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DailyAmuseBouche got a facelift!!!

I am so excited today foodies, because after a lot of hard work, DailyAmuseBouche’s facelift is finally complete! I love the new design and I hope you will too- please let me know what you think.

In the meantime, please “like” my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

Many exciting new things to come- including a Pinterest page very soon.

Thanks for reading!

In good health,
F

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Middle Eastern recipes: lemonade…with a twist

Is there anything more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than a glass of fresh lemonade- sweet, tart, and chilled to perfection? Well.. there might be: a glass of fresh lemonade with crushed mint and a dash of rose water. Yes, rose water.

Rose water is one of those ingredients that we hear about often enough, but do not really encounter in many recipes outside the Middle East, although it does have its place in many cuisines from French to Indian. This very Middle Eastern ingredient, made by steam distilling rose petals to extract the essential oils, and whose origins are traced by many back to ancient Persia, is most commonly used to flavor desserts. Its relative rarity in Western cuisines and among home cooks is perhaps because of its potency and bitterness; if not used correctly, in right places and in just the right amount, it is definitely overwhelming, and not in a good way. But just few drops of it in your mint-lemonade can take this trademark summer drink from amazing to heavenly…try it!

Outside the Middle East, rose water can quite commonly be found in specialty food stores or Middle Eastern grocers.

In good health,

F

Middle Eastern recipes: spicy olives

My grandmother makes the most deliciously spicy olive mix, and for some reason over the past few weeks it has become my newest culinary addiction. What I love most about it is the contrast in textures; from the rich and fleshy olives, to the softened but still crunchy walnuts, and of course the spicy chili peppers, which add just the right amount of savory punch. Here is a suggested recipe, but the amount of each ingredient you ultimately put into the mix is definitely subject to personal taste.

You will need:

  • 2 cups pitted and chopped green olives
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp thinly chopped red chili pepper
  • 1 tsp thinly chopped green chili pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced dried mint
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Mix everything together in an air-tight jar. This will keep for quite a while if stored in a cool, dry place. If you like your olives really spicy, keep some of the chili seeds in the mix as they contain the most heat; otherwise, scrape seeds out before chopping and just used the flesh.

Note: my favorite way to eat this is to serve next to a dollop of labaneh for a relatively light but yummy dinner. Labaneh (also known as Labneh in Lebanese Arabic) is a type of savory thickened yoghurt very popular across the Arab world, with a consistency very similar to sour cream. You can definitely find it in specialty food stores, but it is also commonly sold in major supermarkets as Greek yoghurt. It is also very easy to make at home: place about 2 cups of regular yoghurt in a cheese cloth, then place the cheese cloth inside a sieve and let drip over the sink for about 30 minutes. The yoghurt will thicken as it loses moisture. Add a pinch of salt (up to 1 tsp, to taste) and mix well to incorporate.

In good health,

F

Spaghetti and guac come to life

I recently came across these videos by PES and I just thought they were too cute not to share.

“Western Spaghetti” – 2009 Sundance Film Festival Winner; voted #2 Viral Video of the Year by TIME Magazine; 2009 Audience Award, Annecy Animation Festival

“Fresh Guacamole”

In good health,

F

My kitchen is for dancing

Food for thought!

In good health,

F

Welcome!

Welcome to Daily Amuse-Bouche!  Literally translated from French, the term “amuse-bouche” means “mouth amuser,” a bite-size appetizer served at the start of a meal to tickle the taste buds and whet the appetite. In this blog I hope to share with you interesting little bites and gulps of culinary inspiration as I come across them in my daily life.

What you are reading now is not so much my first official post as it is an introduction to the blog, and an explanation of what on earth makes me qualified to talk about food. I apologize in advance for the lengthy post, but I hope that some of you will be able to identify with my food experiences and enjoy reading about them here…

I am an accidental foodie. I didn’t grow up dreaming about one day becoming a chef, restauranteur, food critic, or even that mom who makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I ate -as we all do- because I knew that you needed food to survive, and because great food was always a big part of many family and social gatherings. Other than that, for much of my life, food occupied very little of my conscious existence. Of course I always enjoyed mealtimes with my family and friends, many of which were -and remain- loud, festive and abundant. But even during those occasions, I saw food as a secondary component of the event, a means to an end. I may have paused momentarily to admire how juicy those stuffed grape leaves were, or how rich and moist that chocolate cake tasted, but food ultimately seemed like a great excuse to get together. My young mind never considered -nor really cared- why, how, or in what ways food had that powerful, uniting draw.

