Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Archive for September, 2010

Les Menus

Disclaimer: This long entry is more of a way for me to keep track of combinations that work and those that don’t or didn’t. I had actually made it an ‘invisible’ or private/password protected post, but that seemed silly and secretive when there was nothing to hid, so I lifted that embargo, but please… feel free to skip and go directly to the pages on the 2nd column…

A shopping spree in Gourmet Egypt led to an abundance of fish and hence a few fish dinners among friends. Menus follow, with dinner guests and links to actual items (if available).

Dinner for 7 (at table) as a sort of lets welcome ourselves back to Cairo back in later August (pre-Eid). Salima and Hoath, Belle, Emmanuelle, Camillo and Mate were there. Peter’s familiar mug was missing (and missed by some but no matter, he’s been before and after). After an apperitif of what I fondly call Brazilian iced tea – Cacaxa mixed with a mint/orange peel/ginger and tea infusion – we wined and dined on the following:

Doi maach (fish in yogurt sauce – Bengali style as I fondly hope)

Spinach Daal

Vangi Bhaath (Eggplant rice)

Arbi sabzi

Green apple salad

Think that’s it. The range and mix of flavors worked well, although I’m wondering if I could have just served plain rice?  My thought was that both the yogurt sauce for the fish and the daal could complement the rice without either overpowering the other, and this way way I didn’t have to make a separate vege (since the arbi/colocasia qualifies as a starch). It was successful. Oh and there was the labna+ cream served with mangoes.

Barely had I gotten back than I took off again for Switzerland during the Eid break. And returned armed with plenty of goodies from Neuchatel. Sausages, Rillettes and wine and more wine, and oh yes the inevitable collection of chocolates. I got back on the 12th and was barely off the plane when I was invited for an impromptu dinner at Louise and Michel’s, which was so welcome. It hasn’t been quite 3 weeks yet, but I’ve not done badly in terms of issuing invites from my end.

Not counting dinners for 2, over the weekend had Louise and Michel, Kevin of US-Aid, Emmanuelle and Camillo and Peter. Dinner was in two rounds that evening. A first round of Cheese and charchuterie – wild boar sausage, taleggio, and a nice ripe Camembert (courtesy E&C) set off by nice Bordeaux reds and a white brought by Kevin. Some melon and baguettes served as vehicles for the cheese and sausage. Oh and I completely forgot the star of this round – the goose rillettes. Yum! Indian dinner followed:

Mango salad

Meen kolambu (fish in a tamarind sauce)

Avial-type vege medley


No formal dessert really, chocolates galore – Grand Marnier bomb + those covered in dates (L&M’s contribution). Some Grand Marnier to go with.  Then finished with a final cup of chai nicely scented with ginger and cardamom.

How was it that despite L&M cleaning and putting away dishes, I had a nearly full sink by Sunday morning? or not quite full but not empty either. For one I did make a big batch of vangi bhath as a way to ensure being able to carry lunch AND use up an excess of eggplants. Louise and I shared it on the Monday.

A small intimate mid-week (or in Belle’s case weekend end) girls night in for Belle, Mel (anie) and me. Another Gourmet Egypt spree in prep for Saturday already, brought home, among other things, two luscious sushi-grade tuna steaks.  And I had some peaches of indifferent quality. Inspiration struck and we had a meal in 3 courses. First Gazpacho/Sal Morejo, then seared, mostly raw tuna with a peach chutney – recipe forthcoming topped off by a pasta aglio e olio embellished my style with anchovies, dried chillies and walnuts.  The big pay-off was lunch for the next day.

Weekend was Zane and Adam’s first visit home with their parents Duncan and Hala (her first time too),  Peter (naturally) and Steve and Helen after a long time. Like the weekend previous, dinner was in two shifts – cheese, charcuterie and gazpacho followed by a northern Indian meal. Truffled salami and a truffled pecorino were the C&C items this time around. F0r actual dinner

Jungli Maas on a bed of greens

Rajma (Peter’s call)

Dill & Peas Pulao

Radish raita

Fresh mango chutney

Naan/Parathas (from Indian restaurants)

The mango and labneh dessert though planned never materialized, and we made do with chai, oh and I forgot Hala’s chocolate cake, which went nicely with and has fed me and Fawzeya a few breakfasts since.

