Learn how the celebrated cook and activist keeps fresh herbs fresh and her favorite ways to use them.
portrait of chef reem assil
Credit: Courtesy of Reem Assil / Lara Aburamadan

For Palestinian-Syrian chef Reem Assil, having fresh herbs, both in the refrigerator and at room temperature, is absolutely essential. With just a sprig of this or a few leaves of that, you can level up any dish, from mezze to main dishes she says. In her new book Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora, Assil shares some of her favorite recipes and a list of essential ingredients for Arab cooking. These include canned tomatoes, tahini, shatta (fermented red chile paste), and (of course) herbs.

As far as herb-saving tips go, Assil says her best ones come from her grandmother: To make herbs last longer, she wraps them in moist paper towels and stores them in the crisper drawer of her refrigerator. "If they start to wilt, I put them in freezer bags and freeze them for later use––especially when I need to blend up herbs in a smoothie or a sauce like green hot sauce," she says.

arabiyya book cover
Credit: Courtesy of Reem Assil

In her pantry, Assil always has what she calls the "royal trifecta" of herbs on hand: parsley, mint, and cilantro. "These work together perfectly in so many Arab dishes," she notes. "I roughly chop them and garnish all my dip dishes with any combo of them. I pick them whole and toss them in light salads like my fattoush or more hearty salads with a variety of grains." She added that these same herbs are the base of her falafel and green hot sauce recipes, and they're great at lightening up pretty much any hearty rice or meat dish.

Assil explains that her book Arabiyya is an homage to Arab hospitality. "No matter where we are, through our food Arabs find a way to create a sense of home," she says. "I wrote this book as an invitation to the world to experience the joy Arab food has brought me and to be inspired by my vision of a more just and equitable world." She hopes to use her platform to share her personal story as an Arab in diaspora in the hopes that it helps a larger audience understand a culture and a region of the world that is often misunderstood.


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