Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Scrambled Eggs

My husband loves my scrambled eggs and whenever I make them for friends and family they always ask how I make them so's the secret!

Avesta's Scrambled Eggs:
6-8 eggs
1/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste

The most important part of making good eggs is starting off with good eggs. I like to use the cage-free brown eggs.

The reason I make such fluffy eggs is because I whip my eggs with 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream (yes you can substitute milk here if you want). I whip them in a blender just until they are nice and don't want to whip them too long. Once my eggs are nice and fluffy, I melt 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick pan.

Once your butter is melted and spread all over your pan, slowly pour your egg mixture in the pan and let your eggs cook for about 15-20 seconds before you start scrambling them. This is also when I season my eggs. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to scramble your eggs.

I turn my heat off once I start scrambling the eggs because you don't need a lot of heat to cook eggs as they do cook pretty fast and I don't like having that brownish color on my eggs.

How long you cook your eggs depends on how well you like your eggs to be cooked. My husband likes hard-scrambled eggs that are chopped up small, so I cook his a little longer than needed, but again, because I turn the heat off once I start scrambling the eggs, my eggs are cooked well-done but aren't brown.

I love having that spicy flavor in my eggs, but have found that using hot sauce or salsa really changes the flavor of my eggs, so I have discovered this product called "Hot Salt" I love using this on my eggs! Try's so yummy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I love Pomegranates!

I grew up eating pomegranates way before they became known or a huge hit in the U.S. I remember my friends would come over and ask "what is that you're eating?" "what are those little seed things...that's weird."
My mom would tell us how good they were for us and it was a ritual at our house to open up the pomegranates and put all the seeds in a bowl and sprinkle salt or sour salt (citric acid) on them and devour them by the spoonful. I know that sounds weird to put salt on them but seriously...try's delicicious! It's how a lot of Middle Eastern people eat them and hey....we've been eating them for centuries! My mom also used to make pomegranate juice for us instead of Kool-Aid. She bought real pomegranate syrup that was made in Lebanon and mixed it with water and we'd have that in the fridge at all times.
This syrup is absolutely amazing! You can find it now in almost any international food store and if you have a Middle Eastern or Halal market, you can find it in there. When you buy it, put a dash of it on your finger and lick it. It is a bit sour and soooo amazing! This is the syrup that I use for my pomegranate martinis...see pomegranates are not super sweet like a lot of the juices out there on the market....they're actually a bit tart and a bit to get that true pomegranate flavor and without all that added sugar...make your own juice with this syrup! Plus it is a lot cheaper!
The market out there is taking advantage of the pomegranate boost right now and buying anything with pomegranate in it is so expensive. I bought several different kinds of juices and teas yesterday and have been trying them out. POM, the California company that has really pushed the pomegranate craze now also has green and white teas flavored with pomegranate which are really tasty.
I do use different brands of pomegranate liquors too for some of my cocktails, my favorite being Pama.

And my new love right now is pomegranate lemonade by Minute Maid which tastes like a really good pink lemonade. The problem with all these drinks is that they're full of sugar! So this weekend, I am going to make my own teas and lemonade with pomegranate flavor by using my syrup and splenda. I'll work on the recipes and give them out when perfected!

I can't wait until fall....that's pomegranate season in the U.S. You'll be able to find them in most supermarkets from about October to January.

My grandfather had a pomegranate orchard just like this in his backyard....can you imagine?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bruschetta on a Stick

So here's another recipe from the wedding. I love Brushetta, and absolutely love these Bruschetta Skewers because they are so fresh tasting and if you're trying to avoid carbs...well here you go! Plus they look beautiful in any appetizer display!

Bruschetta Skewers:

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

8oz Fresh Mozzarella Ciliegine (these are perfect for these skewers because the balls are about the same size as the tomatoes...they're so cute!) (if you can't find these smaller balls, just cut fresh mozzarella into small cubes)

3-4 cups fresh basil leaves

6-8 cloves of garlic (chopped)

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup parmasean cheese

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup walnuts & 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional, I avoid nuts when I am making pesto for guests to avoid allergy issues)

long toothpicks (these are usually in the party supply area of most super stores or you can find them at specialty party supply stores)

In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves, garlic and olive oil and pulse until the mixture is well blended and the basil is chopped up, this pesto is supposed to be a bit more chunky so do not blend too much. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse again a few times. Pour pesto into a bowl and stir well with a spoon. Taste the pesto to make sure you have enough salt in it as it will be seasoning the tomatoes and mozzarella. Once your pesto is ready, alternate the tomatoes and mozzarella on the skewers. (if you like black olives, you can also add these to the skewers as they go well with this combo but since olives are salty, make sure not to put as much salt in your pesto). Once your skewers are assembled, drizzle a generous amount of pesto all over the skewers. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. If you have pesto left over, you can freeze it, just make sure you pack it air-tight.

