Middle Eastern house salad

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Posted by Antonio Tahhan

Sorry this is a day late. I was in Seattle for most of last week for the Web Design World conference and then spent time with my parents who came to visit me for the weekend. Seattle was beautiful and I cannot wait to show you pictures, but first, there's a salad I've been meaning to write about - it's called fattoush (فتوش).

It seems like the market for Middle Eastern salads outside of the Middle East is disproportionally dominated by tabbouleh, a salad, that when made right, combines ultra-finely chopped parsley with tiny pearls of fine-ground bulger wheat and other finely chopped vegetables. Fattoush is quite the opposite, at least when it comes to preparation - it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes, in a very rustic and hearty way that's all about flavor rather than embellishments. Tabbouleh is delicious though, don't get me wrong. Sometimes, however, I just want a quick and tasty, no-frill salad, and for moments like these I make fattoush.

The mise en place can be overwhelming, but in one trip to the farmer's market you can have all these vegetables laid out on your table, too. The most exotic ingredient here is probably the sumac, which is a lemony, sour spice that can be found in most specialty markets these days and certainly any Mediterranean market you know of. If you like cooking Middle Eastern dishes, this is a spice that you should always have on hand.

This is the part where some people might disagree: the bread. Probably the best (and most traditional) way you can prepare the bread for fattoush is by pan-frying the triangles in extra virgin olive oil, but that takes a long time and makes a mess of my stovetop. I prefer to toss the triangles in olive oil, sprinkle some sumac on the bread (something my grandmother taught me), and throw the whole tray into the oven/broiler, on high.

The dressing for this salad is equally simple, as promised. It's a combination of olive oil and lemon juice, with a sprinkle of salt and sumac - that's it. You can add dried mint to the dressing like I did, but that's completely up to you.

Click here to view or print the recipe.

This post was written by Tony

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Vegetarian Pyramid Series - Wheat Berries

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Posted by DK

Have you noticed how certain ingredients which were earlier labeled as “Poor Man’s Food” have now come to be adorning the health food stalls of today? Or sometimes even the gourmet plates of people calling themselves the connoisseur of fine food? Paradox or the fate of homosapiens today? – call it whatever, it sounds indeed heartening that whole “complete” foods have come to be cherished and they have finally “arrived” at last.

What Are Wheat Berries?

Among such ingredients, Wheat berries find its rightful place. They are nothing but Whole Wheat grains with the husks removed. The ones responsible for imparting nutrition to our body – the bran, the germ and the endosperm – remain intact and that’s why consuming these are extremely beneficial. For the least amount of calories, you get maximum amount of fiber and nutrition. I mean with such a bargain – what is it that you are waiting for?

How do they look and where to look for them?

I know when someone mentions a new ingredient to me, my brain cells starts grappling to any image that it could possibly associate to in its memory book and if nothing comes around, gets frustrated. So to avoid this unnecessary process let me show you a picture which will put you at ease and the next time you buy these, you know you are not bringing home something else assuming them to be these berries!

The berries are sturdy grains with brownish-reddish tinges. Here in the U.S they are mostly available in the health food section. In India they can be bought in regular stores which sell grains.

How to cook Wheat Berries?

To do it the propah way, it would have to be:
  • Clean and soak the wheat berries overnight,
  • Cook them on a stove top for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the grains get chewy and add them to your salads or something of your choice
But the motive of this post is to make sure you consume these grains and not to chase you away with the labor associated with them! I mean the way the current universe is trying to maintain its balance on a roller coaster ride, we don’t have the time to waste – ‘err I mean’ – to embark on such strenuous process.

Hence quick method to cook these is:
  • Buy a Pressure cooker. I know that you know that you can afford it! Awe come-on – imagine the amount of time you save, the extent of nutrition that you are going to gain for the “pounds” [ pun intended ] you are going to lose. And this gadget lasts like forever!!
  • Soak the grain overnight (or forget it! Doesn’t matter).
  • For 1 cup of Wheat Berries add 2 cups water and cook for 15-20 min ( which amounts to approx 5-6 whistles for me in an Indian styled cooker)
For the curious cats - lemme put it in another way - for the Knowledge Thirsty - here is a comprehensive list of ways to cook Wheat Berries, if you are interested, where it includes cooking methods in microwave, stove top, pressure cooker even rice cooker.

Recipes that Make Wheat Berries interesting

Just like there is a myth floating around that vegetarian foods are bland and that they suck ( sorry to burst your bubble, but its that recipe in your hand that does), there is also this hate-hate relationship with foods which are listed under ‘Health Food Section’. Forget your Arborio rice, these Wheat berries when cooked throw up fierce competition in the chewy department. Move over plain old white rice – Wheat berries are here.

