A recipe, a multicultural dinner and new welcoming rites. In the sign of tolerance
Sami, Lebanese and his Syrian wife Leen made me reflect on the true sense of hospitality in these times of high diffidence, among viruses, soft quarantines and bizarre political proclamations. I spent an evening with them and 5 friends: four Italians from various regions, all moved to Milan for work, and a Balkan between Monaco and Milan.
It was a pleasant evening for various reasons.
First: Sami, thirty years old, is a cook and shopping for strategic consulting for an American company, he is Lebanese but works in Dubai while his wife and daughter live in Milan. A true lover of good food, he was one of the founders of Slow Food Lebanon years ago. At the entrance of his Milanese apartment there is a library full of international cookbooks, including a collection of recipes from La Cucina Italiana in English. In the background there is a cooking program, at the table we talk about food: in short, everything is typically very Italian even if the atmosphere is international.
Second: Samy cooked all the time with his 2 year old daughter Giulia in his arms. He sees it from Thursday to Saturday and time is precious.
Third: the table is colorful, full of meze (Middle Eastern appetizers) but partly prepared with Italian ingredients. Samy does the shopping between here, Lebanon, from where he gets some spice and Amazon shipped.
But above all Samy decided to share his family secret with me chickpea hummus, then declined in various ways.
Hummus: the perfect recipe
The recipe belongs to her mother, but the version of her father-in-law, Leen's father (still men who cook), is also involved.
"The secret is in the ice," he generously reveals to me: it makes the consistency really soft.
Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water, drain and cook for 1 hour, along with a teaspoon of baking soda: it will make them very tender.
Drain them, let them cool, then put them in the mixer with 200 g of tahina, 200 g of warm water, the juice of a glass of lemon juice, 20 g of olive oil, the garlic deprived of the green soul and a pinch of fine salt. Start blending then, when the consistency is silky, add one or two ice cubes and continue blending.
Complete with two to three tablespoons of sesame oil.
How to combine hummus
Another lesson: although the hosts are Muslim, there is also the table wine. "We searched the internet for the best combinations with humus", explains Leen laughing "obviously we understand very little about it". The result is a passito and a Chardonnay that we drink with a lot of humus-menu. There is the pink humus with the beet, the one with toasted pine nuts and the one with diced beef. Sami also updates me on trends: the maximum, according to him, at this moment, is the humus of avocado: in America they obviously go crazy.
The hummus that unites
In the middle of the table, there is a huge one salad with feta and tomatoes. In the background, there is a compelling cooking program filmed in China.
Coronavirus seems to have diluted like ice in humus chickpeas.
Sami leaves us with a doggie bag, an ethical souvenir, in my opinion, and instructive for children too "we can't eat all this leftover food, it would be a shame to throw it away". Among the souvenirs there is also a book on Lebanese home cooking in a healthy version, an envelope of Za'atar and one of Sumach or Sommaco, Middle Eastern spice made from red berries with a truly intriguing smoked aroma.
Sami also gives me a mold for Ma'moul, typical sweets of his country, made with shortcrust pastry and stuffed with dates. In short, it makes gastronomic culture and is courteous to guests.
Everything is stored in a bag with the words "I love my mum" or "I love my dad". These two guys made me feel at home like never before. They made me forget the daily anxieties of recent times for a while. But above all remembered that every world is truly all a large and unique country.
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