It starts off well..
I know it is fall. The thermometer may (rightly) insist the high temperatures are still in the 90s, but something has definitely shifted. Three indisputable proofs:
- My kitchen has suddenly been overrun by an invincible army of ants. I kill them, there’s already more coming. I clean my counters and sink 17 times a day, so they make their way into the cupboards. And the silverware drawer. And my (closed) food processor, too–how do they do that?!? Outdoor critters moving inside is a sure sign of approaching coldness.
- For three days, the sky was overcast, the wind blew and we had dust storms requiring multiple house cleanings. Yes, it was still hot, but it even rained once. There is a saying that, literally translated from Arabic, is, “September’s tail is wet.” Meaning: it rains at the end of September. After the first fall rain is when the olive harvest traditionally starts, although for the past several years much of the region has been suffering a drought causing the harvest to come later.
- I have an incurable desire to bake. I am so done with salads and fruit and tangy yoghurt dressings. I want things with wheat and butter. Preferably wheat, butter and chocolate, but I do manage to restrain myself. Occasionally. Still, my body is going into winter fat storage mode. This time of year I am less of a hummingbird and more like a bear preparing for a long hibernation.
Seems like everything is under control...
So the aforementioned Roasted Pumpkin Soup was accompanied by my traditional Baking Powder Biscuits, which is one of those things everyone should know how to make. I attempted to jazz them up with some corn and caramelized onion, which turned out to be a good idea but was poorly executed. The sad result? Some serious burnage that rendered the entire batch inedible, although Hungry Husband gamely tried to rescue them with a spoonful of cinnamon syrup. It’s not a combination I would have though of, but he’s brave that way, and even more of a stickler than I am about the evils of wasting food. He said it was “better” with the syrup; however, in the end even he passed on seconds and they went into the trash.
Lesson learned: set the timer!
BAKING POWDER BISCUITS
- 3/4 c. milk
- 2 c. flour
- 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
Sift the dry ingredients together. Cut in the shortening, and then add the milk slowly, stirring. It is a sticky batter but knead it lightly, to the best of your abilities. Drop the batter in spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated 475F oven.
Although my birthday started out in a very American fashion, I had more fusion-oriented ideas for dinner and my cake. Dinner was scrapped when one of our neighbors offered me a ride to the surprise dinner party Hungry Husband was planning for me (not realizing that it was supposed to be a surprise—poor sad Hungry Husband). But I was really excited about my cake idea and made it before we left that evening so that it would be waiting for a late-night treat.
Unfortunately, this is one of those thoughts that was better in my imagination than real life, and I’m giving it to you for a challenge. The primary issue was a lack of flavor, as the pomegranate did not seem to contribute the way I expected. The seeds also turned weirdly hard and nubby after baking. What would you change to ramp up the flavor and accentuate the pomegranate-ness? Any ideas on how to prevent pomegranate seed hardness? The original recipe follows; leave your suggestions in the comments!
Pomegranate Pound Cake
- ¾ c. sugar
- 6 Tbsp. butter
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 egg white
- ¾ c. buttermilk
- 2 tsp. lime zest
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 2 ½ c. flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- seeds from 1 pomegranate
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Beat the butter and sugar until well combined.
Add the eggs and egg white, one at a time, to the butter and sugar. Beat well.
In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, lime, vanilla and baking soda until thoroughly blended.
In another bowl combine the flour and salt.
Alternately add the milk mixture and the flour mixture to the eggs and butter until well blended and without lumps. Stir in the pomegranate seeds.
Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Baking, Cake, Cooking, Desserts, Fix This, Fruit, Holidays, Middle Eastern Food, Not quite, Other, Pomegranate
Caramelized Onions, slightly burnt
Okay, this post is not necessarily about a dish per se. While I can eat a plate full of caramelized onions and be quite happy (especially if there was a little garlic thrown in with it), most people would not consider this a meal. Fair enough.
But caramelized onions are such an integral part of Middle Eastern food that they get their own post. There are, of course, many ideas for the best method and I think it all depends on your equipment to discover which will work for you. It also requires patience and, I think, a little practice. I always seem to end up with about 1/3 of my onions undercooked, 1/3 perfectly done, and 1/3 burnt. (See picture above for evidence.) Oh well.
The basic process is such:
Cut your onion, sliced or chopped. One important thing is to not make the pieces too thin or too small, because that will make them more likely to burn.
Heat your butter or oil (Arabs tend to favor oil, I think, sometimes vegetable and sometimes olive, depending on the country). Add the onions in and turn the heat down to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and lightly brown and a little sticky-looking. Once they start turning brown, pay close attention because it only takes a few seconds to go from brown to burnt.
A few other people’s instructions for caramelized onions:
Butter and Onions
As with any major holiday, particularly one that is celebrated around the world by people of many different cultures, I cannot rightly say that there is any one way that people eat for Ramadan. However, I do know that some people have very specific ideas of what iftar (the meal to break the fast) must include. Both my neighbor and my language tutor outlined for me the items that are absolutely essential for a proper Ramadan meal:
- A green salad (tabbouleh, fattoush, or a lettuce-based salad)
- Borek or sambousek (fried pastries filled with cheese or meat)
- Two or three other appetizers/side dishes
- A main meat dish including either rice or pasta
And I am not supposed to serve the same thing two days in a row! Ummm…right. No wonder most of the women I know will, when pressed, admit that they dread Ramadan; their kitchen workload increases dramatically, as well as their food expenses. Normally a woman would only prepare one or two dishes in large enough quantities to last two or even three days, but now she is expected to create multiple dishes every day, even if only for herself and her husband!
For a few interesting readings on Ramadan from a less food-oriented perspective, I suggest: