Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora

Ten Speed: Crown. May 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781984859075. $35. COOKING
Award-winning chef Assil writes that “Middle Eastern cuisine” can be an ambiguous term; the “Middle of whose East?” she asks. She aims for specificity in this Arab diaspora cookbook, whose recipes gain depth and context from Assil’s account of her roots in Palestine and Syria and of her family’s immigration to Lebanon, Massachusetts, and California. The recipes are straightforward and geared to home cooks; each has a headnote, outlining the dish’s significance to Assil and her family, and offering prep or storage tips. Assil owns the San Francisco bakery Reem’s California, so recipes for breads and desserts (like hazelnut-praline baklava rolls with milk and honey) make up a large portion of her book, rounded out by vegetables, pickles, mezze, main plates, and drinks. Photographs of Assil’s family are interspersed with photos of the dishes; for some recipes, particularly baked goods, step-by-step photos provide more guidance. A detailed spice chart is also very useful, covering flavors, uses, and possible substitutions, followed by recipes for several spice mixes used throughout the book.
VERDICT Part memoir, part cultural primer, but mostly cookbook, Assil’s work is a delicious take on cuisines and cultures of the Arab diaspora.
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