Produce Inspo 🍅🍇🍊🌼

Here’s me coming full circle, as just like this one, my very first post was also an ode to the beauty and inspiration of French market produce… Colors, shapes, patterns and textures, inevitably leave me dreaming of possibilities after a trip to a fresh market. Thanks to its abundant variety and creative nuances, I’ll always be a disciple of nature when it comes to taste!    
    
    
     

   
 

Courgette Chocolate Cake

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Among all the February celebrations, my warmest is my hubby’s birthday. For the past couple of years, my daughter and I started a habit out of baking a cake on that day. I don’t often bake, so this makes this day extra special as it gives us the opportunity to share memorable, exciting, messy, one-off funny/panicky moments in the kitchen before we polish everything up before daddy comes home for the big surprise (well perhaps not-so-surprise anymore as he’s starting to notice the tradition now).

This year my daughter and I decided to bake a… Zucchini Cake! Credit for this idea has to go to my daughter’s amazing former nanny who introduced us to this cake.

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I know some of you may be cringing and despite the nutritionist in me, I myself was initially skeptical, but the result is AMAZING and it’s almost impossible for someone to figure out that Zucchinis were involved in the mix! In effect, none of the people I served this cake to suspected this twist. So here you’re thinking, why should I ever try a Zucchini cake and to that I’d say:

  • Zucchini replaces the butter and gives the necessary moist to the cake (ideal for people trying to cut on fat-calories since Zucchinis have close to zero fat!)
  • Introducing vegetables in cake-baking with your kids is a great way to promote vegetables to them as appealing and fun
  • It is actually VERY TASTY IN ITS OWN UNIQUE WAY and you will only believe me once you try it so here’s the recipe:

 

Ingredients (10-12 servings cake):

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. canola or other mild vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups blended zucchini (about 1 large)

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (175°C). Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. Mix eggs and oil and add to the dry mix. Add blended zucchini and stir.
  4. Pour the evenly mix into the prepared pan. Bake 60 minutes in the preheated oven.
  5. Cool the cake completely before decorating it with your favorite garniture. Here I sprinkled on my beautiful blossom-shaped Bundt a bit of confectioners’ sugar then left the final touch to my daughter who decorated it with her favorite fresh berries!

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🍋 Sour Treat 🍋

Back to my favorite corner at home, my kitchen! It’s been since I got busy with our move that I haven’t really spent quality time in there. I circulate in the kitchen pretty much most of the day, everyday, having converted it temporarily to an operation room/playroom/dining room while the rest of the house is gradually getting fit for use. Nevertheless, I only recently started using my kitchen to create things that makes my family happy and not only sated. And voila some happiness in a bowl!IMG_4172

It is called Harrak Osba’o (حراق اصبعه) which translates from Arabic to “finger burner” (I promise no finger burning required for the recipe)! It is a Syrian dish that I discovered a couple of years ago when my mother-in-law was entertaining. A fun and really easy vegetarian dish when Mdardara (lentil based Lebanese vegetarian dish) starts becoming meh. It is all about that sour punch that gives it all its juiciness and the secret for that is pomegranate molasses. The recipe combines lentils and pasta seasoned essentially with sautéed onion, garlic and coriander. The combination of a legume (lentil) and a grain product (pasta, preferably whole grain) makes of Harrak Osba’o a rich-in-protein vegan dish. Not to mention that lentils are also rich in fiber, folate and iron. The original recipe includes garnishing the dish with fried pieces of dough or fried pita croutons. I chose to omit this part to keep it as healthy as possible:

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 cup of brown lentils
  • 1 cup of small shaped pasta
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves mashed
  • ½ cup of coriander chopped
  • 4 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of pomegranate molasses
  • 4 spoons of lemon juice
  • 1 spoon of vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Place oil, onion, garlic and coriander in a cooking pot and stir-fry
  2. Add lentils and water, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
  3. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes

Sour never tasted so good!

Today’s Harvest

If you want to take a break from Gaudí while in Barcelona but not completely escape the fantasy of his work, why don’t you go to the source of his inspiration… nature! and see what it has to offer: a good place to start is: La Boqueria… at first glance from the Las Ramblas street, La Boqueria seems like yet another produce market, but once I stepped into it, I felt like Alice in Wonderland falling into the rabbit hall and onto an imaginary world where all my culinary fantasies were on creative display, in rich colors and abundance! It’s like a museum of Catalonian culinary tastes had come to life and I was invited… My main challenge though: for the most part, no pictures were allowed (they seem to think they’re a museum too!) but I still managed to get you some!

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red - boqueria

green 1 - Boqueria

green 2 - boqueria

🍊rangey Amalgam

D&G window

I was walking by the D&G store and spotted this fruit trolley featuring a certain orangey fruit and I wasn’t quite able to pin down what to call it! Being a nutritionist, I was alarmed and on a mission to solve my dilemma!

I remembered that I’ve always called any tiny-looking orange, labeled “cutie” in the US and “easy-peeler” in Britain, Clementine. Although I knew some of these “tinies” could also be Mandarin or Tangerine, I was never quite confident which is what! After a couple of investigation trips to my local supermarkets, here is what I gathered and hopefully this will help you tie-up your orangey jargon!

Mandarin, Tangerine and Clementine can all look pretty much similar but each still got some interesting characteristics

Mandarin, Tangerine and Clementine can look pretty similar but each has a unique history & distinctive characteristics

Ultimately though, don’t let those distinctions drive you mad as nutritionally speaking they’re all a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants and rich in soluble fiber, a great cholesterol fighter. After all, despite their unique characteristics, each batch of a given type will taste slightly different as well! So just make sure you get fresh ones and you’re set.

Fruit art in my kitchen

Hamra & other Colors

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With its hilarious knock-offs (think Canal street with a Lebanese touch), to fruit colors that will knock you off your feet, to colorful characters of all ages (think old men sipping Turkish coffee & smoking shisha at local cafés with the colorful Hamra-shopping local fashionista walking by) Hamra street (Hamra means in English the red one) may be shunned today by the Beirut fashion snobs as a destination for the masses, but I certainly recommend a stroll through it to tourists as a way to get a more local feel of west Beirut and a taste of a stretch that has not wavered throughout all the Lebanese turmoil as one of Beirut’s main commercial streets. You’ll note that there is an efforts being made to bring back some lost glory and prominence to Hamra and that it certainly looks nothing like its dodgy depiction in Homeland.