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64 sq ft kitchen





Updated: 2018-01-20T08:03:10.679-05:00

 



Springtime in Algeria

2012-03-23T15:47:00.810-04:00



Depending on the region, and though the celebration has no official status, spring is often celebrated in Algeria by sharing what's fresh and local, be it savory or sweet, with family and loved ones around a picnic. In the eastern and central part of the country, it is welcomed by making little dates and semolina galettes. In the Kabylie region by making couscous with Thapsia plant, fresh fava beans, poppy buds or green peas and preserved meat. In rural and mountainous areas, early spring outings are also an opportunity to harvest a wide variety of plants and flowers, many of which are edible.

Growing up in Algeria, my school vacations were often spent at my grandparents. Every spring, my nana (grandmother) would welcome the rebirth of life by filling a basket with fresh dates and making mbesses; a diamond shaped little semolina bread made with fresh butter and cooked on a Tagine. Ba (my grandfather) would carry the plate of mbesses and I the basket of dates and together we would go outside, on our sidewalk and hand out mbesses and dates to passers, kids coming from school, young and old coming from work. Later, back in my nana's kitchen, a bowl of couscous with fresh green peas all drizzled with local olive oil will await us. And so will a plate of freshly made rayeb (a sort of plain yogurt)

We carried this tradition even after Ba passed away. Still, it wasn't the same not having him by my side on that sidewalk. Soon after, my nana and I would just share dates and mbesses directly with our family and neighbors.

Whatever you are doing this spring season, I wish you all a blissful and healthy spring!(image)



Algerian Pastries in Ann Arbor

2011-10-25T19:58:48.834-04:00

Three months ago, I decided to take the plunge and follow one of my dearest dreams. That week, butter, flour and orange blossom water spent most of the day on the countertop and my hands were rolling, shaping and filling pastries almost every single day. That week, Wednesday came faster than ever before and I’ve found myself one Wednesday afternoon packing my car with a table, a chair, a cardboard sign and a bin filled with pastries. With a kiss on the forehead from my husband and a hug goodbye from my daughter Layla, I backed up on the driveway and took the road that would get me closer to the Ann Arbor farmer’s market, to my dream; the road that would give birth to Al Meida fine Algerian pastries. That day, I gave birth to a slice of my country in the heart of Ann Arbor and it never felt so beautiful, so sweet, just like pastries. There I was setting my table between the coffee guy and the lady selling plants and beautiful flowers. There I was arranging sticky Makroud, tender Kaab el ghzal and melt-in-your mouth Dwiyrat in copper-like trays my mother brought me all the way from Algeria as my first customer came, sampled some of the pastries and actually bought some more. I was amazed. I sold my first pastries! I sold Algerian pastries right here in America. The same pastries I grew up eating after school, at weddings, Eids and at my nana’s house were being consumed by people living 5855 miles away from where I was born, where I made my first Makroud and where I grew up. It felt unreal yet right. It felt as if I was dreaming yet I was at the right place at the right moment. In a way, It felt as if I not only brought pastries with me that day, and the day that followed and still follows, but also my past, my present, the smells of my country and a taste of the house I grew up in.As I type these words, I can clearly sense how I feel when I go to the market and share my pastries with people: I feel happy just like I feel happy when I share my recipes and childhood with you. As I stand by my table, I am not alone. I feel as if my mother, my late nana and all the women of Algeria are by my side. When I’m selling my pastries at the market, surrounded by caak, Ghribia, the people, the smells and sounds, Algeria is here with me; if only for a few hours before I go back home to the arms of my husband, the hugs of my daughters and the splattered pages of my family recipe book to bake for another week to come. Ever since that first day, I have been blessed with all the people I’ve met, the regulars that come get their favorite, share a smile, a few words and come back the next week. Wednesdays evenings gave way to Saturdays mornings at the farmer’s market where it is much busier and with longer hours. But I am still amazed when I see people coming to the market from near and far asking about my pastries while others are sending e-mails asking me to ship pastries to their far away state. I feel blessed to share what I love with others and I am grateful to my mother, grandmother and all the women of my family who taught me that cooking or baking was not only about feeding your hunger but mostly about bringing people around one single Meida, one single table, be it small or big. [...]



Algerian Baked Fish

2011-08-23T11:18:51.754-04:00

Today I came with the intention of telling you about the reason that made me disappear from my blog and fills most of my days, and my heart, with joy, perfumes of orange blossom water and so much bliss. (No, it’s not another baby!) But then, on Saturday, I baked these cute Sea Bass pictured above and they were so amazing, so lip-smacking delicious that I had to tell you about the fish and leave my life for later.So straight to the recipe I go, as it’s got to be the best baked fish I have ever made. This time there is no behind the dish story of fish mongers yelling in the middle of the market: “Sardines! Red Mullets! Skates! From the sea to your plates!” or of my mother making irresistible couscous with grouper and inviting the fishermen who brought her the fish to have lunch with us, though I could write pages about my mother’s couscous with fish. No. Instead, I’ll tell you about the fish of this dish, and the potatoes and the caramelized, sweet onions and the sauce, the exquisite sauce and the lucky bread that mopped it all. I’ll tell you about the one pot meal and how it took just minutes to assemble, a few hours forgetting about it in the fridge, a bit more baking in the oven and days of this tasty fish still lingering in our thoughts and stomach.What makes this dish so unique is the marinade that makes for the flavoring of the fish and vegetables and for the sauce. The marinade is a simple mixture of common spices used in Algerian fish recipes (cumin, paprika, turmeric, ginger) and other delicious things like garlic, parsley, cilantro, tomato paste, lemon juice and olive oil. All of these ingredients are mixed together, poured over the fish and vegetables and left to marinate for a few hours. Meanwhile, you go to your business, lie down on the couch, go out for a walk or even bake a cake for dessert. Sea Bass was what I had and therefore what I used. But many other lucky varieties can bath in this dish and would make a fine substitute: Skate wing, sea bream, red snapper or any other non-oily whole fish. You can also use thick fish fillets. The fish was tender, very fragrant and delicately spiced. The potatoes were creamy and earthy and irresistible especially when you drench them in the sauce, along with one of the onion slices and bring them to your mouth. Heaven, I’m telling you.And then the next day as the second fish was barely touched and some lonely potatoes and a tiny bit of the sauce was left, I cleaned and crumbled the fish, diced the potatoes even smaller, added some cream, topped the cazuela dish with bread crumbs and herbs and served it along a salad of roasted peppers, Bourek, Harira soup for our Iftar dinner. We ate and ate and the taste of the fragrant dish and the creamy potatoes lingered for another day in our thoughts and stomach.Algerian Baked Fish:Recipe: Serves four- Two whole sea bass cleaned and patted dry from any excess moisture.- 4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1 inch cubes- 1 big onion, sliced into rounds- 1 ripe tomato, sliced into rounds- ½ preserved lemon (optional, it’s not the same but can use slices of fresh lemon)- For the marinade:- 3 garlic cloves, minced- 3 Tbsp chopped parsley and cilantro- 2 Tbsp freshly ground cumin- 2 Tbsp ground ginger- 1 tsp turmeric- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika (recommend Spanish, not Hungarian and check if it’s still fresh and haven’t turned rancid)- The juice of 1 lemon- 2 tbsp tomato paste- 4 tbsp olive oil- ½ cup water- Salt, black pepperSalt and pepper the Sea Bass generously inside and out. Put it in a shallow plate. Put the cubed potatoes and slice onions in a shallow plate as well. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Coat the fish generously inside and out with half of the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap. Pour the remaining marinade over the vegetables. Coat well and cover with plastic wrap too. Refrigerate the fish and vegetables and marinate for at least four hours.Preheat the oven at 400F. Lightly o[...]



