Friday, June 21, 2013

Apricot and Vanilla Panna Cotta in Weck Jars

My love for apricots started when I was real young. I was captured by the sweet and tangy taste of the summer fruit. I have a vivid memory of sitting at my Mémé lunch table watching Pépé (my grandfather) parting the stone fruit in half to check if a small worm was hidden in it. And guess what? He did find once a tiny fruit worm and since then I cannot eat an apricot without cutting it in two and looking inside. I was six back then and I can still remember these little details that stayed with me till today.

Apricots are a big staple in the oriental cuisine. They are eaten raw, cooked as jams, dried, pureed and dry rolled. It is a very healthy and nutritious fruit. Dry they can be preserved for years. They don’t lose their flavor or shape. They are also very easy to work with and can even be used in savory dishes. Added to a dish of game and poultry they accentuate the flavors and give a bit of tang to it.

Apricots are in season now. I miss the apricots I used to eat in Egypt. Still, I find a nice assortment of apricots that are sold in the Montreal supermarket coming from the States.

I got these beautiful Weck glass jars from Williams Sonoma at the Quartier X30 store. They are amazing. I loved making the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Apricots in them. Such a feast for the eyes! I plan on baking cakes in them too. They are so versatile.  I am so happy with my purchase. Finally William Sonoma is here and I can buy all the amazing cuisine gadgets locally. Check their facebook page here:

So here is the yummy recipe I want to share with you. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions please leave me your comments below.  Thank you for reading my blog and for all your comments.

*To print recipe click on the green PRINT FRIENDLY button end of the post.

VANILLA PANNA COTTA (for six Weck Mini Mold Jars)
- 400 g of 35% cream (or 15%)
- 100 g of milk (3.5 oz / 104 ml)
- 60 g of sugar
- 6 g of gelatine (about 3 sheets of gelatine)
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract with pasta)

Soften the gelatin in cold water.
Split the vanilla bean in half and reserve the seeds.
Boil for one minute the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds (or vanilla paste). Then Remove the vanilla pod. Add the softened gelatine mixture is still hot and stir to melt.

- 2 tsp agar agar (or 4g gelatin sheets)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract with paste (sold at William Sonoma)
- 1 kilo of apricots (8-10 beautiful apricots) seeds removed
- ½ cup sugar (I prefer raw organic sugar)

- Roasted Hazelnuts or Pistachios for garnish (optional)

Put the apricots and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat and cook for 30 minutes. When the fruit is fully cooked and it had fallen apart, add the vanilla and agar agar. (If you do not have agar agar, add 2 gelatin sheets that were softened in cold water and then add them to the hot mixture.) Allow the mixture to cool then pour in your Weck jars or any glass container of your choice. To create layer of Panna Cotta and Apricot preserve, start by pouring the apricot mixture in the Wecks then alternate between Panna Cotta and the apricot mixture. Allow each layer to cool and harden in the fridge for about 15 minutes or so, before adding the next layer. Then put the filled Weck jars in the fridge for at least two hours before serving. Garnish with toasted chopped hazelnuts or pistachios. Enjoy!


How to use Gelatin in your recipes (by David Lebovitz):

To Use Sheet Gelatin

  • Soak sheet(s) of gelatin in a bowl cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. (Figure about 1 cup, 250ml, cold water per sheet.)
  • Once soft, lift sheets from the cold water.
  • Wring gently to remove excess water, than add to warm liquid, the quantity called for in the recipe, stirring until dissolved. If adding to a cold mixture, melt the softened sheets in a saucepan or microwave over very low heat, stirring just until melted completely. Then stir in the cold mixture gradually.

To Use Powdered Gelatin

  • Sprinkle the granules of gelatin over the surface cold water or liquid. Use 1/4 cup, 60ml, or whatever quantity is called for in the recipe, per envelope. Do not dump them in a pile, as the granules in the middle won’t dissolve.
  • Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add warm liquid or heat gently, stirring until dissolved. To verify the granules are melted, lift the stirring utensil and make certain that there are no undissolved granules clinging to it.

