Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Its My Culture!

I’m Sam Shahin, I’m from a variety of places including Washington DC.
I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, for about 4 years.
Oh yeah, I cook a number of things; my dad is from Lebanon so I like to cook Arabic cuisine and things of that nature.
My father is Jim Shahin
When he was very young, his parents left shorty after Israel became a country just because they figured it could create trouble in the time they were living in and they came to America when my dad was like 4 years old
[what is Lebanese food?]
Oh its fantastic, you use a lot of lamb, you use a lot of kinda mixed tastes made out of chic peas eggplants, all types of other stuff, to create like little dips for these bites that you form with all the ingredients, its amazing man, they have a whole thing called a Mezze which is a collection of different salads, sauces, things like HummusBaba Ganoush, Tabbouleh, Lountza, things that are just out. Then you’ll have your meal which will be like a garlic lamb, something like that, and you can just take the bread (usually Pita) and any of the sauces you want and just combine things and make little bites, often its served with fresh vegetable and cheeses like Halloumi and Feta
[your very familiar with the terms]
oh yeah its my culture!
[you have a favorite dish to make?]
yeah I like what we call Wara Adeesh, which is rolled grape leaves a lot of the times they’re called Dolma
yeah dolmas are the greek term for it, it’s the same thing, its just grape leaves rolled with rice with, could be vegetarian, could have ground lamb, pine nuts, whatever
Oh Jim’s the best, he’s the best he doesn’t believe it though, he thinks his mom is the best, but I know that he’s actually surpassed the master in this one, my grandmother is like the best chef, but this is the one field he’s got her beat in and it happens to be my favorite so
[so you have many a family recipe?]
oh yeah yeah, actually one of my favorite, I just made this  like 3 or 4 nights ago is, its almost the exact same thing as the rolled grape leaves except  its inside this like cucumber type thing, it’s a mixture of a cucumber and a squash, my grandmother sends them to me packaged from Lebanon every year, every year she gives me like a package of them that she picked and their all hollowed out and everything and put in water and I can just use them whenever I want. You just stuff that, I did it with rice and steak and tomatoes and then some spices like some Arabic all spice and a little bit of cinnamon and some hot shit like hot pepper stuff, and you just throw it in a pot, cook it down and its delicious man
[you do some New Orleans style cooking as well, having Lebanese background and New Orleans
influence have you made any of your own fusions?]
actually, I made, there’s this desert called Bitlaoui, or a lot of people know it as Baklava, yeah a Lebanese desert called Bitlaoui, the Greeks call it baklava. And um I made it with a whisky sauce and pecans instead of a sugar based sauce with pistachios and almonds, and so it was kinda like a southern creole Bitlaoui, and it was fuckin’ delicious. Other than that just like incorporating some of the Cajun seasonings into the cooking of the Lebanese meats. A lot of its marinated or slow roasted so you get a chance to let flavors really seep in in Lebanese cuisine and when you fuse different Cajun spices then with that its just kind of…interesting, its not necessarily traditional, my grandmother may have my head on a plate for it but its interesting, it nice.
No she lives in Michigan now, she goes to Lebanon regularly, couple times a year she’s back there we sill got a lot of family there and she goes back there a couple times a year and she’ll pick grape leaves and Koosa (Squash) and all this stuff, bring it back to the states and mail it to me from Michigan.
[where do you get your Lebanese ingredients in Nola?]
For the most part I don’t because my grandmother sends me everything I need.  She sends me spices and bread and grape leaves and Koosa and other than that its just getting meats and rice and tomatoes and, I haven’t found really a good store for Feta, or, I make my own bread a lot of the time, I haven’t really found a good store though honestly for olives and Feta and things like that and just, I don’t know that it really exits, I’m sure it does, but, I’ll eat it without it because that stuff is expensive and I’m poor as fuck