Tag: Life

Recipe for Life

Recipe for Life

Muhammad Ali….the GREATEST

A Palestinian Pomegranate Cake to Celebrate Life

Yasmin Khan—longtime Food52 contributor, food and travel writer, and author of the beautiful new book, Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen—is no stranger to telling stories. (If we had any doubts about this, she quashes them by tailing her name with the word “stories” in all of her social handles.) This emphasis on narrative is what makes Zaitoun such an important book in its telling of the kitchens she visited on her travels to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

“The thread running through all my work is a fundamental belief that humans, wherever we are in the world, have more to unite us than to divide us,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “Celebrating this commonality is my passion, inspired by the old Jewish adage that ‘an enemy is just a person whose story you haven’t heard yet.’”

To hear more of her stories, I asked Yasmin to trek through the polar vortex to the Food52 offices, where we sat down to chat.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

ERIC KIM: Tell us about yourself. What did you do before food?

YASMIN KHAN: Before I came into the food world, I did a law degree and worked as a human rights campaigner for charities and nonprofits. I did a lot of grassroots community work on all kinds of issues. I think the thing I’m most known for in the U.K. is my work on deaths in police custody. I also worked for trade unions on employment rights and for an anti-poverty human rights charity, and that’s what kind of sparked my interest in Israel and Palestine.

EK: How do you see human rights playing into the way you write about food? Are they related?

YK: What drove me when I was a human rights activist was this realization that the best way you could effect change would be by sharing people’s stories, by connecting people to others in a really human way. And I feel like that’s what I do in my cookbooks, as well. I travel around places and I share stories from the people I meet, with the aim and the mission of challenging stereotypes of the Middle East. But also humanizing people and celebrating our commonality, which I think in these troubled times is needed very urgently.

The thread running through all my work is a fundamental belief that humans, wherever we are in the world, have more to unite us than to divide us.

EK: Would you say this a political book, then?

YK: Yeah, the act of witnessing is very important when there are human rights abuses. And I see my role as someone who witnesses those things. I’m not Palestinian, but I did travel extensively around the region, and what I wanted to do in this book was to use food as a way of opening a window into this place that’s more commonly construed through news headlines. Also, I’ve always felt that if you care about a food of a culture, you also have to care about the people.

Photo by Matt Russell

EK: In the book, you write about being detained at the airport in Tel Aviv and interrogated by Israeli officials. Does this happen to you often?

YK: Oh yeah. It’s been really interesting. Even when I used to work for the nonprofits, my boss, who was a middle-aged white man, would walk through fine, and we’d be flying together with our papers from the foreign office saying we’re coming. The reason I included that part of my travels is that yes, this is a cookbook, but increasingly I feel that Israeli food has become so popular, and Tel Aviv is seen as this incredible foodie destination—and it definitely is, there are great restaurants there and a vibrant food scene—but your ability to access it is dependent on your ethnicity. Not everybody can have these wonderful food holidays.

So for me, it was just about saying, “What is this actually about?” Even at the basic level of trying to get in, having gone through hours of detention and interrogation—even though they knew I was there to write a cookbook—I realized that it’s actually just about making you feel vulnerable. The questions are circular, and you’ve not eaten for a while. At one point the interrogator said to me, “You look a lot like your mom, don’t you? You don’t look like your dad?” It’s just very frightening.

EK: It’s cruel and inhumane. I’m sorry.

YK: Yeah.

EK: Well, you wrote: “I should have packed a sandwich.” What kind of sandwich will you pack for the next time? Just kidding…

YK: (Laughs.) Actually, I did! The next time, I picked up an avocado wrap with Parmesan and mayonnaise and pine nuts, and I had a TREK bar.

EK: What’s a TREK bar?

YK: It’s a U.K. thing. It’s got oats and protein—you know, one of those health bars. I was fully prepared.

‘Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen’ by Yasmin Khan.

Photo by W. W. Norton & Company

EK: What is Palestinian food, and what would you say are the most important ingredients in a Palestinian kitchen?

YK: Palestinian food is seasonal and vegetable-focused, primarily, and uses spices like cumin, cinnamon, and allspice to delicately flavor stews, grilled meats, and fish dishes. And I think the ingredients used most commonly, like allspice, were a revelation to me. We’re used to having allspice in cakes and cookies and pumpkin pie, but in Palestinian food they use it in savory dishes. So now that’s what I do all the time. Sumac and za’atar are very important, as well. Za’atar is an herb that grows wild, but it’s also a spice mix with the herb and sumac and sesame seeds. Palestinians often start meals with tearing a bit of bread, dunking it in olive oil, and dunking that in za’atar. It’s so good.

