Growing up in Massachusetts with a mother forced to flee war in both Gaza and Lebanon, Reem Assil not only wears her fierce Palestinian and Syrian pride on her sleeve, but profoundly infuses it into her cooking and baking.
That’s why her new cookbook “Arabiyya” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is not merely a collection of more than 100 recipes that dive deeply into her Arab roots, but a testament to her hard-won battle to bring them to the forefront in all that she does.
The book’s title means “Arab woman.” And Assil exemplifies that inherent strength, never afraid to champion her Arab community at-large, starting in college, when she idealistically thought she could solve the issue of peace in the Middle East. When she realized that futility, she dropped out of school, and headed west to the Bay Area, were she became enthralled with its diversity and social consciousness.
It was here that she got the notion to start her own bakery, having grown up breaking bread at the table communally as the ultimate way to bring people together.
Although you probably know tahini as an essential ingredient in hummus, it also does wonders for baked goods. It combines here with butter, grapeseed oil, whole milk, and sour cream for a batter that results in a moist, rich tasting cake.
In the early days of shelter-in-place, I felt as if I was living through a “Seinfeld” episode.
Specifically, the one where Elaine is beside herself when she learns her favorite contraceptive sponge is being discontinued. Guarding her precious remaining supply tightly, she’d pick apart any new suitor to determine if they were indeed “sponge-worthy.”
I did the same — only with yeast. Because it was scarce at supermarkets and I had only three packets left, I found myself loathe to try any new recipes using yeast lest they turn out to be disappointing failures.
After all, I simply couldn’t afford to waste those few precious packets. So, I made only tried-and-true recipes that I knew were absolutely, without a doubt, yeast-worthy.
Until now. Three weeks ago, my husband miraculously scored yeast at Whole Foods. Hallelujah!
Now, restocked and raring to go, I couldn’t wait to try some new recipes that used yeast. The first one to catch my eye was “Sweet Tahini Rolls” from the new cookbook, “Falastin: A Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.
The book is by Sami Tamimi, executive chef and founding partner of the Ottolenghi restaurant group, and Tara Wigley, a long-time Ottolenghi recipe writer. They titled the cookbook, “Falastin,” after the Palestinian newspaper that brought diverse people together.
The cookbook is by Margarita Manzke, co-owner of Republique restaurant and bakery in Los Angeles. The book, written with former Los Angeles Times food writer Betty Hallock, features all the favorite pastries, cookies, cakes and pies from this fabulous bakery that’s a must-stop whenever my husband and I drive to Los Angeles.