Mediterranean Cooking

Mediterranean Cooking

Part of Ep. 1201 Melting Pot Pledge Special

The Casbah Restaurant Owner/Executive Chef Sabi Atteyih shares the Mediterranean vegetable-rich dish Mahashi with Shelley Ryan. Atteyih also demonstrates how to create stuffed grape leaves using homegrown Wisconsin grape leaves.

Premiere date: Mar 06, 2004

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Ryan:
We're continuing with the theme of Wisconsin as a melting pot and now we're going to focus on vegetables from the Mediterranean. We're at the Maytag store on West Junction Road in Madison where they've kindly allowed us to use their kitchen for this. My guest is Sabi Atteyih. And Sabi is the executive chef and the owner of Casbah. Sabi, how did you get to this point? Because I know you're not formally trained as a chef. And yet--

Sabi Atteyih:
Vicarious learning, Shelley. My family moved here from Damascus, Syria back in the early '80s. My mother started the first restaurant in the Madison area to offer Middle Eastern Mediterranean cooking in '84. Fifteen years later I decided to branch out into the downtown area to offer a wider spectrum of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. Here, we are showing you how to make a dish called Mahashi which literally means "stuffed items" or a pot of "stuffed things." Whether they're rolled, or cored and stuffed. (get recipe)

Ryan:
Sounds wonderful.

Atteyih:
Some of this stuff came from my mother's garden, particularly this variety of zucchini. We've used an Italian-style zucchini and the grape leaves. Grape leaves are traditionally grown in the wild. The imported kind, you can find in jars at a grocery store.

Ryan:
What are we going to do first, then?

Atteyih:
We're going to take the cap off and core it. You can use a traditional corer, or an apple or grapefruit corer will do the same thing. And it's mainly just taking out all the seeds gently of course, without breaking it and making room for the stuffing which comes in the form of rice--

Ryan:
That looks good.

Atteyih:
--tomatoes, turmeric, a little bit of olive oil, and black pepper. The same stuffing goes in all the things we're about to stuff today.

Ryan:
So the flavor changes from what it's stuffed in?

Atteyih:
Exactly. And in the case of the grape leaves they add the tannic acid and make it a little tart.

Ryan:
Grab one of the eggplants. Do you stuff it all the way from the top to the bottom?

Atteyih:
Yes in this particular one I cut both sides to make room for the stuffing. I use the ends of the actual product. The fruit or vegetable ends plug the side that was opened up.

Ryan:
Okay, okay. And then what with the grape leaves?

Atteyih:
The grape leaves we blanch the leaves in hot water for two minutes.

Ryan:
I assume we are picking these where there are no chemicals being sprayed so they're safe to eat.

Atteyih:
Yes, indeed.

Ryan:
So I just put them into hot water for two minutes.

Atteyih:
For about two minutes or until they turn slightly darker green.

Ryan:
So, while these are blanching you've got some that are finished so that we can move right along to that.

Atteyih:
Yes, I do, they're right here.

Ryan:
Why don't you grab some grape leaves and show me. There's an art to doing this, isn't there?

Atteyih:
This is an art. It requires a lot of patience because you're going to have to try and try again until you succeed. Just the right amount of tension is needed so you're not stuffing it too tight so they explode or too loose that they won't hold their shape as you eat them. And notice I made a pouch.

Ryan:
Mm-hmm.

Atteyih:
And I'm also making a small cigar which, hopefully, you won't have to smoke today.

Ryan:
I'd rather eat it!

Atteyih:
We'll cook and eat it. They're stacked here until they're ready to be layered with other vegetables in the pot.

Ryan:
Okay, why don't you bring the pot in and tell me what's happening.

Atteyih:
Here, in the pot, I have layered the lamb. I cut up some lamb rack on the bottom. And the lamb plays the role of protecting the grape leaves from getting burned. Then, the grape leaves go on top layered nice and snug.

Ryan:
So you don't want the grape leaves to touch the bottom of the pan at all?

Atteyih:
They'll scorch on this. On top is the larger items, such as zucchini and squash. And that will form the Mahashi pot. After that, I add the tomatoes. And the tomato sauce is somewhat liquidy. So, it's a wet tomato sauce. It has tomato sauce and black pepper.

Ryan:
It's just crushed tomatoes and black pepper?

Atteyih:
And a little bit of salt.

Ryan:
It smells wonderful.

Atteyih:
And you add that on, and garlic and fresh mint, as I'm using here today. To prevent this from moving around the pot we put a plate on top, an inverted plate on top and we cover it and cook at medium heat for about two hours.

Ryan:
And we've got one here that's been simmering and smelling just wonderful. Oh, Sabi, this just smells fantastic.

Atteyih:
This is what it looks like when you invert it. This is the traditional way of serving it. Remember, the things that were on the bottom are on top. If you show me a plate--

Ryan:
I'll show you a plate!

Atteyih:
I'll show you how this is served up. I'm going to serve an assortment of things. This is one of the larger grape leaves that we have. Notice how they vary in size depending on the size of the grape leave itself. And here's a baby eggplant.

Ryan:
That's beautiful.

Atteyih:
How about some meat?

Ryan:
Oh, yes, Please!

Atteyih:
And this is about to fall off the bone.

Ryan:
Look at that! That looks fantastic! I can't wait to try it. Thank you so much.

Atteyih:
You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

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