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Bahamian Fish Chowder

I am a girl who likes to celebrate, so before my double mastectomy surgery, my brother, my best friend and I went to dinner.  I selected a hot new restaurant and we had a fabulous 6 course meal.  I was good and didn’t have alcohol, but had teas and house soda. It was a night of amazing food, good conversation, and laughter.  I think my doctor would have approved.

I was not to have any food or drink after midnight.  I chugged a bunch of water right before midnight hoping that will hold me over, but it didn’t.  The night of no drinking water is torture!  I had a cold and when I woke up I had a dry mouth and couldn’t do anything about it.  Thankfully my surgery was booked for the morning, so it wasn’t hours of torture.

I actually had two surgeries done all at once.  The bilateral mastectomy, to remove the cancer and my expanders installed for my breast augmentation. The expanders are temporary implants to stretch the skin before they can put in the implants.  I remember being nervous as I never had surgery and didn’t know what to expect, plus I had this cold. At the hospital they took my vitals and cleared me for surgery.

My friends and brother and I hang out in a hospital room while we wait for the surgery.  We joked and laughed and it calms me.  My friend Jeff is a crier and he fights back his tears every once in awhile.  It is actually comforting, so I don’t have to cry.  However it is hard for anyone of us to keep a straight face as I looked ridiculous in a puffy hospital gown.

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At this point I have been in the hospital for well over an hour and I am extremely thirsty, tired, and starting to look forward to being under for a few hours.

After saying good-bye to my friends and brother I am off to another waiting room for surgery.  This is a large room with rows of curtains, which are to create a private area.  My plastic surgeon and breast surgeon come in, quickly say hello and then go straight to work. They asked to see my breast and take sharpies and start drawing and discussing where they want to cut me open.  It is an impersonal experience, but comforting that they are discussing things so I won’t look awful when this is all over.  Once I’m all marked up they start to address me as a human again and asked if I had any questions.  I think I was just a bit in shock, nervous, and the only thing I thought to ask was how long would the surgery be.  They said 4-6 hours depending on how the mastectomy would go.

The anesthesiologist stops by to introduce himself and check on my medication.  I don’t have very many questions for him.  I think my nerves are really starting to hit me at this point and I’m thirsty and tired and want to go to sleep.  They wheel me in and the anesthesiologist puts a mask on me and that is all I remember.  I wake up which feels like a bit later, but not 6 hours later.  It was like waking up from a nap.  Someone asks how I am feeling and I try and speak.  Not much comes out.  They ask again and all I get out is “nauseous”.  Then I am a sleep again.  I wake up to someone yelling and the nurses running and yelling back at someone, “Sir,  you can’t get up.”  I sort of see a few people running over and telling a guy to lay down.  I am blinking and wiggling my toes and just getting feeling back in me.  The nurse talks to me a bit and I’m moved upstairs to my hospital room.

The hospital room has an amazing view of the city.

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It is a private room and one of the best on the hospital.  I got lucky.  My friends come in and sit with me.  I am starting to wake up.  I’m in pain and given a dilaudid drip, with a button to get pain meds as I need.  I am told to stay in front of the pain.  I ask my friends how things went.  They say things went fine.  I ask about my lymph nodes.  The best case scenario is that the cancer has not spread to my lymph nodes and surgery and maybe radiation is all I need.  The lymph node infected will likely mean that I will have to do chemo.  My friends and brother are aware of this and as I ask I see them look at one another and stall.  Finally my brother lets me know that “Ya, Kim some were infected.  The doctors are coming to tomorrow to talk to you about it, so just get some rest.”  I want to cry.  It is pretty much the worst case.  I want everyone out of the room as I was ill prepared for such bad news, but I look at my brothers face.  He is fairly upset he has to break my heart, so I did the only thing I could think of.  I tell a bad joke and move on.  There will be plenty of time for me to cry but right now want to enjoy everyone’s company.

Before my friends all take off to let me sleep for the night, I order dinner, the food is not great.  It isn’t the worst meal I have had but it would be better if it was food from the restaurant the night before.  I got desert of an apple pie and we thought it would be fun to celebrate one of my birthdays with a candle.  However of course you can’t have an open flame in the hospital so someone realizes there should be an iphone candle app.

