My Best Summer Salad

July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Its one of those ordinary lazy hot days here in Dubai, nothing out of the ordinary… same old story, its hot, the sun is too strong, the traffic is bad, crazy drivers all over the road….. I’m really starting to hate the way my day passes by routinely, don’t get me wrong I love my family to bits and I never regret giving up my career to raise my daughter, but I feel that I have more to give to the world!

Starting this blog was one of the reasons that I didn’t know what to do with my energy.

So it was an ordinary day, I’m at my parents house lying on the couch in front of the TV most probably watching the food network (nothing better to watch), my daughter fed and in her cot napping, my father walks in the house with bags of groceries and a big grin on his face, “hey girl! where’s the little one?” of coarse since I had my daughter my existence to my family is not as important as their first grandchild.. “napping” I answered, still walking to the kitchen “I’m making a salad” he yells back at me “would you like to help?” I jump straight away and join him! I love spending time in the kitchen with my father, he is just amazing. He taught me a lot about food, cooking, flavors and the chemistry behind it (we are both majored in scientific fields, and he has a theory that people who love and understand chemistry are great cooks). He awakened our palates at a very young age, growing up eating lobster, blue cheese and caviar we knew we were different from other kids who frowned in disgust at the sight of those things!

I walk into the kitchen as he lays out the groceries on the counter, a bag of mixed salad leaves, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts (ordinary so far) he puts a pan on the stove turns the heat on and throws some sugar in it… I watched with wide eyes ” Dad? what are you doing exactly??” “caramel” he answered calmly (and the unordinary started!)

This salad was by far the best salad I had in a long time. It was crunchy, fresh and sweet, it was the perfect summer salad.

Try it and I hope you like it as much as I did.

My best Summer salad: (my dad’s recipe)

  • 1 bag of mixed lettuce leaves
  • 10-12 baby asparagus stalks
  • 1 hanful of alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup of strawberries, cut up in half
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts
  • 1 small wheel of plain brie cheese, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup sugar, for caramel
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

First of all you need to make a caramel, lay your asparagus neatly next to each other in a row on a nonstick baking paper and clear the area around you, make sure no children are around. dip ur spoon in the hot caramel and drizzle the asparagus with it, going across it back and forth, dipping the spoon again in the caramel till you are satisfied with the amount on it.

While the caramel is still hot, you might need to put it back on the heat, throw your walnuts in and coat them with it. Lay them separately on the baking paper next to the asparagus and let it cool completely.

In a salad bowl throw in your salad leaves and toss in the cherry tomatoes and starwberries. scatter with alfalfa on top.

In a hot pan drizzle some olive oil and fry your Brie wedges on both sides till golden, not too much or the cheese will melt away.

Lay the asparagus, the seared brie cheese over the salad leaves and scatter with caramelized walnuts, drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Fatma

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Tahini Cake

July 27, 2011 § 6 Comments

A new friend of mine asked me to guest post on her blog, this got me super excited and honored at the same time. She’s a fellow food blooger, an emirati, and a super Hero (i.e.full time mom) like me! She blogs at LaMereCulinaire. I totally relate to her life, juggling a toddler around is hard, and she does it with an infant on the other hand! I’m freaking out thinking about how I’m going to manage my life around 2 babies!!! I bow to you Arwa…

I’m writing this post right now while my daughter is lying on the couch next to me watching TV in a big mess of cracker crumbs around her, screaming “mommy one!” indicating she’s done with her cracker and wants one more! She’s full, now lets move to feeding mommy and making a bigger mess…. anyways back to the recipe.

Ramadhan is knocking our doors and we are getting super excited! Ramadan is a holly month that we get to clean our bodies and souls in. 29-30 days of fasting, praying and asking God for forgiveness,health, safety and anything we want. Its a time where you feel peace and serenity all around you through out the day, its truly a magical time.

Unfortunately it has been mistranslated recently into staying up late till dusk in “arabesque” tents smoking shisha, gossiping, and watching the so called arabic belly dancers. So to all you looking at us from the outside, this is not how we live it, and most certainly the purpose behind fasting and having shorter working days is not sleeping all day and being awake all night.

I ask God to bless us all and bring this month to us in health and prosperity.

I wanted to create something that had an arabic essence, a feel of Ramadhan about it. I was googling for inspiration and thought about tanini, a favorite ingredient of mine, especially in desserts. I love to have dates drizzled with tahini or some freshly baked pita bread dipped in Tahini then in date molasses for breakfast… yumm!

