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My New Cooking Classes, Plus-Christmas Gifts from the Holy Land!

December 15, 2017

I ain’t gonna lie, the holiday season always stresses me out to the max. My to-do lists end up being twenty feet long, and as soon as I cross off ten items, I have to add ten more.  But in the midst of all this madness, I try to stay grounded. Most importantly, I am grateful for everything I have, from my family and friends, to what now has become a global community I have met through Feast in the Middle East.  This year I was ecstatic to meet many of you in person at my Draeger’s Cooking School classes!  To be able to throw a Middle Eastern food party, and get feedback on the food in realtime, made the experience that much more fun, as I am usually just talking to a camera! I also got so many insightful questions, from those of you who wanted to learn more about the Middle East in general.  So, I decided to do it all again at Draegers in 2018, with the introduction of two fun menus. These classes also make great Christmas gifts for any foodies in your life (including yourself) My first class on January 11, in San Mateo features a menu centered around the savory and sweet treatment of pomegranate:

• Syrian Muhammara—walnut and roasted pepper dip with pomegranate molasses
• Bulgar Wheat Pilaf with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing, Pistachios and Sultanas
• Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken
• Chocolate Pomegranate Tart with Pistachio and Pumpkin Seed Crust

On March, I will take you on a culinary tour of the Levant, with this menu:

• Roasted Cauliflower with Mejdool Dates, Slivered Almonds and Za’atar Spice Blend
• M’Nazaleh—Palestinian casserole of eggplant, chicken, tomatoes and pine nuts
• Fragrant Garlic Turmeric Rice
• Basbousa—semolina Greek yogurt cake

To register for these classes, just click HERE.  Hope to meet you in person!  But I also have another surprise for you…read on below.

draeg7

 

As a thank you for all of your support, I have partnered with  SEAOFHERBS.COM    to give you 20% off any purchase using promo code BLANCHE20.  Sea of Herbs is a family run company that has been around for 400 years! They use ancient techniques in their products, yielding amazing quality. They have natural beauty products using the beneficial minerals of the Dead Sea, and a beautiful selection of spices that add an authentic touch to middle eastern dishes.  Ask any avid cook from the Middle East living in the USA, and any of them will tell you they ship their spices from abroad, or have a relative buy some for them when they visit the Middle East.  The spices there are more fragrant and potent than any spices you buy here. It is also a great way to support artisans keeping alive an ancient craft while trying to survive in the  tumultuous city of Jerusalem.  For more information on my “favorite things” collection from the Holy Land, click on the video below:

 

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Armenian Food Pig Out Session! Part II

December 12, 2017

In my last video and blog I covered how Armenians transformed the fabric of American life, ushering in inventions from the ATM to the MRI to Almond Joy. In this next video, I threw all portion control precaution out the window and decided I was going to sample EVERYTHING the festival had to offer in one day.  When you have Armenian women cooking round the clock for weeks to make everything by hand, what’s a girl to do? I felt like this was going to be a once in a lifetime (or at most a once a year) experience that I couldn’t turn down. Sevana was such a warm and inviting guide, I felt like we were sisters within minutes. I felt a kindred spirit with her passion for her culture’s rich culinary heritage. From flaky filo and buttery puff pastry boregs, to delicate braised veggies dripping in olive oil, to the softest dolmas (or sarmas) outside of my mom’s kitchen, the food was stellar, and the company enhanced the whole experience by a thousand.

To check out my culinary tour of the Annual Armenian Festival and Bazaar in San Francisco, click on the video below:

 

 

 

Armenian Food Fest!

December 8, 2017

Hello Foodie Friends!

Thought I would mix it up a bit this month by covering one of the most popular foodie festivals in California, the Armenian Food Festival in San Francisco. Growing up as a native San Franciscan, I had met and befriended many Armenians as we had so much in common culturally. From strict parents to the emphasis on the Christian faith, to the big family gatherings and similar Mediterranean cuisine, there was no shortage of commonality. Even my prom date was Armenian! While the Kardashian family painted one broad and overwhelming stroke on the Armenian people, there is so much more to their culture and society. Armenian Americans have affected many facets of our lives we don’t even think about–from innovations in finance, medicine, farming, and of course food! Now this Armenian Festival is so massive, it runs three days to accommodate the thousands that attend every year. As you can imagine, there was so much action to cover I couldn’t do it all in one video. So I am doing a three part series. In the first video below, I establish who the Armenian people are–you will be amazed at how they transformed life in America. Next week I will delve in more into the food.  I would love your feedback–do you like these on-location shoots? Are there any other festivals you would like me to cover? Leave it in the comments below! 😉

 

 

 

New Middle Eastern Shopping Guide!

December 4, 2017

Hello Feaster Friends!

In response to the many e-mails I have received on where I source my Middle Eastern ingredients and other merchandise, I  decided to put together a one stop shopping online store. From excellent quality spices to the best handmade baklava made in the USA, and felafel molds to Arabic styled aprons, I made sure to source the highest quality products that I believe in. A lot of the items, like the artisan olive oils and the pottery are fair trade, meaning the purchase of these items contributes to sustainable development and helps secure the rights of marginalized producers and workers in the third world.  I wanted to create the feeling of an online shopping bazaar from the comfort of your own home. To get started on stocking your pantry, or getting that extra special gift for someone you love, you can click on this  LINK. Happy shopping, I am working on a holiday special that I hope to release this week!