Meatballs and peas Tagine with asparagus and eggs

2011-06-14T20:01:00.843-04:00

I should have called this dish: compromise peas; finding the middle ground peas. A warm spring day, about seven years ago, back when I was a new bride with smoother hair, smaller waist and nonexistent squeaky toys in my living room, Mohamed and I came home from the farmer's market with a bag full of fresh green peas for dinner. He made mint tea for both of us and we took the bowl of green peas to our then tiny, but beloved, balcony and started shelling. We shelled, he ate and I talked. It was the perfect harmony, the perfect start to a beautiful dinner and evening; until I went to the kitchen and cooked peas the way I always had them at my parent's house, which is in a hearty stew with meatballs and a touch of cream.It was delicious, comforting; at least to me. He set the table, must have lit some candles (we don't have candles on the table anymore, as all our daughters want to do when they see them is either touch them, blow on them or sing happy birthday) put on some music, must have made his way to the living room table dancing (thank goodness he still dance. I love his moves and so do the girls) and sat down to see in front of him a pool of green-brownish peas with scattered meatballs swimming. "What's this?" he asked."Don't be silly, it's green peas!""You mean The green peas we spent the afternoon shelling?""Yep…doesn't it look scrumptious! go ahead, help yourself! Bon appetit!""Is this how you usually make it ?" He replied."Yes, why?" I asked as my eyes started to get blurry.Being the polite, but still picky, man he is, he served himself and ate a few spoonfuls before stopping short, thanked me for the lunch but this wasn't really his preferred peas dish, though one of his favorite vegetables. Of course I must have cried (one day I cried when I saw the butter oozing out when making puff pastry) and he must have consoled me while making funny faces and we both ended up laughing at all what was left of the dish that I had to eat by myself.We had another cup of mint tea on the balcony and started talking about green peas and the traditional way they are prepared in Algeria. Green peas are usually cooked with lamb, in a turmeric, saffron, herbs and ginger scented sauce. Near the end of cooking, eggs are poached in the sauce and some lemon juice is drizzled on top to brighten up the flavors. Of course the dish is delicious and fresh and lighter. It is in fact as much comforting and familiar as the green peas dish I grew up eating. The sauce is bright, warm from the spices and sweet from the fresh green peas, but frozen green peas can be substituted if not in season. The dish is a cross between my mother's green peas and meatballs and Mohamed's favorite sauce and luscious poached eggs at the end. The addition of asparagus to the recipe is a personal touch, my personal blossom in the kitchen.Meatballs and peas Tagine with asparagus and eggsFor the meatballs (kefta):- 1lb ground beef or lamb- 1 small onion, grated- 1 garlic, minced- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped- ½ tsp cumin, freshly ground- ¼ tsp paprika- 1 pinch of cayenne or to taste (optional)- Salt- Freshly ground black pepperFor the sauce and vegetables:- 1lb fresh or frozen green peas- ½ lb tender asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½ inch segments- 2 tbsp oil- 1 medium onion, chopped- ½ tsp turmeric- 1 tsp ground ginger- ¼ tsp saffron- Juice of ½ lemon- A small handful of chopped parsley- 4 eggsCombine all the ingredients for the kefta together and form into small meatballs. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large, fairly deep pan and brown the meatballs on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.Pour the remaining oil into the same pan and add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent but not browned. Add the spices and 1 ½ cups of water. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.[...]



Hidden gems of Algerian cooking

2011-05-24T22:35:05.005-04:00

A couple of days ago, my husband came back from a business trip to Europe and an agreeable, though extremely short, one to Algeria where he visited our family and feasted on some of our beloved, dearly missed dishes that we can’t find or have difficulties duplicating here in Michigan due to the lack of ingredients. While most of our cooking is based on spices, fresh seasonal vegetables and grains, most of them widely available in the US, some more regional recipes are based on local herbs, techniques and just the heritage of our cherished native country. Mexicans have Mole and Algerians (mostly Eastern part of the country) have M’loukhiya. While all Mole preparations begin with chili peppers, M’loukhiya (which in Ancient Egypt means “for kings and nobles”) is made using the leaves of Jute, removed from the stem and ground to a fine powder. It is cooked with olive oil, lamb, beef or chicken, garlic, fresh bay leaves, dried mint leaves, ground caraway and coriander and other spices. While the meat and garlic and spices are cooking, jute powder is mixed with water or broth and slowly poured into the meat mixture. M’loukhiya simmers until it thickens to a smooth mole like sauce, between 5 to 7 hours. And though the smell can be quite strong and reminiscent to some people to Henna, it is simply exquisite, with complex flavor that only calls for a crusty French baguette and a hungry stomach. Algerian and Tunisian M’loukhiya is different from Egyptian and Middle Eastern M’loukhiya where they use a different variety and the whole leaves of Jute. I might see Indian stores if they have the same variety of Jute to recreate this recipe at home.I know what you’re thinking: spaghetti and meatballs? The dish in itself is one of a kind, but look closer to the dish and you will see Merguez sausages. Merguez is childhood memories, summer sandwiches at the beach, lazy dinners with tomato sauce and poached eggs. Merguez is Algeria: warm, bold, irresistible and memorable. While my husband makes killers Merguez at home, It can be a hassle to make them using the sausage maker attachment of our Kitchen Aid and I simply miss the convenience of just walking to the butcher and pick up some Merguez sausages for dinner. Rechta noodles are your typical wheat-flour-based-noodles, but what makes them unique is not only the shape but also the cooking method: fresh Rechta noodles, and even dried ones, are steamed, never cooked in bowling water. This way, they have a bite even when cooked and a lovely elasticity and chewiness. Rechta is traditionally served with a spiced, magnificent chicken, chickpeas and parsnip stew. May be one day I should take the plunge and try my hands at making homemade Rechta.Some of my fellow Michigan food bloggers may recall the day I bombarded them with my pleas about finding sheep caul fat in Michigan. After numerous trips to different butchers in the area, none of them seemed to have caul fat and only some of them knew what caul fat is. This is yet another dish my husband and I, especially my husband, crave when we go to Algeria. Caul fat is the very thin fatty membrane which surrounds the internal organs of an animal. Lamb liver wrapped in sheep caul fat is a delicacy where liver is marinated in spices, grilled then wrapped in sheep caul fat and grilled for a second time just enough to melt the fat and create a caramelization, but without burning the liver. As you can see from the photo, fat and fire is a dangerous combination. The abundance of fresh fish and selfish in Algeria makes not only unforgettable meals but also for a vibrant and very animated market. Fishmongers in Algeria, and usually all over the Mediterranean, are loud, in a lovely kind of way, singing out the beauty of their caught of the day to every passer-by and giving you even tips and recipes on how to cook the fish. While shrimps and others are found all around Michigan and the US, though the taste is not the same, sardines [...]



Look no further roast chicken

2012-01-10T10:20:21.693-05:00

Back when I was living in Algeria, it feels like ages ago yet it was only less than seven years ago, we had a nearby butcher specializing and selling only chicken and chicken derived products: besides uncooked chicken (whole, cut up, butterflied, deboned…) they had chicken pâté with pistachios, chicken pies and quiches, pastilla and spicy samsa, both made with homemade brick dough, bologna, chicken sausages, and their famous rotisserie chicken, which was beloved in the whole neighborhood. If you had the chance to get their rotisserie chicken, which you would have to wake up early for, you will bring to your table much more than just a roasted bird with crispy skin. The butcher gives you in a shallow tray, nestled underneath the chicken, some green olives swimming  in a tick, saffron colored sauce with caramelized onions and golden potatoes that have been cooked (almost fried) in the chicken drippings of the rotisserie. Heavenly! All you might add to this meal is a green salad and a piece of bread.Back home, the sauce with the olives can be duplicated, but the chicken is a different story: the skin is never crispy, the breast dries out and the thighs are sometimes undercooked. Until I came upon Thomas Keller technique for perfect roast chicken; his philosophy is pretty simple, straightforward and 100% foolproof: the drier the meat, the crispier the skin, the better the roast chicken. All he does is pat dry the chicken with paper towel, season it inside and out with salt and pepper and roast it in a heavy skillet for almost an hour without basting or disturbing until crispy and irresistible. I added my touch of back-home-rotisserie-chicken with spices like saffron, turmeric and ginger and paprika which adds warmth and a lovely aroma to the already delicious chicken. You can also use Ras el hanout for the spices listed below. Really, don’t wait seven years, bring a chicken home today for dinner and let it roast itself for you and your family.Spice rubbed roast chickencooking technique inspired by Thomas KellerRecipe: One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken1/2 tsp ground turmeric1 tsp ground ginger1/2 tsp paprika1/4 tsp saffron1 tbsp canola oilKosher salt and freshly ground black pepperUnsalted butterAlgerian Ras el hanout can be substituted for the spices Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better. Mix the canola oil with the spices and set aside.Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.Now, salt the chicken— rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon), then rub the spice mixture all over the chicken. When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone—I don't baste it, I don't add butter. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven. Baste the chicken with the juices and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.Remove the twine. Cut up the chicken. Slather the meat with some melted butter and serve immediately.[...]



