Isn't it funny how new friends come into your life? My friend, Lamiaa is the mom of two teenage boys. Like me. Her younger son, Adam is the bestie of my younger son, Malcolm and that's how our friendship began.
Lamiaa and her husband, Tarek are Egyptian, a culture and cuisine that I know little about. Of course, during one of our first meetings when we were learning about one another, we discussed our jobs. She is in graphic design while growing and preparing food is my art. We made tentative plans to cook for each other. Full disclosure, I'm inviting her fam over for pizza in my new oven IF it ever stops raining in Indiana long enough for it to be finished. She promised to cook Egyptian food for me.
A few days ago, Lamiaa's elder son, Youssef graduated from high school and she and her husband surprised him with a graduation party. My Malcolm was in attendance and when I picked him up, he came bearing gifts from the hostess. Check out the amazing array of goodies above! From top left (clockwise) there was roasted rice, baked turkey, rolled cannelloni, stuffed grape leaves, cheese and olive golache and negraresco pasta squares in the center.
Let's talk about that rice. VERY delicious. Crunchy and nutty, filled with almonds and golden raisins. Incredibly flavorful. The baked turkey was simply prepared, juicy and perfectly cut into thick slices. Cannellonis were either filled with ground beef or cheese and fruity olives. The wrapping is a bread similar to crepes, made with flour, water and eggs. Think Egyptian burritos.
I think my favorite of all were the stuffed grape leaves. The leaves themselves were pickled and filled with the delicious roasted rice. The perfect balance of sweet and sour. Light and incredibly filling all at once.
The golache looked and smelled amazing. My kids loved it. I'll have to take their word for it as they polished it off without sharing. It was a phyllo pie baked with cheese and olives, then cut into squares.
Finally, the negraresco in the center is popular in modern Egyptian cuisine (I researched this as it surprised me that a dish that seemed so continental hails from the Middle East). A baked pasta dish with a sauce similar to Béchamel and plenty of cheese. Very rich and satisfying.
What is it about sharing a meal that brings people closer together? Cooking is a vehicle for sharing culture. We offer our heritage through food and give each other nourishment. Sharing a meal is communal and can unite people of all ages, religions and classes. It's nourishing for body and soul to share knowledge, culture, perspective and mutual respect. Meals can be a chance for elders to pass along stories to children and for families, friends and neighbors to gather for fellowship.
The famous opera singer, Luciano Pavoratti once said: "“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Amen, brother. That you so much, Lamiaa Moustafa for sharing not just your boys with me. I'm looking forward to more visits and dinners.
@EgyptianFood #foodandfriendship @penzeysspices #healtheworldcookdinnertonight
So my garden is in and beginning to grow. I've been sharing some progress on Facebook, but will write a bit in the upcoming weeks as harvesting starts. So far, it's been a whole lot of asparagus and little else :)
In the interim, I thought I'd share a few fun wine selections with you. School’s out, kids are home and warm weather is in full swing. Here are some great wines to try. Two whites: a value-driven option and one that’s more splurgey. I’ve also added a red that is nice with a tiny bit of a chill.
First, Campuget 1753 Syrah Vermentino. This blushing beauty is a French rosé from the easternmost appellation of the famed Languedoc region. A dry, feminine wine offering up whiffs of grapefruit and orange. In the mouth, it’s a berry bomb with a bright finish. You can’t help an uplifted mood with a glass of this. Great as a “patio pounder” and also a nice option with strawberry salad or light seafood. 80/20 Syrah/Vermentino. $20ish
Feeling a little fancy? Give Cakebread’s 2017 Sauvignon Blanca swirl. $39 A gorgeous, perfumey nose filled with melon, citrus, jasmine and grapefruit is just the beginning. Ripe melon and grapefruit keep coming through to the glass with an interesting hint of lemon thyme. A lean wine that pairs perfectly with grilled shrimp, crab, artichokes and asparagus. This baby lives up to the hype of its famous moniker. #CaliforniaDreaming
You only drink red? Well, how’s about trying something interesting that is also appropriate for warm weather? Maison Joseph Drouhin’s 2017 Chorey-Les-Beaune(Pinot Noir). A bright red wine that smells and tastes a lot like blackberries. As it matures, it begins to boast that lovely French “stinky” that’s a perfect companion to earthy mushroom dishes. Truffled paté, anyone? This wine should continue to improve over the next 4 or 5 years. You can give it a tiny bit of a chill before serving or enjoy at room temp. Aged in French oak and deeelish. $33
#Campuget @RoseWine #Cakebread #JosephDrouhin @FrenchWine @CaliforniaWine
A new season is finally here! How about a few wine suggestions to go with Spring? I’ve got a red, white and sparkler for you to kick off warm weather. Give these California dreamers a swirl:
[Bubbles] Gloria Ferrer Sonoma County Brut, NV $18ish (I believe you can find this baby at Trader Joe’s for around $15). A gracious sparkler with great taste and a surprisingly low price. Bright spiced apple with golden pie crust flavors and a smidge of strawberry. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, she’s a spirited little sparkler by herself or with food. Serve with sushi or roasted chicken.
