Monday, June 25, 2012

Simple Iranian Salad: The highlight of the meal



I was nine years old when I visited Iran for the first time. We stayed there for about a month. Coming from industrialized, deserted Kuwait, this was the first time in my life that I see mountains, rivers, flowers and greens as far as the eye can go. I never experienced such a beauty before, it was like stepping into a fairytale , a story or a movie. For most of you that may seem like an ordinary/everyday scene but we really didn't get to see these things except in  movies and read about them in poems.


My brother looking at the street shops near our hotel

On the way to the Haram ( the holy shrine of Imam Ridda) in Mash'had, streets are full of small shops selling everything from ripe, delicious fruits and vegetables, Bastani (traditional Persian ice-cream) , aromatic spices, colorful dresses and hijabs, freshly cut meat, jewelry and gemstones, books, souvenirs  and everything in between.

The streets leading to the Holy Shrine, so busy and packed with people 24 hours a day


I entered the sanctuary of Imam Ridda, and everything ; all the noise from the street, people talking, beggars begging, women fighting who to enter first, kids crying: everything seems to get quiet…I am in the Holy Shrine of the Imam…where wishes are granted and quests are answered…..such a peaceful place…yet full of energy.

Very blurry image, but the  blue dome of the Mosque near the Holy Shrine is visible
A car that has been parked near my Granma's apartment in Mash'had for ages


After we are done from our prayes and dua's, we take a taxi to the many restaurants in Mash'had. Dinner is as usual ; hot delicious saffron rice with some butter melting on top,  grilled marinated meat or chicken kabob, and soft drinks. But it wasn't  that that I always looked for..it was the small things…the appetizers they bring even without  ordering them: Mass' O Moussir ( thick tangy yogurt with mountain garlic) , freshly baked Barbari bread and this salad ( fresh ripe vegetable with some kind of a mayonnaise  dressing). We would actually be half full by the time the real dinner arrives.








Mariam trying out Chador at a fiend's house

Iran was so cheap at that time. We felt instantly so rich because we could afford things  we couldn't back home. We could ride on first class airplanes and trains, and we probably would have afford the whole candy store by our place with only our weekly allowance.

Unfortunately I don't have many pictures to show you. The few pictures here are from 4 years ago when I last visited Iran with my family. I will make sure though that I don't' miss any photo opportunity the next time I am there, which I pray not to be too long from now.









What's your most memorable vacation?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Basboosah: Just a Kiss



Finally I am able to put on a new post. The past month has been very hectic and busy. From designing the new look for the blog (hope you like it) , to buying , selling , packing and donating. We're moving in less than two months and the house, as well as my mind, is a complete mess.

Now that my husband passed the defense and completed his Ph.D, things has calmed down a little. There are less tension in the air and he has more time to sit down, relax,take care of the house and the kids. Which means I have more time to do what I love to do: cooking and taking pictures.



The other day, I was at my friend's house and I tasted a Basboosah that her daughter had made and it was really good I had to copy the recipe. Which actually belonged to Khale Zahra..a friend they knew for  a long time . We also discussed the topic of holding back recipes and keeping them a secret versus sharing everything, which is a topic I would like to expand on , but I'll leave that for another post.



Basboosah is a Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean   sweet that consists mainly of coconut , sugar and semolina. It is very dense and sweet and is often eaten with tea or coffee. The name have always puzzled me. Because in Arabic it sounds like Bas (just) Boosah ( a kiss) . I have no idea what is the story behind the sweet or the name. I read somewhere on the internet that the story behind the naming is that one day  a wife made this sweet for her husband and he liked it and asked her what would she like in return for this dish and she replied : bas boosah ( just a kiss) ! I don't know. I think this is too cheesy to believe, but who know?




Wherever its origin, and whatever the story behind it, this  dessert is very good and very unique as well. In fact, it is so good that I am making a Basboosah mix kit  to give to my daughter's teacher for teachers' appreciation day. Now that is a gift worth giving.

















how i like it:  I really like that this recipe for Basboosah is egg-less. Basboosah is traditionally prepared with coarse semolina , but it is very hard to find it in stores here in the U.S , so I prepared it with ground semolina and you can also use cream of wheat and it will turn equally delicious.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Caramelized Onion Scrambled Eggs : A Smell into The Past

I don't know what  it's called, but I  have a special ability of connecting events in my life to the smell associating with them . I can probably index my life by the smell of each period .. Coco Chanel perfume: my newly wed days,  Ralph by Ralph Lauren: junior high , Air Wick cool linen and white lilac: my first year in the U.S.





