Michael Rakowitz’s (SMVisS ’98) Culinary Inspiration

Michael Rakowitz and his son make Iraqi dolma, or mhasha, with bok choy. Photo courtesy of the artist.
ACT at MIT

A recent artnet article, “Famous Artists Share 10 Recipes for the Creative—and Delicious—Dishes That Are Getting Them Through Lockdown,” featured alumnus Michael Rakowitz (SMVisS ’98), who has used food and/or food packaging in his projects, such as Enemy Kitchen (2012 – ongoing).

The Chicago-based Rakowitz and his son made Iraqi dolma, or mhasha, with bok choy. Rakowitz said:

I wanted to make Iraqi dolma, which Iraqi Jews call mhasha, but the local supermarket did not have any produce other than bok choy. So, instead of stuffed vine leaves or onions or cabbage, I decided to make do with what was there.

I have never really cooked with bok choy other than to steam it and serve with an oyster sauce or soy sauce. I figured I would challenge myself and give this a try. Also, my six-year-old son, Jude, decided to become a pescatarian three months ago, and so I had to make it without meat, which acts as an essential binder to hold the hashwa, or stuffing, in place.

So, I decided to make the traditional Thursday night meal for Iraqi Jews, which is kichree, an Iraqi version of the Indian dish using basmati rice, red lentils, tomato paste, onions, garlic, cumin, and olive oil. I made the kichree stickier than normal, and then parboiled the bok choy for about 10 minutes to make it easier to roll.

I then took a fistful of the kichree, placed it on the leafy end of the bok choy and rolled it down to the stem. After doing this with all 10 stalks of the bok choy, I pan seared each dolma in a non-stick pan with olive oil and salt. I served it with a homemade garlic yogurt and a Syrian tomato salad with our last tomatoes that my friend Suhail taught me and my wife to make.

The rest of the article, and features on other artists and their recipes, can be found here.