I can’t believe that I forgot the lentil soup post! I am so sorry! The reason that I was so surprised that the students loved the Shoufan the most is that they flipped over the Lebanese (Arab) comfort food, ‘ads bil-hammud (Lentils with lemon). Ironically, the real start of that dish is neither lentils nor lemon but chard! This is the only chard dish that I know although I would not be surprised to find that it is used in other dishes with greens.

I took liberties with this recipe. While we usually engage in Arab-Carolina fusion in an attempt to maximize locally grown and seasonal produce, this dish calls for sumac. I have been contributing my own stash but this time, in place of the tart taste it provides, we improvised with pomegranates. They were not local (although a smaller yellow variety can be found in Rosewood Market from Georgia) but we used them as a tasty garnish and compliment to the soup. Another pot, we experimented. Instead of pomegranate, we put  freshly grated parmigiano. This one ingredient completely changed the dish and our ‘ads bil-hammud turned into sort of Arabo-ministrone!


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Our last “cooking day” started out of the Green Quad kitchen as I gave the students instructions on how to make yoghurt. The students came in on Wednesday with mixed results. Lesson number one: never cry over 1/2 acculturated milk, curdled milk or sour milk! I had planned for some of the students to “fail.” With the pots of milk that did not successfully turn into yoghurt, I showed the students how to boil it and drain to get whey and curd.

Those who did have successful yoghurt were generous enough to share with the class to make the dish of the day: SHOUFAN. Shoufan is eaten in Egypt and is the emblem of simplicity and taste. Simply it is yoghurt with oats (shufan) and honey. (I will brag that the dark amber honey, which the students loved, was provided by my own bees.) This is eaten for breakfast. Despite our many culinary successes, the complex and time consuming dishes we made before, many of the students said this was their favorite dish.

With the curd from the “failed” yoghurt, we sprinkled some oats on it along with honey. It was a bit dry and would have made for great feta had we pressed it. However, the students saw how ricotta and cottage cheese are basically made in the process.

Many of the students had an aversion (grrr) but Amanda M was brave in overcoming her aversion and led the group in tasting the dish! Good on ya’ Amanda!

This class has been a wonderful experience. Teaching it in the Fall (as opposed to the Spring) really allowed us to take full advantage of the garden, learn from it, eat from it and become close to it understanding more intimately the relationship between humans and their food source. Thanks class! You were a joy to teach.

(photos will be posted)

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Spinach pies hold the spinach!  Add the greens from the Arab Food Garden! That’s right!  The students used their skills to make dough at home and bring it in to class, where they rolled it out into small, thin sheets.   But before that fun stuff, the students went into the garden and picked the greens that we planted in our Fall garden. The bok choy, arugula and mustard greens looked beautiful and have been so generous with us. We also picked thyme that I foraged from in front of the Russel House (and replanted part of it in our own garden).  We washed them thoroughly and chopped them. Tyler used his professional grade knife skills to chop a whole bunch of onion and garlic. We sauteed them in two separate pans, each one with its own variation of spices (allspice and cinnamon) and added the secret ingredient, SUMAC harvested by old village women in the Upper Metn mountain range of Lebanon. You CAN NOT buy this stuff! Truly incredible.

The students then placed the greens in their rolled out dough and folded them into triangles or some other often unearthly shapes.

After baking, the students enjoyed the “fatayir” or non-spinach spinach pies. Once again, elevating them up one more step up toward  Arab food jannah/paradise.

I felt very proud of our garden as Tyler and I took care of it this week.  No offense to my friend, Seth, or his friend, Matt, but our garden looks better by a long shot.  The triangle shape is really cool, and all of our stuff is so pretty and healthy looking.  It really is amazing how much you can grow on such a small plot of land.  I am inspired to improve my own garden in earnest, because I love to watch the plants grow, and it is a healthy activity.  Sorry Bi-Lo, but it looks like I will be spending less money with you in the future!  I was expecting to have to do a lot of work, but the garden just needed a little watering, a bit of weeding, and some thinning out.  Seth showed me how big their kale was, and it makes me think our kale needs to be thinned out a lot more.  But I’m with Tyler on not liking to pluck tiny lives from their soil.  At least I got to make a salad out of what we thinned out, though, and it was delicious!


It was painful to have to uproot perfectly healthy plants.  And baby plants at that!  They hadn’t even had a chance to fully experience the world and all that it has to offer.  Ripping them out of the soil, condemning them to death by salad (which I’m sure was nonetheless very tasty; I couldn’t help snacking on a few of the best looking greens, I know, I know, “Baby EATER!” you all scream, but they were going to be eaten sooner or later, right?  Or, at least, that’s what I am telling my sore and deeply disturbed conscience.).  But the wonderful weather this past week assured a trouble-free week in the garden.  The plants still in the soil after our mass murder look healthy and only needed a tad bit of water.  It is empowering knowing that just a short while ago we planted the seeds of these delicious and super nutritious plants.


Winter Garden Week Three

November 2, 2010

Week Three

October 24-31

So I unfortunately didn’t have any encounters with brilliant college students musing on Arabs and their gardens, which I have to say was slightly disappointing, but probably had to do with the fact that I did most of my watering around 9pm with the help of my headlights than the growing intelligence of Carolina’s student body.  The jury’s still out on whether the combination of headlights from a car and tending a garden completely negates our efforts to go green and low impact, but due to a busy schedule and a needy garden I had no choice but to use the artificial lighting from my moderate gas guzzler.

Thanks to the rain and cool temperatures of this week my work in the garden mainly revolved around maintenance and making sure the soil was kept moist. Not wanting to overwater the little guys, I stopped by at least once each day to check in on the moistness of the soil and to do some watering, if it was needed.  Though I grew up with some hippie dippie parents who had their own compost in our backyard and constantly maintained and harvested a garden, apparently a lot was lost on me and I too found myself not really knowing what to harvest, though I was able to manage and pull some weeds. Thanks to the class on Wednesday morning for helping thin out some of the greens and I think we are all happy to report that everything tasted wonderful!