بالهناء والشفاء – Libya

Libya: Shakshuka, hasa adas, couscous bil bulsa, khubzit housh, agras batata mabshura, mseyer, yogurt dips, magroodh

This is couch cuisine meal #46! And the third in my trio of learning more about our global neighbors impacted by recent political actions.


Kristina generously offered to help with the shopping and cooking. Here’s some of the bounty I used for pickling that she brought from the public market.IMG_3466

I made mseyer, pickled vegetables, which we served with the couscous bil bulsa.


After getting an early start on the meal with the pickled vegetables, I made the dessert since I knew it would be time consuming. And it was. I made magroodh – date filled semolina cookies. They were definitely a one time labor of love that I will not repeat! They were tasty but definitely tried my patience.

I made Libyan bread, which was also a bit of a trial and the dough took lots of TLC. It didn’t cook evenly, but my friends kindly said they liked it that way 😉

Bundle of bread!


We made potato fritters, presumably for an appetizer, but I got so behind in my prep from the cookies that I hadn’t started these by the time folks started arriving. Philip to the rescue once again.



I think the dish of the night was the humble lentil dish – hasa adas (I did not add the bread at the end as the recipe calls for). Onions for days.



I’ve been wanting to make shakshuka for awhile,  honestly in part because it pops up all over my instagram feed as a weekend brunch fav. My version was not quite so instagram-able, but it was fun to make and a good pair with the bread.

We made several yogurt dips, one spicy and one mild. I was a fan of both. IMG_3492

Trevor capturing another candid about which I ask myself, what is my face doing?!IMG_3872


The company was delightful and the meal turned out well despite a few harried moments. My favorite part was crowding around the table for leisurely conversation and dessert. All the good stuff.IMG_3503



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

بالهنا والشفا – Syria

Syria: Pita bread, conchiglie with yogurt and peas, fattoush, freekah salad, labneh balls, root vegetables with labneh, harak osbao, mujadara, baklava

This was one of my favorite couch cuisine meals and a really special evening. I was inspired by Cook for Syria, a supper club that is “a celebration of Syrian cuisine in aid of the largest humanitarian crisis of our time.” Most of the recipes we used came from their great website. We collected money to donate to The White Helmets, a volunteer group of Syrians who act as first responders in the Syrian civil war. I was thrilled that 25 people joined for the meal. Josh took this wonderful picture of (some of) the group. Melody-5

Emily co-hosted the meal with me, and it was wonderful to collaborate on menu planning, shopping, and cooking. Del spent hours helping with prep as well. Thanks, friends!


We had quite an extensive menu, and (spoiler alert) everything was delicious. Definitely one of my favorite meals in terms of food in addition to the meaning behind the evening and the lovely crowd.


The pita bread turned out really well and I didn’t need to use my backup plan of going to a local restaurant and ask them to sell me stacks of pita bread. It was so fun to make and I was giddy that it worked. There’s something about making bread that just thrills me. IMG_3340IMG_3341IMG_3342IMG_3343

Pile of pita!


Since we made so many dishes, I didn’t do the best job of documenting the prep for each dish. This conchiglie with yogurt, peas and chile dish was a hit, though I failed to take a picture of it. We made fattoush, which is refreshing and tasty.


Next up, green freekah salad. Freekah is nutty and smoky and this is a bright, fun salad and you can see just how pretty it is thanks to Josh’s photography skills.


Now, I’m about to go on a little tangent. I’m currently obsessed with labneh. Ob.sessed. I ate it at Cedar Mediterranean restaurant and immediately fell for the creamy, tangy delight of goodness. I needed lots of labneh for this meal, so when I discovered that the International Food Market sells many brands, I decided to get one of each and do a little taste test. IMG_3335

Emily and I had fun trying and rating each brand. This was my favorite.


We made labneh balls as an appetizer, and these were so easy and fun to make. We had a bunch of “toppings” to roll the labneh in, including za’atar, smoked paprika, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, and oregano. IMG_3339


How pretty is this?


We also served labneh with root vegetable slaw and with roasted vegetables. Lots of veggies in this meal.



I mean, doesn’t this color just make you smile?


