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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mirza Ghasemi-Iranian Eggplant Dip

Today I had the opportunity to learn a delicious and quick Iranian dish that I absolutely love. If you have never had the pleasure of eating Persian food you really should give it a try!

Persian food mainly consists of basmati rice, lots of preserved lemons and acidic hints, amazing authentic green and bright orange herbs and tons of spinach, vegetables and flat bread. It consists of dishes such Koobideh- spinach type of tart, Khorosh Fesenjian-lamb or chicken cooked in a walnut and pomegranate, Khoresht or stew served with basmati rice and salads.

Eggplants are actually known as the "potato" of Iran and the dish below taste a little like baba ganoush yet has a softer and more buttery texture and flavor. It really is utterly delicious and the perfect way to start a mediterraean themed meal. Why not follow it with some grape leaved wrapped salmon and home made baklava or serve it during a small plate party with a cucomber, tomato salad with citron, hummus some dolma and an octopus salad?

Mirza Ghasemi-Puree of Iranian Eggplant to be served as a dip
"Caviar de Aubergine"

-2 large eggplants
-1 can of tomato sauce
-2 small onions (cut into thirds and then into 1/2 inch slivers)
-3 bulbs of garlic (smashed)
-1 teaspoon of tumeric
-pinch of salt
-Olive oil


1) Grill the 2 eggplant on a bbq or in the oven on broil for about 20 mins until skin is blackened and eggplants have shrunk in size.

2) Peel off all the black skin and quickly run the eggplant under water to remove all pieces of the skin from the exterior.

3) Mash and break up the eggplant flesh with a hand blender or the bottom of glass

4) Heat a flying pan with a good amount of sunflower oil (6 tbls) and cook pureed eggplant for 15 minutes over medium high heat. Eggplant should begin to stick together.

5) Add pinch of salt and smashed garlic to eggplant

6) In another pan add 2 tbls sunflower or olive oil to a pan and add onion slivers. Cook for a few minutes until they start to brown a bit.

7)Add pinch of tumeric, a clove of garlic, salt and the can of tomato sauce and cook for a few more minutes. Add eggplant and stir well to incorporate everything together.

8) Taste the amount of salt

9) Traditionally you should cover with 3 scrambled eggs. The eggs soak up some of the oil in the sauce and are a nice addition. I think I prefer it without and with pita.

Ce tout!

Serve with pita, flat bread or baguette if it is all you have. We also had a yummy garden fresh basil, tomato, black olive, radish, cucumber salad.

* If you want to make Baba Ganoush the recipe is pretty similar to Caviar de Aubergine. The main difference is the omission of the turmeric and tomato and instead you take the mashed eggplant and you add 1/4 cup tahini, garlic, lemon juice and cumin and lastly drizzle with olive oil and serve! *

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Homemade Graduation Cupcakes

White Cupcakes with a hint of lemon zest and a Cream Cheese infused Vanilla Bean + Cognac frosting and Fondant Inspired Festive Decoration

I have had a recent obsession with baking American treats for my International friends in my MBA program in the Champagne region of France. There is just something about the utter sweetness and basic lack of complexity in American treats that I have to say I miss a little. American desserts are so different from French, Chinese, Japanese, etc and on top of that I absolutely adore cupcakes.

The first batch I made were chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting. These were really great but as I am cooking in a tiny portable oven, and happened to accidentally buy a cupcake tin where 1/4 hangs out of the cute tiny oven, baking is definitely not easy and has become even more of an "art" then usual.

The ganache cupcakes were delicious but I was hoping to have that huge puff of frosting that sits perfectly solid on top of the cake. Ganache (chocolate and cream) is not a recipe for that and I think in general you really need a piping bag (which I'm going to buy as they're rather cheap).

These cupcakes above are white cupcakes with a vanilla bean, cream cheese, cognac frosting. I decided to decorate them with little scrolls tied with ribbons and little graduation hats with strings falling off the brim. I really wanted to buy fondant, dye it bright blue and yellow and do a perfect job. The problem is fondant is impossible to find in France and making it might of been a culinary disaster involving destroying my apartment table.

