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World Cuisine

  • Exotic Baharat

    In most Arab cuisines, you will taste an intensely flavorful spice mixture called baharat which in Arabic simply means spice. This aromatic blend is widely used in recipes in the Arabian Gulf States as a meat rub or marinade. The ingredients can vary according to different regions, but it usually contains warm, hot and sweet spices with resinous herbs. The most common blend includes black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and paprika.

    A few fabulous way to use baharat would be to add it to soups, stews and/or sauces. I like using baharat when making rice dishes and sometimes just as a table condiment.
    Continue reading

  • Thai Food At Home

    Last week we began exploring the amazing world of Thai cuisine, and have concluded that this food deserves a very high level of recognition.

    We touched briefly on the basic ingredients that go into making the renowned curry pastes. This week we will give more insight on what goes into making some of the signature Thai dishes. And at the end of this special series, we hope you will think twice about ordering Thai take-out and, instead, whip up your own version of pad-thai or chicken satay. Continue reading

  • The Joy of Naan

    Last week some of you may have thought that I was a wee bit mad (crazy) for suggesting to barbecue pizza instead of, a) ordering it to go or, b) baking it in the oven like most normal folks. But I'm here to tell you Ive got another great idea for your outdoor BBQing. Yes, that's right I'm still hot-on-the-grill-gone-wild. This time I'm wondering if you can take a leap of faith and try making and grilling delicious naan bread.

    Traditionally, naan bread is baked in a clay oven called a tandoor. But what if you don't own or have a clay oven? So, you might ask, why not just go out and buy naan? Or why would I want to grill it when I can use a conventional oven? And these are good questions, but have some fun in life by venturing out of your comfort zone. So think baking on the grill rather than barbecuing on the grill. But for those of you who have never tasted naan bread, well there's a first time for everything. And, you might be missing out on enjoying one of the most delicious, chewy and soft, flavorful breads in the world. Continue reading

  • Iconic Couscous

    The iconic couscous that most people are familiar with has become one of the most popular dishes in the world with origins allegedly dating back as early as 238 to 149 b.c.e.

    Couscous is considered a staple product of North Africa, and is proclaimed as the national dish of countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

    Couscous has garnered a much deserved reputation as being a good dietary dish as well as one of most versatile foods to prepare; it can be mixed with vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, or mixed in with dried fruit and sweet spices such as cinnamon. Its versatility also stems from the various ways of preparation as each of the respective countries have their own signature dish that can be associated with various ceremonial events such as in Tunisia, couscous is traditionally served at the end of Ramadan celebrations; and in other countries, it would be served at births and wedding feasts. Continue reading

  • The joy of Persian cooking

    "Let's eat Persian tonight" is not a phrase we often hear in Napa, where enjoying the authentic cuisine of Persia in a restaurant requires an out-of-county drive. But with a few key ingredients, a little time in the kitchen and an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you can easily recreate the signature stew called ghormeh sabzi. Also known as Persian Green Stew, ghormeh sabzi is a celebration of fragrance, color, texture and flavor that has been enjoyed since the days of the Persian empires, more than a thousand years ago. Today, the stew is still popular in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Iran, where it is considered a national dish. Continue reading

  • The Good Sumac

    The varied cuisine of the Middle East has garnered worldwide recognition for its exceptional flavors of aromatic herbs and spices; and is also considered to be some of the healthiest food to consume.

    Most dishes are grilled or baked rather than fried, and use olive oil in place of fatty butter and lard. And knowing just how much spice and herbs to use, and what kind, comes from an innate sense of skill and knowledge that was handed-down from generation to generation.

    One particular spice that is most common in Middle Eastern recipes, and is one of my favorites, is sumac. This pungent spice is made of dried, crushed red berries from the sumac bush (not to be confused with the poisonous sumac plant which is similar to poison ivy). The sumac bushes grow in the wild all across the Mediterranean region and in parts of the Middle East. The poisonous sumac plant grows almost everywhere in the United States, except Hawaii, Alaska, and some desert areas in the southwest. The poisonous variety has smooth leaves and spaced out white berries, whereas the edible sumac has tightly clustered red berries with jagged leaves. Continue reading

  • Tagine Treasure of the Desert

    The nomadic tribes of North Africa have been traveling across deserts and mountainous terrain for centuries, setting up camp and using tagine (or tajine) pots as portable cauldrons for cooking stews over an open-fire pit. The method might have been slow, but the meal was an all-in-one feast, much like a modern-day crockpot -- for these desert peoples, it was a matter of survival.

    Tagine derives its culinary name from countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. These North African countries have a rich culture steeped in Arab, Berber, European and other African influences -- specifically the tagine pots, which are as significant to their cookery as a wok is to Asian cuisine. Continue reading

  • The School Project

    A week ago, Shuli and I had participated as volunteers at our sons school. This joint effort involved students from Kindergarten through the third grade.We had the great pleasure of demonstrating how various spices were used in ancient times as dyes and for cooking. Each child was given the opportunity to dye a muslim bag with turmeric,choose from a large array of spices to make their own Havdalah mix, and use a mortar and pestle to grind spices for making Israel's famous za'atar spice blend.The children sprinkled the za'atar mixture over sour cream and olive oil and it was served to the entire school as an accompaniment to their delicious school lunch, much of which was prepared by the students on-site .

    The following day when the muslin bags had dried, the Kindergartners filled the bags with their spice blends making their own b'samim bags (same as potpourri bag) for Havdalah, which is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Shabbat and holidays ushering in the new week. The ceremony is usually celebrated at home with family and friends and includes three blessings: over wine, spices, and lighted candles. Continue reading

  • Hawaj: The Curry of Yemen

    In a previous article we featured one of our top selling signature spices called Hawaj for Coffee, which is a mixture made up of cloves, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Our other top seller is Hawaj for Soup a favorite spice blend used in many traditional dishes and is considered to be the curry of Yemen.

    As in all popular cuisine, the spices used in preparing a particular dish become synonymous to that culture just as India is equated with curry, Hawaj spice is to Yemen. Thank goodness these great recipes are passed on to the next generations of families that carry on with the traditional dishes that are associated with that culture. Continue reading

  • Paprika Series Part 3 - Moroccan Paprika Oil

    When I was growing up, I wondered why my mom's food looked so colorful and shiny red. I always noticed a bottle of red hued oil on the counter but never realized that this was her secret ingredient paprika oil.
    Continue reading

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