Monday, April 22, 2013

Zebra Cake Turned Biscotti

I seem to fall into a pattern; one that I try to come to terms with, adjust to. It starts off with a quick job that drives me to run for an amount of time on what seems like the positive energy of this world compounded. Work happens in the midst of this; success comes in bursts. Later as it ends, I become harsher, a cracked heel. It is over and in some way, I too am over and worn out. I will sleep for days, read for hours, approach my kitchen out of necessity and watch food shows out of habit but no particular interest.  
A while later, I return after my hips have stretched and I have inhaled a large but untold number of biscuits, store-bought and homemade (not our home but another maybe mother or mother in law). Then when they are all gone I become biscuit-desperate, I make my own. Only then do I realize that I missed what I do. I missed my kitchen. I missed me.    
 Zebra Biscotti
(Adapted from BBC Food)
You'll need:
butter, to grease
4 large eggs
250 grams of granulated sugar
100 ml of milk
250 ml of sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
475 grams of self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
25 grams of cocoa powder
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter a 23 cm cake tin. Crack your eggs and pour your sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the milk, oil and vanilla extract and mix with a handheld electric whisk for a minute. Add 175 grams of your self-raising flour and whisk again until smooth. 

In a separate bowl, pour half of your mixture. Whisk in 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 175 grams of flour and set aside. In the other bowl (the first bowl), mix in the cocoa powder, 125 grams of flour and the other 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. 

In your cake tin, spoon two tablespoons of plain cake mix into the center then spoon two tablespoons of the chocolate mixture in the center and on top of the plain cake mix. Continue to do this until both cake mixes have been used up. You'll end up with alternate rings of cake mix in the tin. 

Bake in your oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven, turn the cake out onto a wire rack and cool. Once cool, have a slice then place the cake onto a chopping board. Cut the cake into thick straight slices and arrange the soft cake, one side down, onto a baking sheet. Bake for around 15 minutes in a 190 degree Celsius preheated oven until they reach a light golden color. Transfer the biscotti onto a wire rack and cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Winter Stubbornness + Radishes

There is a lady that does not bore me. We have not met but she fills my Twitter timeline with paleolithic love along with her must-do-more-with-his-food-photography husband.   

So what happens when you like people but cannot seem to work around your schedule (or your lazy butt) to meet them? You ask them to guest post, to fill your little online space with energy that you may not have, that may vicariously revitalize you. So here's Rehaam and Amr - she does the writing, he takes the shots.  You do the reading and the cooking. Fair deal.  

Photo credit: Amr Adel Amin, April 2013.
It happens every year and every year we're: Egypt has no spring. We go from cold to khamaseen to beads-of-sweat-down-your-back heat. Flowers bloom right before they're singed in 40 Celsius heat. We know this. So why is it that when Egypt propelled itself straight from bitingly cold mornings to muggy, dusty ones and then propelled its way right back again did my heart fill with dread? Was my precious winter coming to an end so soon? But I hadn't yet had my fill of broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, strawberries, green leafy anythings…

Truth be told, we'd been eating salads almost every day since last summer. We'd burned out on blanched broccoli and roasted carrots and turned to spinach salads and salsas. Despite the liters of chicken stock in my freezer, I hadn't made a single winter soup. Despite seeing broccoli every time I perused the isles of the grocery store, I hadn't actually bought it once. Despite having eaten sweet potatoes almost daily last winter, I can count exactly two I've eaten this year, one of which was from the side of the road. Save your angry waving fists and head shaking, I know I've done wrong.

So I panicked. I bought strawberries like they were going out of season, literally, and froze them. I picked up broccoli and ate it three times in a row. I washed, ate and froze a total of three cauliflower heads larger than my sink would even fit. I had to do something more, I thought, to hold on to the last remaining trickles of winter. And while at the grocery store in my manic vegetation spree, I saw these bright red, perfectly round plump radishes poking out from a crate of greens. I have to buy these, I thought. I don't even like radishes but I'm going to buy them. And I did.

When I took them home, however, I was at a loss as to what I'd do to them. Radishes rarely made an appearance at my family dinner tables despite my mother's penchant for them in fattoush. Chopping them up into a salad was entirely too summery and their bitter heat wasn't my favorite in salad anyway. So I turned to my go-to cooking method for getting myself to eat vegetables I don't like: roasting.

I plucked up a bunch of leeks, pulled out some salmon from the freezer and decided I'd make a meal entirely in the oven. Never mind that it was actually pretty hot that day. Never mind that my husband's face puckered up in distaste when he slipped a slice of radish into his mouth. Never mind anything. "Those aren't going to be any good roasted, they're awful," said my husband. "You can eat all the leeks, I'll eat all the radishes." I was warming up our (already warm) house with roasted vegetables whether anyone liked it or not.

Forty-five minutes later, I had little crispy nuggets of radishes, melt-in-your-mouth sweet leeks and perfectly pink salmon. And a very warm house.

Almost burning his fingers right on the roasting pan while popping a radish into his mouth my husband said, "These are actually really good." They were good. That bitter heat was replaced with a sweetness that had a bite, and they went from crunchy to golden and crisp edges encasing soft flesh.

"All right I'll have some radishes," said Amr.

"Maybe. If you turn on the air conditioner first."

Roasted Radishes
Serves 2-4

6-8 medium-sized radishes, washed, dried and sliced into same-sized wedges
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tbs white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking sheet or roasting pan with foil or parchment paper (I think parchment makes for a crispier vegetable). In a bowl, toss together your ingredients until the radishes are shiny. Place radishes onto your pan and shake to distribute them in one layer. Roast for 15 minutes then rotate the pan and toss your radishes. Repeat. You may need to do this one more time until your radishes are almost translucent and brown around the edges.  
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