Dearborn is a suburb of Detroit. Prior to the European invasion, the region was home to Algonquian-speaking Native American groups. The French were the first Europeans to establish a trading post and other connections in the region, though this was lost to them as part of losing the Seven Years' War with Britain. Dearborn was established in 1836, named after Henry Dearborn, a general in the Revolutionary War. It was incorporated in 1893. Today, Dearborn is home to several prestigious museums, including The Henry Ford, and The Arab American National Museum.
Dearborn is the often thought of as the Arab-American capital of the nation. Like other towns with large ethnic enclaves, this town has grown to house a large group of Arab Americans who either immigrated here, or were born there. Immigration began in the first half of the 20th century, with most people coming to work in the auto industry.
While not all Arabs are Muslims, many of them are, which makes Dearborn the city with the second largest Muslim American population, behind New York City. With this comes a lot of fear and misinformation by some people. The internet is rife with it. Contrary to popular internet belief, Sharia Law has not taken root and is not the "law of the land" in Dearborn. It is not the hub of ISIS in America, nor is it where terrorists are born and bred. For the most part, it is home to people who merely wish to be left alone to practice their religious beliefs in peace. There is also a certain amount of harassment they must endure as well, unfortunately. One popular story on the internet shows a video of white Christians being "stoned" by "cruel" and "aggressive" Muslims as they are driven out of a community festival. What the video doesn't show, however, are the protest signs filled with words of hatred and messages about "burning in hell", etc. The video does show people throwing empty pop cans and water bottles and driving the protestors back out of the festival with very little assistance from the police, from whom the protestors demanded help. However right or wrong it may be to counteract hateful protestors who are harassing you and your community, one does need to see the entire story in its proper context before passing judgement on a huge section of the American population.
So, you might be asking me right now, why Dearborn, and why now? I have been looking forward to this post since I started this blog. This past Friday night marked the beginning of Eid al Fitr, the huge celebration at the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is the month of fasting that most Muslims participate in. During this time, no food or liquid may be consumed during daylight hours. Imagine what that must be like, particularly in the hot summertime. Ramadan occurs at different times each year, but this year it took place in the super hot summer. This is dedication! While there are many different ethnic groups who are predominantly Muslim, I wanted to focus on Middle Eastern food because I love it so much and haven't cooked it in a very long time. Dearborn fit into this perfectly, and with Eid falling on the actual day I planned on doing the post for it, I couldn't resist. Though I did not partake in the fasting, I did partake in the feasting, and so, I present to you...
The Food: Middle East Feast
This ended up being one of my favorite meals so far. When this project is over, I will go through it and pick my top ten meals and favorite dishes, etc. This one is guaranteed to be in my top ten. It was just that good. It was also one of, if not the most labor intensive meals I've done so far. Many of the posts I've done have been crockpot meals or simple dishes, but this one took hours over the course of two days to prepare and I loved every second of it. I made three dishes- an entree, a side, and a dessert.
This post also marks a first for me in that I went to a family gathering and shared my food with my family. Many of them read this blog but have never had a chance to actually try the food, and this was their chance to taste some of it, finally. I'm glad it all turned out as well as it did because I had an audience to impress! They seemed to like it all, or at least they were very polite and ate it anyway!
This entree was a last-minute thing because I was going to have access to an actual grill and wanted to take advantage of it. It is a flavorful dish, and I really enjoyed it. Grilled chicken skewers that were marinated in a yogurt-based marinade. There were tons of spices and lemon juice and it was just fantastic! The recipe comes from the internet and I didn't alter it at all. I will share the link in my sources section at the end, but I won't type it out here.
1 large pita bread(I tripled this recipe and ended up using the entire package of pita bread even though it was more than it called for.)
2 cups finely torn romaine lettuce, lightly packed(I used a combo of romaine and Boston lettuce and I liked the contrast of colors and textures.)
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped(Even though I tripled the recipe, I only used this amount and it was fine.)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped(I used one regular-sized English cucumber. I did not peel it though I did seed and chop it.)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. minced parsley(I skipped this)
1/2-1 tsp. oregano(The recipe doesn't specify fresh or dry and I didn't want to spend the money on fresh so I actually used dried and put it in with the dressing. I would recommend doing this if you plan on using dried.)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice(Fresh-squeezed really is best for this one.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
For Salad: Slice the pita bread into 8 triangles. Separate each triangle in half, creating 16 pieces total. Place on a baking sheet and toast briefly under the broiler, just until crisp and lightly brown. Watch closely so the bread does not burn. (Will only take a few minutes.) Break the triangles into large pieces and set aside. Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl.
