Arabic Coffee

I don’t drink coffee. Scream, squeal, and sneer all you want, but I’m not changing my mind. I’m a jittery anxiety ridden spaz as it is and I’m not looking to add any extra fuel to the fire, but there are two exceptions that warrant the occasional dabble.

Coffee, in an Italian coffee shop, in Italy, made with an Italian attention to ritual is something I can never turn down. More than the taste it’s the ritual itself that has me risking extra caffeinated super overdrive. I like the tiny ceramic cups with matching wee saucers and spoons just longer than a pinky finger and real honest to God whole milk. If that’s not a religion to be worshipped, I don’t know what is.

Arabic coffee is my other exception. Now like foul, Arabic coffee means something different depending on who you’re talking to. The only place I’ve had it is at the Kharouba* household in Yonkers, NY. So to me Arabic coffee is a thick, rich brew, seasoned with that licorice-like flavor of ground cardamom and sweetened with sugar. It’s served at the kitchen table, to whomever is in earshot which could mean all seven of the Kharouba children depending on the day. I only have one brother myself, but I love big families. Arabic coffee is a treat for me because I like to pretend I understand Arabic and I like Mrs. Kharouba’s jokes. I like people talking over each other and I like the idea of coming together for bits of time even if there only a few sips long.
*Who are the Kharoubas? Sabrina Kharouba is one of my roommates from Rome. Visiting her family gives me a break from hectic NYC. Both of her parents are Palestinian so when I go, I get to eat homemade Arab food and learn a bit about the culture.

Pizza Do’s and Pizza Dont’s

Over Thanksgiving break I did a little underground border crossing to visit my old roommates from Rome, John and Abby.

In tribute to all or good times cooking together in Italia, we decided to bake up a couple of pizzas. Toppings were cut, wine was drunk and we were ready to go.

Abby started with a very ambitious white pizza with potato and zucchini. Fabulous idea, but tough to execute. The end result was as hard as a Michelangelo fresco and the toppings were all shrunk and shriveled. What we learned: When making white pizza, create craters in the crust with your finger tips and drown it in a shameful amount of olive oil. Pre-bake a bit and then add toppings.

I played it safe and made a half margherita/ half zucchini with red peppers and Abby’s homemade pizza sauce. Out of the oven my pizza had a nice presentation and anything topped with fresh mozzarella is gonna taste alright, but the crust on mine was a tooth chipping brick. What we learned: Don’t stretch your dough too thin and give it a chance to rise a bit before adding toppings.

And then in saunters John. He had spent his time in front of the television, watching a football game and playing with their baby daughter, Cora. He picked up where Abby left off on a puffed piece dough, then went completely traditional with a ton of sauce ( I was convinced that was a mistake), mushrooms and prosciutto. I’m telling you he did this all nonchalant and wouldn’t you know his pizza came out best. What he got right: work the sauce, don’t hesitate with the cheese, give the dough a rest and chillax.