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The apple pie was cold, so I am still hungry and want pringles.  My friends try and find me pringles as I am hungry. T here is only some sun chips from the vending machine.  We play a few rounds of cards, and I keep making them play with me more.   I don’t think I wanted them to go.  We discussed if they should stay over with me and that felt silly, but I think I wasn’t ready to face what the infected lymph nodes meant and not sure I was ready to be alone to face it.  It was around 11pm and an extremely long day for them and time for them to go.  They would be back in the morning.

Thankfully Bahamas food is not like hospital food.  There is a Bahamas fish chowder that I would have loved to have eaten over the dinner I picked.

Seafood is of course popular in Bahamian cuisine and they make a fish chowder that is often served with Johnny cakes.  I find a recipe for the fish chowder which also includes lobster instead.

The first step is to make a shrimp stock.  First peel the shrimp and save the shrimp shells. Rinse the shells.

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Then add shells, vegetables, seasoning, and water to a stock pot.

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Simmer for one hour.

The soup calls for lobster, however as I had to buy shrimp for the stock I am going to add shrimp along with the lobster in the soup.  I marinate the seafood with pepper, limes, and green onions.

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Mash the ingredients together in mortar and pestle

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Spread over the seafood and marinate for at least an hour.

To create the soup, you start by creating a roux with oil and flour.  Add vegetables and cook till tender.  Add the liquids and cook.  Finally add the marinated seafood and a little marinade and cook through.

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To make the Johnny cakes I mix the ingredients in my handy dandy mixer.

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Then put it in a pan and bake.  This is what differentiates a Bahamian Johnny cake is that it is a baked bread vs. a fried pancake.

The Johnny cake is dense and sucks up the soup.  The chowder is warm and comforting with the taste of coconut and heat of peppers, don’t make it too overpowering.  Well my soup and my surgery are successful!


 

Recipes

Shrimp Stock

Original recipe can be found here

  • 2 pounds shrimp shells
  • 11 cups of cold water
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz mushroom
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  1. Combine seasoning into a cheese cloth and make a sachet
  2. Rinse the shrimp shells under cold running water and place them in a 1-gallon stockpot with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil and then lower the temperature to a simmer.
  4. Skim the impurities that rise to the surface with a ladle, spoon or a skimmer.
  5. Simmer the stock for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

 

Bahamian Fish chowder

Original Recipe can be found here

  • 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 pounds raw lobster tails, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 pounds shrimp
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups shrimp stock or low sodium canned chicken broth (or substitute water)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine chiles, green onion, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a mortar and pestle or in the bowl of a food processor and process to a paste.
  2. Spread the mixture over the shrimp and lobster and drizzle with the lime juice.
  3. Refrigerate while you prepare the stew.
  4. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and, when hot, whisk in the flour.
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until a light blond roux is formed, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook until vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, potato, stock, coconut milk, brown sugar, thyme, remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper and bring to a low boil.
  8. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and flavorful and potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.
  9. Remove the lobster from the marinade and reserve 2 tablespoons. (Discard the remaining marinade.)
  10. Add the lobster and the reserved 2 tablespoons marinade to the stew and cook, stirring gently as to not break up the fillets, until the fish is just cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Johnny Cakes

Original recipe can be found here

  • ½ cup butter, room temperature + extra for greasing pan
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • approx. ¾ cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until combined.
  3. Add the flour, water, salt, and baking powder to the bowl.
  4. Add the milk slowly until the batter is sticky.
  5. Dust hands with flour. Transfer dough from bowl to a greased 9×9 pan. Gently flatten the dough in the pan.
  6. Bake for approx. 1hr or until the edges of the johnnycake are browned. The johnnycake will not rise much.
  7. Let cool for several minutes before cutting into the johnnycake.