How amazing is this blue ceramic display piece? It's actually a garden stool that I found that matched the bride's wedding color! I love using bigger pieces that are not conventional! Start looking around your house for inspiration next time you want to throw a party!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cocktail Shrimp Shooters

I love cocktail shrimp and everyone has it at parties and here's a new way to serve it that will look amazing and control how much shrimp people eat! I also am giving you a recipe for a yummy cocktail sauce with a new kind of kick!

You can buy pre-cooked shrimp but it's always so much better if you have the time to cook your own (plus it's cheaper to buy uncooked shrimp). I prefer using 13-15 shrimp or 16-20 shrimp (this number tells you how many shrimp are in one pound, the lower the number, the bigger the shrimp) If you can't find these or they're way too expensive, use 21-25 or 26-30...but I wouldn't go much bigger for this recipe as each shrimp stands on his own in the shot glass. I also buy already peeled and deveined shrimp, there are chefs who say cooking shrimp in their shell is better, but I have not found that to be the an's so much easier to either buy the already peeled shrimp or to even peel and devein them before cooking (just remember to leave the tail on)! You can boil, broil or steam the shrimp, however you like....I like to steam them for this recipe.

Shrimp Cocktail

1-2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp (depending on how much you want to make)

1 medium or large pot with a steam basket (you can use a colander if you don't have a steam basket)

Fill the pot about half way with water and begin bringing the water to a boil. Arrange the shrimp around the basket in a single layer. As the water starts to come to a boil, put the basket of shrimp on the pot, cover with a lid and turn the heat down. The shrimp are cooked as soon as they are opaque, firm and bright pink in color. Don't overcook! I arrange the cooked shrimp on a platter and throw ice on them as soon as they are done for a few minutes to stop the cooking process then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Estimated Cooking Time for Steamed Shrimp:

21-25 per pound steam in 5 1/2 to 6 minutes

16-20 shrimp per pound takes 6 1/2 to 7 minutes

8-12 per pound take 7 1/2 to 8 minutes.

Wasabi Cocktail Sauce:

1 cup chili sauce or ketchup if you don't have chili sauce

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon wasabi

2 teaspoons horseradish

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the shooters, you can buy the plastic shot glasses or use really small cocktail or rocks glasses. Start by putting a spoonful of the cocktail sauce in the bottom of the glass, arrange the shrimp around the rim of each glass and garnish with sprigs of chives. You can also serve these at an intimate dinner party by using a martini glass and serving several shrimp around the rim of the glass as a starter to your meal. These are so pretty and a modern way of serving up an old favorite! Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Spinach Dip...all wrapped up.

Here's the first recipe I'm giving out from the wedding I just catered. The family wanted spinach dip and I have found that it is so difficult to have dip during a cocktail hour at parties or weddings (as the guests want to mingle and well....drink...not sit down and scoop up dip on a plate) what I've done is made my spinach dip and wrapped them in spinach herb tortillas then cut them into small pieces so guests can just grab one and go. My spinach dip is a knock-off version of Borani (a Persian spinach dip that I've changed a bit to my liking).

Avesta Borani

10 oz package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained (you can saute 2 bunches of chopped fresh spinach in 2 tablespoons olive oil if you prefer or have time)

16 oz cream cheese

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt or sour cream

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 or 2 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic), finely minced or you can use granulated garlic powder (1-2 tablespoons) if you don't have fresh garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoon curry powder

salt & pepper to taste

1 package spinach tortillas

1 package spring mix


In a sauce pan, combine spinach, cream cheese and yogurt and heat on medium until mixture is blended together. Take pan off heat and add garlic, cumin, curry powder and Parmesan cheese, mix well and finally add salt and pepper to taste, let mixture cool down a bit. Lay your tortilla out and spread a generous amount of the Borani around the tortilla, sprinkle with spring mix and roll together tightly. Cut the rolled tortilla into 4 pieces and keep together with a toothpick. Display these on a platter by putting spring mix in the middle of the platter and putting your rolls around the spring mix.

These can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you're ready to serve them. I would not make them the day before though as they do get soggy. You can, however, make your Borani a day or two before and roll them the day of your event. You can also just served the dip in a bowl with pita chips, crusty bread, tortilla chips or fresh veggies (cucumbers and carrots are great with Borani!)
I've been asked if you can microwave the ingredients instead of doing it on the can do all of this in the microwave if that's easier and faster for you! Also this dip is not going to be that cheesy, buttery kind of spinach dip we eat most of the time (this is a much healthier version) can always add some more cheese or 1/2 cup of mozzarella if you want the dip to be cheesier. You could even sprinkle some cheese on top of the dip in a casserole dish and broil it for a few minutes if you want that golden melted cheese on top before serving.
These were not complicated but they were the first to the touch of cumin and curry give it boost of flavor without adding too much....everyone kept asking "what's in these...they're wonderful!"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hometown Pizza Love

I am working on all the pics from the wedding I catered this those will start posting this week with some recipes.

