Chef Feature: Almond & Fig

Your Lebanon Chef Feature: Almond & Fig

Mai of Almond & Fig is a recipe developer, food stylist & food photographer working with a variety of different cuisines, especially Middle Eastern. Her talent and passion shows through her work and the beauty in her dishes and the way she photographs them!

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Q & A with Mai

Please tell us about yourself:

I love to cook to remember the place I came from and to pass that connection on to my children. My name is Mai I was born and raised in Jerusalem Palestine.I moved to Chicago to pursue my education. I have a masters degree in public relations and advertising. I love to cook to remember the place I came from and to pass that connection on to my children.

 Where are you from:

I am Palestinian. I Grew up in Jerusalem. One set of my grandparents are from Nablus and on my mother’s side are Armenian.

 Where are you currently residing:

Chicago, Illinois

 What is your favorite Middle Eastern dish to make:

Oh boy that’s like asking which of your kids is your favorite 🙂 but my kids love Mulukhieh so much and I love to make anything with zaatar as it reminds me of my grandmother.

 Do you prefer traditional Middle Eastern dishes or Modern/fusion Middle Eastern dishes:

Both, I have adapted some old recipes from my grandmother to fit our lifestyle and what I can get my hands on in Chicago.

But I also love creating recipes with the flavors that we love but in a whole new way. Take for example Manaeesh I made them like monkey bread stuffed With cheese. Same flavor new presentation. And I love to create fusion dishes by merging two cuisines or two flavors together.

Mai’s Savory Zaatar & Cheese Cookies 

What do you love most about cooking Middle Eastern cuisine:

Aside from the flavors that I absolutely love. Cooking Middle Eastern food connects me back to my childhood, to the place where I grew up, to my mothers and grandmothers table.

What is your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant:

There is a tiny place called الفلاحة on the outskirts of Ramallah Palestine in a village called عين عريكthat makes their own taboon bread on open flames and makes Musakhan which is all that they make. It’s so perfect. Juicy charcoal grilled chicken on olive oil soaked Taboon.

 What is your favorite food blog:

Through social media I came across and actually became friends with some awesome creative foodies from all over the world.

Your IG is one of them because it reminded me of dishes and stories that are dear to our hearts and you introduced us to awesome foodies and bloggers from the region. I love sawsan at @chefindisguise Yasmine @petiteschoses the ladies @sweetpillarfood Lina from the @labaneseplate joudie from @palestineonaplate Bethany @bethanykehdy MANAL @manalmassoud May @chefmayyacoubi @reemkassis @hanadibarhum And so many more

 What is a must have tool in your kitchen for making Middle Eastern food:
  • Def a good olive wood mortar

  • I love my vitamix for hummus

  • Spice grinder: I like to grind my spices fresh

  • And beautiful pottery from the region to serve the food

What advice do you have for someone just starting to find their way around the kitchen:

To be open minded, there is so many ways to do the same thing. And be willing to explore with flavors and methods. If you don’t like something skip it. Try new things: if they don’t work, oh well try again.

 What nostalgic candy bar would you grab on walks to the local deken when you were a kid:

Chocolate wafers were one of my favorite kinds of treats, and booza rookab on a cone

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