 

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Bahamas

I finally made it to the B’s!!!  It was 12 countries and only took 25 months to get here.  I’m slow, but excited to be making some progress.  I however am not so happy that I had a cold right before surgery.  I’m booked to get my double mastectomy.  I’ve never had surgery before and am nervous that they might cancel.  My doctors made me workout and quit drinking to prepare for surgery, so wouldn’t a cold be a big deal?  I called and let the doctor know.  The nurse says they likely won’t as long as I don’t have a fever.  So I am  alternating drinking emergen-C water and honey and lemon tea. Hoping that my surgery day will stick, but I would much prefer to be healthy sitting on a beach and drinking a cocktail!  Well at least I can learn about Bahamas food.

Bahamas is an island country in the Atlantic ocean.

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Bahamas is made up of 700 islands.  The Bahamas was the site of Columbus’ first landfall in 1492, and it turns out that they celebrate Columbus Day, but it is known as Discovery Day there.  The Bahamas was a British colony and when the United States won its independence they resettled the American loyalists there.  It became an independent commonwealth in 1973.

Bahamian cuisine includes seafood such as fish, lobster, crab, and conch as well as tropical fruits, rice, and pork.  It is heavily influenced by the American south.

I have decided to cook:

  • Bahamian Baked Macaroni & Cheese with a Crab Mousse Stuffing
  • Bahamian Fish Chowder
  • Caribbean Jerked Rack of Lamb with a Coconut Red Wine Reduction
  • Guava Duff
  • Johnny cake
  • Okra Salad

 

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Baliq Levengi

Baliq Levengi is a traditional preparation of Azerbaijani stuffed fish.  It is stuffed with walnuts and pomegranates.

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Traditionally the fish is sturgeon, however I can’t find any so I go with this Thai Trout.

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Cut the fish open and season with salt and pepper.

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Stuff the fish with the stuffing.

 

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Seal the fish with skewers and bake.

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It comes out and the fish is perfectly flakey.  The stuffing of the pomegranate goes well with the fish.  It is yummy in this tummy!  Good enough for a special occasion like my brother coming to town!

My brother was one of my best friends growing up, so having him come to town is exciting and worthy of a celebration.  I wasn’t planning on having anyone come help me with my surgery.  I’m fiercely independent and figured I could do this on my own.  My friend Amanda keeps telling me that when I have surgery I am going to need to have someone there to take care of me.  She recommends that I have my mom, because for her surgery her mom was a great help.  I don’t see it.  I don’t find my mom relaxing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but when I don’t feel well I like quiet and not to interact.  This isn’t so much how my mom sees the world as she likes to be social.  So I imagine if she came I would be spending my time entertaining her rather than healing.  My brother called and offers to come stay with me for the surgery.  He lives on the east coast, so I hadn’t thought of asking him.  I find the offer extremely comforting, so I agree.  Amanda of course is happy with this news, but I’m nervous to tell my mom.  I think she might feel slighted, but oddly she is totally relieved too.  My brother got into town a few days before the surgery, so he can get himself familiar with my apartment.  I am just over the moon to be able to spend time with him and of course we both enjoy yummy food!


Recipes

 Baliq Levengi

Original recipe can be found here

  • Whole White fish scaled & cleaned
  • 1 Onion grated
  • 1 1/2 c Walnuts ground
  • 3/4 c Fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tsp salt, split
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, split
  • 2 tsp Lemon juice

 

  1. Rinse fish under cold water then pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Combine onion, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, 1/2 ts salt, and 1/4 ts pepper.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg-F.
  4. Fill fish cavity with walnut stuffing.
  5. Pin body cavity shut with wooden barbecue skewers.
  6. Put fish on a baking sheet then pour lemon juice over it.
  7. Put fish on a baking sheet in an upright position with seam side down
  8. Bake for about 45 mins. until fish is browned & flakes easily with a fork.
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Shuyud plov

Plov is extremely popular in Azerbaijan and they have 40 different types.  Shuyud plov is a dill rice pilaf.  With my pre-surgery health kick I’m also going to make a salad called Çoban Salati, which is a tomato cucumber salad.  To add to all this healthiness my surgeon didn’t want me drinking any alcohol before surgery.  So that is 10 days with out any liquor, which should be easy to do.  However I don’t find this out until about two weeks before my surgery.  I was planning on throwing a party before the surgery, but with this new restriction there is no time.  I instead I go out with friends and make the most of the few days I had left.  Most of my social activities have to do with liquor, so I think I am going to be bored out of my mind for 10 days.  However I find that it isn’t all that bad. I still have to work out daily, which ends up being a great social activity going hiking, long walks, and yoga with friends.  Shane works me out about 2 times a week and we go to lunch.  I do a spring cleaning of my house, get a microwave, make keys, prepare my job for my leaving. All great healthy things, but after surgery I plan to go back to my partying ways!

