Reem Kassis, author of The Arabesque Table

The ingredient that evokes Reem Kassis’s childhood salads

The author of The Arabesque Cookbook recalls a sharp observation from her father, and how it reminded her of one evocative vegetable

Which dishes remind you of home? The cook, author and culinary author Reem Kassis has pretty much filled a book with them. Her new title, The Arabesque Table is an authoritative guide to the dishes of the Arabian diaspora, a great reference title when it comes to understanding contemporary Arabic and Arabic-influenced cookery, and a wonderful, deeply personal history of recipes and family ties.

In Kassis’s new book, many of the recipes are accompanied by a family anecdote or reminiscence. However, there was one occasion on which the author really wished she could have recalled a particular culinary memory.

“I once called my father from university complaining about a stupid question I was asked in an interview,” she writes in the introduction to her recipe for vegetable salad with sumac and garlic dressing. “‘They wanted to know what salad ingredient I’d be,’ I cried to him in frustration over an interview system that left me baffled and dejected. ‘I would have said garlic,’ he replied, ‘It’s the strongest and most noticeable flavor in any salad.’”


Vegetable salad with sumac and garlic dressing (bottom) with za’atar and halloumi scones (top). From The Arabesque Table
Vegetable salad with sumac and garlic dressing (bottom) with za’atar and halloumi scones (top). From The Arabesque Table


“His answer shocked me because I never thought of garlic as an ingredient in a salad, but when he said it, I realised how right he was (and I was annoyed to not have thought of the answer myself),” Kassis recalls. “How had this humble ingredient, which featured so prominently in my childhood salads, escaped me?”

The accompanying recipe includes a really great garlic dressing, though it isn’t an exact copy of Kassis’s childhood salads, but instead blend together elements from a few favourites: “parsley from tabbouleh, radish and mixed greens from fattoush, tomatoes and scallions from farmers’ salad, and the grated halloumi cheese reminiscent of the way I enjoyed it often next to fresh vegetables,” she writes. “Play around with whatever produce you have that’s freshest, but do not compromise on the stars in the dressing—use fresh garlic and freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the best olive oil and sumac you can find.”


The  Arabesque Table
The Arabesque Table


You can get the full recipe, alongside plenty of other tasty dishes in The Arabesque Cookbook. Order your copy here.