[White] 2018 Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewürztraminer, $25. GB is one of my favorite wineries to visit in Sonoma. Their historic tasting room, like their wines, is steeped in tradition. Check it out if you find yourself visiting California wine country. This wine smells like fresh peaches and blooming jasmine- heady and fragrant. With 10% oak aging it is a subtly round and rich glass with flavors reminiscent of Charentais* melons. Crisp and Dry.
[Red] 2017 Benziger Family Winery, Monterey Pinot Noir. OK, so this might be my other favorite Sonoma Winery. I was lucky to stay there as a guest many years ago. As a gardener, I LOVED visiting their vineyard and learning about bio-dynamic farming. Super kind folks with a collection of consistently good wines. This one has the lovely earthiness you’d hope for in Pinot Noir. It also tastes like strawberries. With a little warm spice in the mouth, this one’s a crowd-pleaser. Perfect with grilled meats. $20
*Pro Tip: Charentais is a French musk melon. Kind of like cantaloupe but better.
Beans and rice are inexpensive, nutritious foods that, when combined, form a complete protein. Your body needs protein to build and repair tissue AND you need to eat. This simple but satisfying dish is high in protein, iron, dietary fiber and B complex vitamins. When visiting New Orleans this month and still very limited in what I can eat following bariatric surgery, I chose a cup of beans & rice at most restaurants I visited. (#BariHack- loads of protein and the soupiness makes it very easy to eat.) The dish is available everywhere, very tasty and usually offered in the small portion I was looking for. It was less than $5.
In researching the origins of the dish, I discovered that Mondays have historically been the day associated with Red Beans and Rice in the Crescent City. Why? Well Mondays were traditionally laundry day. Since this was a weekly chore and completed by hand in olden times, it took the greater part of the day. Ladies needed a nutritious dinner that they didn't have to devote much attention to. A culinary masterpiece and tradition were born.
The restaurant who's version I enjoyed the most was a fun but touristy joint on Julia Street: Mulate's. Billed as "The Original Cajun Restaurant" it was packed late on a Sunday night and filled with live Zydeco music. To be fair, it was the only version I had that was made with spicy sausage, but I loved it and tried to recreate it below. Give it a whirl and see if you don't start adding it to your Monday routine, too.
Red Beans and Rice (A Nod to Mulate's Restaurant in NOLA)
1 lb. spicy cajun sausage (I like Aidell's Cajun Style Andouille), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. red beans, rinsed
11 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups cooked rice (Mulate's used white, but I like brown and wild a little better)
In a stock pot, brown sliced sausage over medium-high heat, remove from pot. Add onion and sauté until it begins to brown. Add bell pepper, garlic and celery to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook until veggies have softened. Add beans, water, salt, and cayenne. Boil gently, uncovered over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add browned sausage and 1/2 cup warm, cooked rice to each bowl before serving.
Pro Tip: While I LOVE the spicy sausage, smoky Tasso ham would be a great substitute for sausage.
Pro Tip: RB&R freeze well.
@Mulates @NOLA #redbeansandrice #barihacks
I’ve been in New Orleans all week, enjoying some excellent food and wine. One of the loveliest parts of fine dining that most of us don’t think to include normally is an after-dinner drink. Many have properties to aid in the digestion of food and some are just a lovely treat. One such wine is Madeira and it’s popularity has been growing in the last few years. Again.
Madeira is a fortified wine that’s made in Portugal. They are made of different grapes and labeled with accordingly. From driest to sweetest they are: Sercial, Verdehlo, Bual and Malmsey.
When serving Madeira, be sure to have it at room temperature and never serve it over ice. Pour a few ounces into a glass, ideally with an elongated, tapered bowl. This provides plenty of room for wine to display its aromas for you to enjoy while sipping.
If you’re new to Madeira, these three are winners!
Blandy’s NV Alvada 5 Year Old Rich Madeira, $15. Not too sweet, this one boasts walnut and dried fig flavors. With a somewhat acidic finish, this would be delish served after steak or with some strong blue cheese. Amber in color.
I love the Broadbent NV Malmsey 10 Year, $49. Reminds me of Raisinettes: grapey and chocolatey with just the right amount of sweetness. This one is rich and full bodied and an excellent choice with dessert. Golden. I enjoyed a few sips after an exceptional dinner @GWFins.