To make shuyud plov you par-steam the rice and create a qamaq for the bottom.

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Add the rice, butter saffron water, and dill.

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Cook

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The salad is much like a greek cumber salad.  Finely chop the vegetables.

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Combine.

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The rice has a nice subtle dill flavor.  It is not overly powerful, but with certain foods like fish the dill will pair nicely.  The salad is a refreshing bite.


Recipes

Shuyud plov

Original recipe can be found here

  • 400 g/1 lb basmati rice
  • 100 g/4 oz melted butter
  • two medium-sized bunches of fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon threads of saffron
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg and 1-2 tbsp yogurt
  • 100 g/4 oz plain flour

Preparation

  1. Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water.  Cover and leave to infuse.
  2. Wash and chop the dill.
  3. Rinse the rice.
  4. Fill a large, heavy saucepan with water and add salt.  Bring to the boil.
  5. Add the rice to the boiling water. Turn the heat down slightly but cook at a rapid boil for 5 to 10 minutes.  Be careful not to cook for too long or the finished rice will be sticky.
  6. Strain the rice through a rice colander.
  7. Add the chopped dill to the rice, mixing it in gently.
  8.  Mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of the parboiled rice and 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt. Add some of the infused saffron water.
  9. Rinse and dry the rice pan.  Return it to the heat and melt a generous knob of butter. Spread the qazmaq mixture or lavash over the bottom of the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
  10. Add the parboiled rice mixed with dill.  Spoon it gently into the pan to avoid breaking the grains.  When half the rice is in the pan, pour over some of the saffron infusion.
  11. Put the rest of the rice in the pan and pour most of the remaining saffron infusion over it.
  12. Put several knobs of butter on top.  Make holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape.
  13. Place a well-fitting lid on top of the saucepan, covered underneath with a clean tea towel. The towel helps to absorb the steam.
  14. Once the rice is steaming, turn down the heat and leave to continue steaming for 30 to 45 minutes.  The rice can be left to steam for longer without coming to any harm.
  15. Serve on a large dish.
Çoban Salati

Original recipe can be found here

  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/4 medium-sized red onion
  • a few sprigs of coriander, dill and basil
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Preparation

  • Wash and dice the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
  • Finely chop the onion and herbs.
  • Mix all the ingredients together. Add salt & pepper and leave to stand for up to 1 hour before serving.
  • Dress with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil before serving

 

Dushbara

Dushbara

Dushbara is a traditional Azerbaijani dish, which is a dumpling soup.  This is very similar to dishes found in central Asia.  It reminds me of tortellini minus the cheese.

The first step is to make the broth.  It is made with lamb bones.

Lamb bones

While that cooks I make the dumplings.  First step is to make the filling.  In this case it is stuffed with lamb.

Dushbara filling

Then make the dough for the dumpling.  Cut into squares.

Dushbara Dough

 

Add some meat.

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Then fold.

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And squeeze the corners together.

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The Dushbara are small.  To tell that you have made them small enough you should be able to fit 10 in a spoon.  I could only fit 8. I t will have to do, my fingers are too big to make this smaller!

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Then you cook the dumpling in the sauce for 5 minutes.  Serve them with broth and a bit of mint.

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The broth is a complex beef broth.  The dumpling is a delicious flavor of meat and noodle. The mint gives a fresh brightness.  The garlic and vinegar add to the complexity of the broth and is necessary.  It is delicious and comfy like chicken noodle soup.  Perfect for a winter soup or the start of a great meal.  Or maybe a great meal to get some energy to run.

Yup, I’m taking my physical therapist’s advice and trying to work out!  I find it hard to work out by myself and stay disciplined.  Luckily Shane is a personal trainer and is willing to work me out for free.  I meet him when he has a break from clients and he works me out for 30 minutes.  He took me to the park near my house and trains me on a circuit that I can do by myself with my dog.  I end up seeing him about twice a week and after I treat him to lunch to say thank you.  Where we eat, drink, and catch-up with each other.  This is what the doctor ordered!

