The kids are finally out of school. My daughter graduated from elementary school and will be a 7th grader in middle school in about a month and a half, and my son will be a 4th grader and gets to move to the upper class hallway. And oddly enough, both of my kids are bummed out that they’re not in school anymore. They’ve been out for one day, and they’re counting the days. I guess that’s a good thing, so I should probably find some local touristy things to do this summer. Along with the library’s summer reading program and some e-learning.
|Nothing to see here. Just a bread pile. I'll handle this.|
|This easy sauce with a bunch of ingredients is really good, but the rice is what makes this dish, I think.|
I felt like I couldn’t avoid this dish that has been labeled as the national dish of Saudi Arabia: Kabsa Fahm (Ruz Bukhari). This was moderately complicated, only because it had several components to it. The first part was to season my chicken breasts with salt, pepper, olive oil, and Kabsa spice mix (I used saffron, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, pepper, coriander). Then I baked my chicken in the oven until it was done. I didn’t quite have as much chicken as I thought I did, but it was ok. Next was to make the rice. I rinsed my basmati rice and soaked it for 20 minutes and then drained it. Then in a sauce pan, I melted some butter (you can also use ghee) and sautéed some grated carrots and raisins. After a few minutes, I added in my rice, chicken broth, salt, and turmeric and cooked it until the rice was done. Lastly came time to make the Daqqus sauce, or a spiced tomato sauce. In a large sauce pan, I mixed together some plain tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper, a little olive oil, minced garlic, some cumin, and baharat spice mix (similar to the kabsa spice mix, but with paprika and in different proportions). I let it simmer for 5-10 minutes while stirring. To serve this, I started with a layer of rice, added the chicken on top, then topped it with the sauce. I thought this was very good. The rice blew me away, and I accidently dried my chicken out, but the sauce on top solved that problem somewhat. It was amazing.
|One of the reasons I love Middle Eastern food is that it seem so healthy.|
To go with this, I made Fattoush Salad. I started with the dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, minced garlic, salt and pepper, and shaking everything together so that it blended. Next is the salad part: in a large bowl, I added in sliced cucumber, halved grape tomatoes, diced red onion, diced bell pepper, diced scallions, parsley, cilantro, basil, and mint. I poured part of the dressing over the vegetables and tossed. Then I sprinkled a little za’atar and crushed pita chips into the salad and tossed again. This salad is perfect for a summer picnic. In fact, I’ll probably make it again for a cookout I’ve got in a few weeks. It was light, and the lemon and mint really brought out the other flavors.
|This right here would be fantastic on vanilla ice cream.|
And I couldn’t resist Cardamom-Flavored Fruit Salad, or Salatat Al-Fawaakih. Again, I started with the sauce: I added honey, water, and cardamom to a small skillet and brought it to a boil, then let it simmer for a couple minutes before taking it off the heat. Then I added in some lemon juice before letting it cool. (Ok, I actually didn’t have any more lemon juice, so I used some cranberry kombucha, and it turned out fantastic!) While it was cooling, I chopped all of my fruit and added it to my bowl: cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, an apple, some raisins (not many, but a few. I would’ve preferred the golden ones, but I didn’t get them). When my sauce was finally cool, I poured it over my fruit, stirred to coat, and let it chill. I loved everything about this, even the raisins that I don’t normally like. The cardamom blended well with the honey and the fruit. I’m going to make this for my cookout too.
|What a wonderful way to end my weekend.|
I can’t help but think of Anthony Bourdain this weekend. I watched him when he was on the Travel Channel with his show No Reservations. I know there are some people who didn’t like his demeanor, and that’s fine. But I liked his raw observations. He was never demeaning to the people or cultures around him, even if it personally made him uncomfortable at times. He learned and thrived from that uncomfortability. And he wasn’t high-brow. Tony would eat at high-end restaurants then turn around and eat street food or share a humble meal in someone’s kitchen. (I’m guessing he preferred the latter two.) He showed the people of a country, not governments. He showed how the “regular” people live and eat. And because of that, he was partly an inspiration for this blog: to show people a corner of the world they may not have known about, but to also see things in a different light. And it was to also train myself in a long exercise of seeing a culture from the culture’s eyes, not my own. The world lost an extraordinary storyteller. Here’s to you, Tony.
|Tony in Saudi Arabia, doing this thing for real.|
Up next: Senegal