Istekbal, Girls night in/ Black olive tapenade and Baba Ghanouj recipes

Have you ever heard of forced party?. As I get more and more busy with my business and daughter’s activities, I lament the days gone by when my mom had her Istekbal.  Growing up in Syria, I used to tease my mom about her Istekbal. She use to tell me that was a way for her and her friends  to force themselves to have at least couple hours a week to get together, visit, eat, laugh and relax.

Istekbal, is a tradition that started about 200 years ago in Damascus when men and women did not socialize together. My mother and her women friends liked the freedom of not having men in this special meeting.  They  enforced the” No Male Zone “even though they mixed and socialized as couples on other occasions.

Each woman would have a designated day in the month to have her friends and relatives visit her.  For my mom it was the first Monday of each month.  She would chase my dad to the coffee shop, and order my brothers to go to there room or visit friends.

The hostess of the day would have wide variety of savory appetizers, sweets and tabbouli salad.   The guests were served apricot juice with rose water and pine nuts, hot black tea, and Turkish coffee. The visit could last 3 hours.  The ladies would dance, sings,  comfort each other and of course gossip. Talk about total therapy.

Here is couple appetizers that my mom served in her Istekbal. These dips are easy to make, colorful and would be a welcome change at any party


Kalamata olive tapenade

serves 4

2        cups pitted kalamata olives

1/2    cup walnuts

1         chopped scallions

1         jalapeño, remove the seed and chop finely

1/4     cup lemon juice

4         olive oil

2         tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

zest of one lemon

-Place the olives with the walnuts in a food processor and chop.  Spoon into a bowl.

-Add the rest of the ingredient and mix well.

Baba Ghanouj

serves 4

2       1 pound eggplant

1/2   cup chopped parsely

1/2   cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2   cup chopped sweet onion

1       clove garlic, mashed

4       tablespoon lemon juice

4       tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

-Pierce the eggplant in couple spots and grill or broil until charred.  Allow the eggplant to cool and then peel the charred skin.  Mash the pulp of the eggplant into soft paste.  Place in fine colander for couple hours to drain the liquid.

-Spoon the eggplant pulp into bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well and chill for couple hours before serving.



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