EVANSVILLE, Ind. “Do you like sweets?” Savor a selection of exotic and familiar homemade desserts at Kabob Xpress on North Green River Road.
Kabob Xpress opened last year and immediately gained an excellent reputation for its generous portions of freshly prepared Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine such as gyros, shawarma, kebabs, hummus, falafel and more.
In December, Hadeel Alaqtash, a former partner, became the sole owner of the restaurant… and Alaqtash is a baker. A refrigerated display case once used to display raw kebabs is now full of cakes and pastries, all baked from scratch.
We stopped in recently to find the type of desserts she offers.
“I love to cook,” said Alaqtash, who is Palestinian and originally from Jordan. “I learned on my own, from the age of maybe 11. It makes me happy – today is my happy day because I have to make the desserts.
Alaqtash bakes traditional Mediterranean desserts and American favorites, and she has some strong opinions on the use of cake mix.
“Everything here is made from scratch, because I hate cake mixes,” she said firmly. “I can taste it and I don’t like it at all. My kids won’t eat it. It’s not good.”
So if you see, for example, a pineapple upside-down cake in the case, know that Alaqtash started this yellow cake by separating the eggs and creaming the butter and sugar.
Guests will find two famous Mediterranean desserts in the case every day: baklava and kunafa.
Baklava is the familiar layered candy made with a filling of ground nuts and sugar between layers of crispy, buttery phyllo dough. The dough is cut into pieces before baking and drizzled with a lemony sugar syrup right out of the oven, which makes it crispy, toasty, buttery and sticky all at the same time.
Alaqtash offers a second style of baklava with a ground pistachio filling. This is rolled into thick logs before baking and then sliced.
Kunafa is probably the most beloved dessert in the Middle East, although we don’t know it as well here in the Midwest (now is your chance to change that).
It is made with a top and bottom layer of shredded phyllo pastry filled with a creamy sweet layer made with fresh cheese and topped with pistachios.
Chocolate “Lazy Cake” is a specialty of Jordan and the Levant, but it has more in common with S’mores than the syrupy, nutty confections we normally associate with Arabic cuisine.
It is a simple yet delicious dessert that gets its name from the ease of preparation.
“Lazy Cake contains a lot of chocolate – it’s chocolate baked with butter, milk and cocoa,” Alaqtash said.
This fudgy mixture is folded with broken graham crackers or French tea cookies, then packed into a mold and chilled. When sliced, it has a nice mosaic look. Alaqtash tops his with a drizzle of vanilla frosting, a dusting of crushed pistachios and fresh strawberries.
Finally, a flan cake combines two desserts in one: a creamy egg custard flan with caramel sauce and a light chiffon cake, all baked together.
The cake starts with a layer of caramelized sugar on the bottom of the pan. It is topped with a pastry cream made from egg yolks, sugar and cream. Finally, a vanilla cake batter is prepared and poured directly over the uncooked pastry cream. As the cake gently cooks in a double boiler, the light batter forms a dry, fluffy layer on top, while the pastry cream settles dense and creamy on the bottom. The dessert is inverted to serve, so the cake is the bottom layer with the custard and caramel sauce on top.
You will find at least four kinds of desserts in the Kabob Xpress case every day. Coffee is also available.
If you are going to
Kabob Xpress is located at 3305 N. Green River Rd.
Phone: (812) 402-0244
Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (may close earlier)
Sunday noon – 8 p.m.