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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Nablus cheese, a Palestinian farmers cheese

This is a quick post but i wanted to share one of my new favorite things. This cheese comes in squares and is heavily salted. I think one of the reasons I like it is because it is almost inedible straight from the package. I rinsed it and tossed it with the juice of half a lemon, always a foil for oversalting. Delicious with crackers or as a topping on soups or stews.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lebanese style dandelion greens



Another great summertime Lebanese dish...hindbeh! Dandelion greens are occasionally available at farmers markets or even supermarkets. Cultivated, they are longer and scarier looking than there wild, puff-bearing cousins. In fact, if I had another blog, it would be one about plants that give me the creeps. The first post would be the Ailanthus tree. The second would be large dandelion leaves. I think I watched Kurosawa's "Dreams" one too many times on one too many drugs in college.



Regardless, dandelion green are surely a superfood, and their bitterness is tempered by a million onions and generous glugs of olive oil. Boiling them in salted water softens the greens and helps with their strong flavor.


Recipe:

1 bunch dandelion greens
2 onions, sliced into strips
1/2 c. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, macerated with salt in a mortar and pestle
lemon juice

Boil greens in salt water for 5 minutes or until bright. Drain. Heat olive oil and fry half the onions until brown and crispy. Set aside, and in the same oil, heat the garlic until just fragrant, then sautee the remaining onions until they are translucent. Toss in your chopped, drained greens and sautee for 10 minutes or so. Finish with plenty of lemon and top with the crispy onions. Serve with pita or rice.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Loubieh b'zeit

Loubieh (LOO-bee, rhymes with Ruby)  b'zeit are green beans stewed with tomatoes, onions, and olive oil. 

This is one of my favorite things to cook in the summer. Juicy, dripping "bathtub" tomatoes that muck up your salads are exactly what you want for Loubieh and exactly what a good tomato looks like in August. Piles of green beans should be snipped and snapped whilst sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch chatting with your elderly neighbors. Maybe chewing hay, if you have some on hand.

This recipe, like many Lebanese dishes, is so simple it is hardly worth writing down. But with so much fruit and veg available this time of year, it is easy to run out of ideas. Come home from work, spend 15 minutes on the prep, go weed your garden while it simmers, and come back for a steaming, delicious pot of beans.



Loubieh b'zeit

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut
2 whole, ripe tomatoes, diced with juice
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil, plus a drizzle for finishing
Salt
Pepper
Allspice
Cumin

Fry onion in olive oil and a bit of salt until fragrant and translucent. Add green beans and saute until tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and spices and stew for 20-30 minutes on low heat. Serve drizzled with olive oil over rice or with pita bread.












Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Free Market and Obesity

Well, it's a new year, new moon and my 30th birthday and, given my love for ceremonial fresh starts, the right time to breathe a little life into this broken and discarded thing. My actual resolutions, those that are sane and measurable, are nothing without my anti-resolutions, those that will drive me crazy for the next 365 days no matter how hard I resolve not to obsess over them. My anti-resolutions include eating healthy and keeping up with this blog, both of which I know are doomed to imminent failure if I try too hard to make them happen.

The confluence of the aforementioned subjects, however, is too rich not to share, given my morning meditations on food, wellness and money spurred by this article and corresponding blog post. The article cites a study linking obesity to free market economies. Leaders in the fat acceptance movement are not buying it--the last paragraph of the post sums up their point of view:
This article is Diet Season incendiary crap meant to do little more than advance an agenda by taking advantage of a vulnerable population. It doesn't even touch upon the relationship between size and socioeconomic status, and if it did it would still ignore the elephant in the room---genetics---in its attempt to frame fatness as a social problem to be 'fixed.' It's time to take back our fat identities---we aren't problems, we aren't symptoms of a broken economic system, or a broken planet, or broken health, or a broken morality.
While my allegiance with the fat acceptance movement typically trumps my trust in professional academics, my personal experience has led me to believe that this broken economic system has much to do with obesity, though maybe not in the ways the researchers suggest.

Food, weight, and overeating are part of a complex web of individual, interpersonal, and societal influences. Genetics plays a role, as do psychological well being and socioeconomic status. The parallel obsessions of obesity and nutrition are two sides of the same coin: the free market doesn't care if you are buying vitamins or cheeseburgers, as long as you are buying.

Obesity is the cause celebre of many a politician and academic. It's made the City of Philadelphia $25 million, and scores of public health researchers are employed by grants to tackle the underlying causes of the "public health nightmare". Weight, diet, obesity, health, wellness and nutrition, when lumped together, is certainly multi-trillion dollar industry, one that profits greatly off people hating themselves. Profit is generated by people buying low-cost, high-calorie food, and profit is made off the same people working to lose the weight those foods cause. In a system who's entire purpose is maximized profit, the "obesity crisis" is a perfect storm.

Genetics can and does play a role, but reducing obesity to genetics leaves out people who legitimately suffer from the more insidious aspects of the free market economy:  loneliness, desperation, and the self-reinforcing cycles of punishment and reward, best aided by consumption of consumer products (shoes or twinkies, choose your poison). Advanced free-market societies are rarely champions of human dignity, unless of course, human dignity is profitable.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

THE BRIDESMAID DRESS




If you are wondering why I haven't been blogging lately, it's because I've been SEWING! Typical to my tendency toward unrealistic ambition, I decided that my first real sewing project since the 7th grade should be a dress for my best friends wedding. Thanks to some beautiful and forgiving fabric, and a little help from my mom (though not without excessive rolling of the eyes), it turned out okay! Maybe, even in fact, a little bit cute!

