An exotic perfumed cake from Kuwait called Gers Ogely; with saffron, cardamom, rose water and toasted sesame seeds flavor notes.
It’s time for the MENA (Middle Eastern & North African) Cooking Group. This monthly group has for goal to help us discover the culture and cuisine of the countries found in these parts of the world. The host of the month will choose a savory and a sweet dish from the country and the members pick one dish to make.
This month we are exploring Kuwait and I chose a traditional and very popular cake called Gers Ogely.
I have again a new monthly challenge group to introduce. This one is called MENA, or Middle Eastern & North African Cooking Group, which could not fall any closer to my blog’s topic interests. The goal is to learn more about the selected country, its food traditions and how to prepare the selected recipe. The host will choose a savory and a sweet dish from the country, you pick which one to make. For my first time participating we were assigned Bahrain and I chose to go with the Bahraini Chicken Machboos. Definitely a first for me.
Are you looking for an exotic and light (on the calories) dessert that takes very little time to prepare? A favorite of mine is called Muhallabieh. It is a rose water flavored milk pudding which is quickly thickened with cornstarch. This is a very traditional Lebanese dessert but you will find it all over the Middle East; particularly in Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Egypt.
There is nothing like buying a little bit of fresh herbs to give humph and a clean flavor to a dish. Sometimes all you need is a couple of tablespoons. And then you are left with a bunch of herbs without planned use. In comes the bunch of parsley I purchased for the Tyrolean Knodel I made again last week. I only needed a little and I had so much left.
I often freeze my fresh herbs but they tend to be left forgotten. Parsley is not a herb I use a lot so I wanted to make something different while still fresh. There is only one recipe that I know of that requires parsley in large quantity, the Tabouleh Salad.
I would have to say Tabouleh is probably one of the first Middle Eastern foods I have ever eaten, it acompanied a Lebanese fast food dish. Tabouleh claims its origins in Syria and Lebanon but it became quickly popular all over the Middle East, each country putting a twist on it.
I have consumed countless Tabouleh versions since my first one. Some were an eye opener and many were a huge disappointment. I believe this recipe below is the best Tabouleh I have ever tasted. I really like the texture of the Israeli couscous in here, a nice variation but a similar size on the traditional bulgur. The seasoning is so simple but full of taste. The parsley is not overbearing in this recipe either. I highly recommend you give this one a try.
I have you seen these nifty herb scissors? I got them for Christmas after I exclaimed jealousy to my mom who had gotten a pair as a hostess gift a couple of year’s back. Five blades easily chop up fresh herbs without bruising the leaves too much. A little plastic comb gets the herbs in the blades out. It’s my new favorite gadget.
Happy Sunday everyone! I am so very excited today to talk to you about a cookbook that is about to hit the shelves in November 2012. I was very lucky to get an advanced copy by the author, my dear friend and fellow food blogger Faith of the blog An Edible Mosaic. Faith’s cookbook is an absolutely wonderful collection of traditional Middle Eastern dishes. I was so honored to receive a copy of the book because I think the message Faith wants to convey is very close to my blog’s purpose: it is for food lovers, restaurant goers and home cooks who would like to explore a more exotic palate in their plate.
Giveaway: I have a copy of the An Edible Mosaic Cookbook to give away. Check out the end of the post to learn how to enter the draw.
I have been lucky to have made friends over the last 20 years with people from various parts of the Middle East so I have been exposed to classic Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian and so forth dishes. The cuisine has nothing to do with your local Shish Taouk sandwich shop. Faith did not grow up accustomed to these dishes either, not until she met her now husband Mike who is Middle Eastern. She learned to cook these fabulous dishes during the first 6 months of her marriage in her mother-in-law’s kitchen. Faith brought back this treasure of recipes to North America.
In this cookbook you will find such classics as hummus, kebabs and pistachio drenched sweets. But you will discover a whole plethora of delectable flavors which I hope you will try like tabbouleh, saffron rice, stuffed squash with yogurt sauce, beautiful lamb dishes and scented milk puddings. The recipe I prepared is an unusual choice for me: Fried Eggplant with Garlic and Parsley Dressing. I have never been a fan unless it has been cooked and drenched in tomato sauce but made the effort to turn into a now acquired taste. Faith’s husband, Mike, also hates eggplants. His mother always hoped he would one day marry a girl who liked this vegetable. When Faith tasted and fell in love with this recipe she also got her mother-in-law’s blessing. So it just goes to show you never know what can come out of keeping an open mind and trying new foods!
