Month: April 2011


Monday Meal Review: The Gambia

THE SCENE I scrunched up my face, trying to remember. We were standing at the farmer’s market on opening day, people milling about us like ants, everyone grabbing at the last of the produce before the farmers packed their bags. Alexandra tucked 2 giant bunches of shiny green onions behind her stroller – only $3.00 at closing time. I’d paid $2.00 for 1 bunch an hour earlier. “Oh, yes – I can’t believe I forgot!” I said to Alexandra, “The dessert is going to be hot mangoes in custard.” I shook my head, glanced up at the sun, and shifted my feet. My face was already sunburned.  How could it be 93 degrees at 11 am in April? Where was spring? Did it totally skip over Oklahoma? And why on earth was I making a hot dessert in these conditions? Alexandra laughed. “You’re making the most awful face.” “I’m trying to remember why I decided on a recipe that involves turning on my stove. The air conditioner will never keep up.” Later, when our girls …

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West African Spinach with Groundnuts | Peanut Butter

Serves 4 I’m not sure why this idea seemed so strange to me. West Africans love greens with peanut butter (they call them groundnuts), and I should have never doubted them. The earthy peanuts stand up to the mighty bitter spinach. It balances out nicely with the sweet peppers, but spicy would work wonderfully as well. If you can pick up the spinach and onions from your farmer’s market, I highly recommend it. The fresh flavors will crunch and zip and smile inside your mouth. Ingredients: peanut oil (or regular) 3 green onions, sliced 1 lb fresh spinach 1 red bell pepper 1/4 cup natural peanut butter 1/2 cup water salt pepper or cayenne Method: I was just so happy the farmer’s market opened up for business the same day we cooked The Gambia. Look at these green onions and the healthy, sultry spinach. That’s right. I said sultry. Cook the pepper in hot peanut oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have any) Add in peanut butter and water. Stir to combine into a …

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Lemon Ginger Tea | Gingembre

Makes about 3 cups concentrated juice Want to fall in love vigorously? Ease a nasty stomach bug immediately? Wake up cheerfully? Drink a giant glass of spicy, cold lemon ginger tea. It’s like a big punch in the face, but in a good way. This drink is so strong, you’ll do the post-whiskey-shot shudder. Our recipe is a concentrated blend – be sure to water it down to taste. Special tip for the flu season – add a splash of hot water to dilute for a great, cleansing drink. Perfect if your sinuses feel miserable. Ingredients: 1/2 cup grated ginger 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, pulp and all 2 cups water Method: Get ready to purify yourself. Get the juiciest lemons you can squeeze, the spiciest ginger on the shelf, and the sweetest sugar in your pantry. Peel and grate fresh ginger root (a bit of skin doesn’t matter as it will be strained). Add to a small pot with sugar, lemons and water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook …

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Eat a baguette like a west African

I know it’s springtime and I’m supposed to be nibbling lettuce, trying on my bathing suit five times a day, and sipping nothing but water. Life doesn’t always work out like that. Last night, for example, I was in huddled in the closet with Miss Ava. That’s right – my noisy almost-two-year-old and I were waiting out two rounds of tornado sirens. It was chaos. Fearing for my life makes me crave comfort food. If you are surviving on lettuce and water, please forgive me for this post. You might wait a day to try on your bathing suit. I thought I’d heard it all when it came to baguette sandwiches. I was wrong. Here are two West African sandwiches that I would gladly eat while hiding from a tornado: The Omelet This one is pretty straight forward, but about as decadent as it gets: a deep-fried omelet laid across a baguette. It’s sold at the tanganas, or street food shacks, that you can find along dusty dirt roads in the Gambia. For those of you …

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Mango and Ginger Cream Parfaits

Serves 8 (really this depends on the size of your mangoes) What would you make if you had milk and ginger root, but no refrigeration? What if you had mangoes but no ice cream machine or blender? You’d use up that milk as fast as possible – whip it up into a ginger custard and toss it with stewed mangoes! This is a high class treat in The Gambia, where real milk is far less common than imported powdered milk. As for the parfait glasses? Totally a Sasha-spin. Feel free to just dollop the cream with a gallop of mangoes in the center of a small bowl for rustic appeal. Inspired by “Stewed Mangoes” in The World Cookbook for Students. Ingredients For the stewed mangoes 3-4 small mangoes, diced 1/4 cup water 1/3 cup sugar, or as needed (if your mango is ripe you may not need any sugar) For the ginger custard 1 1/2 tsp packed fresh grated ginger 2 eggs 1 cup whole milk 1 cup heavy cream 1/3 cup sugar Method: First for …

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Menu: The Gambia

Can anyone look at these babies and not smile? I mean, really. I love, love, love the joy pouring out of their faces. This picture could be used to replace depression medicine. And I just know it can help you do your taxes. That’s right. For anyone in the USA who has yet to file their taxes, take a moment to look at these babies, absorb the joy and peace. You’ll be calmer, nicer, and your brain won’t feel as much like scrambled jelly over the next 72 hours. That has to count for something. Our Gambian menu features a special burst of fresh and local flavor – the spinach and green onions came from the very first day of the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market in Tulsa. Nothing like opening day at a farmer’s market, when all the goodies are vibrant, plump, and just waiting to be snapped, popped, and nibbled. I simply shut my eyes and imagined I was in Gambia. The temperature was about right – over 90 degrees. West African Spinach with Groundnuts …

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About the food of The Gambia

This week we’re cooking The Gambia. Not Gambia. The Gambia. I like that. It has presence. Has power. Did you know Facebook was originally The Facebook? It’s true. I saw it in the movie “Social Network.” Edited to add: It’s THE Social Network. I sort of love that I made this error while writing about THE Gambia. So, back to The Gambia. Despite her grandiose name, this country is teeny tiny – the smallest country in Africa – 30 miles wide at it’s widest. She looks rather like a wiggly worm inching into the continents western coastline, divided by the Gambia river and dividing Senegal. Thanks to the river’s fresh waters, Gambia has bountiful produce and abundant fishing. Staples are fairly typical of Western Africa – peanuts, peppers, tomatoes, green onions (called mandinka) and more exotic fare like fermented locust beans (do you remember these funky, blue-cheese tasting tidbits, from when we cooked Babenda? [Recipe] Ah, memories.) Well, much like Burkina Faso, people from The Gambia also enjoy bitter greens cooked with strong flavors, especially peanut …

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Monday Meal Review: Gabon

THE SCENE Like cold mercury in a hot thermometer, I quickly moved out of my comfort zone. Failure flushed my cheeks. I felt sun burnt from standing over hot flames. I was stifled. Mad. In order to save any semblance of a sane human being, I sat for a good twenty minutes by myself. I could have made 13.3 omelets in that time. Rather, I should have been able to. But I was out of eggs. I was out of eggs because I broke them all. The counters were littered with mistakes. Eggs that browned too fast, omelets that slid off the plate, ones that I pulled too soon, with icky, runny centers. There were even eggs I accidentally cracked over the trash bowl. Misery. The thought of going to the grocery store to get another pack of eggs made me want to kick a tire. I’d already been to the store 4 times in the last two days – not counting Keith’s last minute run to get hickory wood chips. Not to mention, there’s …

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French Omelet

Makes 1 omelet I cracked a mighty big smile when I read that omelets are all over Africa, especially in former French colonies. When I attended the Culinary Institute of America I learned from our Drill-Sargent chef how to make a perfect French omelet, as tidy as a neatly folded blanket. For my final exam I had to make one in less than 90 seconds. In fact, I had to plate it and walk it across the kitchen to the chef in less than 90 seconds. As if that wasn’t hard enough, we lost marks if the golden blanket was soiled with any flecks of brown or – like a Victorian showing her ankle, was crass enough to reveal any filling. I never thought in a million years I’d be able to do it, but after making several dozen I figured it out. Here are my tips from the trenches: – Have everything you need out on the counters, ready to go (eggs, filling, topping, plate, paper towel) – Get your pan very hot. The eggs …

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Starfruit Curd with Tropical Fruit

Makes about 1 1/4 cups of curd Read this recipe at your own peril. Inspired by the bountiful tropical fruit of Gabon, you’ll be inevitably faced with a choice. Spend an extravagant $12 dollars on 2 star fruit to make this simple treat, or live a life untouched by the smiles this dessert could bestow upon you. While Gabon certainly grows mangoes, bananas and starfruit – and most likely serves up a great fruit curd in the capital (they were a French colony after all) – this particular recipe is my own creation. And, since I’m not exactly Gabonese, I must admit … that makes this recipe not exactly authentic. Once you taste it, though, you’ll forgive me. I promise. Ingredients: 1 cup strained, fresh starfruit juice (about 2 starfruit) 3 egg yolks 1/4 cup sugar 1 Tablespoon flour 1 Tablespoon cornstarch butter, as needed For the parfait Banana slices Mango cubes Method: Sing a few rounds of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” while you make this recipe. Use ripe starfruit. They’ll be heavy for size, …

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Crazy for the Pangolin

Ever think to your hungry self “I could really go for a giant, roly-poly, tree-climbing, toothless anteater with scales, right about now?” Me neither. But in Gabon it happens. Meet the pangolin. In the old days, before extinction was a very real threat, pangolin was considered top notch bush meat – great for beefing up stews and slathering with spicy sauces. The only catch is, once this delightful animal rolls up into a ball, even lions cannot break through the scales to get a nibble. Nice. The scales are supposedly strong enough for armor. Just ask King George III – if you have a time machine handy (anyone friends with the Doctor?). Happy Fun Fact Friday! Photos: Joxerra Aihartza, Piekfrosch, Pangolin Waking Up, Acid Cow

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Hickory Smoked Flank Steak Sandwiches | Coupé coupé

Serves 4 Barbecue, called coupé coupé, is all over Africa. This sandwich is inspired by Gabonese love for smoked meats piled into crusty baguettes.  I posted this recipe in diary format because, well, it was a little bit of an Adventure. Ingredients: 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder 1 1/2 tsp powdered chicken bouillon 1/4 tsp cayenne salt pepper 1 1/2 lbs flank steak grilled poblano peppers, skinned and cut into strips 1 onion, sliced and grilled (I grilled in foil with olive oil) 1 baguette 2 cups hickory wood chips Method: 8:00 am Woke up to a perfect day. Methinks one should always smoke meat under a blue sky and budding trees. 8:01 am Realize we don’t have any wood chips. Keith runs off to get some. I go back to sleep, ignoring blue skies and budding trees. 8:30 am I wake up to my hero, sneaking in with arms full of hickory wood chips, aluminum trays, and cat food. Nice. (Cat food for cats, not for sandwiches. Double nice).  Soak wood chips for about …

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