Monday, July 4, 2011

Imperial Fez Review - How To Have A North African Feast

Step 1 of North African feast: We got all our family and friends together and went to our friend’s popular North African restaurant in Atlanta, GA. This reminded me of my first true North African experience which was 
{My brother to the far right and his friends from Morehouse.}

{Relaxing tea as we wait for our meal to be prepared}

{She balanced that sword on her head while dancing.}
{My Dad always the life of the party, in traditional Libyan gear.}
Growing up my Dad would make North African, Mediterranean food all the time. He was born in Libya, a country in North Africa that is well known for its incredible beaches, Leptis Magna, high quality oil and Muammar Gaddafi.

{Leptis Magna is one of the best preserved ruins of the Ancient Mediterranean world.}
If you haven’t had Libyan food before it’s very hearty and tastes similar to Mediterranean and Moroccan food. Libya was also a former colony of Italy, so there are heavy Italian influences in the food.

Now my mom was born in America, so our household was very unconventional to say the least. My dad was born and raised in Libya, and as a result, had a lot of culture clashes when he came to the states.

One of the major culture shocks concerned eating, in Libya all the family gets together and they sit on over-sized pillows in front of a table that is slightly elevated about a foot off the ground.

There is a large pitcher of rose water that you use to wash your hands and there are huge platters of food that everyone shares.

Yes. You all eat from the same plates and with your hands. I remember vividly the first time I ate the traditional way.
I was at my Cousin’s house in North Carolina for Eid and all of our relatives were there visiting from Libya (and they could barely speak English).
I was starving. I had been running around all day and could not wait to eat. As I sat down at the table, I looked at my Dad and was like “Where are the forks?”
He gave me a look and a smile as large as a Cheshire Cat’s. I looked around a little confused but everyone else looked extremely comfortable.
After the blessing was said everyone began to dig in. I was startled and sat there for a moment dumbfounded, looking at my brother and muttering to myself: “Wait. Is this some kind of trick?

Didn’t I get yelled at before for eating with my hands?”
But then my stomach started grumbling and with a suspicious glee, I stuck my hand in. It was a very weird sensation. But after the initial seconds of shock, it was liberating. I felt like I was one with my food.
The really cool thing about the entire experience was by sharing the food in such an intimate way it brought us all together, despite our differences.
And in my opinion, that is the beautiful thing about a home cooked meal, in some ways it really heals your soul.
I wanted to share this experience with my friends, so I called my dad up and asked him for the recipe to make one of my favorites Kefta with an herbed tomato and onion sauce on top of couscous.
When I spoke to my dad he only gave me ingredients,no measurements. Yea weird, I know. But with a hungry determination, I channeled my keen culinary memories and developed my own remix of a classic and here’s what I came up with:
Libyan Meatballs With A Tomato and Onion Sauce
on a Bed of Garlic Couscous

If your feeling adventurous, you can create a little toppings bar. In 3 small bowls you could put golden raisins for the couscous, mint, and slivered toasted almonds. This adds to the unique experience and let’s everyone really get their hands ok I know bad joke but I couldn’t resist.
But all jokes aside, this is super easy to make and tastes so different than what we are used to in our American palates that it’s a definite crowd pleaser. It’s great to take for BBq’s but NOTE they taste best when they are warm so keep that in mind when transporting.
And as they Say in Libya Keeifto Manorri or One Must Eat Well.

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