Moving in with a significant other requires a series of compromises—whose furniture gets kept, whose books go on the shelf, whose Star Wars action figure collection gets put on eBay, etc.
When I moved in with my girlfriend last year, however, I discovered a new area for accommodation: cooking. My girlfriend and I both come from families with strong culinary traditions.
Her grandmother hails from Lebanon, the country in the Middle East. My grandmother lives in Lebanon, the small town in Tennessee named after the country’s biblical predecessor.
I’d like to tell you that cooking this food has been a journey of cultural understanding meant to bring me and my girlfriend closer together. But you’re going to need to trust me going forward, and I don’t want to start this article off on a series of lies.
Admittedly, I’m not an expert on Arab cooking—or Southern cooking, for that matter—so rather than creating a perfect 50/50 fusion, I just added ingredients we had around where they made sense in things I already knew how to make.
When it came down to exactly what to cook, I looked to the menu of a certain Lebanon, TN-based restaurant chain for inspiration: Cracker Barrel. Breakfast food seemed easy enough, and Uncle Herschel’s Favorite had lots of elements that could benefit from new twists.
Also, given that Herschel is my mom’s actual great-uncle, I figure the Cracker Barrel would have be pretty callous to sue me for this. (This joke doubles as a disclosure that my relationship with the chain restaurant is somewhat beyond than that of an average patron, though I have no financial investment in its success, nor any knowledge of its recipes to give away.)
There are many possible permutations of this breakfast you can order at the Cracker Barrel, but I’m focusing on the eggs, fried apples, and biscuits, all Southern staples. So without further ado, here is Uncle Anton’s breakfast, named for the man who once complained that making satisfactory scrambled eggs for my girlfriend was like “cooking for Harun al-Rashid.”
What you’ll need:
Apples (not Granny Smith)
Apple juice Pita bread (I am but one man—I can’t cook biscuits while this other stuff is going on)
How to make it:
Mix ½ cup apple juice, three tablespoons brown sugar, and 1½ tablespoons of pomegranate molasses in a bowl or cup.
Core and chop an apple into generous slices. Do not peel. Most fried apple recipes call for Granny Smith apples to balance the sugary flavor, but the pomegranate molasses will provide tartness. I like Gala apples.
Butter a skillet or frying pan and place the apples on them. As they beginning to cook, pour the molasses mixture over them. Cook on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the juice has boiled away.
Meanwhile, cook the eggs. I like the Gordon Ramsay method, as it allows me to use the labneh as he uses créme fraiche. Basically: Crack four or five eggs into a saucepan and add a slice or two of butter. Then stir vigorously, alternating the pan on and off the heat so they don’t cook too quickly. A dollop of labneh is mixed in at the end to cool the eggs down.
As the apples turn brown and soft and the liquid distills to a brown syrup, sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on them. Likewise, season the finished eggs with za’atar. Serve with the pita bread.
by Sam Page