Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ratatouille-esque Gratin

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas (if that's your thing.) My gifts all had a general theme - get your ass in the kitchen - but there are no complaints from me as I now have a new covered casserole, oblong baking ramekins, recipe card index, and three beautiful, saliva-inducing cookbooks for Moroccan, Thai and Chinese cuisine. They are from the "Food Of" cookbook series, the same as my Indian cookbook and, just like that one, they are fantastic. Large (11.5 x 9in), with fantastic pictures, detailed cultural and culinary histories sprinkled throughout and, of course, inspiring recipes; there is a pickled pig's feet recipe in the China cookbook I am particularly eager to try. And carrot soup with couscous from Morocco. And deep-fried quail form Thailand. As you can see I have been going through sensory overload reading through these books deciding which recipes to try first; it is exhausting.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cossack Pie

During my short visit back to the States to see my sisters and their families I was struck with a bit of irony: while I enjoy staying with my sister Amanda (whose husband is a vegetarian) because I don't have to eat or cook meat every day (yay!) she looks forward to having another adult omnivore in the house. So while I spent my free time perusing the myriad vegetarian cookbooks in the kitchen Amanda would list the meat products she had bought (ground turkey, chicken breasts, roaster in the freezer - we could buy shrimp!) in anticipation of my arrival; we compromised with meat for lunch and vegetarian for dinner. Thank goodness, because it meant she was able to make the deceptively delicious Cossack pie for dinner one night, a simple (I suppose you could also call it "rustic") quiche-like dish that manages to be both light and filling. Imagine.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And NaBloPoMo Is Finally Over!

Thank god, because I am exhausted. I love cooking but weeks of experimenting with new recipes - plus taking pictures of everything - takes its toll on body and mind. You can tell by looking at the posts from this last week: three didn't have recipes at all and now this one. I have a new burn (thanks birthday tart!) and new cupcake tins (thanks Ryan!), plus new confidence in adjusting some Indian recipes. I have several recipes that didn't make the cut for the blog (Rogan Josh (a lamb curry), I am particularly looking at you) and possibly not even for my stomach. I am a year older by a coincidence of timing, though this daily exercise might also hold some blame. I look forward to taking more time with my posts, my pictures, hell, my choice of recipes and browsing the blogs of other foodies. But most of all I look forward to a bit of break: I fly to the States this evening to see my sisters and their families for the first time in over a year and a half. Woo! See you soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Curried Squid

Sometimes recipes disappointment me and I know that part of the fault lies with me and my tendency to take liberty with certain ingredients. Who knew that just a few tablespoons extra coconut milk would completely wash out all other flavors? Well, I suppose I should have known that but ignored that logic and went ahead with my instinctive desire for MORE, leaving me with bland coconut squid. I will also lay some blame in the frozen squid hoods I used: I would have bought fresh but the thought of cleaning those things - removing tentacles, head and innards, then peeling the skin off - was in itself too much work, so I went the easy route and suffered through the resulting chewiness. I wanted to enjoy this recipe - I love (cooked) squid - but just couldn't get into it. I'll give you the recipe as written in the book so you can make it without my adjustments. Or, if you know a better curried squid recipe by all means let me know - I still want to like it!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

And so I'm 30

Today is my birthday and yes, it is the big 3-0. Did I do anything big to celebrate? Well, I washed the living room floor because it was pretty dirty and did two loads of laundry, so that's pretty cool. Seth had a deadlift competition and lifted a PR of 666lbs, which is awesome. I smoked some shisha and read for a couple of hours. And then I was going to make a simple lemon tart for my birthday "cake" until I remembered, "Hey, it's my damn 30th birthday" and decided instead to extend a bit more effort. I made a lemon cream tart with blackberry sauce: cool, refreshing, slightly tart (ha!), totally delicious.

Boo for my poor job at White Balancing!
Lemon Cream
Dorie Greenspan

1 cup sugar 
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons 
4 large eggs 
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons) 
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces 
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell

1. Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

2. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

3. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

 4. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

5. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

6. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve cold.

