July 2019


Moon Landing Cake

July 20: National Moon Day

“Houston, we’ve had problems.”

Our blog post to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing (1969-2019) is late, the butter pecan boxed cake mix did not have actual nuts in it and the frosting nearly smeared the whole cake surface with crumbs! Despite these problems, and the fact that we have never baked and frosted a ball-shaped cake before, we think our mini moon cake turned out kind of cute (although it looks more like the fictional Star Wars planet Hoth or some sort of giant snowball-asteroid?).

We decided to make this moon cake centerpiece at the last minute for a small group gathering to celebrate National Moon Day and watch the TV specials together while eating moon-themed foods for dinner (moon drop grapes, Moon Pies, shrimp-flavored Full Moon chips, Moon Cheeses and basic chicken salad sandwiches on crescent-shaped bread). Our friends Karen and Ken B. also bought limited edition marshmallow moon Oreo cookies.

Nevertheless, everyone had a nice time celebrating the golden moments of the historical lunar landing, ate festive food and got the gist of our moon cake idea for National Moon Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

Directions

Grease each half of a 3D ball/sphere baking pan set (such as Sunny Side Up Bakery brand or Wilton brand). Prepare cake mix according to the directions on the package. Divide the batter in two, filling each half of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or more until the middle of the cake is cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

When the cake halves are cooled, slice the top of the mounds to level them. On one of the cake halves, slice a small piece off the bottom to level it so that the cake can sit on its own. Make the vanilla buttercream frosting and stir until it is a spreadable consistency. Use a thin layer of frosting to attach both halves together to make one whole sphere.

Smear a little frosting on the bottom of a cake board and stick the cake in place. Frost the cake (we were unable to make it smooth so we just spiked it by pulling our spatula up randomly from the frosting). Top with a tiny astronaut toy and U.S. flag toothpick. Refrigerate to set. Bring to room temperature before slicing and serving (with ice cream!).

Notes

  • Tint the frosting with a little black gel color/food paste to make the moon surface gray instead of white, if desired.
  • Thanks to fellow Star Wars fan/friend Justin Q. for gifting us with the 3D ball/sphere cake pan. He attempted to make a Death Star cake and had problems so he hoped we would have better luck making Hoth a moon landing cake.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

July:Lebanese Tabbouleh Day (First Saturday in July)

We enjoyed attending the annual Lebanese festival at St. George Maronite Catholic Church when we used to live in San Antonio, Texas. The church was less than 10 minutes drive away from our house so we could easily get to the festival and enjoy the cultural and religious presentations. But, of course, we came mostly for the food!

We have also attended Lebanese, Middle Eastern and Arabic festivals in Houston, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. If available at the food vendor stalls, we would get a full sampler plate so we can taste everything: main entrée, side dishes and a dessert. We had tabbouleh in our combo plates a few times. It’s an affordable side salad to sell and also an easy one to make at home.

Traditionally made with bulgar (cracked wheat), our Arab-American friend Sol S. shared us his recipe version for making tabbouleh with quinoa instead. It is tasty, colorful and healthy and Sol encourages eating this as part of a Mediterranean Diet. Quinoa tabbouleh is also terrific for celebrating Lebanese Tabbouleh Day!

Recipe

From Sol S.

For the quinoa tabbouleh

  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced small
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 green onions/scallions, chopped
  • ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, stems trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint, crushed
  • 1 Kirby or ½ cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and diced small
  • ¼ red of green bell pepper, diced small

Directions

Rinse the quinoa and drain. Set aside. In a sauce pan, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add quinoa, salt, pepper and water. Simmer for 15 minutes and let rest for 5 minutes (all the water should have been absorbed by the quinoa; if not simmer gently till all water is absorbed). Fluff with fork and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, add the chopped tomatoes, green onions, parsley and mint.

Add the diced cucumber and bell peppers. Stir in the cooled quinoa.

 

For the dressing

  •  juice of large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

In a small cup or bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and salt and pepper. Pour into the quinoa salad and mix gently. Refrigerate and rest the salad for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Notes

  • Our friend Sol S. is in the process of writing a cookbook and we are happy to test his recipes for our blog. We are adding a Middle Eastern section under our Theme Menus. Check back soon to see new recipes listed there.

Bastani

(Persian Saffron Ice Cream)

July: National Ice Cream Month

Before Highlander entered Islander’s life nearly three decades ago, she was friends at university with an Iranian-Persian Ph.D. student in the dorm. Ali M. used to joke and tell everyone that he would buy her hand in marriage with 12 white camels. She answered back that he could just buy her some ice cream! So they would walk off campus with a bunch of other dorm friends to an ice cream parlor and enjoy the frozen treats and everyone’s company. When Highlander moved into the same dorm a couple of years later, there were no hard feelings between him and Ali. In fact, he welcomed us in his physics lab where he was working on an experiment for his doctoral dissertation. And we all still went out to eat ice cream for a much needed study break afterwards! Always a funny guy, Ali said he wished the parlor could serve bastani as the 32nd flavor option. Bastani is a traditional Persian ice cream flavored with saffron, rosewater, cardamom and pistachios.

We do miss those dorm days and all our international university friends at the ice cream parlor. So we were happy to discover Persian and Middle Eastern restaurants where we now live and try bastani after all these years. Islander immediately searched for no churn bastani recipes and adapted one for our blog post. It is a delicious dessert to serve during the summer and throughout National Ice Cream Month.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, divided use, cold
  • saffron, generous pinch
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Directions

In a small bowl, place two tablespoons of whipping cream. Heat in the microwave for 15 seconds. Stir in some saffron threads, pressing on the side of the bowl to release its flavor and color. Stir in the rose water. Chop the pistachio nuts into small pieces.

In a large bowl, pour the condensed milk. Stir in the saffron mixture. Beat the remaining whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the condensed milk mixture.

Stir in the pistachios. Place in a loaf pan or ice cream container. Cover and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Scoop into dessert dishes or wafer cones or serve with wafer sheets.

Notes

  • Bastani is traditionally served with a wafer slice. The final food photo above shows a background of a wafer sheet that we bought at a Middle Eastern specialty grocery store. Bastani can be scooped in wafer ice cream cones for a similar taste.
  • Search our blog for other no churn ice cream recipes.