Want to learn more about gelatine, go to


Le Coin Francophone:

Recette de Panna Cotta et sa Gélée d'Abricots

*Pour imprimer la recette cliquer sur le bouton vert au bas de la page.

PANNA COTTA VANILLE (pour six petites vérines Weck) 
- 400 g de crème fleurette
- 100 g de lait
- 60 g de sucre
- 6 g de feuilles de gélatine
- une gousse de vanille (ou 1 c à c depâte de gousse de vanille vendu chez William Sonoma)

Faire ramollir les feuilles de gélatine dans l'eau froide.
Fendre la gousse de vanille en deux dans le sens de la longueur et récupérer les graines.
Faire bouillir pendant une minute la crème, le lait, le sucre, la gousse de vanille vide et ses graines (ou la pâte de gousse de vanille). Retirer la gousse de vanille vide. Ajouter la gélatine essorée au mélange encore chaud et mélanger pour la faire fondre.

- 2 c à c d’agar agar (ou 4g de feuilles de gélatines)
- 1 c à c de pâte de gousse de vanille (vendu chez William Sonoma)
- 1 kilo d’abricots (8 – 10 beaux abricots) sans le noyau
- ½ tasse de sucre

- Noisettes ou Pistaches grillés pour garniture (optionnel)

Mettre les abricots et le sucre dans une petite casserole sur feu doux et laisser cuire pendant 30 minutes. Quand les fruits sont réduits en compote, ajouter la vanille et l’agar agar. (Si vous n’avez pas d’agar agar, faites ramollir 2 feuilles de gélatine dans de l’eau froide et rajoutez les ensuite au mélange chaud.)  Laisser refroidir le mélange ensuite répartir dans des vérines Weck ou le contenant de votre choix. Pour faire des étage de Panna Cotta et Gelé d’Abricot, alterner les deux mélange. Caque étage doit être assez solide avant de mettre le prochain. Pour ce faire il faut mettre les vérines dans le frigidaire pendant minimum 15 min pour que chaque étage soit assez solide avant de rajouter le prochain étage. Ensuite laisser reposer les vérines au réfrigérateur pendant au moins deux heures avant de servir.  Garnir de noisette grillé hachées ou de pistaches. Bon appétit.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Sweet guava treat for Mother's day

Happy Mother’s day to all Moms, Grandmothers, Stepmothers, Aunties and Godmothers.

Creamy Guava Sweet Treat
Being a mom is so wonderful. The day I first laid eyes on my daughter I cried. I was so happy and blessed. My kids are a big part of my life and I am so grateful to have them in my life. I am so proud of my girls. They are more than I could have wished for. Nothing can compare to the love I feel, when I hold them or when I see them happy and content. They are my daily inspiration. I thank God every day for them.

My girls, my pride and joy.
To all moms: I want to share with you today one of my favorite childhood recipes, an easy and delicious guava dessert recipe to share with your family that my grandmother used to make for us every summer. So refreshing and light you won’t be able to put it down.

Creamy Guava Dessert

Serves 6

8 -10 ripe guavas (I used yellow)
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp orange blossom water
Sugar to taste (about half a cup of raw sugar)
Some fresh water (optional)

Remove the skin of the guava and cut it in half. With a small spoon or a melon scooper remove the seeds and reserve in a bowl. Cut the guava flesh in segments and reserve. In a mixer add the guava seeds, sugar, orange blossom water and lemon juice and mix till smooth. Put the mixture in a sieve and remove the seeds. You should get a creamy sauce that is beyond good. Add the sauce to the guava segments and blend well with a spoon. Refrigerate the guava dessert for 30 minute and then serve in glass bowls. Enjoy!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Back the Memory Lane with a Caribbean Inspired Coconut Rice with Shrimps and Pineapples

Today I am going back the memory lane. Same time last year I was spending a year in the Dominican Republic under the Coconut palm trees. 

