Archive for June, 2011

Meeting Martha

June 18th, 2011 5 comments

It seems all international personalities eventually make their way to Dubai ….

And can you guess who was at the Mall of the Emirates today?

Martha Stewart!

Her vast empire just got a little bigger. She was at Tavola today launching her new magazine Martha Stewart Weddings Arabia. She’s a savvy businesswoman, so she must know weddings are a big industry in this part of the world.

Martha signing a cookbook for me "Pies & Tarts"

Martha came across lovely and polished, quite youthful for her 69 years. She was patient and graceful with the hoards of loyal (and slightly over-excited) fans that came out to see her. Just like any Dubai event, the crowds were an international mix of people (mostly women in this case) from all over the world.

According to Martha’s blog, she has a growing portfolio of international magazines. Two of her magazines are now available in Arabic: Everyday Food & Martha Stewart Weddings, which are published in Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria (interesting that Dubai is listed as though it’s a country).

Thank you to Tavola & Wakami for pulling off a great event. You can read more about Martha Stewart’s visit to Dubai here.

What do you think of the Martha Stewart brand in Arabia?

Friday Favorites: Guest Blogger Amanda Mouttaki Shares her Zeal for Morocco!

June 17th, 2011 11 comments

Amanda Mouttaki is owner of the blog MarocMama where she discusses Moroccan cooking, culture, and global food topics. It’s my hands-down favorite Arabic food blog for her stories and cultural discussions. Today Amanda shares some of her favorites from Morocco.

Amanda’s Favorite Book:

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir

Seven years ago through a very strange twist of fate, destiny or divine intervention I met my Moroccan husband. Recently I wrote about how I found my way to Morocco. I owe a whole lot of credit to Moroccan author Malika Oufkir. Her book Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail was my first encounter with Morocco and to this day, it remains my favorite book about the country. If you’ve read it you might find this statement odd, but to a history nerd like me it was utterly intriguing. If you have never read this book, I’ll warn you, it’s not the romanticized version of Morocco. It’s the down and dirty version. Every country has its secrets and Malikas’ book shows the unsavory side of Morocco’s past. That being said, it is the story of a family and the story of many Moroccan families who have never spoken up about the injustices that occurred during the reign of Hassan II. I was drawn in within a few pages and could not put it down.    


Amanda’s Favorite Dish:

Moroccan Stuffed & Spiced Chicken

Aside from my husband, my next Moroccan love is the food. My very favorite dish is a whole roasted, spiced chicken stuffed with vermicelli noodles. It is so good.  The first time I ate this was at a small engagement party for my husband and me. I really wish I had a recipe to share with you but this dish is a specialty of my sister-in-law, and I’ve never been able to master it.  If you follow my blog I will be posting something similar soon. I don’t think I’ll ever get it exactly right, and it’s one of those recipes I’m not sure I want to replicate as it might take away from my enjoyment when I do get to eat it.  

Amanda’s Third Favorite…

Once you’ve got the man and the food, what’s left to love? Why the clothing, of course! The traditional Moroccan garments for women are caftans and takchitas. I’ve got half a dozen hanging in my closet. I should point out a caftan in Morocco is a single garment, that can be either long or short sleeved, though sometimes heavier winter caftans have two layers. A takchita is a more elaborate dress, almost always double layered with a belt around the waist. I really can’t have too many of these even though I rarely have a function fancy enough to wear one. I love the newer styles that are cut wider in the front to reveal a gorgeous under-layer. In Morocco, these dresses can be bought off the rack, custom made, or rented for special occasions, making them accessible to almost everyone. 

What is your favorite thing about Morocco?  

Cookbook Review: Suzanne Husseini’s WHEN SUZANNE COOKS

June 12th, 2011 11 comments

I first heard about Suzanne Husseini and her cookbook in an article in the National newspaper. What struck me were her stories of her Arab-Canadian childhood and her philosophy of cooking—it’s not about perfection, but the love imparted through food.

When her cookbook was released, I went to Magrudy’s and looked at its cover. I thought: Do I really need another Arabic cookbook? Honestly now? I already had a dozen in my kitchen, mostly collecting dust.

I opened the book and looked at every page. I scanned every recipe. I studied every photograph. When I reached the end, I decided I had to have it.

Now I’ve had the cookbook about six months. I’ve made about fifteen recipes from it, nearly all with great success. Some of the recipes, such as the Green Salad with Fried Halloumi and Pomegranate Dressing, are now part of my weekly repertoire. My favorite is the Knafe Pastry with Cheese, a dessert I’ve never been able to pull off until now.

This cookbook does not focus on a particular national cuisine, such as Lebanese. Husseini’s cuisine is broader, encompassing Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. Nor does the cookbook obey strictly traditional recipes. The cookbook’s subtitle is “Modern Flavors of Arabia.” Most of the recipes have a twist to them. For example, the Baba Ghanouj includes toasted walnuts. The Spicy Chicken Wings call for pomegranate molasses. The Date Pastries are made in the shape of hearts.

What I appreciate most about this cookbook is the photography. There is a photo for every recipe, and the food photography is simply stunning. For me, photographs are vital for preparing foreign foods. I need to see what the dish is. I need to know if I’ve achieved the right end result.  Most importantly, I need to feel inspired. After all, cooking is a lot of work, and I need motivation!

Did I mention that Suzanne Husseini is a Middle Eastern TV chef? She’s been a chef on various regional TV shows. I’ve never seen her on TV, but I finally got to see her in action at the Emirates Festival of Literature where she taught her recipes like a food ambassador. As she cooked, she told food stories from her childhood and taught the audience Arabic words. You can see Husseini give a short cooking talk in this video from The Gulf News.

One factor that helps Husseini succeed as a cooking teacher is her bicultural Canadian-Palestinian background. She gears her explanations toward the western cook who may not know what pomegranate molasses is or how to clarify butter.

My only concern with this cookbook is that I have trouble finding recipes in it. Sometimes I can’t remember the name of a recipe. Also, it’s a puzzle to me whether an Arabic dish is considered breakfast, mezze, lunch or what. And so, I’m forced to flip through the entire cookbook to find a recipe. I’m forced to look at every gorgeous, exquisite photo once again. And once again, I think, I wanna make that. I wanna make that…

When Suzanne Cooks is written by Suzanne Husseini with photographs by Petina Tinslay. It is published in Dubai by Motivate Publishers and is available in bookstores in the UAE. It is also available through Amazon via Lebanese Books. You can view some of Husseini’s recipes in the Gulf News.

Have you used this cookbook? What is your favorite Arabic cookbook?