Egyptian Inspired Friday Breakfast for One

Early this weekend -Fridays in Qatar of course- I came home from Jummah prayer craving an Egyptian style breakfast like the one my mommy and I used to make back in San Francisco, California. Take a moment to grasp this global sentence before I continue. =P

I’m still learning to cook for one without leftovers for two! It’s a work in progress so I posted the final results from my 20 minute cooking adventure on my Facebook and Twitter pages (still debating Instragram). Now by request from my fellow Qatari inhabitants, I’m not only sharing the recipes but a few of my ingredient finds. =)

Egyptian Fava Beans with Diced Tomatoes

So if you aren’t in Egypt where you can get the freshest of the fresh fava beans at 5 in the morning, this amazing canned product from California Fields is really the next best thing! We’ve lived off this in San Francisco and when I found it for the first time in Carrefour, I did a little happy dance in the aisle. You can also find this at Al Merra for the same sweet price!

There are several ways to make fava beans with various ingredients, oils and butters. However, the one I made here with just three ingredients is my absolute favorite! In a sauce pan, cooked one can of fava beans on medium heat (using a gas stove, high heat for electric).

As the beans started to bubble around the edges, I added a sliver of butter (about a quarter teaspoon at the most). I ran my cooking utensil through the beans to soften them a bit. I wasn’t trying to puree it, just want a nice and chunky texture. Diced a tomato and added the pretty red squares to the fava beans letting it cook for about two to three more minutes. This let’s the tomatoes cook enough while still holding itself. Then season to taste with salt and pepper… DONE!

For my dieting readers, fava beans are high in protein and very filling without the bloating… score!

Feta Cheese and Seasoned Tomatoes

I think my Arab brothers and sisters can relate to this dish because you seriously can’t go wrong with tomatoes and feta cheese seasoned and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil! For feta cheese, I’ve so far enjoyed Pride’s feta cheese from Al Meera as it’s similar to the one I used to get in San Francisco. This one is a nice solid with so many ways to serving it.

Here, I sliced a nice firm roman tomato and plated it. Than seasoned it with salt, pepper and lots of cumin. I scooped out a good tablespoonful of feta cheese, crumbling it in big pieces onto the plate. Then I drizzled about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil onto the entire plate. This, some toasted pita bread and mixed pickles… OH SO GOOD!

For those needing that extra calcium boost, this is the perfect dish!

Sauteed Balsamic Eggplants

If some of my readers haven’t noticed by now, I LOVE eggplants just as much as I love tomatoes and potatoes! This dish is one of my favorite eggplant dishes and there’s so many simple ways to make it your own with all kinds of eggplants. A few days ago, I found these nice mini eggplants at Al Meera that I figured would be perfect for this dish.

Sliced two mini eggplants into about quarter inch (half a centimeter) disks and in small sauce pan on medium to high heat, sauteed them until they browned on both sides with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Take the sauce pan off the stove and while the pan is still hot, added about half a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for flavor (being very careful as the vinegar does react to the heat).

After the eggplants rested and took in the oil and vinegar for about 5 minutes, I start plating. Topped them off with sliced green onions (or chives), salt, pepper and drizzled the plate with a bit more of balsamic vinegar for taste… DELICIOUS!

Sided my dishes with salt and peppered boiled eggs, toasted pita bread, Egyptian mixed pickles found at Carrefour for about 12QR, fresh sweet orange slices and some sweet tea with low fat milk and I had myself  the best Egyptian breakfast in Qatar… and so can you!! Bel hana welshefa =)

My Qatari Inhabitants

Us expats here really do have an amazing variety of main staples such as oils and vinegar to be tried and tested! For extra virgin olive oil, I’ve so far liked the flavor of Serjella. It just cooks well unlike a few others I’ve tried including the “Spanish Oil” everyone’s raving about here. I’m still looking for a good regular olive oil to cook with more regularly so if you’ve tried a good one, pass it along. Now for my favorite vinegar, the versatile balsamic, was a bit tough because I’ve yet to find an aged one like the ones I’m used to from Trader Joe’s. However, I have to say I appreciate the one by Yamama. Even though it’s not aged, the flavor is very appealing and went very well with my lemon lime apple salad. I found both from Carrefour for less than 15 QR each.