They can be enjoyed as
  • Breads (I have one baking in my Oven right now! Yum)
  • Soups ( my recipe below )
  • Stews ( see this recipe and tell me if you are not inspired!)
  • Or come to think of it - throw in some the next time you make your favorite Chicken casserole. No one will know! Even if they do who cares – they will be tasty – so no worries
I have one recipe in my blog to convert you into wheat berry hoarder

Wheat Berry and Pinto Soup is one hearty and yummy appetizer which I assure you will warm its way into your appetite.

I am trying out some pancakes with some wheat berries too! It’s a new whole world out there – Why don’t you take a gander with me to explore these, burp with satisfaction and say bon appétit!

This post was written by Dhivya

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The luxury of homemade Mascarpone...in a cake!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

Have you tried making soft cheese at home?

I've tried & I'm sold on the idea. Not only is it a much cheaper option, it's also a very satisfying process. Fresh cheese should be moist and white, with no sign of mold. The fat content of fresh cheese varies as they can be made from whole or skimmed milk, or even with cream. I've been on a soft cheese making spree these days, having been completely taken in by the luxury of homemade soft cheese, amazed at the freshness & smoothness. It's from Vera's Baking Obsession that I've tried homemade ricotta & mascarpone, both with outstanding results. Cottage cheese is something inherent to Indian culture, & is made in almost every home, ours too. My next attempt is going to be Quark, from a recipe @ Meeta's What's For Lunch Honey. I'm going to share a recipe for a cake I made using homemade mascarpone, a cake I made for my father's birthday. It was a delicious to goodness cake with a genoise sponge as the base. The crumb of the genoise was light, tender & moist, and a dousing of coffee syrup made it perfect! Sandwiched with a cream as luxurious & indulgent as homemade mascarpone, the cake was perfect. Just right - not exceedingly sweet, light, yet luxurious! I made the mascarpone 2 days in advance, the genoise a day in advance, & refrigerated both.

as adapted from Baking Obsession
Makes about 12 oz
600ml low fat cream (25 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream
1 tbsp fresh lime juice Method:
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering.
Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating.
Add the lime juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir.
Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. CHOCOLATE GENOISE
As adapted from this recipe @ Baking Obsession
3 tbsp clarified butter/ghee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 large eggs (I used 5 as the eggs were smallish)
2/3 cup fine granulated vanilla sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line, grease & flour an 8-inch round cake pan.
Sift the flour and cocoa together three times; reserve.
Bring some water to a boil in a large pan/griddle & reduce to simmer. Place eggs & sugar in a large bowl, whisk constantly over the simmering water, heat the eggs to lukewarm (about 105F). Remove the bowl from the pan; leave the skillet on the stove but turn off the heat. With an electric mixer, beat the egg mixture at high speed until it has cooled, tripled in volume, and resembles softly whipped cream, about 5 minutes in a heavy-duty mixer or longer with a less powerful mixer.
Meanwhile, set the bowl of clarified butter/ghee and vanilla in the skillet of hot water, with the burner off, to keep it warm.
Sift about one-third of the flour and cocoa over the whipped eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the mixture-quickly but gently-until combined. Fold in half the remaining flour and cocoa, then fold in the rest. Remove the warm butter mixture from the skillet. Scoop about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl with the butter and fold together until completely combined. Use the large rubber spatula to fold the butter mixture completely into the remaining batter. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and tilt to level.
Bake until the cake beginning to shrink slightly around the edges and the top springs back when pressed with your finger, about 40-45 minutes. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack.
To unmold, run a small knife or spatula around the inner edges of the pan. Invert it onto a rack and remove the parchment liner. Turn the cake right side up. The génoise can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
12oz Mascarpone Cream (recipe above)
200ml low fat cream (25% fat)
1 tsp coffee powder (increase or omit as desired)
2-3 tbsps ground vanilla sugar, or regular sugar (according to taste)
Beat mascarpone cheese with a wooden spoon till smooth. Fold in the rest of the ingredients & mix with the spoon till smooth. CHOCOLATE GENOISE CAKE with MOCHA MASCARPONE
1 chocolate genoise sponge (recipe above)
1 portion of Mocha Mascarpone Cream (recipe above)
Coffee syrup
Dark chocolate shavings, flakes & coffee beans etc to garnishTo assemble:
Make a strong coffee syrup with 1/4 cup of hot water, 2-3 tsps sugar & 2 tsps coffee powder. Cool.
Cut the genoise into 2 horizontal layers.
Place one layer on the cake platter. Brush well with the coffee syrup. Sandwich with a little less than half the mocha mascarpone.
Top with the second layer, & brush that well with the coffee syrup.
Frost the top & sides of the cake with the remaining mascarpone. Grate dark chocolate over the top, edge with coffee beans, & sift cocoa over the edges.
Chill for 3-4 hours.

