Yes, it’s freezing in New York, which means you’re probably not looking to leave the house anyway, let alone make the trek to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. But some things are worth the potential frostbite -- especially when what awaits you at the end of the R train tunnel is the most beloved dessert from the Middle East, which happens to be the love child of a deep-dish pizza and a mozzarella stick.
Bay Ridge’s Tanoreen is a haven of Middle Eastern comfort food -- homemade baba ghanouge, fattoush, falafel, to name just a few. If you’re craving something specific, whether it’s a twist on a preexisting dish, a substitution, or even a completely different food entirely, you can get that, too; chef and owner Rawia Bishara has been known to personally go out and buy the ingredients to make off-menu items (providing you call several hours in advance). Regardless of how you approach the menu, it’s essential to save room for the grand finale: a slice of Bishara’s famous, homemade knafeh.
While various incarnations of the dish exist, knafeh is believed to have originated in Palestine. Bishara uses an original family recipe she learned from her mother, and you can taste the old-school approach in the creamy, aromatic end result. The dish begins with ghee -- ultra-rich, clarified butter -- which is mixed into shredded fillo dough and pressed into a round baking tin. Bishara then adds more ghee and natural red dye for a bright pop of color, followed by a mix of two cheeses -- traditional, unsalted cheese curd and her homemade cream cheese, for a softer texture and more robust flavor. Then it’s another layer of shredded fillo dough, and a final pour of ghee. After going in the oven for 15 minutes, the decadent knafeh is flipped out on a serving tray and finished off with a pour of rosewater and orange blossom-infused simple syrup, and a sprinkle of fresh pistachios.
“People love to eat,” says Bishara. “If you give them good food, it’s the greatest thing in life.”
Since we wholeheartedly agree, we sent Lawrence Weibman -- aka @nycfoodguy -- to check out Tanoreen for himself. If you can’t make it out to Bay Ridge, see what all the hype is about on this week’s edition of The Explorers.