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes for the eggplant to drain
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
1 large or 2 small globe eggplants (about 2 lb/900 g)
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 bunch fresh parsley, minced
Oil, for shallow frying
Fully or partially peel the eggplant if desired. (To partially peel it, peel one strip off down the length of the vegetable, then leave the next strip in place and peel the next strip off, and so on). Slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 mm to 1.25 cm) thick slices (lengthwise or crosswise is ﬁne if you’re using baby eggplant, but if you’re using a large eggplant slice it crosswise).
Sprinkle the salt on both sides of each slice and transfer to a colander; put the colander in the sink and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cold running water, then gently wring out any excess water and pat dry.
Combine the vinegar, water, garlic, and parsley in a small bowl and set aside.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet over moderately high heat with oil. Fry the eggplant in batches (so the pan isn’t overcrowded) until golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes per side. (You can add more oil to the pan if necessary.) Transfer the cooked eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
Serve the eggplant warm or at room temperature, along with the dressing to drizzle on top.
Want to win a copy of this cookbook?
3 ways to enter the contest, each way counts as a separate entry so more chances to win!
– Leave a comment in the post!
– Share this giveaway on Facebook and leave separate comment
– Tweet: I just entered the Edible Mosaic #cookbook #giveaway with @cethniceatz at http://cultureatz.com/a-sneak-peek-at-the-edible-mosaic-cookbook-fried-eggplant-with-garlic-and-parsley-dressing/
This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE. You have till November 4th, 2012, 23h59 EST to enter. GOOD LUCK!
Have you ever ordered a pudding for dessert in a Persian, Middle Eastern or Indian restaurant? I bet if you have you were quite surprised the first time. It is nothing like the thick, very sweet, creamy pudding we are familiar with. It is much lighter in the creamy department, usually a lot less sweet, it may have a stiffer consistency and flavors can include rose water (Gulabjal ), pistachio or saffron. To the North American palette it is usually a big hit or a big miss. These puddings take on a perfumed quality. Personally I love it and it has way less calories the instant pudding.
I came across this Cardamom flavored pudding on a site that associated it with Indian cuisine. Actually this particular recipe is referred to as an Afghan recipe, called Firnee, but you will find very similar versions in the Indian cuisine (called Phirni or Kheer, made with added rice), Pakistani, Persian or the various Arab cuisines.
Traditionally Firnee is topped wit pistachios but let’s throw caution to the wind and top it with fruit, in this case strawberries.
5 cardamom pods
4 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
lemon juice and a bit of sugar
Crack cardamom pods gently with a rolling pin. Combine with 4 cups milk in a pan; stir occasionally over medium-high heat until milk is boiling, 9 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix sugar, the cornstarch, and the ground cardamom. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup milk. When the milk in pan is boiling, remove from heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Return to medium-low heat and stir just until mixture comes to a boil, 3 to 7 minutes.
Pour through a fine strainer set over a bowl; discard residue. Ladle pudding into 6 small bowls or ramekins. Let cool about 10 minutes, then cover and chill until cold and set, at least 1 1/2 hours.
Chop strawberries into small pieces. Place strawberries in a bowl and add a bit of lemon and sugar to them. Mix, cover and chill. Drain the strawberries if there is liquid. Just before serving, spoon strawberries evenly over puddings.
And see how the strawberries match my new couch slipcover? I know very weird segway! But I was asked by the fabulous people at Wayfair to pick an item for review. And they sell everything…and I mean EVERYTHING, yes they even sell kitchen sinks.
So usually I would pick something kitchen related like a small appliance or something but I opted for a sofa slipcover because my 14 year old couch is in a pathetic state. Well the cushions are as I would need to replace the seating foam and have them upholstered in a different material since the current material is ripped.
