(video w/music below)
I made it to round 2 of the Foodbuzz Contest! Thank you all!
Getting Outside My Comfort Zone
For my next challenge I had to pick an ethnic classic that is outside of my comfort zone.
Although, not food related, a few things popped into my head, triggering several memories of failed attempts of “going outside of my comfort zone”:
- 2nd grade with a boy named Richie and my birthday present (a nurse’s kit)
- Age 22, falling down a flight of stairs, left with a skirt that ripped all the way up the back AND around, hanging on by a thread and a waistband (not even sure how that is possible)
- The ropes course I did a few years back where I found myself dangling upside down 25 feet in the air wrapped up in my harness and a series of pulleys and cables
Where to Start?
I went through piles of recipes and combed the Internet before settling on one. The Irish Mother was truly a godsend because she spent a day helping me look for some recipes that I will use in a later challenge if I make it through. Thank you @TheIrishMother!
Then, one of the hardest recipes that I have ever seen...Was I nuts? Wait, don’t answer that.
Eliza, an amazing and generous friend of mine, who lives in Morocco with her husband, inspired me by sending me a recipe for her favorite classic dessert - Chebakia.
A Moroccan cookie - okay, this should be simple enough right? No way, it is quite a process and more of an art form if you were to ask me.
If I have ever been out of my comfort zone in the kitchen, this was it. I wish I could say that I had no idea what it would take, but after a deeper exploratory, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.
When Eliza sent the recipe she said,
“Ha haaaa, you are ambitious to try it, it's a bit labor-intensive…”
I also read things like,
“Chebakia are time-consuming to make. Most Moroccan women enlist the help of a sister, mother or friend…"
“To make it look nice and attractive it is little difficult”
Oh, boy, here we go…
Where Do I Get This Stuff?
Even though I've never baked with sesame seeds and orange water, I knew what they were. But I was completely out of my element when it came to saffron threads, Moroccan yellow colorant and Gum Arabic grains.
So I called International Grocery in Hell’s kitchen and the kind gentleman on the phone told me to come on down - he had everything that I needed.
Making the Chebakia
I went into the kitchen at 6PM and didn’t leave it until 1:30AM. Whoa.
This takes practice and a lot of spirit!
Jeff offered to help videotape the steps (for the movie below). I would get to the next step and say, “Okay honey, I am ready!” As the night progressed, he started dozing off on the couch. At one point he started shuffling in with his video camera and one eye open in order to get me frying and dipping the Chebakia into the honey bath. Then, as he went back to nap, I heard his honey glazed feet stick to the hardwood floor as he walked away. Oops.
At about 1:00 am I sent some snapshots to Eliza, to see if they looked right, cleaned up and went to bed. The next morning, I rushed to my computer to see if my Chebakia was up to par and read,
“OMG!!!! Absolutely perfect!!!! I'm impressed…”
Great, they look right, but do they taste right? Are they any good? I thought they were were delicious, but had nothing to compare them to.
The True Test - Hitting the Streets of NYC
So, I headed downtown in search of a Moroccan restaurant to see if I could get anyone with experience to try them.
Six restaurants later (most were closed in the morning) we came upon Bab Marrakech, a Moroccan Grill in Hell’s kitchen.
I was so excited, that I went straight to the kitchen. The chef came out and chuckled when I asked him if he knew what Chebakia was and he said “Oh yes, of course!”
I told him about my contest and asked if he would look at my treats. At first glance, he said that they looked pretty good. Then, I asked if he would taste one and give me feedback. “Sure, why not.” He said that I did really good job for my first time and they tasted good. For some constructive feedback, they just needed to be a little softer and I could achieve this by working the dough longer. We talked for a bit and people watched as I asked questions, thanked him for his time and told him I was going back home to practice some more.
Then, something unexpected happened. I was invited back next week to learn from one of the Moroccan woman who is a master chef of all Chebakia in the land! Okay, so maybe a little exaggerated there…but that’s how I felt when I received the invitation. I accepted!
Here is a little movie of my experiences so far.
Please vote for me and my Chebakia to advance to the next round!
Voting Open: September 27th - September 30th.
I really appreciate all of your support!
Thank you Eliza, Yassin, The Moroccan Grill, International Grocery and my love, Jeffrey!
Yassin, my friend’s husband is an amazing musician and they sent me this audio file to share with all of you to experience a little more of Morocco, enjoy!