Cook the Book: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

Cook the Book: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

About the Book

This month, I cooked from The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis. Ok, so I was only able to make one elaborate meal, but it still counts right? Admittedly, this wasn’t my best month. I find myself to be more of a project-cook and have trouble finding the motivation to cook a meal for only myself. 

But this cookbook is actually great for people who love a project. For a single meal, I made 9 recipes (and had plans to make 2 or 3 more that had to be cut for time). I was able to make these by myself in just a few hours with some prior-evening prep.

Before we dive into the recipes, if you’re wondering what Palestinian cooking is and how it differs from other Middle Eastern cooking, you’re in good company. I couldn’t think of a single dish that was uniquely Palestinian because there is so much overlap in the cuisines from that region. So, in pursuit of the answers to these questions, I found this incredibly helpful article, that features the cookbook author herself. You’ll find recipes for the dishes mentioned in this article, such as maftool and maqluba, in the cookbook.

EASE OF RECIPES RATING

I stuck to the Dips and Small Bites chapter for my most part because that’s the kind of food I like. Many of these recipes were all as easy as chopping ingredients and pulverizing them in a food processor. That’s it. I had to clean my food processor seven times in the course of making one meal. I didn’t mind that so much when I realized how much harder this would be without one.

Even the falafel, which I imagined would be more complicated, had a similar set of steps: a return to my food processor, which had become my new best friend at this point, and then frying the balls in oil.

Beyond the recipes I did make, the rest of the book involves some pretty straight-forward steps. A lot of the recipes are a simple grain + meat formula.

INGREDIENTS OBSCURITY RATING

If you are a person that loves to cook and eat lamb, then this is a great cookbook for you. I find that lamb is harder to find in my grocery stores. And honestly, I don’t like to eat lamb, so that limited me on what I would want to make from this book.

A lot of recipes can be made using ingredients easily found in a standard grocery store. There are some ingredients you may need to purchase online or in a Middle Eastern specialty store, but you’ll get a lot of use out of these specialty items. For example, rose water and orange blossom water are used for flavoring in a lot of the desserts. There’s also a nine-spice mix used in many recipes that may require you to buy a lot of new spices. But you’ll get your money’s worth when you make it in bulk.

Grocery Store Rating: Mostly grocery store, but a little online shopping will go a long way.

Cook the Book: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

The Recipes

Fried Things

Falafel with Tahini Sauce – Deep frying anything seems like a huge effort if you don’t have a deep fryer. But I think these falafel are worth it. I had never made falafel at home before so I was surprised that it uses soaked, almost raw chickpeas. So this recipe will require some advanced planning. Falafel are a great weekend meal prep recipe. Even after the lunch, I had enough left to have my own lunches for the week. My roommate noted that these falafel were unlike a lot she had in the past. They did not get greasy or feel too heavy.

Deep-Fried Cheese and Za’atar Parcels – The dough of these parcels are flecked with za’atar and nigella seeds, which add a onion/herb flavoring. The melted halloumi inside is the right amount of salty. Maybe we just don’t have refined palates, but many of us thought these tasted like mozzarella sticks – in a good way. 

Cook the Book: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

(From top) Fried Baba Ghanouj, Falafel, Garlic and Cucumber Labaneh, Tahini and Grape Molasses Spread, Muhamarra

Dips and Spreads

Hummus – Kassis’ hummus recipe asks you to go the extra mile: peel every single chickpea before you process. Removing the skins takes away any bitterness and makes a much smoother hummus. So how long does it take to peel a can of chickpeas? Only about 20 minutes total. And yes, you can use canned.  So I would recommend spending the time to do it just so you can marvel at the majesty of a very, very smooth bowl of hummus.  

Fried Baba Ghanouj – You may have had baba ghanouj before, but this recipe will stand out. Unlike other recipes that char the eggplant and then mash the insides, this one takes the unique approach of frying bite-size chunks and then mashing. What results is a richer and more flavorful baba ghanouj than you’ve likely had! This is a must-make recipe. 

Muhamarra – This recipe was voted the favorite by many of my guests. The flavors in muhamarra made it one of the more surprising recipes I made. I had everyone try to guess what the ingredients were, and no one was able to figure out all of them. This dip is also surprisingly sweet, so it is a good one to pair with the more savory hummus.

Avocado, Labaneh, and Preserved Lemon Spread – This spread was another guest favorite. By far the most unexpected recipe in the dips section of this book, this spread is salty and creamy and just a little sour. Almost like a guacamole without any of the chunky bits. 

Garlic and Cucumber Labaneh – This dip was a good compliment to all of the fried foods. If you’re wondering where to find labaneh, the book has a recipe for making your own labaneh, but I was able to find some at Whole Foods. The book also gives other store-bought alternatives.

Tahini and Grape Molasses Spread – This recipe is basically just adult PB&J, right? I used date molasses instead of the grape, but the result is quite similar. The dip is a good option for a sweet accompaniment to a spread or an afternoon snack (possibly for those 3 leftover bags of pita you asked your friends to bring…). 

Cook the Book: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis
(Clockwise from Left) Deep-Fried Cheese and Za’atar Parcels, Fried Baba Ghanouj, Hummus, and Avocado, Labneh, and Preserved Lemon Spread

Dessert

Fragrant Milk Pudding with Pistachios – This pudding was the perfect palate cleanser after the rich flavors in the meal. It reminded me of a panna cotta. I used orange blossom water, instead of mastic, to flavor mine and topped them with chopped pistachios, coconut, and pomegranate seeds.

What I Want to Try Next

In June, I’ll be exploring Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai’i by Alana Kysar.
Can’t wait to have more spam in my diet!

To follow along with all posts in the Cook the Book series, visit the Cook the Book tag.

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