Zaatari, a Refugees Restaurant

Last year I told you about a friend living in South Sudan and her Pringles quandary. Well, now that same friend has moved onto Jordan and is working in Zaatari, the world’s second largest refugee camp. Kathryn continues to post some amazing images to her Instagram and Tumblr, and of course I pick up on her food-related posts.  Introducing the world’s most interesting restaurant, brought to you by Adu Muhammed.

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Simple Seasoning, Sharing of the Rib-Eye

Seared Rib-Eye

Simple is best, sharing is better.  I was fortunate enough to be given a 32oz bone in rib-eye, a cut of meat that I’ve never cooked before, and something that completely terrified me.  Sure I’ve cooked big chunks of meat before, but nothing as special as this.  There aren’t many recipes or instructions out there on how to cook a slab of meat that size, I didn’t even know how many people it would serve – of course I could have just saved the leftovers for myself – but where’s the fun in that?  I went simple, and small.  A couple of friends, a couple of sides and a simple seasoning of salt and pepper, there was plenty of fat on this bad boy that no added oil was needed.

A rubbing of s&p, a searing of about 6-8 minutes on either side in a heavy skillet, and a roasting of about 15-20 minutes until it reached about 120 degrees was all it took.  Accompanied by a few sides of sauteed leeks, creamy parmesan mashed potatoes and roasted carrots, this was a perfect meal for two hungry friends and myself.  The fun of cooking like this is the sharing of the meal, cutting the meat at the dinner table, it really is a great way to cook and entertain.  Something I plan on doing more of.

Check out a few more photos after the jump.

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Proving Mom Wrong: Salami Mozzarella Bake

A recent visit from my mother reminded me that I didn’t always have the ability to cook a meal. Claiming that cheese on toast and a bacon sandwich doesn’t count (you be the judge), she insisted that I cook for her during her visit. Naturally, I obliged.  However, during that meal I came to realize that I had in fact cooked for her—I was vindicated.  There was one dish, a dish that I have cooked a lot, but not in recent years.

A salami-mozzarella casserole bake. Ha. It isn’t a fancy dish or a dish to impress, but in these cooler months ahead it is one to add to your chili or soup collection. It’s filling and flavorful, and incredibly addictive.

It’s been over 15 years since I first cooked this dish. I can’t tell you where the recipe came from; it certainly wasn’t something I created myself and it preceded most Internet recipes. I can’t even recall the original ingredients as it’s one of those recipes you can alter to whatever suits your taste—which I have done over the years—so long as you keep the three key ingredients: salami, tomatoes and mozzarella.

Salami Mozzarella Bake

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Pringles: An Existential Question

A friend of mine recently departed on leave from South Sudan after spending several weeks carrying out aid work. During her time there she witnessed plenty of hardship and suffering, sharing in the day-to-day activities and working side-by-side with the people of this newly formed country.  On her UN flight home she was offered a choice—a simple one, but after many weeks of lentils and rice perhaps a significant one for her.  She ponders:

Existential question: I live in the world’s newest country. On a UN flight today, there was an option to buy Pringles, which I promptly ordered. The flight attendant offered me “cheesy cheese” or “original” flavors. My colleague and I ordered one of each. It turns out that “original”  is actually salt and vinegar here. This begs the question: in a new country, who determines that sea salt and vinegar flavor is “original”? What are the implications of this flavor conundrum? Is this a painful gastronomical residue of British colonialism?

In the grand scheme of things this is a pretty insignificant thought, a lighthearted conundrum for someone who was given a simple choice to entice her taste buds after many weeks of bland lentils and rice.  However, it raises an interesting question: who gets to decide what “original” is? And why do they change it for different regions?

I grew up in Britain, with the same “original” Pringles as the US, so I don’t think the UK had any influential factor here (although s&v is my personal favorite.)  But the same question could be asked for other regions around the world: what determines an “original” palate from nation to nation; it’s not as if lightly salted is defined to a specific region or salt & vinegar has any agricultural prevalence…why do Germans prefer red pepper, Americans plain, Indonesians barbecue and Austrians garlic?

