Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Princess Haya

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein is the second wife of the Dubai ruler Mouhammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum - it's a norm for a man in UAE to have more than one wife, if he can afford to provide for them and their kids.

Anyway, Princess Haya is the daughter of legendary in the Middle East Queen Aaliya and King Hussein of Jordan. Her mom died tragically in the plane crash back in the 70-ies. The airport in Jordan is now named after Queen Aalia.

I think Princess Haya looks a lot like her beautiful mother.

Princess Haya is current King's of Jordan half-sister and thus, sister in law to Queen Rania.

Since the first wife of the Dubai ruler prefers to live according to traditional, conservative emiraty customs - very-very private - it's Princess Haya who accompanies her husband to all of the social functions, both in Dubai and abroad.

In 2000, Princess Haya competed in Sidney Olimpics, in the Equastrian Competition. She also was qualified for 2004 Olympics in Athens, but i don't think she competed that year.
In the years 1995 - 2002, i guess, that would be prior to her marriage, she competed internationally in 39 (!)competitions a year (WOW!)

Interesting fact: Princess Haya is the only member of Jordanian Royal Family to be a member of Taxi and Truck Drivers Union. She is also the one and only woman in Jordan who can legally operate heavy machinery.

Besides such impressive athletic resume, she is also on board of various local charities, from kid's orchestra to youth sports organizations.
She is also involved with UN and UNICEF.

Pix are from her official website www.princesshaya.net

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rabia Zagarpur

Miss Zagarpur is yet another local designer, who works in the challenging field of fashion for the Muslim ladies. She creates clothing that can be fashionable and at the same time abide by the rule of "cover"(legs, arms and hair should be fully covered).

Rabia Zagarbur was born in Dubai, moved to USA and then came back. She is a graduate of local Fashion Institute and, which is quite impressive, collaborated with Adidas in 2007 for Dubai International Fashion week.

Her inspiration is to be able to dress Queen Rania - now that's a tall order - and she believes that Beyonce is the best dressed woman in the West.
I say "Hmm..." to that one.

Anyway, here is some of her work. The hoodie in white and red is for Adidas, i think.

How to Boil Eggs

Do you know how to boil eggs?
I bet you think you do. I thought so myself, after all even a child can do it! You put an egg in the pot of water and let it boil till cows come home. Not exactly a brain surgery.

Martha Steward says NO.

She says that's a wrong way to boil eggs. And to tell the truth, she is right, as usual. Eggs boiled that way tend to be sort of rubbery and egg yolks always have that unsightly green-colored outer ring.

Here is how Martha boils her eggs and how i've been boiling them since she showed me the way:

Put your egg in the pot of water and bring to boil. When it starts boiling, remove the pot from the heat and let your egg sit, covered, in this pot for:

1 1/2 to 2 min for soft boiled
2 to 2 1/2 min for medium boiled
10 to 13 min for hard boiled

Take the egg out and plunge it into iced water. Or, if you can't be bothered with iced water, just dump whole bunch of ice cubes into that same pot where your eggs are lounging around.


Oh, also, my Grandma taught me to put a bit of salt into the pot when you just put your eggs on the stove-top. That way, if your egg cracks in the water due to high temp, it's white will coagulate and stay within the shell.
And you won't end up with the ugly, runaway mess on your hand.

Yeay Grandma!

Tres Leches Cake

When i lived in Dallas, one of my favorite deserts was Tres Leches Cake (Cake of Three Milks). It's delicious moistness and softness is comparable to the cloud nine -it's that good!

In Dallas i've never baked this cake, because, honestly, who wants to slave in the kitchen with quite unpredictable results (perhaps, even disastrous), when you can just pop over to any of Carnival or Fiesta stores and easily get yourself a slice of this dreaminess.

Well, i'm not in Dallas anymore.

I'm sure there is a good enough bakery in Dubai that whips up this yummy cake on the regular basis. I just don't know which one it is.
This particular recipe - and there is TONS of recipes for Tres Leches Cake on the web - is from my favorite kitchen geek Alton Brown.
I guess, i need to confess that i myself haven't tried it out yet, but according to the reviews on his page, this is a good one.

Also, Alton can do no wrong in my book.

Don't freak out if you don't have cake flour on hand. I usually don't.
Just put 2 tablespoon of cornstarch at the bottom of the measuring cup and fill the rest of the cup with the regular flour.
Et la voila!

