Monthly Archives: December 2007

the nth attempt

making kubba batata

I’m still trying to make a decent kubba batata or kibbeh batata…kubba/kibbe made with a potato shell. The kubba I remember and love had a shell that was savory but very light, unlike the more rustic and “chewier” bulgur based shells.

Oh, and of course, I have a long lasting love affair with potatoes. There are very few, if any, dishes made of potato that I dislike.

I constructed the kubba into round flat patties–the outside being potato, the inside with normal kubba filling. Half of the batch was made with a pure (cooked) potato shell…and half the batch was made with a mixture of cooked potatoes and rice, mashed together. Assembled, before frying, they looked delicious and oh so delectable.

kubba batata in progress

But alas! Disaster struck once the kubba went into the hot oil.

I’m not one to only advertise culinary success–I think that tragedy is only part of the cooking experience, and always entertaining. After all, without unfulfilled desire/tragedy/disaster, the story gets pretty boring and insignificant.

So–revel in my potato kubba tragedy:



At this point, I’m convinced that the shell must contain egg, even though my husband says he’s never seen his mother include egg as an ingredient. He never actually saw her construct kubba, so I have my doubts. I’ll be sure to use egg next time. I’m desperate to find a potato kubba recipe, or at least know what ingredients the shell might contain. Cooked, mashed potato…egg…flour?


Kimono Kitty

I think I have discovered a new favorite drink. For more reasons than one.

Persian Nougat at last!

Persian nougat, done

Ah–victory at last! After miserable failed attempts, I made a successful batch of Persian (or Middle Eastern) nougat, thanks to the help of a friend with experience in candy making.

Persian nougat is a candy that I have longed to make for years. Similar to Italian torrone, yet substantially different in texture and flavor to merit distinction, it is a candy that is not sold in many places, nor is it a candy that is popular in recipe books. I know. I searched far and wide. And failed to find how to make it. But a reader here pointed me to a basic recipe for the nougat, and I quickly saved it to make with my friend R, who I knew would not lead me astray in candy making. I was sick of making mistakes. This time, with the actual recipe in hand, I had to have a perfect result!

I could TASTE the nougat in my mouth as I read the recipe. Oooooh.

I didn’t grow up with this candy but many members of my extended family did and this is a favorite snack in the household. I know why, because I have fallen in love with it–the nougat has brought joy and delight and consolation in many circumstances. It is just the best.

The initial recipe left out some crucial spices and ingredients (ooooh, it bugs me when cooks post recipes but leave out “secret ingredients,” secret ingredients that in this case are critical path), but the most crucial bit was documented: the main nougat part with the egg whites and sugar syrup. And you too, can fine tune the spices to your own tasting. I like to add a good amount of cardamom as well as rose water (generous amounts of cardamom and rose water), you might want to add different things such as orange blossom water instead.

I’ve posted the recipe below, with my own adjustments. I hesitated to post this, because this recipe is so precious and a part of me feels incredibly selfish, wants to keep it for herself! But no. This isn’t a family recipe, it was handed to me by a reader, and I pass it back to you, with good amendments.

The process is fairly straightforward–but like with all candymaking, precision is of the utmost importance. Take the sugar syrup to the precise temperature (next time, we’re going to take it a bit higher than we did this time, for a firmer nougat). Make sure the egg whites are stiff.

Boiling sugar syrup

And in stages, you’ll add the syrup to the egg whites. BE VERY CAREFUL. The sugar syrup will be beyond boiling temp, and you are pouring it into egg whites AS THEY ARE BEING WHISKED, so pour slowly, pour at a distance, pour out of the whisk’s way…or else you run the risk of it spattering.

Persian nougat in progress

Add your spices and rose water…then put into a shallow dish and let cool.

This nougat wasn’t as fluffy as the nougat from the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, and in fact I was initially disappointed in the dense texture of this nougat. However, according to a good source, this resembles the nougat out of Baghdad. A true compliment, as my source grew up in Baghdad and he said this candy reminded him of his childhood.  This is real “baba kadrasi!” he cried out with a smile.  He was the reason I sought out this recipe, really–and I was glad to make him happy.

