By Mussy Raitman, Lubicom staff
To many, Middle Eastern food is something that’s wrapped up at a falafel truck and eaten on the go. However, the cuisine of the Fertile Crescent is far-reaching, spanning entire countries and generations in its evolution. Two of the most enticing and versatile ingredients in this cuisine are rich tahini and bright, fragrant turmeric- ingredients which open an entire world of culinary possibilities. In a cookbook named in their honor, recipe developers and sisters Ruth Fox and Vicky Cohen modernize Middle Eastern cuisine with dishes that celebrate their plant-based sensibility, many of them created with an eye toward every-day ease.
I sat down with the superstar sisters to discuss the book, their upbringing, ingredients that intrigue them, and, of course, some of their favorite food obsessions.
Mussy: Was there anything you wanted to do before you started cooking?
Vicky: I have always been an entrepreneur; I owned several businesses before starting “May I Have That Recipe” with Ruth.
Ruth: I always wanted to be a doctor. As I got older, I became more interested in food and nutrition, so I got my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Mussy: What’s your favorite breakfast?
Vicky: My favorite breakfast is overnight oats. I love how I can spend five minutes at night and have a ready-to-eat breakfast the next morning. During the cold months, I like to eat overnight oats warm. In our cookbook, we have a delicious overnight oats recipe with pomegranates, persimmons, pistachios and a touch of cardamom.
Ruth: My favorite breakfast since we developed the recipes for our cookbook is the Tahini Smoothie Bowl, because I just love tahini. I like to use different fruits depending on what’s in season.
Mussy: What made you decide to write a cookbook?
Vicky and Ruth: We have both been working together on our blog “May I Have That Recipe” for six years. The idea of a cookbook was always in the back of our minds. After several of our readers asked us if we were going to come out with a cookbook, we decided to go for it. We wrote a proposal, looked for an agent and she found us several publishers who were interested.
Mussy: What does the name Tahini and Turmeric mean to you?
Vicky and Ruth: Tahini and turmeric are evocative of the Middle East and of our family background. It means warm, fragrant, aromatic food, and family gatherings around a holiday table.
Mussy: Is there one food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home at all times?
Vicky and Ruth: We are both obsessed with tahini, we just love it. It is such a versatile ingredient that can be used for sweet and savory dishes.
Mussy: Do you have a favorite childhood comfort food?
Vicky: Toasted pita bread topped with olive oil and za’atar. We made it into croutons for our Lentil Fattoush with Mint and Sumac in our cookbook
Ruth: Za’atar Manaish (basically a za’atar pizza). Our mom used to make the dough from scratch and I always looked forward to it. We have a recipe for Za’atar Manaish in our cookbook.
Mussy: The first thing I noticed about your cookbook was how gourmet the recipes were. Tell me a little about your cooking background.
Vicky and Ruth: We are both home cooks. We learned to cook from our mother and grandmother, and learned to develop recipes and photograph them since we started our cooking blog six years ago.
Mussy: As I flip through the pages I notice a lot of healthy recipes. Tell us a little about why you cook the way you do.
Vicky and Ruth: We are so glad you noticed, we’ve been told often that our recipes are not only tasty, but healthy as well. We like to use a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and beans. But what brings it all together are the herbs and spices we use to flavor our dishes.
Mussy: What’s a favorite recipe you’ve created?
It is really hard to pick, because we put so much time, effort and love into all our recipes!
Vicky: Saffron-Infused Cauliflower Soup with Sumac Oil. It sounds fancy, but is really easy to make and has a ton of flavor.
Ruth: Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranates.
Mussy: What do you hope your cookbook will accomplish?
Vicky and Ruth: We’re hoping people realize that plant-based food doesn’t have to be boring, and it can easily be made flavorful and exciting. Also, our cookbook isn’t just for vegans or vegetarians. It’s a great tool for anyone who wants to add more fruits, vegetables and grains to their diet.
Mussy: Do you have any tips on how to cook on a budget?
Vicky and Ruth: When it comes to produce, buy what’s in season! Also, stock up your pantry staples when they go on sale.
Mussy: Do you have any tips for the busy person who wants to eat well at home but doesn’t have a lot of time?
Vicky and Ruth: Do your shopping and food prep over the weekend (or whenever your day off is). A little bit of planning will save you a lot of time!
Mussy: Best food advice?
Vicky and Ruth: Play with your food! Try new things, experiment. Give recipes your own twist by adding your favorite ingredients.
Check out the stunning and delicious Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics-Made Irresistibly Vegan on Amazon.