All of these things are true...

I had been in Jordan for several weeks and my love affair with Arabian sweets had reached a lofty peak. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honeys and syrups that would flood through heaps of pistachios on my plate.

Then it happened… I voraciously reached junkie status. More, more. Never enough! Every bakery that caught my sight was fair game,  out for a greater high, exploring the labyrinthine neighborhoods for the more legendary bakeries. But it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

An unmarked door led to an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 100f degree day, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. They were using round, shallow pans and alchemy to produce what many call “Arabian cheesecake”.

This “cheesecake” was Kanafehe

A definitive oxymoron- soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of simple syrup and rose water. Good enough to make one prostrate in reverence to the baker.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that the Arabian culture opened up before me, so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appauling photograph…

…but 1879!!!

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it- “A rose by any other name” and all that-

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine

 

IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

 

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg

20140418-111902.jpg

 

So, any takers?

Yallah’bye!

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All of these things are true...

A couple weeks in my desperate affair with Arabian sweets had reached dangerous highs. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honey and flooded with syrup and pistachio.

Junkie. That’s what you’d call me. A baklav-addict. More, more. Never enough. Every bakery was fair game as I lurked ancient cobbled alleys, out for a greater high, wandering deeper into the labyrinth in search for legendary bakeries. All of this was is good and well but it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

I followed him downtown through an unmarked door into an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 110-degrees, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. Round shallow pans and alchemy. Arabian cheesecake.

This cheesecake was Kanafehe

The edible oxymoron – soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey, and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of syrup and rose water.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that I finally tasted the essence of Arabian culture: so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appalling photograph…

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel
…but 1879!!!

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it. A rose by any other name

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine
IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg
20140418-111902.jpg

So, any takers?

Yallah

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It was 2012.

While the rest of humanity prepared for the Mayan Apocalypse, I was in the process of selling off ALL my belongings, the profits of which went towards a one-way ticket to Africa and a few months of vagabonding to, you know, “figure out my life.” While researching my first stop –a little known Kingdom called Morocco!– I came across an article about this peculiar dish called tagine. Growing up in an international family I’m naturally obsessed with global cuisine and this is my absolute favorite.

Even the name is sexy.

Say it with me, “Tah-Jeen.”

See! Don’t you feel more exotic?

No plans of visiting a Moroccan bazaar? A quick jaunt to Sur La Table will seal the gap between your grill and Marrakech as we travel together, in our shared craving for the exotic.

Oh, look at you with that shiny new Tagine. Welcome to a new you. Hi there. Here’s the thing. This is my favorite disk. Well, that I have personally made. so IMO, buying a tagine is a tremendous investment. Not only will you impress others but your abilities will be forever evolving. As this is one of the worlds most enchanting dishes.

But it was in the Kingdom itself that I had my first tagine. A friend of mine knew of a place, in a village way up in the Atlas Mountains, a day drive from Marrakech. The kind of place with rickety plastic tables, and shredded tarpaulins as tablecloths. Yet, where dining over the tagine was no less than a ceremony. It was dimly lit, in this crag on the mountain, in the banks of a river carrying icemelt from the previous winter.

We ordered the lamb which came out sizzling on a bed of onions, carrots and garlic surrounded by green olives, dates, and preserved lemons in a rich oily sauce. This being my first meal in 21 hours I dug in eagerly. It may be cliche but this truly was a surreal experience, chowing down, pouring mint tea late into the night.

The next evening I found myself lost in the ancient markets, stumbling down cobbled alleys and seeking to end the craving, like some junkie, shuffling for my next fix and finally with feverish delight slipping through the corridor of an invite-only restaurant: where belly dancers, in sheer skirts and charming bras, were swaying about as clouds of hookah smoke billowed about to the tunes of a hypnotic flute.

…good memories. #takemeback.

Now, back in the states, I’ve had to learn to master the dish for those frequent cravings. This is the most true, and most manageable recipe i’ve found online.

Image and recipe by the Ethnic Spoon

tagine-chicken-1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 Roma tomato cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup peas frozen
  • 3 carrots sliced
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 tsp curry
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tb fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt (paleo diet: sea salt)
  • 3 lbs chicken whole roaster cut into pieces
  • 1 lb potatoes (paleo diet: sweet potatoes)

FOR FULL RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS CHECK OUT The Ethnic Spoon. I absolutely love Analida’s blog and recipes. They’re among my go-to websites.

Et Voila! Have you come across any dishes abroad that left a huge impression?

N. Andriani

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Summer is long days, the sun pouring its song across orange-evening skylines with everything its got. Summer is falling across damp grass, wine bottle in hand, picnic blanket shaken out and mosquito bites. Summer is sun-burns and sand-where-you-don’t-want-it vacations. Summer is lush, drunk on springs abundance. The death of winter is almost forgot, the rebirth of spring a dizzy memory and the autumn far from the horizon for summer is here and now.

Over Memorial Day Weekend I had a few friends over on whom I was able to experiment with some new recipes which I’ve picked up on the road. Now, I’ve never been to Thailand but these wickedly delightful grilled corns are another great reason to visit Thailand, not to mention Asian Snake Whiskey and my Buddhist tendencies.

One more thing, i’m a heavy wine drinker. I’ll take or leave, usually leave, beer. I’m a gin snob but not that jerk who won’t enjoy a cheap bottle… all I’m trying to get at is that I love me some good wine. These days, at least my current fixation comes from Spain.

So for this meal we uncorked a bottle of Verdejo from Finca Montepedroso, which I highly recommend to accompany this meal.

Grocery List

Wine:

Thai Street Corn

  • However many heads of corn you need…
  • Coconut Cream, one can
  • Cayenne 1 tsp
  • Ginger 1 tsp
  • Honey 2 tsp

Salmon:

  • Salmon filet w/ skin, however much you may need…
  • Cedar plank
  • Olive oil

Crostini:

  • Sourdough loaf
  • Ripe pears
  • Goat cheese

Finca Montepedroso, Verdejo 2013

An award winner and one of the smoothest, most delicate white wines I’ve tasted. Yet it remains very complex, with notes of green apple and a soft minerality. Not sweet, but crisp, I’d call this an exceptional summer wine — pairing damn well with tonight’s dish. Hailing from a family run estate in the rugged foothills of Rueda, Spain it’s become one of our go-to wines when stocking the cooler.

Thai Street Corn

  1. Shear corn so that the husks are pulled back from the meat but not torn off.
  2. This is the trick part, but easy enough — with the husks pulled back, take two of the longer strips and tie the remaining husks together like so… see following images image
  3. Heat up all other ingredients in a pot — Coconut cream, honey, cayenne and ginger over medium for three minutes. Or until thickened and homogenized.
  4. Place corn on grill. Brush with coconut sauce ever few minutes when rotating.
  5. Cook until slightly charred or to your preference

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CROSTINI

  1. Cut crostini into thin slices and butter both sides
  2. spread a generous layer of goat cheese across the face.
  3. Top with a thin slice from a ripe pair
  4. Grill to liking

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SALMON

  1. Set grill at a stable medium heat.
  2. Place salmon skin side down upon the cedar plank.
  3. Rub fillets with olive oil (simplify the ingredients, embrace the smokiness.)
  4. Place on grill over indirect heat, cover.
  5. Grill until darkened, 20-30 mins.

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