While preparing a meal for a recent family gathering at my in-law’s home, I learned a new dish called Imsekhin (امسخن), which is comprised of layers of bread with olive oil, braised onions, pine nuts and a red spice called sumac. It is typically eaten with pieces of braised chicken. Despite the list of ingredients, olive oil is the main highlight of the dish, which is traditionally prepared when the oil is freshly pressed and still has a bite to it. The onions and chicken are both braised in the olive oil and when the layers of bread are stacked, they are first dipped in the same oil that was used for the cooking. The end result is a very tasty and filling, albeit messy bread based dish that produces scores of happy faces around the table.
While not very complicated, Imsekhin – or at least the one we made for twenty-five or so family members- takes a considerable amount of time to prepare. I helped my mother-in-law chop about fifty onions in the wee hours of the morning. As the day went on, my sister-in-laws joined in the action, each one taking on a different task. Preparing the Imsekhin was really enjoyable because it turned into an impromptu and delightful family gathering.