Sara Leana Ahmad has been a part of our Narrative Food family and sharing her recipes and stories with our community since 2017, and we are honored that she is returning as guest narrator next weekend!
Order deadline 5p Monday, August 23rd for weekend delivery.
“IRAQ is: Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Crescent, the land of the Tigris and Euphrates, the birthplace of Abraham, the site of the Garden of Eden, the supposed burial ground of Noah’s Ark, home to Gilgamesh. It has deep and powerful roots. And those roots are reflected in the cuisine.
The very first cookbook ever written was from Mesopotamia, on stone tablets.
Iraq’s rich history and glorious ethnic and cultural diversity means its food is complex. Iraqi cuisine is influenced by Levantine, Iranian, Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Jewish, and Indian cuisine, among others, creating something wholly original and beautiful.
Alas Americans seem to know very little about Iraq other than war, destruction, and violence. It’s all we get to see. This limited view of such a beautiful country, which up until the sixties was known as “The Jewel of the Middle East,” continues an Orientalist tradition of pigeonholing the entire region as violent and destructive. We learn that the violence is somehow inherent and so we choose to ignore it, without considering the consequences.
More and more Iraqis are using social media to show us a different view of Iraq than the one portrayed in media. They are moving the camera lens an inch, to the parts we don’t usually see, the beauty and life that exists despite the violence, corrupt policies, and foreign meddling, the curses of such rich land and soil.
A few years ago Snapchat featured a Day in the Life of Baghdad, in which Iraqi snaps of daily life were selected, surprising millions. We don’t think about carnivals, delicious food, beautiful landscapes, people laughing and enjoying life when we think about Iraq. And sadly unless we look for it we won’t see it. The popular Instagram account @EveryDayIraq features a collection of photographs that depict daily life among its people, beyond the scope of violence.
Yes, there is corruption and violence in Iraq – as there is here and anywhere. But there is so much more to Iraq. And given our active participation in the region, it is at the very least our responsibility to attempt to understand our shared humanities.
As it always is, food is a powerful cultural bridge. These kits are more than just recipes and ingredients: they are a positive social force! Enjoy!
Bil Afya | Bon Appetit
With love, Sara
Nena’s Tashreeb Istanbuli
“Tashreeb is the name for a type of dish with broth-soaked bread as the base. It can be soaked with meat or bean broth, depending on the dish. This particular tashreeb is very uncommon. Iraqis do not know this tashreeb if you ask them. Only the Iraqi Turkoman in Kirkuk made this tashreeb, and even then it was uncommon.”
- Emigh Lamb
- And locally sourced produce: eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, scallions, and parsley
Check your pantry & fridge for eggs (opt.), turmeric, and lamb broth. Click HERE for the recipe.
“Part of what makes Iraqi cuisine so special is that a family recipe can never fully be replicated. Iraqi recipes are always verbal sketches, mere attempts at defining a dish; but Iraqis don’t cook that way. Iraqis don’t cook with measurements, they cook with their senses.I can tell you to add a tablespoon of cumin, but I don’t really know how much cumin I’ve added. As I cook, I taste along the way, adding a bit of this here and a bit of that there, and I only know it’s right when it tastes right. The essence of my mother’s tastes and textures were passed to me because I grew up eating her food and watching her cook. There is no way to pigeonhole taste; there is no way to reveal the secrets of your mother’s taste. And Iraqi food is just that; it is the food of your mother’s taste. And her taste is deeply rooted in Mesopotamian history…” (Read more HERE.)
Dibis Maqluba is a dish to prepare when you have guests. It literally means ‘upside down’, and is a layered rice dish that you triumphantly finish by flipping upside down onto. platter. It is popular throughout the Middle East, each region having its own variation. The Iraqi version stands out with its beautifully bright colors and warm, comforting layers.” – excerpt from A House with a Date Palm will Never Starve
Dibis Maqluba & Mama’s Kubba’t Hallab, featuring:
- HLTH punk tomato paste
- Just Date syrup
- Alexandre Family Farms eggs
- Basmati Rice
- Almonds (opt.)
- Raisins (opt.)
- and locally sourced produce – onion, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms (opt.), eggplant, bell peppers, and parsley
Check your pantry for veggie broth. Scroll down for Sara’s Dibis Maqluba recipe, and click HERE for Mama’s Kubba’t Hallab (swap the ground beef or lamb for your choice of filling: mushrooms, eggplant, etc.)
And for nights tight on time…
Lupa Cotta x Mission Rose Pizza Night, featuring:
- Lupa Cotta pizza dough
- Mission Rose roasted red pepper sauce
- baby eggplant
Take a night off from cooking and enjoy our Wine & Grazing Board Supper kit in the backyard, poolside, or cozied up on the couch.
- Subject to Change Wild Child Red Field Blend
- Seed + Mill Tahini
- Manzanita Manor dry-farmed walnuts
- Rancho Meladuco Sun-ripened Medjool dates
- Rustic Bakery Artisan Fruit Crisps
- Scout Garden Pesto tuna
- Olympia Provisions Saucisson Sec
- Local goat cheese
“Only when I started cooking did I learn to truly delight in food. Although I live in Los Angeles, my parents grew up in Iraq and I learned how to eat from them. In our culture, as in many non-Western cultures, food is a central part of family life. When possible we would eat at a table, together. There are usually grains or legumes, meat, and tons of vegetables at every shared meal. When we sat for dinner — since lunch was always reserved for school or work — we sat for hours eating, talking, arguing, laughing. Meals were relaxed, never rushed…”
- 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked and strained
- 4 cups water, for boiling
- 4 tbs salt (3 for boiling, 1 for taste)
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tomato, diced
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup date syrup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large aubergine (eggplant), cut in 1/2 in rounds
- 1/2 large onion, sliced
- 2 bell peppers, sliced
- 2 tomatoes, 1/2 in slices
- 1 1/2 cups oil for sauteing
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Bring the water and salt to boil and add the rice. Boil for seven to ten minutes, drain, and set aside. Sate the diced onions in oil until translucent. Add the salt, garlic, and tomato paste to coat the onions. Sate for three to five minutes before adding the vegetable broth and diced tomato. Simmer for five minutes, add to the rice along with the lemon juice, and cook over a low heat.
Combine the date syrup, olive oil, and salt to coat the aubergine rounds and the onion slices. In batches, lightly pan fry the aubergine; cool on paper towels. Caramelize the onions, sate the peppers with salt, and lightly pan fry the tomatoes; set aside each vegetable as they are ready.
Cover the bottom of a non-stick pot in oil. Layer the aubergine to cover the bottom; add the tomatoes, then the peppers, and the onions in layers. Finally, add the rice, flatten it down, and cook on a low heat for at least fifteen minutes.
To flip the maqluba, place a serving platter that is larger in diameter than the pot and quickly turn over. Top with parsley and serve with thick yoghurt.
Sara is an Iraqi-American educator, writer, and keeper of family traditions based here in Los Angeles, California. Her food blog Add a Little Lemon has been featured in Food52, Ajam Media Collective, Middle East Eye, and Buzzfeed, among other places; and was nominated as Saveur’s Best New Voice in 2017. You can find her recipes in the cookbook anthology A House With A Date Palm Will Never Starve (2019) alongside many greats. She is a founding member of the Iraqi Narratives Project, an oral history project documenting the stories of Iraqis at home and in diaspora. Recently she has been featured in the series Third Culture Kitchens; and her prose-poem [FRAGMENTS: UNTITLED] has been published in the Joao-Roque Literary Journal. She is currently working on a cookbook and a collection of vignettes.
Photo by @ahmadmousa