I immediately imagined the flavor in a cake and started searching for a recipe. I found a greek tahini cake “tahinopita” which seemed very appealing. I tweaked the recipe a bit and came up with this amazing cake that is delicious warm, bursting with orange, tahini and molasses flavors, and even better sliced and baked in a warm oven to give you the most delicious biscoties you have ever tasted.

Tahini Cake (my own recipe)

  • 2 cups whole meal spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • juice and zest of one large navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt or butter milk

Preheat oven to 175C, brush your baking pan with tahini, I used a rectangular loaf pan, it really works as an amazing non stick agent.

Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside.

Mix wet ingredients together, add the sugar, orange zest and whisk till well combined. Fold in the dry ingredients gently till its incorporated in the dough.

Pour into your prepared baking pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until skewer inserted comes out clean. let it cool for few minutes and serve warm drizzled with date molasses, the cake is not sweet enough to have as dessert on its own, it needs the extra molasses and it complements the flavor of tahini well.

You can also slice it thinly into biscoties and lay on a baking rack and bake in hot oven for 15 minutes till crisp. Store in airtight container.

Enjoy!

Fatma

1001 Hot Days and A Cooling Lemonade

July 20, 2011 § 10 Comments

Dubai is practically an oven, those few months we call summer are just unbearable…. You step out of the house and the sun starts stabbing you with its strong rays, piercing your head like you have killed its only child… you get into your car and think you are safe but wait… the heat in there is worse! switch on the A/C and you have suffocated yourself! The hot air is just killing! Roll down the windows and wait for the A/C to cool then start driving to your destination.

I don’t think that 1.5-2L/day are enough to cover the insensible water loss we suffer daily in this humid hot weather. I’m sure more than 70% of residents suffer from dehydration.

If you are one of the people who get to escape the heat then you are lucky, for the few of us who are stuck here we need something that helps us get through this HEAT!

There’s a way that helps you cover the water loss and cool down.. It’s enjoying an ice cold glass of lemonade.

This is no ordinary lemonade. I had it at one of my mom’s friends house, my cool aunt “A’afary”. She’s like a mom to us. Whenever we went over we where fascinated with everything about her, clothes, vintage colorful ethnic decor, quirky touches she adds to her outfits, amazing food she serves. Its always a jaw dropping experience visiting her. I love her to bits.

I tried to recreate the drink, what I recall was a lemonade with sago and orange blossom water aroma. Sipping it ice cold is amazing, the middle eastern flavor and smell of the orange blossom water takes you to another place and after you are done you get to spoon out ice cold flavorful sago to eat. Its just perfect to combat the heat!

1001 nights Lemonade:

  • 6 lemons sliced
  • 1//2 cup sugar (adjust sugar to liking)
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup cooked sago (i usually poor boiling water over it and let it stand for few minutes till its done)
  • 2 liters of cold water
  • ice to serve

Slice the lemons thinly and place in a large bowl mix in the sugar and start squeezing the juices out mix it to dissolve the sugar and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Before serving mix in the orange blossom water, poor the water and ice over it.

You can spoon the sago in each glass separately or with the whole thing, it tends to fall to the bottom so stir before pouring.

I usually do the above steps without addding the water and ice, mix in the sago and store in the fridge and serve by a glass when needed, which acts as a syrup, only add water, ice add more orange blossom water before serving.

You can also add to it some thinly sliced green apple or pomegranate seeds which u’ll enjoy munching after you finish the drink.

Fatma

An Emirati Tradition: Hag Elayleh

July 15, 2011 § 6 Comments

Since we were kids we waited eagerly for the month of Ramadan to come, part was to show our parents we grew up and we can fast the whole day but mostly was because working days are shorter and we would finish school earlier, get back home and play with our neighbors. But there also was a day we waited for every year where we could eat all the candy we want without our parents yelling at us. In the Islamic calendar “Shab’an” precedes the month of Ramadan, its a holy month too where people prepare for the coming fasting days, and on the 15th is the eve of “Hag Elayleh” (haG-el-lay-leh). It’s today!!!!

On this day the women would buy lots of candy, fill baskets and wait for the kids of the neighborhood to come dressed in fancy traditional colorful clothes with sacks hanging around their necks filled with candy and knock on the doors singing “atoona hag elayleh, atoona Allah ya’ateekom, bait makkah eywadeekom” which translates to “give us for the holy night, give us may God give you more and grant you a trip to Makkah” and the women would fill their sacks with more candy and sometimes even money.

