Monthly Archives: August 2014

Berries bite back

IMG_1887One of the things I love about traveling is that it forces me to try new foods and new combinations of familiar foods.  I am forever grateful for Italy for introducing me to a surprising combo that stole my heart, fragole con aceto balsamico — fresh strawberries drizzled in balsamic vinegar.  Most of the time, it’s served as a dessert, but paired with the peppery bite of arugula and the amazingly tangy taste of plum tomatoes, it makes a wonderfully simple lunch on a summer day or a stunning accompaniment to grilled steak or chicken.

Strawberry and Tomato Salad

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Cultured self-indulgence?

20140802-144700-53220089.jpgEach weekend, I try to get out and explore another facet of this small country.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a boozy brunch now and then, too, but if that’s all I did with my weekends, no amount of working out could keep the weight off.  More importantly, I’d have squandered an opportunity to experience the culture and history of a place I’d lived in for a full year.

One of those adventures also led me to a tasty discovery, basbousa.  Normally made with semolina, the woman running the museum cafe assured me that their version was gluten, dairy, and egg free.  It was so moist, tender, and sweet without being cloyingly so.  Sadly for me, the fact that yogurt is dairy got lost in translation.

Unfortunate reaction aside, the dessert did lead to another delicious experiment with nut flours — this time pistachios — inspired by a flavor combination borrowed from an Eid favorite, gulab jamun — cardamom and rose.  The result, Pistachio Cardamom Rose Basbousa, isn’t authentic Arabic, but to me, it captures the spirit of this island and the cultural melting pot that it has become over thousands of years.

Here’s the challenge:  the recipe has you cut the basbousa before drizzling it with the rose syrup to make cutting/serving easier.  It also means that, in mere minutes, once the basbousa has cooled, practically nothing is left to slow your consumption except will power and good friends.  Okay, at least you might feel a bit more cultured than you would after a boozy brunch…

 

Bacon guilt

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Six months into living in the Middle East, and I still feel guilty walking into the non-halal section of the market and even more ashamed when I have to place my coveted package of pancetta affumicata on the checkout belt in front of the abaya and hijab clad cashier.

But, it’s pancetta affumicata, and I’ve gone nearly three years without…

Sorry vegan, Muslim, and non-pork eating friends.  There is just something about the taste of pancetta and bacon that turns the ordinary into something… well, something decadent.   Feel free to leave it out or use your favorite substitute.  I won’t judge if you don’t.

Leek and Potato Gratin

 

“Can” Do

I know the thought of canned fish makes a lot of folks cringe, but for me, it verges on comfort food.  Growing up, I ate it at least as often, if not more than chicken. In the midwest, seafood wasn’t exactly plentiful, and despite our “middle class” status, my parents had three kids to feed and a house and car to pay off on their small salaries.  Making sure we could to live in a neighborhood that afforded access to good schools was more important than what clothes we wore or how fancy the food was on our plates.

I’m lucky enough to have access to a plentiful selection of fresh fish these days, but as I ran through the market after work I spotted a tin of smoked salmon in olive oil and thought “why not?”

Tossed with some arugula and a little quinoa pasta, it makes an easy, and delicious post-run recovery meal (or post-work recovery meal if you’ve had one of those days…).

Smoked Salmon and Arugula Pasta

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