Kunafa

Kunafa is described as a Bahraini cheesecake.  It is actually made with noodles and cheese. It is a common dish throughout the Middle East and is believed to have originated during the Ottoman Empire.  In Bahrain they color the desert with food coloring.

The noodle is kataifi dough.  It is described as shredded phyllo dough.  I don’t find it in grocery stores ,and research if I can make it from scratch.  It seems this is not suggested, so I find a Middle Eastern grocery store that isn’t too far from me, but it is small and cramped.  I’m not sure where I would find it so slowly search through the aisles and find it in the refrigerated section.  I’m excited that I found it, so I can make this dish.

First step is to soak the mozzarella overnight and then to mix the cheeses together. .

Then I make the syrup.  It is just boiling water, sugar, and lemon juice together.  I don’t use the rose water.  I actually remember I had a noodle dessert with rose water at a Middle Eastern restaurant once.  I thought it tasted like soap and later discovered that is what the rose tastes like.  So, I have found that I don’t like floral flavors like rose and lavender, it tastes like perfume to me.

 

Next I mix together the food coloring to make orange.

 

Well it is still fairly red, but maybe when I mix it with the butter it will lighten to be more orange.


Nope it is still really red!  Oh well it will do.  Then I run the bottom of the pan with the colored butter.

Chop up the noodles and soak them in milk and butter.

Add 2/3 of the noodles to the bottom of the pan

add the cheese

then top with remaining noodles and bake.

While it is baking I grind the pistachios to decorate the top.

It comes out of the oven and I flip over to plate.

It is still more red than orange and a bit messy, but I will decorate it with the pistachios. The picture from the original recipe has a beautiful pattern from the pistachios.  I try and get creative and make polka dots, but I’m not really skilled enough to make it come out.  So I go with this pattern and it isn’t really that pretty, but will do.

The cake is interesting.  The cake is not sweet and so the syrup is needed to make this feel like a desert.  The noodles and the cheese are good, but I’m not blown away by it.  It actually is a bit bland.  However I liked the butter food coloring idea.  I may use that again for something else.

Well that’s a picture of me before the whole cancer chemo experience.  I was celebrating on of my 40 birthday’s.  I highly recommend celebrating yourself 40 times.  It makes every day feel special and man I needed it going through all my treatments.  Well the next step in the treatment was to get a PET scan so they can figure out if I am stage III or IV.

I went in for my CT and PET scan.  The first part is that they make me go to a room and cover me in blankets.  I’m not sure how they knew I was cold, but I felt all snuggly.  Then they gave me some soapy looking water to drink.  Figuring out that I don’t like the taste of soap I am relieved that it is a sudsy drink, but doesn’t have any perfume flavor.  I had an hour to drink it.  So I sat in my snuggly chair drinking this odd drink.

After an hour they came to get me and took me over to the scanner.  There they positioned me, so my arm was over my head.  I’m still recovering from the surgery, so the position is painful!  I manage to hold it for the 15 minutes as they do the CT scan, but let them know I can’t do it for the 30 minute PET scan.  So for that I comfortably get my arm to the side and they image away.  I will explain my results with another recipe.  Go out and celebrate something!

 


Recipes

Kunafa

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1 lb  Mozzarella
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup  water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 Tbsp  unsalted butter (melted) – for the pan
  • 1/4 tsp of red and yellow food coloring ( if you can find orange use a 1/2 tsp of that)
  • 1 lb kataifi shredded dough
  • ½ cup  milk
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (melted) – and lukewarm
  • 15 pistachio (ground)
  1. Desalt the mozzarella if salty.  Cut the cheese into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes and soak in cold water, in the refrigerator overnight.  Change the water twice.  After soaking, rinse with cold water then drain and pat dry using paper towels.
  2. Shred the mozzarella and combine with the ricotta or cottage cheese.
  3. Using medium heat, boil the sugar, water and lemon juice for 10 minutes.  Let it cool down completely.
  4. Butter and colour the bottom and the sides of a 10 in. round, 2 in. deep pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter and ½ teaspoon kunafa pastry colouring.
  5. Cut the kataifi dough into 4 equal pieces.  Add the milk and lukewarm butter.  Make sure that there are no lumps and that the kataifi is fluffy.
  6. Place ⅔ of the kataifi in the pan.  Press down and along the sides of the pan.
  7. Place all of the cheese.  Level and press down.
  8. Cover with the remaining ⅓ of the kataifi.  Press well with the palms of your hand or use a spatula.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 40 minutes.
  10. Let the kunafa cool down for 10 minutes before inverting it into a large platter or cake stand.
  11. Decorate with ground pistachios.
  12. You can pour the cool syrup over the entire kunafa or pour on individual servings.
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Kasespatzle

I am a macaroni and cheese lover.  It is one of my comfort foods.  I will admit that I still eat Kraft macaroni and cheese when I feel sick or blue.  Okay who am I kidding I eat it when I feel like it, which is at least once a month if not more.  Biopsy day is definitely deserving of a Kraft macaroni and cheese.

