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Because I am a food editor, I am fortunate enough to receive complimentary copies of cookbooks to review. Usually the books come in, I look through them, and find just a handful of recipes that I want to make. But when I got my hands on Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, it was the first time in a long time that I became absolutely obsessed with a book. Not only did I want to make every recipe in it, but I also found the stories that intertwined with it and the photography (by Jenny Zarins) to be just as compelling. This cookbook walks you through Palestinian culture, regions, and cuisine — in the most magical way.
You’ll read stories about the “yogurt-making ladies of Bethlehem,” who make yogurt, labneh, and butter from sheep and goat milk. You will learn about one farming family’s fight to peacefully defend their right to keep their ancestral land. And you’ll meet Islam, a woman who helped formed the Noor Women’s Empowerment Group, a grassroots project created by and for refugee woman who have children with disabilities and/or are in charge of their families. The stories are truly inspiring.
Of course, there are recipes too. In this book you’ll find something for every eater: vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. It begins with breakfast and moves into sauces and dips, veggie mains and fish- and meat-based dishes, and then dessert. It’s a cookbook for all seasons. You will find dishes that will cool you down in warmer temperatures and give you comfort in cooler months. There are so many good recipes you will feel overwhelmed (in a good way!) with what to decide to make.
I spent the first few weeks with the new book trying to narrow down which recipes I would begin with, but there were so many that interested me that I found it impossible to pick a winner. Instead of making myself choose, I decided to go all out one day and make six recipes all at once to create a beautiful Palestinian feast for my family.
Get a recipe from the book: Baby Gem Lettuce with Charred Eggplant Yogurt, Smacked Cucumber, and Shatta
I spent the entire day preparing the meal. First, I started with the Chilled Cucumber and Tahini soup. This creamy, cool soup was the perfect remedy for the hot day. Next I dove into the charred eggplant dip, the homemade pita bread, and the eggs with za’atar. I used the extra za’atar sauce on top of grilled zucchini. For one of the entrées, I riffed off of their Seared Sea Bass with Lemon and Tomato Sauce by simmering baharat-scented cod in the delicious aromatic sauce. Finally, I made the cover star: Baby Gem Lettuce with Charred Eggplant Yogurt, Smacked Cucumber, and Shatta. Everyone around the table was impressed: First because I served up six courses, and second because every single dish was beyond delicious.
One of the things I love (and miss) about traveling is not only getting to immerse myself in another culture, but also allowing my palate to travel there as well. Falastin is a way to immerse yourself without ever leaving your home. In case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this book as a treat for yourself and as a holiday gift for any loved one on your shopping list. It’s something we all need this year. If you’re going to buy only one cookbook for someone, it should be this one.