October 8, 2012
I’ve read numerous articles in defense of maligned vegetables, the most memorable being Frank Bruni’s praise of broccoli. I would argue that mushrooms—not broccoli—have the worst reputation and most fervent detractors. But what about that vegetable everyone loves yet only eats once a year in its singular, seasonal manifestation made from overly sweetened and spiced canned goods?
Of course, I’m referring to pumpkin and pumpkin pie. You may be thinking “Wait! We’re much more creative with pumpkin these days! I’ve seen pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin quick bread, even a pumpkin milkshake.” But delve a little deeper and you’ll realize that all of these dishes are made with canned pumpkin, lots of sugar, and “pumpkin pie spices.”
I rarely see fresh pumpkin or savory pumpkin dishes on menus, and that’s really a shame because fresh pumpkin is a versatile, unique, and tasty addition to a number of dishes. Also, fresh pumpkin puree is incredibly easy to prepare and it makes a much better pie than the canned stuff. Continue reading
June 22, 2012
Today’s post is a short story I wrote titled “Love and Agami.” The recipe that accompanies it is for the Egyptian version of moussaka, or masa’a, which is vegan when served as street food but sometimes made with ground beef or béchamel at home. Enjoy!
One summer we ate moussaka in Agami. The summer before love’s slow march of defeat, we ate moussaka between pockets of chewy pita as we took in the backhoes and foreboding black flags lining the beach of this off-season Mediterranean town.
Plump bites of eggplant burst in our mouths and oily tomato sauce dribbled down our chins. We ate while we walked, unable to restrain ourselves until we reached our rented villa. The strong sun made our hash-addled heads feel light. Magenta bushes lined the empty dirt roads that led nowhere. Stray dogs fought for authority in the dusty recesses.
May 20, 2012
I always find it strange when Americans tell me they think Middle Eastern food is “exotic.” Perhaps this is because I’ve been eating it since I was 12 years old. Or, more likely, it’s because I lived in a Middle Eastern country for two years and nearly forgot what a decent cheeseburger tastes like (don’t even get me started on bagels and pizza).
But the main reason I don’t understand why Americans are so puzzled by Middle Eastern food is that it has such a similar flavor profile to our pseudo-European cuisine: We have BBQ, they have kebab. We have donuts, they have zalabiyah (fried dough balls soaked in syrup). We have macaroni and cheese, they have macarona fil forn (baked macaroni with béchamel). Granted, French fry sandwiches are pretty odd, and I doubt most Americans would be interested in the ubiquitous Middle Eastern breakfast of fava beans (ful) and pita. (Personally, I find this much preferable to syrupy French toast and greasy bacon.)
February 21, 2012
In the Arab world, Egypt is known for its music and movies. In fact, Cairo was once called “Hollywood on the Nile.” The rest of the world associates Egypt with the Pyramids, and now, unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood. No one regards Egypt for its cuisine. Gastronomically speaking, Egypt is to the Middle East as Britain is to Europe.
This is not an entirely fair assessment, however. Egyptian food can actually be quite good, but it’s hard to find because Egypt doesn’t have a thriving restaurant culture. Most people eat at home, and while home-cooked food can be fantastic (my Egyptian friend’s mother is one of the best home cooks I know), restaurant food is not. That’s why I put together this incomprehensive guide to restaurants in Egypt, which is really just a list of my favorite things to eat there, in no particular order: