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Showing posts from April, 2009

Knefeh: The royal breakfast of champions in Lebanon

It was my favorite Sunday morning breakfast growing up. The ritual, the walk down the hill to "sea Sweet" bakery, the way to order it "easy on the syrup," the walk back home all culminates with all of us sitting on the balcony enjoying Knefeh Bi-jibn (or knefeh with cheese). Some think that it is all in the bread. The bread, oh the bread (a picture I found on the web is on the right). I can go on and on about it: Not sweet, not chewy, with enough crust, and covered with sesame, shaped in just right way to be used as a vehicle for the knefeh. In fact, it is made for knefeh, exists only for it. It is a sort two-in-one version of the trinity. Now, on to the real part. I made knefeh this weekend (picture below). It has two parts, the cheese part and the "cake" part. I am not sure what cheese is used, sweet cheese (technically it is not sweet, it is just a cheese without salt), but mozzarella should work. I used some cheese from the Arab store here. The cake p…

Scenes from Foreign Cinema

Galopita a.k.a. Yellow Stuff

My Yiayia Lola is legendary throughout Greek Chicago for her honey soaked diples.Many have tried, but few (if any) have mastered these meticulously rolled and fried, sweet, flakey treats.If there’s a wedding, baptism, or any special occasion really, you’re sure to find my yiayia’s diples stacked beautifully on a silver tray with a prime location on the dessert buffet.Although I love my yiayia’s diples, don’t get me wrong, the star dessert for me growing up was my yiayia’s galopita, or “yellow stuff,” as we lovingly called it.After my yiayia spent days preparing and making the diples, as kind of an afterthought, she’d take any extra eggs she had and would make a galopita “for the kids” (the adults were certain to get their fair share as well).Considering the number of weddings and baptisms in our circle of family and friends, it seemed that any time we would go to my yiayia’s house there’d be “yellow stuff” waiting on the counter to be picked up by our little fingers and devoured in an…

Mustard and Garlic Roasted Chicken

Last night I made the most delicious chicken (I know I'm tooting my own horn, but it was just that good!). It was a variation on Jacques Pepin's Quick-Roasted Chicken with Mustard and Garlic that I found in Food & Wine's 2009 cookbook (these books are great if you're anything like me- you read Food & Wine, get super excited about 80% of the recipes in the magazine, and then never quite get to it before it's thrown in the recycling bin; the book has all the fantastic recipes in one place, and is organized by alpha-index and food category).

In any case, Pepin's recipe calls for the following (with my variations):

4lb chicken (5lb chicken cut up- I'm always looking for the easy way!)
4 large garlic cloves, minced (5-6 large garlic cloves)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (2.5 tablespoons course ground Dijon- it looked beautiful)
2 tablespoons dry white wine (2.5 tablespoons dry California Riesling)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2.5 tablespoons olive oil)

I found my thrill on Potrero Hill (well, good pizza at least)

My husband and I were on a quest this last weekend to find the perfect apartment in San Francisco.After five hours of driving up and down the streets (literally), we still hadn’t found an apartment we loved, although we had learned that NorthBeach is actually Little Italy and, just like NorthBeach, SouthBeach is not a beach at all.Our last stop of the day was Potrero Hill to see a quaint two-bedroom for a reasonable price, and we figured even if it didn’t work out, we could wallow over some Anchor Steam, one of our favorite local brews; we knew it would be fresh because Anchor Brewery was just down the street.The apartment didn’t work out, and who’d have thought that the brewery was only open on weekdays.We walked up to 18th Street (again, literally!) and, looking for a place where we could have a nice cold one, stepped into Goat Hill Pizza.It’s a no-frills neighborhood pizzeria with red and white check tablecloths and a piano in the corner on top of which is a plastic jug with a sign…

The Spice house - Evanston

It took Easter and making homemade Sausage for me to take a trip back after a VERY long time to our local SPICE store. And, what a treat this was. Walking in, the smell of anise/cinnamon/red chile/ welcomes you, with tons of jars alongside the walls, you immediately feel that this is the real deal. I immediately thought this is how an old 1950's pharmacy -where pharmacists literally filled your prescription- must have looked like: Different size glass containers, meticulously labeled and displayed alphabetically, and some by region. They had the Paprika wall of fame, along side the outstanding collection of various kinds of chiles from Mexico and beyond, opposite the green wall of various oreganos, Turkish peppermint, zaatar, cilantro (or coriander),... You order by the bag or by various size jars. We got cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, Paprika, and crystallized ginger (yes - the sausages were ok- that is another topic).
I really enjoyed this place, a temple for spice, and why …

