Kitchen Without Borders

by Mary Tjotjos

When brother and sister team Wissam and Manal Kahi moved to New York City from Lebanon, one thing Manal really missed was her Syrian grandmother’s hummus. She was determined to re-create it, and when she did, it was a huge hit. Friends of Wissam and Manal loved it, but not only because it was so delicious. It was tied up with memories of home.

One thing led to another, and Wissam and Manal ended up creating Eat Offbeat, a Brooklyn-based catering company completely staffed by refugees from around the globe, who are now settled in New York City. They bring the flavors of their homes—Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran and more— to a hungry New York audience.

With the publication of The Kitchen without Borders (Workman Publishing), a cookbook full of recipes compiled from the Eat Offbeat chefs, anyone can share this authentic and delicious food. And, for every copy sold, a percentage of proceeds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), whose mission is to help people whose lives are shattered by conflict and disaster, in order to help them reclaim their futures.

Here is Manal Kahi’s extremely popular recipe for hummus, which is featured in the book, along with a flavorful recipe from Iraqi immigrant Chef Dhuha.

Hummus | From Lebanon Chickpea dip with tahini and lemon

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

Though it’s ubiquitous, hummus is a very contentious food. Some purists may suggest that you peel the chickpeas to get a smoother, whiter consistency, but Manal Kahi’s grandmother claims all the nutrients are locked in the skin. Process this hummus until it’s silky smooth and serve with fresh pita.

1 cup dried chickpeas
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving 3/4 cup tahini
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
A pinch of ground cumin, plus more for garnish
Ground paprika, for garnish

1. Place the chickpeas in a medium bowl and add water to cover. Let soak 6 to 8 hours, then drain.

2. Place the chickpeas in a large pot and cover them with fresh water. Set the pot over medium-high heat and simmer until the chickpeas are soft but not yet mushy, at least 30 minutes. Drain the chickpeas.

3. Reserve a few cooked chickpeas for garnish, if desired. Place the remaining chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, salt, yogurt and a pinch of cumin in a food processor. Pulse until blended and creamy, about 30 seconds. Add more salt to taste, if desired.

4. Serve with a dusting of cumin and/or paprika, a drizzle of olive oil, and any reserved cooked chickpeas on top.

Tabbouleh Salad | From Iraq

Mint-scented parsley salad with fresh tomato, onion and bulgur in lemon–olive oil dressing Serves 6-8 as a side salad

Tabbouleh is a perfect side dish for everything from kibbeh to chicken and rice. In some countries (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine), parsley is the main attraction, but in Western culture, the salad has seen a role reversal, with bulgur taking center stage. Chef Dhuha’s Iraqi version is somewhere in between—the bulgur and parsley balance each other out.

Every family with an heirloom tabbouleh recipe makes it differently, based on personal preference. Some variations add a little bit of pomegranate molasses or bitter orange—a sharper type of citrus, native to Asia and Africa, that has been cultivated in many corners of the globe. If you opt to try these variations, reduce the lemon juice accordingly.

1/2 cup fine bulgur
3 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 cups finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup diced, seeded plum tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes 1 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ground sumac
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1. Place the bulgur in a bowl and cover it by 1/2 inch with room-temperature water. Let it soak until all the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Combine the parsley, mint, tomatoes and scallions in a mixing bowl. Stir gently until the vegetables are thoroughly mixed.

3. Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, ground sumac and salt in a small bowl until emulsified, about 2 minutes.

4. Pour dressing over vegetables and stir gently to coat thoroughly.

5. Gently stir in the bulgur. Serve immediately.