Monday, July 4, 2011

Adventures in a Foreign Kitchen

When I say foreign kitchen, I do not refer to the ethic designation of the Middle Eastern banquet my summer roommates (who are not my roommates this summer, long story) and I prepare each year, but to the fact that we’re working in, um, a less than ideal, certainly not our own kitchen.  Our company-provided (thank you!) student apartment typically comes equipped with a bent fork and foil pan.  Some years, we luck out and get a cutting board, too.  Sure, I bring a few things, but there’s not much room in my two door hatch back after I pack all my motorcycle and canning related accoutrements.

It’s amazing how clumsy I feel cooking my first few meals here.  The work flow is way off, and each year I have to re-learn how to function using an electric stove top.  But soon it becomes a batterie de cuisine iron chef challenge.  Just what can we put out using only a garlic press and wine bottle-cum-rolling pin?

Falafel, for one thing.  But not without a few (or more) cursewords.   As much as I hate food processors (they don’t do things well, and they don’t save me time, I don’t care what Mark Bittman says), I do bring along a mini Cuisinart.   You know that handy feature when you’re processing something thick, and you spend more time taking off the cover and scraping the contents back towards the blade than you do actually processing?  Gawd, I hate that.*  Now multiply that  entire procedure by six when you’re making a large batch of falafel in a tiny food processor.  Saying “I’ll just knock out this falafel before I go to bed,” when it’s already almost tomorrow is akin to saying “I’ll weld my motorcycle side stand before I ride out to Colorado in the morning.”  I don’t care how many times you’ve made falafel, you can count on being stuck in Oklahoma for three extra days.  I wasn’t exactly cooking with love at that moment.  I finally bailed, and finished it in my even smaller mortar and pestle.  It was quicker.  And better.  But I still had to wash the damn food processor.  Will I ever learn?

Falafel patties await immersion in a hot oil bath.

Middle Eastern Party Falafel Prep 001

Making pita reminded me that the short leg disadvantage is not limited to motorcycle riding.  The counter tops in my 1916 house are blessedly below regulation height, but here they are not. I stood on a chair to knead the dough.

Middle Eastern Party 008

Still and all, we did pretty well.  Here are a few samples from our feast, hastily snapped as my low battery light blinked like an angry red eye.

I never really liked hummus all that much until I tasted Gil’s. There's tahini there in the center, hummus around the outside.  Do note the stylish serving plate.

Middle Eastern Party 011

We all know Gil's started preparing his mushrooms when the fumes of the smoking chiles drive us, coughing and choking, out of the apartment.  It's worth it!

Middle Eastern Party 012

We can not stop eating Nadine’s Sucre a la Creme (aka penuche, for you New Englanders out there).  Even after we've made ourselves sick, we have to have just one more piece...

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The banquet is not complete without Turkish coffee prepared in the ebay ibrik.  (Say that 10 times fast.)

Not shown:  roasted potatoes, marinated peppers, kabobs with warm spices, garlicky yogurt sauce, watermelon...

* Please do not tell me to add (more, or any, depending) water, oil whatever.  I don’t want to.  And no, I refuse to grate expensive Parmesan Reggiano in a food processor.  There’s only one way to do it.  And it does not involve a rasp grater, people.  Sorry, but I have a strong opinion on the subject.  Harrumph.

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