Chaldean Meat Pies

2011-04-18T09:54:44.007-04:00

I try to keep my food blog only about Algerian/ Moroccan and North African cuisine in general, but when something as memorable as these little pockets of scrumptiousness cross my path and my belly, I can only make an exception and share it with you all. A couple of weeks ago, I fell head over heels for a cuisine I have never sampled before: Chaldean cuisine; or Iraqi cuisine with Chaldean flair as the cookbook presents the recipes. I was invited to a local Chaldean event and from the appetizers to the desserts everything was mouthwatering, delicious and new to me. While some of the dishes were your common Middle Eastern and Lebanese dishes, a lot of them had some variations using different spices and cooking techniques. I usually loathe Lebanese Baklava (Algerian Baklava is completely different) Chaldean Baklava is a poem: it is made with walnuts, already after my own heart, and spiced with cardamom and just the right dose of rose water and sugar. It is magnificent! And there was the eggplant casserole, very similar to the Greek Moussaka, but with minced beef, instead of ground, and spiced with a distinctive Chaldean Allspice, called Baharat. Baharat, available at most Middle Eastern Stores, is a blend of ground allspice, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, dried rose petal powder and ground black pepper. It is very fragrant and pungent and goes so well with red meat, chicken, vegetables and rice. Those golden triangles you see are some irresistible meat pies. They are little scented pillows that enclose ground beef spiced with baharat, curry powder, onions and jalapeno for some spiciness. The dough is very soft and scented with fennel seeds, anise seeds, nigela seeds, sesame seeds and ground cardamom. The process, though simple, is a bit time consuming but every bit of it is worth the effort and minutes once your lips will yield to the aromas and your house filled with exotic spices. I recommend making the dough the day ahead as it will give the dough more time to rest and the flavors to mingle.Chaldean Beef Meat Pies (Takhratha 'd Pursa)Makes about 40-50 meat pies depending on sizeFor the dough:- 1/2 package active-dry yeast or 1 tsp active-dry yeast- 2 tbsp warm water- 1/2 tsp sugar- 2 1/2 pounds all-purpose flour- 1 1/2 tbsp Dough Spices (same measure of sesame seeds, nigela seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds and 1 tsp ground cardamom)- 2 tsp kosher salt- 2/3 cups canola oil- 1/2 stick butter, melted- 2 1/2 cups milk, combined with 1 can (5 ounces) Carnation Milk.For the meat filling:- 3 lb ground beef - 1 cup onion, chopped- 1 tsp curry powder- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt- 2 tbsp baharat spice- ½ jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)- ½ tsp ground black pepper- 1 tbsp canola oil- 1 egg and 1 tbsp water for the egg washDissolve yeast with water plus sugar. Let stand for 5-7 minutes until becomes foamy.Pour flour into large deep mixing bowl. Add dough spices, salt and mix.Make a well in the middle of the flour and add melted butter, milk, oil, yeast mixture. Rub flour with hands until flour is evenly coated. Begin kneading, adding more flour or water as needed, for 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 1 1/2 hour or until doubled in size. Punch lightly to deflate. Knead quickly and put back in the bowl to rise. Cover and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.Heat the canola oil in a frying pan. Cook ground beef with remaining ingredients. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Divide the dough into little balls and roll out each dough into a circle to make your triangles. Shape the meat pies as shown on the photos. Seal well by pinching with your fingers. Brush on egg wash onto each triangle and place seam down on your prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, or until they are nicely browned. Remove from baki[...]



Caraway spiced carrot salad

2011-03-22T18:00:07.000-04:00

Lunch parties. For years I have cherished this vision about the perfect lunch party at my house: our friends and loved ones would gather around a long farm table in the backyard. The carcass of our basketball hoop laying by the grass would magically disappear and a large vase of ranunculus would garnish the peach colored tablecloth.  Adults will be nibbling on marinated olives and muhammara dip, while the kids would be playing knights with cheese straws or, even  better, eating them. The food, and I, would be ready well in advance and I won't have my hair still soaking wet from the last minute shower.  Lunch would be casual and relaxed. Kids would be fed first and sent playing board games and puzzles on the shady deck, as we enjoy our lunch peacefully. (One can always dream!) Buzzing birds and laughter being our only background. I haven't gotten far enough in my fantasy to know what the menu would be like. Probably different kinds of quiche, my husband's favorite, certainly my famous apple tart and definitely a salad or two.  I cannot conceive a menu without a salad. And the easiest course to think about, even when not daydreaming, is salad. The specimen you see on the picture is the salad I made last Saturday for a couple of friends. Though effortless in concept and ingredients, It was the highlight of the evening (the chicken wasn't bad either). All  you do is cut the carrots diagonally, just to look fancy, and steam them until cooked but still firm. When ready, you heat some olive oil and add your parsley, garlic and the spice of choice for this salad: ground caraway. If you haven't tried the combination of carrots and ground caraway together, you owe it to yourself and to your carrots. Toss. Add the remaining olive oil, as the fruitiness of the olive oil changes when heated, and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice, a must, and you have a match made in heaven. The dreamy lunch may not be in my near future, but as long as there are carrots and this salad on my menu one can always hope.Caraway spiced carrot saladRecipe:- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally- 2 garlic cloves, minced- 1 tsp freshly ground caraway seeds- 3 tbsp olive oil- 3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley- 2 tsp fresh lemon juiceSteam the carrots until tender but still retain their shape.  When the carrots are cooked, carefully remove the steaming basket and set aside. Meanwhile,  heat 1 tbsp of olive oil  in a small sauté pan. Add the garlic, ground caraway and parsley. Cook for one minutes stirring constantly until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the hot carrots to the herb mixture and toss. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and lemon juice and toss again. Transfer to a plate and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Enjoy the salad at room temperature.[...]