EK: What does the word zaitoun mean, and what is its significance for the book and for your journey?

YK: Zaitoun means “olive” in Arabic and Farsi and Turkish, and it was, for me, the word that best symbolized the Palestinian table. Any time you have a meal, there’ll be a bowl of olives on the table, and Palestinians always have several bottles of olive oil in their cupboard, normally coming from their family trees. The olive tree and the olive branch are universally known as symbols of peace, but in Palestine, the olive tree also represents connection to the land. So many poems and films and books have olive tree symbolism in them. And when they’re uprooted, olive trees have come to represent Palestinian displacement. It all comes from that one word.

EK: That’s really beautiful.

YK: Yeah.

EK: Your photographer Raya is an integral part of this book, not just aesthetically but in the story too. Can you tell us about her?

YK: I really wanted to work with a woman. And I really wanted to work with a Palestinian woman. It’s important, for me, when I’m doing these kinds of projects to be connected to the community I’m representing. I like to work with women because I feel that, especially in those spaces, in many Middle Eastern countries, women can actually get you better access into other women’s homes. And so it was a real strength to me to have Raya. You get so much more depth and connection when it’s a photographer who speaks the language and has got her own food recommendations. She’s a massive foodie and a dear friend.

And of course, it’s just so funny—that pomegranate tattoo she has? In my first book, The Saffron Tales, I wax on and on about pomegranates so much, because being half-Iranian, they’re such a big part of our lives. When I was chatting with her on Skype, she was like, “My leg hurts! I just got a new tattoo.” It was this gorgeous pomegranate half coming up her leg, and I thought, “That’s the photographer for me.”

EK: What’s the significance of pomegranates to you and to Palestinian cuisine?

YK: Throughout the Middle East, pomegranates have always been revered. They’re seen as quite symbolic fruit, because in the midst of winter, when nothing is growing and everything is barren, you have these amazing ruby-red bulbs hanging from trees. In Iran, for example, they used to line the gardens of ancient temples with pomegranate trees because they were said to represent eternal life. And in Palestine, similarly, they represent fertility and abundance. I imagine every Middle Easterner has got a special affinity to pomegranates. They hold meaning and depth and connection.

Photo by Matt Russell

EK: Speaking of pomegranates, can you tell us more about the cake in your book?

YK: That cake is really my kind of cake. I like almond cakes, and almonds are another key ingredient in Palestinian cooking. Almond trees just kind of grow everywhere in Palestine. So what I wanted to do was bring together a couple of key ingredients from the Palestinian kitchen into a sweet cake. This is a dense and quite—what’s the word—squidgy cake. I run pomegranate molasses through it, so it soaks in the top and runs through. And I always like a bit of sharpness along with something sweet, so I top it with a lovely mascarpone-yogurt mixture and sprinkle it with pomegranate arils.

EK: What’s your desert-island dish?

YK: Oh, it would have to be my mom’s ghormeh sabzi, which is this Iranian stew of lamb, red kidney beans, and dried limes, made with—literally—a kilo of herbs. I’d have it with Persian rice, tahdig, torshi (Iranian pickles), and salad… Ugh! I could really eat that right now. (Lies back.)

EK: (Laughs.) I love that question because the answer is always, “My mom’s…”

YK: Is it?

EK: Oh yeah.

YK: Aw, that’s nice.

Recipe and photographs from Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan. Copyright © 2018 by Yasmin Khan. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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My Life at Home with Linda Derschang, Seattle Restaurateur

Welcome to My Life at Home, where we slow down for just a minute to share a glimpse into the lives of food lovers we’d love to get to know better. Kick off your shoes and get comfy!

Running a restaurant takes serious work. Running restaurants plural takes guts and a good dose of secret sauce. There’s a reason why certain places make it, and if you’re lucky, certain places are good at reproducing their vibe in a successful cadre of subsequent venues. This is what Linda Derschang of The Derschang Group has been doing—with gusto—over the past 25-plus years.

The veteran restaurateur has made her mark on Seattle’s dining scene since 1994, when she opened her first bar, Linda’s Tavern with Sub-Pop Records, the label that made it with Nirvana (R.I.P. Kurt Cobain). Since then, she’s put her Midas Touch on numerous bars and restaurants, including Oddfellows Café, Smith, Tallulah’s, King’s Hardware, and most recently, Queen City. I have yet to make it to the Emerald City, but I already feel a kinship with Linda’s portfolio of popular haunts. The menus, the style (which you’ll soon see is an extension of her very cool, individual taste)—you just know a place is good when it gives you those warm and inviting, where-everybody-knows-your-name Cheers-y vibes.

