In the event that you ever need to determine whether or not a person is of Lebanese descent, say if you’re a diplomat, international spy or want to learn a new party trick, there is a litmus test that almost never lies. A Lebanese nose is usually distinctly-shaped; but if that fails, look them in the eye and ask the individual in question about the Seven Spices. No, this isn’t middle eastern code. It refers to a combination of spices that are found, or should be found, in every Lebanese kitchen. It is made up of equal parts black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, fenugreek and powdered ginger. One can find these pre-mixed at middle eastern grocers or, if you’re in a hurry and short on ingredients, try the Three Spice version: allspice, pepper and cinnamon, which tastes nearly as good. These spices are an integral part of the recipe below, which has been in my grandmother’s repertoire for 92 years (except for the Uncle Ben rice part, of course). Continue reading
Monthly Archives: December 2010
The best banana bread ever? And low fat, to boot?
Yes, I know that is a tall claim. But I swear by this recipe. The only problem with it is my inability to stop myself from single-handedly eating both loaves within 24 hours (I fail every time). Interestingly, I actually hate bananas. I don’t like eating them on their own, but I am able to stand them if I add minimal amounts of it to bread. Therefore, my banana bread is light on the banana, but heavy on the bread. I always add a package of chopped walnuts, but whatever works best for you. I prefer to bake them in mini loafpans, because there is some forced portion control (not that it does any good in my case). But smaller is also just cuter. In any case, regardless of load size, enjoy! Continue reading
We eat a lot of salmon in our household – we’ve never been big red meat eaters and living on the West Coast of British Columbia provides ample access to fresh fish. This being said, we’ve started running out of creative ways to prepare salmon, bringing us to the brink of giving up on seafood out of boredom, for chicken which can be prepared in a variety of ways. This is pure culinary laziness on my part – as you’ll see from this easy recipe below which serves up salmon in a refreshingly different, restaurant-calibre way. Continue reading
We decided to get out of the village today, at least for a while. We borrowed two bikes and pedaled clumsily down the highway to a nearby town. It was probably twice the size of our home-stay village and presented a striking demonstration of life’s relativity. The shops lining the main street dazzled and impressed us, even if they only sold bike tires or shampoo. It was like seeing the neon glare of a Las Vegas strip after weeks in the desert. We cycled along the Mekong river (which winds its way snakily down from China, an Asian Mississippi) and saw on the other side, a mere swimming distance, the jungled mountains of Laos.
Later we tried to get some work done, but I was feeling lousy and tired from the interrupted sleep the night before. We contented ourselves by crocheting (Sonia) and reading (me), awaiting the time when the kids would return from school and molest us on our quiet porch. They did come soon after, and accidentally erased one of Sonia’s documents on the computer, for which she berated them. We shooed them away like animals, but like animals smelling the lure of food – in this case, computer pinball – they soon approached again. We kept the computer out of reach and played an educational game of hangman instead. I also showed them how to draw Scooby Doo to keep them distracted. Continue reading
My friend Nathalie loves Indian food, so I decided to have her over for a pre-Christmas meal tonight; although we skipped the traditional North American ham or turkey for this fantastic Indian Butter Chicken dish. We’ve had Indian food now twice together since I’ve known her – which means that after tonight we’ve officially fallen into a pattern, albeit a tasty one. I’ve also had Indian food in the back of my mind this past week as I’ve been thinking often of an old friend, Kirti, who I haven’t seen in a few years. Kirti, an old classmate from graduate school, has just returned to India for the holidays for an arranged marriage; and although we haven’t stayed in touch since leaving academia, I’ve been picturing the wedding celebrations with a smidgeon of envy and wished I were there. Two of my Canadian friends, also MBA alum, are there now to witness and take part in the festivities.
Butter Chicken is a delicious meal that is surprisingly not difficult to make, considering the relatively large amount of ingredients and steps. There is a lot of prep time in the beginning, mostly just marinating the chicken in spices and then again in yogurt and additional spices. Different butter chicken recipes will call for a range of marinating times – times can also vary depending on how rushed you are. Keep in mind though that the longer the chicken soaks in the flavours from the garam masala and creamy yogurt the more tender it will be later on. The name of this dish actually comes from the “buttery tenderness” of the chicken and not from an abundance of butter as an ingredient – as you’ll see, there really isn’t that much butter here. Also, if you haven’t cooked with garam masala before you’re in for a treat. It’s literal translation is “hot mixture” and is a pungent, mouth watering blend of aromatic spices that is quite common in Indian and other South Asian cuisine. Bon appetit! Continue reading
If I were asked what my favourite meal of all time is, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to tell you that it is chicken tagine. The taste alone is sublime and the exotic aroma from the spices lingers in my house for days after cooking and brings me back, each time that I walk in the door, to the labyrinthine medieval alleys and stalls of Marrakech souks. To further reminisce during the meal, I’ll usually bake some home-made pita bread and put out small, decorated tagine dishes of olives or apricots as well.
During my travels in Morocco, whether eating under a starry sky with the Bedouins in the Sahara, or crisping on a sunny rooftop patio restaurant, or basking in the unrivalled sensual delirium of the Marrakech Night Market, I dined on lamb or chicken tagine at least once daily – sometimes more. There is no other comparison to this meal. Continue reading