Friday, January 8, 2010

An Evening in Cairo

After the magic and chaos of the holidays, it's easy to slip into a funk. The weather is cold out (for most of us) and the holidays that we look forward to all year round have passed. We find ourselves whimsically putting the holiday decorations away for next year and hoping that spring get's here ASAP. I know this feeling all too well. I call it the "Winter Blahs". I've gotten a case of this winter funk before, but I have also found techniques to keep this feeling at bay. One way, is to create my own personal "dinner vacation".

My family and I recently went to Egypt and spent three amazing weeks touring the country. Everything we came across changed my perspective, opened my eyes to new things, and ultimately led me to a huge life change. I spent the holidays with my aunt Linda and uncle James, who had taken the trip to Egypt with me. I decided that we should all journey back to Egypt together through food. What better way to beat the chill of winter than by re-creating a fabulous vacation!

Everyone was on board. We pulled out the pictures from our trip and set up a slide show to watch while we ate dinner. We found some traditional music that would transport us back to Egypt and played it in the background to set the mood. Then I went to work in the kitchen making a traditional Tomato Curry Tilapia, Lemon Herb Peas, and Egyptian Wild Rice. For an appetizer, I whipped up a batch of my Humdinger Hummus and served it along side fresh vegetables and pita chips.

That night we were all transported back to Cairo and got lost in our memories of the journey. We laughed, reminisced, and let the sunshine of our memories wash over us warming us from the inside out. Oh, and the curry helped keep us warm too. I have also created this meal  in coordination with a toga party with other family that had not been to Egypt. After that toga dinner party they felt like they had been on the journey with us! So it doesn't matter if you have been somewhere or are just longing to go, it is never too expensive or too long a distance to travel to create a "dinner vacation".

So whether you create a new vacation or re-live a favorite trip bring your family and friends together and invite them to come with you. Hey, why not start with taking your friends to Cairo, on me!

Tomato Curry Tilapia

6 filetes of fresh tilapia (it can also be frozen, but thaw in cold water first)
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can garbanzo beans (14.5 oz)

1 can black olives chopped (14.5 oz)
1/2 white onion sliced
8 garlic cloves minced
3 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large sauce pot on the stove with the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion becomes transluscent. Then add the curry, paprika, cumin, and chili powder along with the can of crushed tomatoes. Mix well and let all of the spices combine with the tomatoes. After about 5 minutes add the garbanzo beans and black olives. Stir to mix all the ingredients for your sauce and remove from heat.

Place the fish filettes in a large baking dish that has been sprinkles with olive oil. Pour the sauce over the fish and wiggle the baking dish to ensure the fish gets thoroughly wrapped in the sauce. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. The fish will come out tender and flaky and the sauce will be robust and a little spicy!

This sauce can also be poured over pasta so it is great to double the recipe and freeze and use for another meal later in the week.

Lemon Herb Peas

1 package frozen peas (12 oz)
1/2 white onion diced
4 cloves of garlic minced
Juice from 2 lemons
2 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. olive oil

Heat a small sauce pan with olive oil until hot. Then add the onion and garlic and saute until onion becomes transluscent. Add the peas, lemon juice, and parsley and stir gently. Cook only until peas are heated through. The peas should remain bright green and fresh. To cook this side will only take about 10 to 15 minutes. You want to peas to burst in your mouth with the fresh juice.

Wild Egyptian Rice

2 cups wild rice
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. dried basil
Pinch of salt

Cook the rice according to the package directions, however use the vegetable stock instead of water and add the herbs in at the beginning stirring to combine all ingredients. The brightness of the parsley pairs well with the smokiness of the paprika and the sweetness of the basil. Those three flavors combine to give this rice an added kick and pairs well with the spiciness of the fish and the freshness of the peas.

Humdinger Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans drained (14.5 oz)
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp. cumin powder
2 tbsp. curry powder

Add the garbonzo beans, garlic, cumin, and curry to a food processor and puree. Once the beans are broken down, lift the pour spout of the food processor and slowly add the olive oil. The dip should be smooth creamy and light. If it looks too much like a paste, add another few drops of olive oil. If you are wanting to lighten this recipe up, you can substitute half the olive oil for plain or greek yogurt.

Serve with fresh sliced vegetables and pita chips for a sure fire crowd pleasure!

Mental Health Tip: Despite the chill outside, it is never too far to travel to create your own warm memories of vacations gone by or dream trips of the future. Don't wait until tomorrow to go somewhere that you can create in your kitchen today! Take if from us, you deserve a vacation! So take one tonight! Anywhere you want to go is only a recipe away. Why not go to Cairo tonight?

Peace and Love in this new year from our family to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

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