 


Recipes

Dushbara

Original recipe can be found here

Broth
  • lamb bones
  • water
  • dash of apple vinegar
  • 1 onion, cut in quarters
  • 1 carrot, cut
  • 1 celery, cut
  • 2 garlic, smashed
  • a few saffron threads soaked for at least 30 minutes in warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Filling
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Dough
  • 2 cups + 6 tablespoons of wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 glass water
Garnish
  • fresh mint
  • grape vinegar
  • minced garlic

 

  1. Put the lamb bones in a saucepan and cover with water, 2 inches above the level of the bones.
  2. Add a dash of apple vinegar and vegetables.
  3. Bring slowly to a boil and skim off the foam that forms on the surface.
  4. Simmer over a low heat for at least six hours.
  5. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  6. Peel and grate or finely chop the onion.
  7. Mix the minced meat, grated onion, salt, pepper and turmeric.
  8. Mix flour, water, salt and egg.
  9. Need for 5 minutes.
  10. Divide the dough into four large balls.  Cover the balls with a tea towel.  Leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  11. Pass dough through pasta maker on setting 2.
  12. The rolled dough should be cut into strips and, in turn, the strips cut into squares 3/5 inch x 3/5 inch.
  13. Put a pinch of filling in the middle of each square.  Fold the corners together to make a triangular dumpling.  Then pinch the ends together making a tortellini shape.
  14. Bring the pan of stock to the boil.  Add the water and soaked saffron threads and salt. Put the dushbara in the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the dushbara rise to the surface (usually around 15 minutes).
  15. Serve the dushbara in bowls.
  16. Crumble fresh mint over the surface of the dushbara.
  17. Mix together grape vinegar and garlic and serve on the side.
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Soyug Salat

Azerbaijan cuisine has a wide variety of plov or rice pilaf dishes.  There are over 40 different types.  They also use fresh vegetables and herbs that vary seasonally as accompaniments to a meal.  I want to make the standard plov and found a recipe for BBQ vegetables salad called Soyug Salat. This all sounds healthy and as I am getting ready for surgery, more veggies sounds like a good idea.  To prepare for surgery, I was recommended during the lymphedema learning session, to go to a physical therapist to get measured. They recommend that they measure my range of motion, strength, and arm size.  This is so that they can easily determine if I have lymphedema and progress after my recovery.  As I have never had physical therapy I’m not sure where to find one so I just go with the woman who did the lymphedema class.

At the appointment she has me lay down and take a ruler and marks a few spots on my arm and then takes a measurement of the circumference of each point.  She then measures my strength, by testing me with resistance and determines that I am weak.  So, she gives me some exercises to start doing pre and post surgery and recommends that I start exercising 30 minutes a day (every day) between now and my surgery.  I take her recommendation seriously as I want as little difficulty with the surgery as possible. However, before I start the exercise let’s chat about some healthy food!

Vegetables and fruits are linked with a reduced risk of cancer, so this BBQ salad should be good for me.  The salad is straight forward to make.  First step is to grill the vegetables.  The vegetables are:

6769358683_d7e95f6e8e_oEggplant, which has phytochemicals.  There is no conclusive study on phytochemicals, yet.  But eggplant has anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.  This could prevent tumor growth and spread of cancer.  I see a lot more eggplant in my future!

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Tomatoes, have lycopene which is a phytochemical.  It is being studied a lot in prostate cancer because it has free radical-fighting antioxidants.  Free radicals are damaging molecules that float around in the body disrupting cells and promoting disease.  There is some evidence that this will help reduce breast cancer, but nothing conclusive.

Bell peppers are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and apigenin. Apigenin is a phytochemical that has been shown to exhibit potent growth-inhibitory effects in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells.  However, I am not HER2 positive.  Vitamin A supplements have not been shown to lower cancer risk.  Also many studies have linked intake of foods rich in vitamin C to a lower risk of cancer.  Well I don’t know if it will help, but I love me some bell peppers!

