Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Cookbook from Another World

When I opened Silvena Rowe's "Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume", I felt as though I had stumbled into strangeness. Had I found a guide to the Bed and Breakfast Inns along the canals of Mars, I would not have been more startled. Picture after picture, recipe after recipe- mysterious, yet at the same time familiar. Here was the cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean and here were the foods of the Bible and antiquity. Pomegranate seeds.Figs. Phyllo. Pistachios. We all know these-

But the herbs and spices? Sumac. Black Nigella seeds. Za'atar and Aleppo Pepper? I had never heard of them. Nor had I encountered Kataifi, a shredded dough. And what could I use as substitutions, since I doubted I could find sumac in Nashville. Had I spent over thirty dollars for a beautiful, but useless cookbook?

I suppose I could have ordered Nigella seeds online, but I have become leery of this, since I had my credit card number hijacked earlier this summer. I decided to look around at K&S World Market in the Middle East aisle. I looked over the spice jars, and found the Aleppo pepper and the Nigella seeds. But there were no bottles of sumac. It was only on my next visit that I decided to look outside the jar. And found a one pound bag of sumac.The wonders kept on. I found a bag of Za"atar, an herb mixture,at the Belle Meade Publix. And on Monday, back at K&S, a box of Kataifi, in the freezer section. A woman in line ahead of me gasped when she saw my box of dough."Oh, my God, where did you find that? "

I think we had both underestimated Nashville and its immigrant community. Thousands of Kurds live here . They were not going to give up the taste of their far away homeland for barbecue and fried green tomatoes. Nashville is a world city now, and Silvena Rowe's recipes are not impossible here. I will be making her Basil and Kadaifi Wrapped Shrimp this weekend. And I am going to roast tomatoes today and flavor them with Za"atar and sea-salt.

And below are two photos of treasures from K&S.


Out on the prairie said...

I wondered what part of the sumac they used. I make a pink lemonade from the flowers.I have to rely on Internet for a lot of shopping.Last year I got some fish sauce, a Martha Stewert favorite brand. Made me choose that right away.LOL

betsy said...

Middle eastern sumac is different from our American species. The spice is made from the berries. It tastes tangy, almost lemony.

troutbirder said...

Exotic cuisine can be a lot of fun that's for sure. We're learning that of Ethiopia as our newly adopted granddaughter comes from there. :) Enjoyed learning about wild hydrangeas as we don't have them here.

Nan said...

I'd be interested to know if there are vegetarian recipes in this book. Do you ever get the Penzeys catalogue?

I looked and they offer everything but the black nigella seeds. By the way, I'm pretty sure that's what the goldfinches like. Also called 'thistle.'

betsy said...

Many of the mezze recipes are vegetarian, Nan. Beet Tzatiki.Eggplant Sticks with Pomegranate, mint and yogurt sauce. Eggplant seems to be used as a meat replacer in many of them-

betsy said...

Also , will look up catalog you mentioned-