This post was Written by Deeba

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Edible Flowers

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Posted by Andrea Meyers

Andrea's Recipes - Johnny Jump Ups (violas)

Flowers have long been used in cuisines around the world, including ancient Rome, Greece, and China, and the practice is once again growing in popularity. Growing your own edible flowers will add beautiful color to the landscape as well as delicious flavors to your table, and you can control the conditions and safety of your edible flowers by following organic cultivation practices.


Not all common flowers are edible, and even some edible flowers can cause discomfort if consumed in large quantities. Daylilies can act as a diuretic or a laxative, and apple blossoms have cyanide precursors, so always research the type of flower you plan to use before adding it to food.

Pesticides for flowers have not been tested to determine safety on food crops, so be very careful and make sure the flowers have not been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. For this reason you should avoid flowers from florists, nurseries, garden centers, and any growing by the roadside. Exercise caution if you have allergies, asthma, or hay fever as some flowers may cause a reaction.

The following is a brief list of common edible flowers in North America, but this list is not exhaustive. For more detailed information, you may want to consult an authoritative book on edible flowers or contact your state’s university cooperative extension. You can find a list of poisonous flowers at Wikipedia.

Herb Flowers


Ornamental Flowers

scented geraniums

Andrea's Recipes - Tulips

Trees & Shrubs





North Carolina State University, Department of Horticulture – Edible Flowers

Iowa State University Extension – Reiman Gardens: Edible Flowers

National Gardening Association – Edible Landscaping: Growing Edible Flowers in Your Garden

Wikipedia – Edible flowers

Wikipedia – Poisonous flowers

This post was written by Andrea

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Blender Carrot Cake

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Posted by Petra Hildebrandt

This is one of my favorite cakes, it can be made in almost no time at all, and is perfect to go into lunchboxes, as you can cut it into any shape desired (aka the leftover space in the bento).

The recipe was given to me by a friend who received it from her guest mother in Brazil, and it has become a family favorite ever since. In Brazil it is called bolo de cenoura.

You can prepare the batter in a blender or in a food processor.


  • 2 large carrots
  • 150 ml vegetable oil
  • 240 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 240 g flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Combine carrots, eggs, oil, sugar and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the (sifted) flour and baking powder, process until a batter forms. Pour into a baking dish (I used my new IKEA reactangular baking pan, which was perfect) and bake in a medium hot oven until done (test with a toothpick).

Of course you could add any frosting you like with carrot cake, but we prefer this plain.

This post was written by Petra from Foodfreak

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

Twittering changed a part of my life, for the better. About an year ago, I read about an article about Twitter & how this micro blogging application is changing the world. At the time, I understood it minimally, but it held my attention. Eventually, I began twittering, after being coerced into it by my bunch of foodie friends, and it changed a part of my life. I find that twittering brings people closer, bridges gaps and helps build long lasting relationships. Being part of this forum, allows you to think about issues differently, sometimes 'out of the box'. More people mean more perspectives, in harmonious balance, because you choose who to follow! Do you Twitter? Has it changed your life?

What's Twitter all about?
By accepting messages from sms, web, mobile web, instant message, or from third party API projects, Twitter makes it easy for folks to stay connected. Simplicity has played an important role in Twitter's success. People are eager to connect with other people and Twitter makes that simple. Twitter asks one question, "What are you doing?" Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web.
What I like about Twitter ...
  • Always someone to tweet to at any given time night or day
  • Can catch up with friends in uno momento
  • Can join like minded groups - foodie, medical, parenting etc, & find passionate people
  • Make new friends who are a treasure & absolute fun
  • Meet up with bloggers that you might not be able to keep up with otherwise
  • ALWAYS someone who says good morning or good night to you with a HUGE smile!
  • 'Tweeples' are the most fun & helpful people. Just a tweet with a question or dilemma & rest assured, there's bound be a solution soon, if not many
  • Photo uploads to share take a couple of seconds
  • News breaks fastest here. Is Twitter the Face of 21st Century News? ... but sometimes the reliability is in question
  • It's easy to lend support to a political/social movement. Currently quite a few of us are 'draped in green' to lend support to the situation in Iran

Twitter is addictive & gobbles away a large part of your day if you aren't careful. Sometimes I need to be peeled away from twitter. It's fun, not eactly or easily describable, but a whole lot of FUN!

To get twittering, all you need to do is get an account on Twitter, & then get a desktop application/tool to make life easier. Some tools are TweetDeck , Twhirl, Twitter Gadget, Twitterrific, Twitterfeed and TwitThis. Check out lots more applications here, & get twittering!!

This post was written by Deeba

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