I recently had the chance to bend Linda’s ear and ask the busy boss lady—who’s called Seattle home since 1987—about her condo-home life (when she can fit it in!) in the Belltown neighborhood, and the challenges of staying relevant in such a competitive industry over the years. Read along—and be prepared for some next-level Westie cuteness.

HANA ASBRINK: Hi, Linda. How long have you lived in your current home and what do you love most about it?

LINDA DERSCHANG: I’ve lived in my condo for two years. I love the convenience of being right in the city, and having beautiful views and a terrace.

Linda’s great eye for design on display in her Seattle condo.

Photo by Catherine Landers

HA: Describe your decorating style for us. Who are your design influences?

LD: I always want to achieve a combination of style and comfort. I’m mainly influenced by travel, but also books and magazines, and I can certainly go down the Instagram rabbit hole.

There’s not one main designer who has influenced me. I pick up inspiration and ideas here and there. The Eames Lounge Chair is the best reading chair, hands down. I had wanted one for years, but moving into the condo meant I had the perfect place for it. I decided to buy a new one instead of vintage so that I could wear it in myself. I’m planning on reading in it for the next 20 years—or more, if I’m lucky.

The Eames Lounge Chair sitting pretty in front of a wall of ready-to-read books.

Photo by Catherine Landers

HA: What are your favorite home retailers?

LD: I love ABC Carpet & Home in New York City. I shop at vintage stores around Seattle, and I buy from Design Within Reach and a bit of IKEA. I also thrift and hit flea markets.

Midcentury homage with a tulip dining table and vintage Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs.

Photo by Catherine Landers

HA: If your walls could talk, what would they say?

LD: “She baby talks to her dog WAY too much.” Ha, the joys of living alone.

HA: Tell us more about your beautiful Westie. How does he make himself at home?

LD: My Westie is named Jack. He’s 11 and really just the best dog ever. Well, most of the time—he’s a terrier, after all. He makes himself at home on every cushion in the house, on the bed, and on both sofas. He also loves hanging out on the terrace watching birds. And he brings in The New York Times most days (not the Sunday edition, of course).

HA: Where could we find you on any given weeknight?

LD: I’m out quite a bit. You could find me at one of my spots checking in and meeting friends, especially at my newest place, Queen City. I also know a lot of people in the creative world, including artists, so I go to a lot of openings and dance performances. I also love lectures, book readings, and band performances.

HA: How often are you able to spend time at home?

LD: I spend a couple of nights a week at home. Honestly, if I was at home for four nights in a row, I’d probably have to be ill.

HA: Do you have a signature drink or dinner-party fare?

LD: It depends on the time of year, but in the summer I love to serve Aperol Spritzes and rosé; a watermelon, feta, and dry-cured olive salad with cold roast chicken; and Frankie & Jo’s ice cream. It’s simple, healthy, and delicious.

I’m also big on having friends come over and cook at my house. I love prepping the house for parties, and if I’m not cooking, I can just take care of the music and make sure everyone is having fun. (And most of my friends are much better cooks than I am anyway.)

Linda’s home: ready to serve friends at a moment’s notice.

Photo by Catherine Landers

HA: What is your ultimate comfort food?

LD: A cheeseburger.

HA: What do you always keep in your fridge?

LD: Wine, hummus, corn tortillas, sauerkraut, some sort of greens, and cheese.

Open sesame.

Photo by Catherine Landers

HA: What is your favorite way to relax after a long week?

LD: Hanging out on the sofa with my dog, a glass of wine, Lay’s potato chips, and a book or The New Yorker. Or dinner out with friends! It could go either way.

HA: What is the biggest joy and challenge of running your own business?

LD: The biggest joy is all about the people—both the guests and my team. I’ve met so many amazing people over the years. And I also love the freedom of being an owner, but that does mean there’s a lot of responsibility, obviously.

Staying relevant is a big challenge in the bar and restaurant business. There are always new places opening, which means we really need to do our best to keep people coming back. And having the right team is so important and critical to creating the right kind of culture.

HA: How has this changed over time, specifically in the recent handful of years?

LD: Because I’ve been doing this for more than three decades, I’m trying to be less hands-on. It’s hard to let go of some of the control, but you have to build a team you can trust.