I took all the pictures in this rant with my BlackBerry Curve 3G before I realized I have a real camera! Still pretty good for a 2 year old phone, right?

Ramadan in Qatar

It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve moved to Doha, Qatar from San Francisco, California. So far, I’m settling in slowly but surely, taking in this diverse atmosphere and doing my best to survive this ridiculous summer heat. I have gone out and about exploring bits and pieces of Doha which I’m sure you’re aware of from my many posts on Twitter and foursquare. Not sure how much of that is going to continue as Ramadan approaches.

My favorite time of year is about two days away. As I sit trying to figure out what I need to know about Ramadan in Qatar, I was reminded by my weekly email subscription from Friday Nasiha that this will be my first Ramadan alone, away from my family. It’s not going to be like when I was in grad school a few years back and working long hours where I only had iftar at home maybe once or twice a week. It’s not going to be like when I was in Egypt last year constantly surrounded by extended family and friends.

Realizing this has officially made me homesick.

I had to appreciate the efforts with some of the tips for spending Ramadan alone away from family which I’ve reposted below. I am blessed that I would be spending Ramadan in Qatar with friends I deem family however I appreciate and will definitely be utilizing tips #3, #4 and #6!

Are you spending Ramadan alone this year? What tips here work for your situation? Do you have other tips to add on? Any tips for spending Ramadan in Qatar?

Cool Tips!

Lonely Ramadan

For most Muslims, Ramadan is family time. You get up together, eat Iftar together, pray together, etc. But what if you don’t have your family near you?

Waking up in a lonely apartment and eating food you’ve sometimes burnt in an effort to catch Suhur in time are some of the realities of being a single Muslim in Ramadan. But there are ways to make Ramadan special when you’re on your own. Here are few ideas.

1. Establish a Suhur telephone tree
Get a couple of friends together and establish a telephone tree to wake each other up for Suhur. Establish a time to call and a schedule of who will call whom. Make it a little exciting by adding some funny phrases every week that will really wake everyone.

2. Invite people over for Iftar
Even if even you couldn’t eat the food the last time you cooked, invite people over for Iftar. Make it a potluck, order pizza or if you can afford it, get it catered. The food isn’t the thing. The blessing is in the company, and you’ll be rewarded for feeding everyone. Make sure to especially invite those who are away from their families.

3. Attend prayers at the local mosque/MSA
Even if the Imam’s recitation isn’t the best and the behavior of other Muslims can be more than annoying, try to attend Tarawih prayers organized by your local mosque or your Muslim Students’ Association (MSA). While praying alone in peace and quiet is great, praying shoulder-to-shoulder with other Muslims with whom you have nothing in common except your faith is a unique and uplifting experience.

4. Keep the Quran playing when you are alone
It’s often tempting to keep the TV or radio on when we’re alone to avoid the silence. This Ramadan, find a Quran reciter you like and play their recitations during those moments when you want to fill your place with some sound. Choose selections you’d like to memorize, like the 30th part of the Quran.

5. Take care of others
Know a new person at the school/office? Is a friend who lives nearby having problems with their spouse? Or is someone you know having money problems? This Ramadan, reach out with an attentive ear, a generous hand, and most importantly, an open heart to others. Don’t let these small opportunities for gaining blessings slip you by.

6. Pick and pursue Ramadan goals 
Choose at least three goals to pursue this Ramadan. Whether it’s curbing a bad habit or starting a good one, doing this will help you focus and work harder this month to change for the better. It takes 21 days to establish a good habit. With Ramadan, we’ve got 30. Why not make the best of it by picking up the good?

Compiled From:
A single Muslim’s guide to Ramadan” – SoundVision.com

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Welcome to Egypt, This Way Please

This is the first of many rants from my private journal on my trip to Egypt last year. Learn more about the series here.

Baba and I landed in Cairo on the evening of May 19, 2011.