A while ago I was at my sister's apartment and she was showing me her perfumes. As I smelled each perfume I started telling her of what each reminds me of: 2003 summer program before I got married, winter 2002 when we were traveling to Suadi Arabia by car,...November 2008 when I was at Disney Land... Excuse me, she said : could you just tell me if you like the perfume  or not. I am not interested in the historical record behind it :) !






The smell of this scrambled eggs reminds me of the my childhood when we would gather every Wednesday night  at my grandmas' house. All of us, the cousins, the aunts, the uncles, old and young. The supper was the same every week: delicious creamy French white cheese, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, freshly baked flat bread brought from the nearby bakery,  the best quality honey brought from Iran and scrambled eggs ...caramelized onion scrambled eggs and hot tea. Very simple, yet it is the most delicious meal I ever had in my life.







Long gone are those days when supper was simple, life was simple. Sadly, people rarely eat this way anymore. Now supper is usually a long feast , filled with all kinds of fancy dishes, or a take out order from a restaurant.






Those days won't  come back, but I am still here...my memories are still here...and the smell of those eggs is still here to remind me of life as I knew it.




What's one smell that reminds you of your childhood or a special time in your life?

recipe

1/2 cup chopped onions
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbs oil
salt


- Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium- high heat. Add the onions and sauté until golden brown.


- Add the eggs and cook until almost done. Remove from heat and continue to cook in the skillet for a few more seconds. Transfer to dish.



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how i like it:  I am not usually a big eggs fan. But when I do eat it, I like my eggs to be just a bit undercooked. I think there is a massive difference in taste between well cooked eggs and undercooked ones. This caramelized onions eggs dish is perfect for breakfast and supper. Perfectly paired with honey, as it complements the sweetness of the caramelized onions. 



Thursday, April 12, 2012

A taste of Iran: Flower water Roulade








In a small cupboard above the oven in one kitchen in Kuwait hides an old ripped notebook worth showing in a national treasure museum. It is a notebook that my mom kept since the days she got married. In it there are lots of delicious valuable hand written recipes and a few poems that my young mom once wrote. She collected those recipes 25 years ago, when she was just like me, a young women in expat with a husband to feed. My worst fear is for this notebook to be lost, because my mom, like any mom for that matter, always loses things. So my plan for when I go back this summer is to make many copies of that little precious notebook.





This recipe comes from that notebook. A recipe of a persian dessert my mom had from her Iranian friend when they both lived in the U.S.

It is very easy yet exotic, elegant, rich and light at the same time. And if you've ever been to Iran, like I have over many summers, all those memories of the Haram (shrine)..the breezy weather...the small shops on the streets selling everything from Bastani to beautiful rugs...boys playing soccer between the blocks, al those will come to mind at the first bite .






Recipe

4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar plus 1/3 cup
1 cup all purpose flower
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup whipping cream
4 Tbs flower water
3 Tbs powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
Crushed pistachios for decoration (optional)

- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Generously grease, or spray witha nonstick spray a 10x15 shallow depth cooking pan. Line with parchment paper and grease/spray the parchment paper as well.
- In a medium bowl, mix together egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, flower, baking powder and baking soda with  an electric mixer until well combined.
- In another small bowl mix egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar.
- Slowly fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites mixture with a spatula or a spoon.
- Slowly pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and make sure the batter is even across the surface (you can do that with a spoon or gently tapping the baking dish).
- Bake the cake in the middle rack for 10-15 minutes, until puffy and golden.
- Let the cake rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spread a kitchen towel with powdered sugar to transfer the cake on once cooled.
- Transfer cake on the prepared kitchen towel. Slowly with both hands, roll the cake from the short side nearest to you using the kitchen towel (don't worry it won't break easily).
- Once you have the cake rolled , transfer to a big dish , cover and let it cool in the fridge for 1 hour (to take the shape of a roll).
- For the filing, combine the whipping cream, flower water and powdered sugar.  Whip cream with a hand or electrical mixer until doubles in volume and almost stiff.
- After the cake has cooled, gently unroll and fill with about three quarters of the mixer. Reroll the cake with the filling (it should easily get back to its shape) and cover the outside with the remaining whipped cream. 
- Garnish with pistachios. Serve cold. 