Persian nougat!

I hope you enjoy the recipe and if you make some, enjoy the nougat, too. My next ambition is to make some Korean candy…and also to figure out how to make this nougat without using corn syrup (yes, it’s a listed ingredient).

Basic recipe follows after the jump…

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The great Kubba experiment

kubba in process

I loooove kubba, at least, the way my mother-in-law made it, Iraqi-style with an incredible thin shell and flavorful and juicy meat stuffing. She was a fantastic cook, someone who (along with a good friend in college) instilled my foodie tendencies and gave me the base for my cooking fervor. They say that in the Middle East, you can judge a cook by his/her (more likely her) kubba, just as in Korea you judge a cook by his/her (more likely her) kimchi.

By Middle Eastern standards then, I am a horrible cook, because I have never made a decent kubba. I’ve made some great tasting filling, but my kubba or kibbe or kibbeh or kobeba, once constructed, has a dry, thick shell that overwhelms any juicy meat stuffing. I guess that’s an improvement from my first kubba attempt–I couldn’t even get the filling around the meat, I just had lumps of disaster.

And yet, every few years, I try to make kubba on my own. Each time, the results are a little closer to the real thing, though I’ve never been able to replicate my mother-in-law’s kubba (some day, some day). The traditional recipe calls for a bulgur cracked wheat based shell, but I am beginning to think that that is not what she used (the cream of wheat below is for a different kind of kubba, the kind that goes into stews).

ingredients for kubba

The ingredients are above–spices, pine nuts, parsley, an onion, ground beef…and bulgur for the shell (the cream of wheat again, is for a different kind of kubba, described later on below).

This website that I and my friends share with you–one of the purposes of it is to serve as an archive for my own recipes. And these days, I’m trying to compile family recipes, and in this case, re-create a family recipe.

Visually, the kubba were a success. And they do beat kubba I’ve had in some restaurants.


But my husband and I, we’re still dreaming of his mother’s kubba. Next time, I’ll work on making a thinner shell, and maybe using something other than bulgur for the shell base. He and I are now in agreement that his mother did not use bulgur for the shell. Maybe matzo? Who knows. We’ll keep experimenting. It’s how I ended up making many of her other dishes, guessing secret ingredients and other components until the dishes tasted just like hers.

Still, there’s something you can do with leftover kubba filling–it’s easy and not as complicated as making kubba, but it’s just as delicious. And if all your kubba fails, you will still be left with something savory and delicious to eat, something I call “kubba meat omelettes” that my mother-in-law also used to make. And I think it might actually be an authentic dish, though I can’t verify that.  It is also called “Uk.”

kubba filling

Eat it in a pita with some hot sauce (sriracha, or sambal oelek…or just some hummus), or eat them on their own. It’s a good reward, successful kubba or no. They’re great for brunch, served room temperature or cold. In sum, they’re versatile and yummy.

And they’re good for my cooking self-esteem. For, of all else fails, at least there are these tasty omelettes to fall back on. I wonder, sometimes, if these came about from the failed kubba of other cooks.

But onward to other kinds of kubba!

There are several different kinds of kubba–in addition to the kubba above, there is kubba made with semolina, cooked in a stew like dumplings.

kubba for the kubba bamia

The above kubba look different, yes, because the shell is made of semolina (or cream of wheat). The stuffing is also different–less spicy than the kubba above, and void of pine nuts.

The cream of wheat kubba is not to be fried…they’re included as dumplings in a stew…

Cooked in an okra stew, the “kubba bamia” is wonderful…

kubba bamia

The stew by itself is great–a favorite in our household, but with kubba the stew takes on an extra flair.

Recipes follow after the jump…

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The lune

Butternut squash lune pasta!

