How to Level up Your Mezze-Making Skills, with Help from Chef Reem Assil
Chef Reem Assil schools us on homemade hummus, better baba, and the finer points of delightful dips in this excerpt from her cookbook ‘Arabiyya.’
If you’re lucky enough to have visited Reem Assil’s corner bakery and restaurant, Reem’s California in San Francisco’s Mission District, you know the delightful culinary conundrum of trying to figure out just exactly which of the mezze to order. For many, store-bought baba, hummus, and other Middle Eastern dips have become the reliable last-minute dinner savior, the backyard cookout mainstay, and the savory anchor of impromptu summer parties, but each and every one of Assil’s recipes is next-level and worthy of slowing down and treating as an event in and of itself.
For those of us not lucky enough to live near Reem’s California, the esteemed Oakland-based Syrian-Palestinian chef has just published a new magnum opus cookbook cum culinary memoir Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora ($35; Ten Speed Press).
This beautifully written and photographed book is not only a masterclass in Arab cooking and the classic dishes it yields, but also a reminder that recipes don’t create food just to be eaten, but also to be a vessel of storytelling, containing within it the imprint of family and ethnic history, of immigration and exile.
We’re thrilled to be able to excerpt Arabiyya and share a few of the recipes from the book, along with Assil’s nuanced culinary advice and family stories. Cook your way through these recipes and we’re pretty sure you’ll elevate your mezze-making skills while enriching your understanding of just how profound a bowl of hummus can be.
Hummus (Chickpea-Tahini Spread)
“Learning to make great hummus requires tasting along the way and trusting what you taste,” writes Reem Assil. Adjust salt, oil, and lemon as you go. Get the recipe here.
Khalta Harra (Chile-Spice Mix)
This chile mix packs a perfect balance of earthy, sour, and salty flavors with just enough heat from the sweet Aleppo pepper to let you know you’re alive but keep you from losing the other flavors. It’s equally at home as a rub for the grill, a garnish for mezze spreads, or a seasoning for roasted vegetables and sauces. Get the recipe here.
Try These at Home
Reprinted with permission from Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora by Reem Assil, copyright © 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.