I'm starting this off by saying, I have known Leila for a long time. We tend to weave in and out of each others lives very effortlessly--whenever it seems we need the support or warmth of the other person in our lives. As I age, the things in the past that her and I seem so needlessly worried about make me laugh. But as I look towards the future I truly smile at the parallel path we have made for ourselves. Leila owns Tierra Madera Ceramics, her newly blossomed ceramics business. Opening within the past year, it almost felt natural to continually collaborate. We have been able to talk about the struggles of owning a new business or how insane it is we're finally making our passions come to life.
Leila is born and raised outside of Louisville, KY but, attended University of Cincinnati in
communications. Although loving her degree--ceramics were truly her passion. As a graduation gift for herself she took some lessons and the rest is history. I remember when meeting her and traveling abroad together, her passion and intensity is hard to miss. She feels very passionately about the world and all of its contents. A part of that world is her Palestinian culture. Although her mother is American and her father is Palestinian it didn't diminish how connected she was raised to Palestine. The food within her home was filled with Palestinian influence and was her mother's personal mission and love letter to both her husband and children. Leila described her mother cooking Palestinian food for her father and learning to cook from her Teta (grandmother) as a way to ground herself to a culture foreign to her own. It was a way to keep her husband reminded of his home and teach her children their culture. All the while connecting her to a place that was completely different from her own. A small amount of acceptance from her husband's family.
In a portion of the world that is ravaged with uncertainty, Palestinian food is clear cut and delicious. It is rich in texture and beautiful in its simplicity. Each dish is my interpretation of talks with Leila. Rose Limonana, my attempt at figuring out a recipe that her grandmother used to make. Lemon water with a rose simple syrup and fresh mint picked from our own garden is the perfect start to a Palestinian meal. The food is meant to be eaten in tandem. There is no need for formalities when it comes to desserts, eat them as you drink tea, or whenever the need for something sweet comes to mind. As we ate this meal together the three of us jumped right in. Grabbing what looked good in the moment. My personal path was snagging a few Dolmas first--grape leaves that traditionally are filled with protein but instead we stuffed with tabbouleh, a bulgar wheat mix with fresh herbs, pistachios, walnuts, golden raisins, pomegranate seeds, and
lemon. Leila LOVES eating grape leaves straight from the jar and in the spirit of that love we wanted to showcase the leaf itself instead of a protein. I then travelled to the hummus and taboon. She described the way her family ate hummus as none of that "fancy" stuff. The best hummus is just intense in garlic and lemon flavor with perfect pools of olive oil. Taboon is a traditional Palestinian flatbread that is usually baked in a covered oven on extremely hot stones. In order to recreate this texture we ensured to bake in a stone oven. In tandem Leila and I went for the Peach Labneh and Hashweh. We agreed that these dishes MUST be eaten together. Hashweh is a simple dish of 7 spice flavored ground beef with onions atop rice. The Peach Labneh is inspired by a story Leila told of being 10 in Nazareth and her grandfather opened the window and plucked a peach off of a nearby branch. That moment she recalls as the single best tasting peach she has ever tasted. In loving memory of this and her Teta's conviction that za'atar could heals the body upon taste-- the Peach Labneh is a thick creamy yogurt mixture topped with copious amount of olive oil, za'atar, and peaches. Truly, it is meant to be eaten with the hashweh--try it out. Then finally we poked and prodded at the traditional Baklava and
Namoura (dense semolina cake with rose water). After drinking so much great wine, having sips of ouzu, and eating til our hearts content, there was an immense look of pride and joy on Leila's face. Which is why we make these kits. They are to be ENJOYED and celebrate the differences in our friend's culture. Grape leaves may sound strange to an American's palette but there is so much flavor and history behind these ingredients. Recognizing that and celebrating those differences is how we can come to truly understand the ones around us.
We also understand that there is a lot of controversy surrounding Palestine currently. But simply, we should be compassionate and recognizing of all human lives. Palestinian people and children should be free. Until there is that freedom, small contributions to give medical care to palestinian children should be made. Each kit purchase will donate 10% of the funds to Palestinian Children's Relief Fund. Thank you Leila for opening up your story and connection to food---and I hope to all of you reading this, if you choose to purchase a kit, invite friends and family over and SHARE.
All photos are plated WITH Tierra Madera's hand thrown plates. PLEASE go check out her dinnerware collection. It is STUNNING.