how i like it:  This recipe may sound complicated, but trust me, it is easier than you think. It is a little time consuming though, but it is very well worth it. Plus you are going to be admired by all your friends thinking you are a very talented cook to produce such an elegant dessert :)
This cake has a very strong egg smell once it comes from the oven. If you dislike the egg smell then you might want to add a drop or two of vanilla to the batter. For me, I like to keep the recipe as it was handed to me. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Oven Roasted Chicken: My Version

I am sure there are many..many recipes for over roasted chicken, as many as there are people in this planet. Because it just might be the easiest dish you can make. You put your chicken in the pan along with some spices and/or vegetables , an hour later..voilà ..you have dinner, and only one dish to clean.

This is just one that my mom makes all the time. It has very few ingredients , but a very strong delicious taste. It has saffron and turmeric which give that authentic persian/middle eastern cuisine flavor.

I make this whenever I am in hurry and I need to get lots of things done. Because, as I said earlier, you can just pop it in the oven and forget about it.

Next time you plan dinner, plan for making this and you won't be disappointed. And don't be turned down by the not so attractive picture. We were reading to have dinner, and my camera's battery were dying so I had to make it quick.



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recipe

1 whole chicken (2 lb.) with skin , cut into large pieces
1 cup carrots , cut into large cubes
1 cup potatoes, cut into large cubes
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp saffron dissolved into 1/4 cup hot water
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs olive oil


* Preheat oven to 420 F
* Lay carrots and potatoes into the bottom of an oven pan. Season with salt and pepper.
* Wash and pat dry chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper and place over the vegetables.
* Combine saffron water , lemon, turmeric and olive oil. Mix well.
* Pour over chicken and vegetables. With your hands, make sure the mixture reaches all the parts of the                   chicken.
* Cover pan with foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
* Remove foil and let the chicken roast for another 10 minutes for browning.
* If more browning is desired , turn on broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until desired browning is reached.


how i like it:  I have found that making roasted chicken or any kind of casserole in ceramic or stoneware dishes taste much better than when making it in the usual glass (pyrex) bakeware. This dish, having iranian / Persian flavor,  will go really good with basmati rice, Mast-oKhiar and Salad Shirazi. Enjoy!



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Marinated Fresh Cheese with Mint and Red Pepper: My Foodie's Creation

I am not only a foodie, but I am also married to a big foodie..(or maybe that's how I became a foodie in the first place...Mmm...who know? :) My foodie likes to experiment with different ingredients and combinations and he especially likes to experiment with cheeses and breads. Of course, there are lots of misses,.... to say the least, but  there are also some hits that are just delicious. This recipe is one of them. Ever since my husband made this about a month ago , I have been crazy for it and I would eat this cheese anytime of the day. I think we made it again 4-5 times since then!







recipe


  • 12  oz packed fresh cheese
  • 2   tsp dried mint
  • 1   tsp salt
  • 1   tsp crushed red peppers
  • extra virgin olive oil enough to coat cheese


In a resealable plastic bag, combine dried mint, salt and pepper.
Cut cheese into cubes and throw in the bag. Shake well until mixture is distributed evenly around cheese.
If you want to store the cheese in the plastic bag you can add the extra virgin olive oil over the cheese.
If you choose to store the cheese in a jar, transfer the cheese and the herb mixture to the jar and add the olive oil to coat the cheese.
Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
When the cheese is all gone, you can use the remaining marinade to make another patch.





