Dining out: al-Falaha Restaurant in Ein Areek

5 Jun

Another special place to eat outside of the “big city” of Ramallah is al-Falaha Restaurant. It is a traditional place specializing in one meal — musakhan. Musakhan is a Palestinian dish featuring roast chicken.

It is placed on hearty flatbread with caramelized onions and lots of red sumac, a lemon-flavored grated spice.

Part of what makes al-Falaha worth the trip is the landscape it is situated in. Located in the village of Ein Areek, the restaurant is nestled between the road and terraces of olive trees and wildflowers.

Though it does get blazingly hot in the peak of summer, ceiling fans and Palestinian-made Taybeh beers served in frosted mugs help moderate the heat.

Learning to Cook

2 Jun

This book excerpt from Mark Bittman captures a lot of what I enjoy about cooking and reflects some of the process I am going through as I learn to cook. I probably am bouncing between levels 3 and 4, depending on my familiarity and confidence with a cuisine or technique, though I still do often follow recipes slavishly the first time I prepare a new type of dish.

I did learn to cook from my family as I grew up. This was similar to what Bittman describes — very rarely did I get explicit lessons on what to do and measurements of ingredients. It was more about my parents putting meals together and my watching their daily example.

It seems like cooking is more of a deliberate activity now, seen as something to do because you particularly like food or saw something interesting on the Food Network (or its Arabic-language equivalent, Fatafeat.) But that seems to change once you become responsible for feeding others. At this point, I’m enjoying the cooking and the eating, especially as it is an opportunity to explore the environment and community I live in and to find ways to make favorites far from home.

Bunless veggie burgers

31 May

Chickpeas, aka garbanzos, are a special thing around here. They are called hummus, which encompasses all chickpeas, whether dried, green or cooked. This same word also can mean hummus the way we know it in the US, as the thick paste that you spread on pita bread.

Chickpeas get transformed into a multitude of forms. You can find them presented in boiled yellow as a snack at bars or coffee shops, served green in the pod with salt, or further cooked in musabaha, falafel, stews or the omnipresent hummus.

Crispy, fried falafel is by no means in short supply around here either. It’s a popular choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in various incarnations. But sometimes you want something that is hearty, but Keep reading…

Simplest Tapioca Pudding

23 May

Cameraman loves tapioca pudding. He talks about how his mom used to make it, and how he thinks about it, and how much he misses eating it. Maybe that’s a big part of why we get along so well.

I made vanilla pudding once using Mark Keep reading…

Dining out: Hosh al-Elleeya in Birzeit

17 May

A special place to bring friends and visitors when you are tiring of the “big” city is Hosh al-Elleeya. Located in the nearby village of Birzeit, the restaurant is a charming place, attracting a variety of groups looking for an intimate dinner and/or drinks in a relaxed, rustic setting. One of the things that make its menu unique is Keep reading…

Fresh-tasting stuffed peppers

13 May

We had a barbecue for the office last week to say goodbye to a colleague moving to new opportunities. Barbecue here means a broad open grill with lots of meats (kabob, aka mini Mediterranean spiced burgers, shish tawouk, aka seasoned chicken skewers and chunks of grilled lamb) plus light salads lovingly prepared by our colleagues in a very efficient, but homey, assembly-line fashion. All the meat disappeared by the first half of the barbecue, but there were a lot of veggies left behind. Keep reading…

Virtuous Japanese pizza

11 May

The first time I ever had Japanese pizza it was the real thing. A college housemate from Japan made the traditional okonomiyaki, complete with seasoned pork, seafood, seaweed and drizzles of mayonnaise and sugary brown sauce on top. It was delicious. I have always carried that memory in my heart and have a fervent desire to eat that sweet, salty, satisfying dish again one day.

This is not that. But this dish also haunts my late-morning daydreaming about what I would eat if I could eat anything right now. And it has the added bonus of being something that I can actually make myself with ingredients I can find here in my small corner of the Middle East. Keep reading…