Turning Tables w/ Laila El-Haddad

Watch Episode 3: Laila El-Haddad showcasing traditional Gaza-specialty dishes!


LailaAbout Our Chef

Laila El-Haddad is a Palestinian-American journalist and writer from Gaza City.  Born and raised in the Arabian Gulf, she made frequent trips to her native Gaza throughout her childhood, and moved back for several years where she began her career in journalism, before ultimately settling in the United States.  She is the author of the  memoir Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting and Everything in Between, co-author of the trailblazing documentary cookbook The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey and contributor to Craving Palestine and The Immigrant Cookbook. She frequently speaks about the intersection of identity, food and politics. Through her work as a writer, storyteller, culinary ethnographer, and public speaker, she provides much-needed insight into the human experience of the region.  In 2014, she was featured on CNN with Anthony Bourdain as his guide in the Gaza Strip.   Laila has given talks and interactive classes in universities, museums, and centers around the world and has been published in multiple media outlets. A graduate of Duke and Harvard, she makes her home near Baltimore, Maryland with her husband Yassine Daoud and their four children.

⁣Zibdiyit Fat Mallahi:

  • 1 small round of day-old Arabic bread, toasted
  • ½ t salt
  • 3 hot green chili peppers, to taste
  • 1 c fresh basil, cut into strips 
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 Middle Eastern cucumbers or half a hothouse cucumber, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ¼ c tahini whisked well with 1 t dark sesame oil
  • Juice of 2 medium lemons
  • A few radishes, pitted green olives and pickled peppers

Break apart the toasted bread. Chop chili peppers, removing some of the membranes and seeds. In a mortar and pestle, pound the peppers along with the salt until soft. Add the basil and muddle to extract flavor. Add the green onions and crush well, followed by the cucumbers. Finally, stir in the tomatoes and mash up. Mix the entire salad to incorporate all ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the tahini with the lemon juice until emulsified. Right before serving, mix the tahini sauce and bread pieces into the salad. Transfer to a serving dish and flatten the top. Drizzle the surface generously with a good quality olive oil. Garnish with pitted green olives, pickled peppers, and radish slices.

Zibdiyit Gambari (Shrimp Clay Pot Stew):

  • 2 lbs small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2  hot green chilis (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp (about 26 grams) chopped fresh dill
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 tomatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled and diced, or one 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes 
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¾ tsp ground cardamom 
  • ½ tsp allspice 
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1½ tsp salt, divided
  • ¼ cup (17 grams) pignolias or slivered almonds 
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. If shrimp was frozen, thaw and rinse under cold water then strain.  Otherwise, rinse and strain.  Cook shrimp in a dry pan over a high flame very briefly.  They will release some liquid: pour this off and return to heat until pan is dry again.  Shrimp should be just barely pink.  Set aside.
  3. Coarsely chop the green chili, and crush it with ½ tsp salt.   Set aside. Rub sliced garlic and dill together by hand, mixing well. 
  4. In the same pan in which you cooked the shrimp, sauté onions in olive oil on medium heat. When onions are transparent, add tomato paste and stir well for a minute or two, until the tomato paste has darkened slightly
  5. Mix in tomatoes, spices, crushed chilis, about a cup of water and the dill and garlic mixture. Stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat, and then stir in shrimp. 
  6. Meanwhile, fry the nuts until golden in 1 Tbsp olive oil, stirring continuously to avoid burning and set aside. 
  7. Pour the shrimp mixture from the pan into the zibdiya, or clay mortar. (An ovenproof earthenware dish or casuelas will also do.) Cover with sesame seeds, nuts and parsley.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes covered with aluminium foil, then remove the foil and broil another few minutes until the top is crusty. Serve with thick kmaj bread.