Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Libya - A Libyan American Perspective


Gadaffi Billboard - Destroyed  




I just got back from Libya a few months ago and I must reflect for a moment on how quickly things can change. 
I remember when I first landed at the Tripoli airport, I was astounded by the exorbitant amount of Gadafi billboards. I’m talking about hundreds of billboards everywhere.  His face was on almost every single advertisement and billboard in Tripoli and he wore the most unusual outfits. 


 In another he would be wearing a safari inspired outfit complete with matching hat and his little green book. The posters of him were so ridiculous that I remember finding them funny and bizarre. I thought to myself who could be afraid of a guy that puts up these super cheesy billboards of THEMSELF. I mean I heard all the stories growing up about what a monster he was, yet I remember thinking “Really. This is who everyone is afraid of.” But I soon learned firsthand there was a reason to be afraid.
Growing up, my family in Libya and America always had a strong dislike towards Gadafi. My dad came to the United States as a political refugee and filed for political asylum in the 80’s. And It was hard growing up because me and my brother’s could never visit Libya due to the sanctions and for fear that Gadafi would imprison my father. I yearned to see and meet my father’s side of the family. But I could only connect with my Grandma, cousins, Aunts and Uncles via telephone and when technology improved through Skype. 

King Idris (center)
 Out of the hundreds of Libyan people I know, I have never known one that liked Gadafi so I was always confused why he was still in power. My Dad would tell us stories about the things Gadafi did, his infamous "hit squad" and how he came into power. Thinking back it blows my mind because I am sure my Dad never thought he would see the day when Gadafi would be gone. Even recently when I was there, the sentiment was passive and fearful. It was as if the people just tolerated it because they had no choice.  
To give you an example about how strict Gadafi’s regime is My dad brought some of Libya’s old currency that he had for over 40 years. It was the currency that was used when King Idris was in charge; before Gadafi overthrew the Kingdom by staging a military coup, when he was 25 years old. My mom and Uncle yelled at my Dad when they saw it; because if a Libyan police officer found the money on him, my dad would have been  taken to jail or worse. I thought they were joking but they were very serious.

Another example is one night I was filming a documentary about the cuisine and history of Libya. My uncle was driving when we came to a road block. The police were stopping everyone and immediately my Uncle starts shouting to me “Put your Camera down. Put your camera down.” I immediately dropped my camera and just in time because the police started tapping on the glass and looking in the car. I was very scared because I had no idea what was going on.

The police were clearing the streets because Gadafi and his entourage were about to drive past. The streets were completely clear when all of the sudden about 20 little kids started to cross the street. The police immediately pulled out their guns and were about to shoot the little kids. The kids threw their hands up in the air in surrendering. They thought the roads were clear for them  to cross. They had no idea what was going on. Then my Uncle told me that a few days ago a group of children were shot dead for the same thing. I remember thinking how awful that was. He further explained “That’s the law. No one gets close to Gadafi or they will be killed. Even if it is an accident. The government does not need to explain.”

Gadafi passed by and about 10 minutes later we were allowed to continue on our way. We drove into the main downtown area of Tripoli and were passing by Gadafi’s compound. I picked up my camera and started shooting again. About 20 seconds later, my Uncle almost rears the car off the road and starts screaming again: “What are you doing?!? Put your camera down! Are you trying to get us put in jail?!?.” I was completely confused. “Why would we go to jail?” To which my Uncle said “We would go to jail, if we’re lucky?”

People Protesting
That’s when I understood why everyone was so afraid. To Gadafi life is cheap. I think that’s what make the entire situation going on now so admirable. Finally, Libyans are taking a stand. They are tired of what Gadafi has done to their country, their families and they want to have their voices heard now.

I implore anyone reading this please take a moment and send out positive thoughts to the people in Libya, to my family, my friends, and to anyone who stands up in the face of adversity when it could cost them their life. I feel like a lot of Americans are taking a very blasé attitude towards this. And I can understand why. We have it really good here in America. It’s easy to take our freedoms for granted.