Blackberry Sauce

8oz blackberries, fresh or frozen (defrosted)
1 1/2tbsp sugar
2tsp lemon juice
1-2tbsp water (if using fresh)

Blend all ingredient together in a food processor, then strain through a mesh strainer to remove seeds. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Eggplants

I have this large eggplant in my refrigerator and am not sure if I want to eat it. See, I have always hated eggplant - despised it, actually. It was one of those vegetable my father grew in the garden for god-only-knows what reason, considering no one in the house liked them much, and on occasion he would cut one up and deep-fry it like his mother used to and which only he would eat, trying to convince us (and maybe himself) how good it tasted. Images of greasy sticks o' nastiness are seared in my memory. Not surprisingly, eggplants were high on the list of garden giveaways and I believe Dad silently rejoiced when my sister began dating (and eventually married) a vegetarian; whether my brother-in-law rejoiced over twenty pounds of eggplant every summer is another matter. And it wasn't just that I couldn't stand to eat aubergines - I couldn't even watch people eat them. I was out to dinner with a vegetarian friend and he ordered some dish that came out stacked between two grotesquely large slabs of grilled eggplant, which he loves and subsequently attacked with his fork; I silently gagged. To be clear: eggplants = epitome of gross.

Friday, November 26, 2010

And a Happy Thanksgiving to you

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving; I certainly did, though I was ready to call it quits around 4:30pm. Cooking all day, plus the previous day, had me fading fast and desperately wishing for fortification via a glass of strong red wine. As that wasn't coming any time soon I opted for a quick lie down, which is where Seth found when he came home of couple of hours later. What? Cooking is exhausting. No worries, though, as most everything was already finished by that point: braised turkey seasoned with allspice, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorns; a delicious syrupy reduction of the braising liquid; garlic mashed potatoes; butternut squash and chickpea salad; fresh cranberry sauce; and a simple, yet necessary, green salad. Oh, and the stuffed grape leaves, of course.

I was going to bake a loaf of challah bread but decided instead to make rolls out of the dough. They turned out so pretty that I actually pet one - and then ate it. Despite having largely given up bread and knowing that my gluten intolerance would kick in anyway, I had another at dinner and one for breakfast today. I am powerless to their siren call.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Koupepia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I first tried stuffed grape leaves in college and I was not a fan. Cold, stuffed with bland rice filling and possessing a completely unappealing squishiness, they were something I just couldn't get into it. True, they were store-bought and my friend adored them, but I was turned off. I tried them once or twice more after that, but each successive experience was the same as the first. I was turned off; in my mind, for good.Then Seth and I went to Cyprus this past August and I became obsessed with sampling every meze dish I came across, including, wouldn't you know, stuffed grape leaves. I was actually excited to try them because one, they were fresh and seemed a bit more authentic coming from Kakopetria as opposed to some grocery store in Virginia; and two, I know tastes change and am always willing to test mine.

Turns out that willingness is a good thing (duh, why else would I post this recipe?) but I have to give credit to the food: koupepia (little cigars) in Cyprus are stuffed with meat - not squishy, overcooked rice! - seasoned lightly with herbs, and ours were served simmered in a simple tomato sauce. There was no hint of the bland mush I was familiar with; these things were good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tajin al Dajaj wil Couscous

The term "tajin" may bring to mind cylindrical stewing pots common throughout North Africa (with a similar vessel found in Cyprus) but here it simply means "stewed" or "braised" as in, Stewed Chicken with Couscous. And of course the cooking pot is actually spelled "tajine" or "tagine" but the idea is the same: meat (or vegetables) cooked slowly in order to break down connective tissue and make the chosen ingredient melt like butter. But enough of that, this recipe also has couscous, which I adore but don't use too often. Rice is the staple starch here in the Middle East (though bread is a close second) while couscous is the national food of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria - a North African food. The particular recipe I am sharing today is from Egypt, that land which oddly straddles the fence between Africa and the Middle East. This is not the place for arguments on geographical and cultural identities (though I do find it intriguing that both of my cookbooks include Egypt at the expense of the rest of North Africa, though they are similarly Muslim and Arabicized, which practically shouts at the insistence of Egypt to be identified with the Middle East rather then (black) Africa) so suffice it to say that until I receive my requested Moroccan cookbook for Christmas there won't be much couscous on this site.

