Food Friday: Arabian Cuisine

I should have taken photos.  But I didn’t.

Last night a teacher friend and I went to a student’s camel farm.  His family’s farm, really.  I’ll post about the whole experience shortly.  For now, let me just describe the meal.

At the end of the evening, we were treated to a true Emirati meal.  Everyone (all male, of course) gathered around a mat on the floor where there was a feast spread out before us: there was a huge platter that took two men to carry in, loaded with biryani spiced rice, and atop the bed of rice, there sat a freshly roasted goat or sheep, or some mystery animal.  Spread out around the edges of the mat were numerous plates with hummus, freshly prepared flat bread, roasted and fresh veggies, various other meats, and so forth.

All the kandora-clad folks settled down, not cross-legged (“Women only sit like that,” one of the boys told us, “Men sit like this.”), but with one leg tucked under and to the side, and the other knee up, foot flat on the ground.  My friend Pj and I were seated next to the elder man of the household, the grandfather, which must have been an honor.  We waited to sit down until after the old man did and he invited us to.  Everything was eaten with the hands.  Or rather, basically with the right hand.  That includes rice.  “You want yogurt on rice?”  We were asked.  “Sure.”  They poured plain yogurt on the rice, or rather, on portions of the rice.  Then the challenge: eat rice with no utensils.  I made a mess.  The yogurt helped the rice stick together, but I’m not well practiced at this whole thing, and I had to scoot closer to the mat.  The old man, whose name I was never told, cut some slices of meat and set it before me (on top of a ton of other stuff, of course).  I made a gesture of declining and thanks, but the signal seemed to go either ignored or not understood.  Everyone ate, other than the initial exchanges I mentioned, in complete silence.  The father of my student grabbed the skull from the butchered beast and ripped the jaw off from it, and removed the tongue.  That exposed the brain, and he placed the skull in front of me and gestured for me and Pj to try it.  “Good,” he said.  We both declined.  I feel positive I’d have declined even if I were not vegetarian.  Eventually I told them that I did not eat meat, and then there was a sort of look of relief on their faces, and the old man passed me a whole tomato, and presented me with half of a raw onion.  I laughed, and they seemed to be entirely okay with me not trying the mysterious meat after that.  Once, when I cracked open a can of 7-up, I noticed a young man across from me kind of murmur something to the guy at his side.  He was indicating my drink.  I noticed I was holding it in my left hand, and watching his face, I switched it to the other hand, and he grinned a little and gave me an approving look.

When folks were done, they just sort of disappeared from the, er, not table.  My students weren’t in the room, as I guess there wasn’t space at the…rug…for them.  After enough people had eaten their fill and migrated out, the father called, and in came a new batch, this time consisting entirely of youth.  Pj and I finished our food and headed out to the living room, but the first stop was to wash our hands.

At the sinks, we looked at each other and just grinned.  “That was incredibly awkward,” I said.  “I know,” he replied.  “And yet it was incredibly cool.”

The hummus was delicious.  The bread, fresh and good.  The veggies, both roasted and otherwise, tasty.  When I managed to get the rice into my mouth, it was good.  I left quite stuffed, and despite feeling more than a little out of my element, I think that I got to be a part of something I’d have never even witnessed, were it not for my students.

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Food Friday

While my darling husband is living the life of leisure and counting fils, I’m working like a beaver (said with a lovely Maine accent, in imitation of Shon’s late Grandma) and spending money left and right. Well, not really. I am, indeed, working my online job 6 hours a day, which feels like a rather long time to spend staring at a laptop. Most of the $$, however, is going towards bills.

But this week I decided I needed a nice break, too, so here I am, writing from the beaches of the Gulf – of Mexico. The city (haha) of Cuthbert, fondly referred to by some as the armpit of Georgia, is conveniently located 3 hours away from Panama City Beach. This is close enough for a day trip, but this year has been really hectic, and we haven’t gone a single time.

Knowing that a) we are hoping to not have to live in South GA again and b) Shon doesn’t care if he never sees a beach again, I figured this might be
my last chance to see the white sands in the next two decades, and drove 3 hours this morning for a day of self-loving. Beach is extremely important to my kinesthetic self: I get giddy from feeling the sand under my feet and between my fingers, being surrounded by the water, smelling the air, and tasting the salty waves. It’s a religious experience, too, but I cannot explain why.

 

By now you are wondering what this has to do with food 🙂 well, a trip to PCB is not complete without a lunch at Raggae J’s. Both Mom and Dear Cousin Erika can testify to the deliciousness of their Mahi-Mahi sandwich with sweet potato fries, as well as the irresistibility of the Key Lime pie.

