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Saturday, 30 April 2011

The World In Your Kitchen - April

I have featured already two recipes from this calendar (see The World In Your Kitchen January and February). But tonight's vegetarian couscous recipe was by far the best. 

With all sorts of vegetables but no meats, this was a classic treatment of vegetables; not super spiced, but super healthy.

First, all fresh vegetables were bought from commercial drive (this full basket cost less than $10).

Freshness of the meal was enhanced with home made yogurt that was ready just one hour before dinner was served (see recipe at Home Made Yogurt).

The flavours came out via four main textures used in the meal: melting-in-your-mouth vegetables, crunchy couscous, smooth yogurt and rabbit-ready parsley/cilantro garnish.

Meal was served with Harissa sauce. The recipe, directly from the calendar, is below. However, I recommend rather than bring to boil then cook for 20 minutes, just simmer all on low heat from the beginning for an hour or so to bring out the best of the flavours.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Business (No) Class on United Airlines

Company policy does not allow us to fly Business Class and if I am caught doing this, a note could be written up and filed with HR.

But United Airlines imposed its business class on me where it was cheaper to fly business class than "the best available economy fare". Who am I to argue with that (despite the typo in the note).

Having survived a tornado (see yesterday's entry), would I survive this food?

Flight: UA 3450 Atlanta to Denver, Business Class, One way

Typical Retail Price: $610.70 USD

Dinner: Snack Box with Paper Napkins

Yes, a snack box including:
- small bag of Kettle Classics all natural potato chips (8 chips in bag)
- Pepperidge Farm natural toasted sesame toasts (2 tiny ones)
- Rondele peppercorn parmesan pasteurized cheese spread (2" x 2" box)
- Grissini sesame Italian bread sticks (2)
- Oloves the healthy olive snack (6 olives)
- Imaculate Baking Company - all natural chocobillys chocolate chunk cookies (2 mini cookies)

Flight: UA 829 Denver to Vancouver, Business Class, One way

Typical Retail Price: $1250.71 USD

Dinner: Rice and Curry Sauce

The vegetarian option was described as curry with rice. Fantasies of a vegetarian curry dish with a mini samosa and raita came to mind. What I got was a bowl of lettuce and tomatoes, a dish of regular long grain rice coloured yellow and sprinkled with peas, a small container of curry sauce with nothing other than sauce in it, and a Mexican vegetarian egg breakfast wrap! 

At least I had great views of northern sunset...


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wine, Food & Tornado in Georgia

A perfect day to end up in Georgia. Tornadoes within 100 KM, thunderstorms like I have never heard before, and here I am hanging out at a conference at Chateau Elan Winery in Braselton, Georgia. 

While the conference was great, the company wonderful, the food was way down the scale compared to our Okanagan wineries.

Genetically modified tasteless lettuce kicked off the meal with a dressing I was not able to identify.

The steaks were nicely done, but ruined with a thick chunk of gorgonzola cheese trying to melt on top of them. The mashed potatoes tasted more like mashed truffles with a dash of potatoes.

Dessert options were a cheese or chocolate cake and neither could salvage the bad dinner. This is how much I was able to tolerate of the cake.

But at least dinner company was amazing, lots of fun was had, even the famous shoes were there (see East Coast Dining).

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Humus & Fatoush - Authentic Lebanese Humus Recipe

First, let us get one thing straight. Humus is a Lebanese original. The word Humus means chickpeas in Lebanese dialect, so no way it can be Greek, Turkish, Isreali, Egyptian, Afghani or any other culture that claims they are the originators of Humus. No wonder Lebanon keeps on winning the Guinness world record for the largest Humus plate. 

The first step is chickpeas prep. I usually start with a can of chickpeas. Empty the water from the can (but leave aside), sprinkle with 1 Tsp baking soda and let sit for 30 minutes.

Then, without rinsing, put the chickpeas into a pot filled with water and bring to a boil. You just want to warm up and soften, not boil further.
A good Humus does not come out of a food processor, but a manual passoire (on the left in picture) - a colander that squishes the chickpeas through (see picture below as to how they come out of it). 

Now you are ready to mix the Humus. Add to crushed chickpeas:

6 - 7 Tbs Tahini Sauce 
Juice of two lemons
2 Tbs water
1 or 2 pressed garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt

With a spoon and your hand, mix all and taste. At this point the texture is going to feel thick and like dough. Taste it and decide whether it needs more lemon or salt.

Add liquid (either lemon juice or water depending on taste) and keep on mixing (and tasting, and adding water or lemon juice), until the texture is creamy and soft. You can use the liquid from the can instead of water at this stage for added richness.

Finally, always remember, an authentic Lebanese humus...
- uses only chickpeas
- does not have too much garlic
- does not take pepper
- is soft and creamy
- is sprinkled with paprika or olive oil
- is eaten with pita bread!


