Potatoes, Poutaine, and the Inquisition

This recipe is a Potato Pie and it comes from a cookbook called The Scent of Orange Blossoms. I acquired this cookbook from a college course on Women of the Middle East. My teacher felt a great proponent of any culture is how they prepare and cook food. Women in almost every culture are historically responsible for that part of humanity, so it does make sense to link the culture and journeys of women via food. We didn’t just read cookbooks in this class, though. I don’t want to upset any women’s studies professors.

I decided to take this course, because I consider myself a feminist. After September 11, 2001, as I’m sure most of you know, the middle east was very much under the microscope of Americans.  So as a woman, a feminist, and admittedly as an American, I wanted to understand this culture. I was mostly wanting to better understand the Middle Eastern cultures that embraced the hijab and how and why it is still practiced.

The most important lesson I learned from this class, was like a lot of things in life, it’s not black and white. I wasn’t surprised by this, but I knew I was ignorant about the Middle East and I wanted to educate myself better. There was a girl in our class who wore a hijab actually. She was very outspoken and seemed to have very high morals. For her, wearing a hijab was solely about religion and she didn’t see it as a means to control her femininity. I, of course, being an American disagreed with her on that, but I respected her decision anyway.

Lets move away from touchy subjects and talk about this book. This book starts with a mini history about Jewish Moroccans. I wasn’t aware before my class that Morocco inherited a lot of Jewish immigrants, but apparently this migration has been happening for many years. The biggest influx of Jewish immigrants was during The Spanish Inquisition. Side note, I find it fascinating how cultures change. I mean the Spanish seem so fun loving now,  but back then they obviously had some real issues. I suppose every culture goes through it, though, except Canada. Canadians are pretty cool. Then again, you never know what they’ll end up being like once they get some power. We should probably keep our eye on those hockey loving, poutine eating kids.

Sorry, I’m digressing, like always.

Anyway, the author of this book is Jewish-Moroccan and her family came to Morocco during the inquisition. So all of these recipes are hybrids of Jewish and Moroccan cuisine.

The recipe I made this time around is a Potato Pie that is made during Shabbat AKA Shabbos. If you don’t know what Shabbat/Shabbos is, it’s the Jewish day of rest, which is Friday. You do not roll on Shabbos.

Making this recipe was actually a lot of fun. You boil about 8 potatoes and then mash them down. Once mashed you add eggs, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. It ends up looking like cheesy mashed potatoes as you can see below.

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Potato and Egg Mix.

After you pour the mixture in a pan, you cook it for about an hour. Once you let it cool for a bit, you’re supposed to flip it. I didn’t quite wait long enough and this happened.

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Poor Potato Pie

I thought it looked prettier on the original side anyway, so I just flipped it back. The end result was, well, ok. It’s not an amazing recipe. It’s pretty much a potato quiche. I probably should have put more salt in it or parsley. I try to put as little salt as possible in my dishes, because American food tends to be full of sodium. I think that might have made it a bit bland though. To remedy the blandness I made a sauce by mixing sriracha and ketchup and just dipped my bites in the sauce. This turned out to be an excellent idea, but the pie is still a bit too bland for me to want to make again.

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Aladdin and His Magical Potato Pie

Isa Does It

This next recipe comes from a cookbook called Isa Does It. You’d think with a title like that, Isa does a lot of things. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far, all I know of Isa, is that she’s vegan, she cooks, and she writes things about veganism.

Despite my love of cheese and meats, from time to time I do actually enjoy vegan food. If it’s good and vegan, why would you not like it? So far, Isa knows how to do it and do it right.

I got this cookbook as a Christmas present last year from my sister. My sister is not vegan, but she is a health nut. She got this for me because she figured it would have healthy recipes in it and maybe some would even be good with meat as well. She also liked how Isa explains how she fine tunes her recipes and thought it would help me learn how to cook better if I followed her insights.

So far, I do enjoy Isa insights and recipes. I’ve made two soups of hers and both were really good. The soup I made this time around is called Chick-pea Rice soup.

The first step to making this soup is similar to a French Onion Soup and that is slicing a yellow onion and sauteing it in oil for a few minutes. Then you add garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. I ran out of thyme, so I substituted with rosemary and a bit of oregano. I really wanted to make a pun joke about that, but I spared the few of you who read this. You’re welcome, by the way.

