Month: May 2011


About the food of Greece

My first night in Greece I got in big trouble. The year was 1993 and I was on our 8th grade class trip – a trip for which I hadn’t paid a single dime. My family did not intend to sign me up for the trip – at the last minute, a student fell ill and dropped out. Since they weren’t able to give the student a refund, my teachers voted for me to take the student’s place. It was an incredible honor, which is why I cringe to tell you what I did to get in such big trouble. But, since we’re all friends here, I’ll be honest. I was in my (first-ever) boyfriend’s room after curfew. There, I said it. Now, here’s the important part: nothing happened, unless you count a heartfelt discussion on the meaning of life and death. I wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt – a sweatshirt that went down to my knees, no less. And socks. He sat on the edge of the bed, while I sat on the chair. We were …

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Monday Meal Review: Ghana

THE SCENE While I’m usually a pretty casual gal, I adore setting the table for a dinner party. Hours before dinner I begin. First, I put out water glasses and wine glasses. I listen, as with a seashell, for the chitter chatter of a hundred dinner parties in the sparkling glass. Soft, cotton napkins are next – each one tucked inside a beaded stone ring which rustles when you lift it. The tough cloth comforts nervous guests. It doesn’t rip, like paper. The kids can tell. Something special is happening. For this particular dinner – our Ghanaian Global Table – wide soup bowls gleamed on top of honey-colored bamboo mats. Small, mismatched finger bowls were next, for the Red Red. A pitcher of rosy Watermelon Lemonade went out at the last minute. The table was so crammed, I had to choose between the food and flowers for the center piece. Food won. Is it odd to set the table so elegantly for a rustic meal? I’ve seen jeans at weddings and sweat pants at the …

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Black eyed peas in red sauce | Red Red

Serves 4-6 Have you always wanted to dye your hair red, but have never had the courage? Do the next best thing – cozy up to a bowl of west-African “Red Red.” Ginger people look dull in comparison to this electric one pot wonder. The bright red color comes from the addition of shockingly excessive amounts of red palm oil – up to one cup for three cups of beans in some recipes. Traditional recipes include so much oil that a red ring forms around the base of the beans. I’ve been fairly modest with my addition for health reasons and because I find the flavor of red palm oil quite strong. Play around with it – start with 1/8 cup, and add more at the end of cooking until you like the taste. Ingredients: 1/4 cup red palm oil (or more to taste) 1 small onion, chopped 1 poblano, chopped (or your favorite hot pepper) 5 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed 1 tsp curry powder 2 15 oz cans black eyed peas , drained 1 …

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West-African Inspired Watermelon Lemonade

Makes 1.5 quarts Gulp, gulp, slurp. A quart and half of homemade Watermelon Lemonade lasts 13.3 minutes in this house. When served out of half a melon? It’s gone quicker than a cat’s meow. As the pitcher empties, our bellies swell – Mr. Picky’s most of all. He loves the stuff. He’s been known to drink an entire cup in one long draw, his eyes grinning over the rim. Today’s recipe is inspired by the flavors of Ghana, where heavy watermelons pile up in the markets all summer long. This sweet/tart drink uses up the juicy fruit up quickly – perfect if there’s a lack of refrigeration (or – ahem – if there’s no room in the refrigerator for a half-eaten watermelon). So, scoop up your leftover watermelon for a pitcher of this rosy drink – you’ll be sitting pretty when the mid-summer sun tries to beat you down. Ingredients: 1 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 large lemons) 6 cups scooped watermelon, blended (3.5 cups after blending) 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste) 1/4 cup …

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How to dress like the Asante people of Ghana (Adinkra)

My sister, Elisa, has one of the coolest jobs in the world. She’s an art teacher. In the days when I was languishing at my desk job, I dreamed of being in her shoes – inspiring children, encouraging creativity, playing with paint, and being called “Ms. Foppiano.” (That’s my maiden name. I really like it, although I don’t miss spelling it for people: “F as in Frank, O, double P as in Paul, I, A, N as in Nancy, O.” What a drag.) Today, I simply dream of Elisa taking over as Ava’s personal finger paint instructor. Oh, the fun they would have. Elisa recently did a Ghanaian art project with her students. Adinkra, or pattern stamping, is traditional with the Asante people of Ghana. They stamp patterns on cloth with a calabash shell and then wear the special cloth for different occasions. If the cloth is black or red, the adinkra is worn at funerals and big departures. If the cloth is brightly colored, the adinkra can be worn any time, but most commonly on Sunday …

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Spicy Chicken Peanut Soup | Groundnut Soup

Serves 4 I can’t begin to explain why or how this recipe works, but it does. Of the four adults who sampled the soup, every single person had thirds. Thirds. Epic. Groundnut soup is your passport to west Africa. In less than an hour, you’ll be spooning a delicate blend of fresh ginger, garlic, tomato and groundnuts (a.k.a. peanut butter), with bites of browned chicken and bits of hot peppers. And you’ll be mourning the time you lived without this soup. Special thanks to Ghana and the rest of West Africa for sharing this gem of a recipe with the world. Variations include a perfectly smooth soup (the ingredients can either be pureed or simply mashed together), as well as prepared with fish or beef instead of chicken. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make an even more authentic version of Groundnut Soup by substituting fish stock instead of chicken stock and garnishing with crushed, dried shrimp. The spice level of this soup is mild-medium. You can add more heat with ground cayenne pepper, if desired. Ingredients: …

