Souk, Feasting at the Mezze Table

cover

Souk, Feasting at the Mezze Table by Nadia Zerouati and Merijn Tol, Smith Street Books 2018, $35.00 hardback, 256 pages

You have descended on your own people and have stepped upon the plains.

–Arabic greeting

That is, you are among friends in a land of plenty. And that’s the way this book feels, beautiful but fundamentally simple food, meant to be savored and nibbled.

This is a book of mezze–appetizers, snacks, and bites–that are meant to be shared. No one would go to the trouble of rolling grape leaves,  shaping kibbe, or folding fattayer pastries for themselves alone. Invite friends to help and enjoy.

This is also a book for the way we like to eat now–fresh ingredients, bright flavors, and instagram-gorgeous. Salads put vegetables and spice front and center, without heavy dressings. Meat and fish are spiced and grilled, pastries are lean but flavorful, and dips are vegetable and olive oil rich.

You’ll want to replenish your pantry with some fundamental flavors described in the beginning of the book–pomegranate molasses for a tart sweetness, sumac for an earthy citrus, or ras al hanout for warm spiciness. All to be used in ingredients like sucuk, a Turkish sausage; freekeh, a green wheat berry; and couscous berkoukes, a hand-rolled, coarse-textured couscous.

The recipes include chic, up-to-date interpretations like Rose-Barberry Gin and Lemon Geranium Lemonade or a Rice Pudding flavored with turmeric, tahini, and pine nuts. There may be some unfamiliar dishes like Armenian Stuffed Carrots or Manouche–a flatbread flavored with kashk, which is a fermented and dried labneh. There are dishes you’ll want to spend a weekend on, like roasted quails or Rakakat–fried pastry rolls filled with cheese and parsley. And there are dishes that will pack well for an office-cubicle lunch like Lentil Salad, Quick Crackers, and Lebanese Hummus.

The mezze are sorted into cold and warm, with a chapter on the grill, and on after-dinner sweets. So–perfect for the summer porch or the warm winter kitchen–and all easy enough to become part of your regular repertoire.

 

About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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