Amy Winehouse
© 2011 Faris Habayeb

Black Mission Figs + Strained Yogurt


Like basil, Black Mission figs are one of summer’s most redeeming moments. When eaten they somehow manage to hush that unbearable humidity that blankets New York City. As a child summering in the Middle East, eating figs was a staple tradition. One of my aunts had a massive tree which bore the fruit all summer long. As an avid strained yogurt eater, I find the thickness reminiscent of the homemade yogurt my mom used to make. The combination made for a nostalgic and jubilantly delicious experience.

On a few hasty whims I’ve managed to purchase a flavored kind when I simply wanted plain, and regular when I really wanted non-fat. The latter scenario turned out to be quite a divine surprise. The discovery took place early one morning before I had even made my coffee. In spirit of a healthy, but quick breakfast I opened my yogurt and dug in. Almost instantly, I was shocked, surprised, delighted and confused, all at the same time. This is sort of like when you have a regular soda when you’re used to the alternatively sweetened kind. Instead of eating it on the spot for breakfast, I treated it like ice-cream, reserved for a treat. In fact, the flavor made me think more of Panna Cotta than anything else. I suspect this might be an interesting alternative to the heavy cream that the Italian dessert employs. For a luxurious treat, split open a couple of figs and add a dollop of strained yogurt. You can also add a drizzle of honey or agave nectar for extra sweetness.

© 2011 Faris Habayeb

Cookies more like Petite Fours and Chocolate Chip Biscuits…

Cookie Cookie Cookie
I had never made cookies before. Madeleines in the past, but never cookies. You know the cookies that hold a sort of sensibility that define Americana in all its star-spangled glory. With no mixing gadgets in the kitchen I researched the possibilities of baking cookies without the aid of a robot. To my delight, I quickly learned that a batter that is hand mixed created a better cookie.The incongruous interruptions of a hand that mixes prepare a spontaneity that contributes to ideal cookie texture. This texture is soft, chewy and ultimately multifarious in its surface area.

While creating my very first batch, I skimmed through a few recipes to get a grasp on cookie basics. After attaining a snapshot of the process I experimented in the kitchen. My first batch turned out more reminiscent of the Petite Fours my mother used to bake when I was a child. They were buttery, moist and generally a successful first attempt but they were not the American cookie that I was looking for. As a side note, I did add more sea salt than what was called for; pepper, Turkish coffee grounds and almonds. The mistake which turned into a major advantage for this batch was the egg. I initially had mixed the batter, spooned it into lumps and whacked it in the oven for almost a minute before I saw that I had completely forgotten to include the egg. Panicking, I took the trays out of the oven and let them cool. I then added the egg, remixed the batter and recreated the arrangements of lumps that had previously been eggless. The heat of a minute in the oven caused all the chips to melt, creating a chocolate cookie batter as opposed to chip. What I particularly enjoyed about this batch was that they simply tasted better after a few days. Baked for a 4th of July picnic that was cancelled due to rain, they managed to last a little longer than scheduled, granting me the luxury to wax eloquent about their profile.

Bringing treats to staff meetings is a tradition we have in our office and I took the opportunity to rectify my initial cookie recipe. This time I used more eggs than butter, ensuring that everything was mixed in the batter prior to baking. All the other ingredients more or less remained the same, but the chips did not melt thankfully and so I was blessed with chocolate chips that were nestled in the batter. Unfortunately, a minute more in the oven than prescribed and my cookies were almost burned. Fortunately they remained soft. A colleague in the office said they reminded him of biscuits. Perhaps this was a result of excess sea salt, pepper and maybe even more baking soda than needed? Regardless, I marketed them as Chocolate Chip Biscuits and somehow, with that sort of name, I managed to appreciate these cookies more than I thought I would have in the first place.

Melanie C: Rock Me

Melanie C Rock Me

Former Spice Girl Melanie C makes a splashing comeback with her new single “Rock Me” followed by a new forthcoming album, The Sea, which is to be released in September. Her last record, This Time released in 2007 was an adequate effort, but much like all of Melanie C’s material to date, she has perpetually failed to transcend her original fan base. Time will tell if the new material will reinvent Melanie and hopefully catapult her out of the Spice mould; a depleting fuel that somehow keeps her going. There is, nonetheless, a redeeming energy in the air, a potential electronic direction percolating, optimistically a resuscitation of her best to date, William Orbit’s “I Turn to You”.

Melanie C Rock Me

Corsini Cantuccini Al Cioccolato

Corsini Cantuccini

I picked these up at Eataly a while back and was not sure of how good they would turn out. While I’m perfectly happy with my espresso going solo in the morning, a sweet bite on the side isn’t a challenge to throw together in a.m., nor does it contend my coffee in need of chaperoning. Having said that, these surprisingly fresh Tuscan biscuits carry some remarkable delicate flavors. The chocolate pieces are deliciously dispersed, varying in size amidst an Italian buttery canvas. When dipped in a freshly brewed shot of espresso they soften a touch, bringing a beautiful finish to a bold sip of coffee.