Month: July 2011


About the Food of Iran

Pop Quiz: Would an Iranian ever use minute rice? Welcome to one of the most mountainous countries in the world, chock full of winding mountain paths, arid plateaus, and scrubby, windswept trees. Welcome to Iran. If you learn one thing during this week’s Global Table Adventure, learn this: Iranians make the most beautiful, perfect rice. And I mean perfect. Jaw-dropping. Breath taking. Not one gummy grain in the lot. It should be no surprise then, that, from mountain top to mountain top, all across Iran, rice reigns supreme. And no, not minute rice. Never, ever would a true Iranian serve minute rice. Here’s the depth of their devotion to rice: Iranians celebrate a well prepared platter of light, spindly basmati rice as the main course. Made into an elegant presentation with potato crusts, onions, sour cherries, or barberries and often sprinkled with ghee and saffron – this is an entire universe apart from minute rice  [recipe]. As for the protein – the chicken? Well, I’ve personally heard Iranians simply call it a garnish. Everything I …

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Monday Meal Review: Indonesia

THE SCENE I threw my head back and stared at the ceiling. “Seriously?” I muttered. With an irritated flick, I tossed the latest item on top of the quickly growing mound of clothing. Just like all the others, this – my favorite baby blue dress – was smattered with dark, oily grease stains. The sad truth had made itself apparent: I cannot be trusted apronless around salad dressing, cooking oil, or butter. Before I knew it, what started off as an innocent attempt to get dressed, quickly disintegrated into rummaging to find even one single top that was spatter-free. Then, I got so fed up with the situation that I took it to the next level of neurosis, and began on an all-out closet cleaning. As in: all out. Only things I loved made it back in. The rest ended up in one of two monstrous piles. Pile A was dedicated to these dirty looking grease-wrecks (destined for spot scrubbing with bar soap), and Pile B was dedicated to clothes I was ready to donate. I was …

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Indonesian Beef Satay

Serves 2-4 Do you get hungry late, late, late – in the dark corners of the night? Does your stomach growl? Your mind race? Do you ever feel like you need a big bite of goodness before you can roll over and snooze? Me, too. Indonesian Beef Satay is just the ticket. Believe me when I say I would turn on my grill at midnight to eat this satay. Here’s the truth: I’ve never simply sat and eaten a half pound of meat in my entire life. I’m just not that into meat. Until today. Completely, and without remorse, I ate an entire half pound and would have continued on to eat more skewers, if I could have weaseled some away from Keith and Ava. The Satay are rich and sweet from the kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), wonderfully fragrant, and incredibly addictive. Apparently I’m not alone because many Indonesians are known to eat up to 6 skewers in one sitting. Ingredients: 1 small onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic, chopped 1 1/2 tsp minced ginger …

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Indonesian Peanut Sauce

Makes 2 1/2 cups I’ve discovered the secret to a happy belly. Indonesian Peanut Sauce. This is not just any peanut sauce. This is the kind of peanut sauce that leaves you wondering. Hoping. Dreaming. Wishing for more. This sauce is complex. Interesting. Mysterious – full of wonderful flavors you can’t quite identify. Flavors that’ll make you nibble and nibble – until, eventually, you give up trying to figure everything out all the time and simply enjoy. NOTE: Vegetarians and vegans can also enjoy this sauce by simply leaving out the shrimp paste. Ingredients: 1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil 1 candle nut*, grated 1 large shallot, chopped 2 cloves garlic, chopped chili pepper (to taste), seeded 1 tsp shrimp paste (sweet or hot)*, optional 5.5 oz can of coconut milk 1 tsp ground coriander 1 cup roasted peanuts 2/3 cup water salt Season with: 2 Tbsp kecap manis* 1-2 limes juiced *available at most Asian markets. Method: There are so many ways to make this peanut sauce. Your best bet is to pull up …

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Indonesian Salad | Gado Gado

Nope. That would be weird. No, this is peanut sauce, the perfect complement to Gado Gado. And what is Gado Gado, you ask? The coolest way to stay cool in Indonesia. Made from an assortment of tofu, tempeh, young jack fruit, cooled boiled potatoes, eggs, and green beans, Gado Gado is a dream-come-true for those of us who like to use leftovers. Of course, to keep things fresh and crunchy, most Gado Gado salads also add a blast of cabbage and sprouts. If that sounds too healthy, no worries. While I went light on the peanut sauce, I’ve read that many salads are swimming in the stuff. I got the same effect by dipping each bite until totally coated in peanut sauce. It was brilliant. What are we waiting for? Let’s hit up a floating market and make some Gado Gado. Ingredients for 2-4 2 handfuls green beans, steamed and cooled 4 small red potatoes, boiled, cooled, and quartered 4 eggs, hard-boiled, cooled, and halved 1/2 package tempeh, pan fried in oil 8 oz tofu, pan …

