April 3, 2012

Watertown, MA. May, 2011

Meet Ahmad, proprietor of Yasin Culinary, the catering business at which he also teaches occasional classes in Syrian-Arabic cooking. Ahmad grew up on a farm in Syria, so he knows the value and importance of fresh, home-grown ingredients. (He also ran a revered restaurant near my home for years that attracted notables from the food world long before the word “foodie” regrettably entered the lexicon. Because he’s a neighbor, I often see him working his sizable vegetable garden, coaxing his plants to forget that New England has a pitifully limited growing season.) The night that I took my first class with him, we made the dish you see him preparing here: Rummaniyya, a main course of chicken in a pomegranate sauce. The sweetness of honey, the tartness of pomegranate molasses, the bite of hot pepper and garlic, the warmth of cumin, all of these combine with tomatoes and mint to achieve the balance of flavors that distinguishes the cooking he grew up with. When the class was over and we’d finished eating what we’d made, there wasn’t a spoonful left on the platter.

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