Recipe Test Nest » Uncategorized » Middle Eastern Finale
Middle Eastern Finale

Lamb is difficult to prepare, I’ve really enjoyed trying out recipes these past three TEST NEST menus. I still haven’t perfected cooking lamb, but definitely learned a lot. On April 26, my wonderful guests (Tara Bench, Richard Atkinson, Morgan Basset, Daniel Evans, Jian Huang, David Caine) and me had a blast. I was a little nervous for this dinner as Tara is the food editor at Ladies Home Journal – it was an honor to have her at my dinner table.

I’m deeming our entertaining dinner conversation as the most interesting of all TEST NEST nights thus far (as I’m sure all conversations that lead into a discussion about animal mating would be). Here are the reviews:

Mocktail: Grape Margaritas (3 Stars)

This drink surprises your taste buds as it is not what you’d expect. My blender is not great with ice and the drink needed to be smoother. You use green grapes, water, sugar and fresh squeezed limes.

Appetizers: Black Bean Hummus (4 Stars) and Stuffed Dates (4 Stars)

I got the Black Bean Hummus recipe from a friend but it is very similar to the linked recipe. The consistency was perfect and it has a nice unexpected kick.

The dates were stuffed with a mixture of Fontina Cheese and Hazelnuts. The blend works well with the sweetness of the dates. If you like dates, this is a great way to serve them. I had to have at least one date recipe as they are served regularly in Dubai and the Middle East (restaurants, hotels, etc…).

Main Course: Lamb with Balsamic Glazed Vegetables (3 Stars)

I have mixed feelings about this recipe. I probably won’t make it again, but yet the flavors and the mix of veggies is a nice change in a roast and slow-cooked recipes. I used a lamb leg roast and unfortunately it was dry. Tara thought a shoulder roast might be juicer, and also suggested doing a beef or pork roast. I might hang onto it and try with other meats.

Dessert: Ricotta Cake (4 Star) and Cardamom Milk (4.5)

The ricotta cake was yummy, but also not what you’d expect. I thought it would be spongier; others thought it would be more like a cheesecake. A good description would be baked rice pudding custard. The recipe does not have any cream cheese in it, and uses Arborio rice. Dave wanted more strawberries with it, so I’d suggest doubling the strawberry sauce recipe.

Haleeb ma Hal (Cardamon Milk) is a very traditional recipe. I’ve seen it with just milk and cardamom pods. The recipe I used was from an Israeli who submitted it to the Worldwide Ward Cookbook. It called for goat milk and has cinnamon sticks and cloves in addition the cardamom pods. I boiled it a day in advance and let it sit with the spices until reheating before serving. The spices softened the tartness of the goat milk. I liked it a lot, but was surprised when my testers gave it the highest rating.

The best way to learn how traditional cuisine is made and tastes is to live and visit with those cultures. I had a absolutely charmed four months abroad in Dubai, and I can’t believe it’s already been one year since my return. Where to go next? I’d like to go everywhere!

6 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. T (April 30, 2010)

    This was such a great dinner! I think Amber did a perfect job of incorporating all the fun Middle Eastern flavors. And the company was so fun!

  2. MUGS234 (May 1, 2010)

    Thanks Amber for once again creating a great dinner. It was fantastic as always (the star rating system is obviously a relative measure and not an absolute rubric as everything was first class). I left feeling not only educated as to food preparation, but also animal husbandry so it was a success in every sense.

  3. Daniel (May 3, 2010)

    A class act as always. Though it's difficult to disentangle these things sometimes, the balsamic glazed vegetables with the lamb were excellent and would function well as either a standalone side dish or paired with another meat main course.

    To echo what MUGS234 said, it almost feels unfair to reduce these dinners to stars on the food; the reason why they're so great is the combination of the food, ambiance, lively conversations, and the courage of Amber in daring to throw the things in the first place.

  4. mom (May 6, 2010)

    Amber I can't believe my daughter is becoming such a chef. I think our food was bland when you were growing up.

  5. Monster Mary (May 15, 2010)

    hmmm looks fabulous! I think I'd like cardamon milk, sounds yummy.

  6. dutchgirl89 (November 15, 2010)

    Can I just say that all of this looks way yummy!

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