We also served some labneh sprinkled with za’atar and drizzled with olive oil to scoop up with the fluffy pita. I could eat pita and labneh everyday. There was some labneh left after the meal, and I proceeded to spread it on everything – toast, omelettes, grilled cheese. So, so good. Try it. Okay, I’ll stop with the labneh love. 🙂


Next up, harak osbao, a lentils and pasta dish. So good! IMG_3372

The night before the meal I panicked that I’d run out of food since there were 25 people coming. So I added another dish, mujadara, at the last minute since I could make it out of ingredients I had on hand. Unfortunately I didn’t document which recipe I used, but it’s lentils, rice and fried onions and was a hit. Here’s an example recipe, though I don’t think it’s the one I actually used. Of course, we did not run out of food, and even after sending everyone home with leftovers I had leftovers for a week! Perfect.


For dessert we made two types of baklava, traditional walnut, and an almond version thanks to Emily’s brilliant idea.


There are few things that smell as enticing as baklava baking.


It was a feast, indeed!



The evening was filled with such great company….Melody-6

…with the dishes and mess to prove it. A sight that makes me deeply grateful. IMG_3381


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

بالهنا والشفا – Sudan

Sudan: mahshi, addas, gorraasa, nyaba, mish, basbousa, teas

It’s been an intense few months, and getting back into the swing of couch cuisine was like a balm. I planned my spring 2017 couch cuisine meal lineup in an effort to use food to bring people together to learn more about our global neighbors impacted by the executive order on immigration. First up, Sudan (still to come this spring are Syria and Libya).

Like many countries, Sudanese cuisine is influence by the broader region, so some of the dishes overlap with other countries’ cuisines. I loved planning, cooking and eating and this menu:


First, mahshi – stuffed peppers and zucchini. I grew up eating stuffed peppers and admittedly was not a fan as a kid (sorry, mom!). However I decided to give mahshi a chance and it was a fun and colorful dish to prepare. I substituted small peppers for some of the larger peppers to make it more of an appetizer size, and I also used a meat substitute for the beef to make the dish vegetarian friendly.

How pretty is this?! I had fun mismatching the colors.


Several hours later…


Next up, addas, a red lentil stew. This is the primary recipe I used, though I added some other components from other recipes, namely lime juice, grated ginger, garlic, coriander and turmeric.


Addas is eaten with bread, of which there are multiple common varieties in Sudan. I made gorraasa, a Sudanese flatbread. I was really pleased with how it turned out! It’s described as a spongy tortilla, and the cookery was similar to making crepes.

I made two side dishes to also serve with the bread. Nyaba, a peanut and greens paste, had me a little skeptical but it was tasty and it was Trevor’s favorite dish of the night. (I substituted vegetable bouillon for the chicken bouillon and used spinach for the greens).

The mish might have been my favorite dish, as yogurt and cheese are my dear friends. I had to adjust this recipe a bit as I didn’t have nigella seeds and I didn’t add jalapeno as there were several guests who are not big spice fans. But I served the dish with harissa on the side to add in for us spice fans. Both the mish and the nyaba were great with the gorraasa.


For dessert, basbousa. This was fun to make, made my apartment smell great, and was also fun to eat. This recipe offers several variations for the syrup. I used 1 clove and 1 cardamon pod and had rose water to add in for people who are fans.

I also made iced hibiscus tea and served a variety of teas with dessert using my grandmother’s tea set.


Trevor always gets candid pics of me explaining the meal, and here we are repping the Sudanese flag colors.

There weren’t many leftovers from this meal, which is usually a good sign! Cheers.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

慢慢吃 -Taiwan

Taiwan: gua bao, beef noodle soup, vegetable stir fry, shaved ice, bubble tea

(Note: I decided not to include a Taiwanese flag because it’s a debated issue).


This meal required some research on the perfect bubble tea, and Trevor and I were quite happy to do extensive research in preparation. 🙂 Weeks in advance we scouted out local bubble tea places and took notes as we prepared to make homemade bubble tea. Spoiler alert: it’s easy and awesome.


First up, gua bao for an appetizer. Gua bao is a pork belly bun so we also made a vegetarian version with braised tofu. Philip made an amazing braised tofu with the same spices used in the pork. Here’s the recipe I used for the buns.  I used the trick I’d previously learned to cover the lid of a steamer with a towel as a substitute for a bamboo steamer.

Here’s the pork belly recipe (I think these are the recipes I used and I think I used a different cut of pork but memory from November is failing me slightly). I made my own mustard greens. 