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Menu: Ghana

I’m starting to think my closet will never be cleansed of my wooly, winter-wear. Sure, the sun is trickling down through the leaves, but the heater is on full blast. The last few days have dipped into the thirties overnight. Sunday afternoon we even brought my sad lemon tree back inside, straining to pull the giant bushy tree back over the threshold to prevent more leaves from dropping 0r, worse, yet, to avoid losing the baby lemons. Even my once-happy tomato plants are complaining of frost damage. To think – just last month it was 93F. What can I say. That’s Oklahoma weather for ya. The good news is our Ghanaian menu is great for all weather conditions. Indeed, many Africans eat spicy, hot food, even in the summer. The logic? Spices and warm food in hot weather induces heavy sweating; when your forehead breaks out into a sweat, the droplets catch a breeze and cool you down. Brilliant. Of course, it helps that many Ghanaians cook in outdoor kitchens. What sounds good to you? Red …

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About the food of Ghana

I sipped my wine, listening to his travel tales. Here’s my favorite one: After several days of eating like a Ghanaian, Ryan feels a bit homesick and pops into a pizzeria. He orders a pie with his favorite topping – bell peppers, hoping to get a taste of “home.” The waiter delivers the pizza, piping hot, covered with dozens of neatly sliced pepper rings. The only problem? They were habeneros. Wow. When he calls for the waiter, the staff merely chuckle, stating the Indian tourists love their pizzas that way. Even after he picking the peppers off the pizza, each bite remained screaming hot, thanks to the juices that dripped down from the roasted habeneros. Amazing. Needless to say, the pizza didn’t taste of “home.” Ryan later sampled a more tame Ghanaian dish called Red Red – black eyed peas stewed with spices, peppers, onions, and a layer of red palm oil so thick it leaves a red ring around the plate (hence the name) [Recipe]. This would be a fun one to try on New …

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Monday Meal Review: Germany

THE SCENE My friend Amanda has the same philosophy as I do when it comes to kids and food: they’ll learn to love good food if you feed ’em good food. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Recently Ava’s been turning her nose up at anything that looks funny – green, purple – whatever. The girl is simply not interested. The other day I made her spinach ravioli and she didn’t want any part of it. After fifteen minutes of practically begging the girl to take a bite, I finally just asked her: “Why won’t you eat it? Because it’s green!?” Ava nodded her head violently. Then she laughed. Then, most incredibly, she took a bite. And, then, another. This week, as I spooned the mustard and pickle-filled beef rouladen and a small pile of red cabbage onto Ava’s plate, she looked skeptical. I thought I’d try the same tactic: to giggle at the unusual until she was curious enough to take a bite. Ava’s Corner: THE FOOD Mini Beef Rouladen [Recipe] What I liked most about …

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How to homebrew: German Altbier (Beer)

I know very little about beer. So little, in fact, that I’ve been known to drink it on ice. While I’ve been told this is an epic sin, I can’t help myself. There’s nothing better after a hot, sweaty bike ride in the summer than beer on ice. That being said, I thought our German Global Table was the perfect opportunity to take a stab at homebrewing. This  is my step-by-step eperience making German Altbier. I am using the Brewer’s Best kit which can be purchased at High Gravity in Tulsa, Oklahoma (you can also order from them online). If you purchase their kit, you’ll get the full instructions and my procedure might help along the way. At the very least, you’ll learn what not to do. They also have classes. This isn’t an ad, by the way. I bought my own kit. High Gravity did loan me a bucket though! Hurrah for that. Now… if I can just get over there to return it. Day 1: First lesson… Apparently one needs a giant pot …

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Mini Beef Rouladen

Serves 2-4 Welcome to Germany! Mustard, pickles, onions, bacon, and the beefiest beef you can find – all tucked into a luscious gravy and served with red cabbage [Recipe] and potatoes. First, a few tips. Rouladen should be made with wide strips of tough beef -the kind that benefits from slow cooking. Typically this is round steak, but my supermarket only had chuck roast. The meat should be about 4″ wide and very long and thin. Have your butcher cut it for you. If you think of the meat like a brick, they should be cutting strips from the widest part of the brick. They’ll only be able to do it if they have a slicer. Our butcher didn’t have a slicer, so they couldn’t cut wide slices – they had to cut from the skinny side. No problem – we just made mini rouladen. When you get it home pound it as thin as you can. Only simmer the rouladen until the beef is tender. You might want to make one or two extra …

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Eastern European Red Cabbage

Serves 6 There’s one thing I know for sure. This recipe is served all over Germany and other eastern European countries. You almost don’t have to look at a menu before ordering it (unless, of course, you’re eating at a Chinese restaurant in Germany). Red cabbage is super simple to make -the hardest part is cutting the cabbage. And that’s not very hard. Unless you don’t have a knife. Ingredients: 1 head red cabbage, cored and sliced thinly (about 3 lbs) 1 small onion, thinly sliced 1 cup water 1/2 cup vinegar 1/4 cup sugar 1 bay leaf Salt pepper Method: Today is the day you get to take out your anxiety on a small purple cabbage. It’s loads of fun. First, core and slice it. Next, add it to a large pot with sliced onions, sugar, vinegar, and a bay leaf. A little water, salt and pepper balance things out. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the cabbage is as tender as you’d like, tossing occasionally. I found tongs the best way to …

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