All right, I can't resist: I am one of those Africanists who believe that North Africa is part of Africa as a whole regardless of distinct cultural differences, but taking into account shared geography and history.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spicy, Yet Simple, Lemon Pickle

For the first time I made something that took two weeks to complete. Two weeks! Not shocking, then, that the thing is a pickle, though not "pickled" in the way of a cucumber. In case the lemons above didn't give it away, I made a simple lemon pickle. After boiling, slicing and coating with salt you're left with a hefty bit of rind (though the recipe does encourage you to use thin-skinned lemons, but how are you supposed to check for that?) and I admit I was cautious on taking my first bite, but was fairly surprised. Yes, you still taste lemon, yes, it's a powerful taste, but nothing bitter or overwhelming. I served it with spicy chicken tikka masala and the lemon power cut right through the chili and helped make the chicken a tad more calm.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Digression

This is Argh Meow. Sorry for the fuzzy picture but she doesn't sit still much. She is a lovable stray living around our apartment complex whose names derives from a squinty eye, much like a pirate in the midst of muttering, "Arrrggghh." Our neighbors, Phil and April, and I take care of her because she is so incredibly sweet. For the past few months we had suspected she was pregnant (and had subsequently given birth) and yesterday we were proven correct when she brought her two kittens around to show off. They were adorable. Argh was drunk on pride and affection, practically falling over herself to rub against us. However, one of the toms around the apartment complex did not like the kittens. Last night, despite Phil and April's desperate effort, the tom got a hold of and destroyed one of the kittens. Tonight, despite effort on my and Seth's part, the second kitten went. Suffice it to say I am not in the mood to post a new recipe; rather, I am ready for that tom to meet his demise.

Happy Saturday and I'll have something for you tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Really Simple, Really Good, Homemade Cheese

A month (maybe two) ago I was exploring mexico in my kitchen and came across the Mely's entry for homemade Mexican cheese or queso fresco. Two thoughts immediately popped in my head: "Damn, I love queso fresco" and "I've made cottage cheese before, so let's go." The first attempt was fantastic, with me managing to make a cheese ball and soft ricotta-style cheese from the same gallon of milk. I felt like a superstar - or almost, because I used white vinegar to separate the curds and whey and probably used too much: the cheese ball definitely had a vinegar aftertaste that increased the older it grew. (Just a few days, no aging cheese here.) No worries, because the next time I used lemon juice and was all ready to make some paneer (which is basically the same as queso fresco, in that they both are simple unaged cheeses; paneer tends to not have salt added), but it was not to be. The lemon juice just wasn't making my milk separate and no amount of reheating & resting saved it. So we were even: Cheese 1 - Sarah 1.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkish Delight

My sister and I went to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when it came out in the movies in 2005 (because we love the Narnia books and the BBC series from back in the 80s.) During the scene in which Edmund demands Turkish Delight from the White Witch in return for betraying his siblings my sister (Amanda) turned to me asked,

"What is Turkish Delight, anyway?"
"I have no idea, though it must be good if it turns you against your family."

Then I moved to LA and near my apartment was near Sunland Produce, an awesome Armenian market with shockingly fresh, yet cheap, produce, as well as a variety of other goodies. They also sold Turkish Delight and, giggling at the irony, I bought some to take back to Maryland for a visit. My sisters (Katy and Amanda) and I gorged ourselves on the gummy goodness held within, though we were taken aback by the rose-flavored cubes; they just weren't doing it for us. Then I left California, and eventually the States, where I was forced to focus on other things, such as, "Oh my god, I hope this boda-boda doesn't kill me."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I will let you in on a little secret: I hate leavened flatbread. To be clear, I don't hate the taste - I love bread and giving it up has, at times, been difficult. I hate making it. Kneading, waiting for it to rise, then shaping and baking, usually one (or two if you're lucky) bread at a time. So much effort for something with a just a bit of fluff, yet still very much flat.

I am sure if I had a clay oven like ones traditionally used to cook naan - or any other similarly leavened and baked flatbread - it wouldn't be so much of a hassle, but how many home cooks do know with one? Maybe those with homes and backgrounds. I bet a clay oven would be great alongside a grill. Anyway, lacking the special oven I have to do it the hard way, which is keeping a pan of water in the oven so the dough won't dry out; shaping each bread right before it goes in the oven; baking, flipping, then baking some more, before moving on to the next bread. See why I prefer chapatis?

 But naan was on my November cooking list, so here it is. The bread came out better than I had expected, though I forgot to add salt to the dough. The recipe I used called for kalonj (nigella) seeds but you should consider them optional. I also spread butter over each freshly baked bread after Seth tasted the first and remarked, "This would taste really good with some butter." Who am I to object?

The Food of India, only slightly different from the one at Indian Food Forever

4cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4cups milk
2tsp dried yeast
2tsp kalonji (nigella) seeds, optional
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
2tbsp oil or ghee
3/4cup thick plain yogurt

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Warm the milk to approximately 100F.

