It's Sooo Good! | Life Advice with Moti Q&A and lots of Iraqi recipes thrown in!

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Life Advice from Moti himself

Each week Dr. Mo answers questions from dedicated readers about anything and everything. With lots of time on his hands and plenty of ideas that are "sooo good," Moti has an answer to every question you ask— and even questions you don't ask.


Wildd Redcherry from Ontario, Canada writes:
Q: Dear Moti, When my husband was a teenager he lived in Tehran and he describes a bread called "Bowrey Bread" that is cooked on the side of the oven. I have found "Naan Bread" and it sounds like it is cooked in a similar way, then you mention Pita bread being baked this way. I have been experimenting with bread making and was wondering what the difference is in the 3 and if I can bake it in my backyard Chimnea...mine is iron but they come in terracotta too? And if it is cooked on the side of the that on the inside or the chimnea gets pretty hot on the outside. Thanks for the inspiring recipes. I have made Pita bread but did it on a hot cast iron pan and in the oven til it puffed up like a pillow. Baking outside would be fun for the kids to participate in.

A: That's a wonderful question you asked! The way that naan and Iraqi pita bread are baked is virtually identical (the dough recipe is a little different). I can't speak for the ovens in Tehran, but considering the geography and history of the region, I imagine it is similar. I found a picture online of an Iraqi oven. It's basically a cone made out of clay. You throw in the dough while it is still sticky and it adheres to the inside of the oven. When it starts to peel off, it's ready! I've seen in other Middle Eastern countries an inverted version of the oven. Essentially it looks like a giant anthill. But the idea is the same. It's very hot and the bread is thin, so it cooks in just a couple of minutes. You shousld be able to do something in your backyard (or your fireplace) that produces the same results. And yes, terracotta is certainly closer to the original thing than iron. -Moti


A.J. Hulme from Leicester, England writes:
Q: Salaam and Shalom from England, I found your recipes and I think I will try a few to take to work with me for my lunch and also to cook for friends. Thank you for sharing them. I have a question concerning the recipe for cinnamon rice. Would you reccomend cracked Green or cracked Black Cardamom Pods? I have both and the flavour is quite different so i wonder which is best for this recipe. Take care. A.J. Hulme

A: That's one of my favorite recipes, and certainly one that is simple and pleases the crowds! To answer your question, Iraqis use green cardamom pods almost exclusively, so when you see cardamom in one of my recipes that's the best choice. Let me answer another related question here as well. Many people ask whether you should use whole cardamom pods or powder. I always use whole pods, but I crush them open first before tossing them into the pot. In many dishes, I'll even leave the outer shell of the pod for more flavor—although we don't eat them. However, with rice, I like to empty the seeds (the pod's contents) directly into the pot and discard the shell. Best of luck! -Moti


Ashley from the Internet writes:
Q: Hi, Mr Mo. I have a few questions I'd like to ask you about empanadas. I'm doing an extra credit project for my Spanish II class and I have a few questions that I would really appreciate you answering since couldn't. 1) Are cheese empanadas authentic recipe or americanized adaptation? 2) Are they a main course, appetizer, or dessert? 3) Are cheese empanadas a traditional recipe? Thank you so much for your time. Hopefully you'll have the answer to my questions. Thanks a bunches. Sincerely, Ashley!

A: How wonderful to be studying empanadas! But why study empanadas when you can study sambusac? First, it's important to note that empanadas are the Spanish word for any stuffed food. The word literally means to "cover in bread," which is exactly what we're doing. Empanadas are very popular in Latin America and are the result of the Moor's influence on Medieval Spain. Traditional empanadas were made with whatever was at hand, including meat and vegetables. It's not entirely out of the question that cheese was also one of the originals, but it seems less likely. In any case, cheese empanadas have been available for hundreds of years now. Empanadas are mostly "street food" these days, but they can also be found in restaurants as appetizers and as main courses (especially in Argentina). I haven't seen them as desserts, but there is no reason you couldn't. -Moti


Carley from Davis, CA writes:
Q: Dear Moti, I'm going to spend this summer at a research facility living in a dorm with a kitchen shared by a lot of students. I won't have a car or much space, and the nearest restaurants are miles and miles away. What recipes would you recommend to someone looking to get a lot of mileage out of their cooking? Todah Rabah!

