Month: May 2011


About the food of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau

Are you ready? This week is a double hitter; we’re discussing two West African neighbors, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Don’t be fooled by their names – these countries are quite a bit different. Especially when it comes to the food. Sure they both share a love for typical West African foods, like Groundnut soup (absolutely amazing) [recipe], Batons de manioc (fascinating!) [recipe], Yucca Fries [Recipe], Jollof (a rice dish cooked with tomatoes and spices) [Recipe] and loads of tropical fruit so fresh it would make you weep (try this papaya chutney, for example [Recipe]), but they also have completely different cultures. For starters, Guinea is a former French colony. This means the city folk they pile their plates high with French-inspired dishes, like ones we’ve visited in the past – classic French omelets [recipe] or coupé coupé (smoked bbq meats) in a baguette sandwich [recipe]. On the other hand, Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese colony. Head into one of the big-town bakeries and you’ll likely see cases of Portuguese pastries, cookies [Recipe], and breads. You’ll also find tons of cashews …

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Monday Meal Review: Guatemala

THE SCENE I was happy. I drank frothy hot cocoa. It was rich and sweet and I could see the sun peeking through the grey clouds. The breeze smoothed my hair back like an old friend. And then I looked. The picnic table was moving – marching, marching, marching. I focused my eyes. Ants. Headed straight for the hot cocoa bars. Ready to carry mountains on their backs. Ready to eat sugar until they were too full to fit into their tunnels. Into the cracks and grass and wherever else ants march. I took another sip of my hot cocoa. I thought about cleaning them up. Shooing them away. Spraying, wiping, swiping. But the ants would just keep coming. I looked down at my cup and watched the frothy bubbles pop. I shut my eyes and took another sip. Sweet, sugary goodness. Oh, how it tasted exactly like “good.”  All I wanted in that moment was to enjoy the cocoa. It was divine. I peeked over at the ants, now nibbling the chocolate. That’s all they …

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Guatemalan Hot Cocoa

Serves 1 When I don’t have time for a bubble bath, I like to slip my dreams into a steaming hot cup of cocoa. Imagine my surprise (and joy) when I found out Guatemalans don’t make their hot cocoa quite like we do here, in the USA. Like their neighbors throughout Central America, Guatemalans make hot cocoa out of bars of pressed cocoa. Dry and crumbly, these hot cocoa bars are nothing like the creamy bars of chocolate we snack on. The good news? You can find them in your local Latino market and in the international aisle of some standard grocery stores. For more information and to see “the making of” these cocoa bars… see our post In Search of the Guatemalan Sweet Tooth. PS. Keep this recipe in mind around the holidays – Guatemalans love to sip a nice cup of cocoa with tamales during the Christmas season. Ingredients: 1-2 ounces (usually 1-2 squares) from a hot cocoa bar 1 cup whole milk 1/2 cinnamon stick, or powdered cinnamon to taste Method: First things, …

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Pepian Sauce for Stewed Chicken or Veggies

Makes 3 cups Is your blender lonely? Do you want to blast away from boredom? Try pepian, a thick mole-like sauce from Central America and beloved in Guatemala. With a quick whizz-whirr in the blender, this vegan sauce (a.k.a. recado) blends the smoky flavor of roasted, toasted seeds and other goodness with a half stick of cinnamon and dried chili peppers. If that sounds like a lot of different ingredients, don’t worry, pepian is so balanced that even the pickiest eaters in your house won’t realize what they’re eating. The smooth, complex flavor makes me happy – especially when I’m in a cooking rut. Serve over vegetables or stew with chicken. Our recipe is adapted from our friends over at Uncornered Market (where you can watch a great video of Pepian preparation in Guatemala). They used guaque and pasa chilis; we could not obtain these so we substituted the closest we could find. The result was a completely mild pepian. Enjoy! Ingredients: 2 ounces sesame seeds, toasted 2 ounces pumpkin seeds, toasted 5 large roma tomatoes, …

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In Search of the Guatemalan Sweet Tooth (with poll)

Did you know there’s a town in Guatemala called El Chocolate? It’s true. It’s a sign of the times. Guatemalans love, love, love chocolate. They grow it. They drink it. But for some reason, they just don’t eat a lot of it. In fact, they drink chocolate way more than they eat the stuff. I have first-hand reports from my pen-pal Audrey (of Uncornered Market), that they had a surprisingly difficult time finding a regular bar of chocolate to eat during their stay in Guatemala. Amazing. The only bars they could find were dry and crumbly – meant for making hot cocoa. They even participated in a chocolate bar making class (pictured above), in which the learned how to press and decorate the bars, but – again – they were only meant for drink making. Sounds at once delicious and unusual – which is why I’ll be posting a recipe for Guatemalan hot cocoa in a few days. It’ll be rich. It’ll be frothy. It’ll be everything you ever dreamed hot cocoa could be. With cinnamon. Stay tuned.