SOUK

 

Baba Ghanoush- A Story of Love

November 29, 2017

Hummus gets so much attention and glory. Restaurants feature hummus mixed with every vegetable under the sun, ranging from sun dried tomatoes to red peppers. School children now eat this dip with pitas as a lunch addition without a thought. Nutritionists recommend hummus as a healthy snack. But there is one cousin to hummus that is just as delicious, but barely gets any love, and that is Baba ghanoush. This is ironic because this dip was born from the love of a daughter towards her father. 

Can you feel that love?

 

babagan

 

In Arabic baba ghanoush means “pampered papa.”  According to old Arabic folklore originating in Syria, there was a caring daughter who mashed all of the food she cooked for her elderly toothless father, or baba, as he was unable to chew. One of the vegetables she mashed was eggplant, with the addition of olive oil, lemon juice, and tahini. This was the precursor to the popular baba ghanoush today. But you don’t have to be toothless to fall in love with this dip. 😉  Baba ghanoush is at once silky in texture and smoky in flavor, versatile with fancy accompaniments from seeded crackers to fresh baguette slices. However, traditional Arabs from the Levant eat baba ghanoush for breakfast with pita bread and a variety of pickles and vegetables. This dip was standard fare in all of my family picnics, not prone to spoiling in the summer heat like mayonnaise based dips. But I really love dressing baba ghanoush up for the holidays like Christmas, because the red from the pomegranate seeds and parsley traditionally added look so festive. I switched up the pomegranates for chopped bell pepper in the picture below for similar effect.  It’s fun to pair this dip with crackers, baguette slices, or in this case, brioche toasts:

 

File Nov 29, 12 19 08 PM

 

Want to learn how to make this easy recipe? Just click on the video link below:

 

 

Ingredients:

1   large or 2 small eggplants  

   Juice of 1 lemon, to taste  

1   clove minced garlic  

1/4 cup tahini

Salt to taste

2   tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  

 Liquid smoke, optional  

½ cup  Fresh chopped parsley  

 Pita bread, for serving  

 

Directions in the video above. 😉

5 Phrases in Arabic that Will Deter Annoying People…

November 16, 2017

The first question I am often asked as someone that speaks Arabic is “Can you teach me some swear words?”  For whatever reason, people would rather spew clouds of vitriol in every language of the rainbow than whisper sweet nothings. I get it though, I have been known to swear like a sailor particularly behind the wheel, when those angry words come out as effortlessly as a tulip on a spring day.  Whether you love swear words or hate them, they are a way to feel powerful in a sometimes powerless situation, and a great way to vent when no one is listening outside your thick car windows 🙂 However, I grew up in a loud yet conservative family. Meaning my parents always sounded like they were yelling even if they weren’t even fighting, it’s just an Arab thing.  But at the same time my mom would faint if she heard me swearing in public. I could just hear her in her slight accent,”Blanche, you don’t want people to think you have a sewer mouth, do you?!” Then there is my late grandfather and best friend, God rest his soul, who always told me “Blanche, show your class and not your ass.”  So, since I am in this quandary, I thought I would release a video on how to express your anger in Arabic without cuss words, which is very easy to do. You see Arabic has thousands of expressions for even the most insignificant things in our lives–the language and analogies are so rich and ancient. Feel free to use these 5 phrases when people piss you off. They don’t even have to know what the hell you are talking about, they will just know to back off 😀   Now if you really need to know some swear words,  or want more Arabic lessons in general, hit “like” on this blog or leave a comment, I just might think about it lol.

 

“Baba Ghanoush” Tart

November 7, 2017

Thanksgiving is just brimming with so many sweet pies and tarts. Pumpkin, apple, pecan,  and rhubarb pies have all dominated our Thanksgiving dessert table for many years. However, as more and more family members have been diagnosed  with diabetes or weight issues, I thought why not make a rich, satisfying tart without all of that sugar? My baba ghanoush tart was born when I had all of the ingredients for this smoky eggplant dip, and a sack of almond flour I wanted to experiment with.

 

File Nov 06, 12 28 55 PM

 

I made a gluten free crust that held together well the almond flour,  some zesty paremesan cheese and a dash of thyme for that savory flavor. The filling is basically a deconstruction of baba ghanoush dip: roasted eggplant and tomato, caramelized onions, and tahini for a rich and creamy texture. You can really go crazy with the toppings. I use walnuts and goat cheese, but you can use pretty much any nuts or cheese you wish. Pine nuts and gruyere work well too!  This tart is as beautiful to look at, as it is delicious it is to eat.

 

File Nov 06, 12 28 40 PM

 

 

For the instructions on how to make this tart, click on the video below. You can get started by getting the ingredients in the list below as well. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

Ingredients for the pastry shell (fits a 9 inch tart pan)

1/2 teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme

2 cups of almond flour

½  cup of Parmesan cheese (grated)

1/.4  cup (or so) of water

2 tbs olive oil

Ingredients for the filling

2 tomatoes, sliced

2 small  eggplant, cut into 1 inch slices

1/2 cup of goat cheese

3 tbs olive oil, plus more for brushing vegetables

2 onions, thinly sliced  

1/4 cup of pine nuts (toasted)

¼ cup tahini

Salt to taste

 

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