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how i like it:  you can eat the cheese right away and it will taste good, but  it will certinly tastes a thousands times better if you let the cheese marinate in the refrigirator at least overnight.  The more you let it marinate the better it will taste. The mint and the olive oil give such a nice fresh flavor to an otherwise very plain cheese and the pepper flakes give it a nice unique spicy kick. I eat this in the morning with pita bread, tomatoes and olives. It can also transform a regular boaring salad for a tasty lunch , and whenever you feel hungry for some salty and satisfaying snack , this will hit the spot. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Basil Salad Dressing : the only dressing I would make

If there is one food I would prefer buying from the grocery store rather than having it made at home is salad dressing. It just feels tedious after all the washing, rinsing, chopping and arranging the ingredients to yet  worry about the dressing. I prefer to buy organic balsamic and italian vinaigrette and ranch from the store that go with almost anything and get creative with the actual salad.




That being said, I haven't found a good basil dressing that compares to the one my mom makes at home. This recipe has been a family favorite for years.  Ever since it was aired in Ramadan by the Arabic talented  chef Manal Al-Alem 10 years ago. I used to eat this dressing by itself for a snack back home and it is one of the first "dishes" I impressed my husband with when we first got married and it is still his favorite.







recipe

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except olive oil in the blender and mix until well combined. Add olive oil and mix. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator. 

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how i like it: this dressing is very light and fresh, perfect for summer or anytime you long for summer. It has that fresh basil taste with a  kick of heat. Store it in the refrigerator and the flavors will combine and marry  even more and it will taste even better. For the salad I had lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and carrots but you can add whatever you like. You can also make a  perfect quick pasta salad with it. Just combine thin spaghetti or whatever pasta you like with your favorite vegetables and a drizzle of the dressing and you've got lunch!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Taste of Home: Lentils Stock


Nine years ago, when I first came to the U.S with my husband, a girl with no experience in cooking whatsoever, there were few options to what we'll have for dinner. There was a restaurant, fast food, the only dish my husband knew and taught t me to prepare: baked salmon with rice. Sick of sea food and fast food, and unable to find halal meat in our small town we had to turn to vegetarian dishes.





Back in Kuwait, my mom would prepare a vegetarian dish at least once a week to take a break from eating meat everyday. I always hated it when she prepared lentils stock. But now I was desperate, and lentils stock seemed an easy dish for a novice cook.

It turned out amazing, and I was very proud of myself. It surprisingly  tasted like my mom's cooking that I almost cried. After months of being away from home, this was very comforting.






Now, whenever I make this dish I still remember those early days coming to the U.S. My early cooking adventure, and me calling my mom every half an hour for directions.  We try to eat vegetarian dishes at least once a week, and usually this is my dish of choice. Thankfully my daughters now like  lentils stock.







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how i like it:  this is a pretty simple, few ingredients dish. Because of that every element is important, especially the dried black lemon (dried lime) , which is an ingredient that is used a lot in arabic and middle eastern cooking. The lentils and the potatoes are more like "base" or earthy flavors, the black lemon is essential to give the dish that "kick" that it needs. If you can't find this ingredient, add lime juice at the end just before serving. Serve with basmati rice, greens and greek yogurt. This is also a pretty healthy and low fat dish.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Muhallabia

Muhallabia is a middle eastern pudding. There are lots of versions and recipe for it depending on the part of the middle east it is coming from, but basically all muhallabias will contain milk, sugar, corn starch  (sometimes rice starch) and flavoring such as cardamom and flower or blossom water.

We usually eat this in Ramadan after a day-long fasting. Served cold, its semi-liquidy semi-thick consistency can magically satisfies hunger and thirst at the same time. It is also a perfect snack for a late afternoon and a good breakfast for a toddler. Serve with chopped pistachios on top for a more grown-up, dramatic flavor.

I have made muhallabia for years using the basic ingredients: milk, corn starch, cardamom and flower water. The other day I tasted a friend's muhallabia and her version includes table cream (قيمر،قشطة) and I really liked it. It had a little extra richness than the basic recipe, and you know how I like rich food..., I am sticking with her version :)







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how i like it: the beauty of this dish is that it very flexible. If you like more of a thick consistancy pudding, add more corn starch. If you like it more watery add more water or milk at the end when the mixture has boiled and you determined the final consistency. If you like your pudding extra sweet , add more sugar. I like it not too sweet nor not too thick, which is what this recipe will give you. If you are new to cardamom and flower water flavor, dont' go too crazy with it , you may not like it. If you are doing this for your kids it is a good idea to eliminate the pistachios as kids are usually not too crazy about it.