Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures in Cooking in Two Acts

I have been wanting to write an entry about cooking but I've been putting it off because it's not as exciting as the Pyramids or anything. So if you're not into cooking, this might not be the blog for you today!

ACT I The Market As I have mentioned before, going to the market can be quite a circus. I seem to either be frustrated or excited every time I leave. The great thing is, it's really close. (Sorry to those non-central Pa people, but I'm going to use Camp Hill landmarks here to show you how close) It would be like me walking from my old apartment, out to Market St., and up to that gas station that sits there on the corner, maybe not even that far. The point is, it's easy for us to get there and grab a few things when we need to. Which is pretty much everyday. You know when you go to the store and you do a big trip, like a weeks worth of groceries and if you're really on top of it, maybe even some things that you haven't run out of, but you think you're going to soon? I love that kind of shopping trip. I love knowing that if I want to cook and make something fun, I have lots of ingredients on hand. I love knowing that there are lots of options for quick meals or snacks, and plenty of household supplies. I love the kind of trip where you know for a fact that you haven't forgotten anything. I have not had the pleasure of that experience here in Cairo. Here's a good example, Early last week I thought I would make a nice big pot of soup (you can take the girl away from Fall, but you can't take the Fall out of the girl) So I went to the store looking for things to make stock like carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves, parsley, garlic. I found onions. That's it. Ok, so no soup. So I rearranged things in my head and tried to get some things that would make a few meals, which worked out ok, but left me feeling like I hadn't accomplished my goal. I did however go to the market a few days later and found garlic, parsley, and carrots. Which brings me to my next point...just when you think you won't find something here in Cairo, it will (sometimes) magically appear on the shelf. In the states we take for granted that things will be in stock. It's pretty simple, you bought ginger ale at the store last week, you run out, you go back to the store the next week, they have the ginger ale. There may be the rare "out of stock" sign on something but you can just get some other kind of ginger ale, and it's fine. We were buying ginger ale here almost everyday for the first two weeks we were here. Cut to a month later and we haven't seen it since. And then, this week, there was some random "White Rock" ginger ale on the shelf and a week later I'm still seeing it! I don't get it. Ok, so I get some ingredients that I can make some semblence of a recipe out what?

ACT II The Kitchen The second act is always shorter, right?? All I can think about is what my friends would do. Kelly and Heather would be fine, I think. Lauren, I'm sorry to say would probably have been able to write "the Cairo resturant Guide" by now. I'm starting to realize that you have to have some cooking backround before you get here, or it will be very difficult to figure out once you're here. Even following a recipie isn't enough, they might not have the indredients! (see above) All of that being said, I have managed to make some pretty good meals in the past week or so. The best was probably an Eggplant Caponata of sorts. A sort of rustic Italian stir fry. That's what the picture is by the way, in the early stages, anyway. I have discovered that Egyptian olive oil is some of the best olive oil I have ever had. I know this sounds strange, but it doesn't even taste like oil. It has so much flavor and it makes the food taste awesome. And the balsalmic vinegar is also outstanding. Ok, back to the what I had on hand were eggplants, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. I thought about doing a pasta thing, but then I decided that the veggies could stand on their own. I put the recipie below...enjoy!

Cairo Caponata

2 small eggplant, peeled and cubed

2 small red onion, sliced

one container musrooms (whatever looks good), sliced

2 or 3 small tomatoes, diced hapazardly, the chunkier the better

Tbs. fresh rosemary (you could also try basil or oregano)

Olive Oil

Balsalmic Vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with olive oil. Place all the vegetable in the skillet. season with salt and a little bit of pepper. You may need to be generous with the salt in order to break down the eggplant. You really want them to cook down and get soft so give them a toss every few minutes, but for the most part just let them hang out together in there. When they start to look pretty mushy and the eggplant has softened, toss in the fresh herbs. Then, transfer to the serving bowl, toss with the vinegar. You can serve it with crusty bread, pasta, rice, or as a side dish, but it is delightful on its own...and even better the next day for lunch!


Lauren said...

You think that just because I have no clue what the heck "caponata" is (or whatever you made) that I'd be eating out all the time??, you're right. I'd have my own all-Cairo edition of Zagat written by now. You know me too well. But I'm glad you're having fun, albeit difficult, cooking adventures.

Heather said...

I'll definitely have to try your recipe! I'm a big dork, but I know that you'll understand - I was super excited tonight because I broke out my trusty, old LeCreuset soup pot for the first time since late winter or early spring! I made some pasta fagiole and garlic toast. A yummy dinner, and I still have some packed away for lunch tomorrow and dinner Wednesday.