The Portland Metropolitan Area is a diamond mine of grocers- everything from the Indian grocer-bazaars in Beaverton, Vietnamese/Korean/Pan-Asian grocers up on 82nd street, several local community-oriented chains (New Seasons Market, Zupan’s, Market of Choice), the regular repertoire of massive Whole Foods and neighbourhood Trader Joe’s to a plethora of bountiful farmer’s markets
However, my absolute favourite grocer is Barbur World Foods; a 70-year old decently-sized grocery store near the border of Portland and Tigard currently run by a Lebanese family. Besides having a vast selection of Indian/Iranian/East African/European products; it has one of the best selections of Middle Eastern goods I have seen on the west coast. In fact, I am regular sent there on missions by my mother to fill an Express Mail box with 16-20 packets of Medjool dates baking packs (for her famous Ma’amoul- an Arabic date pastry).
With my mama currently being in town; she was more than happy to go support this local business (and fully stock my cabinets with homely foods for after she leaves). So now, if you open my pantry you’ll be seeing: several packets of Lebanese thyme, sumac, cans of Foul Mudammas/Fava Beans (both Saudi style and Lebanese), cans of Cortas Hummus and Baba Ghanouj, orange blossom water, pistachios, Shatta (spicy sauce), Tahini, HUMONGOUS Arabic bread and a freezer full of filo dough and Toum (that epic garlic sauce eaten alongside shish tawouk/chicken kebabs). Perhaps an Arabic-food themed dinner party is in the cards soon?
Besides selling everything an Arab kitchen can ever need; there is a delightful ready food/deli section where I just discovered (thanks to mama) that you can have a filling and delightful meal for under $6 (mark that PDX budget-istas)
What kind of meal you ask?
There are also chicken kebab plates, chicken shawarma sandwiches, and other options, but sometimes you just want a whole lot of falafel; and boy is Barbur World Foods generous with how much they stuff in there- tonnes of the spiced chickpea patties encased with lettuce, tomato, and doused in tahini sauce (I also added some garlic sauce and hummus for necessary dippage) and wrapped in a chewy flatbread. What I also loved about this particular falafel: Not salty or greasy AT ALL, absolutely fresh and more surface area of chickpea filling rather than fried-outsideness
I made a simple Arabic salad for accompaniment consisting of chopped parsley, mint, Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, sumac, olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar
Mama had also picked up a mini eggplant-gorgonzola pizza which I incorporated into my Saturday lunch:
And as I’m sure you can see I also added some more hummus and garlic sauce on the side of the pizza; on that note did you know that parsley is a good deodorant for garlic? It helps eliminate the rather unpleasant odor; which I suppose might be one of the reasons (beside being a killer flavour combo) that you see the two so often together
So let’s talk dessert now; I am sure you have heard of baklava
And Naz; well she loves baklava so naturally she came over to learn the secrets behind my mother’s filo-layered delight
What do you need to make baklava?
*Filo dough sheet (the number of layers depends on the thickness of the sheets)
*Finely chopped walnuts (Mama hand chopped them all since I am yet to possess a food processor) mixed with a tad of sugar
*1-2 sticks of melted butter
*Orange blossom water
*Chopped pistachios for decoration
And sorry to let you all down; but I really can’t divulge the exact directions as to how you make the baklava; not because I am being coy and secretive but because I fail to remember the complicated process of layering- I just know that you start with filo on the bottom, top with chopped walnuts then add several more layers with melted butter brushed on for every two layers then cut diagonally into little triangles
While it’s baking till browned in the oven, make a syrup out of orange blossom water, lemon juice, water, and sugar (the thickness of the syrup is dependent on how you want it)- after the baklava has browned, take it out spoon all the syrup and let it soak into the crevices and thus add some sweet moisture into the layers/walnuts.
And the final touch? Decorate with chopped pistachios!
And really my mama’s version of baklava is not OVERLY sweet and so saccharine that your teeth feel like they took on a sugar blanket- yes there is a decent amount of butter; but for anything desserty to be good you’ve GOT to have a little happy fat in their, no? Plus it has walnuts, which are good for your hair/skin/nails and brain. And most of all it’s delectable!
Do you like baklava?
Does your mother/father/grandma/whoever have a famous dessert specialty?