Finding new recipes at the most unexpected moments

Everyone I meet in Fullerton is potential fodder for my column, so no wonder when my physical therapist, Dr. Ziad Dahdul of CORE in Fullerton, is massaging my neck, the chatter turns to food.

Dr. Z chats about his mother’s Mansaf, a lamb and rice stew made with an ingredient I had never heard of, jameed. Of course, I had to investigate what turned out to be a solid yogurt.

I visited Nahla Dahdul as she was beginning to prepare for the recent Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday commemorating Ibrahim (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son.

“It is one of the five principles which Islam was built on,” Nahla explained. “Whoever is able and willing, goes to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. Our family goes to the mosque and gets together for the celebration.”

Dr. Z’s favorite, Mansaf, is the centerpiece of the menu. “It takes a while to cook, so we make it for holidays, weddings, graduations, or other celebrations,” Nahla noted.

She showed me the jameed, a pear-shaped, hardened form of yogurt, which she brought back from Jerusalem.

“It’s dried in the sun. It has a lot of salt, so when you cook with it, don’t put salt because it’s already salty,” she said. “They have it here in the Arabic stores in Anaheim, but it’s not the same.”

Nahla was born and raised in Jerusalem.

“I learned everything about cooking from my mom,” she recalled. “After 40 years I better be a good cook! We were all six sisters, no brothers. When we were young, she called us into the kitchen. When she visited her brother in Jordan, she used to leave me and my older sister to take care of everything.”

Nahla immigrated to the United States at the age of 19.

“I got engaged and came here to get married in 1977,” she said.

“I was back there last September,” she said of her former home. “I never saw green as much as they have over there. I love the trees, figs and grapes over there. They have these big black grapes that are crunchy. My parents had a garden with lemons, green mint – the vegetables and fruits…

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