I met wonderful people who inspired me a lot. The tropical scenery was breathtaking. I could not put my camera down. Another thing I could not put down was coconuts. I love coconut milk, cream, flesh, bowls made with the rind, even body wash with a hint of coconut smell.

Pictures I took during my stay on the island. Notice the beautiful colors and hues.

During my stay on the Island I hired a very sweet lady called Louisa to help me with the house shores. She also helped me practise my Spanish and taught me some of the local dishes. One day she invited us to her house and cooked amazing dishes using coconuts. She prepared Chicken with coconut sauce and green peppers, Gandule beans  (which I learned later is pigeon peas) with coconut and pumpkin and last but not least the famous Caribbean coconut rice. I wanted to learn how to make this super tasty rice and so I asked Louisa to teach me.

Gandule or Pigeon Peas (As a plant as well as bought fresh in the markets)
Next week we prepared the famous Caribbean rice together and Louisa taught me the island way of cooking. Louisa first showed me how she cracks open a coconut with a big knife (machete). She chose a mature coconut (like the ones you find in the grocery stores (with hard brown shells). I was impressed how she handled the knife in the air breaking pieces of the shell with every stroke in an amazing dexterity. When the brown shell was broken it was easy to remove the white flesh. She then broke the flesh into smaller pieces and put them in a mixer with some warm water. After mixing for about 5 minutes we had beautiful milky white coconut milk. Fresh and so so good. No need to buy cans when you can prepare it yourself. Right? 

Louisa making the coconut milk and straining it through a sieve.
We had a feast that day with lots of Caribbean dishes and I was happy to share them with Louisa and her daughter Daniela.

Louisa & Daniela sharing a caribbean gourmet meal with us in Las Terrenas/DR
Today I am sharing with you the coconut rice recipe as well another dish I prepared with the same rice. Coconut Rice with shrimp and fresh pineapples is a simple dish that is very tasty and easy to prepare. I am sure it is a dish you will enjoy and the aromas will remind you of the islands as much as they remind me. ENJOY!

Lola having a bite of shrimp and coconut rice

Coconut rice

1 brown shelled Coconut (0r 2 cans of good quality coconut milk)
Warm water
¼ tsp raw sugar
Salt to taste
½ tbs coconut or canola oil
2 cups Long grain rice or jasmine rice

Remove the flesh from the shell of a mature coconut with a hammer. Be careful not to hurt yourself.
Cut the flesh in smaller pieces. Put the coconut flesh in the blender and add warm water. Mix till the coconut pieces become very fine and the water becomes a shade of white (see picture). Then in a fine sieve remove the coconut pieces and reserve the coconut milk. You can reuse the mashed coconut pieces and make more coconut milk by adding warm water to your mixer. I was able to make about 3 liters of coconut milk with just one coconut. You can drink the coconut milk with your shakes or with tea or use it in other dishes. Do not discard the coconut flesh. Use it in dessert recipes. It can be towelled dried and frozen till used.

Now let’s make some coconut rice. Wash you rice well and reserve. Put the coconut or canola oil in a pot and let it sizzle for 30 sec then add your coconut milk and the sugar. You can add some of the mashed coconut pieces for added coconut flavor. I love adding the flesh. Then Let the coconut milk reduce to the third. You will notice that the coconut milk will become golden brown and will caramelize a bit. This is when you add your rinsed rice. Mix well and add the salt and 2 cups of coconut milk. It should just about cover the rice. So 2 cups or rice for two cups of coconut milk. Let it cook on medium high heat uncovered till you can’t see the liquid anymore. So the rice will have absorbed half the quality. Then lower the fire and let it cook with lid on for about 15-20 minutes. At this point taste your rice. It should be chewy and just about done. Remove from the heat and let it rest another 5 minutes. Then with a large rice spoon or a large fork fluff the rice a bit and serve. Enjoy.


