AS: Can you tell us a little about your background and your culinary journey?
SM: I was born in Israel and grew up in the Moroccan community in Montreal, Canada. My grandparents are from Morocco and Libya. My mother was forever doting on us with her “bishulim,” her cooking. When I married, I thought I’d naturally fall into that role, but it took time for me to learn the principles and methods of cooking. I developed a passion for photography and cooking and started sharing recipes on a blog.
AS: Over 16,000 people turn to you for recipes. What’s the secret of your amazing popularity?
SM: There is no secret. I think that when people are passionate about what they do, they’ll attract people who want to share in that passion. I love our community and how we share a love of cooking. Practically speaking, people want dinner ideas, because we all need to eat.
AS: What is your process for developing a recipe? Can you share with us how you developed a specific recipe in the book?
SM: Sometimes it’s reviving an old family favorite that needs accurate measurements. Sometimes it’s coming up with a whole new concept. Once you understand cooking methods, flavor pairings, and seasonings, then you can get creative and develop new dishes. For example, I love a good Tunisian sandwich (it’s in the book), but I wanted a fish recipe with those flavors that’s more elevated, so I developed the Harissa Fish that has olives, thinly sliced lemons, garlic, and cumin. I also aim to make prep simple and efficient.
AS: So many people today want to bring the food they serve up to a higher, more creative level, yet are afraid they won’t have the time. How can aspiring cooks deal with that?
SM: Creativity does not need to be complicated or time consuming. It can be as simple as pairing flavors that are unexpected yet delightful. Think of adding a gremolata to a roast to cut through the richness and lend a bright acidity. Even adding pomegranate seeds would add a fruity tang. Or blending spices to create your own spice blends — that’s the fastest way to flavor. I believe the simple things are best.