For now....I want to talk pizza.

I grew up in a small town in southeast Ohio....Hocking Hills area. We grew up "cruising" one street and hangin' out at one pizza shop....Pizza Crossing. Every time I go back home I have to have Pizza Crossing! There is just something about that pizza...I don't know whether it's the beer in their perfectly crisp crust or the mildly seasoned sauce...the sprinkles of italian seasoning on top or the blend of cheeses that they use or maybe best of all....those little round pepperoni that curl up when baked and hold just the perfect amount of pepperoni grease in them.....YUM!
Pizza Crossing's motto is "The Best Pizza....Period" and I may just have to agree....and it's so much more than just how good the pizza is, for me it brings back all those memories of hangin' out drinking red cream soda and eating pizza...then finishing the night off with their fresh baked chocolate chip cookies......gossiping with friends and watching my friends Marisa and Tiffany do "shots" of sugar packets because they loved being hyper! I love food that not only entices my taste buds but also brings back sweet memories........

Friday, August 22, 2008

Busy Chef

I'm busy this week preparing for a wedding that I am catering on Saturday. 200 guests, all commercial kitchen on'll be a bit tough but fun! I really like the family and am excited to be a part of their special day. I have been busy gathering and picking up interesting items for the food displays...I like to use big, bold items and try to incorporate the colors of the wedding. I will have pics and details Sunday and Monday....hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Perfect Steak Dinner

My Perfect Summer Steak
To get these grill marks, make sure your grill is hot, let the steak sear for 2-3 minutes (this is for a steak that is at least 1 1/2 inches thick), turn 45 degrees and let sear for 2-3 minutes and repeat on other side but remember....only flip the steak once!
I adore and love my husband but he is a foodies nightmare....he's a cheeseburger loving...Coke gulping...potato chip chomping....junk food junkie. He likes everything plain....only eats two vegetables and loves only ranch when I try to get creative in the kitchen at home...I have to be very careful to not make things "too" gourmet.

He loves filet mignon and that's about it when it comes to steak (or so he thinks)....I, on the otherhand, love ribeye for it's marbling of fat and sirloin for it's flavor and for being much more affordable...actually there's really not a steak that I don't long as it's cooked and seasoned properly!

So when I went to the grocery store today, they had some great sirloin from an Iowa farm that they were taste-tasting out to the customers. It was very tender and had great flavor so I bought a nice 2lb thick cut piece of sirloin and decided I would just make Shawn try it. I marinated the steak with just a blend of olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper for two hours....then let the steak come to room temperature (about 30-40 minutes before putting it on the grill) Meanwhile, pre-heat your grill to medium-high and once you put your steak on the grill you only flip it over only once...if you keep flipping meat on the grill (this includes burgers) you're going to lose all those yummy juices and you'll have dry meat! (see above for getting those professional markings!)
Here's a temp guide for you
Rare Meat gives easily when touched, no juices appear on surface. 150° F.
Medium Meat feels firm but slightly springy, and juices begin to appear on the surface. 160° F. Well Done Meat is covered with juices and does not yield to pressure. 170° F

This is what we ended up having for our perfect steak dinner
Make sure to let your steak sit for about 5 minutes before cutting into it, this will allow all the juices to spread out from the center of the steak, otherwise you'll cut into the steak and lose those juices because they'll gush out before they have time to spread. I cut the steak into thin slices and served it with white jasmine rice and grilled brussel sprouts.

I served parmasean-garlic grilled brussel sprouts with my steak....they were soooo goooood! And good for you!

For the brussel sprouts, just slice them in half, melt 1/4 cup butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoons grated or shaved parmasean cheese, melt in the microwave, stir and spread on top of sprouts, sprinkle the sprouts with paprika, it adds a nice color when you grill them. Grill the sprouts for 4-5 minutes on each side or until they are soft, if you have any of the butter mixture left, drizzle on top after you take the sprouts off the grill

How good does this look and really this was simple...remember that presentation is everything! Go ahead and pre-slice your steak for the family and serve it looking this makes all the difference! And BTW....Shawn LOVED the steak! See he has no idea what he likes, he just assumes he won't like it.

The brussel sprouts though...he wouldn't even steps steps.....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kurdish Wedding...Kurdish Food...WOW!



All I can say about my weekend is WOW! I have to tell you....ethnic weddings are just over the top....over the top with was so exhausted today! (and I was just a guest!)

My friend Tavan got married this weekend. She is Kurdish, from the same region my mother's family is from...northern Iraq. Her fiance is also from that same they met because their families know each other and of course encouraged them to get married.

