Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Search of the Perfect M'smmen

It took me almost two months to find the perfect m'smmen, a dearly loved fried-bread in Morocco. It took about two months, but it was all worth it.

I loved m'smmen from the start. I mean, what's not to love? I would get it with honey and one of those cheese wedges wrapped in aluminum that barely resemble cheese. Yet, every m'smmen had it's own personality and taste, depending on the chef, who was always a woman. Some m'smmen were round, some square, some doughy - resembling a donut, and some flakey. It was always the best when fresh, and especially tasty when I knew the workers. Once I found the perfect m'smmen, I made sure to go back to it everyday, around six pm, when I knew the woman would be busily making fresh m'smmen.

"Salam wa alikum. Hello." I would great both the chef and Ali, who was one of two workers at the kitchen, and the son of the chef.

"Wa alikum salam. Hello," he would respond, smiling widely.

"La bes? How are you?"

"La bes, humdullah. I am fine, thank Allah."

"Humdullah," I'd agree.

"M'smmen?" He'd ask me, all-knowingly. I would nod, and he'd get right to work, grabbing a piece of m'smmen off the grill, spreading cheese and dripping era honey onto the bread. There was never a need to ask for extra honey after my second visit, because Ali knew of my sweet tooth, and would always make sure I got my extra honey, even if he wasn't the one serving me. On one occasion he nudged the worker serving me to the side so he could put the right amount of honey on the bread.

Almost everyone in Morocco has a certain bakery, hanout, or store, spice-man, butcher etc. that they go to. Due to this loyalty and bond between the customer and the seller, prices are reduced, and free treats are often given. On my first visit to Ali, my m'smmen with honey and cheese was 4.50dh and on my last visit it was 3.50dh. If I ever had to wait, Ali was sure to give me mint tea, or occasionally a small pastry that was ready-made. The bonds I developed between sellers and I became increasingly more valuable to me, and not only because they meant that I was paying less and getting more. It meant I was able to repeatedly see the family to whom my money was directly going to, and that I was able to learn more about Moroccan culture and food through questions I directed at them. Although the bakery near my house, Arizmendi's is delicious in it's own way, the cheese rolls, brioche, hazelnut shortbread, and muffins baked and ready almost simultaneously somehow lack the individual care that the m'smmen, prepared, cooked, and sold by the same person, succeeds in achieving. Although I frequent Arizmendi's, and have lived near it far longer, I still don't know neither the cashier's, let alone the chef's names. Regardless, a different cashier seems to be working in Arizmendi's anytime I go in. There is no wish for conversation, only a wish to ring-up the next customer in line.

After I purchased m'smmen in Morocco, rushing off to the park so I could instantly consume it, I would always say,

"Bslama. À la prochaine. Bye. until next time."

"À la prochaine, inshallah. Until next time, Allah willing," he'd respond.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chocolate Oatmeal with Dries Cherries and Cocoa Nibs

I have a personal oatmeal challenge: create as many different & crazy oatmeal combinations as possible. This one is not so crazy. . . .though I wasn't too excited about cocoa oatmeal, this is definitely one of my favorites to date. I'm also not a fan of dried cherries, and put these in as an afterthought, but they were surprisingly really good with the chocolate (I used Callier cocoa powder from Switzerland. About 1 tbs.). Then, of course, topped off with my staple almond butter.

Inspired idea: Pumpkin-cocoa oatmeal with chocolate chips.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pizza Day!

Love that smell wafting through my kitchen.

I have been inspired to make pizza since my Nebraska excursion. The night I got there, I ate homemade pizza with walnuts. YUM! I never had a pizza with walnuts, and now I never want to have one without them. The next lunch we had a build-your-own-type-pizza from a restaurant, then we had more homemade pizza. All had walnuts on them. Cheeseboard could learn from this. So, after I had this whole wheat pizza dough sitting in my freezer for too long, and basil going bad as it always does, I thought there's no avoiding it. And thus today became pizza day.

I wanted pesto, but I didn't have any. Yes, I'm a big fan of basil, so I can be witnessed piling pesto then basil onto, I went back to the basics:

Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Corn (not pictures on my personal pizza)
Goat Cheese
Portobello Mushroom

As it comes out of the oven, and as you begin salivating and your brain becomes fuzzy and one-track, don't forget to add the following if you're a die-hard fan such as I:

Brewer's Yeast
Habernero Hot Sauce


Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Morning Oatmeal

It only seems right that I should have a post dedicated to oatmeal. I eat it every morning I can, and I love it to death. I've experimented with various combinations. I first started with instant oatmeal. The kind that comes in a package. My first love was with nature's path hemp oatmeal and I'd add almond butter. Yum. Then, I upgraded to steel-cut oats. There was no turning back. Add I just kept adding and perfecting, thinking I was perfecting it, then adding more, and this is the present (delicious)result:

1 serving

*note: I do not measure anything, so these are rough estimates.

1/3 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/4 cup water
1 tsp. rose water
1/2 tsp. allspice
dash of salt
1 tsp cinnamon (I just dunk it on until satisfied. I love my cinnamon)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/5 zucchini (sliced)

When everything is cooked, I add:
1 tbsp. almond butter
1 tsp. pumpkin butter/molasses/honey/maple syrup (aka my favorite sweetener. Lately pumpkin butter.