After adding the spices you add half a cup of jasmine rice, carrots, cabbage and a lot of veggie broth. Side note, a head of cabbage weighs more than a pound. This recipe called for a pound of cabbage so I just grabbed a cabbage and started slicing away. I soon realized I had way too much cabbage in my pot. I ended up slicing only half of my cabbage.

The next step is to bring all of these items to a boil and then add some chickpeas. Finally you just cook the allotted time for whatever rice you end up using. Isa recommends letting it cook for as long as you possibly can. She says the longer you let it cook, the better it tastes. I ended up cooking mine for almost an hour.

The initial tasting was good. The rice was my favorite ingredient. The next day, however, I had some leftovers and that was not as good. For whatever reason the soup got real bland, real quick. I told a friend about this, who is a vegetarian, and she told me maybe I should add chicken to it. She was being serious too. I told her what was in it and she said that sounded too bland and since I was a carnivore, meat would probably add flavor. I ended up not doing this, but the combination of rice with chicken is always a good idea. As long as that is your thing of course.

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Wayyyyy too much cabbage.

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A serving size

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Hurley Barley Chili

This wonderful chili recipe comes from a cooking magazine called, Taste of Home: Cooking for 2. This magazine is great for couples obviously, but it’s also great for people who live alone and don’t want a ton of leftovers like myself.

The recipe is pretty simple too. It’s pretty much your standard chili with pearl barley instead of beans.

Pearl barley, by the way, is a grain that is very similar to rice, more specifically brown rice since it tends to be chewier and nuttier in flavor. It’s high in fiber and protein, making it an exceptional substitute for beans.

Like most chilis the first step is to cook a half pound of beef with onion. After the beef is cooked you add all the other ingredients and let it simmer for an hour.

The other ingredients are the barley, of course, lots of water, a half cup of tomato sauce, beef bouillon, chili powder, cumin, and a bit of salt.

While making this I was concerned I had put too much water in, but the barley ends up soaking a good amount. Plus the bouillon cubes add so much flavor that you can’t tell most of the liquid in this chili consists of water.

I was skeptical about many of the ingredients in this recipe, but it ended up turning out really well. The barley mixes well in taste and texture with the beef. The bouillon cubes, spices, and sauce all flow nicely together too.

Again, not much to this one, but I recommend it for a low key and easy night, especially if you have issues with beans. Magical fruit isn’t for everyone afterall.

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If you look closely, you can see the barley.

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At Home with Leeks

My next recipe is a soup from the cookbook At Home with the French Classics. Most cookbooks begin with appetizers or soups. This cookbook is a soup starter. This makes for a nice break since my last few recipes have been appetizers. I’ve already made two variations of French Onion Soup from this cookbook. Both of which were amazing, so I’m already enjoying this cookbook immensely.

The soup I made this time around is called Potage Au Cresson or Watercress Soup for those who don’t know French. It’s been so long that I took French that I forgot that potage meant soup. I thought for a second it meant potato for hopefully obvious reasons. In my defense a lot of the romance languages have words that are only slightly different from their English counterparts. In Italian, soup is Zuppa, which I think is a cooler word for soup. It makes every soup sound zesty and fun. Potage sounds like you just threw random stuff in a pot. No offense to French people and if any French people feel bitter about it, there are a lot of French words English speakers just found way too awesome to alter. No one can be perfect at every little thing, so just chill out about it.

Funny enough, this soup is traditionally made with potatoes but the author of this book has made a healthier substitute by replacing the potato with zucchini. I admittedly would have probably liked it better with the potatoes. I’m a lover of starch and cheese after all. The other major ingredient of this soup is leeks. In fact I feel like it has more leeks than watercress to the point where I’m not sure why it isn’t called Leek Soup instead.

Moving on, the first step to this recipe is sauteing the leeks in butter. Once they have softened a bit you add and saute zucchini until brown. Then you pour in some vegetable stock and let that boil. Once it’s boiled you add watercress. Cook that for a bit and then pour it in a food processor. Once everything is chopped up nicely you warm it back up, pour a serving in a bowl and add a bit of cream, salt, and pepper.