My biopsy was a painful experience.  They first give me an ultrasound mammogram to view the lump and see where they are going to biopsy.  Then they numb my boob up to take the sample.  Unfortunately it wasn’t enough numbing cream and I felt it. The device that they take the sample sounded like a gun.  Then it felt like a hot stapler gun was shot into my boob.  I never had this experience, but this is the best way I can described it.  They have to take multiple samples of the boob, so they have to load me up with more numbing cream and do another extraction.  I hear the gun shot and jerk, but I don’t feel a thing.  They decide that the two samples were enough.  However my torture was not finished.

They have to put in a titanium ball to mark where they biopsy.  This is important to mark where they biopsy, so they don’t biopsy the same spot.  They but in the ball, but to make sure it is placed right they need to do another mammogram.  So I take my bruised boob squish and image it.  Well at least I have an excuse for a macaroni and cheese night and Kasepatzle is Austrian macaroni and cheese.  Well it isn’t really made out of macaroni but spätzle.  Which translates to little sparrows. Originally spatzel was made by hand with a spoon and thus the shape was like a sparrows, hence the name.

The first step is to make the spatzel.  The dough is an egg pasta dough and it comes out sort of wet.  To make the pasta you can get a spatzel maker or they describe that you can use a steamer to scrape the dough over boiling water. I  go with the steamer method as I don’t need a speciality tool sine I’m not sure how often I will make this.  Kraft mac and cheese is way quicker.  Well the idea is that you place the dough in the steamer.

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Then scrape it around and you are to get thin strains of pasta that come out.  For me it is an epic fail.  The dough starts to cook over the boiling water and literally nothing drops in the water.  I move on to hand rolling the dough.  First you need  to the roll the dough into a long stick.

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Then break it off and keep rolling until smaller and smaller.  Little worm like pasta is the goal.

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Then boil it in water.  Since it is fresh it doesn’t take long.

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However the pasta looks fat to me.  I think I got lazy in rolling out the pasta too thin.  Oh well it will have to do as I don’t have the energy to remake it.

Well now you add the spatzel, butter, and cheese to the pan and the kasespatzle is done!

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You can add fried onions and chives as well.  I totally forgot from the stress of making the spatzel.  Oh well the result is good. It is a cheese pasta.  As expected my spatzel is dense, but has good flavor.  I would like to try the real thing before making it again.  Until then I will stick to my Kraft mac and cheese.

 


 

Recipes

Kasespatzle

The Original Recipe can be found here

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1¼ cup milk  (start with one cup and add remaining ¼ cup as needed)
  • 6 tbsp butter, divided
  • 14 oz cheese, grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 mid-sized onions, cut in rings
  • 2 tbsp chives, chopped
  1. Add the flour, salt and nutmeg to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir to combine.  Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the eggs in it.  Add the milk.  Attach a dough hook to the stand mixer and “knead” the dough for 18-20 minutes, or until bubbles appear.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in frying pan over low to medium heat, add onions, and let them slowly gain a golden brown color.  Drain on a paper towel, then set aside.
  3. Bring at least 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Using a Spätzle maker of your choice, press the noodles into the simmering water and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the noodles float to the top.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the noodles to a colander, and then dump the noodles.
  4. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter, add noodles, and cheese.
  5. To serve, top with brown onions and chives.

Lipatuer

I’m young, 39, which means I am not required to have an anual mammogram.  I  recently heard that they increased the minimum age requirement for mammograms from 40 to 50 and are suggesting that it only needs to happen every 2 years.  In my case I have a lump which they need to image, so the mammogram is a new experience for me.  For some reason I keep calling it a monogram.  A Monogram would be a much more pleasent experience.  They have me stand next to a gigantic machine, stand on my tippy toes, while they squeeze my boob between a plastic vice.  They squeeze my boob so it is flat.  They ask me to hold the postion and not breathe.  To stay stable I have to awkwardly hug this giant cold metal machine.  Then they take a picture, adjust and take some more.  They image both boobs, and do extra images on the left side where my lump is.  It probably was no more than 30 minutes, but it felt like hours.  I’m told because I have tiny boobs that this is much more uncomfortable for me.  Really!!???  This can’t be comfortable for anyone.  We are in the modern day.  There has to be a better way to do this!  Or at least make the machine in the shape of something I want to hug!

They review the image in the same appointment.  They confirm I have a lump and it does look suspicious, so they take me to do an ultra sound mammogram.  I lie down, they put some jelly on my boob and rub a wand around.  This is much more comfortable than the other torture device.  I really am not clear why we didn’t just start and end there.  Well, I get to see the lump and based on what they see I need to get a biospsy.  I have to make a different appointment for that,  so for now I will just move on to more pleasant things — food!


