All in a Weekend Cookbook Club: Listeners try recipes from ‘Eat, Habibi, Eat!’

Through the month of January, All in a Weekend listeners will be trying out recipes from three cookbooks with host Sonali Karnick.

Over the last few weeks, two All in a Weekend listeners have been trying out recipes from Shahir Massoud’s first cookbook, Eat, Habibi, Eat! Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking.

Malaïka Bittar-Piekutowski, a psychotherapist in Griffintown, and Alenoush Saroyan, a retired professor of educational psychology in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, were our Cookbook Club members for this book. Both were familiar with the flavors of Egyptian food, but this was a deep dive into the cuisine.

“I would say that the cheese squares and the Om Ali pudding were huge hits,” says Bittar-Piekutowski. She was cooking over the holidays for people who weren’t used to the flavors of Egyptian cooking and was happy to see that everyone enjoyed the recipes she tried.

Saroyan says she loved the condiments used in the cookbook, especially the chunky Egyptian tomato sauce.

“These things are now in my fridge and I use them for other cooking,” she said.

As host of All in a Weekend, I’ve also tried out a few recipes myself. I made “Mom’s Holiday Eggs,” which are essentially deviled eggs with the cooked whites lightly fried in butter and cumin. They were a hit in my house and so easy to whip up for a lunchtime meal with a soup or salad or protein snack during the day.

Bittar-Piekutowski says the cheese squares recipe was a huge hit. (Submitted by Malaïka Bittar Piekutowski)

While the recipes generally worked out, there were a few food casualties.

“I almost burned down my house,” says Bittar-Piekutowski of her go at the recipe for crispy cauliflower and turmeric bites. “But that’s not the cookbook’s fault — it was my first time deep-frying.”

She admits she probably didn’t cut the cauliflower small enough because the “bites” did not hold their shape in the hot oil. However, she says they were delicious in salads and were simply good to snack on, even if they didn’t hold together.

I had my own adventure deep-frying as well with the recipe for chickpea fries with harissa mayonnaise. I was supposed to get a deep-fry thermometer so I could better monitor the temperature of the oil, but it arrived too late for me to use it for this specific recipe.

Luckily, after a few “test fries”, I figured it out. Chickpea flour is cooked with seasoned beef or vegetable stock, then set, cut into strips and fried for a delicious, crispy treat. The harissa mayonnaise is also something I’m going to make again.

For Saroyan, “Fingerling Potato Salad with Beluga Lentils and Labneh” is another keeper. (Alenoush Saroyan)

Another recipe I’ll return to is baked sumac wings with parsley hot butter. The texture of the wings comes out perfectly and it’s fairly quick to assemble. They were delicious and devoured by everyone in my house.

Author Massoud says he could not have left out Egypt’s national dish when assembling recipes for his cookbook. Koshary is a popular street food that combines Italian and Egyptian culinary elements. Both Saroyan and Bittar-Piekutowski came to the same conclusion about Massoud’s version of koshary with red lentil ragu.

“For the time it took, I don’t know if it was worth it,” Saroyan admits. She made every element of the dish, which included a few recipes within recipes. “I like the red lentil ragu — I’ll make that independently.” But she says the rice-pasta combination was n’t a hit with her husband de ella.

Alenoush Saroyan says she loved the condiments used in the cookbook, especially the chunky Egyptian tomato sauce. (Submitted by Alenoush Saroyan)

Bittar-Piekutowski says she was excited to try the recipe out after seeing the dish everywhere when she was in Egypt. While she found most of the elements tasty, getting it all together was laborious.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of dishes,” she said. “Maybe this is one dish that’s just better when you buy it on a street corner.”

Overall, both Saroyan and Bittar-Piekutowski loved the pictures and descriptions, as well as the stories behind the recipes in Eat, Habibi, Eat! Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking. It seems approachable for people who aren’t familiar with Egyptian cuisine, and they both thought it was a good way to shake off culinary boredom, especially during the winter.

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