Next up: beef noodle soup, and a vegetarian version with vegetable stock and mushrooms. Here’s the beef noodle soup recipe I used, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as I found the broth to be way too sweet.

And some more veggies which I failed to document. I think it was mostly bok choy and garlic.

The real hit of the meal was dessert. Shaved ice and bubble tea. For the shaved ice we used the food processor and had various toppings of sweetened condensed milk, canned and fresh fruits such as lychee and mango and red beans.


And the favorite, bubble tea! I bought several types of tea but my favorite is Thai milk tea. Trevor rocked the tea prep.

I’m now pretty much obsessed with homemade bubble tea.


Trevor and Philip helped me prep the whole meal and we had a blast cooking together.


Trevor always gets fun shots of me.

It was another full house for this meal, and despite the fact that the meal was interrupted by the fire alarm and a visit from the fire department (not my fault!) we had a lovely evening.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bon Appétit – Canada

Canada: poutine, pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, bacon, ginger beef, tourtière with green tomato ketchup, butter tartsflag_of_canada-svg


This was a super fun meal and record setting in numbers – there were 18 people, including kids. I did a kid-friendly start time, so since I knew there were multiple kids coming I chose some kid-friendly items for the menu.

I’ve been wanting to make poutine since I started this project in Philly, but had trouble finding cheese curds in Philly. In Rochester you can find them in gas stations! Thanks, Canada! I had major help with this meal as Rob did all the frying of the fries, Tracey made the gravies, Lora cut all the potatoes, and Ashley made the dessert.

I need to give a big disclaimer at the beginning of the recipe section that I did a terrible job of keeping records of the recipes I used and since my browser history from November is failing me the links I have to recipes are ones that I think are the recipes I used based on my hazy memory.

Poutine is fries, gravy, and cheese curds and since there were several vegetarians coming to the meal I made two versions of gravy – beef and vegetable. First up, the stocks. I felt like a real cook making two different stocks.

The beef stock involved some new ingredients for me.

Vegetarian gravy recipe. 

Poutine is pretty much all my favorite things.

Pancakes and syrup and bacon kept the kids (and adults) happy.

Speaking of kids, I love this evidence of kids enjoying couch cuisine.


Adena’s uncle is from Canada and he suggested the dish Ginger Beef, which is very common in Calgary. He kindly shared the recipe.

Ginger Beef


1 pound beef (rouladen)

1 celery stalk

1 carrot

3 hot chili peppers

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sesame oil


2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons ginger juice

1 eggwhite, lightly

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon hot chili oil (optional)


1 tablespoon wine

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

4 tablespoons sugar (can substitute brown sugar or honey, if desired)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons water

chili oil or chili powder to taste

4 to 5 cups oil for deep-frying


Cut beef into matchstick strips, cutting along the grain. (The meat is easier to cut if it is partially frozen).

To make ginger juice for marinade, peel and grate ginger. Squeeze out juice.

Mix four marinade ingredients. Add to beef and marinate for 30 minutes.

Begin preparing vegetables. Cut carrots, celery, and pepper into thin strips. Mince garlic. For ginger, use the leftover minced ginger from the preparation of ginger juice.

Mix the sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Beat the eggwhite and add water. Add flour and cornstarch. Mix the batter thoroughly. Drop the batter into the marinated meat.

Heat wok. When heated, add 3 – 5 cups of oil. When the oil is ready, add about 1/4 of the meat/batter mixture. Deep-fry the beef until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Let oil come back to original temperature and add more meat.

When meat is cooked, clean the wok. Heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. When oil is ready, add the vegetables and begin stir-frying. Pour in the sauce and let come to a boil. Add the deep-fried beef.

Toss quickly, and remove.

Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve hot.


This ended up being the only pic I got of this dish as I was making it at the last minute. But it was great!

My favorite dish ended up being the tourtière. I made two: one meat version (traditional) and one vegetarian version. Tourtière is a meat pie and commonly eaten for celebratory meals, including Christmas Eve. The recipe I used had a completely AH-MAZING pie crust recipe that involved 4 (FOUR!) sticks of butter per pie. I made three pies and therefore needed twelve sticks of butter. Just for the pies. I had to borrow butter from Adena. Totally.worth.it. Here’s the meat version recipe (I substituted the beef stock I’d made for the chicken broth). I used the same crust for the vegetarian version and this filling recipe. 