I vividly remember how much I relished the moments when, as I child, I got to stand on a little stool and help one of my grandmothers pour ingredients into the cake mixer. I loved watching the tiny particles of flour, cocoa and sugar, droplets of vegetable oil, and blobs of egg yolks and butter disappear into oblivion to produce a new mixture that neither looked nor smelled like any of the original individual ingredients. Yet despite keenly enjoying the process, I never thought about it consciously. I simply followed my grandmother’s instructions meticulously, with the firm belief that if this was what Grandma’s time-treasured recipe said, then that was what we would do. I found gratification and a sense of accomplishment in making something that came out of the oven looking, smelling and tasting exactly the same way my grandmother always made it, but never took much of an interest in how it came to be that way. I never questioned what role each ingredient played in the batter (beyond the obvious that sugar made it sweet and oil made it moist), nor wondered what would happen if we changed the proportions of some of the ingredients or added something new. In fact, the latter never even registered as a possibility. Food is a big component of any Arab society, but “good food” has a very precise definition. Much emphasis is put on making food that tastes just right, and “right” is defined by tradition. The average Arab palate, particularly among older folk, is risk-averse; you find a recipe that works, usually one passed down through generations of women in your family, and you stick to it. If the food doesn’t taste like it should, it fails by default. Food is considered a timeless concept, not an evolving one, and tradition is considered paramount.

And so growing up, I was surrounded by the wonderful tastes and aromas of home cooking, most notably those emanating from my grandmothers’ kitchens, as my mom’s busy work schedule unfortunately left her with little time to spend in her own kitchen. Every meal my grandmothers prepared (and continue to do so until this day) was a true labor of love, and my taste buds quickly grew both very fond of, and very used to, those familiar and consistent flavors of my childhood. So much so, in fact, that my own palate became quite risk-averse and I came to be known as a “picky eater.” For years I rejected any kind of labaneh (strained yogurt, very popular in the Middle East as a spread for bread) except the type we had at home, refused to try anything that looked too unfamiliar, and generally had a far shorter list of foods I liked than foods I disliked.

So how, you might ask, did I become a self-identifying “foodie?” I think the answer partly has to do with growing up and developing the maturity, taste buds, and “stomach” to try unfamiliar foods. However, exposure to starkly different cuisines than the one I was so used to was the main contributor to my culinary “emancipation.” Experiences with Japanese, Chinese, Indian, French, and South American cuisines provided a large enough departure from my comfort zone that jolted me out of my limited (but delicious) culinary cocoon. As a child in Amman, I think it was easy enough to gravitate towards my paternal grandmother’s wara’a enab (stuffed grape leaves) or my maternal grandmother’s saniyet kuftah (a casserole-like dish of minced beef and potatoes, with tomato or tahini sauce) over anyone else’s, because everyone I knew cooked the same things, and the dishes were therefore immediately comparable. Juxtapose those dishes against tuna tartare, masala spices, or Kobe beef, however, and the game changes entirely. Those flavors were so different from the ones I knew so well, that I couldn’t even begin to compare them, and was therefore forced to judge them by their own merits rather than against Grandma’s version. More often than not, I liked what I saw (or rather, tasted). And so my food curiosity was awakened. While I continue to immensely enjoy my grandmothers’ comfortingly familiar (and, may I add, absolutely divine) dishes, I now also welcome twists and surprises in my food because they make it so much more interesting.  As I explored the growing restaurant scene in my hometown at the time, then eventually moved away from home for university, and continued my travels since, I have discovered the joys of fusion cuisines (such New California and French-Asian), new ingredients (like quinoa, lychee and tapioca), and alternative cooking methods (my favorite and most recent discovery is cooking sous-vide – French for “under vaccuum” – where food is sealed in airtight bags and cooked in an immersion water bath for extended periods). The unusual is now (almost) as welcome on my plate as the dearly familiar.

I do not profess to be a food expert; I will happily admit to my amateur food-lover status. In this blog, I simply hope to share with you some of the key formative experiences that led me to become a foodie, in hopes that you may find them entertaining, informative, or familiar. The transformation from being largely indifferent about food to being borderline obsessed has been nothing short of life-changing, and I know I am not alone. So, as I go about life fawning over clever new kitchen gadgets, oohing about perfectly-ripe avocados at the supermarket, and hyperventilating about the exciting prospect of cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a few weeks’ time, I will share with you tidbits (and yes, I promise they will be shorter than this intro) about food-related experiences, discoveries or reflections, as well as interesting chefs, restaurants, recipes, cookbooks, ingredients, kitchen tools, and any other food-related ideas.

In good health,

F

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