Different fish, different chermoula

2011-03-14T09:56:29.779-04:00

                       I've been thinking a lot about how I should introduce this recipe. Or if I should really call it a recipe as it is a recommendation, a spur-of-the-moment suggestion made by my mother-in-law more than a year ago while we were talking about fish, soups and the newly planted lavender in our front yard.Chermoula is a bold, garlicky, spicy sauce and marinade used all over Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to spice up not only fish and seafood, but also poultry, meat and vegetables. Though recipes differ from one cook to another, its base is usually a harmonious mixture of garlic, spices (usually cumin and sweet paprika), fresh herbs (cilantro or parsley) and acid (lemon juice or white vinegar). Some might add onions, others saffron, preserved lemons, cayenne peppers, or even nuts, in which case we are leaning more towards pesto. But just like pesto, the process is as easy as peel, measure, pound and enjoy. The result is a zesty pool where every fish would like to swim in and every one of your senses would enjoy.And while the world does not need another chermoula recipe, these two versions, as my mother-in-law explains, are interesting in respecting the quality and variety of fish you are cooking. The spice infused chermoula complements the robust flesh of oily fish while the less conventional thyme and ginger chermoula balances the delicate flavor and texture of white fish without being overpowering. I came home last Saturday from the Italian market with gorgeous salmon steaks, plump garlic and fresh cilantro; chermoula was the first intuition that came to mind for an enticing yet light and effortless dinner. The garlic peeled, the cilantro washed and its leaves plucked I set to put everything along with spices, lemon and olive oil in my tiny food processor. A few noisy twirls later, my chermoula was finally ready to embrace the salmon. After the pan was heated and the olive oil shimmering, I added my salmons. Cook, do not disturb, four minutes, flip, do not disturb, four minutes, serve. A squeeze of lemon, maybe some rice or greens on the side and there you have it. Quick, easy, exquisite. No recipe reading required. Just head to the kitchen and start cooking.In the near future, I'll share with you my chermoula recipes for poultry and vegetables.Chermoula for oily fish: salmon, trout, sardines, swordfish, whitebait, fresh tuna, anchovies, eel, mackerel, smelt and bluefish. Grilling, baking, steaming and pan-frying are all ideal cooking choices for oily fish.Recipe: Salmon Chermoula- 4 salmon steaks- 1 small onion, roughly diced- 2 garlic cloves- 2 heaped tbsp parsley- 2 heaped tbsp cilantro leaves- 1/2 tomato, peeled and roughly diced- 1/2 tsp ground cumin- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika- 1 tsp lemon or white vinegar- A pinch of kosher salt- Freshly ground black pepper- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil- Extra lemons to finish the fishMix all the ingredients in a food processor. Season the salmon steaks, or any oily fish you are using, with salt and black pepper on both sides. Coat evenly with all the chermoula and marinade for at least one hour. In a pan, heat 1 1/2 tbsp of canola oil until shimmering but not smoking. Cook over medium heat until browned and cooked to your liking, 3 to 4 minutes per side. To have a perfect crust, avoid disturbing the fish while it's cooking.Transfer the salmon to a plate and squeeze some lemon on top. Chermoula for white fish: fish like cod, haddock, sea bass, whiting, sole, halibut, flounder and turbot. Recipe:- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped - 1/2 inch fresh ginger finely grated- 1tsp lemon juice- A pinch of salt and black pepper- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oilMix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Season the white fish lightly with salt and pepper on both [...]



Pinch and eat / Pincez et mangez

2012-01-15T15:19:51.130-05:00

The best bread I’ve had in my life didn’t come from a renowned bakery in town. It didn’t come from a store or a café. It didn’t come from a family’s kitchen. The best bread I’ve had, the one I ate in its entirety on my way home, came from a roadside vendor.I saw her from my backseat window. She was sitting on a tiny bench by the road, under a shady tree. She was with a girl who looked younger than her, may be a sister or a neighbor. She had a large wicker basket by her side overflowing with some sort of fabric and a loaf of bread on top as a sample. My father drove past them then came back to park the car a few feet away from them. As he stepped out of the car and went towards the little girls, I unfastened my belt and jumped on the backseat to peek at them from the rear window. They stood up from their bench when they saw my father. The eldest one might have been eight or nine. Her face was tanned, it was spring; she was wearing a dark printed dress and muddy rain boots. My father must have told her something funny because she started giggling with the other girl and hiding her smile with her scarf. He gave her money, she then kneeled to her basket, unfolded the endless white fabric and handed him, as a nurse would hand a newborn, two dark looking loaves of bread.My father came back to the car, took a slice of the bread and gave me the remaining loaves. I went to my seat and we drove away as the little girls, who were indeed sisters, sat back on the tiny bench giggling and counting their money by the road, under a shady tree. The bread was round and smelled the wood, the trees and the earth. It was dense and light at the same time and had almost a sandy surface. I pinched and ate, then pinched and ate again. I thought about the mother who baked this bread early that morning in her wood-fired oven, I pinched and ate, and about the fig tree in her yard. I thought about her hands kneading the dough, I pinched and ate, about the kisses she put on her daughters forehead before sending them to sell the bread by the road, under the shady tree. I pinched and ate and ate again. Whole wheat and semolina bread (Khobz bal zraa’ wal smid)Semolina flour, sometimes called just “semolina”, can be easily found at Italian markets and Middle Eastern markets. If not available, you can make the bread by using only whole wheat flour and all purpose four (2 cups of each). The texture and color won’t be the same but nonetheless delicious and earthy. Recipe: yields two 9” round loves- 2 cups (240g) unbleached all purpose flour- 1 cup (120g) whole wheat flour- 1 cup (120g) fine semolina flour- 1 tbsp dry yeast- 1 tbsp honey- 1 ½ cups (375ml) lukewarm water- 2 tsp kosher salt- 2 tbsp canola oil or olive oil- Additional flour for kneading- Semolina or cornmeal for the pan and finishButter two baking sheets and generously sprinkle some semolina flour or cornmeal on top. Set aside.In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast into the tepid water with a tsp of sugar. Let it sit five minutes.In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the different flours with salt. Make a well in the center and add the honey, olive oil, and the yeast mixture. Incorporate the liquid ingredients into the dry ones to form a fairly sticky dough. Knead with the hook attachment for five minutes adding more flour as needed. Or, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, also adding more four as needed, for 10 minutes until the dough feels soft but not sticky and definitely not dry.Divide the dough in half, and shape into a small round loaf. Place each of them onto the prepared pans, dust generously with semolina flour or cornmeal, cover with a towel. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.After the dough has rested, use the palms of your hands to flatten each loaf into about 1/2” thick. Dust more sem[...]



Sautéed Kale with Cumin and Smoked Paprika / Chou frisé sauté au cumin et paprika fumée

2011-03-05T12:15:58.210-05:00

Now I have a confession to make. Until recently, the only reason I was buying kale was that somehow it made me feel healthier. Kale was my morning run, the responsible, and sometimes boring, part of me; my pretext for eating more of that mocha ice cream. Other than that, I thought Kale tasted bitter. It was OK, but nothing like my favorites: spinach and Swiss chards. And I’m not even talking about Mohammed’s opinion on the subject. The man rolls his eyes every time I reach for that Frizzy looking green at the market. I think that our aversion with Kale had something to do with my lack of confidence and ideas when cooking this intimidating green.My mother often tells me this story about the woman who taught her how to turn any kind of greens into an exciting dish. This woman, her name was Ghazielle, which literally translates to little Gazelle. Ghazielle was by no mean petite. She was 6 feet tall, had strong shoulders, a suntanned face, from working in the fields all her childhood, and beautiful, dark kohl eyes. When she wasn’t looking after my younger brother, Ghazielle would sometimes make fresh bread for us. Bending over the gassa* (a large earth ware where you knead bread and make couscous) she would push and fold the dough back and forth until elastic and smooth. Her bread was, and still is, the best homemade bread I’ve ever had. It’s rustic, imperfect in appearance, humble, chewy and so flavorful.One fine morning, Ghazielle came into the kitchen to find my mother serving Sautéed khobiz with garlic. Puzzled by the sad look of the greens, she asked her if this is how she normally serves khobiz, to which my mother says yes. After some giggles from both of them, and a confused and hungry look from us, Ghazielle placed the skillet back on the stove and started sweating some onions, along with spices and herbs, and tossed the greens into the spicy mixture. My mother still recalls how it tasted: moist, earthy, complex yet simple and delicious.Last weekend, while little angels were napping and tiny tomato plants were being planted, I gave kales a makeover, a Mediterranean meets Algerian makeover, and it was good, surprisingly good. Besides chopping the kale and rinsing it multiple times, the recipe doesn’t take long to put together. Onions are sautéed until happy and translucent, to which you add an herb, garlic and spices mixture. Finely chopped kale are added to mingle with the other ingredients and cooked until silky and tender. Plain yogurt is added at the end to add tanginess and freshness to these greens known for being fairly dry, but bitter and boring they were no more.Sautéed Kale with Cumin and Smoked PaprikaRecipe: serves 4- 1 bunch Kale (about 1 pound/500g)- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil- 1 medium onion, chopped- 2 cloves garlic- 1 cup/250ml parsley sprigs, tightly packed- 1/2 cup/ 125ml fresh coriander, tightly packed- 1 tsp freshly ground cumin- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika- 1 tbsp plain yogurt- Salt, black pepper- lemon wedges- Oil cured black olivesStrip the kale leaves off their stems and cut away the tough midribs of any large leaves. Chop finely and wash in plenty of water. Drain well.Chop and pound the parsley, coriander, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt to a paste in a mortar or a food processor.Heat a large sauté pan and add olive oil and the chopped onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the herb paste. Cook 2 minutes stirring and without burning, then add the kale, cumin and smoked paprika, stir to combine, and cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the greens are tender. When they are tender, remove the lid and allow any excess water to evaporate. Turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt.Serve with bread, cured black olives, or any of your favorite olives, and wedges of lemon to squeeze to taste.B'ssahatkoum! ([...]



