So, we finally had our first bout of winter weather, complete with snow, icy roads, and cold air. But we survived, and the temperature rose back up to the 40s, which felt rather balmy. But now it’s back and will be even worse this week. But the kids have a four-day weekend this weekend for Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, so I foresee finishing up Season 8 of Dr. Who and drinking plenty of hot chocolate. (Oh yeah, and working.)
|This was really good, especially when it was warm. The recipe suggests to eat this with mint tea, but I was all out.|
But today, we’ll cook food from a warmer weather country: Libya. I started out with making the bread called Libyan Herb Bread (Khubzah bil A3shab). First I mixed together ½ c of warm water with one packet of yeast and 1 tsp sugar, stirred it and set it off to the side. Then I poured in 1 c warm milk and ½ c of warm water in to a bowl before adding in the yeast in as well. Then I slowly added in 4 c of white flour, 2 tsp baking powder, and 2 tsp salt. Then I added in other ingredients used to add in some flavor according to taste (probably about 1-2 tsp each if I had to guess): thyme, parsley, rosemary, paprika, poppy seeds, bouquet garni mix, dried marjoram, and about 4 oz or so feta cheese. After forming the ball, I rubbed olive oil over the ball. I covered this with some plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour. Then I put the ball into an 8”x8” springform cake pan and spread it out with my hands. There was enough olive oil on it from resting that I felt I didn’t need to add any more. Before putting this into a 425ºF oven, I did sprinkle the top with just a tad bit of za’atar mix and poppy seeds and baked it until it looked golden on top (about 25 minutes while on the second-from-the-bottom rack). It rose rather nicely and the crust was crispy, yet the inside was soft. I tried to stay light on the herbs and spices, and I think it kept it balanced.
|I thought this was fantastic. I think I'm going to try to make a larger version of these.|
The next dish I made is called Braided Puff Pastry with Savory Fillings. Now, I thought I had pastry sheets in my freeze, but what I actually had was phyllo dough, so I thought I would modify it just a little to make this work. The first thing I did was set out my phyllo dough to thaw. Then I made my fillings. The first filling was a spinach-feta cheese filling. I diced my onion and sautéed it in butter, then threw in my spinach. When the spinach started to look wilted, I added in my black pepper and salt. I put this in a bowl and set it off to the side. The second filling I made was a chicken-herb-cheese filling. I took one chicken breast and diced it finely, sautéing it in a skillet with some onion. Then I added in some dried thyme and parsley, black pepper, salt, baharat spice mix (in lieu of seven spice mix), and some shredded cheese (I went with an Italian mix). After stirring everything together, I set this off to the side. Now this is the part where everything started to fall apart. Because I was trying to use phyllo dough, which is thinner than puff pastry dough, I set it out to thaw. I thought that if I put it on top of the stove while the bread was baking, it would thaw quicker, but I was so completely wrong. It pretty much cooked it and the rest crumbled to oblivion. So, I thought, “Why don’t I try to make a puff pastry dough really quick?” Well, the problem with that is that to make puff pastry, you can’t do it really quick, and I didn’t quite have enough butter. So, I pulled a recipe from the All Recipes app and modified it: I mixed flour, salt, water, and the 6 Tbsp of butter I had left. After I got it to form a ball, I threw it in the freezer to rest for about 10-12 minutes. I ended up having to add more flour to get it to be smooth. I divided it in two and rolled it out. Arranging the sheets so that they’re taller than wider, I divided the dough in thirds putting a very slight indention as a divider, leaving a gap at the top. The inner section is where I’m placing my filling down the middle. I cut diagonal ribbons on where the outer thirds would be.
After I placed my
filling down the middle, I took one ribbon from one side and crossed it over to
the other, doing the same thing from the other side, giving it a braided
effect. I made sure each ribbon was tucked underneath. After doing this with
both breads, I brushed each with a beaten egg. Placing them on parchment paper
placed on a baking sheet, I baked this at 450ºF until it looks brown on top
(about 25 minutes). I think it could’ve probably used another minute or two
because the inner layers of dough were still slightly underdone. Otherwise, I
thought these were great. My husband thought they tasted like they were store
bought. Even the kids ate them (and that includes my picky eater), which says a
lot. I thought they were fantastic. I had a lot of filling left over, so I may
make some more tomorrow (after I buy some more butter, of course). And my fake
puff pastry? The outside of it was actually pretty good.
|These are the cuts I'm failing at describing. A picture is worth 45 words.|
|It's a hit! My kids ate it! I'm a winner!|
Macroona Imbakbaka is listed as “the most quintessential Libyan dish.” So, of course, I was immediately drawn to it. To make this, I sautéed my onion in some oil before I added in my diced chicken to brown as well. Once it was browned, I lowered the heat and added in the tomato paste, baharat mix (in lieu of bzaar spice mix), salt, and pepper, letting it simmer for a few minutes. I added in about 7 c of water before turning the heat back up and let it simmer for about 25 minutes. At this point, I added in some spaghetti that I had broken up into 2-3” segments (basically breaking the spaghetti into thirds) along with some minced garlic and just a tad of cayenne pepper. Once the pasta was done and most of the liquid was gone, it was time to eat. I really liked this, and so did the kids. My husband has a hard time with tomatoes and spices, but he did have a taste and said liked it.
|Overall, I'd say this was pretty good. Definitely dishes I'd do over again.|
I’m glad I covered this country because I see Libya in an entirely new light. From the time I learned where Libya was in elementary school, and every time I heard it on the news, I always had this view that it was “probably a terrible place” filled with “some scary people.” Definitely not on my vacation list. But as I got older, I realized it was only a run by a few terrible people in its government—and even at that, there were still only a few things that weren’t completely terrible. And growing up, I always referred to Muammar Gaddafi as “that crazy man.” But just like reading about some of the other world dictators, there were actually a few minor “redeeming qualities” about them as well. It still doesn’t make them great people in the least, but it makes me realize there may also be reasons behind their actions that aren’t reported on in the West. It makes me think of Paul Harvey’s “And now for the rest of the story…” line. So, I suppose to say the least, it’s opened my mind to how the media works. These places that are often in the news are filled with normal people with families and dreams and talents and aspirations and all the same feelings we feel. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s to read stories about people and events a little differently, questioning what NOT being reported: to dig deeper, to find the story from the other point-of-view. And now it’s time to move on with that knowledge.
Up next: Liechtenstein