I have all these emotions going on now that I feel like only my family can understand. To some degree I feel like most people I know don’t really care what’s going on. They ask to be polite but in the end don’t really want to hear about it. But I feel worried, anxious, sad and angry and I have been thinking what can I do? How can I help? In talking to some people here in New York I realize how little people actually know about Libya. So I am going to share some of the things I know. The food. The Culture. The History. If there are questions you have or things you’ve always wanted to know please ask.

Friday, February 18, 2011

PinkBerry Blood Orange Frozen Yogurt - Review


Normally, I do not like PinkBerry. In fact, almost every time I have tasted a sample I have an immediate gag reaction. That was until today. I was walking with my friend Kim on this beautiful Friday to pick up lunch. On the way we passed PinkBerry and she said “Oeewhhh. Pinkberry.” To which I said “I hate Pinkberry.” And I have noticed that every time I say “I hate Pinkberry.” My friends give me a look like I have a third leg and I was getting tired of it. Each time I taste Pinkberry I always want to like it because it seems to bring everyone who eats it so much joy. But since I was not ready to back to the cold, dark Edit room it was off to Pinkberry we went.  



Right when we walked in there was a huge sign that said “Blood Orange Is Here.”  I mean talk about good advertising because I was like I’ll have a sample of that. As soon as I tasted it I was hooked. It was delicious. I was so happy because I was in the cool crowd now and regular ice cream was for the birds. It’s all about the frozen yogurt peeps.

I decided to top my Blood Orange Ice Cream with Blood Orange segments, Mango, Kiwi, Yogurt Chips and Swirl Whip which is a mix of yogurt and whipped cream. It was absolutely refreshing and delicious. The blood orange segments added to the flavor of the Pinkberry yogurt. The mango added a nice floral note. The kiwi was a little tart and the seeds added tiny bursts of crunchiness. The yogurt chips were sweet and also added a welcomed change in texture from the soft ice cream. The swirl whip was sweet and creamy and the perfect endnote for this newly converted Pinkberry Fan.



If you’re reading this now take a break and go enjoy the amazing day!!!!   

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

National Almond Day - Almond Milk Shake - Almond Chicken - French Macaroon Recipes





The Almond Tree species originated in the Middle East and South East Asia. Interestingly enough, the fruit of the almond tree is not considered a tree nut; Instead it is called a drupe. A drupe is a fruit that has a layer of skin and flesh surrounding the seed.  

Almonds have a lot of health benefits too. They help prevent colon cancer by moving food through your digestive tract. Because of the amount of potassium they possess they aid in regulating blood pressure. And if you have a big meeting eat a few almonds before because it induces high intellectual levels.

Personally, I love almonds. I eat them as a snack. I use them to make nice, crunchy crusts for chicken or fish and I love to use the almond flour to make delicate French Macaroons. Below are recipes for some of my favorite dishes that use almonds as the star. Some recipes are a little more complicated than others (i.e. French Macaroons) but you can still celebrate National Almond Day because in 10 minutes you can make a simple and refreshing Almond milk shake.


When I was in Tripoli Almond milk shakes were a very popular drink and I fell in love with them. I you want you can add cinnamon or substitute ice cream for the milk. 

North African Almond Milk Shake
Makes 2 servings.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
·         1/2 cup almonds, blanched and peeled
·         1 1/2 cups cold milk
·         2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
·         1 tablespoon of Honey
·         splash of orange flower water
·         4 or 5 ice cubes, optional
Preparation: Place the blanched almonds in a blender, and process until the almonds are a fine powder. Add the milk, sugar, honey and orange flower water, and blend on high speed to mix well. If desired, add ice cubes while the blender is running to chill the drink even more. Pour into glasses, and serve immediately.

Almond Orange Chicken

  • {Recipe Courtesy of All Recipes.com}

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the almonds, and cook until light brown and toasted, about 4 minutes.
  2. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper; flatten using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium meat; add the chicken breasts, and cook 1 minute on each side. Combine 1/2 cup almonds, cream, Dijon mustard, marmalade, and red pepper flakes with chicken, stirring to blend. Cook until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Serve chicken topped with sauce and remaining almonds.



Martha Stewart's French Macaroons
Ingredients
Makes 35 macaroons
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, for filling
  • MACAROON VARIATIONS
  • Chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour.
  • Coconut: Substitute 2 tablespoons desiccated unsweetened coconut for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon rum; sprinkle with additional coconut before baking.
  • Peanut: Substitute an equal amount finely ground unsalted peanuts (peanut flour) for the almond flour.
  • Pistachio: Substitute 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios (pistachio flour) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour, and add 2 to 3 drops forest-green gel-paste food coloring.
  • Raspberry: Add 1 tablespoon fresh raspberry puree, strained, plus 3 to 4 drops dusty- rose gel-paste food coloring.
  • Vanilla Bean: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use.

**Suggested Fillings-- 
    * Raspberry: 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
    * Pineapple Buttercream




  • FOR THE PINEAPPLE BUTTERCREAM



  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar


  • 1/2 cup corn syrup

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 6 large egg yolks

  • 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened


  • Directions
    Make the pineapple buttercream: Bring sugar, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Boil, undisturbed, until mixture registers 245 degrees on a candy thermometer.

    Meanwhile, whisk yolks with a mixer on high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then pour hot syrup in a slow, steady stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high, and whisk until mixture is pale, thick, and warm, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition. Increase speed to high, and whisk until smooth.

    Directions



  • Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.



  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.


  • Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macaroons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.


  • Let macaroons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macaroons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macaroons.)


  • Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with 1 teaspoon jam. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.

  • Read more at Marthastewart.com: French Macaroons - Martha Stewart Recipes 

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Didn't Get Luck For Valentine's Day - Try Tuesday Flip Night at Flight 151





    Didn’t get lucky for Valentine’s Day? 


    Well Tuesday night is your night because you can get lucky at Flight 151. Flight 151 has a great happy hour special on Tuesday nights.









    It’s called “Flip Night”; the bartender flips a coin and if you guess heads or tails correctly then you’re the lucky winner and you get your drink for free!!  








    When I was in college, one night I got really lucky and I won 30 times in a row. But don’t worry they weren’t all for me. I was the designated guesser for pretty much everyone at the bar after I won my first 13 in a row.  Flip Night lasts until 1am. Enjoy and Good Luck!









    151 8th Ave # 1
    New York, NY 10011-5119
    (212) 229-1868

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Valentine's Day Fondue Recipe


    \

    Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate those you love and also a day to make those who don't have a special someone completely aware of it. As my friend Greg cleverly calls this holiday, Singles' Awareness Day.

    But don't fret because if you don't have someone to melt over you -- you can have something melt over you instead.





    Fondue was a popular party dish from the 50's - the 70's. Fondue comes from the French word "fondre" which means "to melt"; and it is slowly making its way back into the limelight again. But I think it's the perfect way to get in the mood for love this Valentine's Day. And if you don't have love well then love food :0.

    Now I know the excuses you're probably coming up with and you won't get away that easy because even if you don't have a fondue pot you can still make this wonderful treat.
    A more economical way is to use a crock pot or medium sauce pan and melt the cheese and/or chocolate over very low heat. If you don't have a crock pot and have to get super ghettofied with it then use a microwave safe bowl and microwave. Use the low temperature setting on the microwave and heat it up in small increments of about 15-20 sec until it melts.



    ** Now if you want to get a little funky with it then make Mac and Cheese Fondue,which was inspired by my friend Greg. Simply prepare some pasta al dente and dip it in the cheese sauce. I prefer to use rigatoni because it is large and the cheese sauce can get all in the nooks and crannies. **


    Chocolate Fondue



    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, reserve 1/4 cup to thin if fondue begins to thicken
    • 4 bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped, 3 1/2 ounces each
    • 2 tablespoons Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur, optional
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds, optional

    Suggested Dippables, choose 3 or 4 selections of the following:

    • Hazelnut or almond biscotti
    • Salted pretzel sticks
    • Cubed pound cake
    • Sliced bananas
    • Stem strawberries
    • Sectioned navel oranges
    • Ripe fresh diced pineapple

    Directions

    Heat 1/2 cup cream in a heavy non-reactive saucepot over moderate heat until cream comes to a low boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add chocolate. Let the chocolate stand in hot cream 3 to 5 minutes to soften, then whisk chocolate together with the cream. Stir in liqueur and/or chopped nuts and transfer the fondue to a fondue pot or set the mixing bowl on a rack above a small lit candle. If fondue becomes too thick, stir in reserved cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency. Arrange your favorite dippables in piles on a platter along side chocolate fondue with fondue forks, bamboo skewers or seafood forks, as utensils, for dipping.

