Mexican green rice

November 26, 2022  •  Category: ,

I had been wanting to try my hand at this rice for a while. It consists of making a green salsa with poblano peppers, onion, garlic then cooking the rice in it with the addition of fresh corn kernels. The rice can be served alongside a dish of beans or a protein. I did not have time to cook anything else and so to give it more sustenance I ended-up baking it (after cooking it) briefly with some shredded cheese and it was filling enough on its own, with an optional splash of hot sauce or Mexican cream on top.

 

 

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Grilled fish in saffron sauce

November 22, 2022  •  Category: ,

Grilled fish

The Iranian Bazaar comes to Lebanon once a year for a week, and I try not to miss it. First of all, it is fun, it takes place in the basement of the former Holiday Inn and gets lots of traffic. Some stands are more popular than others like the nuts and spices or the rugs, displayed in hundreds.  Last time, I saw a rug with the face of a popular pop artist (as well as one with the Virgin Mary) and when I asked I was told to just bring a photo and a rug could be produced in my image. What a great idea for a gift for the narcissist in the family!

Anyway, it was the occasion to stock-up on good quality saffron, since saffron is not that easy to find in Beirut and most often than not, comes in powder form, which is the lowest quality anyway.

This is a good Summer dish, the fish (any fish or fillet) should be seasoned lightly, oiled and grilled on Pit Boss Smoker (so that it absorbs more flavor), then brushed with the saffron marinade at regular intervals.

If saffron is not in your pantry, you can substitute sumac or turmeric or cumin. Anything works with fish.

However, if you do get a hold of good quality saffron, the best thing to do is to get a pinch of it, and transfer it to a mortar;  pound it gently until it gets powdery and then transfer it to a bowl with about 1/4 cup of warm water. It makes adding it to the sauce much easier.

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Piloncillo syrup

October 17, 2022  •  Category: , ,

This is an ingredient used in the Mexican kitchen that I have discovered recently and grown very fond of. It is called piloncillo and is made of pure unrefined sugarcane. I have used it when making Mexican sauces or mole;  I have also added it in small doses to stews or bean dishes when a little sweetness is needed. I found that it can easily replace our Lebanese molasses, such as the carob or grape molasses. I am adding a link to a great blog describing piloncillo in detail.

It is simple to use, just get one or two cones, add a little water and a stick of cinnamon (or other spice), if you like, and bring it to a simmer. Once it has started to get syrupy, turn off the heat and cool it. Transfer it to a container, and keep it in the fridge for a few weeks. I will be using it in the next few weeks and will refer to it in my posts.

I was talking to my friend Poncho about it, who lives in San Luis Potosi in Mexico, and grew up in a small rural village or pueblo. He told me that when his parents were young, that was the only sugar available, and they used to get these cones and break them up to add to their coffee on a daily basis. There is a famous coffee in Mexico called café de olla that adds this piloncillo and spices to the drink.

In Egypt as well, farming sugarcane is widely practiced in the region of  Upper Egypt. The Egyptians love drinking sugarcane juice, which is sold everywhere and is reputed to be very healthy. In addition, there is also (similarly to Mexico) a byproduct of the sugarcane juice called black honey (3asal aswad). I asked my Egyptian go-to person in Lebanon, Salah, who is a farmer, and he confirmed that it is very popular in the rural areas especially to consume this black honey with bread (“aysh”) and sometimes mix it with tahini or ashta. 

Regarding the production of sugarcane, it turns out that the world’s largest producer is Brazil, followed by India. The farming of sugarcane in Egypt started with the Arab conquest, around 640AD. I read online that the Arabs got it from the Persians, who got it from the Indians.

Here it is sold in the produce section at a local Latino supermarket.

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Semolina rolls with date

August 26, 2022  •  Category: ,

I guess I must be getting good in baking (or over confident) but I made this without measuring anything, and it worked fine. Just to show that this is a very easy roll despite the somewhat unusual ingredients. I had made it years ago with a brioche dough. I also made some Armenian mini rolls with date, called chorek. These are super popular in Lebanon and usually sold in cellophane bags in the Middle-Eastern groceries in the US as well. These particular rolls are sold in bakeries in Lebanon but made with a white flour so they come out enormous and cottony.

 

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