. . . At least that’s what Mom always said. (So you know that it’s true.) 🙂
I remember slipping quickly down the back stairs to our kitchen in the Nelson house; the stairs were very steep and made of dark polished wood (purportedly intended to be the servants’ stairs when the house was built) and I fell down them more times than I’d like to admit. As quietly as I could, I’d push the back door open and start to slip out . . . (I’m always late these days; I was always late when I was in high school, too)–only to hear Mom call “Amy, come get some breakfast, quick, before you head to school!”
No weak protestations on my part, of being late to band practice or needing to get to school early, would do.
Mom knew I’d do better in school if I had something hot and nutritious in my stomach. Knowing from experience that there was no use arguing, I’d turn the corner into the kitchen and ease quickly into the red wicker couch that was pushed up against our kitchen table. I’d tuck into the French toast with syrup, melting butter, and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar (Mom never skimps on the good stuff, thank goodness) that Mom would slide in front of me. Or steaming pancakes with applesauce. Or scrambled eggs and sausages. Or Swedish pancakes with cottage cheese and maple syrup.
Oh my goodness! We were lucky kids, weren’t we? (My kids aren’t half so lucky *cough*.)
The week before Christmas, as the kids and I were doing some grouchy panic-cleaning (let’s be honest once), I sat down for a moment to open the mail, intending to give myself a 5-minute break from the loathsome job of cleaning my house. (You know how dirty a house gets when you burn wood daily, keep animals in the house, and continually remodel the kitchen? Pretty doggone dirty, that’s what). I set the timer for 5 minutes, with a sigh. I picked up this new cookbook that I received through Blogging for Books.
I leafed through it casually, not realizing at first that within moments I was going to be craving the spicy flavors and rich sauces of Turkish foods. OH great, like that was going to happen! I had a big ole’ dirty house to clean! I certainly didn’t have time to monkey around with new recipes . . . did I? . . .
As a matter of fact, one of our favorite places to eat while we were in New Zealand nearly a year ago was at a Turkish restaurant. Amalia and I had, between ecstatic murmurs of delight, analyzed the dishes every time we ate there. We are both, after all, passable cooks and even co-authors of a very popular e-cookbook. We agreed that, with the proper recipes, surely we could recreate much of what we liked about this glorious and delectable cuisine.
Aaaaaand if we could coax a few swarthy and charming young Turks to serve it, then . . . well. 🙂 Life would be nearly too good to be true.
Okay, I know you got stuck back there on the cleaning bit. Why on earth were we cleaning? you may ask. And how astute of you to do just that.
The kids were coming for Christmas at the end of the week–all of them, huzzah!!–and my house, as per usual, was an utter and complete disaster. However. I suddenly realized, turning cookbook pages faster and faster, that my focus was all wrong, of course. Who really cared if the house was clean, after all? The grandies were all still small enough to be carried through it! Did it really matter if you couldn’t walk through the rooms without lifting your legs high to get over piles of junk? Did anybody really notice the soot-darkened cobwebs hanging from the ceiling like curtains, the drifts of dust bunnies that shooshed across the floor in the breeze?
Was little Mack–who had been helping me clean, albeit not very happily–correct in his assertion–his very strongly-held and loudly-voiced assertion!–that nobody cared a blessed fig if there were piles of clean laundry heaped around the living room, apparently never to be put away, but to be pawed through with reckless abandonment, when one needed a fresh pair of underpants?
Could I–as he so cannily suggested–just position a selection of snow shovels at the door (Lord knows we have lots of shovels) and let everybody just tunnel their way through? His arguments, as he sensed my weakening, grew stronger and he even threw in some science to back his opinions. I had no idea if his scientific tidbits were based on fact or not (I don’t get out much.)
“Mom, after all! . . . I read in “Popular Science” just last month that it’s vitally important for kids to be exposed to dust and dirt . . . and filth! You are robbing your children and grandchildren of this gift–to bolster their immune systems–every time you sweep and vacuum–or worse, make me do it!! Mom, think about it! Do you really want me to have chronic asthma??” he sputtered, coughing in his passion (ironically).
I decided he had, after, at least a modicum of a point. I didn’t mention the obvious, that by making him dust and vacuum and sweep up filth, that I was exposing him to the immune-system bolstering that was, according to his logic, every child’s right. I realized tiredly that his arguments, of course, were rooted in pure selfishness, as he hates to clean house as much as his poor mother does.
(Alas! What are the odds of raising SIX CHILDREN who hate to clean as much as I do???).