    Cheese Fondue, from Betty Crocker’s Big Red Cookbook
    4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 clove garlic, cut in half
    1 cup dry white wine or white cooking wine
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    3 tablespoons kirsch, dry sherry, brandy or white cooking wine
    1 loaf French bread, cut into bite size pieces
    Place cheese and flour in a resealable plastic bag. Shake until cheese is coated with flour.
    Rub garlic on bottom and side of saucepan, discard garlic. Add 1 cup wine. Heat over simmer setting or low heat just until bubbles rise to surface (do not boil). Stir in lemon juice.
    Gradually add cheese mixture, about ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly with wooden spoon over low heat, until melted. Stir in kirsch, sherry, brandy or wine. Once liquid is incorporated, transfer cheese fondue to a preheated mini crock-pot.
    Spear bread with forks; dip and swirl in fondue with stirring motion. If fondue becomes too thick, stir in ¼ cup to ½ cup heated wine.
    The trick to remember with cheese fondue is to use LOW heat. I kept my burner at two or lower the entire time. If the heat is too high and you try to melt the cheese too fast, the whole thing will curdle and be ruined. It will be a yucky, clumpy mess. So don’t be in a hurry. Slow and steady will get you better fondue in the end.
    Besides bread, other dippers that are excellent with cheese fondue are Granny Smith apples and assorted vegetables.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Filming at Le Souk







    Yes my friends today I will be shooting at Le Souk. I'm really excited because I have fond memories of partying and eating amazing food at Le Souk's former East Village location. Those of you who know it will remember how crazy Sunday and Monday nights were. It was the place to be in NYC.


























    Tonight I will be interviewing the head chef and owners and staying for when the dinner service transforms into a true harem with hookahs galore, belly dancers and fire breathers. I can't wait to show you all the video so stay tuned and wish me luck!!




    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    50's Food Cartoons


    This was inspired by my friend Kim. I think it's interesting how people ate and interacted with food through the decades. But more to come on that later for now please enjoy this these little snippets.


    Maypo (1956)


    Hindsight is 20/20 with a modern take on the 50's diet








    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    National Bagel and Lox Day - Try WD 50's Bagel Ice Cream and Salmon Threads


    {Classic Bagel and Lox}

    Today is National Bagel and Lox Day! And although there's nothing wrong with the classic you've go to try WD 50's Everything Bagel Ice cream.
     
    {Everything Bagel Ice Cream, Salmon Threads, Pickled Red Onions, and Cream Cheese Chip}


    WD50 is a restaurant on the Lower East Side that specializes in Molecular Gastronomy and American Nouveau cuisine. I have always been a huge fan of Molecular Gastronomy; I blame it on my science background. In fact, one of the top restaurants on my bucket list is Homaro Cantu's Moto Restaurant in Chicago. I mean talk about a genius in the kitchen. 


    {Chef Wylie Dufresne}


     But I'm not going to Chicago anytime soon and I really wanted to partake in a meal that would blow my mind.
    Chef and Owner Wylie Dufresne is a magician in the kitchen. He transforms one of my favorite breakfast foods into a culinary delight, that I would expect to find in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. 



    {Everything Bagel Ice Cream, Salmon Threads, Pickled Red Onions, and Cream Cheese Chip}

    The Everything Bagel Ice Cream is served with Pickled red Onions, a crispy cream cheese chip, Salmon Threads, and sorrel microgreens as garnish. It's like nothing I've ever tasted. The Everything bagel Ice Cream tastes like a creamy, sweet and Salty version of an Everything Bagel. The Salmon threads have the texture of bonito flakes, and the pickled red onions add a balanced acidity.  The strange thing is despite how it looks it tastes just like bagel and lox. This is definitely a must try!



    Chef: Wylie Dufresne
    Cuisine: American Nouveau, Molecular Gastronomy
    Neighborhood: LES
    Price: $140 tasting menu + drinks = $200 per person
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