A Lesson of Authenticity

It’s here! It’s here! Friday is here! Aren’t you glad you made it this far in the week? I am. 😉

Thanks for the awesome words on my new gig as a personal trainer! It’s fun. I didn’t realize how much I’d like it… or how challenging it could be. So many injuries to work around with some people. But rewarding, nonetheless. And I’m already getting a little overwhelmed with how many clients I’m training… 2 now + 2 boot camp classes. And a full time job. And a blog. And reading time. And workouts in there for me. Life, I tell ya, it just gets jam-packed.

Anyway, onto the food!

This past weekend I was given the opportunity to learn how to make a meal full of culture, authenticity, fresh ingredients, and love. A meal and instruction on how it was/is prepared back in Syria.

I helped my boyfriend’s grandmother make a very traditional dish called, quebaht (sp??). With the leftover dough, we made little balls called, kibbeh, which you’ll see later on in this post. The dough is a mix of burghul, farina (like cream of wheat), coriander, salt, red pepper flakes, and water, kneaded and then shaped so that it can be filled with meat (ground meat, diced onion, parsley, coriander, salt, and pepper), then closed, making a mini pot-sticker type creation. Check out grandma doing her thing below! She’s a pro.

After the little guys are rolled, stuffed, and pinched shut, they’re boiled in a pot of lightly salted water for about 15 minutes. Done. Easy, right?! Uh, not so much. The rolling and shaping of the “dough” is definitely something that can be practiced to be perfected. I got the hang of it… after “assembling” around 50 of these guys. We made a lot so I got a lot of practice.

I should probably mention this meal was created for my boyfriend’s birthday celebration with his family. It was fun learning the traditions and recipes that are now saved for special occasions. I was more than happy to be a part of the creation of a huge meal to nourish everyone and to celebrate a year passing.

Next up on our list of to-make’s was stuffed grape leaves and stuffed veggies.

This was a simple mix of ground beef, uncooked rice, tomato paste, lemon, salt, allspice, and pepper. Grandma and I rolled grape leaves and stuffed eggplant, zucchini, and one giant red pepper. All the goods go into a giant bot and boil with water and more lemon juice and tomato paste. In the last 15 minutes of boiling garlic and dried mint is added.

These are by far my favorite things ever. And so simple to make!

Grandma, me, and kibbeh.

Tada! The pot of red is the kibbeh being sauteed and boiled. The pot on the right of that are the grape leaves and stuffed veggies, a large ceramic weight to tamper down the veggies while they boil.

Above, Kibbeh as a finished product. Below, kibbeh, stuffed veggies, quabet, and fixings.

I helped create these!

I had so much fun learning the secrets to authentic Arabic cooking. One thing that made this extra special was not only the ancient knowledge of truly handmade food, but the fact that these recipes and way of preparing dishes are slowly fading with each generation. I was able to learn something that might not be passed down for much longer.

Foods are prepared in mass quantities now. Easily picked up at a store, packaged, opened, heated, done. Being able to learn truly what real labor was in the meals made back in Syria made me appreciate the importance of keeping traditions alive.

Do you have special recipe or authentic dishes that are in danger of being forgotten?

What is a tradition in your family that needs to be passed down?

What are your favorite non-traditional foods?