Chef School

So why hasn’t MusicalChef been posting any new recipes?

Weeeellll, because I need to learn how to cook! Since moving to Jordan, I feel like I’m starting from scratch in that department. The tools are different, and the ingredients available are different. And I don’t know enough Arabic to ask the shopkeepers for some things I can’t find.  You saw the post about the oven I had in my previous apartment. I had to ask my neighbor how to light it. I had to ask the previous tenant how to light the one in the new apartment. This one seems easier and safer, though. Before I figured out how to use it, I tried to make a batch of brownies in the toaster oven and burned the whole batch! I had a good excuse for not keeping an eye on them – I was writing the last two paragraphs of my thesis! 🙂 

So I got something last week that LOOKED like cornmeal. Of course it wasn’t labeled. I tried to make polenta with it. Well, it wasn’t cornmeal. I still don’t know what it was but it tasted ok. And I went to the makhbaz (bread-seller), and they were making these pancakes outside. They smelled good, and I was hungry by then, so I thought, “Great! Pancakes for sahur!” So I stopped by and picked up some syrup (could only get 2% maple), and we had them the next morning. They were pretty good, but we were wondering why they were so sticky and chewy on one side. Then I found out you’re supposed to stuff something in the middle and fold them into a half moon, fry them, and soak them in syrup! They are called kata’if and are really delicious. So that’s why they’re sticky on one side.  I still like them as pancakes, too.

It seems many of the locals buy canned hummus and “dress it up” at home with garlic, lemon, and tahini. I’ve always made my own hummus with the beans, but I gave the can a try since I haven’t gotten a food processor yet.  One brand was horrible.  Another was pretty good.  I can’t believe I’m using canned hummus.

Broccoli’s hard to get here, and that’s my favorite. It’s available, but it’s expensive. I’m having a hard time getting spinach, too. Our local veggie vendor doesn’t have it, and we don’t make it to the big grocery stores too often. I need to learn to cook some new vegetables. The problem is I don’t like them. I’m a picky eater. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m trying to change that, and get used to new things, but that’s what I’m working with right now. I’ve never liked eggplants, which are popular here, although I don’t mind Baba Ghanoush in small quantities.  Not too crazy about bell peppers either, unlike Chairman Kaga.  I love potatoes but I know they’re not AS good for you as other veggies.  Tomatoes aren’t the main veggie in a dish.  Zucchini’s ok…fried.  Bad!  Oh, and in zucchini bread which I’m not going to attempt here anytime soon.  What else is there in the small greengrocers?  Since we’re not big meat eaters, vegetables are a must!  And I really have never liked beans.  I know I should like them since they’re so healthy, and I’m trying!  I’ll start with chana pulao (rice pilaf with chickpeas).  I sometimes make adas (lentil soup).

Good thing there’s always a 25 qirsh (about 35-40 cents) falafel sandwich waiting for me if I mess up!


8 responses to “Chef School

  1. How can broccoli be anyone’s favorite! 🙂

  2. I taught you well! But we mostly had green veggies.

  3. Assalamu Alaikum
    It was definitely an adjustment for me when I came here…finding the same or similar ingredients, adjusting to cooking with gas (I’d never go back to electric!), adjusting my recipes, making things from scratch I used to buy ready-made (like alfredo sauce), etc. Just so much. Give yourself a bit of time, and you’ll find your cooking nitch again, inshaAllah.

    The broccoli prices are out of sight, which is not normal. No prices are *normal* now, with Ramadan. It should usually run 1.50-1.75 JD per kilo, not 3.50! I bought some anyway, but just a bit.

  4. i shouldn’t have read this when i’m fasting…i have never met a vegetable i didn’t like instantly. How about okra? i love the way it’s made in different mid-eastern cultures.
    and have you read “The Language of Baklava” by Diana Abu-Jaber? It has awesome recipes as well as stories.

  5. Yep, I still miss my broccoli. I’ll try looking for it after the prices go down.

    No, I don’t like okra. The sticky stuff in it kind of creeps me out. I haven’t read the book, but i’ve been wanting to read “Crescent” and some of her other books.

  6. Salaam ‘Alaikum

    Unfortunately, our khodra is falling off; maybe b/c of Ramadan and the price gouging and other things. There are two or three really good ones down by MR supermarket — walking distance. One is $$ but if you like things like avacados, you’ll get it there.

    This isn’t broccoli season in Jo, is it? I was under the impression from last year that the season is in mid-spring.

    If it’s any consolation, even though they sell it, I don’t know any locals who buy canned hummus. I mean, at least not in my family. No, we buy it from whoever the local guy is. Our local guy makes good hummus. His foul is not that great — don’t get it (if you’re into foul, which is an acquired taste).

  7. PS: I remember that the oven in your flat does *not* bake or roast evenly. My friend had the same problems with it.

  8. Assalamu alaikum wr wb
    I miss getting baby spinach. I haven’t been able to find it at all here. I had this amazing spinach salad dish with sliced strawberries, and madarin, and toasted almonds. It was amazing. My mouth is watering already. But, now I just have to imagine myself eating it rather than really eating it because it just doesn’t work with the regular spinach at all.

    And broccoli is indeed expensive as well as the mixed bell peppers.

    I was told that everything was pretty much available here that they have in the U.S and Canada. I was disappointed that they didn’t have Tubes (Go-urts, yogurt in a tube). My kids love this and now we just have to stick to this tiny cup brand which is ok. But, sometimes when you’re on the go, it’s easier and less messier, unless it’s melted.

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