Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kiwi Lemon Ice Delight Recipe

Kiwi Lemon Ice Delight
{adapted from Famous French Desserts}

Preparation Time: 15 minutes 
Freezer Time: 1 hour 

Ingredients:(4 people)

2 Lemons
3 Apples
4 Kiwis
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/4 cup Low-fat Milk (or skim)
Handful of Chopped Fresh Mint (optional)

How to Make It:

1. Peel and slice 2 kiwis. Cover the sides and bottoms of four individual dessert bowls (prettiest when glass).
2. Peel the remaining 2 kiwis, apples, and lemons. Remove the seeds from the apples and lemons. Place all contents in food processor or blender and reduce to a purée with milk and sugar. Pour this mixture into serving bowls, over the kiwi slices and put in freezer for one hour.
3. Before serving, sprinkle mint over top.

Spicy Marinara Sauce Recipe

Spicy Marinara Sauce
     Yields: 4 servings



       2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
·            3 cloves garlic crushed
·            1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
·            1 tablespoon tomato paste
·            1 32-ounce can chunky-style crushed tomatoes
·            Salt, pepper and Sugar to taste
·            1 teaspoon Italian dried seasoning
·            1 handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped 

       1 onion, sliced


Add the Olive Oil to a medium-size saucepan over moderate heat. Add the onions, garlic and crushed pepper to the heated olive oil.
When the garlic sizzles, add the tomato paste, cook for one minute, then stir in the crushed tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, sugar and Italian seasoning. Cook for five minutes and stir in parsley.

Cinnamon Pear and Apple Compote Recipe

Cinnamon Compote
Serves 4-6
2 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped
1 apple peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup seedless golden raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Turn stove top to Medium heat. Add butter to small sauté or saucepan. Swirl the melted butter in the pan and coat evenly.
2. Add the chopped pears, apples and golden raisins to the pan.
3. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
4. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and cook until the sauce has thickened and the fruit becomes soft and tender. This should take about 5 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and let your compote cool for 5 minutes.
6. Serve over ice cream, yogurt or spruce up your lunch the next day and add it to your salad or sandwich.

Creamy Cheesy Grits Recipe

Creamy Cheesy Grits
Serves 4-6

1 cup heavy cream
1 can (1 2/3 cups) chicken broth
1 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup quick grits
A few sprigs of parsley for garnish

1. Turn stove top to medium heat. Add chicken broth, heavy cream, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
2. Add the butter, salt, and pepper.
3. Slowly whisk in grits and reduce heat.
4. Cook 15 to 20 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.
5. Remove from heat and plate. Add cheese and parsley for garnish and Serve.

Heavenly Honey Cippolini Onions Recipe

Heavenly Honey Cippollini Onions
Serves 4-6

18 cippollini onions
1/4 cup of Extra-virgin olive oil
1 capful of vanilla
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Place onions in a large bowl and cover them with hot water. Let the onions steep in the water for about 5 minutes. Since they are so small this will make peeling them so much easier. Remove onions from water bath and peel.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper until combined.
4. Put the onions on a sheet pan and pour the heavenly honey sauce over them. Place the sheet pan in the oven and roast for 18 to 20 minutes until the onions are soft and slightly caramelized.
5. Remove from oven. Plate and serve.

Shrimply Delicious - Spicy Southern Shrimp Recipe

Shrimply Delicious – Spicy Southern Shrimp
Serves 4-6

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of coarse salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Black pepper (to taste)

1. Soak Bamboo skewers, 15 minutes submerged in water.
2. Preheat grill for medium heat.
3. In a bowl, crush the garlic and add in the salt. {I use a mortar and pestle but if you don’t have one the backend of a spoon works very well}.
4. Mix in cayenne pepper and paprika.
5. Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice to form the marinade.
6. In separate bowl, toss shrimp and add in the marinade. Make sure to spread the love and evenly coat each one.
6. Lightly oil the top of the grill. Cook shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until pink.
7. Remove from heat. Plate and Serve.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Road to Awe - Libya - The Good, The Bad and The Amazing

Photo Courtesy 

The situation in Libya has been plaguing me with a maddening sadness. It rushes over me like a hot blanket that I can’t kick off. The last few nights, when I close my eyes, nightmares become my dreams and I find myself tossing and turning for six seemingly endless hours, asking myself a myriad of tough questions; yet I never come up with a clear answer.

I grapple with this series of questions that I want to ask anyone who will listen but I am afraid of what their response may be. All these conflicting thoughts bake in my heart like a marble mix cake; the answers never combine, instead they stand in perfect opposition. What role should we play? How far should we go for survival? For a dollar?  How many more innocent people will die? Can we work together to better man as a whole? And not let our national identities separate us? When is enough, enough?