Tourtière is served with a green tomato ketchup, which cuts the fat in the dish.

Tourtière is one of my favorite dishes I’ve made. It’s so comforting, hearty, tasty and fun. It’s not a simple or quick recipe, but it’s a treat for sure.

Ashley’s delicious butter tarts for dessert (or, actually, for appetizer since nothing was ready when everyone arrived and so Ashley kindly let us dig into the dessert as an appetizer!).


I didn’t do the best job photographing this meal, but it was such a fun and tasty evening. Next time I may attempt making homemade cheese curds. Cheese for the win.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

መልካም ምግብ – Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Spiced lentil sambusas, injera and nit’r qibe, key sir alicha, atakilt wat, abesha goman, mesir wat with ayib, doro wat, Ethiopian coffee and cinnamon chickpeas et


Well, this meal was in October, which is a pretty good estimate of how far behind on life I am these days. I had three really fun meals in the fall and although I’ve been remiss with blogging, I want to remember the meals and the company as best I can at this point – Hi, Dad! I finally blogged 🙂

A common meal in Ethiopian cuisine is a platter of injera and multiple types of wat. So, I ambitiously came up with a menu consisting of lots of components. It was a really fun meal to prepare (and eat), though I had to do a fair amount of substituting and improvising as I had trouble locating all the ingredients. But overall I was pretty happy with how the meal turned out.

The appetizer was spiced lentil sambusas, which were a hit.

They were a good tide-us-over as the meal was, always, running behind schedule!

I was nervous about attempting homemade injera, which is a sourdough flatbread that is an essential component of Ethiopian cuisine. I was thrilled that Wegmans sells the teff flour to make inera and although I was tempted to buy injera from an Ethiopian restaurant as backup I was brave and made it on my own. Although it turned out to look more like pancakes than really flat and thin, the injera worked-ish! I made two different recipes and here is where my memory fails me on which I liked better and I can only find one recipe from oh those many months ago, but here is one of the two recipes I made.



To slather on the injera and to use as a base for some of the other dishes in the platte I made nit’r qibe – Ethiopian spiced butter. It’s essentially ghee with spices.

Next up: key sir alicha, which is beets and potatoes.

My photography of the cooking process of all the components faltered pretty dramatically once my kitchen got dramatic with every single pot and pan I own (and some of my neighbors!) were in use. I had lots of help in the kitchen from guests as the gap between the official start time of the meal and the actual start time of the meal grew.


Atakilt wat (cabbage and potatoes)

Abesha gomen (collard greens)


Mesir wat with ayib This one might have been my favorite dish, partially (okay, largely) because it involves homemade cheese! I didn’t use the ayib recipe in the link here but unfortunately I can’t find the recipe I used. But essentially it’s just boiled buttermilk, strained. So good!

The only non-vegetarian dish was doro wat – chicken stew, which was very similar in components to the red lentil stew.


And the finished platter!


This is the first cuisine I’ve cooked where there’s essentially no dessert options. I read that some people in Ethiopia would say that dessert would ruin the taste of the meal, and why would you want to do that? So, I couldn’t really find dessert recipes, but I did come across a suggestion of cinnamon sugar chickpeas. I’m sure that’s not so authentic, but they were tasty and we didn’t really have much room for dessert after this spread anyway.

A fun, adventurous meal with a great group of friends.



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

いただきます – Japan

Japan: Nikuman, Ramen, Miso-Glazed Eggplant, Bok Choy and Mochi Green Tea Ice Cream


My childhood friend, Alison, came to visit me last weekend and we decided to cook together. We figured out that we’ve known each other for about 30 years (!) and when we were young we used to film cooking “shows.” So it was perfect to cook together again for couch cuisine.

We started off by having a lovely breakfast at Rochester’s Public Market and then shopping for our produce there. Alison took some fun pictures of me shopping. img_7405img_7359img_7329

This picture cracks me up because I don’t know what I was looking at or why my face looks like that. img_7336-1

The market is gorgeous in the fall. img_1967

After rounding out our shopping adventure at Mega Weg,where we were happy and surprised to find the rest of what we needed, the cooking began.

