I swore if I saw another Middle Eastern cookbook cross my desk this year, I’d quit my job and take up needlepoint. Then Yasmin Khan’s Palestinian cookbook Zaitoun appeared in February, and I realized that books like hers are the reason I work where I do. See, when it comes to cookbooks (and most things in life), there are trend followers and there are passion projects. And despite the fact that Middle Eastern food is popping up everywhere from Instagram to fast-casual chains, Khan’s book of Palestinian recipes and travel stories is undeniably in the latter camp. I loved it from the moment I opened it, and I’m so glad we chose it as our June Cookbook Club pick.
Khan, a human rights activist, first turned to food in 2016 when she published The Saffron Tales, a memoir-cookbook with recipes inspired by her Iranian mother. Zaitoun—which means “olive” in Arabic—is a more anthropological follow-up focusing on the cuisines of Palestine (there are at least three different styles of cooking in the region, which is approximately the size of Delaware). In the book, Khan introduces us to these cuisines via the people she meets, cooks with, and eats with during her travels. These stories paint a beautiful and complex portrait of the oft-misunderstood region.
Okay, so what about the recipes? Good news: They all look delicious and approachable. I’ve been swooning over hummus with spiced lamb; seared halloumi with orange, dates, and pomegranate; asparagus with eggs and za’atar; lentils with chard and tahini; and too many more to name (okay, one more: banana and tahini ice cream with date syrup!). It’s going to be impossible to choose one to make for June’s cookbook club. I may very well show up with a few different dishes...but I can’t imagine anyone will complain.
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Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit