SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You may know Sanaa Abourezk from her gourmet Mediterranean restaurant in Sioux Falls or from her fun food blog online.
While she’s been on national TV showing off her cooking talents, she’s now putting some of those talents on paper.
After serving customers for 16 years at her restaurant at 8th and Railroad, Sanaa isn’t showing signs of slowing down. In fact, she’s showing off new moves.
“So this for me is like, that’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps me young. Look at this,” Sanaa said.
That sense of humor and joy for life have the business owner, originally from Syria, dancing into new adventures.
This past year, Rockridge Press contacted Sanaa out of the blue. The national publisher wanted to release a cookbook with Mediterranean recipes and they wanted Sanaa to write it. She was all in.
“It’s the healthiest diet, lifestyle in the world because it includes moving, visiting, socializing, eating healthy. That’s the way it is,” Sanaa said.
While Sanaa’s restaurant features a variety of dishes, some with beef or chicken, this cookbook has some of her top vegetarian recipes. It just came out this January.
“The flavors, definitely the flavors. It’s very fresh. Very flavorful. Very tasty,” King said.
Paige King has worked at Sanaa’s for five years. A Sioux Falls-native, King says before Sanaa, you had a hard time finding cuisine like this in South Dakota.
Each recipe comes with some special anecdotes.
“She writes a lot of great stories. She cooks really wonderful food. Everything’s healthy. Everything’s fresh,” King said.
“Each recipe has either a funny story about it, how it started or the history of that recipe,” Sanaa said.
“You have recipes from Algeria. You have recipes from Spain, Morocco, Turkey,” Sanaa said.
Many are inspired by her family. She says some of her best memories are from spending time with the women in her family making tasty treats, especially her grandmother.
“She would make cheese from scratch, bread from scratch. Also that smell. I think that’s how my passion for cooking started,” Sanaa said.
She certainly has passion and knowledge. From a degree in agriculture engineering to a masters in food and nutrition, Sanaa also has a wealth of experience. Experience she loves sharing.
“It’s nice to have your name in print on the shelf. But for me the most pleasure thing, when I get an email from somebody, ‘Hey, I just got your book. I made the anise bread with my family and we loved it.’ Or somebody said, ‘I went to a Christmas party and made the olive tapenade and everybody loved it.’ This is South Dakota. We didn’t talk about olive tapenade 50 years ago or eggplant parmesan,” Sanaa said.
Now, it’s normal. In fact, she spends a lot of time mentoring her fans in the restaurant and on the internet.
“I’m the most accessible author I think ever. I’m online. I answer all my email. I’m on Instagram,” Sanaa said.
“For me, I’m a chef. Food is pleasure. It shouldn’t be punishment. It shouldn’t be something you worry about when you’re with your friend,” Sanaa said.
Sanaa wants people to take their time enjoying what’s on the plate. She’s not going anywhere anytime soon and is happy finding new ways to express her love of food.
“People thought I’m wacko when I opened this restaurant. I’m serious. They said, ‘Are you out of your mind. Black pepper is too spicy for South Dakotan. Nobody will eat eggplant. This is a beef and potato state. You’re crazy. Don’t open downtown. It’s a dangerous area.’ All this stuff. 16 years,” Sanaa said.
It’s a story that continues to add new flavors.
If you’d like to buy Sanaa’s new cookbook, here’s a link. Up next for Sanaa, she’s would like to start bottling some of her favorite sauces. On top of her food-related degrees, she has spent time in France learning to cook and time in Italy focusing on sauces.