Isn't it funny how new friends come into your life? My friend, Lamiaa is the mom of two teenage boys. Like me. Her younger son, Adam is the bestie of my younger son, Malcolm and that's how our friendship began.
Lamiaa and her husband, Tarek are Egyptian, a culture and cuisine that I know little about. Of course, during one of our first meetings when we were learning about one another, we discussed our jobs. She is in graphic design while growing and preparing food is my art. We made tentative plans to cook for each other. Full disclosure, I'm inviting her fam over for pizza in my new oven IF it ever stops raining in Indiana long enough for it to be finished. She promised to cook Egyptian food for me.
A few days ago, Lamiaa's elder son, Youssef graduated from high school and she and her husband surprised him with a graduation party. My Malcolm was in attendance and when I picked him up, he came bearing gifts from the hostess. Check out the amazing array of goodies above! From top left (clockwise) there was roasted rice, baked turkey, rolled cannelloni, stuffed grape leaves, cheese and olive golache and negraresco pasta squares in the center.
Let's talk about that rice. VERY delicious. Crunchy and nutty, filled with almonds and golden raisins. Incredibly flavorful. The baked turkey was simply prepared, juicy and perfectly cut into thick slices. Cannellonis were either filled with ground beef or cheese and fruity olives. The wrapping is a bread similar to crepes, made with flour, water and eggs. Think Egyptian burritos.
I think my favorite of all were the stuffed grape leaves. The leaves themselves were pickled and filled with the delicious roasted rice. The perfect balance of sweet and sour. Light and incredibly filling all at once.
The golache looked and smelled amazing. My kids loved it. I'll have to take their word for it as they polished it off without sharing. It was a phyllo pie baked with cheese and olives, then cut into squares.
Finally, the negraresco in the center is popular in modern Egyptian cuisine (I researched this as it surprised me that a dish that seemed so continental hails from the Middle East). A baked pasta dish with a sauce similar to Béchamel and plenty of cheese. Very rich and satisfying.
What is it about sharing a meal that brings people closer together? Cooking is a vehicle for sharing culture. We offer our heritage through food and give each other nourishment. Sharing a meal is communal and can unite people of all ages, religions and classes. It's nourishing for body and soul to share knowledge, culture, perspective and mutual respect. Meals can be a chance for elders to pass along stories to children and for families, friends and neighbors to gather for fellowship.
The famous opera singer, Luciano Pavoratti once said: "“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Amen, brother. That you so much, Lamiaa Moustafa for sharing not just your boys with me. I'm looking forward to more visits and dinners.
@EgyptianFood #foodandfriendship @penzeysspices #healtheworldcookdinnertonight
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.