• Mai


Ashta, also known as kashta or qashta, is a variety of clotted cream mostly used in desserts in the Arab world especially in the Levantine, also called Geymar in Iraq or kaymak In Turkey.

There are many ways to make the traditional ashta some require more time than others. Traditionally, it is made with the freshest full-fat milk you can find that’s reduced down and the Cream layer that forms on top is called ashta. The milk is reduced down creating a silky smooth and thick cream perfect for desserts. Others use methods like in the making of ricotta cheese where you add lemon juice or vinegar to milk or a mixture of milk and heavy cream and separate the milk from the whey creating a decadent cream. Often ashta is finished with orange blossom and rose water for flavor.


Other variations just thicken the milk with cornstarch like I did in this simple recipe here. Although ashta can be enjoyed as a dessert on its own, served with fruit, or drizzled with honey, or date syrup, and garnished with nuts. But it is commonly used in various desserts such as qatayef, mutabak, layered with harriseh, even in knafeh as a different variety from the cheese knafeh.


Speedy ashta recipe



Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup full fat milk (although I tried it with 2%, and it was great)

2 tbls cornstarch

2 tbls sugar

Flavorings: 1 tsp orange blossom water or rose water or even vanilla


Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the flavorings in a medium pot and whisk well until the cornstarch dissolves.


On medium heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle bubble whisking constantly so it doesn’t stick.

You will notice that the mixture will become thicker in about few minutes.

Once you get the desired consistency turn off the heat and add in your flavorings.


Pour into a heatproof bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

refrigerate until cold and it will get thicker as it sets.

Store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.

Use as a dessert on its own or use it in your favorite recipes.


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It’s a slightly sunny day in Chicago. A sunny day is desperately needed in the long winter months. Those who live in the Midwest know exactly what I mean. I made this winter citrus caprese salad, alternating layers of creamy mozzarella with all the beautiful oranges of the season, fresh basil if you find it, and a drizzle of basil oil.

Times are challenging and tough for so many. We are struggling to stay optimistic given the state of the pandemic, the economy, and the brutally cold winter. My father has been in the hospital due to covid complications for two months now. Despite my father’s situation, the distance between us, and covid restrictions, I have been finding myself exercising simple coping mechanisms that allow me to deal with my emotions in a more proactive way. I realized that the real difference between being optimistic and pessimistic isn’t in how we see situations that occur to us and around us. It is in how we cope with these events.

So, today, I saw the pile of winter oranges that are sitting on my counter as an opportunity. They are as beautiful as summer tomatoes in this caprese salad. The sun is shining bright, slightly melting the freezing snow outside. And when I opened the door, I heard the birds even chirping. They are either complaining about the cold or are just simply happy to be free. I am finally able to FaceTime my father (since he’s out of the ICU into a regular hospital room) to watch him eat Rukab ice cream in his hospital bed. Then, I watched him slowly fall asleep because eating a whole cone of ice cream is exhausting.

I am choosing to see signs of hope as opportunities despite this situation. My Dad is eating ice cream again, so this makes for a heck of a an awesome day.


I

Winter orange caprese salad with basil oil

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes


INGREDIENTS

  • 3 to 4 various oranges (blood orange, Cara Cara etc) whatever you can find. sliced into thin slices about 1/4-inch thick

  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves

  • Flaky sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tbls basil olive oil or regular extra virgin olive oil. Or even 2 tbls of pesto is perfect here.


Directions:



  • Arrange by alternating oranges and fresh mozzarella on a platter.

  • Scatter the basil leaves over the oranges and mozzarella.

  • Sprinkle with flaky salt and black pepper.

  • Drizzle with the basil olive oil over the oranges, mozzarella, and basil. Serve immediately.


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  • Mai


My grandmother growing up always ate sweet and savory things combined together. Flavors my young self didn’t really appreciate or understand. Teta would eat avocados with jam or Labaneh with honey or dibis (often grape molasses). But as I got older, these flavors stayed in the back of my memory, I developed my palette to truly enjoy this combination too. Here is a simple holiday treat of creamy Labaneh crostini topped with my cranberry and Seville marmalade compote and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. But as opposed to my fresh cranberry recipe (on my website) i actually cooked the cranberries for this crostini. My daughter Julia caught on to this idea early on but her sweet and savory combo consists of one bite tacos and one bite ice cream or cake. I will stick to my teta ‘s palette because teta knows best. We don’t always have to come up with new recipes, repurpose exiting ones to truly enjoy what’s in season is so fun too.

For my Orange Blossom, Seville Marmalade & Cranberry Fresh Relish

For this recipe I cooked down the relish:

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange peeled and diced

  • Zest of the orange

  • 12 Oz fresh cranberries washed

  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom

  • Add 2 tbls of Seville orange marmalade **, you can also add marmalade or maple syrup or honey. Adjust the sweetness to your liking

  • 1 baguette sliced and toasted

  • honey and olive oil to drizzle

Directions for this cooked version:

In a heavy pot add the cranberries, diced orange, and marmalade, mix to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn the heat down to low and simmer until all cranberries burst, stirring often. If mixture is too dry add few tablespoons of orange juice at a time. Simmer for 20 minutes until mixture is bubbly. off the heat add the orange zest, and orange blossom water. Stir to combine.

let mixture cool before you top you toasted crostini with labaneh and then a dollop of the cranberry relish. Add a drizzle of honey and olive oil to finish.

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