Camilla Hussein grew up between Germany and Syria; her Dad is from the Syrian Golan Heights and her mom is Bavarian. She is a German national, but has been in the United States for over 23 years. Camilla came to Alaska four years ago because her then husband opened a pathology lab and she wanted her three home schooled daughters to be closer to their dad. She says, “we stayed because Alaska provided us a great community feeling that we never really enjoyed before in all the other states that we lived in. Good schools, nice people, and a great food culture.”
Camilla has always loved cooking for friends and family, and even catered her own wedding! She is a self taught chef who has been called the “female Alton Brown” and teaches cooking classes at Allen & Petersen. Last fall Camilla started her own business called Aubergine Catering, which provides catering, private cooking classes and sometimes dietary consultations. Her plan is to go back to college to earn a degree in Nutrition at UAA. She tells us, “As you can see by the name of my catering business, I love eggplants. I couldn’t stand them while I was growing up in Syria, but once I left home there wasn’t anything that would remind me more of home than the eggplant dishes and how much it reminded me of my dad’s crazy cooking. The flat bread recipe and the smell while baking it reminds me of my Syrian childhood; nowadays everybody just buys the pita bread and nobody bakes anymore…I thought it would be neat to cherish and keep the lost craft of making home baked peasant bread…”
Vegan Baba Ghannouj Recipe:
2 globe eggplants, whole
2-3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and medium diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, basil, or cilantro ( optional)
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, or good quality thick balsamic vinegar ( you need the sweet sour ), or just juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon allspice
salt, pepper, cayenne( optional) to taste
– Roast the eggplants over an open flame or under the broiler, piercing through the veggie to release stem and juices..its messy over a stove top, but oh so worth it…like charring a bell pepper, and you need that smokey flavour.
– Don’t worry about the flesh burning if the skin is charred, this is why a lot of people undercook the eggplant.
– Place in an airtight container, glass bowl with a plate works well.
– Cool off at room temperature and peel off the charred skin.
– Process in food processor or mush with a fork.
-Add all the other ingredients…balance the salty and sweet sour..
*Note: for regular vegetarian Baba Ghannouj, just add a cup of whole plain Nancy’s yogurt and 1/4 cup Tahini.
Enjoy with the peasant bread….recipe follows..
Peasant Bread Recipe:
“This is our #1 snack food all around Syria and Lebanon, adding sesame and nijella seeds give the bread a distinct flavour. It is a sort of pizza dough although a little bit softer and more chewy than the Italian version. I tested numerous bread doughs, in all sorts of ovens and on all sorts of baking sheets, if you have a well seasoned pizza stone use it…i use a nonstick flat cookie sheet because all my stones are still back in Florida…time to get my AK stone…”
2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon dried yeast ( make sure it is at room temperature, and fresh)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– Preheat the oven the the highest temperature, ( around 550F) and leave the cookie sheet or the pizza dough in the oven.
– Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the warm water…giving that yeast the environment to multiply.
– Sift the flour in a bowl add the yeast mix knead until you get a sticky dough…stickiness depends on what flour you are using…I always bake breads with unbleached flour.
– Add flour if necessary, but never more than 1/2 cup
– Add the olive oil
-Knead until the dough turns smooth and silky, this is a great opportunity to look into the therapeutic advantages to kneading dough..( unless you have a kitchen machine and you just use the dough hook attachment, works great if you are in a hurry !)
– Lightly oil the ball of dough and put it into a bowl
– Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 hours, until doubled in size
– Knock the air out of the dough, cut into 12 portions, lightly flour each one and put them on a tray, covered, for another 10 minutes.
– When ready to cook roll each portion out to about 6 inches, or if you want bigger rounds just portion out 6 pieces and rill out to 12 inches.
– Be very careful witht he hot stone/sheet when you place the dough on it…
– Bake for about 3-7 minutes, until you see the dough blistering..
– Promptly remove from oven and cool off on a rack, and cover with a kitchen towel…the baked bread hardens easily if exposed to the air.
*Note: cool off completely before you put the bread into the ziplock bags if you are using them, when placed in there while still warm it takes on the zip lock bag flavour…and who wants that?