In 1784 Austrian Emperor Joseph II permitted all residents to open establishments to sell and serve self produced wines, which is how Heurigen (Austrian wine-drinking taverns) came about.  They are usually only open for 2-3 weeks in the fall and feature the winemakers most recent wines.  They serve wine and a limited selection of food, and lipatuer is one of the things commonly served.  lipatuer is a cheese spread.  So wine and cheese, what a better thing for me to make?

The Liaptuer recipe I have calls for quark.  I have never heard of quark before.  It is a cheese that is common in German speaking countries.  It is similar to cottage cheese or farmers cheese.  I thought it would be super hard to find, so I first went to a store with a huge cheese selection, couldn’t find it.  Went to Whole Foods and couldn’t find it.  I gave up and thought I would have to use cottage cheese, but there it was at my local market!

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Lipatuer is fairly simple to make.  Just combine chives, onions, cornichons.

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With quark, salt, garlic, white wine vinegar, paprika, and you have a spread.

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It’s traditionally serverd with rye bread and pickled red onions.

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The result is delicious.  It seems simple but it is a complex bite.  There is the tartness from the of the cornichons, pickled onion combined with the rye and creaminess of the cheese.  I see why it would go perfectly with wine.


 

Recpies

Lipatuer

Original recpie can be found here

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, soften
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) quark
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Lightly toasted sliced rye bread
  • Pickled Red Onions
  1. Mash garlic and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in mortar with pestle until paste forms.
  2. Using electric mixer, beat butter in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add garlic paste, quark, and next 6 ingredients; fold to combine.
  4. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, then stir before using.
  5. Serve with rye toast and drained Pickled Red Onions.


 

Pickled Red Onions

Original Recpie can be found here

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  1. Bring vinegar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in onion.

 

 

Sou-Berag

Sou-Berag is a traditional Armenian dish, described as an Armenian Lasagna. It is less like a lasagna as it is only layers of cheese, phyllo dough and butter. It reminds me more of Achama. The dish is typically served as an appetizer and instead of layered,  you can individually wrap the cheese filling, like Spanakopita.

I do like the idea of individual appetizers, but sounds like a lot of work. I just got back from a job interview in Seattle that I’m not so sure about. The interview went well and I will likely get the job. The nice thing is the company is based in Seattle, so I will get to work from home.  I have decided to continue to embrace my lazy unemployed ways and make this the Lasagna way.

The first step is to mix the cheese mixture.

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Then lay down a layer of phyllo dough and butter.

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Then spread some of the cheese mixture.

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It doesn’t seem to cover the whole pan, but with the cheese melting, and all the layers,  I think this will be okay. As I say my prayers, I keep layering

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Place it in the oven until it is golden brown and you can see a little bits of the cheese bubbling and the butter glistening.

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It tastes amazing, buttery, cheese Yum!

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Well that concludes Armenia. I really enjoyed the food with Harissa and Sou-berag being my favorite dishes. My next stop is Australia, which is a country I have been to!


Recipes

Sou-berag

Original recipe can be found here

  • Frozen phyllo dough ( need 9 sheets)
  • 1 Stick of Butter, melted
  • 80z. Jack cheese
  • 8oz ricotta
  • 8 oz Feta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  1. Mix cheeses, eggs, salt, and pepper together.
  2. Butter your cake pan well and lay in a sheet of phyllo, and butter the top.
  3. Put on a layer of the cheese filling.
  4. Add another phyllo and butter the top and add more filling.
  5. Do this until all six sheets of phyllo are used and your filling is used up.
  6. You can now add the last three sheets of phyllo making sure to butter each one.
  7. Bake in a 450℉ oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat to 300℉ and bake another 20 minutes.
  9. Take out the sou-berag and let cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Cut in diagonals or squares and serve warm.

Tarta pascualina

Tarta is a tart and it can be filled with savory or sweet. Pascualina in Spanish is the word for Easter, so this means easter time tart. It was brought over to Argentina by Italian immigrants. It is traditionally served during lent as it is a savory meatless spinach pie.

I mix togther ricotta, spinach, and seasonings together, which will be the filling of the pie.

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I line my pie pan with store-bought pie dough. I know I could have made my own pie crust, but I have proven my baking skills and want to do something a bit easy.  Then I add the filling.

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This is where this pie gets interesting. I make divots in the pie with my fingers. I should have gotten a manicure for this pic.

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Then crack 6 eggs into the divots. Man, Argentina loves their hard boiled eggs.

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Top it with the second pie crust. Brush with egg yolk and make some more divots.

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Bake it and it comes out. It is extremely rich and dense with the cheese and the hard boiled egg. Also the store bought pie dough seems overly dense, maybe I should have made my own. But it is a great decadent savory dish perfect for brunch or a special holiday.