So, here we go!

You'll need following:

For the cake:

Vegetable oil
6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces sugar
5 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze:

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half

For the topping:

2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Amber Feroz

Yeah, boy named Amber!

Technically, Amber Feroz is not a Dubai based designer. I believe he is of an Indian origin and lives in Delhi
This 26 years old graduate of NSTITUTO di MODA BURGO, Milano, Italia (sounds posh, in'it?)has a very prominent shop here, called "Doris Dulce" and a fixture on various Dubai fashion shows.

I am absolutely in love with the way his cloths are cut and tailored; they remind me of Yohji Yamamoto constructions. They are simple, flattering and divinely un-traditional. He also names Alexandr McQueen as an inspiration.

Funny, i do respect Yamamoto's and McQueen's ingenuity and talent, but find their clothing unwearable; but i could wear a lot by Amber Feroz.
Me loves!

Pics are from www.chicbollywood.com

M.J. Tribute

Here is a little explanation behind the vid.

Normally, in my country (Azerbaijan) weddings are stiff and traditional affairs. Often, they are excruciatingly boring.
Not this one, though. I stumbled upon it on one of the azeri sites and it really rocks!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Furne One

First of all, look at this fabulous face next to Heidi! This gorgeous and completely natural face belongs to Furne One, quite famous around Dubai designer.

Mr. One is a Filipino born, Dubai based designer, who caters "exclusively to elite Arab clientele", as a recent puff piece about him states.

Additionally, Mr. One has another claim to fame - very recently he managed to get himself on German's Next Top Model and, according to the same puff piece became "quite a celebrity in Germany".

He owns label "Amato" and below are some of his designs.

Whadaya say?

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Follow Me" Feature Added

I'm all excited to announce that i've just added couple of super-duper features on the blog!

"Follow Me" feature is for you guys to follow the contents of the blog and it's on the upper side of the left-hand bar.
See it right under the red tip of the smoking hot girl's shoe? See??
Now click on it and you'll be automatically updated every time i post new stuff.

"Reactions" feature is uber neat! Not everyone posseses time or desire to leave a comment on the blogs, but EVERYONE! EVERYONE! loves to judge the content and tell the blogger what's what and that his/hers blog ain't all that, sistah!

So now you can just click away on the "Reactions" button and tell me like it is with just one click! It's situated right under the post and before the "Comments" section.


Not a single respectful, or disrespectful, for that matter, lebanese restaurant will be left without another wonderful salad on it's menu.

It's called tabbuleh [T-UH-B-OO-L-E].

This particular DELICIOUSNESS is also extremely healthy for you, packed with all kinds of essential vitamins, and, get this, has a very few ingredients in it.

Basically, it's just some greens, 1 (get this, ONE!) vegetable, some bulgur and dressing.

Isn't it nifty?
Yeah, i know!

Actually, americans might have encountered this traditional lebanese salad in various health-type food stores, like Whole Foods (oh, dear, how do i miss thou!)under the moniker of "meditteranean cracked wheat salad", or "mediterranean parsley salad" or some like that.

Because, you know, "meditteranean" is waaay fancier sounding...

Anywho,here is what you need:

1 bunch of parsley
1/2 half of bunch of fresh mint, leaves only
1 or 2 tomatoes
1 spring of green onions
1/2 cup of fine bulgur (hold on, i'll tell you how to get it from your local Kroger)

couple of lemons
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper

First things first:
Go to your fav supermarket and buy "Near East Taboule Wheat Salad Mix". Open the box and thrash the seasoning pouch.

Congratulations! You just got yourself some fine bulgur!

Or, if you know the way around your ethnic store (remember sashaying there all confident-like to buy sumac for your fattoush?) - ask the cashier there for the finest bulgur.

Now, go and boil some water in the tea pot. Put bulgur in the heat-proof bowl, pour boiling water over it (cover completely) and cover the bowl, so the bulgur has the chance to absorb the water.
Leave it alone.
I like to do this part at least 20 min. before i start preparing the salad itself. That way, bulgur has time to absorb the liquid and cool down to room temperature. Warm bulgur is NOT delish.