2. Add yeast, kalonji, baking powder and salt to the flour. In another bowl, mix the egg, oil and yogurt. Pour into the flour with 1 cup of the milk and mix to form a soft dough. If the dough seems too dry add remaining milk. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Put in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to double in size. (This will take several hours.)

3. Preheat oven to 400F. Place a roasting pan half0filled with water at the bottom of the oven.

4. Press down dough, knead briefly and divide into 10 portions. Using the tips of your fingers, spread out one portion of dough to the shape of a naan bread. They are traditionally tear-dropped in shape, so pull the dough on one end. Put the naan on a greased baking sheet. Bake on the top shelf for 7 minutes, then turn naan over and cook for another 5 minutes. While the first naan is cooking, shape the next one. (You should be able to fir two or three on a baking sheet.) Remove the cooked naan from the oven and cover with a cloth to keep it warm and soft.

5. Repeat until all dough is cooked. Be sure to use the top shelf because the naan will not cook properly on the middle shelf. Spread cooked naan with butter, if desired.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chebeh Rubyan (Prawn Balls)

I have two Middle Eastern cookbooks, one which is like a handy informational brochure and the other more akin to a bible. Though the recipes in the bible sound amazing and usually have more robust flavor, about half are prefaced with "making this dish is a practice in both time and patience." Oof. So it stands that while I often read through my bible, I cook more from the brochure. But I cannot avoid recipes forever so yesterday I decided to make a Kuwaiti specialty, shrimp balls, in honor Eid celebrations.

It took some sacrifice on my part, as I had to renew the love/hate relationship with my Foop. I also feel uncomfortable sharing such a complicated recipe with you, but not everything can be boiled down to 30 minutes or less. While I lay awake listening to the Eid morning prayer through the minarets (it goes on for the entire hour before dawn and I find it impossible to ignore; Seth sleeps right through) I thought that these balls may not be as complicated as I thought while making them. You go through the motions once and subsequently it gets easier. Then I fully woke up and decided, no, it's damn complicated - especially if you serve it with Muhammar - and the time involved is suitable only for special occasions (in my opinion, anyway.)

With that said, you should make these. They are amazing and ridiculously flavorful. The sauce has a wonderful tang from the combination of dried limes and tamarind (yes, which I normally despise) and the simple onion filling makes the shrimp paste just pop, despite the fact that "shrimp paste" is probably one of the most unappetizing terms in the cooking lexicon. I was left with about 1 1/2 cups of paste so cooked up it for lunch today with some tomatoes, baharat and leftover rice and was still happily impressed by what Kuwaiti cuisine has to offer.

Just a couple of notes: the recipe calls for "ground rice" and I still am not sure what that is. I assume it isn't rice flour because that would have be listed instead and the recipe states that the balls will swell during cooking, which to me means that there are rice grains in the mixture. I precooked some basmati rice then pulsed it a few times in my Foop to make ground rice; I can only suggest you do the same. On saffron: I always state saffron as optional because I never use it; I refuse to spend money on what, to me, is a wasteful posh ingredient. Maybe it's because my taste buds were desensitized from my smoking days but I can't taste any distinctive flavor from saffron and don't care when certain dishes lack that yellow-orange hue. Of course, if you don't feel as strongly about the issue as me feel free to use saffron whenever it is mentioned.

Chebeh Rubyan
The Complete Middle East Cookbook

2lb uncooked prawns (shrimp)
1/4cup cilantro
1/2tsp ground turmeric
1/2 ground loomi (dried lime), optional
3/4cup ground rice
1tsp salt

1 large onion, finely diced
2tbsp ghee or clarified butter
1tsp Baharat
1/2tsp ground loomi or grated rind of 1/2 lemon or lime

Tamarind Sauce:
piece of tamarind the size of a small egg
2cups warm water
1 small onion, finely diced
1tbsp ghee of clarified butter
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
1tsp Baharat
1/4-1/2tsp hot chili pepper
2tsp sugar

1. Shell and devein prawns, sicne and dry well. Mix prawns with cilantro and process to a paste in food processor.

2. Combine prawn mixture with turmeric, ground loomi (if available) and ground rice. Add salt and mix well with hand (I used a spoon) until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate until required.

3. In a pan gently fry large onion in ghee until transparent, stir in baharat and loomi (or lemon/lime rind) and remove from heat. Keep aside.

