Archive for July, 2006

Adas (aka Syrian Easter Bread)

When I was a girl, we used to spend Easter mornings at my Syrian grandparents house. It is one of those family traditions that gets seared into your brain, and the sounds, smells and memories of it, never EVER go away.

My memories of these Easter mornings (although there were sadly too few of them), were of warm baked easter bread, hunks of blue cheese, olives, and the cracking of the eggs, a Syrian tradition called what i can only spell as “ta-hoshing”.

The art of “ta-hosh” is where one person would tightly hold a festively dyed boiled egg in their hand while the other person would very lightly tap the other person’s egg with the top of theirs, trying to crack their opponent’s egg before their own. If one egg got cracked, the eggs were flipped, and the game would continue. The person who cracked both sides of your egg first, got to keep your egg.

My jiddu (grandfather in Syrian) was very highly skilled at the art of the tahosh and he would steal all my eggs within moments of the game beginning.

I was always amazed at the precision and consistency of his skills, until one Easter sunday…I learned his secret. It was all in the way one holds the egg. I never mastered his consistency, but eventually…as i grew older, I managed to steal a few of his eggs before all was said and done.

And for those among us, that felt the need to play dirty at it…my grama had secretly created some false eggs, made from ceramic, that would somehow always end up circulating the room. However, after being burned by this prank before, I quickly learned to always check for the validity of my opponents eggs before the tahosh began.

After the games had simmered down, and everyone had had their fill of the tahoshing…there would be trays of syrian easter bread, warm from the oven, smothered in butter or jam, eaten with a hunk of pungent blue cheese and a peeled hard-boiled egg with salt.

The house was always filled with so many people, as my family on my mom’s side is huge. Made up of literally swarms of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins cousins, grand children, great-grandchidren, and yes…even great-great grandchidren. The hum and buzz of the activity, and the smells of this food permeating my grandparents cozy home…while I played and laughed and ate, those memories? Will remain with me forever. never to escape.

But my jiddu died when I was 11 years old. My grama, Mary, eight years later. And with my jiddu’s passing, so passed our family gatherings and much of our traditions. We tried to keep it up for a while, when my grama was still alive…but the family was growing larger, and moving farther apart, children were growing up and moving on. It’s so sad, but that’s pretty much how it happened. How the traditions I loved so much, got lost. But only for a while!

When I was old enough, and was missing these times spent with my grandparents, I started to seek out the things that reminded me of our time together. I found that a lot of my memories could be rekindled through food. And so I sought them out. These family recipes. Most of them were well-hidden and tightly kept to the dwindling few who could still remember them. These recipes were never written down. They were just done. Remembered like family folk lore, passed from generation to generation.

But sometimes…things get lost. And that’s what started happening to my Syrian family recipes. And to prevent that, I started having my mom help me gather up all her own memories and those of her siblings and aunts, and cousins, and nieces and nephews…and I started to gather them up, one by one. Some of them varied slightly from what I remember my grama’s tasting like, and so I would alter, and test, and taste, and try again and again…until I got them as close as possible to what I remembered.

This recipe came to me from my Uncle. And now, my grama’s easter bread (pronounced ah-das) has been written down into the vault.

And so it is with that, that I share it with you here. So that it never gets lost again. And so that it becomes part of new traditions, for anyone who wishes to make them. I hope you enjoy this bread.

SYRIAN EASTER BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

6 cups flour
1 1/2 TB sugar
2 Tsp Salt
12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 pkg rapid rise yeast (2 tsp)
1 TB. ground mahleb (can get from middle eastern markets)
2 sticks of butter

RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Dissolve yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp of sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes until bubbly and foamy
  • Melt butter in sauce pan on low heat until just melted. Remove from heat and add evaporated milk to pan and stir. Add yeast mixture into the milk/butter mixture and stir to combine.
  • Combine all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry, and knead well (by hand, or with dough hook in kitchen-aid mixer). Cover with wax paper and let rest 15 minutes.
  • Knead again and then let rise until double in size. (I usually turn my oven on 200 for 2 minutes, shut it off and then put my dough in the warm oven to rise).
  • Divide dough in half and make into two equal balls. Let dough rise again.
  • When the balls have doubled, roll out each ball into a circle to about 1/2 inch thick
  • Poke bread dough all over with a fork, or with a bread stamp (found at middle eastern markets)
  • Brush with melted butter
  • Bake at 350-375ยบ for 20 minutes or until golden. (I let mine bake for 10 minutes on the bottom rack, and then move up to the middle rack for the last 10 minutes of baking)
  • Remove from oven and brush with a layer of melted butter

Chef’s Notes:
This bread is great with butter and jam.
To reheat, pop in microwave for about 10 seconds.
Traditionally, in my family, we ate this bread on easter day with blue cheese, olives, and hard-boiled eggs.

Add comment July 30th, 2006

spicy yum grilled cheese

my friend john and i love snacks. and whenever we would visit his mom at her cozy cute house, she would always make us little snacks and treats. bowls of tiny nuts, or crunchy things. little tiny fruits. or crispy shrimps in panko crumbs with yummy dips etc.

well, one day…john and i were looking for something a little more sub-sub-substantial (a can of beans, some black-eyed peas, some nescafe and ice??)…

no way! we were looking for some spicy grilled cheeses on texas toast. we’d gotten thee idea from one that we’d shared at some weird stand at a figure-8 race once. and john just got it in his head that we needed to duplicate this comforty spicy treat. so we went out to the store, furiously perusing the isles for the perfect bread, cheese, toast, butter, and yum…spicy peppers.

when we arrived at his mom’s with groceries in tow, she thought we were both nuts. but we perservered. we got out pots, pans and spatulas, and concocted our tasty sandwiches with a dance in our pants. because gosh darn it…cooking with friends? is super fun.

anyway…those sandwiches we made were pretty dang yum. but after experimenting with some ideas i had on the subject…i found the following recipe. i think it’s pretty tasty. and i hope you like it.

SPICY GRILLED CHEESE recipe altered from one found on Epicurius

INGREDIENTS:
3-ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chilies
1 tablespoon light molasses
6 slices sourdough bread – cut to texas toast thickness
6 thick slices of cheddar cheese (i like extra sharp…but you can use mild, or even american cheese if you want)
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (optional)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
lots of butter (of course) room temperature

RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Blend tomato paste, chilies, and molasses in processor until smooth.
  2. Spread tomato/pepper mixture over 1 side of each bread slice.
  3. Arrange 3 bread slices, sauce side up, on work surface. Divide half of cheese among bread slices.
  4. If desired, top with tomatoes, then onion, cilantro, and remaining cheese.
  5. Cover sandwiches with remaining bread slice, sauce side down. Spread butter on outside of sandwich tops and bottoms.
  6. Heat pan or griddle over medium heat.
  7. Cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes per side.

Makes 3 sandwiches

Add comment July 30th, 2006


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