Chop tomatoes (bite-size), throw'em into the salad bowl and sprinkle with salt and 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon.
Chop the whole bunch of parsley and the mint. Try to do your best - it really needs to be chopped nicely, nobody wants to choke on the spring of parsley, so do apply yourself.
Throw'em into the salad bowl.
Chop that lonely spring of onion, leave it on the board. Sprinkle it with a bit of salt, a bit of pepper and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon. Rub it all with your fingers into the bits of chopped onion.

Yeah, it's fun!

Throw the violated onion into the bowl.

Go check on your bulgur now.
It should be room temperature, soft, not crunchy. Grab it from the bowl with your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. That way you'll get rid of all the excess water. I don't like water in my salad. Do you??

Dump the handful of squeezed bulgur into your salad bowl. Squeeze the rest of the bulgur in that manner and you dump all of it into the bowl.

Juice your lemons into the bowl, add as much EVOO as you like.
Add S&P.
Mix the salad.
Adjust the seasoning, mix again and eat up!

This recipe is adapted from my absolute fav middle eastern cookbook "The Fragrance of the Earth" by Nada Saleh.
I don't think this book is published anymore, but i just found out that Ms. Saleh has another book - "New Flavours of the Lebanese Table".
It's available on amazon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Zahra Karmostaji

I've only arrived in Dubai 3 weeks ago, and by no means i'm qualified to speak on the subject of Dubai fashion scene.

But, honestly, lack of qualification never stopped me from expressing my opinions on most of the subjects that near and dear to my heart, so consider yourselves warned :)

Dubai is definitely one of the most fashion conscious places i've lived in. Not only people in the city, both locals and westerners, are well aware of the way they and everyone around them dress, but they also are hyper brand-conscious.
Not everyone, obviously, but the majority.

Status-y bags are a must, which is understandable. A girl in abaya and shayla (a headscarf) has only a bag, shoes and perfume in her show-off ammunition.

Dubai is not only madly in love with european big brands, but also is a home to some local designers. One of them is that fierce lady, who designed Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell/I Dream of Jeanny dress. Another one, who i just discovered, is a local young designer named Zahra Karmostaji.

Ms. Karmostaji creates mostly abayas and shaylas. The photo set above is portfolio of her designs.
I personally think her pieces are lovely (especially, since she didn't receive any formal training, or whatever it's called in fashion world) and i would not mind having the fuchsia one for myself.

I like the color, the fluidity of the dress and i'm a big time fan of the balloon sleeves. I could do with a little less embellishments though.
But it's just me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dulce De Leche Blondies

I don't know how about you, but i luuuuve-love-love dulce de leche.
It's so insanly carby, and fattening - hence delicioso! Everything carby,sweet and fatty is.
Trust me on this one.

I used to think that dulce de leche was some kind of complicated concoction, sort of a secret recipe, ferociously guarded by hispanic abuelitas and Kraft.

Well, it's not.

It's just a can of condensed sweetened milk, left simmering on your back burner for couple of hours.
See! Super-duper easy.

There is one trick though - always, always make sure that the can is fully submerged in simmering water. And also, after you've done simmering it, make sure the can cools down to room temperature and only then open it.
But that's just common sense, right? Right?

So, anyway, i feel like posting this recipe for yumsters Dulce De Leche Blondies, because i miss my friend Cleia. Cleia likes those.

You don't have to be an accomplished baker to whip this blondies up;but i know that some of you are quite handy with the rolling pin.
Mnacakanov, ezizim, i'm talking to you.

Here is what you'll need:

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 350F.
Grease 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.

Sift together your flour, soda and salt. Or, if you're lazy, just dump them all together in the mixing bowl and run your whisk back and forth through it a few times.
Cream your butter and sugar really good ,till it's fluffy and creamy (duh!)
Add your eggs & vanilla and beat until smooth.
Scrape the bowl couple of times, while you're at it.
Gradually add your flour/soda/salt mix. Beat until smooth, about 1 min. or so.

Spread about half of the batter in your greased pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 7-8 min.
Let cool for about 5 min.

Presumably, by now you've already cooked your can of condensed milk, cooled it and hopefully didn't devour half of the can on the spot, next to your kitchen sink. Hopefully.
So, take a spoon and drop spoonfulls as even as you can all of Dulce De Leche (formerly known as condensed sweetened milk)on top of the batter.
It will be kinda gelatinous and lumpy and sorta non-cooperative. But, baby, don't sweat it.
It's all gonna come out good.

Then spread the rest of the blondie batter on top of non-cooperative dulce de leche. Swirl it with the knife for fanciness.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool, cut and share with the ones you love.

