dessert

Valentines Day Semolina sponge cake aka Namoura || Basbousa || Hareesay

What is everyone doing for Valentines Day??? I have such a love hate relationship with this holiday and let me explain why.  Despite the fact that my last name means love in Arabic, so I believe everything love and hearts and pink and frills is in my blood because c'mon obviously my name is indicative that either my great grandfather was cupid himself or worked very closely with him.  So I love love.  But I hate feeling forced to celebrate something just because I'm a consumer, and I am very much a sucker consumer.   I buy something just because they're giving out samples (to be fair, I usually like it and  I like supporting small business and usually they are small businesses), or the packaging is pretty (again, to be fair, I'm a huge packaging fan).  I love the holiday itself, I love celebrating love.  I also love an excuse to throw a themed party, and make everyone wear red or pink.  But I don't want to be told to.  I don't want to go out to a restaurant on Valentines Day with my husband just because its Valentines Day.  I much prefer to go out the day before or after Valentines Day just to be rebellious.  On Valentines Day I prefer to stay home or have friends over and make a home cooked meal, something special and celebrate love the way I want to, on my own terms.  

Use a Turkish/Arabic coffee "dolay" {coffee pot} as a decorative piece

Use a Turkish/Arabic coffee "dolay" {coffee pot} as a decorative piece

This year I wanted to make a middle eastern style Valentines Day get together and reinvent fun middle eastern dishes and desserts.   I'm going to post them in stages because it takes so much time to write up a post and I don't want to keep you waiting as I get it all together!   

Semolina yogurt sponge cake is known as Hareesay in Syria, Namoora among Palestinians and Lebanese and Basboosa in Egypt and North Africa.  It's the equivalent of brownies and is commonly consumed with tea or coffee.  But then again, in the Middle East they drink tea and coffee all day everyday so pretty much everything is consumed with coffee haha. 

This is yet another thing my mom used to make that I always thought was sooo impossible to make and again I'm surprised that it's so easy! The only downfall is I found out how much sugar is in it and that was a little scary.  But there is yogurt in it so that's good, right?

Moving on.

The way to make this dessert is by mixing all the ingredients and then letting it sit for a little while it all rises.  Then incisions are made, usually in the shape of diamonds so it bakes into the shape of diamonds and its easily cut off.  Almond halves or pistachios are usually used to top each diamond for a nice little crunch but mainly decoration.  To make this Valentines Day appropriate, I thought to make heart incisions instead of the diamonds but that seemed wasteful because there would be so much extra cake.  So, I purchased little candy lips from the supermarket and topped each one off with that instead of the almond or pistachio. 

My daughter Ayla is in the phase of wanting to "help mommy" So everything is "I help mommy" "mommy I do it" " Ayla help".  So she threw these cookie cutters on top as I was taking pictures and I actually liked it.  She was so proud of herself too haha.

My daughter Ayla is in the phase of wanting to "help mommy" So everything is "I help mommy" "mommy I do it" " Ayla help".  So she threw these cookie cutters on top as I was taking pictures and I actually liked it.  She was so proud of herself too haha.


the BEST Nutella Cookies

Okay so I know my last post was a little rebellious in that it wasn't a modern middle eastern recipe necessarily and now I'm posting a Nutella cookie recipe and everyone knows Nutella is very much an Italian spread.  Let me just take a moment and explain my train of thought and why I felt this post was not only acceptable to post on my "modern middle eastern" blog but necessary.  If anyone has ever been to Syria or Lebanon and I'm sure any of the other Middle Eastern countries then you know Nutella is as much part of the culture as falafel and hummus are.  To describe the modern middle eastern culinary world as I know it and to not include Nutella would not be a fair account of the cuisine of this region.   

Pita bread with Nutella spread and bananas is a very normal breakfast in Damascus.  I've had this recipe hand written for over 10 years and I'm not sure where I originally got it from but I can almost very confidently say I got it from one of my cousins in Damascus.   "Almost" and "confidently" in the same sentence seems like a contradiction haha.  Without further delay I give you my most favorite Nutella cookies ever.  Plus these stack so perfectly on top of each other that they make the perfect little gift for the holidays or just because.