But he was right that it didn’t matter all that much how clean the house was.
I knew that, all things considered, what really mattered to our foodie bunch, was the food. That’s where I should be throwing my limited energies, I decided, with startling clarity! If Mack was just a tiny iota misguided–surely the kids would forgive me the house being a disaster, if the food was impressive enough!
And anybody who knows me, knows this: I’d a hundred thousand million bajillion squijamarillion times rather be cooking and baking, then cleaning.
So. Where we were? Back to the new cookbook! I settled in with a legal pad and a pen, and a hot cuppa tea, and enjoyed the process of planning The Most Wonderful Christmas Menu Ever. BUT. The caveat was, of course, that I could prepare as much as possible beforehand, so I could spend as much time as I could with my darling children and my adorable grandies. Natch’.
Ana Sortun & Maura Kilpatrick wrote the lavishly beautiful cookbook Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery & Cafe.
I actually read and review a lot of cookbooks. A new cookbook is very often my reading material of choice in the after-dinner hours. (Also, a side note: if you are a blogger, you should consider signing up for the Blogging for Books program. You can choose books to review for their lists, with the only stipulation to write an honest review of each one. Pretty cool deal!)
I settled in deeper to my chair and wiped the drool off my chin. I was formulating A Plan.
This cookbook is something special. I spent quite a happy hour planning grocery lists and cooking schedules. I decided to make Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Greens for Christmas dinner. A Middle Eastern-themed menu, that was perfect! Let’s see . . . I could make a special breakfast first–Raspberry-Rose Petal Turnovers, with Shakshuka (Baked Eggs with Spicy Tomato Sauce) would be great for starters, and of course a second breakfast of the fabulous-looking Asure (Grain Pudding) . . . or multi-grained Turkish breakfast porridge, would be super-easy to have cooked ahead of time, and just re-heat on Christmas morning.
But then. A few things happened in the days following, to derail me from my ambitious plans. Can you bear a sad sentence or two? Here it comes: I did two dumb things the week before Christmas. I got bit by a spider (from the symptoms, I think it was a black widow), which slowed me down quite a bit, hobbled me with self-pity, too. And while moving a folded-up ping-pong table, it broke and fell on the middle of my foot, (apparently) breaking a bone. Causing even more pain and self-pity. As it would. So.
You know what I did? I changed all my plans, and instead made very simple meals, things that I could whip up without moving too quickly (*wince*) or consulting a recipe book. I hope that’s not anticlimactic after all this build-up.
The house was still a little dirty, too, so there’s that. Sometimes, life steps in and you just change plans. You may feel sorry for yourself, just for a minute or two, but then you’ve got to give that pleasure up, too.
But! Now that Christmas is over and I’ve healed up from my pre-Christmas injuries, more or less, I am tackling these recipes that had taken ahold of my heart and my appetite.
The only negative about this cookbook–in my opinion–is that there’s probably not many recipes in it that wouldn’t necessitate a quick trip to the store, for me, at least, living here in the lovely middle of nowhere. But it’s Middle-Eastern cooking, right? So that’s not so surprising.
Here’s a recipe for some breakfast porridge that I made, from the recipe in the book. I did have to change some things, because I didn’t have all the ingredients in the original recipe, but I don’t think the recipe has suffered one whit. It’s delicious. And beautiful. You might consider putting it on your next company breakfast menu.
- 1 cup hulled barley
- ½ cup rye berries
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar (I used ¼ cup honey instead)
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- 2 Tb fine-ground bulgur wheat (I used wheat bran instead)
- Optional add-ons: honey, chopped apricots, dates, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, chopped apples, berries, pomegranate seeds.
- The night before: Put barley, chickpeas, and rye in three separate bowls and cover each with 3 cups of warm water. Set aside to soak.
- Drain grains separately. Fill three separate sauce pans with 4 cups (give or take) water each, and add the grains to each one.
- Bring each to a boil.
- Cook barley and rye berries until each grain is plumped and softened, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cook chickpeas for about 40 minutes, until just soft but not falling apart.
- Combine milk and sugar (or honey) in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Cook until sugar/honey is dissolved, about 3 min.
- Add cooked grains and chickpeas.
- Lower heat and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add pistachios and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Stir in bulgur and continue cooking until thickened, an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve warm, adding honey and whatever fruits and nuts make you happy. A slosh of cream or half and half doesn't, after all, go amiss.
And hey, if you think your friends are relations might enjoy this post, would you mind sharing it with them? I would appreciate it sooo much!
- Making my Grandma Young’s Divinity
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