I have been trying to write a post for 2 weeks with no luck. What is happening in Gaza makes it very hard to write about food or anything else for that matter.
If you have not been keeping up with the news, let me fill you in. In the past 21 days, over 1000 Palestinians (mostly civilians) have been killed. Over 200 of the 1000 were children. Almost 6000 Palestinians have been injured. Nearly 166,000 Palestinians have sought shelter at United Nations facilities because their homes were either destroyed or unsafe to live in because of the Israeli attack.
The images, footage and stories coming out of Gaza are enough to give you nightmares for the rest of your life but can you imagine what it must be like to live through it all? I have dear friends in Gaza,and I have been worried sick about them especially after losing contact with most of them after short messages saying that their houses were bombed, they are still alive but barely.
I can hardly bear to watch the news, yet I can’t stop myself from watching. Every broadcast leaves me with a cascade of emotions. I am Sad, broken, angry, furious but above all, I feel helpless. I want to do something but what?
Nisreen Al shawwa, and Mona Al Saboni, two wonderfully talented Arabic bloggers had the answer. They called upon all the Arabic food bloggers to come together and form a group. The aim of the group is to provide a true image of the Arabic world using food and recipes as a canvas. With every recipe “Arabic flavor” (the name we chose for the group) will share a recipe from a country and every blogger will tell you a little more about that country.
Our first feature and the reason the group came together is Gaza and Nisreen suggested the Gazan Dagga. But before I get to the recipe..
Let me tell you a little about Gaza
The Gaza strip or simply Gaza is a Palestinian region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.Gaza is a small area measuring 41 kilometers long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi). Around 1.82 million Palestinians live in Gaza making it among the most densely populated parts of the world. 1.1 million of the 1.8 million in Gaza are Palestinian refugees. They were kicked out of their homes when Israel occupied Palestine in 1948.
As home to the largest concentration of refugees within historic Palestine,Gaza has a unique cuisine that is the result of the merging of the culinary traditions of the original Gaza residents with those brought by the refugees from hundreds of towns and villages that now exist only in memory—depopulated and destroyed in the year 1948. Add to the mix the Egyptian influence that resulted from the Egyptian rule between 1959 and 1967 and the result is an extraordinary cuisine that is Mediterranean, Levantine, Egyptian but above all uniquely Gazan
Hot Chili and dill is one of the unique combinations in the Gazan cuisine . It is served along side grilled meat, chicken or fish for a blast of heat and flavor. Chili and dill are also combined with tomatoes and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil to form the signature Gazan salad (Gazan dagga). Fresh green chili peppers crushed in a mortar with dill seeds or fresh dill along with lemon and salt are also served along side stews and soups for a blast of bright flavor on cold and dark winter days.Ground red chili peppers with dill seeds are preserved in oil and sold as a condiment and ingredient, resembling North Africa’s popular harissa. In short, Gazans take pride in making you sweat :) then again, if you live in a place that is bombed by Israel every two years, you’d better learn to tolerate the heat.
Gazan salad or salata ghazaweh (السلطه الغزاويه او الدقه الغزاويه)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small onion chopped
2 hot chili peppers, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh dill, minced or 1 teaspoon of dill seeds
2 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
In a Gazan clay bowl or zibdiya (or a morter or curved bottomed bowl) mash the onion and salt into a paste using a pestle.
Add chilies and continue to crush.
Add half of the dill (if using fresh dill) or all of the dill seeds if using seeds and crush them to release the natural oils
Add tomatoes and mash (you can make the salsa as smooth or as chunky as you like.
If using fresh dill add the other half along with the lemon juice and toss .
Top generously with olive oil.
Serve with flat bread on the side for dipping
Notes and variations:
- You can substitute minced garlic for the onions.
- For a tahini salsa variable, dd chopped cucumbers and 1 tablespoon of tahini. (This variation is from the old village of Beit Jirja, north of the Gaza Strip.)
- A small food processor may be used in place of a mortar and pestle. Make sure to “pulse” the ingredients—don’t purée them But if you want to experience the full flavor of this salsa, do take the time and effort to make it in a mortar and pestle.