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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies


I am always looking for new and interesting cookie recipes, but somehow, I always revert to recipes with oatmeal, cocoa and of course, chocolate. But it's never the exact same recipe. Despite similar ingredients, I am always amazed to find how a slight twist or different proportion of ingredients yields a completely different cookie.

This cookie was chewy with the heartiness of the sunflower seeds, yet all the chocolately goodness of any other cookie. And the best part? I made a big batch and froze half. And let me tell you, they were just as delicious frozen!

Chewy Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen

1 cup Butter
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
1 Egg
2 2/3 cup Quick Cooking Oats
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Cocoa
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds
1/2 cup Chocolate Chunks

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Farenheit)..
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and milk. Add all dry ingredients except sunflower seeds and chocolate chunks. Mix until combined. Gently stir in sunflower seeds and chocolate chunks.

Drop by tablespoon onto cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Simple Seafood Spaghetti

I really love seafood. All of it. Fish, shellfish, crustaceans, you name it. Anything that smells of the sea and reminds me of home.

However, living in Damascus, I never really get all the fish I crave. The fish in the market place scares me, sitting in the sun over crushed ice for who knows how long. The freaky thing is if you go into the fish store and ask what came in today, the fish guy doesn’t point at anything on this ice block. Nope, he pulls out big Styrofoam ice boxes from the depths of his store and shows you what he’s got. I can only imagine the perils of the people who buy the stuff on display. And I wonder how long it will take for today’s fish to get there.

Anyway, all this is history now since I have “my fish guy.” By my fish guy, I mean my connection to the fresh fish markets of Syria’s coast. The guy goes up to the fish market almost everyday to buy what is fresh and delivers it to my door. It is in fact, so fresh, that he is often seen with a small, freshly caught fish in his hand, munching as he drives to make his deliveries…

Simple Seafood Spaghetti
Serves 2

400 grams Calamari & Octopus, cut into chunks
150 grams Spaghetti
1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tbsp Butter
Olive Oil

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just al dente as per the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil on low-med heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook slowly until garlic is soft. It is important to keep the heat low so that you do not burn the garlic.

Turn the heat up to medium, and add the octopus. Cook for about 1 min, then add the calamari. Toss for another minute until the calamari becomes just opaque. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta, lemon juice, and butter. Toss together and that’s it!

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bacon, Pearl Onion & Rosemary Quiche

Homemade pastry crust really isn’t that hard. My recipe which uses a food processor takes literally 3 minutes to whip together, and since all the ingredients are out and ready, I usually make multiple batches in a row and place them in the fridge for later use.

That was the case today. I had a disk of dough waiting in the fridge, and wanted to do something with it. After scavenging in the fridge, I found the items to make a great quiche with lardons, pearl onions, and fresh rosemary from the balcony garden.

Of course, you can follow this recipe and make the same, great quiche, or you can whip up your own with different fillings. Are you craving a chicken and cheese quiche? Do you have extra zucchini in the garden? Turn it into a great quiche by following the steps in the recipe below

Bacon, Pearl Onion & Rosemary Quiche
Makes 1 Quiche (about 10 inches round)

1 cup Lardons or Bacon cut into chunks
1 cup Pearl Onions (or chopped onions)
1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
3 Eggs
2 cups Milk
1/2 cup Flour
Salt and Pepper
1 Pastry Crust/ Tart Shell

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Farenheit).

In a pan over medium high heat, cook the lardon or bacon for 3-4 minutes. Add the onions and fresh rosemary, and continue to cook until the onions start to caramelize. Remove from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled lardon and onion mixture.

Pour into tart shell.
Bake for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Then lower the heat and bake for another 35-45 minutes at 165 degrees until the filling is set.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicken Curry with Basil and Coconut

I felt like having a curry. Not a burn your mouth kind of curry, but a rich, flavorful, heart warming kind of curry. Oh, and I didn't feel like going shopping for ingredients. So it needed to use stuff I had kicking around.

