We finally have six of everything for entertaining: six fancy water glasses, six matching cloth napkins, six salad plates, six dessert plates, six steak knives, six matching chairs at a lovely new table, and matching silverware to boot....so we had to have four of our friends over for a mid-week dinner party. We haven't had a chance to use the lovely tagine that we received as a wedding present, so I decided to prepare a lamb tagine that I made as our very first tagine, which I wrote about here. One of our friends has very specific food aversions, including nuts, chocolate, and aged cheese--three things we discovered we use routinely. So dinner planning was a bit of a challenge, but a welcome one. Finding an appetizer without nuts or aged cheese was the first challenge. Dessert without chocolate was the second. Epicurious came through with flying colors on both fronts. I decided on a goat cheese with roasted yellow pepper and dill for an appetizer, served with lavash crackers from Damascus bakery on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. For dessert, I chose a honey cake called Basboura. The Basboura was a hit; everyone had a second piece.
2 cups fine semolina
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
A little less than 2/3 cup melted butter or ghee or semnah
1 cup milk
For the syrup...
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp lime juice or 2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
Preheat the oven to 345 degrees F. In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients, the semolina, coconut, sugar and soda together. Mix in the melted butter and milk and stir until well combined. Pat this mixture into a buttered, shallow medium sized oven proof dish and level the surface with a spatula or a palette knife. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on the top.
In a medium sized sauce pan, place the sugar and water on low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Increase the heat to medium and then bring the mixture to a vigorous boil and cook until it coats the back of a spoon or reduces by about one-third or until it reaches 220 degree F on a cooking thermometer. Stir in the lime juice and allow to cool. Once cooled or warm, mix in the honey and stir well.
Allow the cake to cool sllightly, for about 10 minutes and then cut it into squares or diamonds. Carefully pour the syrup over the cake. It will look like a lot of syrup, but the cake will absorb all the syrup gradually.
Serve at room temperature. We served ours with a dollop of yogurt mixed with a splash of rose water, and a generous sprinkling of dessicated coconut. The dessert can be served, or baked, with almonds as well.
Goat Cheese and Yellow Pepper Dip
2 yellow peppers, halved, seeded
2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half and de-seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces sharp soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped dill, plus 1 sprig for garnish
1 tablespoon lime juice
Coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Roast peppers over an open flame until soft and a the skin a little charred, about 5-8 minutes. Place them in a plastic bag for about 20 minutes, remove and peel the skin off. Emulsify the peppers in a food processor and add the goat cheese, lime juice, dill, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt to taste. Pulse until combined well. Serve with flat bread or pita chips.