I just stumbled across "The Language of Baklava" before my trip, without knowing anything about the book or its author, and really lucked out.) I was thinking of starting with Arabian Jazz.


veggie belly said...

I'm going to buy this book, it sounds wonderful! Thanks so much for the recommendation. Is the fattoush from the book? I'm curious about muhammara..never had it, so im looking forward to your post on it!

Beatrice said...

The fattoush recipe is in Chapter 20. I'm pretty sure that fattoush is eaten by the characters in the memoir - I definitely remember that one of the characters is nicknamed Fattoush.

The muhammara recipe, which I haven't yet tried but will probably post about in the future, is in Chapter 9.


Eileen said...

Yes, The Language of Baklava is a wonderful cookbook. I have it from the library but want my own copy.