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This couple has been traveling for nearly a decade… and counting

Imagine if this was your view… Imagine if you could be in these places… Imagine if the world was your back yard. You’re in for a real treat today – Audrey Scott and Dan Noll from Uncornered Market are here to answer a few questions. They live a life I can only dream about. They explore the world for a living. The world is their back yard. That’s right. In 2006 left their corporate desk jobs, got rid of their belongings, and went off to… well, wherever the wind blows them. They support themselves by writing travel articles, sharing their inspiring photography, and with their web site. What does this mean? It means while I’m overwhelmed with too much stuff in my small house, they’re off with nothing more than a couple of backpacks in the great big world. Free and light as a couple of birds. It makes me want to have a yard sale. I love their approach to life – they’re filled with curiosity, adventure and good-will to the people of this …

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Homemade Corn Tortillas

Makes 16 small or 8 medium tortillas This week’s Guatemalan Global Table starts off with a popular treat – the corn tortilla. Store-bought corn tortillas can be so … stale, dry and yucky. But, take five minutes to throw together a simple dough and you can smoosh out the best corn tortillas in the world – certainly as good as any you can find in Guatemala. Make them thick or thin, big or small – any way you shape them you’ll be glad you did. And if you have kids, watch out. You just might need to double the recipe (but don’t worry, they’ll be doing most of the work). Ingredients: 2 cups masa harina 1 1/4 cups water 1/4 tsp salt one giant helping of super secret ingredient (see below) Method: My recipe is not too different from the back of the masa harina bag. There’s one major difference though. I add… … and I think you’ll notice a real difference. With that being said, combine a healthy portion of love with masa harina, …

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Menu: Guatemala

Hello and welcome to our Guatemalan menu, a welcome distraction from the storms that plagued the midwest last night (a.k.a. where I live). Tornado season reminds me, yet again, that I’m a stress eater. Big time. Last night, as the winds whipped and the hail fell,  my appetite went through the roof. I may or may not have eaten 9.5 fresh corn tortillas and 139 mugs of hot cocoa, but who’s counting…? Let’s just say I’m still extremely full. The good news? Our Guatemalan menu is great for stress eaters. It’s at once comforting and indulgent. Trust me – I’ve put it to the test. This week I received expert advice from Audrey and Dan over at Uncornered Market. I like them. They travel the world for a living. And they made Pepian in Guatemala. What sounds good to you? Pepian Sauce for Stewed Chicken or Veggies [Recipe] Remarkably like mole, pepian is made with toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds, tomatillos, tomatoes, cinnamon, and dried chili peppers. While not spicy, the flavor is deep and …

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About the food of Guatemala

Follow the rainforest trails, past the ancient and active volcanoes, through patches of arid desert and towering Mayan ruins, and pull up a chair to the Guatemalan Global Table. Just don’t sit too close – you need room for your belly to grow. And, I promise you, it will grow. For starters, you’ll be chowing down on pupusa – the awesome corn (masa harina) snack packet we made for El Salvador [Recipe]. Then there’ll be a heaping portion of Guatemalan mole, called recado or pepian, often served over chicken [Recipe]. This clay colored sauce is made with a filling blend of pumpkin/squash seeds, sesame seeds, dried peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, cinnamon and more. Another recipe that uses sesame and pumpkin/squash seeds is called Jacon – this dish is deep green thanks to loads of cilantro and tomatillos. Both will fill your belly right up! If you can handle a few happy carbs (I’m always up for a good carb load), then you really should eat these dishes with rice or corn tortillas [Recipe]… the fresher the better. If …

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Monday Meal Review: Grenada

THE SCENE: I was almost asleep when it hit me. My eyes popped open. “Did you put the Oil Down away?” I asked. “The what?” Keith replied, groggily. “The Oil Down. The stew?” I waited, blinded by the piercing blue glow radiating from my alarm clock. “No?” I shut my eyes tightly and shook my head. Keith always answers my questions with a question when I’m upset. “How long has it been out?” he asked. I didn’t answer. “Is it still good?” “No.” I felt tears well up in my eyes even as I said it. I tried not to blink, hoping they would stay put. This was a first. An entire dish, gone uneaten by Mr Picky and Miss Ava. Sure, I had sampled it earlier in the day, while flitting around the kitchen, but I had saved the bulk of the stew for later, for a time when we could all sit down together to eat as a family. Here we were, hours later – in bed, almost asleep. Several urgent errands had left the …

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1 2 3 4 Caribbean Rum Punch

Makes…as much as you can handle! I’m no mixologist, so I love when there’s a clear cut way to mix a drink, such as with the ever-mighty Rum Punch. The recipe is easy to remember, as long as you can count to four. You’ll need 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak. As for what specific ingredients to use? That’s where you get to be creative. Take “Sweet” for example: that could be a sugar syrup or a naturally sweet fruit juice. You get to choose. I went for a middle of the road drink – tropical, fruity and fresh without being cloying. As for the dash of nutmeg – it’s Grenadian fairy dust – be sure to add some for your finishing touch. Ingredients: 1 part sour: fresh lime juice 2 parts sweet: pineapple juice 3 parts strong: rum 4 parts weak: orange juice If my ratio confuses you, just replace the word “part” with cup, and you’ll end up with a little over a half gallon. Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg 1 …

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Oil Down with Yucca

Serves 6 Stressed out? Time for a Caribbean Oil Down – and I don’t mean massage. This heavy duty dish is made by stewing cassava or bread fruit in coconut milk and curry. The result is a thick, indulgent stew worthy of any party. Our version is vegan, but pork bits are typical. With such rich ingredients, Oil Down seems more suited to a ski slope than a beach party, but, still, Grenadians eat this dish in their bathing suits. Brave, brave people. Oil Down is so rich that you may be able to stretch this one pot dish a lot further than six people. Especially if said people are teeny weeny or even tall, yet thin. The stew gains its richness thanks to the coconut milk which is a defining feature of this popular Caribbean meal. Serve with rice. Ingredients: 3-4 yucca/cassava, about 2 lbs 3 carrots 2 stalks celery 1 onion vegetable oil 1 Tbsp curry powder 1 whole hot pepper, optional 2 cans coconut milk (about 31/2 cups) 2 cups water salt …

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