This recipe is adapted from my KitchenAid recipe booklet. Only instead of the Dulce they use 1 (14 ounce) package caramels and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. They melt all that stuff together and then put it on the batter.

Seriously, who needs packaged caramels if you can have fabulous Dulce?
I, for one, certainly don't.

Also, if you get your creative juices flowing, you can add all sorts of good staff to your batter. Like chopped macadamia nuts, for instance. Or white chocolate chips. Or butterscotch chips.
Or whatever floats your boat.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paris Hilton in Dubai

Paris Hilton has arrived in Dubai.
Big whoop, apparently. I guess "That's Hot"?

Surprisingly, P.H. was very polite and considerate during the press-conference yesterday. She even helped one happless reporter with his mic.

Anyway, the reason she is here, is because local entertainment industry offered her obscene amount of money to come and look for her BFF in Dubai.
Prior to coming here, she apparently asked her handler if she will have to wear an abaya, which is a local women's dress.

I thinks that was rather nice of her.

So, here is some pics of her after the press-conf. She kinda looks like she is auditioning for the remake of "I Dream of Jeannie", but it's OK.
Most importantly, check out that hot designer lady (the one in pink and black), who created P.H. dress. She is a local and her name is Sarah Belhasa.
Isn't she gorgeous?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sooo, let's talk about food.

Food in here is a-m-a-z-i-n-g! You can literally eat your way around the world in Dubai.

There are all kinds of restaurants, specializing in all sorts of cuisines - as a result we have an enormous amount of yummy options. Personally, right now i'm hooked on lebanese food; it's scrumptious, healthy and somewhat light.

Lebanese use lots of fresh veggies, EVOO (shout out to Rachel Ray, who, coincidentally, has middle eastern Granma) and loads of garlic.

There is one particular salad, that seems to be the bone of contention among the lebanese restaurants - it's really delish, loaded with all kinds of vitamins and rather easy to prepare. To boot it all, it also has the most adorable name!

It's called "Fattoush" [F-UH-TT-OO-SH, not FAT Tush]!

In each restaurant we went, waiters claimed their fattoush was the best ever in the universe. One guy told us, that fattoush in his place was the "stuff legends were made of". Another restaurant's waiter declared that their fattoush put his mother's fattoush to shame!

I know that some of my fellow americans are rather apprehensive when it comes to trying middle eastern fare, but believe me, you'll love this one!
So next time, when you find yourself facing yet another sad little tomato slice, floating lonesomely in the ubiquitous puddle of ranch dressing, try fixin' yourself some fattoush.
It's really easy. Promise.

Here is what you'll need:

couple of tomatoes
a cucumber
half or so of green bell pepper
few leaves of romaine lettuce
a few of fresh mint leaves
a half-bunch of parsley
1 or 2 springs of green onions
few radishes (optional)
a carrot (optional too)
couple of garlic cloves

couple of lemons
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
toasted pita bread (take a pita bread, tear it to bite-size pieces and toast in the oven till crunchy)
salt and pepper

Now, get yourself a nice size bowl and chop first 10 ingredients into it.
It doesn't have to be fancy kinda chopping, unless you are entertaining the Queen of Jordan (she is beautiful, btw!). Just chop it approx. bite size.

Then, squeeze lemons right into a bowl and add as much EVOO as you like.

Add some S&P.

Mix all that goodness in your bowl, taste it and adjust the dressing to your liking.

Throw some toasted pita bread in the bowl (or if you're lazy - open a bag of croutons and dump some in the salad).
Mix again.

Ta-daa! You're done!

Now, if you feel especially adventurous that particular day, here is what you do:
Stroll gamely into any ethnic food store, like it ain't no thang.
Walk up boldly to a cashier or shelf-stocking person and ask casually for sumac. [S-OO-M-A-K].
Pretend like you know what you're talking about.
Sumac is basically ground up barbaris (kind of berry); it's dark purple in colour and hella sour. But in a good way.

A pinch or two (or three, in my case) of sumac does wonders to many-many things - meat in your empanadas will be yummier, salads will pop with an extra flavour, etc.
So, throw a pinch of sumac in your fattoush and pretend your are cruising on the Mediterranean!

P.S. The pic above is by Marina Oliphant. I'm sure she is a groovy lady and won't sue me for using it.

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