In honor of the Superbowl, I thought I’d follow up my recent Gaulsa recipe with another salsa-like salad dish that has a bit more kick and a lot more of a backstory.
This post features a recipe for dagga, a staple of Gazan cuisine. If you’re looking for a salsa with a kick, a spicy side for seafood, or an extraordinary sort of salad, this is just the thing. The hot and spicy peppers for which Gaza is famous take center stage, but supporting roles go to garlic, tomato, and dill for a blend that’s fresh and sharp and delicious. If that sounds good, you should check out The Gaza Kitchen, a new book that features the delicious side of Gaza that seldom makes it into the news stories and policy reports we’re all more used to reading.
Dagga (Salata Ghazawiyya)
h/t to my favorite Palestinian houseguest Nour and to the authors of The Gaza Kitchen, Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, for inspiration & recipes
You will need:
3-4 cloves of garlic, halved
2-3 hot peppers (e.g., jalapeño, serrano), sliced
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
A bunch of minced fresh dill (or basil, if there really is no dill to be found, though your dagga will not be as cool as if there were dill in it)
Several tablespoons olive oil
Several tablespoons lemon juice
Half teaspoon of salt
The meaning of dagga is the act of pounding that produces the salad itself. To be done properly, this should really be done in a zibdiya, I am told – a kind of a Gazan mortar and pestle with a flatter and larger curved bowl. A few alternatives are suggested here, but absent those, you’ll be fine: Gazans are nothing if not resourceful, and when our kitchen was found bereft of mortar and pestle substitutes, the ingredients were assembled in a sturdy Ziplock and pounded with a sturdy (non-breakable) bottle. It’s an imperfect solution, but an acceptable one.
Start by pummeling the garlic with the salt (it shouldn’t be reduced to garlic paste, but the garlic should still be pretty well worked over); then work in the peppers, dill, and tomatoes. Finish it off with olive oil and lemon juice to taste. It should eventually reach a salsa-like consistency.
If this looks, sounds, smells, or tastes good to you, be sure to check out Hadeel Assali’s short video “Daggit Gazza” – a gorgeously simple audiovisual blend of the realities of Gaza, family, food, and – of course – dagga: