In Season: An olive branch

To mark the end of olive-picking season, celebrity chef Hussam Abbas offers his choicest olive recipes.

Manaish 521 (photo credit: Daniel Laila)
Manaish 521
(photo credit: Daniel Laila)
Chef Hussam Abbas, founder and owner of the El Babour restaurants, was the first to present Palestinian- Arab cuisine to local foodies. Introducing special dishes, way above the usual grilled mix with humous and tehina, El Babour offered seasonal cooked dishes known only to those fortunate enough to be invited to eat at the homes of wealthy Arabs. To mark the olive picking and olive-oil producing season, Abbas has added new dishes to his very rich menu, including many dishes such as Mushan (see below), Ras El Asfour, lamb in olive oil and felafel stuffed with olives. The restaurants also have fresh olive oil for sale. Try the following recipes from El Babour for a taste of his cuisine.
Makes a 112⁄ liter jar ✔ 1 kg. green Syrian olives (Suri) ✔ 2 cups water ✔ 2 tsp. kosher salt ✔ 2 lemons, cubed ✔ 2 green chili peppers, sliced ✔ 2 cups olive oil
Wash olives and, using a stone or a hammer, make a small crack in each one. Soak olives in water at room temperature for three days. You may change water every day to get rid of the bitterness. Remove olives from water and place in a clean jar. Add salt, lemons and peppers. Cover with olive oil and seal. The olives will be ready in two weeks. To prolong the life of the olives, double the amount of salt.
Makes 6 servings
✔ 3 pitot ✔ 1⁄2 cup olive oil ✔ 6 Tbsp. good za’atar
Cut open the pitot and place the discs in a baking dish. Brush pitot with plenty of olive oil. Sprinkle za’atar over the pita rounds. Place in a 250ºC oven for 5 minutes. Serve with labaneh or salads.

Makes 4-6 servings
✔ 4 chicken thighs (about 11⁄2 kg.) ✔ 500 gr. minced lamb ✔ 1 cups olive oil ✔ 1⁄2 cup pine nuts (or chopped almonds) ✔ 1 kg. onion, chopped ✔ 1 tsp. black pepper ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. ground cardamom ✔ 1 tsp. salt ✔ 1 tsp. ground nutmeg ✔ 2 large pita ✔ 4 Tbsp. sumac
Fry pine nuts in 1 cup of the oil until golden. Remove from the oil. Pine nuts burn easily, so watch them and remove as soon as they get a bit of color. Fry onion in the same oil until golden and remove from pan using a corrugated spoon.
Cut chicken thighs in two; season with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 180ºC. In a deep pan, heat the rest of the oil and fry the chicken until browned. Add cardamom and nutmeg and place on a plate.Add meat in the same pan and brown well. Add pine nuts, mix and remove from heat.
Place the pita in a baking dish. Spread half of the fried onion on each pita. Spread the meat over the onions and divide chicken parts evenly between the two pitas. Sprinkle sumak over the meat and bake 15 minutes in the oven or until chicken is golden and ready.
Recipes courtesy of El Babour restaurants (not kosher).
El Babour, Umm el-Fahm (04) 611-4141 El Babour, Yokne’am (04) 989-1619 El Babour Express, Mizra (04) 642-9214