You know how when you learn a new word, you suddenly hear it everywhere–in books, articles, and coming out of people’s mouths? Or how, when you make new friends, you don’t know what you spent your Saturdays doing before you met them? When I was in school, I loved the convergence of different subjects, how what you were learning in math could somehow become relevant in history class.
Since I’ve been exploring Middle Eastern food, I’ve noticed newly learned techniques pop up everywhere and flavor combinations that first seemed improbable appear completely sensical. Had I missed the fact that you could temper yogurt with egg or flour and use it to make a creamy soup? Is sumac the new smoked paprika?
Yet the more I read, taste, and cook, the more I notice continuity between what I already enjoy and what’s eaten in Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, and Egypt. In fact, the third time I read about that yogurt soup in Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I realized it bore a similarity to one of the first dishes I ever got in the habit of cooking for myself, a pasta dish I wrote about in In the Small Kitchen, which uses egg, yogurt, and pasta water to create a creamy, slightly tangy, no-cook sauce for pasta. In fact, one version of the soup actually has vermicelli noodles in it.
Taking inspiration from the convergence of an old favorite and a new-to-me technique, I made a 2013 version of my old favorite yogurt pasta. I cut down on the Parmesan cheese, three tablespoons of which has always seemed so comforting, and ramped up the flavor with herbs–mint and thyme–and scallions. I used fresh versions but you could use dried.