My very fave is from a series of highly stylized Madeiras. Rare Wine Company NV Historic Series Charleston Sercial Reserve Madeira, $40 (pictured above). The idea of the series was to replicate America’s deep history with Madeira and each wine is named for a city where the wine was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not sweet and like an enormous mouthful of caramel.
Try a glass after dinner. Cheers!
@BlandysMadeira @Broadbent Madeira @RareWineCompany
#MadeiraWine #Portugal #NOLA #GWFins
July 3, 2018: I've been struggling since then with a decision. Should I, or should I not keep my health journey private. Typically I put my cards on the table but this has been different. I grow, cook and teach other people about food for a living. Have you ever heard the saying, "Never trust a skinny cook"? This has been on my mind.
A bit of background is helpful here. I have struggled most of my life with my weight. I've always loved food. Exercise, not so much. Between 1995 and 2000 were the healthiest years of my adult life. I was recently married and pre-babies. I was working in the restaurant industry, but wasn't working super late nights. I was starting to garden and life was pretty fun. Fast forward 20 years and an easy 100 pounds later: I knew I needed to make some changes.
Looking back its easy to see how I stacked the deck against myself (sorry for taking this card analogy all the way). I bought a restaurant in 2001, promptly required major back surgery and followed that up with two beautiful babies in three years. The baby weight never left and the rigors of restaurant and bar life took hold. It was rare that I ate dinner before 10 p.m., I never went to be prior to 2 a.m. and those babies, well let's just say that I rarely slept more that 5-6 hours. My husband also worked in the industry and we found our struggles multiplied by two. Oh, and the stress. For those of you who haven't worked in the hospitality industry and skip Gordon Ramsay on TV, restaurant work is stressful. Kitchen folk work hard and play hard. All these pieces came together for me in a nasty way.
Over the years I'd tried just about every diet out there with little success. I sold my restaurant in March of 2018 and after a few months of decompressing and enjoying circadian rhythms, I was ready to get to the root of the problem: Why was my relationship with food so toxic? I certainly had the technical skills to create healthy dishes that didn't skimp on the delish. Yet, I didn't. So I started a journey last summer. I spent almost 8 months in a medically supervised weight-loss program in preparation for gastric bypass surgery. Yes, I know. That's pretty drastic. What I learned over the course of eight months was that I needed to do a ton of "mind work" about food. (If you need resources on this topic- drop me a line as I've got mad suggestions.)
That work has been done and I finally felt prepared for surgery at the end of February. I'm pleased that I decided to add this powerful tool to my arsenal. I'm having great success with my weight goals, but the best part is that I can love food in a healthy way again. I was truly conflicted about ditching the livelihood that has been so good to me & felt as though I'd be some sort of culinary Judas. Not so. I'm striking a balance.
Why am I sharing all this? First, I think many of us battle issues with food and I wanted to be transparent about my own challenges. Food addiction is a crazy thing. No other addicts in the world HAVE to indulge in their obsession to live, except those with food addictions. Everyone has to eat to live and this makes a food struggle unique.
I also want to be clear that I'm much more cognizant of nutritional value than I have ever been. Always a proponent of whole foods and growing what we eat, I will present a subtle shift in my work that stresses health. I often share Pro Tips with my recipes and you will start to see some Bari Life Hacks for those on a @bariatricjourney. I pinkie-promise that every recipe I share will still be a triumph.
For those who use my Private Cheffing, I will be working with clients to address and accommodate dietary challenges. Collaborating with your doctors, allergists, trainers and homeopathic consultants is becoming a focus. More on those home services will be added in the upcoming days.
#privatechefindy #gethealthy #eatfreshcookfresh
When I was in high school, most of my friends and I worked at a hip gourmet pizza place called Some Guy’s Pizza Pasta Grill. If you find yourself in Indy, Some Guy’s is still around and I highly recommend it. A few years into business, the owners of the restaurant decided to build a traditional wood fired pizza oven and developed a kick-ass menu to go along with it. Correct me if I’m wrong, Charley Sterne, but I believe it was the first of its kind in Indianapolis. A hulking brick behemoth, it became the restaurant’s showpiece: visible to the entire dining room.
My careeer at SG was multifaceted. I started out as as a hostess and buser, before begging to work in the kitchen (almost exclusively male back then). In the kitchen, I began as a dough roller before mastering salads. After what seemed like eternity, I was trained on the regular pizza line before I finally moved to the wood oven. I learned to make delicious appetizers, pizzas and baked pasta dishes. Not only was making the food fun, but keeping the oven and fire at appropriate cooking temps and learning to rotate the food so it cooked evenly and never burned was a challenge. Once I had the hang of it, I was hooked. For perspective, I left SG to open my own place in 2000 and haven’t cooked in that oven since. In all the world and out of all the ovens I’ve cooked in, that one is still my favorite.