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Humus & Fatoush - Authentic Lebanese Fatoush Salad Recipe

When I featured the Iranian Rice meal last week, I promised to give you the authentic Lebanese Humus & Fatoush recipes this week. This is the one and only one way to make Fatoush. Everything else you hear, see, or taste is a western variation. Humus recipe will be featured tomorrow.

First, the vegetables. Fatoush includes: Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, shallots, fresh parsley and fresh mint.

Fatoush does NOT include: green or red peppers, cabbage, carrots, onions, feta, beats or anything else you see restaurants and cookbooks featuring in Fatoush.

There are four steps to making Fatoush.

1. Chop the vegetables into salad size pieces and mix together in a large bowl.

2. Mix in the dressing that includes lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Garlic, as far as I know, has no place in authentic Fatoush.

3. Grill pita bread, crush into 1 inch pieces and add on top of the vegetable mix.

4. Sprinkle with generous portions of sumac.

You can buy sumac from any middle eastern or Persian stores in the city. It is the fruit of sumac trees ground into powder and used in cooking across many cultures. Lebanese use is primarily as garnish to Fatoush to enhance the lemony taste. 

It is much more widely used in Iranian and Turkish cooking. More on sumac at

It is important not to mix the Fatoush until you are ready to serve it or the pita will become soggy and you'd miss out on the crunchiness of the pita. Try it and enjoy.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Recycled Foods

Ten days of cooking in the new kitchen, the new fridge filled up and time to recycle some of the leftovers. Here are three Kitchen Tips on recycling foods.

Recycled Pasta

You have leftover cooked pasta and leftover sauce, why heat up and eat when you can turn them into a more exciting meal? Mix the cooked pasta and sauce, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and bake on 350 for 30 minutes. A delicious crunchy top yet soft inside baked pasta dish!

Recycled Stew Sauce

Nice leftover lamb stew sauce filled with spices, tomatoes, onions and chard. Bring to boil, turn off the heat, add a cup of couscous and let it sit for 20 minutes. A flavourful couscous dish is now served!

Recycled Vegetables

Few leaves of lettuce not enough for a salad, half a dozen heads of Brussels sprouts not worth cooking with anything, and two stalks of celery wilting away. Chop all, fry some onion and garlic in olive oil, add the vegetables, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cook for five minutes or so, squeeze some lemon juice on top and enjoy!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter

Easter dinner a la Martha Stewart including:

- Glazed ham with apricot and mustard sauce
- Leak and potato Galette
- Asparagus, radishes and peas with herbs

(see full recipes at

But first appetizers a la somerville kitchen. I needed to do something with all those boiled eggs and the devil came to the rescue.

A bit of mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper and there you have it, sprinkle every other one with paprika and you have a festive appetizer that was gone in no time.

Then came the ham production. I was not sure about the apricot jam, so I cut that ingredient amount to a quarter of what Martha suggested. This helped the glaze be more subtle on the sweetness and ensured the ham taste to come out naturally.

My hopes for the Galette to succeed were minimal, but following the recipe carefully brought out an elegantly tasty and looking Galette.

Martha would have been proud of me.

The vegetable dish was the most colourful but least special on the taste.

I think I would cut the amount of radishes in half next time, and maybe throw them in the heated butter along with the rest of the vegetables - something amiss about the combination of textures of this dish.

With such a dinner to produce, who has time to make dessert. Default were my favourite Easter treats from:

Notte's Bon Ton Pastry & Confectionary
3150 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

Happy Easter Everyone!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Al Maseeh Kam

Holy Saturday in Lebanon is referred to as Saturday of the light. 

By mid-day you start celebrating the news that Jesus has risen (Al Maseeh Kam). And you break fast with eggs and Easter cookies.

But first you colour the eggs. I started by grabbing for my food colour, only to find out that I don't have any. It is already 4 pm, and I have been out and about all day, so no way I was going to go out into traffic again. What to do?

And there I see a box of Scribblers Icing and a light bulb went on in my head. I can use those to colour the eggs, with no worries about stains and I can safely (and sweetly) lick my fingers clean.

An hour later, a pot of tea later, and all Scribblers Icing tubes emptied, I had an egg basket ready for dinner.

Now the Easter cookies - Kaaek & Maamoul. Those came directly from Toronto where Lebanese bakeries are abundant. There are three types; all made from semolina flour, but vary by shape and stuffing. You can tell the stuffing by the shape.

1. Dates (Kaaek) Both flour and dates are mixed with spices including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, all spice, etc. While other Arab countries may make those (including some we find imported from Saudi Arabia), they all lack the abundance of spices that the Lebanese include in those cookies.

2. Pistachio (Maamoul) Pistachio is crushed to a paste and mixed with lots of sugar, rose water and orange blossom water. The cookies are also coated with icing sugar. Those are my favourite.

3. Almond (Maamoul) Same as the pistachio, but almonds is used instead. Just as tasty. 

I limited myself to one of each for now, but midnight snack may be calling...

