Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: The Art of Syrian Cookery

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, March 3, 2016

Arabic cooking is like Arabic dancing—vivid, exotic, enchanting. Seasoned with herbs and spices, moistened with olive oil and butter, rolled in cabbage and grape leaves, food no longer merely abates hunger but becomes a picture of fragrance and charm to satisfy sight, smell, and taste.

Lots of eggplant, sweets, and mahleb. This is a very good cookbook.

AuthorHelen Corey
Year1962
Length186 pages
Book Rating6

This 1962 book is subtitled “A Culinary Trip to the Land of Bible History—Syria and Lebanon”. The author, Helen Corey, is a member of the Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Church in the United States. The cookbook contains a letter of recommendation from then-Archbishop Antony Bashir of Brooklyn. The recipes are from Corey’s mother, who came from Syria and ended up in Ohio. As such, they are relatively easy to find ingredients for.

There are a lot of good recipes for eggplant in here, and that’s initially the reason I bought it. It’s hard to have enough eggplant options. Some of them are easy to make. The first recipe I made from this book was an eggplant stew with just eggplant, onion, tomato, and chicken. The recipe calls for lamb, but even with the chicken substitution it was very good. I also used the crockpot to start this recipe before going to Mass—it was a great crockpot recipe.

There are a lot of lamb recipes here, and a lot of yogurt recipes. One of my bookmarked recipes is an interesting batinjan infasakh eggplant with yogurt recipe that is basically just eggplant, olive oil, yogurt, and garlic. The khyar mi laban that I’ve reproduced here is another one I’m looking forward to.

The hardest ingredient for me to find has been crushed black cherry pit, or mahleb. You may find it spelled in various ways, such as mahlab, which is how I found it at the local Indo-Pack “Supermarket”. It seems a bit rare—I had to ask about it; the clerk initially didn’t think they had any (or even know what it was) but he found it in both powdered and seed form behind the counter.1

If you don’t find it right away, keep looking. It turns the Ka’ick into an amazing and unique bread. Note that I think there’s a typo in the recipe, however, as when I first made it it was mostly mush. It calls for one quart of milk; I suspect that it really needs one cup of milk.2 There’s a black-and-white photo of what the bread is supposed to look like, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible for that recipe to produce that bread. But once fixed, this is an amazing sandwich bread as well as flat bread.

The photographs are all black-and-white, and more interesting than useful. It’s difficult to use black-and-white photos to help guide the cooking process. Otherwise, the production quality is nice, and there’s a very quaint map of the “Lands of the Eastern Mediterranean” on the inside front and back cover.

There are also a lot of sweets that sound interesting, such as sesame pastry, syruped eggplant, candied figs, and watermelon preserves. I’m looking forward to making some simple gribee butter cookies and some roz eb haleeb rice custard.

Overall, if you happen to see The Art of Syrian Cookery, I’d recommend taking a look at it. This is a very nice cookbook from a unique time in the history of the region.

Cucumber-Yogurt Salad

  • 1 large cucumber,
  • 1 clove garlic,
  • ½ teaspoon salt,
  • 1 quart yogurt,
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint.
  1. Peel and dice cucumber.
  2. Mash garlic with salt and add to yogurt.
  3. Add diced cucumber.
  4. Garnish with dried mint.
  1. I chose the seed form, because in theory the flavor should last longer.

  2. I’ve been working on a bread machine version, which I’ll make available here when it’s ready. The first attempt, made directly from the recipe, was far too dense! One of the disadvantages of using a bread-maker is that it’s easier to recognize a recipe’s typo when you’re kneading the dough by hand.

The Art of Syrian Cookery

Helen Corey

My cost: $2.50

Recommendation: Recommended

If you enjoyed The Art of Syrian Cookery…

If you enjoy Middle-Eastern, you might also be interested in Eggplant hummus, Persian eggplant stew, Persian-style tofu and rice, Rose-water kodafa with pistachio, Lebanese Cuisine, and In a Persian Kitchen.