Hailing from the bustling Egyptian coastal town of Port Said, a short boat ride from Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and beyond, Suzy Karadsheh is a girl from the Mediterranean.
Karadsheh’s trip took her to the Atlanta area, where she oversees The Mediterranean dish, a popular food blog that receives millions of monthly visits.
“Growing up in the Mediterranean, associated with my parents’ love for hospitality, instilled in me a passion for cooking and sharing. I grew up visiting local markets with my dad, where I spent a lot of time walking the busy narrow streets talking to merchants and smelling, touching and learning what was in season and the best fish to buy ” , says Karadsheh.
Karadsheh brought her love of Mediterranean cuisine with her when she moved to the United States at the age of 17. After completing her education, she embarked on a career in corporate marketing and fundraising that took her across the world.
“The food I cook today has a lot of influence from the Mediterranean cuisines I’ve spent time in, but also my own travels and experiences as a busy home cook,” says Karadsheh. “The food I cook has great, bold flavors with simple, healthy ingredients. Some of my favorite foods are still the Middle Eastern street foods from my childhood, like falafel, pita, and shawarma. “
It all came full circle after the birth of Karadsheh’s daughters and in late 2014 she launched The Mediterranean Dish to showcase modern Mediterranean recipes and eating habits, but don’t call it a diet, says Karadsheh.
“Personally, I prefer to call it ‘the Mediterranean way of eating’ because the word ‘diet’ comes with certain expectations and a list of dos and don’ts. We’re not talking about a diet that forces you to follow a rigid set of rules, count calories, and deprive your body of certain food groups and much-needed nutrition, ”says Karadsheh. “The Mediterranean diet is a well-balanced diet that focuses on healthy ingredients.”
Karadsheh, 43, lives in the Atlanta area with her husband and two daughters. She recently spoke with Penta about her favorite things.
My favorite dishes to cook and drink right now are … I’ve been cooking more vegetarian options lately. I make quick breakfasts like shakshuka, menemen, or I make a Mediterranean platter of favorite dishes like falafel, hummus (or avocado hummus for a fun twist), tabouli, baked feta cheese. oven … my fridge for vegetables, dips and small bites to serve with hot pita bread.
The only thing in my kitchen or my fridge that I can’t live on is … my cast iron pan. This gives me the best results for searing meat, chicken and fish and cooks evenly. This is not a high maintenance item and mine is very durable, I have had it for 15 years.
My favorite restaurant in the world is …
El Borg, on the shores of the Mediterranean in my hometown of Port Said, Egypt. It was a casual local restaurant that my family frequented, and at the time it was located a few feet from the shore (it has since moved). I clearly remember there was a section at the back of the kitchen where the cooks kept crates on tubs of freshly caught fish and seafood. We chose the fish we wanted to eat, and we also chose the preparation method – grilled, fried, breaded, in a tagine in sauce … whatever we wanted, they made it to order and l ‘came out piping hot, accompanied by a number of fresh salads and tahini lime sauce.
The best book I read last year is … I didn’t give a damn about Ruth Reichel’s books. The last one I read was Tender to the bone: grow at the table. She’s just an amazing writer and vividly describes food and its stories.
The only trip I have done and would like to do again … I would love to come back to the trip we did in Turkey and Greece. I loved how both cultures really revolved around family and food, and I was especially excited about mum and pop stores that have a way of surprising you with such humble and tasty meals. I would also love to go back to Upper Egypt (Luxor) on the Nile. I made this trip as a child. He really focused on ancient Egypt and its rich history, but now I would like to go back and spend more time with the lovely people of Upper Egypt.
What wakes me up in the morning is … coffee for sure! But, I really wake up every morning happy to have a job where I am able to create. Whether it’s a new recipe, working on my next cookbook, or filming a video, I live to create resources that will be of use to other people.
My favorite pandemic-era frenzied watch was … I watched that of Samin Nosrat
Salt fatty acid heat on Netflix probably a dozen times. I loved it and was mesmerized by her, and it was so refreshing to see her approach to food and the different destinations she was visiting. Some parts were very relevant to my work, like his trip to Italy. She made this focaccia, the whole process and all the [extra virgin olive oil] it’s crazy but so good!
The most unusual food I tried was … the strangest thing I can remember eating is Kebda Iskandarani, or Alexandrian liver sandwiches. These are sautéed liver sandwiches prepared in Alexandria with a tangy marinade and shatta (hot peppers) and finished with tahini sauce. They are served as pita or soft rolls. I’m not a liver girl, but Alexandrian Liver Sandwiches are a unique and hyper local experience that the majority of Egyptians know and enjoy.
The chef I admire the most is …
Samin Nosrat! We all know her, but she’s probably the best cooking teacher you’ll come across if you’re trying to learn techniques and learn to cook without a recipe. I love her unpretentious approach and she is super authentic and refreshing.
At my fantastic dinner, the guests would include… Samin Nosrat, Yotam Ottolenghi and Michelle Obama.
My idea of a perfect meal is … mezze! Lots of different little dishes that are vibrant and full of color. Ideally, there are about ten people around the table to come together and share.
One person who inspired me to do what I do is … my father, although he is no longer with us. My initial love for food came from him, he took me on trips to the souk and we selected the best produce, and he taught me how to know if the fish is fresh. He would take such joy to see me choose the product and ask his opinion. He got me excited about the ingredients.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.