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I love, love, love to read, and can be found with some kind of written material every spare moment I have.
“Jasmine and Fire” is a fascinating and delicious book about the authors year in Lebanon – her attempt to discover where she felt most at home and had the fullest sense of belonging, frequently through the lens of food – which I strongly relate to. After finishing this book, I also have a deep desire to visit Lebanon and eat my way around the country.
Salma mentioned a longing for both places in her life, America and Lebanon, and that she felt a “need to find a way to bring together the places and people that give my life meaning”.
I have often thought the most perfect scenario would be to pull my two countries, New Zealand and America, closer together, perhaps even join them with a bridge.
I acutely miss my distant family and friends during the big events such as Christmas or birthdays, and I also miss sharing the ordinary activities, calling in for a cup of coffee or gathering for a casual Sunday dinner. It has been even harder since having kids, but I definitely have an amazing life, and attempt to focus on the positive. I’m very thankful that while I live here in Northwest Arkansas – it is an incredible town with awe inspiring people and a fabulous sense of community, we are able to spend time in New Zealand, and I love and appreciate that my children have a foot in two cultures.


3 1/2 cups boiled chickpeas (canned is fine, rinsed and drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
2 pita breads
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
pinch of paprika

In a pot, heat the chickpeas in water (to cover) over medium heat, then lower heat to a simmer.
Meanwhile, mix garlic with 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then gradually drizzle in the lemon juice and keep mixing until you have a creamy paste. Stir mixture into yogurt, mix in the tahini, and set aside.
Tear the pita into pieces, heat the oil and fry or toast in the oven.
Drain chickpeas, place them in a bowl, and sprinkle with cumin and salt to taste.
A few minutes before you are ready to serve the dish, heat butter over medium heat and saute pine nuts until browned, being careful not to blacken them.
In a deep sided serving dish, place one layer of the bread pieces, followed by a layer of the chickpeas, and alternate layers until you run out of ingredients. Ladle the yogurt over the top. Sprinkle the pinenuts in their butter over top and add a pinch of paprika.
Serve immediately.


1 cup flour
1 cup coarse bulgur
2 small onions, minced and divided
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chickpeas (I used canned)
juice of one lemon plus lemon quarters for serving
1/2 teaspoon sumac (I substituted paprika)

Combine flour, bulgur, 1 minced onion, marjoram, mint, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water in a mixing bowl until well blended (I had to add more water). Using palms, form mixture into small balls the size of grapes.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the remaining onion until soft and translucent, then add the garlic. After 1 minute, add the chickpeas, then the bulgur balls. Add water to cover, and let boil until broth thickens.
If some of the balls dissolve, that’s fine, it will give the soup a more porridge-like texture. Stir in the lemon juice, season with additional salt to taste, and sprinkle with sumac (or paprika).
Serve with lemon quarters on the side.

Recipes adapted from Jasmine and Fire, Salma Abdelnour, 2012