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The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions Hardcover – September 6, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Bsisu, an Ohio chef by way of Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and England, sets out to define the cuisine of the Arab world. As she points out, a quarter of the globe is covered in her treatise, and she lovingly explores and clearly explains dishes from Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and the Arabian Gulf. What's most apparent is that Arab meals are elemental in nature, more often reliant upon foodstuffs than technique. There are perhaps a dozen key ingredients on which most of these 160 recipes are based. Bulgur (cracked wheat) gives rice a run for its money as the grain of choice and is integral in making Kibeh, an all-purpose dish that also employs beef or lamb, and a mix of spices, and can be made into skewers, balls or cooked in a baking dish. Yogurt is ubiquitous, and pomegranate finds its way into many courses, too, including Meatball Stew, and Sautéed Chicken Gizzards. There are also plenty of classics at hand, including a couple of different couscouses, Grape Leaves Stuffed with Lamb and Rice, and Chicken Shawarma. American home cooks will find this a family-style, down-to-earth, insider exploration of Arab cuisine and culture. Color photos. (On sale Sept. 6)
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About the Author
May Shakhashir Bsisu is a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio. May has lived, eaten, and cooked in many parts of the world; however, paramount in her cooking, writing, and teaching is the authentic "old country" food of her Palestinian heritage. Today, both as a culinary professional and as an Arab-American woman, she has dedicated herself to preserving and teaching this healthful and delicious cuisine in the United States. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, and Chefs Collaborative.
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Top Customer Reviews
May Bsisu has done a splendid job, backed by all her friends and family, in giving us the pure basics of classic Middle Eastern fare. These are the recipes of dishes which are recognizable to the world at large. They are especially conducive to home kitchens, and are clear, easy to follow, and tantalizing. After you get started on these recipes, you may find yourself - as I did - at the outset making this cuisine a few times a week, rather than in a month, to savor all the riches of flavors, textures and colors.
In addition, Ms. Bsisu provides an excellent glossary, explanation of ingredients, and, as well, sources to obtain some of these, if there aren't any suitable markets in your area.
Best of all, though, in keeping with the generosity of spirit, there are histories, anecdotes, and background information about all that which surrounds the illustrious history of Middle Eastern cookery and traditions; therefore it makes a terrific reading companion as well. The author invites us (delightfully so) into her own family and her inheritance of their traditions. Laudably, Ms. Bsisu keeps these facts and lore to the basics, providing just enough details to both inform and entertain.
Perhaps most important of all, this book is a wonderful bridge to gap the Middle East to the West, in the most hospitable way. In a world where there is so much misunderstanding between cultures, this book could ostensibly serve as a small, but significant reminder that all of us, all over the world, share the love of the bounties of the earth, the comforts it provides, and the bringing together of families. We here in the West would be all the poorer without these riches of taste sensations.
Thanks to Morrow for investing in this luxurious compendium; and for Ms Bsisu for the sheer expansiveness and scope of this incomparable cookbook. Highly recommended.
I have enjoyed learning about new spices, such as Cardamon and Sumac. There are several dishes and spices that we also use in the Ecuadorian kitchen, so it has been interesting to recognize the several similarities. :) I also appreciate that the author gives suggestions about side dishes for each main dish. I loved learning about "Labneh" and now have it everyday (what a delicious way to get all those good cultures for the tummy!). I tried the recipe for the cake date, the apricot juice, the Arabic coffee (it tasted just the same as in the Middle Eastern restaurants!) and the simple "white coffee". I also tried the Fried Eggs with Sumac, and really liked it. As for Main Courses, I tried the Chicken & Yogurt and the Shish Tawook, both turned out REALLY good...even though, the times for cooking were not as instructed (I explain more about this in next paragraph).
The only 2 drawbacks I have are as follows: I'm not sure if it's a matter of my oven/stove? I have other cookbooks, but I have not had problems with the times for cooking before. So, when the recipe in this cookbook calls for 30 minutes cooking, I have to add an extra 15 to 20 minutes & be watching it doesn't burn. It makes it more difficult that I'm not sure how it's supposed to look or smell while cooking. (So, I have used youtube a few times for extra info). Also, many recipes require lamb...and I'm not there yet.
To conclude, I recommend this book but keep in mind that the times didn't work for me, and that many recipes in the Main Course section require lamb. I think you would enjoy this book, but I'm going to get the Middle East cookbook by Claudia Roden next time.
All in all, if you are looking for authentic Palestinian food, this would be an excellent choice. Although the author does not mention it outright, most of the recipes included in this book are specifically related to Palestine and generally to the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan).