An Arab-inspired feast for the soul from Nader Khouri


Bay Area-based food and lifestyle photographer Nader Khouri is used to documenting all kinds of wonderful of ethnic cuisines, but he doesn’t get many opportunities to showcase the Palestinian and Arab food of his own family heritage. So he was thrilled to collaborate with James Beard-nominated Palestinian-Syrian chef Reem Assil, whose cookbook, Arabiyya, is being released this week, on a recent story celebrating Arab American Heritage Month. In this lively interview-style feature, illustrated with Nader’s sun-drenched photos, Reem shares recipes and a lively conversation with her friend Chef Mohammad Abutaha of the Oakland restaurant, Shawarmaji. They discuss Arab hospitality and the concept of azoumeh, a traditional Arab feast for family and friends. Nader was delighted to bring five of his own Palestinian-made kuffiyehs to be used at the shoot (even though props and food styling were well taken care of by his frequent collaborator, Jillian Knox). Reem prepared a wonderful outdoor lunch for the team that included Little Gem salad with pickled onions, a tahini dressing, and her signature za’atar mana’eesh flatbread. In true Palestinian fashion, Nader spread the salad over the flatbread, scooped the whole thing up and ate it with his hands, thinking all the while of his late grandmother, who always used to tell him that “if you don’t eat with your hands it means you’re not enjoying your food.”