The state of Palestine is not recognized world wide, but is found in the middle east bordering Israel and Jordan. Over time the size of this region has shrunk to a fraction of what it once due to results of wars, some conflicts are still ongoing. Palestine is known for several of the holiest sights and has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It is also home to the world’s oldest olive tree believed to be 4,000 years old.
Palestine is full of beloved traditional foods that spans maqlouba and knafeh to better known middle eastern delights like falafel and hummus. The cuisine can differ based on climate and region. The West Bank is known for taboon bread, lentils, and seafood; Gaza has more variable spices and enjoy chili peppers. For something sweet Palestinians turn to pastries filled with nuts, cheeses, or dates.
Today’s dish musakhan also known as muhammam is a Palestinian classic. Musakhan translates to “heated up” in Arabic and is accurately named because all the ingredients are heated up separately. This national dish is one of few ingredients yet still brings a burst of flavor and it has a standout flavor- sumac! I had never tried it before and was glad to check a new flavor off the list. It is said the darker the sumac the higher the quality. All of these ingredients are commonly found in the Palestine kitchen. It can be served with yogurt or soup, but often is eaten alone.
Oh my goodness, my poor eyes! Cutting all those onions made me run to the tissues! Unfortunately my local grocery store was out of pine nuts, but I could secure the rest of the ingredients. The taboon bread was substituted with flatbread which is pretty similar. Once I added the sumac to the onions this wonderful lemon aroma filled the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised!
This dish went two ways for us- I loved the vibrant, citrus notes of sumac with the sweet onions. The seasoning was warming and the flatbread was a nice vessel for the combination. If you’ve never tried sumac before you will like it if you enjoy lemon or citrus flavors, however Ian thought it was too much of a good thing. He felt the sumac was too strong and the dish was too different. I feel with some other vegetables added to the mix and slightly less sumac we could bump the rating higher. Maybe the pine nuts would have made a difference! Averaging it out we rated this one 7/10.
Let us know if you try it out or if you are a sumac lover too!
- 1 chicken cut into 4-6 pieces or 4-6 chicken thighs bone-in
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 8-10 onions sliced thinly
- 2 medium sized taboon bread or flatbread
- 1/3 cup sumac + 1 tbsp the darker the color the better
- 1 tbsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- pine nuts to garnish (optional)
- First prepare the chicken. Preheat the oven to 375 and place chicken in a lined baking dish. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and rub the chicken evenly with the seasonings (except the sumac). Place in the oven and allow to cook 40-50 minutes or until fully cooked. I typically turn the pan half way through since my oven isn't convection.
- In a large pot heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and allow to sauté for 30-40 minutes until softened, but not browned. By adding a little salt to begin with it will help with browning. Once onions are done you can add the sumac saving the last tbsp for garnish.
- To assemble add the chicken to the oil/onion mixture allowing it to pick up the flavors, lay the onions evenly on the flat bread then top with the chicken. Evenly distribute the last tbsp of sumac over the dish and garnish with pine nuts if using. Optionally you can place the flat bread into the oven at 350 with the toppings and allow to crispen for 10 minutes or so. Enjoy!