James Beard-Nominated Author Reem Kassis on Her Favorite Philly Takeout and Her Next Cookbook
The author of The Palestinian Table shares the things and places she loves the most.
Lauded author Reem Kassis left her hometown of Jerusalem at 17 to attend Penn. After more degrees, a stint in London, and a James Beard-nominated cookbook, The Palestinian Table, she’s settled in the Philly area for good. Here, the things she loves most about her adopted city.
Items I wear every day: I spend as much of the year as possible in dresses. The rest of the time, I’m in gym clothes.
Recent purchase: A tea mug with a stainless steel strainer. I drink loose-leaf black tea with dried sage and sugar throughout the day — it’s the closest thing to what we have at home.
Prized possession: A necklace with a diamond evil-eye pendant that my parents gifted me when I graduated. It’s believed to protect you from other people’s jealousy or bad wishes.
What I collect: Books! And pots, pans and plates. It’s an eclectic mix.
Current project: I’m finishing up the manuscript for my second cookbook, on the evolving food of the Middle East. It’s out in spring 2021.
Currently binge-watching: Cable Girls, a Spanish show, and Crash Landing on You, a Korean show — both on Netflix. I wouldn’t call it high-quality TV, but it’s wonderful to turn off my mind for a bit.
My quarantine ritual: Every night, my husband, our two daughters and I sit in bed and watch the Great British Baking Show.
Beauty essentials: On a day-to-day basis, kohl and Charlotte Tilbury mascara. My favorite pencils are Chanel and Lancôme. In the morning, I put on SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum.
Workout: I used to swim at the Rittenhouse Hotel gym. Now, I do Yoga with Adriene on YouTube daily. I also run in Ashbridge Park in Bryn Mawr.
On my desk: A stack of translated reproductions of 10th- and 13th-century Arabic cookbooks and several academic books on Middle Eastern cooking that I’ve been using for researching my upcoming cookbook.
Out and About
First post-quarantine beauty service: An appointment with my wonderful stylist Pawel at Architeqt Salon & Gallery. It took a while to find someone who could manage my hair.
Best takeout: Kalaya was my favorite meal during the quarantine. But my daughters have become wonderful helpers and my husband a decent enough baker — maybe from watching those GBBS episodes? — so we’ve mostly been cooking at home.
Food market: The Italian Market, because I can get koosa, a hard-to-find squash, there.
Summer trip: Jerusalem, to do the photo shoot for my book and to spend time with family and friends. Life is inching back to normal here, so it’s been a nice change for my girls.
Published as “Turning a Page” in the August 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.