Spain – Valencia & Granada

Last November, R. and I went for a 3-week trip to Europe. Why 3 weeks? Because that is what it takes to forget about 11 months of stress! Needless to say, we had a fantabulous time and forgot about all the stress. We visited friends in Paris, London, made a quick trip to Brussels for the Belgian Comic Strip Center (and the gauffres) and finally spent a week with family in Spain.

In Spain, we visited Valencia (a Valencian recipe coming your way soon!) and Granada. R. and I loved both equally and enjoyed all the tapas we had!

Tapas? Read more here.

And now I’ll leave you with a few photos.













International Photography Contest

Every day when I get back home from work, there are three things that I can’t wait to get to: cooking/baking, music, and photography. Last night witnessed all three! I made chocolate chip cookies, bought and listened to new music (Sophie Milman, AM, Coeur De Pirate, Leonard Cohen), and spent hours going through photographs of the contestants for the Mosaic Achrafieh Photography Contest organized by Spreadminds.

There are so many photographs on the Facebook page (where you can vote for your favorites)! I didn’t even know of those buildings and alleys in Achrafieh. The Facebook page has a photo album for the finalists and you can vote for your favorite photos by clicking the ‘Like’ button.

Here are a few of my favorites:

by Marc Abyad

by Maya Abyad

by Nareg Der Boghossian

by Eddy Hourani

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Again, I am in a baking mood! This time it’s chocolate chip cookies. No one tires of chocolate chip cookies! Whether with a glass of milk in the morning, right after lunch or as a midnight snack (when you wake up in the middle of the night just to eat!), chocolate chip cookies are a treat that won’t let you down!

To make a lot of these sweet cookies, you need:

- 2 and 1/4 cup flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1 stick butter (100g), softened
– 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup chocolate chips (I used Hershey’s)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift the flour, baking soda, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well.
Add the flour mixture, a cup at a time.
Knead well. I use my hand to work the dough.
Add the chocolate chips. Knead again.
Roll the dough into a big from which you’ll make 2-inch balls.
Flatten each ball into a disk (using the palm of your hand).
Place cookie disks on parchment paper on a cookie tray.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool before munching!

OK, I’m getting up to have one now! But I’ll publish this first :)

Gingerbread Cookies

Does this post need an introduction!?

For 24 of these small ginger men, you need:

- 2.5 cups flour, sifted
– 2.5 Tbsp ground ginger
– 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
– 0.5 tsp ground cloves
– 0.5 tsp salt
– 0.5 tsp baking soda
– 100g butter
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1/3 cup molasses
– 2 eggs

Method:

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat the butter with sugar. Add the eggs and beat well.
Cup by cup, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, and in between add the molasses.
Mix the dough well with a rubber spatula and then spread it in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
When the dough is ready for baking, preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll the dough into a large disk and using the cookie cutter, cut out your cookies.
Bake for 11 minutes. If you’re using icing, cool the cookies before icing them.
We prefer the cookies without the icing, so this Christmas our gingerbread men were naked!

Enjoy with a cup of chai or spiced hot chocolate. Mmmm!

Merry Christmas!!

Asparagus Quiche

Useful confession: I love quiches!

This is not the first time I bake this quiche and this is certainly not the first time that I fall in love with it! What a beautiful mix of delicious ingredients! Asparagus might not be a favorite vegetable of yours, but you’re still going to love this quiche. R. does not like asparagus but he enjoyed this quiche for dinner with a green side salad.

Asparagus Quiche (adapted from Anahid’s Gourmet Cookbook)

To make a dish for 4, you’ll need:

For the crust:
– 1/2 cup butter
– 1 egg, beaten
– 2 cups flour
– 1/2 tsp salt
– A small dash of milk when kneading

For the filling:
– 1 small onion, chopped and fried with butter
– 1 cup cooking cream
– 1 cup shredded cheese, I used a mix of mozzarella and Gruyère
– 3 eggs
– 2 Tbsp flour
– Salt and white pepper
– 1 jar of asparagus

To make the crust, mix the ingredients together and knead well. Roll the dough to fit your baking dish. Place the rolled dough in the baking dish. Cut off any extra edges. Prick the bottom with a fork and then refrigerate for half an hour.

In the meantime, heat the oven to 350F and start preparing the filling. Fry the onions with butter.
In a bowl, mix the ingredients of the filling (except the asparagus) and whisk well. Set aside.

Take the baking dish out of the fridge and blind-bake* the crust for 15 minutes. For best results, cover the crust with parchment paper and weigh it down with dry beans. After 15 minutes, remove the parchment paper and the beans and bake a little more, 7 minutes.

After the crust is half cooked, fill it with the cream filling and then place the asparagus on top. They will sink but it’s OK, they’ll be great once it’s well baked. Bake the quiche for 35 minutes, until the top is golden and the crust is dry.

I love this quiche because I love asparagus and I love anything that has cheese in it! I know it’s heavy, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d bake everyday, right? It’s great for a warm night inside with a green side salad.

