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Archive for the ‘Protagonists’ Category

Um Ramadan is a Palestinian refugee from Yafa, and married into a family of  fishermen from the same city.  She knows all the traditional Gazan and Yafawi ways of preparing seafood (prior to 1948, the Yafa was the closest major city to Gaza and travel and trade was fluid and continuous between the two; the cities also share many similar culinary traditions, including seafood).  With her we went to the fish market by the Gaza City port, where the fish is beautiful but scarce.

After carefully selecting each fish, we returned to the house to make chili stuffed crabs, stuffed fried fish, and zibdiyet gambari: shrimp stew cooked in a clay pot.  Just to give you a first taste of this place, here is how Um Ramadan prepared the fish, which was fantastic:

First she washed the fish, massaging it inside and out with lemon and a little flour, then rinsing well.  She crushed about half a green chili pepper and a few gloves of garlic with some salt in a mortar, and rubbed this with a little lemon and cumin powder into the fish.

In a separate bowl, she finely chopped plenty of fresh dill, garlic, coriander, garlic, and green and red chili peppers.  She added a little salt and cumin, and a spoonful of olive oil.  After mixing well, she stuffed each fish with this mixture, closing it with a toothpick.

Once stuffed, she doused the fish in flour and fried them in very hot vegetable oil.

The result of this very simple recipe was magnificent.  The tastes of lemon, cumin, dill and green chili are characteristic of Gazan seaside cuisine, and unique in the region.

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Um Ibrahim

photo by Maggie Schmitt

Yesterday we went to Deir el Balah to talk to Um Ibrahim, who spoke lovingly of the pumpkins back in her village.  At 86 she is an encyclopedia of Palestinian food history.

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