First up, the ramen. Below I’ve written out the recipe we used, which was adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Lucky Peach cookbook. Given that we’d had a fun day exploring Rochester, we didn’t start cooking until almost 6pm. So, this recipe is a quick version of ramen. It would be have been ideal to cook it at a lower temp for several more hours. But, we were pretty pleased with how our quick version turned out.

Pork Ramen

Serves 8


12 cups water

5 sheets Kombu

3 handfuls Bonito flakes

3 lb bone-in pork shoulder, cut into about 8 small pieces (note, this was a ton of meat and I think 2 lbs would have been plenty)

2 Tbs Canola or vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

2 in piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 leek, carefully cleaned and chopped

5 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped

1 1/2 lb fresh ramen noodles (we used fresh noodles that were frozen and available in the  Asian Market section at Pittsford Wegmans)

Soy sauce for seasoning

Sesame oil for seasoning

Sesame seeds

8 eggs

4 green onions, chopped

First, make the Dashi broth. In a large stockpot, bring 12 cups water to a simmer, add the kombu and turn the heat off. Let steep for 10 minutes then remove the kombu and discard. Bring the water back to a simmer and add the bonito flakes. Turn the heat off and steep for 3 minutes. Strain the broth (although my strainer didn’t catch the residue from the bonito flakes, so I just poured the broth slowly into another bowl and discarded the sediment at the bottom). Pour the broth back into the stockpot and set aside.

Season the pork with salt and cut it into smaller pieces (I did about 8, but that was to save time. If you are cooking the soup for more than 2 hours you could cut fewer pieces). In a large saute pan, add oil and once hot add the pork pieces and sear them on both sides until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side (work in batches if it doesn’t all fit nicely in one pan). Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same saute pan with the pork fat, add yellow onion and cook over medium about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger and 1 cup of dashi to deglaze the plan. Scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan and let simmer for 1 minute. Add the chopped leek and cook for 1 minutes.

In the large stockpot of dashi, add the contents of the saute pan as well as the pork and 4 oz of mushrooms (save 1 oz for garnish). Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 hours (here’s where you can reduce the heat and simmer at a lower temp for longer if you have more time. I would probably do low heat for 4 hours next time).

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and break into bite-size chunks, removing fat. Remove the bone and discard. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Return the pork and strained broth to the stockpot and season to taste with soy sauce and sesame oil (if you have more time, cover and cook on low for 30 minutes at this point. We didn’t do this because it was already 9pm and we were hungry!).

Cook the ramen noodles according to the package directions. Cook soft boiled eggs (we did boiling water for 5 minutes) or whatever your preference is for the doneness of the eggs. Cut each in half lengthwise when they’re done and peeled.

To serve, place noodles, broth and meat in individual bowls, sprinkle with green onions, extra mushrooms and sesame seeds, and place two egg halves. Serve immediately. We added sriracha to give it more of a kick. (Also note, I think this would have been good with bok choy in it, so I would add that next time).


This is what I decided was a “handful” of bonito flakes.img_1984img_1980img_1983img_1985img_1986img_1989img_2013img_2019img_2025img_2030


We were really happy with how the ramen turned out. It was warm and comforting, tasty and complex.

To accompany our ramen we made Nikuman, steamed pork buns, using this recipe, with two major adjustments. I do not have a bamboo steamer, so I used the a regular pot steamer with the towel wrapped on the lid as recommended in this recipe. It worked great. But since I wasn’t sure how well the steaming would work, I was nervous to put raw pork in the dough before steaming. So, we cooked the pork mixture in a saute pan until it was thoroughly cooked before stuffing the dough.

Alison was a rockstar at kneading the dough and making the buns! Hers turned out much better than mine, so she took the lead on making these beauties.


The big reveal! (yes, it was almost 10pm at this point)img_2045img_2046img_2050

It worked! I whipped up a simple dipping sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to taste. They were delicious. img_2055

We made two vegetable dishes from the Lucky Peach cookbook that Alison generously gave me: miso-glazed eggplant and sauteed bok choy. Both were very simple – the eggplant is just roasted with miso and the bok choy was sauteed in whole garlic and oil.

Here was our gorgeous spread, arranged and photographed by talented Alison! img_2062

We cheated a bit on dessert by buying mochi green tea ice cream, which was a refreshing finish to the meal.

We had so much fun cooking and eating together! Thanks for a great visit, Alison!


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments