Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kabsat al Dajaj (Chicken with Rice and Tomatoes)

Do you love Christmas?

I f-ing love Christmas. Not as much as I used to - not because of age, but rather the absence of my parents - but I still get giddy about it. Only September, you say? Yes, but Saturday was September 25th and I can hear my mom smiling and yelling out, "Only three months 'til Christmas!" She would start this countdown in July, the broaching of the year's halfway point making it appropriate to look forward to a holiday five months away. It wasn't about commercialism, though both my parents did love giving gifts (because they enjoyed making people happy). Mom loved the spirit, the general joy in the air; the anticipations; preparations; and the music. Definitely the music. When we were young she would play Christmas tapes in the car all year long, but as we (and she) got older she mainly kept it to the six week holiday period. I don't do the countdown anymore, but when I cook something that smells and tastes like Christmas, it's like I inadvertently have.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh, Hi There!

You surprised me.

Or perhaps I have surprised you, finally posting after a week's absence - and I haven't even been on vacation. What I have been doing is nesting. No! Not pregnant! Just when I ovulate I get the urge to cook and bake and bake and bake, while the actual thought of eating any of it nauseates me. I do have new recipes to post, which I will get to tomorrow, but I warn you: my lack of appetite apparently affects my budding photography skills, so the pictures may not due the food justice. Then again, while I obviously love Indian food, much of it does tend to be monochromatic. It's not completely my fault if I can't make subtle shades of brown look spectacular in florescent lighting!

Ok, sure, I was planning on posting a Kuwaiti recipe today; I even got as far as opening a new post on blogger. But I am currently reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Have you? It's a wonderful and fascinating book, able to keep me from doing almost anything today other than read. I love books like that. However, I promise to be back tomorrow with something to fill your belly instead of your mind.

Oh, and what is up with the new way to post pictures? Why is blogger flipping my vertical pictures?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Musakhan (Chicken with Sumac)

Musakhan. Mousakhan. Sumac. Sumak. I don't care how you spell it, this is my favorite Middle Eastern dish. See, I felt so horrible for posting a recipe I didn't even like that I had to make it up to you. And you'll come back. Plus, sumac is a fantastically delicious and aromatic herb (spice?) and every time I open my jar I wonder why I don't use it more. It's a ground berry from a plant related to the deadly sumac and is available from Middle Eastern specialty stores, or possibly Whole Foods and other related co-op-like places. Of course, I'm guessing (as usual) because I didn't begin using it until I moved here, where I can buy it cheaply and in bulk. That means sumac probably costs a bit more than dried parsley back in the States and considering this recipe calls for 6 tablespoons, you might think I'm a jerk for making you use so much for one dish.  Oh, it so worth it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gajar Matar (Peas and Carrots, Northern India Style)

 I am consistently amazed at the way Seth's off-days become time warps that require an additional day of recovery. What did we do for the past week? I recall sleeping (a lot), watching some UFC, the first season of United States of Tara, daydreaming about GSP - oh yeah, and making what turned out to be the most uninteresting, muddled dish of peas and carrots my Indian cookbook had to offer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nivik - Chickpeas with Spinach

There's a simple way to know when you've been reading cookbooks too much: when recipes begin to invade your dreams. For the past week I've taken to browsing my cookbooks at night if I am having trouble falling asleep, making a mental list of things I'd like to make in the near future. What with my recent Turkish dessert and plans to make an Armenian chickpea dish, I dreamed that I combined Turkish and Armenian cuisine, then laughed at how horribly inappropriate it would be. Ahahahaha! Wicked.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dondurma - Turkish Ice

Ramadan mubarek!  Ramadan ended yesterday, Kuwait is in the throes of Eid celebrations and the weather is slowly beginning its turn to the pleasantness of a desert fall.  However, while Seth and I can enjoy a night outside, watching the waves, it's still hot enough to send us back to the A/C in about 15 minutes. Still, this weather makes me want something cold, but not just a chilled soda - something with substance. Not ice cream -- too rich and I have never been much of a fan, plus I don't own an ice cream maker.  I could make a granita - I have before - but they don't do it for me - too icy, too crunchy, too blech. Fortunately I was browsing through one of my cookbooks the other day and found a recipe for Turkish dondurma.  The picture looked just like the Italian ice in little cups sold by the ice cream truck and was just what I wanted: cold, tart, refreshing, yet delectably soft and easy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pork Vindaloo

"Vindaloo is notorious for being hot and spicy," according to my Indian cookbook The Food of India: A Journey for Food Lovers.  Trust me, the book doesn't lie.  When I first made this dish I didn't have any dried chilies on hand, so decided 2 teaspoons chili powder equaled 4 dried chilies, ground.  Note: it does not.  Yet despite the sweat pouring from my eyelids and the fire-breathing skills we all gained during dinner, it was fantastically flavorful and delicious.  The roommate, though, had to throw in the towel and eat something else.  The carrot pachadi (yogurt-based salad similar to raiti) wasn't able to provide the relief I had hoped for.  Oddly enough, the heat died down overnight in the fridge, so leftovers were much more palatable. 

This time around I was smart enough to remember to reduce the chili powder to 1/2 teaspoon (still have no dried chilies in the apartment), switched to cane vinegar (because I had it), and left out the brown sugar (because I had used up my last bit making this cake.)  Of course, the fresh chilies I had were much hotter than before so the dish maintained its reputation, but this time we were all able to finish our plates.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why Another Food Blog?

Some of the ingredients needed to cook the globe.
Why, indeed?  Last December I toyed with the idea of my own cooking blog simply because I was cooking so much (visiting Seth, my wonderful husband, for the month.)  However, considering I was working and living in rural Uganda at the time, I realized that once I returned there my posts would consist of such exciting entries as, "I ate some bread slathered with Blue Band today, plus a bunch of roasted maize." or "Was tempted to eat at Francis' Joint twice, but managed to stay away for dinner.  Had some bananas instead."  Fascinating.

However, I am now back in Kuwait and have again been cooking like mad (aided by my current joblessness.)  Not just any cooking, but exploring a variety of Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, not only because the food is delicious but also because the necessary ingredients are readily available and quite cheap (especially compared to foodstuffs imported for the benefit of Western expats.)  And that's where my frustration began: internet searches for Middle Eastern food inevitably bring up falafel, tabbloueh, hummus and anything with couscous, but the cuisine of this region is actually a tad more complex.  Searches for Indian dishes are a bit more fruitful, but still lacking: type in "Chicken Lababdar" and you receive three hits from three different websites, all using the same recipe with the same typos and same picture, and zero adaptations.  Hrmph.

I hope not to disappoint in a similar manner.

Oh, and were you expecting a recipe on the very first post?  Okay, one disappointment.