A Lesson of Authenticity

April 8, 2011

It’s here! It’s here! Friday is here! Aren’t you glad you made it this far in the week? I am. 😉

Thanks for the awesome words on my new gig as a personal trainer! It’s fun. I didn’t realize how much I’d like it… or how challenging it could be. So many injuries to work around with some people. But rewarding, nonetheless. And I’m already getting a little overwhelmed with how many clients I’m training… 2 now + 2 boot camp classes. And a full time job. And a blog. And reading time. And workouts in there for me. Life, I tell ya, it just gets jam-packed.

Anyway, onto the food!

This past weekend I was given the opportunity to learn how to make a meal full of culture, authenticity, fresh ingredients, and love. A meal and instruction on how it was/is prepared back in Syria.

I helped my boyfriend’s grandmother make a very traditional dish called, quebaht (sp??). With the leftover dough, we made little balls called, kibbeh, which you’ll see later on in this post. The dough is a mix of burghul, farina (like cream of wheat), coriander, salt, red pepper flakes, and water, kneaded and then shaped so that it can be filled with meat (ground meat, diced onion, parsley, coriander, salt, and pepper), then closed, making a mini pot-sticker type creation. Check out grandma doing her thing below! She’s a pro.

After the little guys are rolled, stuffed, and pinched shut, they’re boiled in a pot of lightly salted water for about 15 minutes. Done. Easy, right?! Uh, not so much. The rolling and shaping of the “dough” is definitely something that can be practiced to be perfected. I got the hang of it… after “assembling” around 50 of these guys. We made a lot so I got a lot of practice.

I should probably mention this meal was created for my boyfriend’s birthday celebration with his family. It was fun learning the traditions and recipes that are now saved for special occasions. I was more than happy to be a part of the creation of a huge meal to nourish everyone and to celebrate a year passing.

Next up on our list of to-make’s was stuffed grape leaves and stuffed veggies.

This was a simple mix of ground beef, uncooked rice, tomato paste, lemon, salt, allspice, and pepper. Grandma and I rolled grape leaves and stuffed eggplant, zucchini, and one giant red pepper. All the goods go into a giant bot and boil with water and more lemon juice and tomato paste. In the last 15 minutes of boiling garlic and dried mint is added.

These are by far my favorite things ever. And so simple to make!

Grandma, me, and kibbeh.

Tada! The pot of red is the kibbeh being sauteed and boiled. The pot on the right of that are the grape leaves and stuffed veggies, a large ceramic weight to tamper down the veggies while they boil.

Above, Kibbeh as a finished product. Below, kibbeh, stuffed veggies, quabet, and fixings.

I helped create these!

I had so much fun learning the secrets to authentic Arabic cooking. One thing that made this extra special was not only the ancient knowledge of truly handmade food, but the fact that these recipes and way of preparing dishes are slowly fading with each generation. I was able to learn something that might not be passed down for much longer.

Foods are prepared in mass quantities now. Easily picked up at a store, packaged, opened, heated, done. Being able to learn truly what real labor was in the meals made back in Syria made me appreciate the importance of keeping traditions alive.

Do you have special recipe or authentic dishes that are in danger of being forgotten?

What is a tradition in your family that needs to be passed down?

What are your favorite non-traditional foods?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather @ kissmybroccoli April 20, 2011 at 4:47 AM

Oh wow! What a spread! How exciting to learn how to make authentic dishes from someone with so much experience! My great grandmother was the absolute BEST at whipping up true Southern dishes…she even snapped her own peas and shucked her own corn! One of her recipes that will ALWAYS be in my family is her “Chicken Stuff” which is basically a creamy thick sauce with shredded chicken served over warm cornbread! It’s always been a family favorite!


Lauren @ WWoB April 11, 2011 at 6:13 AM

Yay! I am so excited that personal training is going well!! Dealing with the client’s injuries definitely sounds like a challenge. Like a knee injury. What are you supposed to do with that?!

The syrian food looks so good. This post reminds me of Pace.


Ilovefetacheese April 9, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Wowoo i feel like i just went home, these are all the foods my mom makes!!! <3


Ela April 8, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Oh, yay–that’s awesome! My grandma makes kibbeh also, and that dough is a total trick. I have a cookbook that explains how to do it, but admits that it’s a major knack and impressive to watch done expertly.