Thank you Wano!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday Moudardara

In Lebanon, Good Friday's food is purely vegetarian (some go as far as vegan with not even oils). 

somerville kitchen opted for Moudardara. This is a vegetarian lentil dish that I usually make for potluck dinners and is always a hit. Many have asked for the recipe, so what is a better occasion than Easter to give it away.

First, prepare crystallized onions. Slice two onions into slivers and cook in olive oil and salt until brown and crunchy. Keep adding salt until well crystallized but be careful not to set the kitchen on fire. Put aside.

In the same pot, add 6 to 7 cups of water, 2 cups lentils, 2 tsp salt and 1 Tbs olive oil. Bring to boil on medium heat and leave boiling, stirring occasionally, until lentils are half cooked.

At this time, add 3/4 cup rice. Add more water, salt and olive oil as needed and keep on the heat boiling until the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed. The mushier this dish, the better. 

Turn into a platter, sprinkle with the crystallized onions and eat at room temperature. 

There are many accompaniments that go well with it, depending on what you like. A lettuce & tomato salad with lemon juice and olive oil dressing, olives, yogurt and/or Lefett (see Lefett - aka Pickled Turnips for recipe).

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Last Supper 21 Century

Last Supper 20th Century original by my brother
Prints available for sale at 

The Last Supper 21st Century was as simple as what Jesus would have had. We know there was bread and wine.  

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

In one of Jesus' miracles, he asked Peter to lower the net in the water and the net came up with lots of Tilapia fish, thus the name Peter Fish given to this species. Therefore, fish seemed appropriate for the meal. Then add the fact of olive trees all around, and olives were bound to be on the table. Those were the basis of Last Supper 21st Century at somerville kitchen.

Bread Peasant Farmer Organic Whole Grain Bread from La Baguette & L'Echalate
Wine Sumac Ridge 25th Anniversary Pipe (Port style wine)
Fish Fresh Tunisian Sea Bass (farmed in Greece - all Mediterranean waters), grilled
Olives Mediterranean mix from Granville Island


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Italiano Night

The Italiano Night at somerville kitchen included home made Capellini with Bolognese Sauce dinner and the Italian-themed play Mambo Italiano.

And no, the play was not acted out in the kitchen, but at the charming Firehall Arts Centre in Chinatown. It is definitely a "must see" and you will enjoy it whether you have seen the movie version or not. Tickets at until April 30.

As for the dinner, the Bolognese sauce was made in the tradition of Northern Italian cooks where they include milk in their tomato sauce.

I am sure many readers, just like my dinner guest, are very skeptical about mixing milk and tomato sauce when trying to make Bolognese, but it worked exceptionally well. Here is the recipe for the adventurous ones.

- Brown 1 lb lean ground beef over medium to high heat.

- When brown, add (a) 3 cups sliced mushrooms (b) 2 chopped celery stalks (c) 2 minced garlic cloves (d) 1 onion (e) 1 Tbs dried herbs. Cook until mushrooms turn brown.

- Add 1.5 cup milk and bring to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently until most of the liquid is absorbed. This took close to 30 minutes.

- Add 1 large can of diced tomatoes and 1 small can of tomato paste, add salt and pepper, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes until thickened. 


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Religious Harmony Via Iranian Rice

Coming from a country where religious balances are part of the constitution, I could not blog a Christian meal occasion one day (see Sunday's entry), a Jewish one yesterday (see yesterday's entry) and not follow with a Muslim one today, despite no relevant occasion in the near past or future.

So I invited an Iranian friend and we produced a Lebanese-Iranian coalition dinner.

The menu included, from Lebanon, Humus, Fatoush (the recipes for those two will be featured on the blog next week), and grilled chicken. From Iran we had the fancy Iranian rice, which is the story for tonight.

The recipe for Iranian rice looks simple, but I am not sure I can replicate what the Iranian chef produced. First, a large pot was filled with water (no measurement), a whole lot of Basmati rice was thrown in the water (no measurement) with piles of salt (looked like a full cup, but again no measurement). The rice and water were brought to a boil.

After few minutes of boiling, the rice, half cooked, was drained. Some oil was sprinkled in the pot and heated up. Slices of potatoes were thrown in the pot, the rice added to them, covered and steamed until ready. Once it was ready, the pot was soaked in cold water which helps the potatoes separate from the bottom of the pot.

Then the culinary adventure went to further heights with Zeresh. Zeresh is the Persian name for the dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris, which are cultivated in Iran. This is widely used in Iranian cooking and the fruit itself is also made into jams and juice.

The dried Zeresh was first soaked in water mixed with rosewater for about 30 minutes, bringing out the aroma of rosewater throughout the kitchen.

It was then fried with a big chunk of butter prior to being used as garnish on the rice. The combination of the tartness of the fruit and the sweetness of the rosewater mixed in the salty Iranian rice made for a taste that brought out visions of the indulgences portrayed in the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám 

And this is the story of the Iranian rice wrapping up the religious trilogy and bringing harmony to the world on this holy week. 

Thank you A!