Ever since it opened on Atlantic Avenue in 1948, the Middle Eastern grocery store Sahadi’s has been a New York institution. Stepping into the cheery, aromatic space provides an instant escape from the surrounding Brooklyn streets and the shelves full of imported fine foods can be hard to find in other places. Now, a new cookbook being released next month aims to help everyone bring a bit of that warm spirit into their own homes.
Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients will be released by Chronicle Books on September 7. Written by Christine Sahadi Whelan, the stunning cookbook takes readers on a journey through the many versatile flavorings and ingredients found throughout the Middle East—from sumac and Urfa pepper to preserved lemons and pomegranate. The book is broken down into five different flavor profiles often found in the region’s cuisine: Bright, Savory, Spiced, Nutty and Sweet. Recipes throughout include some of the local store’s most requested dishes and some of the Sahadi family’s favorite meals.
Before the cookbook’s release, Christine Sahadi Whelan shared a special recipe from the book she says she and her family especially love: Harissa Mac and Cheese. “While my children were growing up, they loved Mac and Cheese like most kids do,” Sahadi Whelan tells Time Out. “They also loved spicy food, so over the years I played around with it, adding harissa to my version to spice it up. It turned out to be a recipe we all loved. The harissa cuts a little of the richness of the cheese sauce and gives it an extra zing of flavor!”
Check out the recipe below and take it home in print, along with many other inspired dishes, on September 7.
Harissa Mac and Cheese
SERVES 6 TO 8
• ½ cup [110 g] plus 2 Tbsp (1¼ sticks total) unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup [15 g] panko bread crumbs
• 6 cups [1.4 L] whole milk
• 1/2 cup [70 g] unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 lb [455 g] radiatore pasta
• 2 Tbsp harissa spices or 1/4 cup [60 ml] liquid harissa
• 2 tsp fine sea salt
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 egg yolk
• 4 cups [320 g] grated sharp cheese such as Cheddar or asiago, or a combination
Preheat the oven to 375°F [190°C]. Butter a 9 by 13 in [23 by 33 cm] casserole dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a high-sided skillet, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the panko and toast over medium heat, flipping and shaking the pan frequently, until it just starts to brown.
Transfer the crumbs to a plate to cool, and wipe out the skillet.
Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until almost simmering; do not let it boil. In a separate skillet, melt the remaining ½ cup [110 g] of butter over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour all at once and cook for 1 minute, stirring to break up any lumps. Whisk in the hot milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Continue whisking until the mixture bubbles and thickens, 8 to 12 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook just to al dente, about a minute less than what the package directs. Don’t overcook, as the pasta will cook further in the oven. Drain and set aside.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the harissa, salt, and pepper. Place the egg yolk in a small bowl and whisk in 1 Tbsp of the milk mixture to temper it, then stir it into the skillet.
Combine thoroughly, then stir in the cheese.
Add the pasta to the cheese mixture and combine very well. Spread in the prepared baking dish and top with the toasted bread crumbs. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Excerpted with permission from Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients (Chronicle Books, 2021) by Christine Sahadi Whelan. Copyright text © 2021 by Christine Sahadi Whelan. Copyright photographs © 2021 by Kristin Teig.