Friday, March 23, 2012

Springtime in Algeria

Depending on the region, and though the celebration has no official status, spring is often celebrated in Algeria by sharing what's fresh and local, be it savory or sweet, with family and loved ones around a picnic. In the eastern and central part of the country, it is welcomed by making little dates and semolina galettes. In the Kabylie region by making couscous with Thapsia plant, fresh fava beans, poppy buds or green peas and preserved meat. In rural and mountainous areas, early spring outings are also an opportunity to harvest a wide variety of plants and flowers, many of which are edible.

Growing up in Algeria, my school vacations were often spent at my grandparents. Every spring, my nana (grandmother) would welcome the rebirth of life by filling a basket with fresh dates and making mbesses; a diamond shaped little semolina bread made with fresh butter and cooked on a Tagine. Ba (my grandfather) would carry the plate of mbesses and I the basket of dates and together we would go outside, on our sidewalk and hand out mbesses and dates to passers, kids coming from school, young and old coming from work. Later, back in my nana's kitchen, a bowl of couscous with fresh green peas all drizzled with local olive oil will await us. And so will a plate of freshly made rayeb (a sort of plain yogurt)

We carried this tradition even after Ba passed away. Still, it wasn't the same not having him by my side on that sidewalk. Soon after, my nana and I would just share dates and mbesses directly with our family and neighbors.

Whatever you are doing this spring season, I wish you all a blissful and healthy spring!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Algerian Pastries in Ann Arbor


Three months ago, I decided to take the plunge and follow one of my dearest dreams. That week, butter, flour and orange blossom water spent most of the day on the countertop and my hands were rolling, shaping and filling pastries almost every single day. That week, Wednesday came faster than ever before and I’ve found myself one Wednesday afternoon packing my car with a table, a chair, a cardboard sign and a bin filled with pastries. With a kiss on the forehead from my husband and a hug goodbye from my daughter Layla, I backed up on the driveway and took the road that would get me closer to the Ann Arbor farmer’s market, to my dream; the road that would give birth to Al Meida fine Algerian pastries. That day, I gave birth to a slice of my country in the heart of Ann Arbor and it never felt so beautiful, so sweet, just like pastries.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Algerian Baked Fish

Algerian Baked fish

Today I came with the intention of telling you about the reason that made me disappear from my blog and fills most of my days, and my heart, with joy, perfumes of orange blossom water and so much bliss. (No, it’s not another baby!) But then, on Saturday, I baked these cute Sea Bass pictured above and they were so amazing, so lip-smacking delicious that I had to tell you about the fish and leave my life for later.

Fish marinade

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meatballs and peas Tagine with asparagus and eggs

Peas and asparagus Tagine

I should have called this dish: compromise peas; finding the middle ground peas.

A warm spring day, about seven years ago, back when I was a new bride with smoother hair, smaller waist and nonexistent squeaky toys in my living room, Mohamed and I came home from the farmer's market with a bag full of fresh green peas for dinner. He made mint tea for both of us and we took the bowl of green peas to our then tiny, but beloved, balcony and started shelling. We shelled, he ate and I talked. It was the perfect harmony, the perfect start to a beautiful dinner and evening; until I went to the kitchen and cooked peas the way I always had them at my parent's house, which is in a hearty stew with meatballs and a touch of cream.
It was delicious, comforting; at least to me. He set the table, must have lit some candles (we don't have candles on the table anymore, as all our daughters want to do when they see them is either touch them, blow on them or sing happy birthday) put on some music, must have made his way to the living room table dancing (thank goodness he still dance. I love his moves and so do the girls) and sat down to see in front of him a pool of green-brownish peas with scattered meatballs swimming.