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Turkish Stuffed Apricots – Sweet Fairy Food

These golden morsels are inspired by a place where giant fairy chimneys rise above yellow brick roads, leading travelers past a network of underground cities. It sounds like fantasy. But this surreal scene lives – as real as you and me – in Cappadocia, Turkey. What are Fairy Chimneys? The fairy chimneys of Turkey (Peri Bajası) are geological remnants created by volcanic debris. These colossal outcrops can be as tall as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil and almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty on the eastern US coastline. But unlike those human made structures, fairy chimneys were sculpted over millions of years by rain and wind, in the end weathering the elements better than the dinosaurs. This not to say humans never set chisel to chimney; over the last millennia humans carved into the fairy chimneys to create secure homes and places to worship. These weren’t basic dugouts – many of the cave dwellings are connected with a network of tunnels and vent shafts, and decorated with mosaic floors and frescoes. The underground …

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Honeymoon Smoothie | عصر المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

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Honey & Pistachio Stuffed Quince

Say “Quince” to an Uzbek lady, and you just might see her flush with delight. Though they aren’t eaten raw, baked quince are soft and tender, like a pear.  The taste is mild, something like an apple, but with traces of pear, too. Uzbekistan is the third greatest producer of quince, after Turkey and China. They include the fruit in plov, stir it into preserves, and they bake it up with honey, and sometimes even stuff it nuts… as we’re doing today. How to choose a quince: – look for white fuzzies on the stem end, which indicate freshness – a ripe quince is yellow, although slightly green fruit can be used for this recipe – it can be bumpy and odd-shaped, but there should be no scarring or other markings. Serves 4-6 Ingredients: 2-3 quince (or 3 large apples) 1/2 cup pistachios 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (or substitute more pistachios) 1/2 tsp cinnamon honey, to taste (1-2 Tbsp per person) For the baking dish: 1 cup water 2-3 slices lemon Method: Let’s go to …

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Crystal Crunch “Fudge” | Besan Burfi

No  matter where you live in this great, glorious world, you know someone with a mega sweet tooth. Someone who can’t get enough of the sugary, fingerlickin’ foods. This person can’t be trusted with a cookie jar and – I’m here to tell you right now – they most certainly can’t be trusted alone with a platter of Besan Burfi. And, really, can you blame them? Besan Burfi, popular throughout Nepal and India, tastes a little like sugar cookie dough… a little like a dreamy pistachio flower … and a lot like, well, happiness. The “fudge” is made with ghee, chickpea flour and sugar. Every bite is an outrageous crunch of crystalized goodness. When topped off with a smattering of cardamom and pistachios, you’ll find these make for a rich and irresistible snack. A snack, in fact, that makes you repeat to yourself “curiouser and curiouser.” So come on down the rabbit hole. Never mind that this “fudge” is made with besan, a.k.a chickpea flour. That sounds entirely too healthy and … beany.  Trust me. This turns …

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Pistachio Date Balls

As far as I’m concerned, the best – and quite possibly the only way to time travel is to cook. Reading gets us only partway there – we dream ourselves into other times, other lands. But they remain just that – dreams. Visiting ruins gets us a little closer. But, at the end of the day, ruins are simply ruins – fragments of the splendor that what once was. But, when it comes to cooking food from ancient times? Instant time travel. In my mouth. When I cook I am potentially eating exactly what someone long ago ate. I can shut my eyes and focus in on the beautiful flavors of that time and place. I might as well be there. Want to join me? Let’s do it. Introducing date balls. One of the world’s earliest treats. Fit enough for a king. The most amazing thing about Date Balls is exactly how long they’ve been around. You’ll find them in Iraq today, but you also would have found them in ancient Babylon, when they were called Mersu. …

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Persian Sour Cherry Rice

Serves 6 Take a look around you. I mean really, really look around. Every little thing – that weathered window sill, the sparkly vase, even that fuzzy gray pillow – they can all be your inspiration. Your muse. The catalyst to the next great idea. Take this Persian Sour Cherry Rice, for example. When I look at this masterpiece in form and taste – I can’t help but wonder what inspired someone to create such a dish. Who was the clever soul that first made this tower of deliciousness infused with cinnamon, nutmeg – punctuated by soft pistachio nuggets, sour cherries and sweet caramelized onion? What were they looking at that sparked the idea? There had to be something. Let’s see if we can make some guesses… Recipe adapted from The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley. You can find more recipes and fascinating history on her blog Silk Road Gourmet. Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice 2 Tbsp butter (or vegetable oil/vegan butter) 1 medium onion, sliced 1 tsp gr0und cinnamon 1/4 tsp nutmeg salt …

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Kulfi

Makes 4.5 cups The sweet, rich flavor of kulfi will transport you (and any toddlers you know) to India quicker than quick. No need for fancy equipment, either. Freeze the kulfi in any mold you have – I used plastic shot glasses from a party supply store. The two year-olds I polled had no problem with this. Ingredients: 1 12 oz can evaporated milk 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk 2 slices bread 1 cup cream, whipped 2 Tbsp pistachios 1 tsp rose water 1/4 tsp cardamom red food coloring, optional Method: Pack your bags. We’re headed to beautiful Vagator beach in India. Once there, we’ll sit down with a few kulfi pops. You’ll need whipped cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, bread, rose water, cardamom… … and pistachios. Add everything *except* the rose water and cardamom to a blender. Once smooth, divide the mixture in two. Season one bowl with rose water and the other with cardamom. If you’d like, you can make the rose water pops pink with a drop of food …

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Cardamom & Rose Water Custard | Firnee

If you haven’t enjoyed rose water and cardamom before, you’re in luck! The bold flavors of this Afghan Firnee are a novel delight for the western palette. Rose water and cardamom give this creamy custard an ethereal quality, while the ground nuts add a mystifying texture. Enjoy with tea and dried apricots. (Serves 4) Ingredients: 2 1/4 cup whole milk 1 cup sugar 4 Tbsp cornstarch 1 tsp ground cardamom 1 capful rosewater 2-4 Tbsp pistachios, finely ground 12 whole pistachios for garnish Method: 1. Heat milk in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. 2. In a small cup mix cornstarch with a few tablespoons milk. Stir to create a smooth, gravy like consistency. This is called a cornstarch slurry. 3. Add cornstarch slurry, sugar, cardamom, and rose water to saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat mixture until it thickens and a few bubbles break through the surface. 4. Remove from heat and ladle into serving dishes. This recipe will fill 4 small ramekins. 5. Cover with  plastic wrap, pressing lightly onto the pudding. This prevents a skin from forming on the custard. …

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