Month: August 2010


About the Food of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a dizzying landscape of dusty red plains and grassy savannas, broken up by stunning rock formations that tower above the ground. The culinary landscape of Burkina Faso is similar – plain, sparse even – with the occasional burst of unexpected flavor. Let me explain. Most meals are centered around pieces of Tô, a firm ball of white starch made with millet, sorghum, or corn. These bland balls are wonderfully adaptive because they take on the flavor the broths, soups, and stews that they are dipped into, often tomato or peanut based. This is every day fare – the turkey sandwich of Burkina Faso. And, just like our sandwiches, Tô is eaten by hand. This simple meal routine is broken up with rice, cous cous, or even maize. Here’s where the burst of unexpected flavor comes in. A blend of bitter greens, such as spinach, kale, or even mild cabbage, can be cooked with the grains to make a complete dish called Babenda (recipe). What makes Babenda interesting are the fermented locust beans (called …

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Monday Meal Review: Bulgaria

“Where’s the beef?” said Keith’s dad, wide eyed. In all his sixty-plus years on earth, this was probably his first vegetarian meal. Ever. What can I say. He’s Oklahoma, through and through. Six months ago, I would have been nervous about putting this feast in front of him. I’d probably have served a platter beef on the side. Heck, I who am I kidding. The entire meal would have been a meat-lover’s delight. I’m a people-pleaser, to the max. But eating food around the world has changed me. I love trying new foods with friends and family. I love the discussion it generates, the unexpected reactions, the laughter, the fun. Although he didn’t say much after his initial wide-eyed outburst, I could tell by the polite, but pained look on his face that this was not a meal he’d eat again. Too cold. Too weird. Too … meatless. Still, I took pride in the little I could do to broaden his palate of experiences. Simply put, watching him eat an entirely cold, vegetarian meal was …

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Iced Fruit Drink | Kompot

Makes 3-4 liters Many eastern European countries enjoy Kompot all year round. This sweet, chilled drink is refreshing on a hot summer’s day and, in the winter, Bulgarian children enjoy kompot as part of the Christmas celebration. Feel free to use your favorite fruit to make this recipe your own. Mint could even be added for fresh flavor. When serving, be sure to give everyone a few bits of fruit at the bottom of their glass! Ingredients: 10 cups water 1 cup sugar 6 oz prunes 4 oz currants (about 3/4 cup) 3 oz dried apricots 4-8 cups ice 1. Add all ingredients, except ice, to  a large pot. First the prunes – not just for old ladies, you know! I keep prunes in my fridge door for snacking on. I can only get Keith to eat them if I call them dried plums. Go figure. Next, the dried apricots. This particular brand is organic. I’ve never seen such dark, sultry apricots before – they look like fireplace embers, right before they burn out. Then, …

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Roasted Eggplant & Bell Pepper Dip | Kyopolou

Serves 4-6 Kyopolou melds roasted, sweet peppers, eggplant, and ripe tomatoes to make a dipping sensation. Serve with pita bread or alongside white fish. Be sure to prepare a day ahead (or at least several hours) so that the flavors can properly distribute. Otherwise the garlic will be too sharp and bitter. If you simply must serve this dish right away, use less garlic. Ingredients: 3 eggplants 4 red bell peppers 3 tomatoes (I used roma) 2-5 cloves garlic fresh parsley, to taste 1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar olive oil, as needed salt pepper Method: 1. Rinse and poke holes in the eggplant. This prevents unsightly explosions. 2. Roast eggplant, bell peppers, and tomatoes on a medium-low grill for about an hour, flipping once. You may also cook them at 350F in a conventional oven. NOTE: For a mellow garlic flavor, you may roast the cloves. Wrap in foil and remove when soft and sweet – about 30 minutes. Everything will get all wrinkly and charred. I know what you’re thinking. Looks like “ew.” I promise …

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Chilled Cucumber Soup | Tarator

Serves 4 Is your air conditioner busted? No problem – you’ll be cool as a cucumber as you sip on chilled Bulgarian cucumber & yogurt soup (Tarator).  Heck, take a bath in it. All that yogurt and cucumber has to be good for the skin. Right? Although many people enjoy this soup with little pieces of cucumbers, I liked it extra vevelty smooth. If you would like the texture, reserve half a cucumber and thinly slice it. I’d do half moons, or even smaller. Ingredients 2 small cucumbers, peeled, diced, salted & drained 3 cups Bulgarian yogurt 1 Tbsp olive oil 3 cloves garlic, crushed 2-3 cups ice water (optional) dill for garnish Method: 1. Place all ingredients (except water and dill), into a blender. Removing the bitter skin of the cucumber makes the soup smooth and light. Salt draws out any lingering bitterness in the flesh of the cucumber. Let the juices drain out for about 30 minutes. You can skip this step if your cucumber tastes sweet. Here’s the best part of the …

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