I suppose it is somewhat understandable why I feel conflicted, since Libya’s revolution has been full of simultaneous moments of freedom and helplessness, extreme happiness and sadness, iron fisted regime and rebellion. But I have learned, as a hesitant observer many lessons from what is taking place right now.

All of the lessons center around one main theme, the power of an idea. An idea engulfs your senses like a tsunami and can spread like a wildfire in dry brush, changing whatever is in its path.  However not all ideas are created equal. They make up a range of representations conceived with a range of intentions. They can invoke fear, create doubt or inspire hope and change. They can unlock mysteries, cure diseases, and improve quality of life.

But the true power of an idea comes from the individual and the collective putting meaning into it. What makes any idea, whether it is “bad” or “good” so beautiful is that it has an everlasting, mutable quality. It can change and evolve to become something new and different. Yet, if you peel back the layers you can trace its source through histories and across barriers like time and space.

The cyclical nature of life and ideas remind me of a movie I just watched called The Fountain. It was recommended to me by my friends Greg and Kim. There was one particular part that stood out in a big way and that was the phrase “the road to awe.”

If you haven’t seen The Fountain let me set the scene up for you. The main character is a cancer researcher and his wife is dying of brain cancer. His wife becomes increasingly interested in Ancient Mayan culture and one night she has a seizure at the Mayan exhibit in the museum. While recovering in the hospital the two characters are talking and it becomes evident that her husband is having a hard time dealing with the fact she may die. So she tells him this story about a man she knew named Moses and how he dealt with his father’s death:

“If they dug his father’s body up, it would be gone. They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree’s fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said… death was his father’s road to awe. That’s what he called it. The road to awe.”
To me “the road to awe” is the celebration and acceptance that we are all connected and that out of death comes life, out of destruction comes creation and that it is the journey not the destination we should cherish. Now there is blood in the sand but out of death the road to awe will bring new ideas, new life and a new Libya.

Having said all of this, there is something more positive that I want to address. As a result of the news coverage and talking with people I know, I realized there are a lot of things people don’t know about Libya. To be honest sometimes the amount is a little frightening because the “ideas” they believe to be true are not.  But I don’t blame them because most people in the world only know Libya to be synonymous with Gadaffi. And I think now you can understand why that totally sucks. So I’m going to share with you some of my experiences from Libya and also some from growing up as a Libyan-American; to hopefully shed some light on a part of my heritage that is rich with history and also very misunderstood. 

I am a Southern girl at heart. I was born and raised in the South. My mom is from Nashville, TN; therefore I was brought up with a double dose of Southern values. And if there is one thing that Southerners are known for its “Southern Hospitality.” 

But when I went to Libya, I realized that I am genetically predisposed to be an Uber Host because in Libya they take hospitality to new heights. It’s incredible actually. When you are a guest, even if you are a friend just coming by to visit, they roll out the red carpet. 

I’m talking 8 course meals, tea and coffee service with mountains of desserts.
Each person and family prides themself on being the best host. To be considered a bad host is one of the worst insults ever! It’s right up there with shoe throwing.

Another interesting thing about Libyans is they are known for loving sweets. This may sound like a stereotype but in my experience this is true for most Arab children, not just Libyans. I will never forget when I first learned just how much Arab children loved candy. 

 Now my mom is Catholic and my dad is Muslim so we celebrated both holidays and religions. It was the end of Ramadan and we decided to celebrate Eid at a new mosque in Virginia Beach. Ramadan is a holy time of fasting in the religion of Islam. It lasts about a month and Eid is the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

I was 8 years old and my brother Amir was 5 at the time. After prayer, we ate massive amounts of traditional North African food that was spread on tables everywhere. Once we finished they had a special surprise for the children. All the kids left the main area and gathered in a small, rectangular room.

My brother and I only knew one other person there and that was our friend Ali. Ali was 9 years old. Besides us, there were about 30 kids ranging in ages from 4 – 12 packed in this small room with their mothers. Hanging above our tiny heads was a beautiful piñata. Yea it was the 90’s, when Piñatas were all the rage. 

 The mothers lined all the children up to hit the piñata. The youngest kid was first and he barely hit it. Then the next kid went up, followed by another until there was one, there’s always one. He had a fire in his eye like it was his destiny to break that piñata. I looked at my brother and gave him a nod. We were both ready with our candy bucket.

The next events happened so fast that me and my brother were not prepared. The piñata burst sending little candied jewels into the air. 

All of the sudden it was like we were playing piñata with miniature versions of T.O., Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’neal, and Deion Sanders. They were bobbing and weaving, pump faking and leaping through the air like they were about to score the winning touchdown in the Superbowl.