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Well this concludes Argentina for me. I really loved visiting the country and my favorites are the Chimichurri, Empenadas, and Dulce de Leche Pionono. My next stop is Armenia.


Recipes

Tarta pascualina

Orginal recipe can be found here

  • 2  pie crusts
  • 2 packages (9 oz.) frozen spinach, defrosted.
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 eggs
  • butter, for greasing pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the spinach in a linen towel, and squeeze out to drain the moisture from the spinach.  Not until it’s totally dry, leave a little moisture.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the spinach, crushed garlic, ricotta, and the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
  4. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper, and mix well to combine.
  5. Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk, and add the milk mixture to the spinach and cheese mixture and stir well until incorporated.
  6. Grease the bottom of your pie pan with butter.
  7. Line the bottom of your pie plate with one of the tarta shells.
  8. Put the filling into the shell.
  9. Make 6 indentations in the filling (about one inch apart, and one inch from the edge of the pan) and crack an egg into each indentation.
  10. Cover the pie with the other tarta crust.
  11. Seal the edges by pinching together the two shells with your thumb and forefinger making an indentation.
  12. Slice a few vents in the top of the pie.
  13. Brush the top of the crust with beaten egg to give it shine.
  14. Bake for 45 minutes, until the crust has turned a golden brown on top.
  15. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Achma

With my shiny new kitchen aid, Smurfette,  I’m going to make Achma.  Achma is the Abkhazian form of Khachapuri (which is cheese stuffed bread).  However this is less of a bread and more like a cheese lasagna. The recipe requires that I use the flat beater and the pasta sheet roller. I’m excited to start, smurfette is ready to spin!

The recipe I have says 11oz of flour. I do a calculation of this being  a bit more than 1 1/3 cup of flour. After mixing and making the dough it is really wet. It seems wrong, but I need to let it rest for 30 minutes, so I figure it will change when resting. It doesn’t it is a sticky mess and I have to add a lot of flour to get it through the pasta roller and it doesn’t seem to make to large of a sheet to cover a pan.

Bad pasta

I deiced to redo the recipe as this just seems wrong. I end up looking at a few variations and  find a recipe that suggests 2 1/2 cups which is much more normal. However I don’t have enough eggs to make the meal so off to the store. Well it is getting to be late afternoon and this was to be my lunch, so I grab a quick snack at the store.

With a little food in my belly and cleaned up my mess I’m ready to start again. The dough now is too dry, Sigh. I try and hand knead it, but it is way sticky. Then it dawns on me I have a dough hook and but the dough back in the bowl and run it for a few minutes. The dough looks way better! Phew.

Dough

 

When I roll the dough it is really long. I don’t have a ton of table space so decide to do everything one at a time: roll, cook and layer. Dough rolled out

This takes a long time. I’ve basically finished the recipe in time for dinner; thankfully I had a snack. All I have to do is throw it in the oven for 30 minutes and clean up the big mess I made.

A mess

 

As it cooks I can smell the butter melting and I am salivating to try. I pull it out and the top is crisp and the melted butter and cheese are bubbling around the corners. I let it rest for a few minutes then cut in. The top is crispy and the middle is soft like pasta. The taste is buttery, but I couldn’t really taste the cheese. I don’t think it is bad and can see it being served as a bread vs a stand alone cheese lasagna. It maybe the cheese I bought isn’t strong enough to be melted or if this is the way it should taste. I guess I have to plan a trip to Abkhazia to find out.

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Well this is the end of my journey  with  Abkhazian food. I really like the Adjika, Abkhazura with Tkemali sauce. The Achma is good, but I think I need to taste an original to have a better opinion. My next country will be Afghanistan.

 


 

Recipes

Achma

Original recipe can be found here

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter (6 oz), very soft
  • 8 oz salted bryndza, crumbled
  • 8 oz suluguni, shredded
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, add the flour, salt and eggs, and mix over low speed until homogeneous. Add the milk, and mix for another 2 minutes, with dough hook. Form a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for at least 30 minutes
  2. Combine cheeses in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Flour well, and, with a pasta machine, roll each piece to the next-to-finest setting. Each sheet should be as thin as a crepe. As you work on a portion of the dough leave the remaining in plastic wrap.
  4. Grease a 9×13 pan with some of the softened butter
  5. Cook one pasta sheet in salted boiling water for 1 minute, shock in ice water, pat dry with paper towels, then arrange into the dish to form 1 layer, cutting as necessary. Cover the layer with 1/4 of the butter, spread with a knife or an offset spatula. Cook and arrange another pasta sheet the same way, and top with 1/4 of the brynza and suluguni. Repeat this procedure 3 more times.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, then finish under the broiler for 2 minutes or until well-browned. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.