Weeknights Potatoes / Les Potatoes de la Semaine

2011-03-05T12:16:58.511-05:00

I'm slowly learning to juggle life with a second child, sleepless nights, milk scented clothes and one active toddler. It is not always easy. It is never the same. But at the end of the day, when I finally lay my head on the pillow, I am content. I am happy with my life, my family, my hectic days, my messy hair and the uncomplicated and unsophisticated, but always heartwarming, dishes I've been making lately.We've been having these potatoes at least once a week for the last couple of weeks. They may not look like much. After all, they are just roasted potatoes sprinkled with herbs and garlic and some spices. Though I do believe that when equipped with a good potato specimen and the right amount and the right combination of spices, nothing beats Roasted spiced potatoes.The recipe comes from my sister in law, who is a great cook and an even greater baker. What I like about this dish, besides being comforting and spicy and delicious, is that I can do it with my eyes half open. Perfect for my lethargic state these days. Peeling and slicing the potatoes is the only work you would do. The Potatoes basically cook themselves and the rest is chemistry between the herbs, the sharpness of the garlic, the freshness of the lemon and the warmth of the cumin, paprika and Harissa sauce. Perfect as a side dish with a roasted chicken or lamb.So whether you have five minutes or five hours to spend in the kitchen, set a date to try these weeknights potatoes of mine. I guarantee you will love them.Roasted Spiced PotatoesRecipe: serves 4- Six big Yukon Gold (or any of your favorite yellow flesh potatoes)- 1 tsp sweet paprika- 1 tsp ground cumin- 3 tbsp olive oil- 2 tbsp chopped parsley- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced- 1 tsp Harissa, or your favorite hot sauce (Optional)- Salt- Freshly ground black pepperPreheat the oven at 400F.Peel and slice the potatoes into wedges or fries. Put them in a bowl, along with the olive oil, salt, black pepper, ground cumin, paprika and harissa, if used. Toss the potatoes to combine.Arrange them in a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown and crisp on the outside, turning them over once, about 25-30 minutes.Mix the herbs, garlic, lemon juice in a bowl. When the potatoes are baked, toss them quickly with the garlic infused herbs and serve.B'ssahatkoum! (To your health!)Potatoes Epicées Au FourRecette: Pour 4 Pers- 6 grosses pommes de terre Yukon Gold (ou autre au cœur Jaune)- 3c.s d'huile d'olive- 1c.c de paprika douce- 1c.c de cumin en poudre- 2c.s de persil haché- 2c.s de coriandre hachée- 1c.c de jus de citron- 2 gousses d'ail écrasées- 1c.c de Harissa (optionnel)- Sel- Poivre noir fraichement mouluPréchauffer le four a 200C.Peler et couper les pommes de terre en fine ou larges frittes. Mettre dans un bol avec l'huile d'olive, paprika, cumin en poudre, sel, poivre et Harissa, si souhaité.Faites cuire jusqu'à une belle coloration dorée, environ 25-30 minutes et en remuant les potatoes une fois.Une fois cuites, mélanger avec le reste des ingrédients and servir aussitôt.B'ssahatkoum! (A votre santé!)[...]



Kenza

2010-02-04T15:39:18.482-05:00

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After months of expectations and longing, she's finally here! Our daughter is home, where she belongs. Kenza was born last Tuesday at 2:22 PM. She is Love, even when she wakes up more than three times every night.

We are blessed, happy and very thankful for our two daughters.

Needles to say that not much cooking has been happening lately. Apart from the comforting thyme and leek soup I made yesterday. Soon, may be! In the meantime, I'm savoring every bit of naps and cuddles.

See you soon!(image)



Chestnuts and Lamb Tagine / Tagine d'agneau aux châtaignes

2011-10-12T18:53:11.966-04:00

Just like a burning fireplace, a snowy rooftop, a chilly morning buried underneath the warm sheets, no winter can be complete without roasted chestnuts or, for the less timid, luscious Chestnuts Tagine.As I'm writing this, I know a lot of you are driving or flying to spend this time of year with your loved ones. You already have your holiday menu written down. Garland and lights are draped around the room. Fleece pajamas might be your only attire for the next days, and cookies and cakes might be crowding your kitchen.But as the last burning wood fades away. As the last guest and the last crumb of cookies disappear, make yourself a warm cup of tea, turn on the stove again and try this tagine. It will feel like holidays all over again. Fleece pajama will still be welcome.I usually use fresh chestnuts for this kind of tagine, but you can go for the canned ones if the idea of peeling all these shiny nuts before cooking them troubles you. The dish is savory, yet sweet at the same time. The lamb melts into the cinnamon and turmeric scented sauce until falling off the bone. The chestnuts, those succulent, fragile chestnuts with their soft interior, add another dimension to the whole tagine, slowly releasing their starch and their unique and sweet nutty flavor. It is a Tagine not to be missed.Happy holidays, everybody!Chestnuts and Lamb Tagine (Tagine el lahm bel Kastal)Recipe:-1lb(500g) lamb shoulder, cut into 3 inches chunks- 1 canned chestnuts (300g) drained and rinsed quickly- 1 handful of raisins- 1 tablespoon canola oil- 1 tablespoon butter or s'men- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric- 1 medium onion, peeled and halved- 1 tablespoon sugar- 1 2-inches cinnamon stick (5 cm)- A thin slice of unpeeled lemon- Walnut halves, for garnish- Salt- Freshly ground pepperIn a tagine, or a large skillet, pour the oil along with the butter or s'men. Add the meat and sear on all sides. Add the onion halves, the cinnamon stick and the turmeric. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir. Cover and cook until the onions become to soften a little bit, about 5 minutes.Cover with 2 cups of water. Put the lid on the vessel and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer and cook until the meat is very tender, about 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.Add the chestnuts to the sauce and continue cooking 15 more minutes.Uncover the pan and let the sauce reduce to a thick consistency. Five minutes before serving, add the raisins, the sugar and lemon slice to the sauce and continue cooking on a low heat.Discard the onion halves.Serve the tagine on the table family style, or transfer the meat to a serving dish and spoon the chestnuts, the raisins and the sauce around it. Sprinkle some walnut halves on top and serve at once with plenty of bread.Tagine d'agneau aux châtaignes (Tagine el lahm bel Kastal)Recette:- 500g épaule d'agneau, coupée en morceaux de 6cm environ- 1 conserve de châtaignes (300g) débarrassée de leur liquide- 1 poignée de raisins secs- 1 c.s d'huile végétale ou autre huile neutre- 1 c.s de beurre ou s'men- 1/2 c.c de curcuma- 1 oignon moyen, épluché et coupé en deux- 1 c.s de sucre- 1 bâtonnet de cannelle d'environ 5 cm- Une fine tranche de citron non-épluchée- Des cerneaux de noix pour garnir- Sel- Poivre noir fraichement mouluDans un tagine, ou une poêle a fond épais, verser l'huile et le beurre ou le s'men. Faite chauffer sur feu doux, puis ajouter la viande et faites saisir sur tous les cotés jusqu'à obtention d'une belle couleur caramélisée. Ajouter les moitiés d'oignons, la cannelle et le curcuma. Assaisonner légèrement de sel et poivre et remuer. Couvrir et laisser cuire jusqu'à ce que les oignons fondent un peu, environ 5 minutes.Ajouter 500 ml d'eau[...]



