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I grew up with Lebanese and Cajun food, but only knew how to cook about 4 things when I left home for college: my dad's chicken gumbo, my mom's baked chicken, my grandmother's mahshi (stuffed grapeleaves, squash, and zucchini), and my dad's ma'mool (date or nut-filled cookies).
I love to cook food for people that they enjoy, though, so the years since leaving home have been almost a quest for accumulating good recipes and trying to reproduce the delicious things I ate in childhood - the perfectly crispy kibbeh, the dainty spinach pies, the stuffed cabbage, and yeah even my mom's meatloaf!
Through college, I only picked up enough recipes to satisfy myself when I really needed a taste of home. I hadn't become a creative or a good cook yet - I just had a few perfect recipes that I followed to the T.
But when I got engaged to my egyptian husband, I knew that I had only a year before marriage to actually *learn to cook*. I love the idea of making a home and feeding my family delicious and nutritious food. So lo and behold, during my engagement I was living in a town where all of my friends were fabulous cooks - plus a friend of mine opened a palestinian restaurant and hired me as a chef. Through those two avenues, I actually learned cooking skills: how to season to taste, improvise when ingredients are missing, make a broth, marinate meats, raise a dough...
When I finally got married, my husband was pleased with my cooking, and so was I, but only one of us knew how much effort it had taken for me to learn :)
I truly feel that cooking skills have made me richer as a person. Good food is a silent language - you can communicate love and hospitality through it without a word. And that's the reward for me.
First off, everything I cook and eat is halaal.. muslim version of kosher. No pork, alcohol, etc.
So what do I love?
Anything Turkish, hands down. Lebanese is similar but (in my opinion) not as refined - a close second. In those cuisines I especially love eggplants in every form (baba ghannouj, hunkar begindi, mahshi), anything stuffed (chickens, gourds, cabbage, grapeleaves), desserts (baqlaweh, qatayef, puddings), and salads in a broad sense (cicek, tabbouleh, yogurt with cucumbers). I generally like all arab/middle eastern cuisines - iranian, kurdish, palestinian, etc - EXCEPT egyptian. Good thing my husband doesn't particularly prefer egyptian food ;).
I also love pakistani food, after having many pakistani friends and living for a year with a pakistani woman who was an incredible cook. I like haleem, biryani (chicken/goat/lamb), puddings (saviya and kheer), samosas, nihari, daals... almost everything except those thin balls of puffed dough that are filled with some sort of broth :P
Then sushi. Ahhh, sushi. I don't trust myself to make it, but I'll eat it anywhere and anytime.