The hospitality and cuisine of the Druze community have been known for more than a thousand years in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The modern states of Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan have the largest Druze populations today, but you can also find Druze people in many other countries.
In New York City, Israeli Druze chef Gazala Halabi owns two acclaimed Druze restaurants, one in Hell's Kitchen and a second on the Upper West Side. That's it, though: If you want authentic Druze cuisine outside Manhattan, you're on your own.
Ronit has a special nostalgia for Druze cookery. While growing up in Israel, she loved to stop by Druze villages for a favorite treat: crepe-thin Druze pitas, made of dough thats stretched and spun before being tossed onto a convex outdoor griddle where it bubbles as it bakes.
Traditionally served with homemade labneh cheese (made from yogurt), drizzled with olive oil and Zahtar (traditional sesame-sumac blend of the Middle East), it is delicious to eat freshly made, Ronit recalls. You can watch a short video of a Druze woman forming and baking these pitas at youtu.be/LwNOWhIxp4k.
Ronit also has warm memories of Druze meat stuffing, made with freshly-pressed olive oil and rice mixtures colorful with spices and nuts.
A traditional rice dish will be made with sauted onion, basmati rice, either garbanzo beans or nuts such as pine nuts and almonds and spices to bring out a nice color, she explains.
Turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and paprika are among the spices a Druze cook might add to her stuffing, adding cilantro for decoration, Ronit continues.
All of the ingredients are combined and used for stuffing meat or cabbage, she says. At holidays and other celebrations, lamb is the meat of choice.
You can use beef or lamb in this recipe. It calls for our Druze Nuts & Spice Mixture, a blend of pistachios, pine nuts, onion, sumac, cardamom, black pepper, coriander, salt, almonds and cumin.
Get the recipe: Druze Stuffed Zucchini