6th Annual Menu For Hope

2011-03-05T12:18:09.113-05:00

Today marks the beginning of the 6th edition of Menu for Hope, a fundraising campaign created by Pim and championed by food bloggers all around the world. The funds raised will benefit the United Nations' World Food Programme: it is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with more than a thousand other organizations in over seventy-five countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people become self-reliant so they can escape hunger for good.This year, we are supporting a new initiative at the WFP called Purchase for Progress. This program enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation. It helps them improve farming practices, and puts cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops. As a consequence, it also buoys local economy by creating jobs and income locally.This fundraising campaign works as a virtual raffle. Tickets are US$10 and tax deductible. Every donation will buy you a raffle ticket to bid on one of the items contributed by participating bloggers; you can buy as many raffle tickets as you like, and increase your chance to win the items of your dreams. The campaign ends on December 25, and the results will be announced on January 18. We bloggers will arrange for our bid items to be sent to the winners, and all funds raised will go to the World Food Programme.This year is my first year contributing to this cause. And I am offering for your consideration:[UE 30] A gift set of four Homemade Algerian spice blends plus a tube of the famous North African hot condiment, Harissa. This item bid can be shipped only to the US.The spice blends are:1- Red Ras el Hanout (100g- 3.5OZ): a complexe of 20 spices that will complement any of your meat or chicken tagines, stews and soups.2- yellow Ras el hanout (100g- 3.5OZ): a melange of 12 spices, perfect as a spice rub for chicken, lamb and beef or an addition to any of your roasted vegetables.3- couscous spice blend (100g- 3.5OZ): adds a wonderful aroma to your couscous sauce.4- Tagine spice blend (100g- 3.5OZ): Turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are among this blend of spices that will enhance any of your tagine.Donate. Bid. Make a difference. Enjoy.To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope RaffleHere's what you need to do:1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from the master list.2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. Please specify which item(s) you're bidding on in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per item, and please use the bid item code ( in my case it's UE30). For example, a donation of $50 can be 1 ticket for EU07, 2 tickets for EU08, 1 ticket for EU09, and 1 ticket for EU10. You should then please write 1xEU07, 2xEU08, 1xEU09, 1xEU10.4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.Thank you for your generosity![...]



Algerian Lentil Soup / Soupe de Lentilles a l'Algérienne

2009-10-31T01:48:10.578-04:00

If you would ask me about my favorite season, spring would be my first spur-of-the-moment answer. And it's not because my birthday is in spring and I love presents and birthday cakes and parties; though it has a lot to do. But it's spring when I and everything around feel alive again. When the tulips and daffodils shade our driveway. When the days are longer, and warmer and brighter. When small tomato plants start sprouting by the kitchen window and birds start building their nests underneath the deck.It is spring that I love the most. That's what, five years ago, the girl from Algeria would have told you.But then I came to Michigan, exactly five years ago, and I saw fall. Really saw itAnd fall, oh fall, I've fallen for you!I fall for you every morning from my window when I see the saffron colored trees and wiggly maple leaves sliding down the street. I smell your perfume and it smells like roasted chestnuts, burning fireplaces and wet soil. I touch you and you're warm and cold. I listen to you and you're quiet, untamed, stripping what's around you serenely.At the farmer's market last week, I fell for your pumpkins and huggable squashes, and snow white leeks and swiss chards, and apple ciders and cute bees and supermen dressed babies . The babies weren't for sale, unfortunately!Every year I find myself going back to my seasonal routines. Like making S'fendj (Algerian doughnuts) and hot chocolate for dinner, in the fall. Not that I wouldn't make them in the spring; I do. But it's different. It's fall when I really start to crave S'fendj and hot chocolate in the evening. I think it's because they are both comforting (always loved hot chocolate with my doughnut). It's fall when I listen to Damien Rice and Amos Lee. Fall when I can't wait to slip into my warm slippers in the morning and snuggle with my blue blanket in the evening watching brothers and sisters. It's fall when the 4PM snack time becomes mandatory, when I make upside down apple and fig yogurt cake, sweet rolls for breakfast, meat or meatless stews for lunch and drool over the beans selection at my local grocery store. It's fall when a spicy lentil soup, and a very good one for that matter, and some crusty bread, should never be missed.Though there are as many lentil soup recipes as there are good cooks, this one has always been the one I rely on when I want a complex flavored yet rustic and authentic Algerian lentil soup. And did I mention how easy it is to make? In a snap! The soup combines my mother's beloved lentil stew recipe with the addition of Dersa, a mixture of spices, herbs and acid that is commonly used in Algerian households to finish up soups and add another dimension of fragrance and flavor to the dish. The recipe yields a lot of soup(I'm afraid I will never learn how to make soups and stews for just two or even four people) but can easily be halved. You can use any type of lentils you like, but for this specific recipe, and that's just me, I prefer the old fashioned brown lentil. As I love how it melts in your mouth and release a certain earthy, dare I say comforting note. Green lentils (also known as French lentils) wouldn't work here. I used lamb bones in my recipe, mainly for the aroma, and because we love our lamb in Algeria, but you can skip them and use homemade or very good quality chicken stock or vegetable stock instead. What makes this soup so irresistible and lip-smacking delicious is the combination of warm spices like turmeric, cumin and ground coriander with fresh herbs like mint, parsley and cilantro. And I mean a lot of cilantro. It is key here. Of course six cloves of garlic, four at the beginning and two with the Dersa, have a[...]



Again

2009-06-17T18:40:05.016-04:00

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Here I am again.

Nearly a month since my last post, my last cookies and, actually, a month, or even more, since I baked anything sweet. (Apart from the day we went for a picnic with friends and I promised to bring a cherry tart. A mighty good tart, I must say. I don't know how I managed not to ruin it, but I did). Here I am again.

Cooking hasn't been much present lately. The only things I've been making are salads, not so thrilling ones, bread, because I have to, roasted vegetables, because I have a toddler to feed, and sometimes, when I'm feeling really good, a soup.

I wish I could tell you that I am as excited about fresh vegetables and silky tagines and rustic dishes as I was before, but honestly I am not! My burners are off most of the day and the only things that get me excited recently are crusty bread, milk, juicy peaches and my bed.

I hope to get back on my feet pretty soon and be able to appreciate my cuisine as I used to; until then I hope you are all well and content.

And, as always, thank you for your support, for your words. Thank you for just being here.