The final result is a tasty, healthy soup that is fairly easy to make.

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A healthy soup that can also be an artistic endeavor if you pour the cream in right.

Parmesan Prosciutto Biscuits

This dish is a suggested side order for a pasta dish in a cookbook called Sandra Lee’s Semi Homemade Meals. I usually make the side dishes she recommends with the main course, but I felt making the biscuits would be a carbo overload. So I decided to save it for later.

Baking is not my forte. Baking requires patience that I don’t have and/or an electric mixer that I’m too cheap to buy. Thankfully this cookbook is catered to lazy cooks like myself. It’s also a great beginner’s cookbook. To prove my point, the main ingredient in this recipe is Bisquick, which is the hamburger helper of the baking world.

The other main ingredient is prosciutto diced into tiny bits. You can be even lazier with this recipe and buy pre-cut prosciutto. My cheap side prevailed over my laziness so I opted for sliced prosciutto which I chopped later. It isn’t easy to cut prosciutto by the way. It’s slimy and thin so when you try to cut it, it naturally slides all over your cutting board making it difficult to lock down. Once you accomplish that though it’s smooth sailing.

The next step is combining the Bisquick with some heavy cream, the proscuitto, some olive oil, and pepper. Once everything is mixed, you knead the dough and then roll it out on a flat surface. As I mentioned above I’m cheap and therefore don’t own any cookie cutters. I do, however, have mason jars, complete with lids. These lids make excellent cookie cutters and in my opinion produced the perfect size for a biscuit.

Once you finish cutting the dough, you place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle some parm on top, and bake for 10 minutes. Mine turned out pretty good, some of them tasted a little too peppery so be aware of that. Other than that though, this was quick, easy, and good.

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Biscuits!

Mee Krob or A Food of Punishment

My next dish comes from my The Everything Thai Cookbook. I got this book when I discovered that I loved Thai food after my sister introduced me to it in college. So like usual I decided I wanted to learn how to make it for myself. So far that hasn’t been easy.

I’m also in the appetizer section of this cookbook. Thai appetizers have not been easy for me to make and this particular recipe was the most annoying and unsatisfying dish I’ve made so far.

To prepare you for this entry I googled Mee Krob and was surprised to discover that Mee Krob is actually in the urban dictionary. According to the Urban Dictionary it’s meaning is akin to a curse word meaning excrement. I couldn’t agree more.

I also discovered that this dish has ties to royalty. This is another thing I’m not surprised by. I’m pretty sure Thai royalty or more accurately Siam royalty ordered their servants to make this dish as a form of punishment.

I’m sure you are wondering now what the deal is with this dish, don’t worry I’m going to elaborate.

The first thing you have to do, which is the sauce, admittedly isn’t so bad. It consists of honey, sugar, vinegar, tamarind concentrate, and red food dye. The red food dye represents your victimization in making this dish. It’s very symbolic. Anyway you just mix all of that together. Simple, easy, stuff.

The next step is annoying. It’s so tedious and messy. You take a whole package of thin rice noodles and fry them in oil. This sounds easy, however, what you don’t realize is that the rice noodles are hard to break apart. When you do accomplish this task they fall into every crevice and corner in your kitchen. Then when they fry they puff up and squirt everywhere which causes you to have flashbacks of a certain dinosaur movie.

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My experience with frying rice noodles.

After you escape death from doing that you fry some dried shrimp, which isn’t so bad. It just kind of smells like, well, Mee Krob I suppose. After that you fry two beaten eggs. Once that’s done you heat up the sauce, add the dried shrimp to it, and pour it over the rice noodles.

All of that is easy enough, but the grueling process of transferring everything to be oiled up separately as well as the whole squirting oil of death experience makes this dish very high maintenance.

While making this I tried to stay positive. I recalled when I made samosas and how it was also a bit of a grueling process, but it was worth it because they tasted so good. Not Mee Krob. Mee Krob is worse than artichokes, people. Mee Krob is the mee krobiest boyfriend you could ever had. It’s abusive, mean, ugly, and you don’t  even really like it. Just stay away. You can do better.

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I can’t even think of a caption to describe my disappointment.