Maamoul: Festive cookies - Lebanese style

Typically made on special occasions such as Easter, these delicate cookies are festive, beautiful, and tasty. The base is made out of semolina flour and butter, with rose water and flower concentrate (Maa- Al'Zahr and Maa-Al'ward). Then come the fillings!. We had three: Walnuts, Pistachios and dates mixed with spices (cinnamon and allspice) and sugar. A piece of the well rested dough is made into a ball, filled and molded into a wooden piece whose shape depends on the type of filling: The pistachio was the elongated (which would contain the least amount of filling) one, the walnut in the round pyramid like (my favorite), and the dates in the round cylindrical shape. They are then baked and served on a plate with powedered sugar on top. Well, we made a walnut batch tonight. We are still tweaking the recipe, but based on a quick sample, they are delicious.
The nuts and the sugar with the flower infused semolina are a nice combination.
Those are my absolute favorite cookies and no …


I moved to Silicon Valley from Chicago about two months ago, and am on a continuous hunt for good food.Unfortunately, it’s somewhat hard to find amidst the high-tech corporate campuses and sprawling apartment complexes.I had all but lost hope when I stumbled upon Dishdash in Sunnyvale.My husband and I walked in for lunch on a weekday to a loud, but welcoming buzz of people.The fact that the restaurant was crowded was not necessarily telling, however, as most eateries in Silicon Valley are packed around lunch time with engineers hurrying to get a quick bite.Nevertheless, as I looked around, the diners seemed pleased and their food looked delicious.Dishdash is a welcoming space with bright colored walls, high ceilings, and modern Mediterranean d├ęcor.Despite the rush-hour, we were seated immediately at a small table by the kitchen.Whereas in some restaurants this could be a turn-off, I found it exciting.The kitchen was a machine.I sat wide-eyed as the team of cooks zipped back and forth…

MORE: the cupcake outpost

I have never been been a real fan of cupcakes. Cup and cake or cake in a cup, or cup on top of cake, or what? It has always been the ton of frosting on top that turned me off, and also once you get to the cake part of the cup, it is typically yellow and yuk. But, recently, in the last few years, the cupcake has made a comeback. It has been re-constructed, re-introduced and re-made with extreme forms of ingredients such as nutmeg, allspice, and coconut (it reminds me of artisanal chocolates). The cupcake has become as cool as Gossip Girl. Well, I was still skeptical.
Yesterday, we picked up half a dozen from this place called MORE. Wow. They were outstanding. We tried a delicious chocolate hazelnut, a lemon poppy seed, and a BLT (yes with bacon and maple syrup). My favorite was the lemon poppy seed. The frosting was cream cheese based lemon infused light and smooth.
And once you dig deep, you get a rich yogurt-like in texture, sour and lemony, cold and gooey mixture that is well into the…

Green Gold

This is what my family calls olive oil.As in all Greek families, this rich, green oil is taken very seriously.Twice a year, or so, we receive a container of oil sent direct from the “motherland.”We don’t joke with what is found in the local grocery store – even if it says “extra virgin.”The vat is sent directly from Sparta, Greece, where my grandfather once had his own olive orchard, via New York to Chicago.It seems we aren’t the only Greeks in the U.S. yearning for a piece of our homeland.There are several Greek-American owned import companies serving restaurants and Greek-American families just as mine – insisting no other country in the world has a more genuine olive.It is said, after all, that the olive came to being on the mythical island of Crete, where it was first cultivated around 2500 B.C.Although many other countries, such as Spain, Italy, Tunisia, and the U.S., now cultivate the smooth fruit, it remains the Greeks that lifted this tiny fruit to a level of, dare I say, rev…

Prairie Grass Cafe

Well, it took a while before we made it back to Prairie Grass Cafe, and after I went back home, I was thinking seriously of when I will be back here again (Update: I went again on Friday night and had another amazing meal!). Let me say at the outset, chef Sarah Stegner's kitchen belongs up there among the top in the area for producing some amazing food using midwest ingredients grown by organic/friendly to animals farms. From the simple pesto pizza with ramp and an organic fried egg, to some wonderful homemade lamb sausage, to the out of the world Halibut on a bed of (crunchy) beans sprinkled with baby greens, to the friendly service and the beautiful room. Bravo PGC.