My eggplant blows up on the grill

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Chop the grilled vegetables and mix in the following ingredents:

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Onions is an allium, which is known for various health benefits since ancient Egyptian times.

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Garlic also is an allium and is being studied to see if it will reduce cancer risk, but there’s nothing definitive at this time.  However there was a study of French women which found that those who consumed more onions and garlic had a lower risk of breast cancer. The good news is most dishes I cook start with garlic and onions and I love ’em.  I plan on continuing to eat them even if it makes my breath stink, that’s what tic tacs are for!

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Cilantro is high in vitamin A and K.  It is known for lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.  This is thought to be good for colon cancer, but nothing in particular about breast cancer.  However I am one of the people who love cilantro and so it being good for the other organs, means I should eat it!

 

Add oil.

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Rice isn’t really known for healthy diet, especially white rice.  However I grew up eating it and it is consumed by 1/2 of the worlds population.  So how bad can it be?  Well that’s a debate that I don’t feel like having so I’m just going to make it and call it healthy.

The plov is a bit more complicated to make than the Soyug Salat.   First you par cook the rice.  Then combine egg, some of the rice, and yogurt and create a qazamq.  I have no idea what qazamq is, but looking it up in trusty google I find that it is the Azerbaijan word for the crust made at the bottom of the pan when steaming rice.

Fry the qazamq in butter.  Then add the rice and more butter and saffron.

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Cover with a lid and towel and let the rice cook.  When done flip the pan over and serve

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Well the top of the rice looks burnt, but it all tastes good.  It is buttery rice with a bit of a crunch. T he salad reminds me more of salsa, but has a great smokey flavor.


Recipes

Soyug Salat

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 sprigs of cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  1. Place eggplant, tomato, and bell peppers on barbecue and turn regularly as the vegetables cook.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Chop and place in a large bowl.
  4. Finely chop 1 onion and mince garlic and add to the salad
  5. Finely chop cilantro and mix in with the salad.
  6. Add vegetable oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper mix well.
  7. Allow to cool before serving.

Plov
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • Egg
  • 2 tablespoon yoghurt
  1. Rinse the rice in cold water several times to remove excess starch.
  2. Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water.  Cover and leave to infuse.
  3. Fill a large, heavy saucepan with water and add salt.  Bring to the boil.  Add the rice to the boiling water.  Turn the heat down slightly but cook at a rapid boil for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Strain the rice through a rice colander.
  5. Prepare the crust or qazmaq:  mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of the parboiled rice and yogurt.  Add some of the infused saffron water.
  6. Add tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt.
  7. Add qazmaq to the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Add half the rest of the parboiled rice to pan and pour over half of the saffron infusion.
  9. Put the rest of the rice in the pan and pour most of the remaining saffron infusion over it.
  10. Put remaining butter on top.
  11. Make holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape.
  12. Place a well-fitting lid on top of the saucepan, covered underneath with a clean tea towel. T he towel helps to absorb the steam.
  13. Once the rice is steaming, turn down the heat and leave to continue steaming for 30 minutes.

That was a mistake

In Azerbaijan, like many Middle Eastern countries, Kebabs are popular. Kebab means fried meat in Arabic and it is believed to have been invented by the Turks. I choose to make a lamb kebab, tika, and a fish kebab.

The first step is to marinate the lamb and fish. The lamb is marinated only with onions, while the fish is marinated with onions and sour cream. I marinate the meats for a few hours and then skewer it.

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Next BBQ the meat. I cook the lamb to a medium rare and the fish until flakey. I server them on a bed of sliced onions and sprinkle with green onions and Sumac.

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In Azerbaijan it is customary to serve kebabs with a sauce called Narsharab. Actually they seem to serve this sauce on everything. You can buy Narsharab commercially or you can make it by boiling pomegranate juice. With the kebabs being relatively simple I figure making Narsharab will be easier than trying to find a commercial bottle in a store.

I buy a bottle of POM wonderful, which is supposed to be 100% pomegranate juice. I figure this is easier than trying to juice a pomegranate.