All the Gulf countries do celebrate the day, each name it differently but still it got kids, candy and chanting.

As we grew up and Dubai grew with us, traditions became different, I don’t know if its our fault but we let them kind of fade. The world has changed and for me the Urban life is getting harder and more superficial to live. Sometimes I wish I can travel back in time and live in the simple life of the past.

This year it had slipped my mind and I regret it, I wish I prepared for it and made some traditional clothes for my daughter and sacks to send out candy for the kids of the family. Ya we stopped sending our kids out to fetch their candy we’d rather have them safe at home and send out candy to others, plus we all live so far away from each other that you rarely find clusters of locals (who actually know each other) living next to each other.
That’s my point of view and if any other locals still do it the old way, I salute you.

Here’s a video of the traditional “Hag Ellayleh” courtesy of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority click here to see it.

Fatma

Spelt Flour Banana Muffins

July 13, 2011 § 9 Comments

It’s been a long time since I cooked anything, let alone blog about it, but the past 2 weeks where a rough journey for us, coping and adjusting to the fact that a family member is missing.

I’m one of those people that hate to see any kind of food go bad in front of me, and I guess this thing runs in our family, my mom and sister are worst cases.

Recently my daughter has become such a picky eater and running out of control snacking on crisps and chocolates the whole time…. so those two reasons brought together the birth of this recipe.

Its a delicious sugar, and egg free banana chocolate muffins made with whole grain spelt flour. I didnt expect my 18month old to like them but she’s munching on them happily. Other than the fact that it got chocolate in it.. it’s quite healthy! If you use good quality chocolate you don’t have to feel guilty eating them at all.

I have been experimenting with different kinds of flour and so far all the outcomes are amazing, the reason behind this is the book Good to the Grain by the amazing Kim Boyce. Her book really did give me a different prospective with cooking and baking. Why are we so attached to the plain all purpose flour, you get so much more flavor using different kinds of flour! And it became easier to get them in grocery stores recently here in Dubai.

Try out this Recipe and I hope you like it.

Spelt Flour Banana Muffins (by Fatma Shabib)

makes 5-6 large muffins

  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, oil or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

preheat oven to 175C and line or grease a muffin tray.

In a small pan over low heat melt the butter with the honey and vanilla, take it off the heat and mash in the bananas and mix well.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and the chocolate chips. Add in the wet ingredients and mix gently with a spoon.

Pour the mixture in the muffin tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.

variations:

  • Instead of the chocolate chips you can add any kind of nuts you have on hand (almonds, walnuts or cashews)
  • or  add 1/2 cup of quick oats or cooked steel cut oats, will give it extra crunch on the top and nuttiness.
enjoy,
Fatma

Easy chocolate sauce

July 1, 2011 § 6 Comments

 

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Yesterday was a blur, I woke up after a night I didn’t have much sleep in, which passed with tears and blank staring into the ceiling. I was hugging my daughter the whole night, not able to imagine how my cousin feels. She lost her son. A 13yr old boy that was an angel to everyone around him.

His death was a shock to everyone! He was well and active with a long history of childhood Bronchial Asthma, which he was on treatment for. He had a sudden severe attack that took him away from us.
I pray for him and for his mom that Allah gives her the power and will to get over this loss, for there is no greater loss than a parent to burry their child.

I woke up today needing a sort of comfort that I knew I’ll find in chocolate.
I had lost my appetite since I heard the news. Wanted to make some hot chocolate but coffee was more needed to help me get through the day.

My mother in law was in the kitchen prepping for a cake, I was praying she would pick the can of cocoa powder a sign she’s making chocolate cake, and she did!

When I went to eat some later I saw the cake toppingless… No sauce no ganache no frosting!
I ran to the kitchen to make some. I get to the pantry, no chocolate chips, OMG!
I remembered my sister making a chocolate sauce out of things we normally had in the pantry. I try to remember, imitate, and voila a brilliantly good sauce was born! It is perfect over dry choco cake, fruit or ice-cream.

My easy chocolate sauce:

3/4 cup yoghurt
3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 table spoons sugar
A nob or two butter

Heat all the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and cook till the raw flavor goes away (few minutes). Adjust the flavor to your desire adding more or less cocoa and sugar.
Enjoy warm over anything you fancy.

Your prayers for my cousin and her lost son (Abdullah)
Fatma

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