4. Soak tamarind in 1 cup warm water for 10 minutes and rub with fingers. Pass through a sieve, pressing pulp through with back of a spoon. Reserve tamarind liquid. (You just made tamarind puree!)

5. In a large, wide-based port gently fry small onion in ghee until transparent. Add tamarind liquid, remaining water, tomato, spices, salt to taste and sugar. Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.

6. While the sauce is simmering, make chebeh. Take about a tablespoon of prawn paste and flatten in moistened palm. Place a teaspoon of onion filling in center and close up, shaping into a ball. (Mine ended up being larger than golf balls but smaller than tennis balls.) Keep hands moist during shaping. Repeat until ingredients are used. (I had about 1 1/2 cups prawn paste leftover.)

7. Drop completed chebeh into simmering sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes. Chebeh will swell during cooking. Serve hot with Muhammar.

Muhammar (Sweet Rice)

1/4tsp saffron threads, optional
3 cardamom pods, cracked
2tbsp rose water
2cups basmati rice
6cups water
1tbsp salt
1/3-1/2cup granulated sugar or honey
1/4cup ghee or clarified butter

1. Soak saffron and cardamom in rose water while preparing rice.

2. Rinse rice until water runs clear.

3. Bring 6 cups water to the boil in a heavy pan, add salt and rice and stir occasionally until water returns to the boil. Leave uncovered and boil for 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.

4. Pour sugar or honey onto hot rice and mix through with a fork.

5. Heat ghee or butter in a pan in which rice was cooked and add sugared rice. Sprinkle rose water mixture on top. Make 3 holes in rice with the end of a wooden spoon.

6. Cover rim or pan with a paper towel and place lid on tightly. Cook rice over low heat for 20-25 minutes until tender.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spinach Kofta (with yogurt sauce)

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Spinach Kofta
The Food of India

1lb spinach leaves (tough stems removed) or 1lb frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 1/2cups besan flour (I used brown flour because I had it on hand)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 ripe tomato, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1tssp ground cumin
2tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped

oil for deep-frying

1. Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute and refresh in cold water. Drain, squeezing out any extra water your hands. Finely chop the spinach.

2. Combine with remaining ingredients and up to 1/4 cup water, a little at a time, adding enough to make the mixture soft but not sloppy. If it becomes too sloppy, add more flour. Season with salt, to taste. (Test seasoning by frying a small amount and tasting it.) Shape the mixture into balls by rolling it in dampened hands, using approximately 1 tablespoon mixture per ball.

3. Fill a large saucepan with oil and heat to 350F. Fry the kofta in batches, being sure to not overcrowd the pan, and fry until golden and crisp. Remove koftas as they cook, drain on a wire rack, and add to sauce.

Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2c thick plain yogurt
4tbsp besan flour (I used brown because, again, it was handy)
1tbsp oil
2tsp black mustard seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
6 curry leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1tsp ground turmeric
1/2tsp chili powder

In a large bowl whisk yogurt, flour and 3 cups water to a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over low heat. Add mustard and fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves, cover and allow the seeds to pop for 1 minute. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft and starting to brown. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until soft. Add turmeric and chili powder, stirring for 30 seconds. Add yogurt mixture, bring to the boil, then simmer over low for 10 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Radish Salad

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Because I am never satisfied with simplicity I had to add a fourth dish to our Indian vegetarian "feast" a couple of nights ago. To be fair I was barely counting the snake gourd as a dish because I had no idea how it would be accepted and if it was nasty then there would only be spinach kofta and potatoes (and chapatis) to eat - totally unacceptable. So there I was, flipping through my cookbook when radish salad jumped out at me. I had glanced over it before but never gave it much thought other than, "Hey, I should try that sometime." With few ingredients and five minutes preparation, it was just what I needed to round off dinner. Oh, and it's really good, too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aloo Chaat (Potato Salad)

Finally I am back on a reasonable schedule. I apologize for the rushed posts of the past week, but NaBloPoMo has been killing me! Who knew it was so hard to post every day for a month? Okay, I could have guessed it would be difficult but I stubbornly refused to listen to logic. I am still not up to snuff with picture-taking skills: last night we had friends over for a dinner party with an Indian menu and I was far too focused on cooking to worry about documenting anything. Let me just say that I cooked snake gourd for the first time and it tasted like . . . nothing. Crunchy nothing. It was still foreign enough that I had to eat it with my eyes closed everyone present only ate the smallest amount, but it's a start! Bitter melon is next on the list.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Indian Feast