(Photo: Pringles)

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Around The World In 80 Plates: The New Top Chef?

Wednesday night Bravo dishes out its newest, and what is claimed to be most expensive original programming venture yet — Around the World in 80 Plates — an ambitious show that pits 12 chefs from across the US against one another in a global setting. I know what you’re thinking: another Top Chef. So was I. But it turns out that 80 Plates is different. In fact, after previewing the first episode, I’m going to be so bold as to say it’s better, and perhaps a legitimate successor to the stale and repetitive Top Chef. Think Amazing Race meets the “restaurant wars” episode of Top Chef, which I know we can all agree is the most exciting and entertaining challenge that Top Chef has to offer these days.

80 Plates is hosted by Cat Cora and Curtis Stone, who, as we also know, I’ve been crushing on for some time. Throughout the course of the season we’re going to be treated to “food ambassadors” such as Jose Andres, Nigella Lawson and Wolfgang Puck. These ambassadors won’t play judge but will act as mere representatives of the cultures to which the competing chefs are exposed.

Continue reading for what to expect in episode one — no spoilers, I promise.

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Blendtec: A 99% Rationale

I love gadgets and my kitchen is full of them: mini-food processor, mini-crockpot, Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, deep fat fryer, slow cooker… You get the picture, but one item I’ve always lacked was a blender…until recently. I splurged and went with a Blendtec Total Blender, $400 worth of blending goodness. Yes, $400. I get that this is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a blender when there are tons of cheaper blenders out there, and I’m sure something as simple as a Magic Bullet would suffice for smoothies.

Here’s my justification. I’ve been on a smoothie kick of late but the only place I can find one close to my office is at Whole Foods. They charge $7.50 a drink which I think is a little absurd for some blended frozen fruit and ice. A couple of bags of frozen fruit — enough for five smoothies — is $12, plus a carton of coconut water is $3.95. Instead of spending $37.50 on smoothies a week I’m now spending $15. A weekly saving of $21.50. In 19 weeks I’m going to be even. In 20 weeks that $400 Blendtec will start saving me money.

The BF thinks my rational is ridiculous. He thinks the idea of spending $7.50 on a smoothie to begin with is too much. I’m sure he’s not alone in thinking that. But he’s wrong. In addition to saving money, it’s pretty to look at and I will make many other things in the blender, not just smoothies — margaritas for instance.

Who’s right? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and enjoy a recipe for my smoothie du jour.

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Welsh Rarebit Lamb Nachos

Recently, I was invited to participate in a recipe competition hosted by the American Lamb Board. I think in all the years in writing for ES I’ve only ever cooked up one lamb dish. In a moment of weakness I agreed to participate. The premise of the contest is to create an original dish (do they even exist these days?) using a cut of meat provided to us by the good folk at Border Spring Farms in Virginia — in this case a dry aged boneless leg of lamb.

The more I thought about creating a dish with a slab of meat I’m not incredibly comfortable with, the more I became intimidated. I’m in this contest with a flock (ha! I apologize) of other DC-area food bloggers and these guys are pretty awesome. In the spirit of all things Endless Simmer I decided to do what I do best — nachos. We’re big fans of nachos, actually pretty wild about them here, so it seemed fitting I’d go this route. I just hope I didn’t disrespect the meat.

But I still brought a little class. Growing up in England, I always associated lamb with Wales. I would holiday there a lot as a kid and it wasn’t uncommon to see sheep and lambs in the rolling fields of the countryside as I was camped out in a tent in an adjacent field — welcome to my childhood. In that vein I thought I would bring a little of Great Britain to these nachos and instead of using plain old cheese, I’d go with Welsh Rarebit, in the hopes of allowing the flavors of the lamb to shine through.

Slow Roasted Lamb Nachos with Welsh Rarebit and Scallions

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