By Susan Able with photographs by Barbara Adbeni Massaad, courtesy Interlink Publishing Group.
It was the winter and Barbara Abdeni Massaad couldn’t stop thinking about the Syrian refugee families she had read about who were sleeping in tents.
The president of Slow Foods Beirut, who is also a well-know cookbook author, writer and photographer, visited a refugee camp in Zahle, Lebanon, and saw the struggles first hand. Massaad knew that good food could make an impact in the lives of the refugees. With a friend, she started making soup for the Hamra refugees. She took pictures and interviewed the refugees about their experience and the idea for a humanitarian cookbook was born. The Soup for Syria project began.
Just released in October, Soup for Syria is a gorgeously photographed book with 80 soup recipes contributed by famous writers and chefs such as Mark Bittman, Anthony Bourdain, Alice Waters and Paula Wolfert. Other recipes were contributed by Massaad’s friends and supporters of the project. In a contributor’s statement Bourdain said that “soup is elemental, and it always makes sense, even when the world around us fails to.”
100% of the U.S. sales of Soup for Syria will go to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide food relief.
In a CNN interview, Massaad said, “I would always tell the refugees, ‘Had I been a barber, I would have cut your hair for free. I am not a barber, but a photographer and food writer, so I will take photos and write about food to help your cause and send a message to the world.’”
She added, “Each kind gesture towards another in need is a step forward for humanity. Use what you know best to help others.”
Spicy Clam Soup with Basturma
By Garrett Melkonian /Serves 4-6
3-4 tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-4 tablespoons red pepper paste
Cilantro, a small bunch finely chopped, plus additional for garnish
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds manila clams, rinsed of sand and drained
3 cups chicken stock
3 1/2 ounces basturma (Turkish air-dried beef, or substitute pastrami), diced**
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grilled or toasted bread to serve with soup
In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, garlic, pepper paste, cilatnro, cayenne, cumin, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula, don't use a whisk.
Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add the tomato mixture, and cook until the mixture becomes fragrant that tomatoes begin to break down about 1-2 minutes.
Add the clams, stock and bastruma and bring to boil oer high heat. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook, shaking the pot occasionally just until all of the clams have opened, Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to serve in bowls, leaving the broth in the pot. Add the butter to the broth and check for seasoning. The basturma and the calms carry a good deal of salinity, and the soup may not need salt. Ladle the broth over the clams, garnish each bowl with cilantro leaves and serve with thick slice of grilled bread.
**Many of our area markets with Middle Eastern products carry basturma including Mediterranean Gourmet Market in Alexandria, (703) 971-7799.
Soup for SyriaEdited and photographed by Barbara Abdeni Massaad. Interlink Books, 2015. 208 pages.