I looked down and I could not see one piece of candy, only a sea of small bodies, writhing around on the ground, trying to clamor for any piece they could get their hands on. And the screaming, oh the screaming. 

I stood with my mouth open in disbelief. I did not know what to do but my Arab kid gene was kicking in and I really wanted some candy. I looked at my brother and I could tell we were thinking the same thought. Should I jump in the pile and fend for the candy? Or should I take the high road? I looked back at my mom and her face said it all. She could not believe what she was seeing.

After about 2 minutes of this candy chaos, it started to get ugly and the mothers began to break up the 30 sugar crazed children. The mothers were very embarrassed because my brother and I were the only two kids that didn’t jump in. I’m sure it also didn’t help that we looked extremely sad because we didn’t get any candy. I will admit it wasn’t one of my finer moments but I was about to cry.

However, the sweet part of the deal was that since we did not get one piece of candy all the moms made their kids give us a piece; so we ended up with the most candy in the end.

After the crazy candy incident the party was over and it was time to go home. As we were walking back to our cars, I looked over at Ali’s arm and I saw that he was bleeding and had a huge chunk of flesh missing where a kid had bitten him. He has a scar to this day,

Another funny candy story was one time my great Aunt was visiting from Libya and when she was getting ready to fly back, she packed an entire suitcase full of Jolly Rancher candies for the kids. I’m talking about probably 15- 20 pounds of Jolly Ranchers. 

I should note this was the time when Libya had a large amount of sanctions on them, so that probably played a part.  But I think you get an idea of how much Libyan people like sweets. 

To me the best way to learn about any culture is through its food. Food you get to experience for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Food is social, historical, and cultural all at the same time. Plus a culture’s food is like a culinary timeline that represents the past and the present. So next time I am going to walk you through one of the 8 course meals that I had at my Aunt’s house so you can have your own taste of Libya. 

National Pancake Day and Bazeen Recipe - Celebrate With a Cool and Worldly Swag

Lately, it’s odd but I have been on this huge pancake kick. It started with your basic sweet pancake. I put a little bit of honey on it and maybe some homemade whipped cream. The next day, it was pancakes with a honey - wasabi sauce. Then it evolved to grilled cheese pancake sandwiches with brie and granny smith apples. After that, I kind of went off the deep end with my experimental pancake extravaganza.

I made pancakes with Caramelized sweet, Vidalia onions and lemon marscapone, chicken pancakes with olive oil and balsamic reduction, fried chicken pancakes with honey yams and Mac –n- cheese and scallion, cream cheese pancakes. But after my savory trip down pancake lane I wanted to go back to the sweet.

I have always been a huge fan of Lavender, so naturally I wanted to make a Lavender pancake. It was pretty simple actually, all I had to do was substitute Lavender tea for the water. But in my haste to enjoy my special creation, I did not cool the tea so it started to cook the flour in the pancake. 
Remembering that most scientific and culinary creations come out of mistake, I decided to see what would happen when I cooked it. To my surprise it created this thick, sturdy pancake. Ironically, when I was making my savory pancakes the one complaint I had was that they were never sturdy enough to stand up to the ingredients. That is until now. Mwahahaha. But this culinary mishap actually reminded me of a dish that is found only in Libya called bazin.

Bazeen (pronounced Bazeen) is a dish that is widely popular in Libya. Personally, my family goes crazy for it. But it is definitely an acquired taste. But if you get the chance to try it you definitely should.

Bazeen is a mixture of barley flour and a little plain flour. The flour is added to a pot of boiling salted water until it starts to form a hard dough. Once the hard dough forms, it is mixed and shaped into a rounded, smooth dome and placed in the middle of your serving dish.

After it is shaped, it is time to add the sauce. Most sauces, in Libya, are made by frying chopped onions with lamb meat and spicing it up with turmeric, salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, sweet paprika, and tomato paste. Broad beans, lentils, pumpkin and potatoes are usually added. As the final touch, eggs are boiled and arranged around the dome. As an accompaniment it is served with lemon and fresh or pickled chillies known as msayar.

But I’m not going to lie to you, the process to make Bazeen is very labor intensive. But if you’re looking for a good way to get your workout in while cooking, well Bazeen is for you.

Below I have posted two recipes, the first is for traditional Bazeen.If you are daring try it and send in your pictures!! I will post them up.  The other recipe is for Lavender Pancakes. The recipe is so simple that even if you are not skilled in the culinary arts, you can make it. And if you add hot tea to the Lavender Pancakes, you can have your own Americanized version of Bazeen.

Enjoy National Pancake Day! And If you’re by an IHOP make sure to go in for your free Pancakes today.