Warda(image)



A Mouthful of Spring / Une bouchée de Printemps

2009-05-01T08:56:36.033-04:00

Though she seems to be all about cooking and stirring and baking, there were days where cooking was the last thing she wanted to do. Days where she couldn't stand spending more than an hour in front of the hungry stove, the piling dishes and the scratched cutting board. yes, there were days where she believed a sublime meal could come from a can of creamy pinto beans, some spices, a roasted red pepper and fresh, hearty Tuscan kale.On those days, she enjoyed watching the blooming trees and flowers. Seeing the backyard flourishing, last year basil raising its tiny leaves from the dirt again and the hairy chives waving goodbye whenever the wind blows at the window.She saw life nestled in a tree.She saw life in the eyes of a little fairy.She felt good walking barefoot in her house, on the grass, on the dirt, on the concrete. She smiled at the sight of her daughter throwing her little shoes and baring her naked feet to the warm sun while counting the bees.She wore skirts and sandals. She curled her hair and opened wide her windows. She took a nap while a familiar breeze lifted the curtains to the ceiling tickling her toes and bringing back sweet memories.She gave her family a helping hand when needed, a glass of tea when thirsty, a slice of tart when hungry. They all sat outside watching the sunset. Silent, they listened to the birds going to bed, the squirrels running up and down the trees. And the breeze. Always this familiar, sweet breeze.On those days, near the river, the grass, the dirt, the blooming trees, she saw life. And it was beautiful.I didn't have plans to make this dish, even less to post about it. I mean look at it! It doesn't look like from where you are: beans, herbs and bits of roasted pepper here and there. But the truth is, it has all what I was looking for on that warm spring day. In fact, I wish I had a can of pinto beans in my pantry right now so I can make it again today (note to self: buy pinto beans asap).The dish is called Tbikha. In North Africa, especially in Algeria and Tunisia, Tbikha refers to a dish made with a combination of fresh and dry vegetables. Herbs are often added to the dish, as well as some heat like harissa or hot peppers. Peppers, squashes, carrots, turnips, cardoons and spinach are most often used, along with chickpeas and dried beans. The herbs are what makes this tbikha fresh, moist and bright. The creaminess of pinto beans, along with the delicate, slightly sweetness of kale and smokiness of roasted red peppers make it the perfect pair to a crusty bread. And may be some harissa coated olives…and why not some extra ground cumin to sprinkle liberally. Really, have a mouthful of spring this weekend. You will love it!Tbikha Kale with Pinto beans and Roasted Red peppersRecipe: Serves 4- Two bunches of Tuscan Kale (or curly kale)- 3 tbsp olive oil- 1 can pinto beans, drained- 1 medium onion, finely chopped- 5 green onions, chopped- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (or whole depending on your taste)- 1 cup parsley, finely chopped- 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped- 3 garlic cloves, minced- 1 tsp cumin, freshly ground- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika- Salt and freshly ground black pepper- 1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and finely diced- The juice of 1/2 lemonWash the kale and remove the stems. Chop roughly and set aside.Pour the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, cover and cook until translucent but not browned, stirring frequently. Add garlic, jalapeno pepper, cumin, paprika and herbs and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped kale, cover and cook until wilted and the leaves turn bright green. Season [...]



Home-grown memories / Trésors faits-maison

2009-03-26T08:46:59.175-04:00

I went silent, again, for more than a month. I had you starring at this spinach and bulgur thing for more than a month and I won't be surprised if you've gotten sick of it. Because I did. And so did all of the people I know.The truth is the kitchen is still busy and I am still cooking and baking more than ever. The truth is whenever I make something and it turns out scrumptious and belly-rubbing-delicious and I want to tell you all about it, the camera seems to disappear. Then, I decide to make it again and it is even tastier than before and I take photos, download them to my computer, store them and at that moment the sun goes down, my sleepy eyes tell me I need my bed and before I knew it March is nearly over.The truth is I love coming here and I miss it when I don't visit for a while. I love facing the white, smooth screen and thinking about what I'm going to write. I love my little kitchen journal, my childhood scented dishes, my home-grown memories.The truth is I enjoy sharing my recipes with you all. I do it for you. I do it for me. I do it so I won't forget what should be remembered. I also do it for my daughter. My adorable Layla whom I love dearly. I do it for her because I want her to remember that harira was her favorite soup ever since she started solid food, and that one day she got her eye lids sticky because she got too much honey on her m'semmen, or how she loves the smell of couscous steaming and picking olives out of everybody's plate.Because on her first day of school she can count on having her favorite homemade bread with butter and pooh's honey. Because her birthdays will always be filled with dark chocolate cakes, princess costumes and balloons. Because whenever she would need comfort a warm hug and a big kiss will always be there. Because I want her to know that her father loves making merguez for her and that he will always call her "my little girl" and I " my life". Because my days are sweeter when I she is here and that I miss her when she takes her nap. Because I want her to know that the day she will become a mother herself, I will put henna on her hands and her feet, will put kohl to her eyes, prepare a big bowl of berkoukes and a plate of sellou and I will give her more honey.While sellou is rather complicated to categorize, it is considered in Algeria and Morocco as an energy paste, a traditional sweet often served at birth celebrations. It is basically flour that Is cooked in a dry skillet on the stove or roasted in the oven until nutty and golden. To that we add honey, melted butter, ground almonds, or any of your favorite nuts, ground anise seeds, ground cinnamon and sesame seeds. It is highly addictive, has a unique flavor and comes together in a snap. No eggs, no pan greasing, no baking. The flour may take some time before turning into a beautiful blonde shade, that's where a friend, a husband or the phone come in handy. Toddlers around the kitchen not obligatory but most welcomed, as they love the smell of roasted flour and cinnamon. And so do we.Sellou (Fragrant Roasted Flour with nuts and honey)Recipe: Serves 4-6 people- 2 cups all-purpose flour- 2 ounces sesame seeds, lightly toasted- 4 ounces blanched almonds,or your favourite blend of nuts, ground- 1 tbsp aniseed, freshly ground- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, freshly ground- 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled- 1/4 cup honey- Some icing sugar to decorateIn a dry skillet, on medium heat, cook the flour, stirring continuously until it turns a golden colour. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.Add to the flour the sesame seeds, ground or left whole, th[...]



The Kitchen / La Cuisine

2009-04-24T08:26:43.642-04:00

My trip to Algeria was about spending time with my family and friends, soaking up the sun, the blue sky and the sea; introducing my daughter to her origins, to my country, to my continent, to the place where her dad and I first met, to her cousins, her big and diverse family. Our trip was about love, fun and food.We were six under the same roof. Every morning, my daughter would run down the stairs and into the kitchen to jump into my father's arms before sitting on his lap and take a sip from his coffee. My mother would already be wrapped in her apron doing important things like sweating some onions or dicing some vegetables. Breakfasts were toasts, caak, croissants, pastries, for the brave souls, which I am not, and m'semmen for special days and weekends. Mornings were laid-back, evenings were lingering with tea and sweets at 6PM and chocolate and dates at 12AM. My husband then joined us, followed by my sister, her husband and her three kids. We were then twelve under the same roof. There was no need to turn on the heating and no room to feel lonely. Some of us enjoyed spending time in the family room, others, like myself, snuggled in my parents bed watching cartoons with the kids. But the kitchen was where we all came together. It was in the kitchen where we laughed, argued, ate delicious meals, relaxed, danced, teased one another, where my daughter had her first earrings, where twice a week I ironed my father's shirts, where my sister nursed her one month old son, where my father reads his newspapers, where my husband had his first roasted lamb's tail and where I covered my eyes to avoid seeing such things as people eating lamb's tail.But let's not talk about animal parts today. I'll leave it for later, for the brave souls. Today I want it to be special. As you have always been so nice to me, I want to share with you a recipe I should have told you about a while ago, as it is my favorite of all. I believe if I had one last meal, this dish would be on my table no doubt about it. This is my mother's spicy greens with bulgur.Originally, the recipe calls for a variety of greens called khoubiz or bakool , which is found growing wild in the fields of North Africa. It tastes like a cross between arugula (rocket leaves) and watercress, with a hint of acidity, and there is no real equivalent for it here in the US. After experimenting, with fair results, with spinach, arugula, Tuscan kale, dandelion, I've had the best luck with the combination of spinach and arugula. It may not be much to look at, but when you have cumin, turmeric and red pepper flakes mingling with bulgur and spinach and arugula, the fusion is irresistible. Even for those who pretend detesting spinach, or any greens for that matter. (I have a friend who wouldn't eat anything with a green color and he absolutely loves this dish)The spices and the cloves of garlic are pounded using a mortar and pestle to extract as much aroma before adding the resulting paste to the "sweaty" onions. As you pour the stock over the lovely ochre colored onions, restrain yourself from dipping your bread, or your fingers, as the sauce gets ready for the bulgur. At the end, steamed spinach and arugula join the party; a party that took half an hour to put together and will take half the time to gulp down. It's exquisite, I assure you. It's even exquisite the following day straight from the fridge, sitting on the countertop with a piece of bread in one hand and orange soda in the other. Every bite brings with it a part of home and my mother's kitchen into my own kitchen.Thank y[...]



