It's easy to think that many foods in California originated right here.
But as we've seen, that's far from the truth. This is Egypt. The cradle
of civilization and the birthplace of many foods we Californians have
come to call our own.
We're rightfully proud of our "young" California wines, but
the Egyptians have a leg up. They've been cultivating wine grapes for
more than 5000 years. During the age of the pharaohs, the best wines were
set-aside for royalty. Even buried with them.
Egypt's fertility springs from the Nile, the world's longest river. Beginning
deep in the heart of Africa, it winds its way 4000 miles north to the
Mediterranean. In this desert country, a narrow strip of irrigated land
feeds some 60 million people. Egyptian chef Sameh Samaan says, "This
is called 'jack grout' and it's with herbs and olive oil
an Italian dish." And while Egyptian chefs adapt local ingredients
to please western palates, ancient flavors and traditional foods are always
close at hand.
By 2600 BC, Egyptians were in the bread-baking business: they discovered
sourdough as a leavening agent. So, sorry San Francisco
had it first.
While pre-made hummus, tahini, and tabouli are easy to find in California
grocery stores (there are even dry mixes where you just add water), baba
ghanoush is harder to come by. So here's an easy recipe to make fresh
(makes 8 appetizer servings)
2 pounds peeled, cooked crushed eggplant
2 cloves (or more for garlic lovers) minced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 to 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Combine all ingredients, reserving a bit of mint to sprinkle on top of
the dip. Serve with warm wedges of pita bread. You can lightly sprinkle
paprika on top for additional color.