Helou explains that as a child in Beirut, she was forbidden from eating on the street. “Girls from good families don’t,” her uncles told her. But she was enticed by the vivid aromas, the call of lively vendors, and the pleasure others seemed to take. When she grew up, Helou became something of a street-food addict; this most democratic of food “is a great way to get to know both the food and the people of a country you are visiting,” with the added bonus that you can watch the food being cooked in front of you, and learn.
Helou brings the stalls of Damascus and Crete and Istanbul to life through writing and her own photography. Chickpea and Lamb soup, a favorite of Helou’s from Morocco, was an eye-opener both for its depth of flavor and for disproving the kitchen rule about cooking dried beans with tomatoes (the chickpeas softened up just fine). Simply-named Chicken Kebabs deliver deep flavor with easy preparation and few ingredients. Omelets, stuffed breads, soups, and pastries litter the book, offering tasty and inspiring ways to diversify your palate.
GIVE THIS TO: Cooks who enjoy bold flavors. —Tiffany Vickers Davis