Baba’s requested wheelchair service was waiting for him right outside the airplane door, not the gate door like in Germany (for our layover), the airplane door which put my overly anxious father at ease. To be honest, the gentleman had an extremely professional and friendly demeanor unlike what I was expecting. He guided us through customs, “this way please”, where the officers were oddly polite following typical procedures with their questions. Then he guided us to baggage claims, “this way please,” where I remembered the one bag that wouldn’t show up.

I was maybe on 3 hours of sleep, exhausted from packing and repacking thanks to the odd agreement amongst airlines that believes you are well off on a long international trip with about 100 pounds and one carry-on. (To the people that come up with these stupid standards, good shoes and toiletries are not light!) I’ve been packing for over a month and somehow until the last minute I was still off by several pounds. The best part, I wasn’t just stressing over packing for myself, it started with stressing over shopping and packing for Baba too!

At SFO, there was a good 20 minutes of misinformation because Lufthansa was convinced I was going to Europe and not the Middle East so I should have LESS luggage… WHAT?! After that, was another good banter over one of my carry-ons being one too many. Really? Lufthansa asked for $250 if I wanted to have it checked! In the end I had to part with it because I usually take a while to get through security because of my hijab and Baba wasn’t being helpful at all. It was a tough decision to have to leave it behind even as Mama said she’d ship it too me. All I could think about was my favorite pair of heels I had packed in that carry-on specifically so they don’t get messed up in the handling of my luggage (I know, first world problems). For those who may or may not know, despite my ungirly dislike for shopping, I have a thing for shoes!

Back at the new terminal of Cairo International Airport (seems its only for EgyptAir flights), the gentleman handling my father’s wheelchair was kind enough to help out with our luggage, let me use his cell phone when my T-mobile international roaming decided not to be turned on per my request weeks in advance and wait before Baba’s nephews were able to get through security outside the airport to receive us.

The last time I was here was April 2001. I had an interesting experience, both good and bad. I enjoyed meeting new people and exploring Egypt’s treasures while putting up with constant verbal cat calling at the presence of my family members in public. I wondered then if Egypt would ever improve, change for the better.

I didn’t have a great first impression when after landing in Cairo’s airport then, everyone was harassing Mama and I to handle our luggage and be tipped for just offering to help. Customs were rude, acting like they were doing us a favor by letting us enter the country. Employees were plain rude if you weren’t deemed “important” or refused to tip for no reason. Bombarded by drivers fighting over offering you a ride even after you’ve said you were not interested.

This time was different.

No one touched our luggage unless we specifically requested it. Drivers only asked once, politely, and wished us well as they flashed a smile after we said “no, thank you.” The gentleman handling Baba’s wheelchair was a married man with kids, working this job because he actually enjoyed it. He didn’t once mention anything about getting a tip. Baba and I of course insisted on tipping him and taking down his number so that we can connect with him when my father was to fly back to California alone two months later.

On the hour or so drive to Baba’s farming country town of ElManzala where he grew up, I wondered if that airport experience was enough of an impression to judge if Egypt has changed for the better, different after the great revolution of earlier that year. Some streets were clean, others were not. Drivers were still driving crazy at one in the morning, yet they used their turning singnals. Homes were still being built, clothes were hung on clothes lines across balconies and roofs. Mosques and churches alike were colorfully light up. Cairo was wide awake, it never slept. And not one picture to remind the people of who used to run this place.

That put a smile on my face.

Egyptian Summer – Update?

I’m two months into my Egyptian summer now. I know, I promised to post blogs on my adventures here but with extremely slow internet in the country side where I’m spending most of my time, I opted to update via Twitter & Facebook. I’m still getting the hang of blogging via my Blackberry phone so please bare with me. (I’m extremely tempted to purchase a Blackberry Playbook. I know, I’m getting sucked into the tablet market but what can I do, I’m a nerd!)

In the meantime, everyone’s been asking me, how’s Tahrir Square? Sadly, I haven’t been allowed to go as of yet. Yes, for safety reasons, my father and cousins have not encouraged my passion to be part of the Egyptian protests. However, my other cousins and I have a plan of our own… let’s just hope it works.