Sunday was supposed to have been a working/shop  talk dinner for Drew, Kate and myself but she couldn’t make it, and his mother was in town, and then Salima called and brought a friend along as well so plans changes and voila another dinner on the way.

Gazpacho with some cheese

Quinoa with zucchini and carrots

Chicken Mole (another successful experiment)

Daal (Salima’s offering)

All this followed by cupcakes brought by Drew’s Mom. the evening ended relatively early which was good as school was on the next day..

And guess what it’s Wednesday again and folks are coming over …again. Charles, Tim, Peter and Melanie this time. The planned menu:

Doi Macch

Chane ki daal

Green beans with coconut (South Indian style)

Mango salad

PLAIN rice

Methinks that ought to be enough.  Choco-dates to follow. Will check in later and tell me how it went. School tomorrow so insh’allah for an early night.

On rancid husbands…

Sorry that was mean of me. Especially since I don’t have one of em anyway, husbands I mean, rancid or otherwise. And this is by no means a comment on husbands, just a continuation of the theme I began on my regular blog, regarding my discovery last week on the translation of the Arabic word for coconut. I’d mentioned storing my stash of dried coconut in the freezer, and the reason is to prevent them from going rancid, which is how that word made it to the title here.

Anyway I should add an additional note regarding the Indian husband, the actual translation of the phrase Goz El-Hind is actually closer to India’s husband rather than an Indian one (though he could be I suppose). Still a good mnemonic though, and though I won’t be purchasing any during my trip to the souk today, I’ll remember it. An also try to remember another word for another nut that I do actually want, snabel, for pine nuts aka pignoli (in Italian) and chilgoza (in Hindi/Urdu). Wait a minute, there’s that husband (goz) again, this time chilled. Sorry guys, it’s not me, just my shopping list.

Changing with the times

It occurred to me after a conversation the other night, about food in general and this blog in general, that my friend Peter (for whom I’m yet to post the the plate recipes) was not completely wrong to point out that I should change the graduate student in the title to postdoc to more accurately reflect my changed status. After all the good times are continuing, albeit in a different place and among different friends and I say this despite my rants and laments on my regular blog for life’s other disappointments and hurdles notwithstanding,  as far as the foodie good times go, culinary and gustatory experimentation, sharing conversations, laughter, food and wine with friends etc goes, the good life remains as good as ever, and indeed if I dare say it, better. But then I decided that since the postdoc status too might get outdated (I live in hope), I’d just shorten the title to “Living the Good Life,” period.

May they never end!

New outlets for time-tested passions

This semester I get to teach a Research Writing class at AUC. This is a class that all AUC students have to take (just like Scientific Thinking, the bulk of my teaching responsibilities here) but unlike that class I have complete autonomy on the content of this course. It needs to be thematic and my theme this semester ???  Hah, I’m sure you’d have guessed it from its appearance on this rather than my regular blog – FOOD. As I told my students – and I quote what I prepared for them in the introductory blurb to this course:

“…one of the fundamental necessities of life, food is something that concerns all of us, at many levels from the individual to the global. We pattern our daily routines around the taking of meals, and make choices about what we eat or don’t eat according to our personal beliefs and ethics. Entire societal structures are based on our access to food, and in history, wars have been fought, and grand voyages undertaken on account of specific food items. Nobody can claim a complete disinterest in the topic or level the complaint that the topic favors students of certain majors over the others.”

My word-play loving self has named the course, “Food for Thought & Feasts with Words,” the feasts at issue being the verbal varieties I have exhorted my students to offer me throughout the semester. I did create a website for the course, but until the course is over, intend to restrict access to the students and few of the teachers. But I couldn’t resist mentioning the course here, since it is so theme appropriate.