I purchased a pasta roller last week, an attachment to my kitchenaid mixer that I’ve been eyeing for quite some time. I’ve also been hesitating for quite some time, because it’s an expensive accessory for a food (pasta) that I don’t eat very often, and pasta is a food that I generally try to avoid (I’m watching my weight though admittedly, I generally watch my weight in a very passive manner–as I just recently watched myself gain two pounds…okay, enough of that weight digression).

Despite the odds, I purchased a pasta roller in a moment of self indulgence. And I used it.

Instead of tackling something entirely new for Muffin Top, I decided to use a recipe in our archives–that of Mario Batali’s Pumpkin Lune with Butter and Sage, using The French Laundry’s recipe for pasta dough (minus one egg, because I only had six eggs on hand). Given that this was my first time making pasta dough from scratch, I thought I would use Connie’s directions as a spiritual guide.

homemade butternut squash lune pasta (ravioli) in process

As Connie suggested, I started making the pasta dough in a large mixing bowl (what a great suggestion) and aside from keeping my marble clear from broken yolk, it actually helped keep the flour well intact. I was surprised at how simple pasta is to make, and silently vowed to make pasta more often.

But it’s a bit of work–especially that kneading part! The French Laundry recipe says to knead the pasta dough for a minimum of 15 minutes (and then to knead it an additional 10 minutes). So I was kneading for nearly 30 minutes, in fear of “pasta collapse,” according to directions:

Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra ten minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Whatever pasta collapse is, it sounded terrifying. So I kneaded. Vigorously. For half an hour. By the end, I wasn’t exactly sweating, but I was definitely feeling warm. A good way to burn off calories for the imminent pasta fest. While the pasta dough rested, I focused on the filling. The pasta dough is supposed to rest for between 30 minutes to one hour, so you’ll want to work accordingly.

I’d roasted a small butternut squash the night before. Yes, I used butternut squash because that’s what I prefer…and you’ll definitely want to do the roasting beforehand if you want the timeline to work well. The squash took about an hour to roast–Mario Batali’s recipe states half that time, but my squash, like Connie’s, was not anywhere near soft at that point. Plus, you’ll need cooling time for the filling.

If you’ve roasted your squash/pumpkin the night before (or before making the pasta) the filling is a quick step: it’s simply combining ingredients and mixing/mashing them together.

Rolling out the pasta was a fun matter–kind of like craft class for me, really! Though I rolled the pasta out to the appropriate thinness for ravioli, according to my pasta roller’s directions (notch “5”), I think I will roll them out thinner in the future. It was still very satisfactory, and the thicker pasta gave the lune a rustic mien.

Filling and making the ravioli reminded me of my childhood. No, I’m not Italian, but I am Korean, and the round pasta, with filling, and the process of sealing the edges in reminded me of making mandu or mandoo with my mother. Though Batali’s recipe says to just seal the edges, I was a bit dubious…so I used little dabs of water on the edges before sealing and pinching the lune shut. (Be sure to not leave ANY air inside the pasta–otherwise they will pop open while being boiled!) The water seal was a great reassurance to me–and none of my lune popped–the result was good enough for me.

homemade butternut squash lune pasta (ravioli)

In the end, I had a very good little stack of lune. I was disappointed by the fact that all of the pasta rolling work had resulted in only fourteen ravioli (though they were sizable). I had hoped to have enough to freeze for another meal, or enough to give to a friend. But nope. So you’ll want to double the French Laundry pasta dough recipe to match it to the Batali (or likewise, halve the Batali filling recipe).

The hardest part was done–I followed the recipe for the butter and sage–yes, the lune splatters as it enters the hot butter as Connie says (so watch out). And I did leave the amaretti cookie out because I didn’t have an amaretti cookie.

Oh, and like Connie, I didn’t throw away the pasta scraps–I saved them to eat a rustic pasta meal a couple nights later.

Enjoy–thank you Connie and Batali and Keller, for the inspiration, and for initiating me to pasta making!

Recipes follow after the jump…

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