On top of that I didn't have time. I used French Pate d'amande which is a square of almond paste. It's probably easier to find fondant in the states but I had to find a substitute which you can find at most french grocery stores. Also this conversion site to transfer cups into grams has saved my life in Europe. If you need to convert American recipes to European, use it! http://www.recipegoldmine.com/kitchart/kitchart2.html

The cupcakes came out delicious and the recipes are below. After placing them on a pretty gold tray I hobbled to my graduation dinner walking a bit too far, wearing a bit too high of heals on old tiled french roads and keeping an eye on my little cupcakes which were fearfully sliding from side to side on the tray :) The cupcakes and I eventually made it to the soiree intact and after a few celebratory glasses of champagne to celebrate the completion of my International MBA, I'm convinced that cupcakes go perfectly with a nice glass of local Champagne!

I made my little hat's a little too quick and a little too think and as such they drooped a little :( Still looked ok from birds eye view though!

White Cupcakes

3 cups flour (330 g)
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 pinches of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
dash of vanilla
touch of lemon zest

Preheat oven to 170 or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt in one bowl
In another larger bowl break up the butter into pieces and cream it with a mixer, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat in one at a time. Add in vanilla and

Slowly add 1/4 of the flour mixture and then add 1/4 cup of the milk and 1/4 cup of the yogurt. Keep alternating flour and milk/yogurt until all is incorporated. Zest 1/2 lemon into the mixture.

Pour into cupcakes tins (which you should be able to find in speciality stores in EU) and bake for about 20 minutes making sure to check them after about 15 minutes by inserting a toothpick or straw of pasta into the middle. You want the toothpick to come out clean. Be careful not to over-bake as they will lose their light fluffiness.

Cream Cheese frosting infused with Vanilla Bean and Cognac
1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean (divided in 2 and scrape the inside black substance)
2 tbls cognac
4 cups powdered sugar
a bit of heavy cream


-Put butter in a large mixing bowl and blend. Add the cream cheese and blend the butter and cream cheese together until they are combined. Add vanilla, cognac and vanilla bean. Blend all together on medium speed and wait for it to get fluffy. Add heavy cream and continue to beat until it reaches a thick and fluffy consistency. Use or refrigerate. Recipe adapted from Glorious Treats Blog http://glorioustreats.blogspot.com/2010/02/cream-cheese-frosting-recipe.html

Decorative Toppings Ideas for Graduation Themed Cupcakes

-Roll various very small squares of paper into little scrolls and tie with small bright yellow ribbon.

-Take the Fondant or Pate d'almande and form into one small square for the base of the hat and then roll out some pate and cut it into a square for the top of the hat. Now take a small quantity of pate and roll it into a thin strip for the top of the hat string. Press a few indention marks on the end of the string to represent the straws at the end of the string.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A True French Wedding

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while but I have a ton to write about. I had the glorious occasion of attending my first french wedding this weekend. Let me tell you they know how to wedding in France. It was a truly great experience and if anyone is thinking of planning a destination wedding I think you should throw Laon, France into the list! http://www.domaine-du-mont-rouge.abcsalles.com/prive/en/fiche.php?o=&k=&n=10627&iddem=

The wedding between 2 MBA classmates, an Ivory Coast friend Michelle and a Frenchie- Sebastien started with the ceremony in a beautiful ancient Cathedral in Laon and was followed by a short car ride to Mount Rouge Manor where we dropped off our stuff in the side house which slept over 30 and were greeted with yummy hors d'oeuvres (executed with french precision) and bottles and bottles of local Jacquart Champagne. This was followed by a 5 course meal until 1 am (including lobster salad below), dancing until 6 am, a few hours of sleep and a huge brunch with lots of french cheese and a few mid course strolls in the grassy lawn filled with apple trees until 5pm. Sounds incredible right?

I love these super inexpensive yet chic little spoons and cups to serve appetizers in. So very french!

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