Monday, June 9, 2008

I didn't blow up the kitchen!

A little bit of background is needed here. My family is Lebanese. My immigrint mother is a wonderfully talented cook that can pretty much make anything. But, my favorite of all her foods are the traditional Lebanese meals, mostly because I have no idea how to make most of them. With my mother being abroad for the summer, I am already anxious about all of the Lebanese food I'm going to miss! Sure, I can make bad-ass hummus and tabouli. But, what about the complicated dishes that take hours to make? I had to do something....

So, I bought a pressure cooker. My mother tells me that although it is ideal to slow cook dishes for hours, she often uses a pressure cooker. This way, she could prepare traditional meals, even after getting home from work. Unfortunately, she did not have enough time to teach me how to use my new appliance before she left. When I spoke to her over the phone about it, she advised me not to try to use the cooker for the first time without supervision. I could scald myself. (I'm very accident prone) I am also very stubborn. So, even after a friend told me she would show me how to use it sometime, I decided to give it the old college try.

I pulled out the box, and found instructions. Great! This will make life easier. Except that all the directions said were to be careful because "scalding one's body may occur." umm...ok, this might be harder than I thought. After standing around in the kitchen for awhile, I decided that millions of people have used pressure cookers, what can be so hard?

I had seen my mother make fusoulia a thousand times. (Ok, I can't spell Arabic words properly. Sorry.) It seemed simple enough. In went the kidney beans, enough water to cover them, a can of tomato sauce, salt, and pepper. My mother also included chunks of braised meat, but I didn't have any on hand. I attached the cover, and popped up the heat. After about 10 minutes, the cooker started to let steam out, which drove my poor little dog nuts. Now, I have heard so many stories about people having the contents of their pressure cooker explode all over the kitchen. I'm not sure how that happens, but I was very afraid of it happening to me. When the pot really began to make noise, I panicked. Was I doing it right? Was I going to have to convince my hubby that we really needed to paint the kitchen anyways?

I watched the pot from the kitchen doorway (holding the dog), just in case it did blow. But of course, it didn't. And the beans turned out just lovely. I set them aside to cool and then refrigerated them. I will eat them one night this week over rice.

Even though this meal is not difficult by any stretch of the imagination, I am very proud of myself. I have become a daring cook, trying all sorts of techniques and cuisines. But, I never felt that I could cook proper Lebanese food. My mother is a fantastic cook; she's known for it. So, I never bothered to cook her food, always assuming that I couldn't. This little step could be the first in many down the path of Lebanese cuisine...

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