Tag Archives | recipes

food for memory

I left most of my cookbooks in New York when we moved out here. With epicurious and all the other food websites (dinnerdujour, anyone? or the fantastically named ezrapoundcake?)  I figured I could use that space to pack more of Caleb’s important Sticks and Rocks. I did, however, bring my binder.  A binder with recipes in it, not women (thanks Mitt, for an image that will never, ever die).

At some point before we moved, in a fit of organizational madness, I got tired of all the random bits of paper floating around the cabinet where I kept my cookbooks, so I bought a binder and got all Martha Stewart, with little dividers and thematic details (all the tomato recipes clustered together, for instance). I even had a section for “wine,” a hopeless thought if ever there were one. Mostly I buy “that stuff I had that one time at the place with that tapas.”  And that selection process is a significant step up from purchases made on the basis of whether or not I liked the design on the label.

So I had this binder, jammed full of random bits (because the Martha-method of organization didn’t last more than about six months), and I brought it with me. Before we moved, I weeded out the recipes (was I ever really going to make a seven-layer cake? Not if my life depended on it. Ditto fondant. Ditto anything that involves large quantities of anchovies), and so when I arrived in my new dun-colored Abu Dhabi kitchen, the binder had become a collection of greatest hits, tried-and-true, and the occasional Pulling Out All The Stops (beet napoleons from Cooks Best Illustrated).  I still get recipes off the internet but more often than not, I turn to the binder.

Thanksgiving, of course, requires a lot of binder-time. Thanksgiving, more so than Christmas or birthdays or any other holiday, is when I feel furthest away from my regularly scheduled life in New York. The reassuring – and rather bizarre — idea that everyone (or most everyone) is sitting down to eat some version of the same food, for the same reasons…it’s not easily translated to other countries, most of which lack a parallel holiday. Luckily, we once again this year were invited to a Thanksgiving feast by the friends who took us in last year – and once again, I offer up hosannas in praise of colleagues and friends who are also excellent cooks. It wasn’t my good china on the table and the babies clambering around weren’t related to me, but nevertheless it felt good to be cradled in the comfort of ritual.

As I puttered around my kitchen making my mother’s dill bread, Suzanne’s carmelitas, my aunt’s vinaigrette – all recipes from the binder – Liam wandered into the kitchen and begin to flip through the binder pages, which are transparent sleeves into which I’ve slipped emails with recipes, clippings, jotted recipes gathered from friends.

“This isn’t really recipes,” he said. “It’s like a whole book of memories.”

Maybe that’s the real reason I left the cookbooks in New York but brought along the binder. The cookbooks are just recipes but the binder is history.

As my special Thanksgiving present, the recipe for Suzanne’s oatmeal carmelitas (which for all I know, came from the back of a package somewhere, but in our house, they come from Suzanne):

14 oz bag of light caramels (your basic Kraft are fine); 1/2 cup evaporated milk or light cream; 2 cups each of flour & quick cooking rolled oats; 1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1 t baking soda; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 cup melted butter; 1 cup semisweet chocolate bits; 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Heat caramels in heavy-bottomed pot with cream, then let it cool slightly

Combine rest of the ingredients, except for chocolate chips (and nuts if you’re using nuts) in a large bowl to make a crumbly mixture.

Press 2/3 of mixture into greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes (slightly browned at edges); remove pan from oven

Sprinkle with chips and nuts, pour caramel over top of chocolate chips, then sprinkle top with the remaining oats mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then chill for 1-2 hours before serving (do not attempt to cut these into slices until they’re really cool, or they will ooze into a gooey (but delicious) mess.

If you can’t find caramels, which is weirdly hard to find in the UAE, you can make your own caramel sauce or use dulce de leche sauce from a jar.



as you sit there, still reeling from tryptophan, why don’t you click over and see what’s cooking in the yeahwrite kitchens? 

Continue Reading · on November 25, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, food, lost in translation, NaBloPoMo, UAE

Sometimes chili is chili. Sometimes it’s a metaphor.

I cook at lot in the fall. Something about that first chill in the air that makes me want to get all Ma Ingalls and make big pots of rib-sticking food, much of which I freeze for the winter months. Of course Ma Ingalls didn’t have a freezer but you take my point.

So. I decided to make chili. And also a squash-apple-curry soup. Because even though it’s 85F and sunny outside, it’s November, dammit, and in November, a person makes soup. Like Maurice Sendak said, “In November’s gusty gale,  I will flop my flippy tail and spout hot soup – I’ll be a whale! Spouting once, spouting twice, spouting chicken soup with rice!”

We invited some friends to dinner as a cooking incentive; I did the walk of shame through the pork room at the grocery store, bought vegetables (I put vegetables in my chili), entered the dark warren of my kitchen, and set to chopping.  Maybe it’s a good thing that there aren’t any windows in my kitchen: it makes it easier to feel fall-ish.  Of course, when I emerged from the kitchen, I’d stand in the hall blinking for a few seconds at the brilliant sunshine streaming in the windows.

Into my chili went: chorizo from Spain, carrots from Jordan, eggplant from Iran, peppers from Holland, kidney beans from the French chain store Carrefour, canned tomatoes from Waitrose in the UK.  The chili powder – well, the chilly powder – and other spices came from the UAE.

On top of each bowl of chili went a blob of labneh (like a cross between sour cream and yogurt, and made locally); a sprinkle of grated Kraft cheddar; and a handful of chopped cilantro from Abu Dhabi.  (And no I didn’t have any cheddar cheese on my chili; I’m on day two of being cheese-free, and while life no longer seems worth living, at least I’ve stuck to my pact for two entire days.)

A global chili, that’s what I made.  A metaphor in a pot,  a cosmopolitan stew.

Plus? It was delicious.  Fall is definitely in the air.


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Continue Reading · on November 2, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, food, NaBloPoMo

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