Stuffed vine leaves and veggies–definitely an all-time fave. My grandma stuffs chard leaves too–wonderful, slightly sour taste, like vine leaves.

What a great birthday feast!


alyssa - fashion fitness foodie April 8, 2011 at 3:55 PM

This is the cutest thing ever! So much fun and an awesome memorable experience. Keep these photos forever!


Lesley Lifting Life April 8, 2011 at 1:54 PM

What an awesome, authentic, and memorable meal! 🙂


Christine (The Raw Project) April 8, 2011 at 1:05 PM

This looks like so much fun! My family really does not have authentic dishes, but I love learning about different cultures and wish I could be paid to be the vegan version of Anthony Bourdain. 🙂


Erika April 8, 2011 at 11:31 AM

you look fabulous! and so does all that food!!

congrats on becoming a trainer! i just started in january and i LOVE it. it’s such a blast and totally doesn’t feel like work..except that my hours are all over the place haha. good luck 🙂


Lindsay Cotter April 8, 2011 at 8:09 AM

OH my goodness, what an amazing cooking lesson!! thats one to remember!


Melissa April 8, 2011 at 7:28 AM

I love this!! I wish I would have taken more time with my grandma to learn her tricks of the trade in the kitchen!! Everything looks so amazing and unique. I love learning about and eating food from different cultures:)
PS love that grandma has red painted nails:)

There are too many dishes that need to be kept alive..my grandma’s homemade buns, noodle “zoup” as they call it, glatta, new years cookies…and on and on!! We have a cookbook that was put together by some distant family members and I really should get a copy and start translating (it’s in German). I know there are some amazing eats in there!

Family tradition…I think just getting together and celebrating all life’s big moments. We do that a lot now and hopefully it will continue with my cousins!


Katie April 8, 2011 at 6:37 AM

I love everything abotu this! I wish we had more trraditions in my family. My mom makes her “signature” lasagna (she’s italian) and my grandma used to make homemade pasta, but doesn’t anymore. that one is definitely going to be lost. Sigh.

I want that stuffed zucchini. I think its a zucchini anyway. It looks like one. Whatever it is, I want it.


Alisa Fleming April 8, 2011 at 5:54 AM

The food looks fantastic, but I just think this is so cool that you were cooking up traditional foods with grandma! How cool is that.

Zero tradition around here, but I’m working on starting some 🙂


Ernie April 8, 2011 at 4:31 AM

What and extravagant looking feast. I you wouldn’t have explained how relatively simple preparation was, I would have guessed days of preparation. Perfect timing … I forgot some of my family’s traditional dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation. My favorite is a German dish called Poltiocza … loosely translated into Tamale Pie! Similar to Mexican Tamales but in casserole form!


Kat April 8, 2011 at 3:52 AM

Looks amazing and so increible that its all made by you guys! How awesome is that!! I bet that is so cool to cook all day with your grandma. Ive never done anything like that. It was always one of my dreams with my grandma as well 🙂


Sable@SquatLikeALady April 8, 2011 at 3:42 AM

All of that looks soooo amazing!!! And YOU look great girl!!!!

My Nana (who grew up in Italy) passed away a few years ago leaving her gigantic recipe box to all of us kids and grandkids….unfortunately she didn’t write down any MEASUREMENTS. It’s all “some flour” and “a bit of anise” and things like that. So needless to say we are all working on restoring these recipes…. in one case, her recipe for pizza dough said “some flour” and it wound up being five cups!! Ay vey.


Salah (My Healthiest Lifestyle) April 8, 2011 at 3:38 AM

omg, that all looks amazing! Stuffed grape leaves is an all time favorite of mine 🙂 That’s so awesome you got to help cook all that!


Pure2raw Twins April 8, 2011 at 3:15 AM

Love learning about different cultures traditions so inspiring to see what others did back than. And everything looks great! At the moment I really can not think of a recipe that my family has besides a few classics like our great great grandmothers pumpkin pie and sugar cookies. True classics in our house 😉

It is sad to see less and less people actually taking the time to learn authentic recipes. since they are so great and pretty easy to make.


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