Coconut rice with shrimps and pineapple

·        Shrimps (peeled and deveined; leave tail on for garnish)
·        Salt and pepper
·        1 Pineapple
·        1 medium Spanish onion
·        2 green scallions (sliced in fine rounds) for garnish
·        1 large beef tomatoes (or any fleshy tomatoes) skinned, seeded and chopped)
·        Mild or spicy peppers (such as Jalapeños) - Optional
·        Cooled Coconut Rice (see above recipe)

 Sauté the shrimps in a bit of oil till light pink and cooked. Season with salt & pepper and reserve.
Cut the top of the pineapple and reserve it for decoration. Cut the outside of the pineapple, removing all the hard part and the core that is inedible. Cut the flesh in bites size cubes and reserve.
Mince the onion and sauté till tender and slightly caramelized. Add the chopped pepper and cook for 1 minute. Then add the coconut rice and mix well. Remove from the stove and put the coconut rice mix in a large bowl. Let the rice cool a bit then add chopped scallions, the tomatoes, the pineapple cubes and the shrimp and fluff everything. Serve in a big plate garnished with the head of the pineapple. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Travel post to Dubai + an Oriental Spinach salad and Daoud Pasha Meat Balls

Dubai city of Magnificent Skyscrapers and Creative Designs
There are days, weeks or months were you are just not inspired. Maybe feeling also a bit down. It could be the weather, international events or just some unresolved issues. I have not written anything on my blog for more than two month and felt miserable. I took a lot of pictures, cooked a lot and had a thousand stories in my head, but nothing came out on paper. 

One day chatting with my dad on Skype he suggested I visit him in Dubai. 
A trip to Dubai ! My first ... what a thrill. I was beyond excited to discover this part of the world and be reunited with my dad and sisters who are expats there. So I packed my swimsuit, my camera, my laptop and left the Canadian snow for sunny Dubai. Leaving my girls for two weeks was hard, but I needed some time alone. Some "me" time, well deserved. I am sure lot of moms out there can relate. 

Ali Baba shoes, bronze lanterns and vases, varied and very original spices are among some of the beautiful items you can purchase at the Old Dubai souks.
In the old part of the city lots of building are built with lime stone and coral.  Next to the textile souk I entered a very unusual store where they sell old fabrics dating hundreds of years.

I took all above pictures at the Old Dubai and souks. For more info visit:
When I landed in Dubai 14 hours later I was quite amazed by the tall building and the magnificence of the city. Everything seemed a bit out of proportion, so new, so grand. I was so happy to see my family and spend time with them. I loved visiting the old parts of the city where you can wander through the different souks such as the textile souk, the spice souks or the gold souk. Dubai is a one of the biggest ports of this area. Lots of trading is done there too. So you can find lots of rare spices, amazing pieces of fabrics and so much more. I was quite inspired and bought some great spices to use in my dishes such as some Iranian saffron, beautiful green pistachio slivers and zereshk (Berberies).

The landward side of Dubai Marina has a beautiful 7 miles (11km) long waterside promenade. 
Beautiful Dubai night views from the sea while eating jumbo shrimps @ Aprons and Hammers

Christian Louboutin @the Dubai Mall -  Or a copy of a Celine bag @ the Textile Bazaar

Inside the Dubai Mall
A Botero Statue with a view of the Armani Hotel; The Aquarium at the Dubai  Mall
Stunning sugar confections @ the Dubai Mall
Back home, I was inspired to create a warm spinach salad with these ingredients  which I am sharing the recipe with you here. The Zereshk tastes a lot like dried pomegranate kernels. It has a sweet and sour berry smell and taste that I enjoy immensely. For the main dish I thought that a hearty Daoud Pasha (Oriental meatball dish) would be just the perfect pairing. The use of cumin and dry onions gives the meatballs a great taste. The sauce should be velvety. Perfect when served over white rice. 
In the winter my family used to serve this dish on week days as it is easy to prepare and always enjoyed by kids. You can use beef instead of lamp. It will be equally tasty but not the same. 

Impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
If you visit Abo Dhabi have lunch at the lebanese Abdel Wahab Restaurant  and enjoy the views of the mosque from there. Food was amazing.
Arabesq Sweets at the Dubai Mall: Best Syrian mastic ice cream. So thick it is cut with a knife.
At Burj Al Hamam restaurant with the view on
the Armani Hotel, Dubai Marina and Water Fountains
Yummy treats at the Wafi Gourmet (the Dubai Mall)

© Places I visited in Dubai and that I recommend:
  • The Dubai Mall: Where you have the Ice ring and the Aquarium 
  • The Emirates Mall: Where you have the ski slopes
  • The Dubai Port and Souks (such as the Fabric souk, Spice souk or Gold souk)
  • A unique Bar and lounge: The 360
  • Burj Al Hamam restaurant (with the view on the Armani Hotel, Dubai 
  •  Marina and Water Fountains
  • Dubai Fountains in front of the Armani Hotel & Dubai Mall (many surrounding restaurants have a view on the fountains)
  • Souk Madinat Jumeirah: typical oriental decor; lots of high end shops, great restaurant, bars and much more.
  • JBR Walk (where you find lots of ocean front restaurant, cafés, galleries and shops)
  • Dubai Marina Mall: Nice shops for a small mall
  • Lebanese restaurant Café Blanc at the Marina Mall: Great mezzés and modern Arabic decor. 
  • Arabesq @ the Dubai Mall: Best Syrian ice cream in town

You can find zereshk (Berberies) online@:

Zereshk and Spinach warm salad

  • ¼ cup zereshk (found in Iranian/Oriental stores) could be substituted by dried cranberries but won’t be the same
  • 1 bag of fresh baby Spanish
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • Good olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • Slices or slivered pistachios
Soak the zereshk in warm water for ½ an hour till tender then drain well. 
Blanch the spinach for 2 min in simmering salted water and then rinse with cold water.
Warm the olive oil on a pan then add the saffron and cook for 1 min till the oil has a golden orangey color and becomes fragrant. Add the zereshk and blend well. Remove from the heat and let stand 15 min then add it to your spinach. Squeeze the lemon juice and add some salt. Remember to taste to adjust the flavours. You can add some paprika or Tabasco if you like some heat. Add the slivered pistachios and enjoy!

Daoud Pasha (0r oriental meat balls)

  • 1 kilo of fresh minced meat (preferably low fat lamb)
  • 1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp Salt, pepper and paprika
  • 1 medium golden onion; thinly minced
  • 1 sachet of onion soup (or you can use ¼ of a cup of dried onion)
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ Aleppo red pepper powder (optional)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Some bay leaves

Serve with steamed or fried rice.

Put the flour in a big bowl and add the salt, pepper and paprika and mix well. Form small balls of approx one inch and roll the balls in the spiced flour till well coated.

Put some olive oil in a medium pot and then add a batch of meat balls and let them cook undisturbed till they become golden and detach easily from the bottom of the pot. Then you can stir them to brown all sides. Do not over crowd the pot or the meat balls won’t brown well and will become soggy. When they are well browned removed them and reserve. Add another batch of meat balls and continue the procedure till all your meat balls are well browned. Remove all the meat balls from the pan but keep the yummy bits on the bottom of the pot. 

Add a bit more olive oil and the minced onion. Cook the onions for 1 minute then add the spices and pack of onion soup powder. Brown for 30 seconds then add the stock. Stir well then add all the meat balls to your pot as well as the bay leaves. Cook on medium heat for about ½ and hour till the liquid has thickened and the meat balls are well cooked. Your sauce will become creamier. Remove from heat and serve over the white rice. Enjoy!