The pattern is adapted from McCall's M5752 View B.



I should say loosly based on, which is partly the cause of my mother's excessive eye rolling. She also hounded me for cutting off all my notches, which after sewing the midriff on completely sideways, I will never forget again.

Overall, despite the headache, it was such a fun project. Dressmaking is a terribly logical process, not like pants, which confound me every time. There are many, many more in my future and I'm eternally grateful that I have a friend that trusts me enough to let me make my dress for her wedding!


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Monday, March 1, 2010

Zucchini Ricotta Toasts


Ricotta cheese is the latest addition to my ever-growing list of products I will never buy again. Like most suburbanites, I grew up with the notion that homemade treats are great fun if you are retired or independently wealthy, but the rest of us schleps will buy our ketchup and pancake mix, thank you very much. There was a time in my life where I did not believe it possible to make baked beans from scratch. I wish I was kidding.

There exists a vast conspiracy, perpetuated by the General Mills and Krafts of the world, to convince the public that home cooking is tedious, difficult and tiresome, and that the survival of the human race is dependent on a pantry full of mixes, cans and boxes. I am here to tell you that it's not true: this week I made my own jam, spaghetti sauce, hot sauce, yogurt and ricotta cheese. Yes, I am employed full-time. Yes, I have friends. Sometimes, I even watch movies.

Ricotta is incredibly easy and fun to make. True, the fact that I enjoy watching milk curdle makes me a very cheap date, but the two minutes it takes to boil milk, yogurt, vinegar and salt makes a $4 tub of cheese seem mighty silly. I could eat Ricotta with everything, as it has the salty tang of hard cheese, but lacks the often overwhelming goo. I made these toasts for dinner, but I imagine they would be great on a brunch menu, next to peppery bloody marys and a bean salad. Once this cursed city starts to thaw, these will grace the table of many an outdoor breakfast.

Check out David Lebowitz's post on homemade Ricotta

Zucchini Ricotta Toasts

4 English Muffins, sliced open
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 whole zucchini, grated
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 cups homemade Ricotta cheese
1 egg
salt and peppa

Salt grated zucchini and let sit for 30 minutes in a colander. Wring out as much water as possible. Sweat onion with garlic and parsley until fragrant. Toss in zucchini and saute all together until soft. Mix ricotta, Parmesan and egg in a separate bowl. Add in vegetable mixture. Layer sliced tomatoes on english muffins, and spoon over the cheese and veggie mixture. Top with fresh ground pepper and bake for 15 minutes. Brown in the broiler for 1-2 minutes.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Crochet Hipster Hat



It has been a long time since I've been to an indie rock concert. Last week's Tegan and Sara show was one incredible power-hour of girl rock, and made me realize how much I miss, well, music. The scene surrounding the music, however, is another story entirely. I once belonged to the cult of flannel shirts, and going to this concert was a  bit like attending a high school football game after two years of college and wondering how it was possible that I felt so incredibly cool back then.

It was slightly dispiriting to be one of the oldest people in the room. My hangups, however, were short lived and K. and I entertained ourselves during the mediocre opening act by composing an ethnography of haircuts, tattoos and fashions inspired by Williamsburg on a Saturday night. We were surrounded by pale 22-year old girls in ankle boots and tight jeans, many of whom were wearing some variety of the hat pictured above. Like an indie-rock grandma, I found some comfort in knowing that that the half-crocheted hat I was making for my sister had the widespread approval of hipster fashionistas, but I mostly felt sad for these girls, who seemed to be engaged in some perverse "American Apparel" ad look-alike contest. Despite my best efforts (halter top!), K. and I both felt judged and out of place.

I'm certainly not exempt from my own era of snobbery, be it music, craft or otherwise. In my own early twenties, I subscribed to the belief that any music that wasn't indie music was trash, and if it wasn't sung by breathy, whining white people, it wasn't worth my time. Likewise, there was a time I considered crochet to be a lesser art form, about the same time I scoffed at anyone who listened to pop music. An aspiring knitter, I thought crochet was one step-up from macrame; maybe something to try while at summer camp, but not worth $15/skien. None  of the fancy knitting stores I loved to browse had anything nice to say about crochet, and I think I absorbed this crafty form of false hierarchy.

But, if my post-modern, cultural relativist Antioch education taught me anything, it's that no one form of art, music,or literature can be elevated above another: as such, I've adopted a Margaret Mead approach to craft. Assata Shakur learned to crochet in prison, and if I ever needed a reason to take up a new hobby, that is one. I have seen some beautiful crochet work, mostly by an old colleague of mine, but it took a couple of years to get over my bout of elitism.

The instant gratification factor is huge. Last year, I knitted a double-thickness cap on size 2 needles, and people, it took me a YEAR. This cap is warm, pretty, and came together in a week, rosette and all. I like the durability of crocheted fabric and will keep it in mind for textile  projects that require a bit of heft. Best of all, the pattern is hardly a pattern at all, and requires no counting, gauging, or measuring, making this the perfect hat to make while on a road trip or while in the midst of delicious conversations.

Pattern:

Chain 5. Join in ring with slip stitch. Single crochet for 5 rounds. Double crochet until hat reaches desired length. That's it!

For a great tutorial on how to make a little crochet flower, visit Little Birdie Secrets.