I could claim that I read the newspaper on July 4 and saw the heartwarming story about Bashar al-Asad sending Obama a 4th of July telegram inviting him to Syria, but really, I was plotting the Syrian dinner a couple of days earlier.
During my May trip, I loaded up my suitcase with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo red pepper paste. I started to get nervous about the pepper paste when I saw Peter wantonly smearing it on his sandwiches. At this rate, it would never make it to its intended purpose, muhammara. (Muhammara is a pepper-walnut-pomegranate-molasses paste that is insanely rich and delicious.)
And after getting zucchini-stuffing instruction on that May trip, I was also itching to break out my weird zucchini-coring gadget, bought on the street in Aleppo in 2007.
I’ll just cut to the chase: it worked like a charm!
The end result, stuffed with rice, currants and pine nuts. Yes, meat is more traditional, but we were already having lamb chops marinated in Aleppo pepper. Yeah, they look a little obscene. That makes them taste better.
We had some grilled eggplant, topped with chopped garlic, basil and pomegranate molasses–a trick I learned on my first trip, in 1999, at a Christian social club in Hama. Though now it seems odd to me that basil was involved. Could I be imagining this part? Anyway, I like peeling the eggplant in the Turkish, zebra style:
Dinner got going before I thought to take real pics of anything else. We had beet greens with garlic yogurt, the aforementioned muhammara, the zucch innards and some boiled peanuts. Not Syrian, but I’d seen the fresh peanuts in Chinatown the day before, and hey, why not? I also made some potato salad, following an admittedly Americanized recipe in the Hippocrene book, A Taste of Syria. Ironically, it’s the first time I’ve ever made a boiled mayonnaise dressing. (Allspice is what made it Syrian.) And there was a big bowl of fattoush, the salad with purslane, mint, sumac and pita bits.
And lest anyone think we were unpatriotic: the ‘Merican flag was flying off the front deck, and we ate off my collection of state plates.