Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Classic Apple Pie ~ Easier Than you Think

November 20th, 2013 24 comments

Applie Pie ~ Traditional pastry I’m diverting from my Arab theme this week because apple pie is a universal favorite, and the American holiday of Thanksgiving is coming up. 

I’m a bit obsessed with apple pie. As a child growing up in Washington State (the apple state) I learned how to make it. And now as an expat living in Dubai and a homesick Washingtonian, I’ve made countless apple pies for holidays, international days, and for no reason at all.

Some people stress out about making pies and pie pastry. I think they are aiming for “perfection,” not realizing that a fruit pie is a RUSTIC dessert. Any cracks and imperfections and liquid oozing out of the top will simply make the pie look more delicious!   

Classic Apple Pie

As for types of apples, I use mostly Granny Smiths, which are green and tart, and I include a few sweet red apples, such as Braeburn, Rome Beauty or Pink Lady. Here in Dubai, apples are labeled simply “green” or “red” so sometimes it’s a bit tricky figuring it out. Just keep in mind, you can’t go wrong with Granny Smith. 

Not everyone grew up eating this dessert or watching their grandmother making pie. So, here you go, my Apple Pie Primer.  

Apple Pie Slice

 Pastry Ingredients

2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 c + 2 Tablespoons (160g) softened butter and/or shortening

5 T ice cold water

Filling Ingredients

½ cup (100g) sugar (or less)

1/3 cup (50g) flour

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

7 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly


1.  Prepare pastry.  In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Add softened butter and cut into flour with pastry blender or fork. Keep blending until butter particles are the size of peas. This texture will create a flaky crust.  Apple Pie ~ blend in the butter with a pastry blenderSprinkle in the ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, blending the mixture with a wooden spoon. Form pastry into a ball and divide into two.

Apple Pie ~ Cut ball into twoOn a floured surface, form one half into a disk and dust with flour. (Cover the other half with a dish towel and set aside.)  

Apple Pie ~ Form dough into disk

With a rolling pin, roll dough out, rotating the dough frequently to prevent it from getting stuck to the counter. If you are nervous about this step, try rolling dough between two sheets of wax paper.  

Apple Pie ~ Roll out DoughRoll out dough only once. When the dough rips—and it will rip—repair by pressing the dough back together. Do not re-roll or over-handle. Rolling the dough again will destroy the lovely flaky layers of the crust.  

Apple Pie ~ Expect the dough to rip

Apple Pie ~ Press the dough back togetherCheck to see you have the right sized round—about 2” larger than the pie dish.   

Apple Pie ~ Check size with pie panTransfer the dough to the pie dish. Using a scraper or metal spatula, gently loosen the dough, fold into thirds and transfer to pie dish.  

Apple Pie ~ Fold with scraper

Apple Pie ~ Fold dough into thirds

Apple Pie ~ gently transfer dough to dish

Apple Pie ~ unfold dough in dish

2.  Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C. Move rack to the center of the oven.  

3.  Prepare the filling. Mix flour, sugar, and spices in small bowl. Peel and slice apples thinly—or better yet, get a loved one to do it for you. Apple Pie ~ slice apples thinlyStir the sugar and spice mixture into the sliced apples until all the apples are coated. Fill the pastry-lined pie plate with the apple mixture. It may seem like too much, but keep adding.Apple Pie ~ tansfer applie mixture to dishWith both hands, pack down the apples. This will help avoid air pockets and create a nicely packed filling.Apple Pie ~ pack  applie mixture into dish4. Prepare the top pastry. Roll out the remaining dough the same as before and transfer in the same way as before. If the dough rips, don’t stress, just try to press back together and think “rustic.” Apple Pie ~ transfer top pastry to dish

Apple Pie ~ unfold top pastryThe pastry will overhang around the pie dish. Tuck pastry under all around the dish, trimming and discarding as needed, sealing the edges.Apple Pie ~ tuck pastry evenly around edge

Apple Pie ~ prepare edges of pieFlute the crust by pinching in a uniform, decorative manner around the edges.   Apple Pie ~ add decorative fluted edges to pieCut slits in the pie to let the steam escape.

Apple Pie ~ add vent slits to top of pieLightly brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.    Applie Pie ~ brush top of pastry with milk

Applie Pie ~ Sprinkle with Sugar5. Prepare aluminum foil cover. This step may seem like a hassle, but it prevents excess browning and hardening of edges. Cut out a square of foil. Fold in half and cut a ring of foil to fit the pie. Save the center of the foil.   Applie Pie ~ Cut square of foil

Applie Pie ~ Fold & cut ring in foil6. Bake for about 45 minutes. The following is my own method for baking: For the first 15 minutes, bake the pie completely covered with foil. That is, press the ring of foil around the edges and place the center of foil on top.Applie Pie ~ cover top with foilThen remove the top foil and rotate the pie dish in the oven. For the next 15 minutes, bake with the foil on the edges only.    Applie Pie ~ Bake with only edges uncoveredRemove all foil and rotate the pie dish again. For the last 15 minutes, bake the pie uncovered—unless there are dark spots, which you can cover with a piece of foil.   Applie Pie ~ Bake last 15 minutes  uncoveredThe pie is finished when the crust is lightly browned and bubbling. Remove from oven and cool before cutting.     

