19 October 2007
Morning of Roses
In Arabic one says good morning “sabah al khair,” and in response one says “sabah al-noor,” which literally translates as “morning of light.” You never say sabah al-kheir in response to the first greeting. Besides the standard sabah al-noor, there are many other possible responses to say good morning, including: sabah al-ward- morning of roses, sabah al noum- morning of sleep, and even sabah al ashta- morning of cream. Sometimes Arabic is so cool.
I love exchanging morning greetings with my Arabic-speaking colleagues, and of all the expressions, “morning of roses” is my favorite (it's also the title of an Egyptian short story). And if my mornings aren't always rosy (more like a hectic rush of trying to get everything organized before running out the door), they are at least full of rose petal jam. Of all the foods I’ve discovered in my travels, rose petal jam is probably the one that has captivated me the most. There is something magical about eating a mouthful of flowers, and the taste is sweet and thick with a slightly-squeaky texture of petals and a fragrance unmatched by any perfume. Rose petal jam is one of the items I always make sure to have in my pantry, as essential as bread and butter. Most often, I slather a thin piece of flatbread with some yogurt and rose jam and then roll it up for a spiraled pink breakfast on the run. But I’ve also been brainstorming ideas for desserts using rose jam:
Rose-Yogurt Mousse: rose jam + thick yogurt + whipped cream.
Rose Trifle: cake cubes + rose jam + custard
Rose Linzertorte: classic linzertorte except made with a pistachio crust and rose jam
In my experience not all rose petal jams are created equal, and their quality can vary widely. The best I’ve ever had was from Baleed, a specialty store in Damascus, while Paris’ Hediard charges $10 for one that is watery and disappointing. Most import stores carry a decent Greek or Lebanese version, and in New York Kalustyan’s house-made version is quite good. I had hoped to have a rose jam recipe for you today, but I haven’t quite perfected one yet, so in the meantime you can pick up some jam (or order it) and make these little tartlettes.
Of course, jam tarts are nothing new, but I think the rose jam gives them a special spin. I originally topped these with ‘ashta- a kind of Lebanese clotted cream. Ashta is almost always purchased from pastry shops, and though there are recipes for a homemade imitation, it doesn’t whip up like the real thing. Instead, simple whipped cream with a bit of mascarpone makes a great substitution, accented with a bit of pistachio. You could make these with any jam you like, but with rose jam you can have mornings, or evenings, of roses.
Rose Jam Tartlettes with Cream Topping
1/2 recipe Pâte Brisée or pie crust
1 cup rose petal jam
1 tbl orange zest
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mascarpone
2-3 tbl sugar
1 tsp each orange flower water and rose water
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the crust and fit it into mini-muffin cups or tartlette pans.
2. Stir together jam, egg, and orange zest and fill tartlettes. Bake 10-15 minutes, until set. Let cool thoroughly on a rack.
3. Meanwhile, use an electric mixer to beat together cream and mascarpone until they hold stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar, flower water, and two tablespoons of the pistachios. Before serving, dollop cream over tartlettes. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons pistachios over the top of the tartlettes.
* 'Ashta is a kind of clotted cream similar to the Turkish kaymak.
**Rose jam is usually made from roses like beach roses, rosa rugosa, or rosa damascena. Here's a rose jam recipe. Flower jams can also be made with other edible flowers like jasmine petals, violets, orange blossoms, or almond blossoms.