Yasmin Khan became a lawyer, then worked as a grassroots organizer for a British anti-poverty organization. Her activism took her to Palestine, where she found that the food and hospitality helped relieve the stress of trying to help people traumatized by years of war and oppression. Khan always loved to cook, and she now calls herself a “culinary anthropologist,” using food to understand other cultures.
Her book Zaitoun – Arabic for olive, both a fundamental ingredient and a symbol of peace – both guides us through Palestinian life and shows us how to cook delicious food. Still, as Khan noted in an interview last year, “…the very act of documenting Palestinian culture, of celebrating it and honoring it and saying that it even exists, is a political act….”
But these times show us that everything is political, and we believe food can help bring people together., especially when it’s this good. I took a few liberties with Khan’s recipe. I had tomatoes and herbs in my garden and our ras el hanout spice blend in the pantry. It’s a north African blend, so the flavor comes from the Levant even if it’s not actually Palestinian.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
To make the musaka’a cut the eggplant into bite-sized chunks, toss it with some olive oil and salt, and roast it at 400F until it’s browned and softened, about 25 minutes. While the eggplant’s in the oven, cook a chopped onion in olive oil until lightly browned, about 15 minutes, then add chopped tomatoes, cooked chickpeas, garlic, the spices and a little water.
Let that all cook together for about 20 minutes, then add the roasted eggplant and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Let it cool completely, add a big handful of chopped herbs, drizzle generously with olive oil, and eat.
Musaka’a means “cold dish” in Arabic, says Khan, and indeed, it’s at its best at room temperature.
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