Hello!

2009-02-11T19:29:34.511-05:00

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Hello there! It's been a while. Two months and nine days is a long time. So many things to say, and even more to share. I don't know where to begin. There were cousins meeting for the first time and one sweet nephew coming to the world. There were sunny mornings and rainy afternoons, warm days and chilly nights; walks on the beach with my father looking for shells and windows shopping with my mother; roasted chickens and head of lamb one day, savory mille feuille and snails stew the other (not on the same day, obviously).

I am back home and it feels so good. I missed my husband, my house, my kitchen, my ugly stove and the snow. Yes, the snow. Though, now, I can't wait for spring to finally be here.

I'll see you very soon, my friends. Let me gather my memories and my photos and I promise to be back pronto . This time with a recipe.(image)



Exquisite Day / Un Jour Exquis

2008-11-25T17:21:09.554-05:00

I meant to tell you more stories today.I meant to tell you about the neighbourhood market, the home brined olives, the pile of juicy organic oranges in our kitchen, the street foods, the people, the roadside vendors, the local art, the local music, the regional clothes, the sand, the sea and the warm days.I meant to tell you all. I meant to tell you about the unforgettable couscous with swordfish my mother made on a beautiful sunny Friday. She usually uses grouper, which I personally prefer, but swordfish isn’t a bad choice either. We took out the gorgeous plates her friend Hassiba made for her and we feasted on couscous, grapes and dates. We were full, we were dizzy and we all took a nap, which was very appropriate on a heavy Friday afternoon.I apologize if there will be no recipe of the couscous today, but I wanted to stop by to wish you all a happy, blessed and exquisite Thanksgiving Day.I am sure your kitchen, and your family, must be whistling of excitement. And in case you need some last-minute ideas, what follows is some of my falls favourite.Soup and Starters:- Roasted Beets Salad- Harira Soup- Roasted Butternut Squash soup- Marinated Feta Cheese- Parmesan Black Pepper Crackers- BourekBread:- Algerian Semolina Bread- Challah with Candied orange peelsSide Dishes:- Sweet Potatoes Tagine- Spicy Roasted Carrots- Broiled eggplant Zaalouk- Chedar, Goat cheese and Cilantro Cake- Warm leek saladDessert:- Easy Peasy Lemon Tart- Egyptian Bread Pudding- Fragrant Rice Pudding[...]



Home!

2008-11-17T20:57:17.638-05:00

I wake up every morning in my bedroom, where I have my orange painted closet, my teenage books, my grandparents’ old wireless radio and some dried roses still stapled over my desk; and I realize that I am home. It feels good. It feels really good.Some furniture has been added around the house, old neighbors moved out and new ones moved in, more cats came to the nearby printing works and the lemon tree has finally started to bless us, but I still drink my milk in the same mug and still love taking naps in my parents’ bed; my mother still do her daily crosswords before falling asleep and we still have our mint tea with a big plate of M’ssemen and honey later during the day. It feels good. It feels really good to be back, to have some routines back, to see my daughter running in the house where I have so much found memories, and to hear her laughing out loud at the sight of our turtles.I wake up every morning to a spring day and goes to bed to a fall night.My parents live in the west side of the country. A coastal city called Oran, once known for its lions, hence the name given to the city to commemorate the last two lions that used to reign over the nearby forest. Old, sometimes crumbling, often neglected, buildings, statues and forts still stand proud and tall all over the city, reminiscent of the Spanish and French eras.With a glass of strong coffee or mint tea sitting on the side of the table for over an hour, Moorish coffees are the place where men of all ages meet to talk politics, and life, play cards and dominos or just sit there gazing at the passers by. Today I saw a group of four old men gathered around a traditional tray, sitting on small bunches on the sidewalk and enjoying coffee and some good looking pastries while people continuously passing by. My mother told me that only in Algeria you could see people taking their coffee on a busy avenue. I thought it looked like a nice gaada (company).My mother and I went to one of my favorite, and most entertaining and diverse, local market the other day. And though I don’t have any photos, yet, to share with you, let me tell you something about our markets: They are not your usual farmers markets. They are loud, they are crowded, and they have everything from fruits and vegetables to shoe-shine boys, coffees under a tent, live poultry and rabbits, plumbers waiting to offer their service, letter-writer, marabout describing out loud on a microphone how his “medicine” can help urinary infections, and so much more.Though I could have spent the whole day listening to the marabout and his fascinating stories, our basket was empty and the sight of sticky dates, pomegranates, roman beans and shiny fennel was more tempting. As we filled our mouths with samples and our baskets with heavy cabbage, tomatoes, dates, tangerines, Jerusalem artichoke, cardoons, fennel, herbs and olives, lunch was quickly taking shape. It was going to be a cabbage salad with celery and tomatoes, my father’s favorite, braised fennel with grilled meat and oranges. We carried our heavy bounty together, we were content with what we had, and nothing was missing. As we turned back to go home, we saw fall. We saw fall in a small red, dirty sweet potato. They were hidden between other potatoes and cauliflowers. They were heavy, they were beautiful, and they were going to be our third course.My mother has different ways of cooking sweet potatoes. She bake them, fry them like French fries and sprinkle them wi[...]



Ciao!

2008-10-26T10:12:12.405-04:00

Thirteen hours, three planes, four airports and one sleepy toddler later, I was finally in Montpellier, France, hugging my sister and resting my head and my body on a real comfy bad, having a real exquisite meal.I was exhausted, yet excited. I was drowsy, yet couldn’t sleep. I don’t remember how the first day went by, or how I managed to do it all. I don’t remember what I saw, or what I said the first day. I remember Marion, and her beautiful smile, at the airport of Paris. I remember digging my teeth into the most wonderful Pastry I’ve ever eaten. I remember her kindness, her sense of humor, my clumsiness. I remember my daughter dancing in the middle of the airport and playing hide and seek even after such a long trip. I remember my sister crying when she held her niece in her arms for the first time. I remember the gorgeous weather of Montpellier, how I loved having the sun on my face, how I loved the vineyards on the side of the roads and how everything seemed small, organic and earthy.I remember when I held my niece in my arms for the first time and how I thought she looked a lot like my sister. I love her laughter. I remember Montpellier International Fair we visited that same day; and the following day and the day after. I remember taking Mo’s old Camera, which I’m deeply in love with, and taking many photos and memories with it; memories of my daughter with her cousins running and dancing in the middle of the fair, memories of fruity cheeses, cookies, lanterns, masks, sun dried tomatoes, foreign accents and black truffles.I still don’t know how I managed to do it all that first day. But if I have to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing; except the airplane seats.These photos are from the enchanting Italian Hall at Montpellier International Fair. Another destination, dear to my heart, will follow soon.Until then, I send you some sunshine and a basket of love and laughter from Latte, a beautiful village near Montpellier where I enjoy my days with my family.[...]



Tomorrow / Demain

2008-09-30T22:53:47.427-04:00

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Busy bee in the kitchen, hoping from a cookie to another.

Busy bee in the kitchen, rolling in sugar, cinnamon and honey.

The bee baked and ate, and baked again. She added flour, nuts, rose water and sugar a million times. She ate and baked, and ate again.

Baking sheets are sore. Oven is blazing hot. She will bake more. Not today. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow she will dress up. Her daughter will wear a beautiful cream dress with Cross-Stitch embroidery. Her better half will wear a suit and a sky blue tie.

Laughter, prayers, photos, family, cookies, hugs and kisses will wrap this joyful day.

Tomorrow.

Happy Eid al-Fitr!

Thank you, for everything.(image)