Over the past few months I have been participating in a cookbook tour for the new cookbook, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky. I have been working with a team of bloggers, Kitchen Play, and of course, Faith. I have loved every aspect of this project; allowing me learn more about Middle Eastern cooking, cook a few new dishes and work with some great bloggers!
Supporting other bloggers is what this “Bites with Bloggers” series is all about, so this cookbook project was a perfect fit! I am happy to have had the opportunity to support Faith and work with her the past few months. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to allow Faith sometime to ‘shine’ on her own and ‘dish’ about her love of cooking, her family and hobbies. Please give her a warm welcome and show her some blogger love and check out her blog and cookbook, like her on Facebook, and follow on Twitter, you know, and everywhere else!
Blog: An Edible Mosaic
Cookbook: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair
Facebook: Faith's Kitchen
Pinterest: Faith Gorsky Safarini
Instagram: An Edible Mosaic
Tell us about yourself, your blog and cookbook, and why you started blogging.
My blog, An Edible Mosaic, is a celebration of food itself; I focus on real foods that sustain our bodies and minds, bring people together, and make a house a home. My recipes don’t focus exclusively on any one cuisine or type of food, but instead embrace the foods of many different cultures. So much can be learned about people through what they eat, and how, when, and why they eat it. It’s my goal to inspire my readers to get into the kitchen and try something new.
I started my blog the day after Mother’s Day in 2009 to share the Mother’s Day meal that my family and I made for my mom. I wanted to show that someone like me – who is by no means a professional chef – can make a decent meal to share with loved ones. After that it was my passion for cooking along with the inspiration I got from readers and other food bloggers that kept my blog going.
Cooking is something that is a comfortable, natural fit for me; it’s as if no matter where I am in the world, my soul is at home and my heart at ease if I’m in a kitchen cooking. People always tell a writer to write about what they know, and I think it’s the same thing with a cook. If you’re doing something that’s so natural that it’s an extension of yourself, I think it’s important to share your passion, whether it’s through a food blog, cookbook, or by any other means. In this way, food blogging truly solidified my dream of wanting to publish my own cookbook.
After marrying into a Middle Eastern family, I spent six months living in the Middle East where I fell in love with the culture and cuisine, subsequently returning four more times for visits. Each time I was able to delve deeper into the cuisine, and deepen my passion for and appreciation of the region; this served as the basis for my cookbook. The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to me mostly by my mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; I understand that, and explain complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way.
In your cookbook you talk about learning to cook Middle Eastern food from your mother-in-law. Did you have any prior cooking knowledge before this time, if so can you please share where you learned to cook/bake?
My mom was a pretty great cook and I grew up eating classic American meals like roast chicken, beef stew, and spaghetti and meatballs. When my husband (Mike) and I met, I was very young and still in law school (and I was in undergrad right before that), so I only had access to small kitchens and minimal ingredients and equipment, and very little time to cook. When I had spare time, I was cooking a few Indian dishes that my friends in undergrad had taught me, along with a few classic American recipes that I had learned from my mom. My cooking really blossomed after marrying.
Do you have any special food traditions?
Most of our food traditions are pretty normal and revolve around holidays: turkey for Thanksgiving, red lentil soup at least a couple times during Ramadan, and all manner of cookies at Christmas. Every year my whole family still makes my mom a huge multi-course Mother’s Day meal. It really is a family affair: I plan the menu and my sister and I cook it, my brother and hubby are waiters, my niece is the entertainment, and my dad dines with my mom (five-star-restaurant-style).
Oh, and on my wedding anniversary my hubby and I eat knafeh, a Middle Eastern sweet cheese pastry, since that’s what we had at our wedding.
Besides cooking and blogging what are your hobbies and interests?
Traveling (especially to ancient, exotic places), reading (I read cookbooks the way other people read novels), vintage shopping (especially in ancient markets…I am always on the lookout for a unique find), bike-riding (I promise I’m not crazy, but especially on very hilly terrain), watching movies (of all genres, but historical fiction and fantasy are my favorites), and lastly, I know it’s cooking-related but it’s so unorganized I thought I’d mention it – what I like to call mindless cooking. Going into the kitchen hungry and creating something out of whatever I have on hand in the fridge or pantry, without a camera in sight or a thought of having to blog the meal. Bliss.
Describe your perfect meal. (Location, dinner guests, menu, décor, etc.)
It would be just my hubby and I. We’d start with fondue in Switzerland, move on to pasta in Italy, curry in India, lobster in Maine, pizza in New York City, pastries in Paris (or cheese and bread, depending on our mood), knafeh in Damascus, and finally coffee in Turkey. Sigh. That would be a meal worth dying for.
What is your best cooking tip or advice for someone who wants to learn to cook different cuisines?
The best advice I can give is not to be intimidated just because a recipe, ingredient, or cooking method might be unfamiliar. For example, take my chicken shawarma recipe. I marinate chicken in a blend of seasonings and yogurt, and utilize a two-step cooking method that yields incredibly moist, flavorful chicken. I had an American cook tell me she was leery to use yogurt as a marinade for chicken, saying it sounded “weird” to her. (What she really meant was that she had never done it before and so she had no idea what to expect.) She ended up making the dish and not only has it become a favorite for her and her family, but it has also become a regular dinnertime staple. If you keep an open mind, you never know what new favorite you might discover.
What cooking gadget can you not live without?
My blender. There are so many gadgets I have that I use maybe once a year if I’m lucky: apple-corer, cherry-pitter, lemon-juicer, egg-slicer, etc. Truthfully, not only do I very rarely (if ever) use these gadgets, but most of them aren’t even necessary. My blender is the one kitchen gadget/tool that yields results that would be hard to simulate if I didn’t have it. Not to mention that I use it all the time…for starters, I use it almost every day when I make my morning smoothie!
What specific ingredient/food is most used/eaten in your kitchen?
I’m an onion junkie; this is without a doubt the most commonly used ingredient in my kitchen. No joke, I buy a ten pound bag every three to four weeks – and I’m usually just cooking for my hubby and I! It is very rare indeed for a savory recipe of mine to start without calling for “2 medium-large onions”.
1. Sauerkraut. I learned how to make pickles from my mother-in-law and sauerkraut is next on my list to tackle.
2. Sausage, in particular, a Syrian sausage called sujuk.
3. Naturally fermented ginger ale. Ginger ale is my all-time favorite soda (I know that makes me sound like a grandma, lol), and I would love to try my hand at a natural version.
What recipe(s) on your blog and/or cookbook are your favorites?
My favorites from my book are: Chicken Shawarma, Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Onion, Fried Eggplant with Garlic and Parsley Dressing, and Eggplant Dip. (In addition to being an onion junkie, I’m also an eggplant fiend.)
My current favorites on my blog are: Best Banana Bread, Creamy Wintertime Tomato Soup (without a doubt the most comforting soup ever), and Cold-Brewed Coffee for Homemade Iced Coffee (yup, I enjoy iced coffee year-round!). Oh, and I can’t forget Bakery-Style Frosted Brownies…there’s always room for a little chocolate, right?
Thanks again Faith for “Dishin’ It Up!” I totally feel like Faith and I could be long lost sisters because I have often considered ginger ale a 'comfort food' because when I was a kid we never got to drink soda unless we were sick with an upset stomach. To this day, every time I get an upset stomach all I want is ginger ale!
*All photos courtesy of Faith Gorsky, An Edible Mosaic and used with permission.