 2 pounds barley flour
 2 pounds meat (Lamb, or Beef)
 1 medium size onion
 1 pound potatoes
 1 -2 tea spoons salt
 2 quarts water
 Half a can of tomato paste
 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
 1/2 teaspoon allspice
 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
 1/2 teaspoon cumin
 1/2 teaspoon feungerek
 Quarter cup olive oil or 3 spoons ghee
 Place the barley flour in a large, deep pot with 2 quarts of boiling salt water. Add a tall wooden stick to the middle. This will make it easier to mix.
 Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the barley begins to cook and thicken. Note: If it seems like the bottom is going to burn before the flour has fully been incorporated then add in some additional water. 
 Once the barley flour begins to thicken lower the heat and begin to stir it. Note: this is going to be a very good arm workout. 
Once the flour and water has been incorporated together remove from heat. 

 Start this sauce before or while you're cooking the Bazeen. 
 Chop the onion and cook in olive oil or ghee till translucent, then add the meat (chopped into small pieces) and cook with the onion till the meat turns brown.
 Add the tomato paste, 1-teaspoon salt, 1 -2 cups of water and all the spices. Cook on medium high heat until the meat is almost cooked. Add the potato (peeled and cut into small pieces) and finish cooking until the meat is tender.
 Add some of the dough water into the meat and the potato to help it thicken.
Knead the cooked dough very well till it turns soft like a pizza dough.
 Separate the cooked dough into round balls (the size of a large orange) and put them in the center of a several bowls. You could also make one large, round ball for everyone to share.
Pour the meat and the potato stew around the cooked dough ball(s) till it covers half of it.
Note: Add hard boiled eggs for more flavor.

Aisha Foodista's Swag Lavender Pancakes 
Serves: as Many as you Want

Use your favorite pancake mix. 

Substitute the water for steeped tea. 

If you want to make them how I did originally add the hot tea in, otherwise cool the tea before adding it to the pancake mix. 

Cook and Enjoy.

How easy is this!!

Amy Ruth's - A Taste of The South Up North

Whenever I feel homesick I go for a taste of the South at Amy Ruth's in Harlem, New York. Um. Um Um. The best way for me to describe how I feel about their food is with the video clip below. Specifically, at 1 minute and 47 seconds into it. The guy in the blue shirt jumping for joy and swinging his head around, yes, that describes perfectly how I feel everytime I bite into their sweet candied yams or cheesy, creamy mac and cheese. In fact, I have my own Amy Ruth's dance, which I will perform for those curious readers if you ask.  

{Cornbread - Sweet, just how I like it}

{Amy Ruth's Signature Chicken and Waffles}

One of Amy Ruth's most popular dishes, especially on the weekends when they stay open 24 hours, is the Chicken and Waffles. Now, Chicken and Waffles has been a popular dish in Southern cuisine for a long time and there are many speculations on its origins. The one I most commonly heard growing up goes along the same lines as this one from Wikipedia:

"As unusual as it might seem, the marriage of chicken and waffles actually has deep roots. Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron back from France in the 1790s and the combination began appearing in cookbooks shortly thereafter. The pairing was enthusiastically embraced by African Americans in the South. For a people whose cuisine was based almost entirely on the scraps left behind by landowners and plantation families, poultry was a rare delicacy; in a flapjack culture, waffles were similarly exotic. Chicken and waffles for decades has been a special-occasion meal in African American families, often supplying a hearty Sunday morning meal before a long day in church...".[2]

{Honey - Dipped Fried Chicken with a side of Candied Yams and Mac & Cheese}

 However in my household, we didn't eat before we went to church we had to wait until after. Because in my family, my Dad is always on time and everyone else is always late; so we never had time to eat breakfast before church. So you can imagine how my brother and I were starving by the end of church, especially since Catholic church runs long. Our treat would be going out to eat Soul Food, our after church tradition and one that we were always excited about.

Now, at Amy Ruth's I've tried almost everything, but my favorites are: the Salmon with Peach Butter, the Fisherman's Platter, which comes with Catfish, Shrimp and Crab cakes and the Southern Honey- Dipped Fried Chicken. But Soul Food isn't just about the entrees a major component are the sides; I like the Sweet, Sugary Candied Yams, The Creamy and Cheesy Mac and Cheese and the Fluffy, Mashed Potatoes.

Ohhhh weeee! It's so good, just thinking about it makes me want to stop writing, hop in a cab and go there right now. My mom who dislikes most restaurants in the North that claim they're "Southern" restaurants wants to go there every time she visits and has even taken my cousins there. If you haven't tried it then you must. 

Amy Ruth's
113 W 116th St. Near Lenox
(212) 280-8779

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