Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fig, Prosciutto, and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

I think this easy salad is a taste sensation. The combination of flavors and textures really makes it a delight to eat. The figs are sweet, the lettuce leaves are crunchy, the prosciutto is salty, the salad dressing is a bit tart, and the mozzarella is soft, mild, and seems to balance the salad.

Fig and Proscuitto Salad

Fig, Prosciutto, and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes 2 Servings

4 ripe figs
1 bag of ready to use salad, or any mix of leaves you like in an appropriate portion for two
4 slices of prosciutto or other dry cured ham, cut into large pieces
Fresh mozzarella, cut into bite size pieces
3-4 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder or one garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt

Prepare the balsamic vinegar dressing. Combine the mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. With a whisk in one hand, and olive oil in the other, slowly emulsify the olive oil into the other ingredients by pouring it in slowly and whisking vigorously.

Assemble the salad. Cut a crisscross into the figs, without cutting all the way through. Squeeze the bottom of the fig a bit to expose the pink flesh inside. Place lettuce on the bottom of the bowl, and distribute the other ingredients on top. Just before serving, lightly dress the salad with the dressing. Alternatively, you can leave the dressing on the side so that people can choose the amount of dressing, if any, they'd like on their salad.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eating Like a King or Queen; Traditional United Arab Emirates Style

I recently went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and visited the specific Emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. It was my first time in the Middle East and a very interesting experience. Not to mention I dined extremely well in the many restaurants available to us foreigners.

However, what I really enjoyed was visiting some of the historical places in and around the UAE. I learned a bit about how the Arabs used to live, what their homes were like, and how they used to eat.

I took some photos at the Al Ain Palace Museum, the formal home of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Men and women had separate areas in the palace to live, hang out, and eat. Traditionally, people would sit on the floors of rooms on pillows. However, as you can see below, the Sheikh had seats. I'm sitting on his "throne" in this photo.

In the middle of the room, there would be mats with large woven cones sitting on top. Food would be served on these mats in large dishes. Eating was communal, and it was (and still is) very important to eat with your right hand. The cones protected the food underneath from insects.

The coffee pot is one of the national symbols of the UAE. If you are a guest entering a home, you will always be offered coffee. If you take a look at the coinage of the UAE, the dirham, you'll notice a coffee pot on it.

Lastly, I just wanted to show you a date palm. I had never really thought about it, and didn't realize that dates grew on huge palms. They ripen and dry naturally on the trees, and are ready to eat as soon as they have been picked. Yum!