I felt very comfortable at the wedding as the Kurdish traditions make me feel very much at home and proud of my roots. I remember at my wedding, I incorporated both Kurdish and American traditions (as my husband is American) and it was so nice to be able to celebrate both cultures. I also laughed to myself several times this weekend because the drama and emotion are so high with family and friends of different ethnic backgrounds. As soon as my mother and I got to the reception, the sister of the bride was crying, screaming, having a panic attack...and noone seemed to think it was a big deal (as we all think this behavior is quite normal!) And not to mention that the wedding was 2 1/2 hours late, which also is pretty "normal" in our culture.

We fight, yell, cry, laugh out loud, scream with joy, and on and on....I know some of my American friends thought this was strange behavior when I got married...but it is quite "normal" for us to be this dramatic...and in the end....all we know is that we love our family and we have a damn good time no matter what the drama or stress that led up to the celebration.

The best part of the night was the dancing and the food. I can't believe the difference between going to an American wedding and a Kurdish wedding. None of the food was served in fancy platters or with any garnish or silver was just good food....served right out of the pots from the stove. There were four different kinds of rice, plain white basmati rice, brown rice, saffron rice and a biryani (spiced rice with cloves and all-spice). There was "yaprakh" or better known as "dolmada" or "dolma" grape leaves and onions stuffed with rice, dill, garlic, onions and in this case, lamb. My plate was filled by the men in the family and when I walked away from the buffet line, I couldn't wait to dive in to that pile of goodness.

Can you see the yummy goodness....

Now to the was just amazing to see the different traditional Kurdish dresses all in a line. It's custom to do the folk line dancing at weddings and it's similar to Greek line dancing. One dance can last 20 or more minutes! My legs and feet are still killing me! But seriously...look at these fabrics, the jewelry, the details, and of course...the hair and makeup!

The most amazing tradition at Kurdish weddings is what we call the "gifts of gold." This is the tradition where the groom adorns the bride with layers of top-notch gold...we're talking 18k and 22k or 24k gold. The bride picks out some of the pieces and of course the groom is also expected to surprise her with some really expensive pieces...the more gold the bride gets...obviously the more money the groom has and in turn impresses the bride's family and friends. After she is covered with gold from the groom, the guests then take turns lavishing her with more gifts of gold and cards with money in them, this is all expected on top of the regular gifts that guests bring to a wedding. Boy do they make out!!! Wow...I should've told all my guests about this tradition!!!!

Presentation of Gold to the Bride

Check out all the Gold

Brides hands with all her new gold rings and of course the henna for good luck

At the end of the night, the cake cutting ceremony begins with the knife dance. This is where the bride's sisters and best friends dance with the knives that will cut the cake...but before they hand over the knives, they dance and tease the groom with the knives to remind him that they can "handle" knives and that he better take care of their sister/friend. It is a fun tradition and at my wedding, my sisters and friends really played the part and the guests loved it!

I get all sappy when I go to weddings, this weekend even more than usualy because it not only made me think about how amazing love also reminded me of my amazing Kurdish culture.

My mother and I in our Kurdish attire

The Knife Dance

Saturday, August 16, 2008 way....

I have eaten a lot of hummus in my life but I must family's recipe is seriously the BEST! I don't like hummus that has a lot going on in shouldn't have tons of tahini in it and I don't like it with lemon juice in it! (I know the Greeks put lemon juice in theirs...but I prefer mine more Middle Eastern style). I made a big tray of hummus for a party tonight and even people who don't like hummus were eating it. So try this recipe....even if you "don't like hummus!" The following recipe feeds about 15-20 people...divide it in half if you just want some hummus in the fridge for yourself for the week.

Avesta Hummus
4 cans garbanzo beans (chick peas) drained but reserve 1 cup of the juice for later

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh chopped garlic or granulated garlic powder (if you're going to be eating it right away use fresh garlic but if you want to refrigerate the hummus for up to a week, I recommend using granulated garlic powder)

1 tablespoon white pepper

2 tablespoon tahini

salt to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine the garbanzo beans and the olive oil and 1/2 cup of the bean juice. Blend until smooth (about 2-3 minutes) Add the garlic, tahini, salt and pepper and mix until well blended. Add any more bean juice to get desired consistency. Taste to see if you need any more spices.

Spread the dip on a platter with some leaf lettuce underneath for decor. Drizzle olive oil on top and use peppers, tomato slices, or olives for garnish. Sprinkle either paprika or hot red pepper on top. Serve with fresh vegetable slices such as cucumbers and peppers and pita or tortilla chips.

I make my own pita chips by cutting up lavash bread (or tortillas if you can't find lavash or flat pita bread) into triangles, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling them with some kosher salt and pepper. I bake them in the oven for 4-5 mintues on 375 degrees (flipping once half way through). These are yummy and much better for you than fried chips! Plus you can sprinkle other spices such as dried basil or parsely or garlic powder on them for added flavor!