Aloo Chat

Radish Salad

Spinach Kofta in Yogurt Sauce

Snake Gourd with Yogurt

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pork Noodle Soup

Oof, the internet is slow today. Anyway, when I was a kid (well, up to my teens) the only fast food we ate was Chinese. Okay, maybe once every few months we'd order a pizza or some subs, but at least once every two weeks (or more) we'd order from China Taste or China #1 or something like that. I suppose the main reason is that there  no other foreign fast food restaurants in Upper Marlboro, no Thai or Vietnamese or Ethiopian - I am pretty sure there still aren't and may never be - but also because we loved Chinese food. I've tried to make some dishes in my day but they also seem like they're missing something - probably MSG.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sad Farewell and Some Sushi

As you might guess from my last few posts, I have slacked off a bit: I had to play catch-up, posting my recipes the same night I made them (instead of the morning after, which is much less time-sensitive) and I also lose my taste for food and cooking while my cycle is underway. But now, the cooking fiend in me has returned and what to cook all of my recipes for the week today, right now, instant deliciousness in my belly. Guess what? We're going out to dinner tonight. Our friends Rachel and Mana have decided to say good-bye to Kuwait and return to their beloved Hawaii (weird, right? Why would anyway choose Hawaii over Kuwait?) and we are having one last night together. It will be sad, doubly for me, because I have to wait one more day before I can make the pork noodle soup I've been eyeing. God, my life is hard. And non-alcoholic beer is so not worth it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dajaj Biryani (Chicken Biryani)

Biryani - must be an Indian recipe, right? Hell no! This one comes from the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and is not the first Biryani recipe I have seen (whether Indian or Middle Eastern), but I am pretty sure it is the best biryani, period. Or at least it was the first time I made it. This time I went with chicken strips because Seth brought a bag of them home, but before I made them with moist chicken legs and thighs - definitely the way to go. I also reduce the amount of rice called for because, really, who needs 5 cups of rice? 3 1/2 normally works for us, but if you want more simply increase the amount of dry rice to 2 1/2 cups. The recipe also calls for some of those elusive dried limes so I guess I better tell you how to make them pretty soon. Other than that, what can I say?
Make it and enjoy what the Emirates have to offer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Murag (Meat Stew)

I am cooking this right now and the smell wafting from the kitchen is fab-u-lous.

  . . .

Ok, finished cooking and the result is pretty good for a beef stew, though there is nothing that stands out about it. I doubled the Baharat to the 2 teaspoons I list below and included extra on the table to sprinkle on to taste. Nevertheless, as far as tender meat and green beans goodness goes, this is a winner.*

The Complete Middle East Cookbook 

3lb boneless stewing beef or lamb
1/4cup oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
2cups peeled, chopped tomatoes OR 1/4cup tomato paste
1cup water
1tsp sugar
2tsp Baharat (recipe below)
salt and pepper
One of the following: 1lb fresh green beans; 1lb okra (if using add 2 chopped cloves of garlic to onion); 2 cups shelled green peas; 1lb eggplant, cubed, salted 30 minuted and rinsed.

1. Trim meat and cut into 1 1/2inch squares. Heat half the oil in a heavy pan and brown meat over high heat, removing to a plate when browned (I had to do this in two batches.)

2. Reduce heat and add remaining oil with onion. Fry gently until transparent.

3. Add tomatoes or tomato paste, water (increase to 1 1/2 cups if using paste), sugar, baharat, and about 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and return meat to pan. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes for lamb, 1 1/4 hours for beef.

4. Add prepared vegetable, cover and simmer for another hour or until meat is tender.

Baharat seasoning
1/3tsp black pepper
1/4tsp coriander
1/4tsp cinnamon
1/4tsp cloves
1/3tsp cumin
2tsp cardamom
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/2tsp paprika
1/4tsp dried limes (optional)

Mix and use whenever needed. Tastes great in lentil soup!

*- Sorry for not being too talkative but my brain is currently running on automatic!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tortilla Chips and Nachos


Damn, NaBloPoMo is demanding! Sometimes I don't cook anything amazing or at all and that leave me with nothing to share with you. Last night I made pizza and tonight is mac 'n' cheese, so here are some gratuitous pictures of homemade tortilla chips (if you don't do this, you must - they taste so much better!) and a pan of my chicken nachos, loosely based on The Pile from Hot's Cantina in Northridge, CA. Enjoy!