HA: What’s on your playlist right now?

LD: Father John Misty, Nina Simone, Francois Hardy, Solange, Belle & Sebastian, The Specials, Nick Cave, a little classical, and some Indian devotional music.

HA: What are your favorite Food52 recipes?

LD: The Warm Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini is a favorite. Also the Charred Broccoli and Lentil Salad. There really are so many great salad recipes I’ve used from Food52.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What part of Linda’s home draws you in the most? Let us know below!

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You Need Homemade Tortilla Chips in Your Life · i am a food blog i am a food blog

Crispy, crunchy, hot and fresh from the fryer homemade tortilla chips are easier to make than you think. All you need is a package of tortillas and a bunch of oil!

We are currently in Japan – Hokkaido to be exact – glamping so I apologize for the lack of posts. We will definitely be posting a bunch of things about our trip soon, but before then I’m going to tell you guys about these tortilla chips.

how to make homemade tortilla chips | www.iamafoodblog.com

I have a love-love relationship with tortilla chips. What’s not to love? They’re crispy and crunchy and the perfect vehicle for shoveling dips into your mouth. My all time favorite tortilla chips (I’ve eaten a lot of tortilla chips) are freshly made ones. They have a heft and crunch to them that store bought ones don’t. I find store bought tortilla chips more brittle and fragile. While they definitely have their place in my heart – I don’t discriminate against different tortilla chips – sometimes you need a chip that will be able to handle the heavy lifting.

I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s been to a decent Mexican restaurant has experienced the joy of freshly fried chips. But if you haven’t, don’t despair because chips can be in your life faster than it’ll take you to get to your favorite taqueria. This recipe is perfect for old leftover tortillas so the day after taco night, get the oil out because it’s time to deep fry.

This is the simplest recipe and if you haven’t deep fried before it’s actually a perfect thing to start your foray into deep frying. Because tortillas are extremely low moisture, there will be zero splattering, which is what I think is the most nerve wracking part of deep frying. Even so, here are some tips so your chips are golden and delicious.

how to make homemade tortilla chips | www.iamafoodblog.com

1. Dry out your tortillas

The less water content you have in your tortillas, the quicker and crunchier they will fry. Cut up your tortillas into triangles and leave them uncovered to dry them out a bit. If you don’t have time for this, it’s not a big deal, you can use fresh tortillas too, but old tortillas are best.

how to make homemade tortilla chips | www.iamafoodblog.com

2. Use a deep pot

Use a deep, heavy bottomed pot for deep frying. A heavy bottomed pot will hold the heat of the oil and the depth will help contain the oil with minimal splashage.

how to make homemade tortilla chips | www.iamafoodblog.com

3. Prepare a wire rack or paper towels on a plate

You want to have a spot for your tortillas to drain. If you just put them on a plate without a rack or paper towels they have the possibility of steaming up or getting slightly soggy. A wire rack is best because there will be airflow around the chips, but paper towels work to soak up excess oil as well.

how to make homemade tortilla chips | www.iamafoodblog.com

4. Take the chips out just before they’re golden

Seems counter intuitive but take the chips out slightly before you think they’re done because they’ll continue to brown slightly outside the oil. If you leave them in until you think they’re perfect, they’ll be too brown.

how to make homemade tortilla chips | www.iamafoodblog.com

5. Salt while they’re hot

Salt your chips right after they come out of the oil. The hot oil on the surface will help the salt stick. If you salt after the chips are cold, the salt will just slide right off.

Alright, that’s it! Hope you guys have some homemade chips in your future! I know that when we get back home, I’ll be making a fresh batch. I’m open to suggestions on what to dip them into too – I love a good dip so if you have any favorites, let me know!

Homemade Tortilla Chips Recipe
makes as many as needed

  • 1 cups neutral oil such as sunflower or grapeseed
  • corn tortillas, cut into wedges
  • flaky salt

Spread out the tortillas to dry them slightly. It’s best if you use old tortillas, but fresh work too, just lay them out for a bit.

Heat up the oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Make sure that the oil is only about 1-2 inches deep.

Prepare a baking sheet with a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels to drain the chips on.

When the oil is hot, carefully drop the tortillas, in batches, into the oil and fry, stirring and flipping every so often until golden and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the oil when lightly golden. You want to pull them out of the oil early as they’ll continue to brown slightly as they cool. Drain on the prepared baking sheet or plate and season generously with salt while still hot.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas until you have a batch of chips!

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