If you ever make it here, make sure to try some!

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Food Fridays: The Lebanese Flower and Assorted Culinary Delights

Ah, it’s Food Friday already!  Well, for those of you readers in the US, I guess it’s not Friday yet, but it will be by the time you read this, I venture.  Last night, I went with a group of fellow teachers (Christine, Nicole and her baby, and Andrea) to The Lebanese Flower, a restaurant on Khalidya Street.  Many folks in our hotel had been there already and were raving about it.  I found my options rather limited as a vegetarian, but the food was pretty good, if not great.  There was a large appetizer served that featured a lot of veggies (including a very spicy type of lettuce) with very soft, thin pita bread, hummus, and a Lebanese cream cheese (the name of which escapes me at the moment), and the company was fun to be around.  To read some more about it, check out Christine’s blog: Christine’s Big Adventure.  You’ll find the non-vegetarians seemed to like their food well enough.

After dinner, which finally wrapped up after we requested our bill (not “check,” mind you) at around 10:00pm, we walked across the parking lot to the Flower’s bakery, and Nicole, purchased some chocolates to share with the group.  These were good.

My meal, as photographed by Christine.

Then we went into the Beirut Roastery a few doors down.  There was quite a selection of various individually wrapped sliced-nougats which look a lot like Turkish delight.  Nicole and Andrea were intrigued by one which seemed to be rolled in rose petals.  I bought a handful of these creations, and, outdoors in the evening heat, gave the rose-petal ones to Andrea and Nicole.  “It tastes just like roses smell,” said Andrea, biting one in half and offering the other half to Nicole.  “How is it?” said Nicole.  Andrea, betraying no misgivings, said, “Just try it.”  Nicole bit into it and her nose immediately wrinkled.  “Oh,” Nicole exclaimed.  She put it in a nearby plant pot instead of her stomach.  I, being not the least bit interested in roses as a culinary item, tried one of the pistachio nougats.  Not too good, I assure you. I can only imagine how dried rose petals could enhance (sarcasm) the experience.   It’s fun to try new things, though!

The Lebanese Flower. A moment later a Maserati pulled up for some takeout.

Food Friday: A Speedy Dinner

This dinner is one of my all-time favorite things to make because a) it’s delicious; b) it takes 15 minutes from start to finish.

I give you Salmon with Spicy Mustard + Asparagus.

ImageYou will need:

  • Salmon fillets
  • Brown or spicy mustard (about half a Tbsp per fillet)
  • Brown sugar
  • Fresh asparagus

You will:

  • Preheat oven on broil setting, with the rack as high as possible.
  • Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Wash asparagus, break off the ends, arrange of half of the baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Pat salmon dry with paper towels, place on the other half of the baking sheet, skin down.  Spread mustard on top of the fillets (be generous), and sprinkle brown sugar on top.
  • Bake for 3 minutes, remove from oven, toss the asparagus. Bake for 3 more minutes.
  • Enjoy!

P.S. Bonus tip: if you add a couple of marshmallows to your brown sugar container, they will prevent it from becoming rock-hard!

Food Friday

Okay, okay, I know it’s Saturday, but I started this post yesterday, and then Benadryl kicked in, and I fell asleep before finishing it.

So here it goes: I now pronounce Fridays food-related days! It means two things: a) once a week, you will have to endure me sharing recipes or b) once a week you will get to see photos of UAE food (that will have to wait until August, though).

I don’t have a recipe for today, but I will share a recipe-related story.

When I realized that I could not possibly take all of my cookbooks and recipe magazines to the UAE with me, I decided this was a great time to make an electronic copy of my collection.  Shon and I started typing up our most used and loved recipes, as well as some we wanted to try.  At the same time, I began searching for a website that would allow me to store my recipe library online.

After reading some reviews, I settled on bigoven.com, lured by a decent selection of free features and an iPod/iPhone app.  I registered, added recipes and uploaded a couple of photos (old, but better than nothing).

And several days later, I received an e-mail saying that my photo of the Fruit Pizza won their Photo of the Month contest (which I didn’t know existed), and that I will receive a $100 Amazon gift card and a year of free Pro membership.

Trust me, friends, it took me awhile to believe it wasn’t a scam.  I have never won anything in my life, let alone a hundred bucks for a very, very mediocre photo.  I am not a food photographer, I am not a photographer at all, really, but here I am, debating how to spend my unexpected wealth.

So here’s to luck, pleasant surprises, and good food!