Soundtracking Moments: Faris’s February

1. Blue Glasses – Smokey and Miho
2. Daydream in Blue – I Monster
3. Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
4. 1973 – James Blunt
5. Golden Frames – KT Tunstall
6. High and Dry – Jamie Cullum
7. As You Like It – Siobhan Donaghy
8. The Day and the Time – Shakira
9. It’s Not Easy – Mutya Buena
10. Godspell – The Cardigans

© 2011 Art by Faris Habayeb
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Preserved Lemons, Chicken, and Couscous

Tajine

For a while I have been obsessing about preserved lemons and the sensory experience they can bring to dishes. Similar to their cousin, lemon confit but sans the sugar, preserved lemons sit in their own juice, salted with herbs and spices (depending on taste) for about a month before they are ready to be used. Pondering on whether I should make my own or purchase some pre-preserved, I opted for the latter when I found a jar at Zabar’s.

A good Moroccan chicken tajine radiates when preserved lemons are exhibited in its flavor capsule. While food prigs may dismiss a simplified recipe that doesn’t quite stew for as long, nor does it incorporate the use of a tajine (the clay base with a cone shaped top), the result is nonetheless a bold Moroccan inspired dish zipped with flavor.

What you’ll need is couscous, dried fruit (whichever you have on hand, dried apricots or figs are nice, but raisins are great too), a preserved lemon or two, harissa, some vegetables and your choice of protein (I used chicken).

Here’s the recipe:

1 box of Couscous
1 lbs of chicken breast strips
1 onion coarsley chopped into big slivers
1/4 lbs of chopped Kalamata olives
4 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of Harissa
1 tbsp of ground cardamom
3 tbsp of garlic powder
1 cup dried figs
1 tsp of kosher salt
2 cut up preserved lemons
1 pound of asparagus

1. Set your oven to broil and let it heat up for a few minutes
2. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a pot or sauce pan and add the onions. Let the onions cook through till they begin a translucency and add the salt, garlic powder and smoked paprika, and chicken
3. As the chicken starts to almost cook through add the Harissa, ground cardamom, chopped olives, dried figs and lemons
4. Separately broil the asparagus with 1 tbsp of olive oil for 10 minutes
5. In the mean time turn the heat low to the chicken and onion stew
6. Once the asparagus is broiled, cut it up to smaller pieces and add to the stew
7. In a separate, bigger pot prep the couscous
8. As a last step, once the couscous is fluffed up add the stew to the couscous and ensure both are integrated together through the pot

© 2011 Faris Habayeb

Balaboosta

During my inaugural visit to Balaboosta, I entered the restaurant with a sense of curiousity and excitement. In keeping with New York quintessence, Balaboosta is like much of the trendy spots in the city to eat. On the outside, windows exhibit expansive jars of preserved vegetables and other pickled items, ushering a busy, open kitchen, and an ambient dining room.

Shrimp Kataiif

Yet beyond the maquillage of a wooden hanging ceiling, a chalkboard menu, and a solitary photo of the chef’s aunt, bathing amidst a halo of muted light, the food is really good.

The Falafel Wrapped Meatballs are a gutsy twist on the vegetarian chickpea-based recipe. Served à la corn dog mediterranean, they were interesting, but came off as unneccessarily indulgent, and left me craving fried kibbe instead.

Shrimp Kataïf is tempura with a Middle Eastern point of view. Served with Flying Fish Roe Sauce it fared as a pleasently fleeting but still very palatable moment.

Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak

The 15-spice macerated Spice Rubbed skirt Steak is bodacious. A firework of flavor finishes with a curious sweetness reminiscent of a Middle Eastern barbeque sauce—if there were such a thing. Accompaniments consist of a cumin slaw and of some the best roasted potatoes I’ve had in a while. Dusted with seasalt, they’re perfectly sweet, warm, and simple.

Chicken Under a Brick

The Chicken Under a Brick is essentially Jaj Imsahab, a very Middle Eastern method of broiling butterfly chicken. It sits with carmelized onions, a  vinegary gremolata, and a splendid pearl couscous with dried apricots and leeks. Word on the foodie street raves about the Lamb burgerwhich boasts an herbed cheese center, and the Crispy Cauliflower with Currants and Pine Nuts.

Balaboosta
214 Mulberry St
New York, NY
10012

Gruppo: Thin Crust Pizza

Gruppo

If you’re a thin crust fan, look no further. Gruppo crafts some of the best thin crust pizza. This is the place where edges are crispy but not burnt or dry. Pie centers are cooked yet still appropriately moist and bursting with flavor.

Symptoms of a pizza malady are a doughy and watery canvas. A result of inadequate ingredient ratios best left to critique over a homemade pizza as opposed to buying it. For a specialty pizza experience, opt for the Chixpotle. Shredded chicken sits on a homemade BBQ sauce, that’s reminiscent of tamarind and Worcestershire sauce with cheese and cilantro.

For all intents and purposes Gruppo eliminates the misgivings that stem from many a pizzeria in the city that claim to make a good thin crust pie.

Gruppo
186 Ave B
Manhattan, NY 10009

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

With a penchant for manicuring its international profile, Qatar just opened doors to Mathaf, the Middle East’s first full-scale institution of modern art. Flanked by its sense of pride in being the little nation that was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup, and the stunningly elegant Museum of Islamic Art recently built by I.M. Pei, Mathaf is a testament to the vivacious and rapidly changing Qatari landscape.

Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art

Situated amidst the many notable academic institutions that make up Education City, Mathaf’s building style is an antithesis to the Gulf region’s way of doing things. As buildings there are constantly being razed and built a new, Mathaf’s space is currently a modestly refashioned former school. Harking to academia, and contributing to a negligible history of a young nation, it brings a new sense of understanding to the Gulf’s perception of public space.

The museum aims to bring a comprehension of art that transcends a current perception in the region that sees as art as more of a leisurely pursuit. A research center that’s part of the museum will host workshops and lectures in hopes to ignite a much needed new understanding of art in the Arab world. Beyond the liaison of private galleries and solitary art initiatives scattered throughout the Middle East, Mathaf will  serve as an pivotal resource for Arab artists, developing their talents and showcasing their work alike.

Focusing on contemporary art, the museum boasts a collection of more than 6,000 pieces of work representing modern Arab Art, spanning the 1840s to present day.