Luckily for me, I had a great combo of ingredients on hand, including coconut milk, fresh basil and chilis on the balcony, chicken legs, spices and some veggies.

So, I made this delicious curry sauce that is perfectly spiced, but not spicy. The coconut milk adds richness, the basil keeps it fresh, and the vegetables make this a well balanced meal.

As for the chicken, you could use chicken breasts, bone-in thighs, or even all drumsticks if you want. It is completely your preference. Me personally? I prefer dark meat and meat on the bone, but since I also cook for others, I like to use a combination of boneless thighs and full bone-in drumsticks.

Anyway, the resulting curry was amazing, and took practically no time at all to cook. This would be a great meal for a week night or for entertaining!

Chicken Curry with Basil and Coconut
Adapted from recipe at
Serves 4

Spice Mix (combine all in a small bowl)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Cardamom
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric

Other Ingredients
750 grams Chicken Legs & Thighs, skinless with bones removed from thighs
2 cups Eggplant, cubed
2 cups Zucchini, cubed
2 Medium Onions, chopped
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Ginger, finely chopped
1 Red Chili Pepper, seeded and minced
1 14-oz Can Coconut Milk
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 tsp Cornstarch
1/4 cup Water
1/3 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
Olive Oil
Steamed Rice for serving

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Cut the boneless thighs into cubes and keep the drumsticks whole. Place into a bowl and toss with the spice mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

In a large pan over medium high heat, cook the chicken pieces until brown. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add another drizzle of olive oil. Add the eggplant and zucchini and cook for a few minutes. Then add the onions, garlic, ginger and chili and cook until the onions soften.

Place the chicken back in with the vegetables, and stir in the coconut milk and the fish sauce. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and the water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the chicken and vegetable mixture. Bring up to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir in the basil. Cook for a few more minutes, then serve over steamed rice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tarte au Flan (French Custard Tart)

Flan is essentially custard. Therefore, a tarte au flan is custard baked in a tart shell. And it’s my husband’s favorite!

Now for those of you who have been following my blog, you are starting to wonder if all things are my husband’s favorite, but I assure you, they aren’t. In fact, my husband is the guinea pig for all my experiments, successful or not and he rarely makes any food demands. So, it is only fair that every once in a while, I recreate his childhood favorites. And this is one of them.

A piece of tarte au flan can be purchased at any French boulangerie and you can find whole tarts for sale in pretty much every French grocery store. I only know this because every time we land in France, on the way home we are forced to stop to pick up a piece for my husband. You can get a variety of different qualities from the really rich and eggy boulangerie types, to the light, made-from-powder, grocery store types. But in the end, all are flan, and my husband loves them all.

I have attempted many times to recreate this favorite. I have tried many different recipes, some which were dense and lumpy, and others which didn’t set in the oven. After much experimenting, I think I have finally found “the one.”

So, here it is. I hope that whoever eats yours gets as much pleasure from it as my husband does!

p.s. The tart shell is so easy to make in a food processor, but if you don't want to do it from scratch, you can buy a frozen tart shell or roll of tart pastry.

Tarte au Flan
Makes 1 tart (10 inches or 26 cm)

For the Pastry
1 1/4 cups Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into pieces
2-3 tbsp Ice Water

For the Flan
300 ml Milk
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Flour
2 tsp Vanilla
Icing Sugar for dusting

To make the pastry:
In a food processor, mix the flour and the salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles grains like oatmeal. Add the water, 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together in a ball.
Form the dough into a disk, wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

To make the flan filling:
Heat the milk until warm (can do it in the microwave). In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Whisk in the flour, then the warm milk and vanilla.

Roll out the dough and place in a relatively deep tart pan (I used the classic pyrex 26 cm tart dish). If after this process, the dough is very soft, place the tart shell into the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Farenheit).

Pour the flan filling into the tart shell and bake in the preheated 180 degree oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to about 165 degrees and bake for another 30-45 minutes until the filling is set.

As an option, you can dust with icing sugar. Or, you can dust with icing sugar, set the oven to broil, and caramelize the top of the tart.

Let cool completely before serving.