Video: Twisted Bread

I love this video, but I wish it actually came with a recipe. Artfully pouring milk into a bowl of unidentifiable sugars and flours in a translucent chemise at dawn is great and all, but measurements might be more useful. Oh well. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected otherwise from an $18 magazine whose main objective seems to be turning mundane daily rituals into sublime aesthetic experiences. [Disclaimer: I’ve never read Kinfolk cover-to-cover. I’ve tried, but it’s hard to pay attention after so much continuous eye-rolling]

Anyway, hipster-hating aside, this recipe reminds me of the sugar-covered Transylvanian funnel cakes I had in Prague and Budapest. I’d love to try making something like them.


Video: Another Recipe for Ful

I found this video when I was looking up information for a new play, Food and Fadwa, which unfortunately just closed last Friday. Oh well, hopefully it’ll be back. In any case, I found another ful recipe to add to my collection — I’m really gonna have to pick up some fava beans next time I go food shopping. Also on my to-do list: check out Tanoreen for some real Middle Eastern cooking. Their menu looks incredible, and becoming more acquainted with how Middle Eastern food is supposed to be prepared will help me with my own cooking experiments. So really, I have to go for research purposes…

Mexican-Style Tofu Scramble

This quick, easy, and healthy recipe was inspired by a Tumblr post. There are pretty comprehensive instructions on the original recipe, but basically you just mash a block of tofu, sauté it in a bit of olive oil, add salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, and a can of black beans, and then continue to cook until all the ingredients are spiced and heated through. Then just top it off with some chopped tomatoes, salsa, and fresh oregano (if you have it on hand — I used dried oregano, and you’re good to go!

To be honest, what really made the dish a hit was this guy:

Oh, Trader Joe’s. How I missed your haven of deliciousness. This salsa is the bomb.

I also heated up some of the leftover scramble in a burrito with some cheddar cheese for dinner. It was yummy. By the way, this is what the tofu scramble part looks like. The tofu was a little more yellow in real life, because of the turmeric.

Ceci N’est Pas Une Diabetic-Friendly Cheesecake

Father’s Day was the first time my extended family, small as it may be, gathered together after my return home. When we get together like this, especially on birthdays or holidays, it’s become a hallowed tradition that I make something special for dessert (lest anyone forget the birthday fiasco of 2011, when I waited a while after dinner to surprise my mom with a cake and was subsequently berated for ruining the celebration). I was all set to prepare a sugar-free clafoutis (basically like a dessert omelet with fruit), as both my grandpa and dad have diabetes, when Dad made a special request for cheesecake, made with Splenda sugar substitute to make it “diabetic friendly.”

Here’s the thing about cheesecake — even if you use a sugar substitute, it’s never going to be diabetic friendly. Sorry, Dad. It’s cheesecake. The main ingredients are cream cheese and butter. Embrace the nature of the beast.

Also, because there are so few ingredients in cheesecake, it’s hard to make a lot of diet-friendly substitutions without compromising heavily on taste. It didn’t escape me that Dad picked up full-fat cream cheese and very high quality butter, which were honestly a big part of what made this raspberry chocolate cheesecake a success — I’m a firm believer that the key to good any good meal is good ingredients.

Or at least, that’s a nice excuse for the occasional indulgence.

Very loosely adapted from Annie’s Eats recipe for Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes.

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New food blogs to follow: Food of Egypt, Buttered Up, and MidEATS

I found Food of Egypt when I was rereading my post about koshary and trying to cross-check the recipe. Though I didn’t have the chance to make it to Egypt when I was abroad, I had the chance to try kofta and of course koshary when I was in Menton, and would love to learn to make more Egyptian food myself. The first thing that caught my eye on Food of Egypt was their recipe for ful — highly praised by every Egyptian I’ve met. That piqued my interest, and I began my hunt for other Egyptian recipes.

Unfortunately, Food of Egypt doesn’t seem to be updated very frequently, so I searched around a bit more and found Buttered Up, which is said to be one of the most popular food blogs from Egypt. However, while all of the recipes on the site look extremely delicious and creative (date-filled croissants or pistachio brownies, anyone?), Buttered Up does not seem to specialize in the more traditional Egyptian food I was looking for (though it’s still there – there are posts on karkadeh, sha’reyya, and lots of updated classics like mehalabia brûlée).

So I kept looking, and finally found MidEATS. Though it’s written by two Egyptian-Americans, MidEATS is not a specifically Egyptian blog – I eyeballed some Lebanese food on their homepage. Still, the blog seems to have all the recipes I was looking for, (and a ton I’d never heard of or thought to make myself) including another take on ful. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing more MidEATS recipes on my own blog soon!

Needless to say, I will probably start following all three of these blogs, even Food of Egypt, and suggest you take a look if you’re interested in Egyptian cuisine.


Quick and easy brunch: Egg-Filled Crêpes with Creamy Swiss, Kale, and Rosemary

To me, brunch is a meal that was invented to serve the multitudes of perfectly sane people who are too sleepy or hungover to wake up early on weekends. So it’s baffling that said perfectly sane people (mostly, in my experience, New Yorkers) have made it into such a fancy-pants institution. I hear about people waiting in line for hours to eat at egg or shelling out megabucks at Norma’s or fighting over reservations at Prune and I ask myself…why? Brunch is supposed to be a relaxing meal for lazy people. My advice? Chill out, go back to bed for another hour, don’t worry about canceling your plans with that person who you haven’t seen for months because you keep sleeping through your brunch dates, and if you still want a fancy-pants meal when you wake up, just make this crêpe yourself.

This “recipe” involves: Defrosting the crêpes your brother made last week and then stuck in the freezer (crêpe recipe can be found here – just leave out the orange flower water). Frying two eggs. Putting the fried eggs on top of the defrosted crêpe. Spreading some Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese on top of the warm crêpe and eggs until the cheese gets melty. Sautéing kale in olive oil until it shrinks down, then adding a healthy splash of lemon juice, then piling the kale on top of the eggs and cheese. Sprinkling everything with rosemary. And then, once you’ve nourished your body, fueled yourself with coffee, taken an Advil and drank a glass of water, you can begin to contemplate how to spend the remainder of your weekend, what you did the night before that put you into such a state, and the best possible way to apologize to your friend.

Moroccan-Spiced Meatballs with Couscous

This was the first meal I cooked after I got home. I wanted comfort food, I wanted to make something slightly impressive and fancy for my family, and I wanted a recipe that would be a little more of a challenge compared to the rice-and-lentils dinners I would throw together in Menton. I found this recipe on Crepes of Wrath, and though I usually like to add my own modifications to recipes, I kept this one pretty much as it was.

The recipe also gave me the opportunity to cook with some of the spices I brought home. When I was in Morocco, I picked up a few traditional spice blends – ras al hanout, harissa, and cinque épices. Though I suspect the ras al hanout I bought in the shuk in Marrakesh is slightly less flavorful than it should be, it still added a distinctive North African kick to the meat (plus, I don’t think my family could taste a difference). It also made me think a bit about buying spices, oils, and teas as souvenirs – they last a bit longer than other foods, and every time you cook with them it reminds you of the meals and experiences you had abroad.

I’m still feeling a bit displaced – somewhere halfway between being home and being far away — so maybe it’s fitting that my first meal in the US has its roots overseas.

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Peach and Plum Galette for the End of Year Gala

In true Menton fashion, our end of year dinner and gala ran into a few last-minute speedbumps. The dinner was planned to be held at the Villa Serena, up in the mountains by the Italian border, about 45 minutes-to-an-hour east of where most of the students live. On its own, this would have been fine – on a beautiful Mediterranean summer evening, it’s no problem to walk a while by the marina on your way to and from dinner. The real issue arose when the location of the gala itself was announced – the party was to be held in Roquebrune, two towns to the west of Menton, and another hour’s walk from the center of town. Meaning that those who went to the dinner beforehand would have to walk two hours to get from the dinner to the party, and would arrive around 1:00 AM. Of course, all of this came to light in the middle of finals, two days before the gala, when no one had the time or energy to figure out alternatives. The last train between Italy and Roquebrune left well before the dinner would be over, there were only three people on campus with cars, and there were nowhere near enough taxis in Menton to shuttle 160 students in any sort of timely manner. So a few friends and I decided to skip the official dinner and have our own quiet meal (pot luck, of course) at the house of one of the students who lives in Carnoles, a short walk away from the Roquebrune city limits.

Of course, I volunteered to bring dessert. I wanted to work with the delicious summer fruit that was just starting to hit the markets, and so decided on a light, fruity galette. The preparation for this dessert is really quick and simple – my recipe is based on Crepes of Wrath’s Whisky Peach and Plum Galette (I think whisky would have been a great addition, but I didn’t have any on hand), though I used store-bought pastry dough instead of making my own – it saves A LOT on time.

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Halal and Haram Risotto

The end of the school year often feels like a manic race to the finish line. With so many papers to hand in and finals to take, it’s pretty normal college student behavior to skimp on meals, sleep, and socializing. And then, like magic, somewhere toward the very end perspectives shift. There’s growing recognition that the year is finishing, that so much has happened and (hopefully) been learned in the past few months, and that we’ll all be saying goodbye soon. And suddenly, it becomes more important to make every moment last, to take things slow, to see your friends and enjoy your time with them and squeeze in those last few goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the semester.

Enter the impromptu potluck. One Sunday night, a fellow resident of Villa Jasmin suggested that those who could take a break from studying come together for dinner. And despite (or perhaps, because of) the two finals I had the next week, I decided it would be worth it for me to make one of my favorite meals that I’ve always wanted to prepare myself: risotto.

Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish, made with arborio rice. The trick to this recipe is patience — you have to slowly add the broth ladle by ladle to make the rice puff up and stick together. I made two versions — I used about 1/4 of my box of rice to make halal risotto and the remaining 3/4 for a “haram” risotto (with bacon and white wine). Both were delicious in their own way, and both followed this basic and infinitely variable recipe.

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Cooking Koshary

Photo courtesy of Xin Tian — I’m just modeling here.

One of the main benefits of studying abroad is, of course, cultural exchange, which I’ve been experiencing a lot of since my arrival in Menton. I’m in France, studying at a French university that specializes in Middle Eastern studies, on a campus that has students hailing from all over the Middle East and North Africa, all corners of Europe,  as far away as Singapore, Mexico, and India, and a number from different parts of France. One of my favorite parts of this geographical amalgam is the wide range of cuisines that are represented — when I walk into the kitchen at Villa Jasmin I have an equal chance of finding someone preparing couscous, baking a quiche, chopping vegetables for a stir fry, or spreading liverwurst on a piece of bread (though to be honest, there’s always a much higher chance that I’ll find someone defrosting something in the microwave; we have a Picard right around the corner). So when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in making koshary, an Egyptian staple, to raise money for our campus’s branch of Amnesty International, I jumped at the chance.

I don’t have any pictures of the preparation process, mainly because things moved too fast for me to have time to stop and snap photos. Koshary is a very basic dish, made with commonly found food and easy to prepare, but there are a LOT of different steps involved. There are separate preparations for the grains and lentils, the pasta, the tomato sauce, the fried onions, and the sour sauce. I’ll try to break everything down in a non-confusing way, but in the end I’m so glad I had the chance to make it myself; with dishes like this, the best way to learn how to make them is through experience.

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