Partial view of my couch with a young Sati – pic is 3-4 years old
A new couch is not in the financial cards right now and this couch has a lot of significance for me: it is the first big piece of furniture I ever bought as I was planing to move out of my parent’s house. This couch represents my independence. Yeah yeah I am being to sentimental. Anyways I decided to get the Sure Fit Stretch Sullivan Sofa Slipcover T-Cushion to give my sofa a revamped look for the next little bit it still has to live out.
The product advert pic but same shape as my couch
Now I knew this was going to be a bit of a challenge because I have what is called a T-cushion couch and the back support is pillows which I move all the time. I thought this model would mold well enough to my couch and I could stuff away the extra back material easy enough. It was a bit of a puzzle to put on but eventually I got it. I really like the claret color and the pattern, a real instant decor makeover for the living room. It’s like a stretch velour.
Now that I have been using the slip cover for a while I have mixed feeling about it. This is really not a big deal but every so often you do have to readjust the seems and bit. Overall I am really happy with the functionality. My big problem – and this is not the product’s fault – is that the cover is a cat hair magnet and the hairs gets really tangled up in the weave of the cover making hard to keep fur free. So if you have been on the fence about getting a sofa slipcover I say go for it with the Sure Fit collection…unless you have a furry pet that goes on your furniture.
When you start exploring more exotic foods you realize pretty soon that your local Chinese, Japanese, Greek and ethnic etc. restaurants are bastardized versions made for the North American palate. You may find the small gem family run restaurant that serves more authentic dishes or you can really find out what the true cuisine of a country is when on holiday. Greek food is a perfect example. When I was there many moons ago I ate grilled octopus, devoured lams stews, enjoyed moussakas and drank frappes in large quantities. No souvlakis or gyros in sight. I tell you the food and the islands there are so gorgeous I should consider moving there and start looking to find the best mortgage deals.
Moussaka was actually something I discovered first in a Greek restaurant in Montreal, not in Greece. I still remember the first time I ate it and immediately associated as extreme comfort food. Of course I would choose an ethnic dish as comfort food and not something closer to home! Now when I go to a Greek restaurant, if moussaka is on the menu chances are that is what I will order. Warning: moussaka is not the most photogenic food but it is amazing.
One day I came across a recipe for Greek Moussaka. Remember the days when gas stations gave out free stuff like glasses and plastic containers? It was pretty lame stuff usually but at one point one company (can’t remember which one) was giving away a series of little cookbooks. My parents had that whole collection. One of the books was fancy recipes for dinner parties and in it was this recipe below. I first made it about 15 years ago and I keep going back to it because it is the best moussaka I ever ate, hands down. I don’t have a source as I wrote down the recipe in a personal book a decade ago and my mom no longer has the cookbook.
Contrary to popular belief, moussaka is not solely a Greek dish but a dish of the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Each country and/or region has a different spin on it, with a common base of sauteed eggplant, tomato and usually minced meat. But the one we are the most familiar with is the Greek one, which is characterized by lamb meat spiced with cinnamon and a top layer of Bechamel sauce with nutmeg.
The Greek moussaka is believed to be invented by Nikolaos Tselementes, a Greek chef considered one of the most influential chefs of the early 1900s who modernized Greek cuisine and published many influential Greek cookbooks.
Ξ Greek Moussaka Ξ
2 large eggplants
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs. ground lamb (or beef)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cups plain breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
Slice the eggplants in to 1/2 inch slices. Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the bitterness. In a skillet over med-high heat, heat 1 tsp. approx of olive oil per batch. Quickly fry the eggplant until browned. Set aside.
In a skillet heat the remaining olive oil, add onion and saute until semi-translucent. Add the ground lamb (or beef) and brown until the pink color disappears. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add wine, tomato paste, cinnamon, salt and pepper, bring to a boil and allow to simmer for approx 15 minutes. Add the parsley.
In a 9×13 inch baking pan, sprinkle evenly half the breadcrumbs, layer half the eggplant slices, spread half the meat sauce and sprinkle half the grated Parmesan. Repeat. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To make the Bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and allow the flour to cook for a minute. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs, then the cottage cheese and nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens.
Pour the Bechamel sauce on top of the layers, smooth the sauce evenly with a spatula and allow the sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the sauce has a golden color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before serving.