I’ve always made pizza at home and dreamed of having my own wood oven one day. Well, friends, that day is coming. Last summer, I extended and expanded my back patio. I added a dining area that’s covered by a pergola. I added tons of landscaping and even a permanent brick barbecue. My elder son, Franky is a champion charcoal barbecuer and had been dying for one. We researched, watched a bunch of how-to videos and did it. The grill and prep areas exceeded our expectations and Franky barbecued all summer.
As our confidence as budding brick-layers increased, we decided that we’d make plans for a pizza oven. Alas, by the time we started, summer had turned to fall and it quickly got too cold for us to complete BUT we did get half the base built. Our midwestern forecast shows some 60 degree weather in the upcoming days and we’ll be back at it. Stay tuned for progress photos.
Not only am I psyched to make some old favorites, but I’m looking forward to new challenges like baking bread. That’ll be a blast to experiment with and I’m sure my neighbors will enjoy the extras. What excites me the very most? Being able to pull veggies from the garden, rinse them under the hose, toss them with handfuls of fresh herbs and chuck them in the new oven to roast. The produce won’t even make it into the house. Can’t get much fresher fare than that.
Some Guy’s famous lasagna nestled near the fire in their wood burning oven (below). Photo Credit: Charley Sterne.
@someguyspizza @nancycarey @charleysterne #woodfiredovens #brickpizzaovens #cookingalfresco
I’ve had great fun playing with bread recently. I thought I’d share a tiny triumph today. You know, one of those wee victories that comes about when you take a chance?
One of my go-to boule recipes calls for a decent amount of salt. I was running low on regular so I took a look at my fancy (aka finishing) salts to see if something could sub.
I decided on one that wasn’t subtle and crossed my fingers. In full disclosure I picked it because I had a ton: @SanFranciscoSaltCompany Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt.
The result is a lovely rustic bread with a subtle smokiness. This is THE perfect bread to play off the bacon on your BLT. It also would be amazing as grilled ham and cheddar. My family will enjoy warm slices tonight with their pot roast.
Dont be afraid to experiment! Sometimes you’ll end up with a winner.
My kids are huge fans of banana bread. I’m fairly certain they always leave a few bananas to over-ripen on purpose. While I’ve had a tried and true recipe for years, I’ve recently developed this version for my eldest son, Franky. He’s one of those Nutella freaks!
This recipe is chocolate-hazelnut banana bread. Not too sweet, but full of flavor.
CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT BANANA BREAD
1/2 pound coconut oil or 2 sticks unsalted butter
11/ps cane sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3 ripe bananas
1 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
4-6 oz Dark Chocolate Bar, chopped
It’s too early to start seeds. Plans have been made and varietals selected. Garden season is pretty dormant in Indiana for the next month or so. As a result, I’ve turned to my pantry. As spring approaches, I try to use up the remaining frozen and canned goodies from last year’s harvest to make room for what’s coming.
Lots of spaghetti sauce-based dinners are happening at my house. Grilled cheese with tomato bisque and spoonfuls of eggplant caponata, too. Sausage and mad kraut. It’s fun to get creative with what’s on hand and tidy up at the same time. An organized pantry and freezer bring me joy. @MarieKondo
Using home-grown foodstuffs allows me to know precisely what’s in the food my family eats and lightens the grocery bill, too. I highly recommend trying to preserve at least one thing you grow, each summer.
Because of a very prolific cherry tomato plant, I made a ton of dried tomatoes last year and packed them in olive oil. Not only are the tomatoes sweet and chewy, but the flavored oil is delicious for dipping or sautéing. I have an excess of those little jars so I decided to make a batch of an old favorite.
Though I thought I’d never miss this dish (it was the top seller at my restaurant for nearly 20 years and I was OVER it), I find that I have. It is delicious and versatile. Many people have asked for this recipe over the years, and because it was a signature dish, I didn’t share it. It’s time to spread the love. I give you: Gemelli Pesto.
Before the recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto you’ll need to know what the other ingredients are and how the dish is assembled. Gemelli is a noodle shape: a pasta twist, about two inches long made from two pieces of bucatini (hollow spaghetti). To prepare a serving, you have already cooked the pasta “al dente” and drained it. 1.5 cups of cooked noodles per person is the portion I use. The sauce (again, per person) is as follows: 1/4 cup of Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (recipe below) in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in a 1/8 cup of heavy cream. When the sauce begins to bubble, toss in the noodles and stir gently to combine. Pour the dressed noodles onto a dinner plate and top with 1/8 cup of fresh chèvre, chopped fresh basil and slices of warm, grilled chicken breast. Multiply as needed. Bon Appétit.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (sunflower seeds are fine, too)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1/8 cup crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, combine all but the last ingredient. Blend until very smooth. Slowly pour in olive oil and continue blending until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Also freezes well. Oh yeah, it's spicy.
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.