Thursday, September 18, 2008

Arabesque: I Hope You Like Eggplant

The world is falling apart, but the Tipsy Baker will not blink. She will keep cooking. And when her bank fails and she loses her job and her country goes to war with Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Spain all at once, she will not blink. She will keep cooking. She may not sleep, but she will never, ever blink. 

Last night I started a new book, the (so far) very alluring Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon by the legendary Claudia Roden. It's a handsome volume, despite a handful of unflattering lamb shank shots. We'll be eating a lot of lamb for the next couple of weeks. Also, dates, orange flower water, and eggplant. 

I launched our tour with a Moroccan dinner. The centerpiece was a plate of "deliciously aromatic" kefta kebabs, which are meant to be skewered and grilled over coals on the streets of Marrakech, but can also be formed into burgers and sauteed on a stove in the California suburbs. (Roden is relaxed about these adjustments, which I appreciate.) The kebabs are basically beef patties flavored with cinnamon, ginger, and bounteous chopped herbs, primarily mint, and they were a big hit with a 7-year-old American boy. Tolerated by an 11-year-old girl. Adults: very pleased.

On the side: the excellent, unfortunately named mashed eggplant-and-tomato salad (see above), which was untouched by children, much loved by everyone else.

Dessert: Fruit Salad with Honey and Orange Blossom Water. Good, but not as good as it sounds.

I have two small gripes with this book so far:
1. Roden goes on at length about the centrality of bread in these cultures, but offers no recipes. 

2. I absolutely HATE it when authors like Roden don't specify quantities of salt in ground meat recipes. With most foods -- stews, stir-fries, sauces -- you can taste as you go. But you can't "salt to taste" a meatball or kefta kebab before its cooked (unless you're crazy), nor can you effectively add salt once it's started cooking.

Fortunately, I have run into this problem before and have figured out my own ratio: A teaspoon or slightly more of salt per pound of ground meat. 

But I resent having to use it!


  1. oh i am excited about this one. i love this genre of food! and i agree about the salt. that's up there with another gripe of mine- when recipes include a total amount of an ingredient, but then it is actually used in two or three separate portions in the recipe. it screws me up every time.

    i'm also excited about the new not-very-veiled reference stage that the sarah palin obsession has reached.

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