Explore Palestinian Food and Agriculture

Kristina’s Bookshelf

Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen
by Yasmin Khan
(W.W. Norton, 2019)

Yasmin Khan describes herself as an adventurous eater. She’s also a human rights activist whose work took her to Palestine, where she explored the food and agriculture of the region and visited the kitchens of Palestinian cooks. She describes her experiences and the foods she discovered in her lovely and informative new cookbook, Zaitoun, which means “oil from the olive.”

The book, featuring more than 80 modern recipes and 100 color photographs, is structured by courses, each of which is focused on a region. Simple, hearty, and delicious, Palestinian food uses produce not dissimilar to what we grow here in Northern California. The cuisine has evolved over several millennia, influenced by the Arabic, Jewish, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Bedouin cultures and civilizations that have ruled over or lived in the area known as ancient Palestine.

Eggplants, peppers, artichokes, and green beans are featured in the recipes, as are slow-cooked stews of chicken and lamb flavored with Palestinian baharat spice blends. Another memorable flavor in many dishes is olive oil laced with za’atar, a spice blend made from dried thyme or marjoram, dried sumac, and sesame seeds. Ingredients are easy to find locally, and instructions are simple and straightforward. Dishes work for feeding a hungry family or treating dinner guests. I particularly enjoyed a roasted eggplant stew with spiced chickpeas, tomato, and spicy shrimp, and a tomato stew that I served over brown rice. Desserts, from “sticky syrup-drenched pastries flavored with rose water and cardamom” to cheese-filled pies and coconut-speckled cakes, are especially delicious. Stories and photographs of some of the many harsh realities of everyday life in Palestine are as absorbing as the recipes.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers. 

Here are two chances to meet Author Yasmin Khan:

Wednesday February 13, 6:30pm
Yasmin Khan in conversation with Nik Sharma plus book signing
Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez St, SF
Info: here

Saturday February 16, noon
CUESA Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market: Stop by the CUESA classroom for a cooking demo with Yasmin Khan, followed by a book signing at Book Passage in the Ferry Building Marketplace.
Info: here