Apple Pie ~ traditional  American pastry_ (800x604)

Questions: What are your apple pie tips and tricks? What pies do you serve on Thanksgiving?

Fun & Festive Eid Recipes

August 4th, 2013 4 comments

Date-Filled Ma'amoul for Eid

Can you believe Eid al-Fitr is almost here? It seems only last week we were starting the month of Ramadan. No worries. There’s still time to gather ingredients and prepare some festive treats for Eid. For detailed step-by-step recipes, click on the links below.


For me, it’s not Eid without beautiful little ma’amoul pastry dusted with powdered sugar. I’ve been making the same Date-filled Ma’amoul every Eid for years. My husband’s family has finally embraced my all-flour version and has stopped pressing me to add semolina (smeed).  After all, there’s more than one way to make ma’amoul!

Date-filled Ma'amoul

I’ve also started making Pistachio and Walnut-filled Ma’amoul, which I love just as much—especially the pistachio ma’amoul which I’m a bit obsessed with. Before I made this, I had assumed (wrongly) that the nut-filled ma’amoul would be somehow trickier than the date kind. Actually, chopped nuts are faster & easier, partly because there are no dates to pit. 

Ma'amoul filled with Walnuts

Ma'amoul filled with Pistachios

I use the same dough in both ma’amoul, regardless of the filling, so it’s easy to make some of each kind—date, pistachio & walnut.

Arabic Coffee 

But what to serve with the ma’amoul? Arabic Coffee, of course! In the Gulf, this is the standard beverage served alongside pastries at Eid (along with a helping of gossip).

Arabic Coffee for Eid

I’m not talking about dark Turkish coffee, but the pale coffee served in tiny handle-less cups, made from greenish coffee beans and scented with cardamom, rose water and saffron. This is the standard welcoming beverage served in Dubai and the Arabian Gulf (with some regional variations). It’s the classic Eid beverage, elegantly served in a della or Arabian-style thermal flask.

Date Truffles

If you’d like to avoid the richness of ma’amoul pastry, I have a (somewhat) healthier alternative: Date Truffles. This is a terrific Eid sweet because it’s delicious and looks festive, but without the fattening pastry.

Date Truffles

Rose Lemonade

In case you’d like to offer your guests a cool beverage, here’s something fun: Rose Lemonade. You can adjust the taste to make it as sweet or as tart as you like.

Rose Lemonade

Meanwhile, enjoy these last special days of Ramadan. Before you know it, we’ll be celebrating Eid and deciding which pastry to eat next. Wishing you a beautiful & blessed Eid!

Question: What are you serving up this Eid?

Ramadan Recipes ~ What’s Cooking This Month

July 16th, 2013 4 comments

Qatayef 'Ataif

It’s not Ramadan without ‘Atief, our go-to Ramadan indulgence. There are endless ways to fill and prepare these little pancakes. My method is to stuff them with walnuts and bake them. I serve them as dessert or a sweet suhoor snack. I prepare ‘atar scented syrup to pour over top.

As for iftar, every night we sit down to this easy Lentil Soup. This has been a tradition at our house for years, and it’s one of the most popular recipes on my website.

Arabic Lentil Soup for Ramadan

Meanwhile, another flavorful soup to try during Ramadan is Moroccan-style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas. This is a good soup if you are looking for something hearty.

Moroccan Soup for Ramadan

As for main courses, our favorite family iftar is the Palestinian dish Maqluba, which means “upside down” in Arabic. It’s prepared in a layered pot—chicken, rice and cauliflower simmered on the stove. We traditionally eat this dish on the first day of Ramadan, as we did this year. I plan to prepare it several more times before the month is over. On the side, I serve a Simple Arab Salad and Yogurt Cucumber Salad.

Maqluba Palestinian Rice Dish

Aonther terrific side dish during Ramadan is Fattoush, a hearty peasant salad from the Levant. It’s super-healthy, as it’s loaded with various greens and veggies and prepared with an olive oil dressing. The salad is topped with toasted Arabic bread pieces, which is what makes it fattoush.

Fattoush Salad for Ramadan

As for suhoor, the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan, one popular dish is Foul, a Egyptian fava bean breakfast, which is filling and nutritious. Also, I can’t forget Hummus, which can be made in advance and served for both iftar and suhoor.

Egyptian Ful for Ramadan Suhoor

Finally, I’d like to wish you all Ramadan Kareem.

Question: What are your favorite Ramadan foods?