For Dressing: Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper(Summer's Note: And add the oregano here if using dried) to taste in a small bowl, and whisk until well combined. Pour over the salad and toss gently. Add the toasted pita pieces just before serving and toss once more. Serve at once.
Makes 4 servings; 142 calories, 8 g. fat, 3 g. fiber
1/4 cup orange blossom water(Available at Middle Eastern grocery stores though I found mine at the HT Market out on Aurora next to Oaktree Cinema. Do not use the smaller bottles that can be found in some alcohol sections of grocery stores as this is essentially orange extract. What you need is the type made from actual water and orange blossoms. Believe me, I know the struggle of finding this but it's worth it. I went to four stores before finding it and after buying the wrong kind first. If you know of a store that sells rose water, chances are they sell this too. Try that place first.)
2 cups flour
1 cup semolina
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, chopped
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
*In a small bowl, combine orange blossom water with 1/3 cup water. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
*In a large bowl, whisk together flour, semolina, sugar, and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs; drizzle orange blossom water over flour mixture, stirring briskly with fork until dough holds together. Form into ball; press into disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days.)
*Meanwhile, in saucepan over medium-high heat, bring dates and 1 cup water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened and smooth; about 5 minutes. Let cool. (Summer's note: This can be done ahead of time as well. Just reheat over low heat until the chill is gone when you go to fill the cookies. Keep covered in the pan in fridge or put in a leftover container and refrigerate.)
*Drop dough by 2 Tbsp. onto waxed-paper-lined baking sheet to make 26 mounds. (Summer's note: I didn't measure this, I just pulled the dough into 26 pieces and then pulled parts off the larger ones and added to the smaller ones to make sure they were all approximately the same size. The dough is very workable and forgiving so don't worry about overworking it.) Place 1 ball in palm of hand; press thumb halfway into center of ball, forming a cup shape to hold filling. Spoon in 1 tsp. filling; fold dough over filling and pinch edges to seal. (Summer's note: This did not work because there's not nearly enough space to put that much filling without it spilling out the edges when you try to seal it. What works better is this: Take the ball of dough in your hand and pat it down as thinly as possible so it resembles a small pizza dough, or a potsticker wrapper. Place the teaspoon of filling in a line along the center and fold dough in half. Seal the edges so it resembles a potsticker but place sealed-side down on the baking sheet.) Repeat with remaining balls and filling. Place, pinched side down and about 1" apart, on parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
*Bake in center of 400 degree oven until bottoms are golden grown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to rack. Dust with powdered sugar. (Summer's note: I did this in one turn with the oven. I put one rack on the top and one on the bottom and switched them halfway through baking and it did just fine. I found mine only needed about 19 minutes to cook, possibly because I'd had to stretch the dough thinner than it called for.)
Makes 26 cookies; 153 calories, 7 g. fat, 1 g. fiber
These were fantastic! I had a hard time not eating all of them myself. My family enjoyed them a lot as well, which surprised me since many of them don't like cooked fruit mixing with dessert products, generally speaking. So, they must really have been good! The flavor of the orange blossom water is difficult to describe. It's floral, but not overwhelming. It's not particularly orangey, but has a slight citrus flavor. I wouldn't recommend not using it and if you were inclined to try rose water instead, I would not use the amount listed in this recipe. Rose water is much stronger and way more overwhelming. I would cut it down to maybe a half teaspoon and regular water to make up the difference. I also think walnuts or pistachios would be an amazing addition to this cookie. Mixed in with the dates would be the natural place to put them.
This was an amazing meal and I'm so happy I got to share it with others! I love Middle Eastern food so all the hours I put into it, were spent in love and joy of the food. If you have never tried anything like these recipes, please try them out. You might just fall in love with a cuisine that has a rich, and very long history. You will be transported half way around the world, but remember, that it's also just as American as any other food I have celebrated here!
Shish Tawook Recipe
I am not going to post links to the hatred I found on the internet regarding the citizens of Dearborn. The video and story I referred to can easily be found online and I will leave that up to you to research if you are so incline. I choose to not spread hate, either on this blog or in my life in general.