And before I end this delicious post, let me give a piece of advice on what to do with leftover dough. You can roll the dough into small disks and bake for 35 minutes for the crunchiest results. And then, SMEAR them with NUTELLA and devour! The best ending to a great dinner!

*: Blind-baking is when you bake a crust without the filling.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Straight out from the oven! I’ve been meaning to bake a poppy seed cake for a while now, so I am happy that I got round to trying it before the end of the year! It turned out to be zesty, soft and quite moist. I think it would go great with a cup of black tea, maybe English Breakfast.

For this cake you need:
– 1 cup flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– Zest and juice of two lemons
– 100g butter, softened
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1/8 cup poppy seeds

Method:
– Preheat the oven to 180C.
– Sift the flour and baking soda.
– In a bowl, beat the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs one by one and keep beating.
– Add the lemon zest and juice and the poppy seed. Mix well.
– Add the flour and baking soda.
– Pour into a round cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes.
– Sprinkle icing sugar after the cake has cooled down.

Why poppy seeds? They look really nice in cakes! They scatter nicely in the batter and they do not fall to the bottom of the cake tin or stick together. They give a really nice splash of black in a yellow batter.

Volume Matters

I received this set of measuring cups from my friend Amanda and I fell in love with them the moment I opened the box and laid eyes on the colors and hand-painted designs! They are simple, colorful and a a great change from the standard plain black Good Grips ones that I have.

I say great gift for a beginner blogger like me! Thanks Amanda!

Morocco & Spain in 4,000 Photos

While browsing the infinite world of beautiful and inspiring blogs, I ran into an amazing photo series. Here’s what I learned about what I’m posting:

Earlier this year, photographer Mike Matas and his girlfriend traveled for two weeks through Morocco and Spain and took around 4,000 photographs. Below is a couple of photos from his photo album on Facebook. They’re all so rich and breathtaking: the colors, the composition, the moments captures … a very engaging photo album.

And there is a beautiful 2-minute video that Mike made!



Fried Mushroom with Garlic and Oregano

I love this recipe because it’s a perfect side dish, aromatic and flavorsome. The trick is to use large white mushrooms and to use just enough butter. Here’s what you need:

- 10 large mushrooms (I have 9 in the photo because I ate one, couldn’t resist!)
– 4 shavings of butter
– 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– A sprinkle of salt and dried oregano

Method:
Spread the butter shavings around the pan.
Scatter the garlic slices over them.
Now start working with the mushrooms. You need to trim the bottom part and then peel the mushrooms. The photograph will explain better what I mean.

After you trim and peel the mushrooms, place them over the butter and garlic and sprinkle salt and dried oregano. Fry the mushrooms on both sides until their juices come out. The mushrooms will shrink in size and they will start smelling like real good food! To avoid the garlic from overfrying, you can pick the garlic slices and place them over the mushrooms during cooking.

A real easy recipe, must be eaten hot but is greatly enjoyed by guests at dinner.

I is for INDULGENCE!

If you’re in Paris make sure to indulge in the best plain croissants in the world at Boulangerie Le Pain Au Naturel Moisan.

Address: 2 Rue de Bazeilles, 5eme arrondissement

Le Pain Au Naturel uses organic ingredients.

We passed by Le Pain Au Naturel on our way to Rue Mouffetard and to this day I regret not going back the next day for more. The croissants were buttery, light and smelled great! Note: One is not enough. Don’t make my mistake, get two croissants!

“Capturing Culture” at Beirut Art Center

Photo via mishmaoul.com


Say ‘Ras El-abed’ or ‘Bonjus’ to any Lebanese and you’ll immediately get a smile.

I generally like art in all its form, and I particularly like to see artists using Lebanese pop culture symbolisms in their art. I think it’s one way of preserving pop culture, so to speak. I ran into the work of a Lebanese artist called Rana Salam when I was browsing art centers and expos in Lebanon. Enjoy!

Capturing Culture is an exhibition of graphic designer Rana Salam’s unique products inspired by personal treasures of hers. The exhibition is taking place at Beirut Art Center from November 25 until December 11, 2010.

And Rana Salam also has an e-store Mishmaoul here. Personally, the products are a little overpriced, especially that the prices are in British Pound!

BEIRUT ART CENTER CONTACT INFO
Opening Hours
From Monday to Saturday 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Address
Jisr El Wati – Off Corniche an Nahr. Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66 Adlieh. Beirut, Lebanon.

E: info@beirutartcenter.org
T: +961 (0) 1 397 018 / +961 70 26 21 12

Starch

What is Starch? Starch is a boutique devoted to young designers in Beirut, Lebanon.

“In collaboration with Lebanon’s universities and arts faculties, a selection of graduating students will be asked to participate in the project by submitting their portfolios. A committee of professionals will then review the portfolios and select four to six young designers each season. The designers will be guided through the process of developing their collections and promoting it, which will then be presented for a period of six months to one year at Starch.” – Starch