Local Pesto from Om Sleiman

We finally have a proper CSA – community supported agriculture – farm in the Ramallah area.  All my produce needs will be ready for me to pick up every Monday evening.  I will no longer have to squeeze through the crowded and narrow aisles in the hisbeh (market) eyeballing the produce and the salespeople, questioning the source of the produce and the method of production.  The salespeople at the hisbeh are not the farmers.  They are far removed from the actual production of their goods.  The Palestinian consumer has become disconnected from the production as well.  Produce is brought to our market and sold to us.  Some of it is seasonal.  Much of it is not.  It is estimated that 90% of the produce in the hisbeh is Israeli; leftovers that the Israeli market system could not get rid of.  Many of the sales guys operating wagons and small stands urge me to buy their products.  BUT I don’t purchase Israeli produce.  Then they show me Palestinian produce.  BUT I don’t purchase nonseasonal produce.  Nor do I purchase Palestinian produce coming from the Jenin and Jericho regions – have you ever seen how much chemical pesticides are doused on the vegetables growing in those districts?  I am difficult to please, the vegetable cart/stand operators say to me.

Now that Om Sleiman farm is in operation, I will no longer need to deal with the hisbeh.  The Om Sleiman farmers – Mohamad and Muhab- will produce nutritious and seasonal vegetables in an organic and environmentally friendly way.  They will bring each week’s harvest to the city center in Ramallah so that the members can pick up their produce on their way home from work.  I picked up the first week’s harvest last Monday.  It consisted of the typical early in the season leafy greens – Tat Soi (a first time for me), Swiss Chard, Kale, and Basil.  Both farmers as well as a couple of the volunteers were present at the pick up site explaining to all of us members the details of the products and the production methods and providing us with recipe tips.  Although it was only the first week, I felt community.  The Om Sleiman farm created a community.  Food production is more than an economic activity – it is culture and heritage and nature and environment and health and community.

I am planning on stuffing the kale with meat and bulgur, and cooking the swiss chard in an  eggy and cheesy savory tart.  Those projects are for later in the week.  But tonight, I needed a quick easy meal to nourish and savor.  I used the basil to make a spicy pesto for my dinner tonight.

Spicy Pesto
1 bunch of fresh basil
2 jalapeño peppers
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 cup fresh goat cheese (I used local cheese from Ameen’s farm in Albireh)
Salt to taste
Olive oil


Place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix/grind into a paste.  Add the pesto to pasta or toast.





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Drying the abundant figs

morning picking

morning picking


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herbs for our scratches and bruises

Here is my latest in the This Week in Palestine Kitchen column…

Enjoy the end of the summer and her wonderful harvest!

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Apple chutney, preserving the summer

We organized an apple picking at a nearby orchard in the village of Surda, just outside Ramallah.  Abu Osama, orchard owner, invited us to pick from his bounty.  The early figs, da four, were already gone.  But he still had plums and the small baladi sweet apple.  While I enjoy eating fresh fruit in season, I love preserving fruit for when there is no seasonal fruit available.  I would rather eat a jar of my home made apple sauce rather than buy out of season apples imported from who knows where and grown in harmful conditions.

Tonight, I decided to cook some of the apples into a sweet-sour-cinnamony apple chutney.  I never measure when cooking fruit for preserving.  I am a lazy cook.

Apple Chutney:

a whole bunch of ripe apples, I filled my pot mid-way

sugar, I used a half cup

cinnamon, about 1 tablespoon

vinegar, I used a half cup of grape vinegar

Chop apples and leave apple cores for the compost or chickens. Mix all ingredients in a large pot.  Cook over medium heat stirring periodically until liquid absorbed and apples tender.  Boil a teapot full of water.  Pour the boiled water in the glass jars and metal caps that will house the apple chutney. Empty the jars and fill with apple chutney and tighten lid.  When cool, store apple chutney in your pantry.


What are you preserving this summer? Tell me.

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apricot custard

It’s finally that time of year – the short two week window- where the baladi apricot has ripened for our enjoyment.  We are having a good season this year.  The market is full of the small baladi apricot known as mishmish mistikawi.  And this Sunday, we are going apricot picking at a local farm in kufr malik, a village outside of Ramallah.

But I have already indulged in the harvest and have been eating apricot custard all week.  Simply grease a baking dish, fill the baking dish half way with sliced fresh apricots, and then cover with the custard mixture.  To make the custard mixture, mix six eggs and one cup of sugar in a large bowl.  Add a 1/2 cup of milk, 4 tablespoons of whole wheat flour, a bit of coarse salt, and some good vanilla.  Mix.  Pour over apricots.  Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 35 minutes at 200 degrees.  The custard should be firm.  Cool to room temperature and eat!

This has been my breakfast (and dinner) everyday this week.  A perfect start to the day.


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Real Taboun Bread

My latest article on the Palestinian Taboun..


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Cabbage salad in creamy almond butter dressing

I’m in garden starvation mode.  I have harvested my spring greens, peas, and fava beans.   I just planted seeds for the summer harvest.  Besides my motley of herbs, and a few loquats on my little tree, my garden is bare.  I harvested the parsley last week for a nice tabouleh.  The parsley needs another week or so to grow back.  I picked some thyme, marjoram, and mint for a new tabouleh.  But my body is craving more green.  My chickens are famished; they have been poking at their eggs.  My eggs!  I needed to save the eggs.  I have not figured out how to grow food to eliminate this starvation period.

I broke down and bought two heads of cabbage from the main market, partly to feed my chickens and save my eggs, and partly to feed me.

Cabbage slaw in creamy almond butter dressing

I didn’t measure.  I don’t think exact measurements matter with this salad.  Just taste the dressing and keep adjusting the ingredients until you like the flavor and the texture/thickness.   Thinly slice green and purple cabbage and a bit of onion to fill a bowl.    I also added sun flower seeds to this bowl.  In a small bowl, mix tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, almond butter, salt, and ground flax seed.  You may need to add some water for a more fluid texture.  Pour dressing over cabbage and mix well.

I had the almond butter in my fridge.  I made it a month ago when I had the craving for a pb&j.  Simply grind almonds and a bit of olive oil in a food processor until it achieves the texture of a smooth almond butter.

I gave my chickens slices of cabbage – without the dressing.

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