A: First of all, I'm sorry to hear that you'll be in Davis. However, take advantage of the surroundings and try to make it to local farms or a farmer's market. The summer fruit there is sooo good! You might try to make my delicious cherry strudel! To answer your question, though, for my kids we always made sambusac to solve the college blues. It may seem like a lot of work the first time, but you can make 20, 30, 40 sambusac in one sitting and then freeze them. Pop them in the toaster whenever you need a hearty snack or meal and you've got food for a month! -Moti


Matt B. from Ann Arbor, MI writes:
Q: Dear Moti, I am a college student. The course I'm taking now is harder than any I've ever taken. I quit my job and dropped another course to focus on it, and it STILL isn't going well. I'm afraid I'll end up with a grade so poor that I get no credit for the course. I can't imagine getting nothing out of the course after spending so much time on it. What should I do?

A: I'll tell you what you can do! Make some delicious, warm shorba. It's a kind of cinnamon rice stew that is very easy to make and soooo good! As you are eating the delicious chicken melting into the tomato broth, you might want to consider what is keeping you back from achieving your goals. You've already canceled a lot of other commitments in order to succeed with this class. It's time to buckle down, do whatever it takes to succeed. Hire a tutor, ask friends for help, and visit your professor or TA for extra guidance. While you're at it, bring them some of my babaganoush. It may soften them up while they grade your work! -Moti



Adam C. from Atlanta, GA writes:
Q: Dear Moti, I have a Microsoft Small Business 2003 server that I am migrating to a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. I am not sure to ExMerge to PSTs and then import or just import right into the new Private Store. Also I don't have a good strategy for the Public Folders. P.S. - I loved your hummus recipe!!!

A: Moving to the Exchange Server is a good idea because it offers more robustness and interoperability with other platforms. I suggest you look at this migrating guide. I'm glad you're eating hummus during this transition. It is a warm, friendly food that really helps to get you through big changes, both in life and in back end server software! -Moti


Fred F. writes:
Q: Dear Moti, My daughter has a habit of eating too fast. This gives her a lot of gas and, when it comes out, it stinks up the entire house, and, it's also incredibly noisy! I have tried to get her to eat more slowly, but she always seems to be in a hurry. Besides purchasing a gas mask, what can you suggest that I do?

A: Eating quickly does not cause gas, although it may at times exacerbate the problem. What I see as the real issue is that, at times, when we have a problem ourselves we project it onto others—a "friend," or "a daughter." You must learn to face your own issues if you want to solve your problems! -Moti


Susan S. from West Lafayette, IN writes:
Q: Dear Moti, My daughter will be leaving soon for her sophomore year in college. When she goes away my heart hurts. This makes little sense because she is messy and sometimes irritating. I should be able to rationalize her departure as a good thing. I am trying your tabboleh recipe this afternoon, the bulgar is soaking.

A: Many parents feel a sense of loss when a child goes out of the home, no matter how irritating he or she may be. Believe me, I know. My advice is to keep busy with a new hobby or activity, and call her every time you hear something worrysome has happpened in the city in which she resides, so that she knows not to go out at night. Also, I recommend cooking good food, enjoying life, and please, bevakashah, take care of YOURSELF. Warm regards -Moti


Enrique P. from Madrid, Spain writes:
Q: Dear Moti, is that Ladino music I hear in the background of your episodes?

A: Yes, the song is called "Cuando el Rey Nimrod," and is sung in Ladino, the language of the sephardic Jews in pre-1492 Spain. Your ear is sooo good! -Moti


Scott F. from Boston, MA writes:
Q: Dear Moti, Do you ever plan to release a cookbook? I just loved your Hummus podcast on Itunes, and the recipe is absolutely delicious! I'd love to know your other culinary secrets.

A: Sorry I do not have a cook book. We are in a process of composing formulas for tahini, dolma, sambusac, etc. We will put it in my home page soon! Regards -Moti


Lyora Z. from San Francisco, CA writes:
Q: I'm really tired and I haven't even eaten dinner yet. I'll see you guys this weekend. B-bye.

A: You know what you can do? Make a Mexican quesadilla. I take the bread, the Mexicans call it tortilla, and I put all the kinds of cheese I have. You know your mom buys lots of cheese at Foodmax because it's always on sale and somewhere in the fridge is the cheese from CostCo too. I take the cheese and the tortilla and I put lots of spice— the Mexicans call it 'picante.' I call it, sooo good! -Moti


Wyona P. from Los Angeles, CA writes:
Q: I am falling in love with a man outside my race. How should I let my parents know I am dating an African American?

A: Oh my god. Please. Stop talking shtooyot. -Moti
[Ed. note: shtooyot means 'utter stupidity'].


Esther D. from Newark, NJ writes:
Q: I recently bought a purple clutch, which I love. But at Nordstrom they have a more practical clutch in black. Did I make the right choice by getting the purple one?

A: What on earth is a clutch? -Moti


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