Growing up in an Arab American household, rich traditional Arabic dishes were central to Blanche's family’s life. However she noticed that previous generations of her family did not document these heirloom recipes on paper, but passed the cooking techniques only by word of mouth. So Blanche began a mission of cultural preservation, taking down the cooking methods and exact ingredients of these hundreds of year old recipes. She launched a popular YouTube cooking show called 'Feast in the Middle East" to not only share these recipes with her family, but with the world. Some of these dishes are classical favorites, like smoky Syrian Muhammara dip with walnuts, pomegranate molasses and roasted peppers, "Warak Enab," or rice and lamb rolled into tender grape leaves and cooked in a tomato broth, or Lebanese semolina custard scented with rose water called "Layali Lubnan" or "Lebanese Nights". Other dishes, like Musakhan, come from small and obscure villages like Ein Erik in the Palestinian West Bank. Musakhan is a sumac spiced chicken roasted on bread and smothered with caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts. Ancient recipes like chewy semolina date ring cookies called Ma'moul commemorate both Easter and Ramadan, while an over 1000 year old cinnamon spiced bulgur wheat porridge called Burbarra celebrates the Feast of Santa Barbara in the Arab Levant, Malta, and even Eastern Europe.
While many of these dishes used to take hours to make, Blanche modernized these recipes to adapt to today's western palate and busy lifestyles. Readers will be able to recreate street foods like Chicken Shawarma and crispy Felafel in their own kitchens using easy techniques and familiar ingredients. Fusion dishes like Baklava Granola with pistachios and cardamom, Middle Eastern Nachos or "Machos" with pita chips and cucumber yogurt sauce, and a Lemon Cheesecake made with creamy labneh cheese adapt middle eastern spices and ingredients to western tastes. Today the "Feast in the Middle East" YouTube series has brought together a global cooking community in an unexpected and beautiful way. Now viewers are making these recipes in the United States, Canada, India, Australia, Spain, Korea and beyond.
Blanche Araj Shaheen is the YouTube personality and host of the popular cooking show, Feast in the Middle East. Prior to her foray into food, she was a television host and reporter in both entertainment and news. She reported and hosted programs for PBS, G4 Television, and Link Media’s “Mosaic World News of the Middle East.” She also became the ﬁrst Arab American entertainment reporter, as a contributor for the ABC live show called View From the Bay. In 2010 Blanche made the switch to hosting her own YouTube cooking show, sharing heirloom recipes preserved by her mother and grandmother. With her journalism background, she decided to document the recipes in this cookbook, and Feast in the Middle East was born. She gives the historical relevance of many signature dishes, and shares personal stories from her own family traditions and trips to the Middle East. Aside from her ongoing cooking series on YouTube, Blanche’s Feast In the Middle East has been featured on Virgin America Airlines.