I boil the juice for an hour and put the narsharab in a serving bowl, but as it cools it seems to get less and less like a sauce and more like a solid mass. I do some research and find out the although POM is natural juice the distilling process creates more of a concentrate than a natural juice. The juice is higher in sugar than if you had juice a fresh pomegranate.

The meat is amazing. The lamb tastes like, well lamb. I really like it. It is tender and the sumac adds a bit of saltiness. The fish kebab tastes smokey from the BBQ with a hint of sour from the sour cream. The narsharab hardened so much by the time we sat to eat that we didn’t get to try it with the kebab.

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Well I had an equally disastrous dating experience lately. I have been online dating for a bit. I started to think it was going to be a great way to meet a man. For me the experience has been great at getting dates. I meet someone online, read their profile, and set-up a date. There seems to be a real possibility of meeting the man of my dreams and instead what I meet is a perfectly flawed human. Usually not so flawed that I agree to another date. However, in between the time of the next date I will get another prospect of prince charming and find myself dating multiple men at the same time. At some point I was dating seven men at once. It was a lot of work, time, and energy keeping things straight. Shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, I realized online dating was not where I should be putting my energy. So I politely let all the men I was dating know that I have cancer and the ones I knew I wasn’t into I said I was concentrating on me. Luckily for me the ones that I liked still wanted to date me, so I was left with only three boys to juggle. This was way easier than before. Now before you judge me too much, we hadn’t discussed exclusivity, so I never expected this of them or imagined they would expect this of me.

My three boys were: Shane (who I wrote about at the start of our relationship). I was also dating Luke, who lived nearby and so I would see him often. Lastly Grant, who I had been dating for over a year. We had the exclusivity conversation, and it wasn’t for him. I thought I would meet my partner, but I figured while I’m looking why not have fun as well. We didn’t see each other that often but always had a great time.

I had gone out with some friends for dinner and we had a few drinks. I was headed home when I got a call from Grant. He was looking to see if I could suggest a bar and meet him and his friend for a drink. I suggested a place and grab a cab. While I am waiting for Grant and his friend to show at the bar, I got a text from Luke to see if I wanted to hang out. He was in a neighborhood nearby and I said sure. Okay, so two things. I am tipsy, so not the greatest judgment, and I meant I would hang out with him AFTER I was done with drinks with Grant. I really need to get a breathalyzer for my cell phone. Anyway the bar closed, but Grant and I still wanted another drink so we were figuring out if they had a hotel bar. Then I heard my name. I look and Luke is standing on the street. My mind says SHIT. I didn’t think he would just show up. I give him a hug and say “Hey, I meant later, I’m still hanging with my friends.” That didn’t go over so well. He stared at the two men, cursed me out and stormed off.

This is really not a proud moment for me, but neither was a spoon sticking straight up in the narsharab that I made. And if I could take it all back I would have made Narsharab from fresh pomegranate juice and gone home with Luke and just hugged Grant good night. Oh well, now I am down to only two boys I’m dating.

 


Recipes

Tika

Original recipe can be found here

  • 500 g/1 lb 1 oz lamb
  • 2 onion, divided
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • sumac
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Cut meat into cubes
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Marinate meat with sliced onion for at least an hour
  4. Thread the marinated lamb pieces onto skewers and BBQ
  5. Slice the remainng onion and lay skewers over, sprinkle with sumac and green onions.

Fish Kebab

Original Recipe can be found here

  • 1 lb 1 oz white fish
  • 1 oz sour cream
  • 2 onion, divided
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • lemon
  • vegetable oil
  • pinch of sumac
  • salt & pepper
  1. Cut fish into cubes
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. marinate with onion slices and sour cream for at least one hour.
  4.  Cook the kebabs on BBQ for 7 to 10 minutes, turning the skewers as the fish cooks.
  5. Slice the remainng onion and lay skewers over, sprinkle with sumac and green onions.
  6. Serve lemon slices separately.

Narsharab

Original recipe can be found here

  • 2 pomegranates
  • salt & pepper
  1. seed the pomegranates
  2. Pulse the seeds a few times in a blender.
  3. Strain out the juice
  4.  boil pomegranate juice for an hour on low heat, stirring constantly. 5 minutes before the end of the process add salt, and black pepper