A while back, I introduced a local cake made from nut flour, the basbousa. I’ve become so addicted that baking one has pretty much become my Friday morning ritual…after a double espresso, that is. It’s so easy to throw together, though, you could even start before that first cup is brewed.
This basbousa is a little more rustic than the traditional version. Instead of adorning the pieces with neatly placed whole almonds, I opted for the less fussy scattering of coarsely chopped pieces, guaranteeing the crunch and amazing flavor of toasted almonds in each bite.
Pour another espresso, plate up a couple of pieces of warm basbousa and some fruit, and open up that newspaper. It’s the weekend; start your own tradition!!!
Pistachio Cardamom Rose Basbousa
Each 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…
It didn’t take long for me to start talking about food with my local friends. Everyone has their favorite kababji, but the food vaies only slightly depending on whether the spice blend used is Iranian or Iraqi influenced or Turkish or Lebanese. More often than not, the decision on where to go seems to comes down to the juice and sheesha options.
After several days in a row of dinners consisting almost entirely of meat (and an occasional chicken kabob for good measure), I needed a change, or possibly more appropriately, an intervention. The menu said hammour with citrus, coriander, and chile, and it mentioned a side of steamed vegetables, which in itself was starting to seem worth the price of the plate. I freaked out a little when I saw the bright yellow sauce, but one taste, and I was won over.
Grilled Hammour (grouper) with Mango, Chile, and Cilantro Sauce
I’ve made this recipe a few times now, and the sauce was just as awesome on a grilled salmon fillet. Watch out, though, the chiles sneak up on you.