I want to add some cardamom, but I've had so many cardamom failures that I'm scared. I'll begin with a little at a time.

Add Harry Potter and you're set.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tahini Quick Bread?

It was such a lie, but still delicious. I think you can tell which was mine...It turned out mree like a brownie/cake thing. So moist and crumby and delicious. I just topped it with creamed honey to make it more sweet. I would definitely make it again, but I think as cupcake/muffins. It's relatively healthy too. The recipe comes from Have Cake, Will Travel, but I pasted it here for your convenience.

I used agave nectar, regular whole wheat flour and oat flour instead. For the cocoa powder, I used a semi-sweet, rich variety that I still have from Switzerland.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons (16 g) instant coconut milk powder, optional
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (85 g) tahini
1/3 cup (80 ml) pure maple syrup
4 ounces (1 individual container, 113 g) unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy creamer or nondairy milk

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Lightly coat an 8 x 4-inch (20 x 10-cm) loaf pan with spray.
In a large bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, optional coconut milk powder, and cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, combine tahini, maple syrup, applesauce, extract, and milk.
Fold wet ingredients into dry, being careful not to over mix.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack, still in the pan, for about 15 minutes before transferring directly to the rack, and letting cool completely before slicing or storing.

Yield: one 8-inch (20-cm) loaf

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cookies and Cupcakes oh my!

Cookies part 1

So, I really just wanted one cookie, but you can't just make one cookie...or can you? So, I made around five and gave three away. I just wanted one really.

And it was so long ago that I forget what I put in them. Terrible, I know. But they were decked out with chocolate chips and some other experimental stuff that I forget. I'll oupdate this if my memory fixes itself, but I'll probably forget to.

Yummy chewy-ness.
Cupcakes part 2
Katja, Eva and I are sharpening our vegan cupcake skills for a vegan cupcake bake-off! We made a chocolate cupcake to start, which was pretty tasty if I do say so myself, although I'm really not into chocolate flavored things. I just like my good ol' chocolate bar. That's all it needs to be. Anyways, we tried this buttercream frosting, and although it was yummy, we all consented that we couldn't make it again. So much butter and sugar it was almost unappetizing. I ate three, nonetheless.

We made one large batch and divided it up so we could each experiment a little.

Peete's Coffee
Cayenne Pepper + Ginger


My favorites were Cayenne Pepper & Ginger and the Coffee one. So. Good. Honestly, cupcakes are way up there with my favorite foods. Especially the one that an awesome Teen Team girl got me from Love at First Bite. I swear to god, best cupcake ever. Gingerbread with cream cheese frosting with candied ginger piece (love ginger!). She gave me two of these. Plus a chocolate one.

Friday, April 2, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

I get into phases of food where I eat them constantly. I've been obsessed with these foods for quite sometime.

1) Yogurt with stuff
Current Yogurt With Stuff Ingrdients: (they change, but this list is what I am currently inlove with)
- Plain, Whole Soy & Co. yogurt
- Granola! (Especially the 13 Rabbits kind with cashews, almonds, hazlenuts, pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs etc. It's amazing)
- 1/2 a banana thinly sliced
- 1 big strawberry or 2
- 1 diced date (my mom has been getting the most amazing dates. They have the most perfect texture and flavor ever)

How long have I been obsessed with yogurt, granola and bananas? Since late November when I started reading the 6th HP book again.

Fond memories? Cuddling up in my blanket and eating maple yogurt (so sad there is no vegan maple yogurt at BK Bowl...yet...) while reading about Harry Potter and his magical world.

2) Popcorn!
Current Popcorn Ingredients:- margarine
- salt & pepper
- nutritional yeast
- jalopeno hot sauce (my popcorn necessity)
- kernals (duh. I buy a container from Target so I can pop as much as I want)

How long have I been obsessed with popcorn? Too long. It's true that I go through phases and have been known to eat two bowls of it by myself, but definitely since middle school.
Fond memories? Oh boy yes. I used to eat popcorn while playing various Sim games with apples. Now I eat it while reading Fruits Basket online, though it is kind of a struggle.

3) Oatmeal with Almond Butter
Current Oatmeal Ingredients:
- Nature's Path Instant Hemp Oatmeal
- cinnamon
- almond butter*

How long have I been obsessed with Hemp Oatmeal and Almond Butter? A while, but not too long. I have always loved oatmeal, although my stomach protested to this love. When I bought Nature's Path, all that changed. I think we were destined to be together. After I read an article about nut butters, I had to try almond butter in my oatmeal and it was divine. Next, I tried peanut butter and hazlenut cocoa butter which proved vastly inferior to my love. I always come back to almond butter.

Fond Memories? Nothing so emotional and dramatic as those I shared above. Just nice mornings/lunch hours/nights reading while eating oatmeal and almond butter.

*note you CAN go overboard with almond butter. Or, at least I can. Just like with nutritional yeast and butter *shudders* This week I got exciting and put a lot of almond butter in it and my stomach wanted to commit suicide. But then again I have a sensitive stomach. I like it best when the almond butter's taste isn't prominent in every bite. It gives the oatmeal some diversity.

I often eat these for dinner and lunch too. My meals are not conventional. I love breakfast foods!