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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.
Top customer reviews
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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.
I have read the other reviews and agree that it is a 5 star book.
One thing of note---one of the other reviewers criticized Bsisu for citing too many contributors to her book. Why? She had her own recipes and if she collected recipes from others that indicates only that she knows a good recipe when she finds it and if she felt that it belonged in her book than good for her for adding it, it can only benefit us the readers.
I used to live in the caribbean and made perfect baklava there many times. When I came back to the States all my batches of baklava were ruined by sugar syrup that had crystallized by the next day. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what was going on and wondered if it had something to do with the humidity?!?! My sister in law cooks her sugar syrup for 10 minutes, my mother in law for an hour, so I knew it had to be something scientific, maybe due to temperature not length of time cooked. Neither my MIL or SIL could explain it.
WHile reading BSISU's cookbook (it makes fine reading even when you don't have anything particular you want to look up), i came across a recipe for Kunafa bi Jibin, or Shredded Pastry with Cheese. In this recipe, she gave instructions on making the sugar syrup, including " Let the syrup boil until it has reached the thread stage (about 225 on a candy thermometer)". HELLO! this was my mistake and this is the ONLY cookbook i have seen this mentioned in out of many, many middle eastern/greek cookbooks. So I applaud her (and THANK her because imagine making a whole pan of baklava only to have it ruined by the next day---heartbreak). BUT, to the subject of the other reviewers comments about her book being a collaboration of recipes from many people, I have to point out that the ONLY place this temperature is mentioned is in the Kunafa with cheese recipe, not the Sugar syrup recipe (which is on the page before), or the baklava recipe, or the regular konafa recipe. I do think that this is an omission because such a simple instruction should have definitely been in the sugar syrup recipe, and the fact that it is not leads me to believe that the recipes came from different people or sources.
Anyhow, the price of the book definitely pays for itself just for saving my baklava.
The explanations of customs and holy days are interesting and entertaining, and nowadays any book that can shed light (in a positive way) on how arab/middle eastern people live can only help to broaden the understanding between people which will benefit us all.