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Indonesian Fried Rice with cow’s eyes | Nasi Goreng

Serves 2-4 Let’s get up and greet the day like an Indonesian. Stretch your arms to the sky. Touch the earth. Pile your plate with fried rice. And cow’s eyes. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean a cow’s cow eyes. I mean fried eggs. That’s simply what they call them in Indonesia. As far as breakfast goes, Nasi Goreng is incredibly satisfying. Especially if you eat it on top of an 8th century Buddhist monument. And why not? With stove-top travel, we can go wherever we want. Note: This recipe is best made with day-old rice. If you cannot take the time for this, cool your rice in a thin layer on a cookie sheet in the fridge. You should be able to use it after an hour or two. You’re basically looking for it to be dry to the touch. Moist rice will not fry up right – it will get mushy. Also, I left out the chili pepper so Ava could eat it, but locals would often add sliced red chili pepper …

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Menu: Indonesia

Life is moving along at a pretty good clip. I officially have a two year-old. We’re eating Indonesia. My hair is grayer than ever. Yep, that about sums it up! I’m really excited about our Indonesian recipes because they cover the gamut, from vegetarian delight to meat lover’s lovely love-fest. There’s something for everyone. What sounds good to you? Gado Gado (Indonesian Salad) [recipe] This is one of the most popular salads in Indonesia. Most versions include young jackfruit, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, green beans, sprouts, tempeh, tofu, and more. Dressed with peanut sauce. Indonesian Fried Rice with Cow’s Eyes (Nasi Goreng) [recipe] Despite the title, this recipe is practically vegan. Jasmine rice stir-fried with shallots, garlic, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), and then served with tomato, cucumber and green onion. The finishing touch? Cow’s eyes – a.k.a. fried egg. Indonesian Beef Satay [recipe] Beef marinated until tender in kecap manis, onion, garlic, ginger and ground coriander, then skewered and grilled. Indonesian Peanut Sauce [recipe] An amazing concoction, seasoned with lime juice, ground coriander, and more. …

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About the food of Indonesia

Not hundreds. Not thousands. Not even 17,000.  Nope. Experts state that “more than 17,000 islands make up Indonesia.” Either they lost count or they simply wanted an even number. Regardless, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with over 300 languages spoken. And, guess what? 11,000 of those islands are uninhabited. I wonder, if I’m really nice, if they’ll let me have one? Hmm. Maybe not. Of course, I’ll be happy to settle for a few Indonesian meals. The food is rich, highly spiced, and incredibly flavorful. We’ve already dabbled in Indonesian food on this Adventure, as their influence stretches far into neighboring countries. We made bakso noodle soup [recipe], an amazing concoction that is also enjoyed in East Timor. The soup is a masterful balance of clean, fresh flavors, punctuated by a spicy pop from the beloved sambal (hot sauce). Almost a year ago we made Sayur Lodeh with rempah [recipe], a fragrant shrimp coconut curry served with lontong (rice steamed in banana leaves) [recipe]. The rempah is made with lemongrass, cashews, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. …

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Monday Meal Review: India

THE SCENE On my brother Keith’s last day in Tulsa, in the very last half hour, he said something that will stick with me for a long time. I was sipping my tea, watching him play with Ava, thinking how happy I was. Conversation turned to our next visit and how work always tries to ruin plans. The way they make you guilty for taking even a little time off.  How, inevitably, they squeeze as much out of you as they possibly can. Rather abruptly he said: “I won’t cancel, no matter what.” I nodded, and took another sip of tea, appreciating his sincerity. “Three weeks before Damien died I was supposed to visit you two,” he continued, looking off towards the fountain, watching the water tumble into the cool pool. “Work begged me to reschedule my flight – to stay for a big project. Damien was crushed. And I didn’t get to see him before…” He trailed off and grew silent.  After a long pause, he quietly added “I’ll never do that again.” I …

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Spiced Tea with Milk | Masala Chai

Serves 4 I’ve officially learned how to blackmail my brother into doing anything I want. Make him a pot of masala chai. He drank this sweet, milky treat his entire visit. A mug was never far from reach. The flavor is as intense as any local coffee shop, but the satisfaction is 200% greater, as we made it ourselves. One more thing – you can serve it hot or cold which makes it the perfect drink in my book. I’m honored that this recipe was featured in Penzy’s Spices’ 2012 early summer catalog. Ingredients: 6 cups of prepared black tea I used 2 Tbsp looseleaf black tea brewed in 6 cups water, but this can vary by brand. Spice blend: 10 cardamom pods, shelled 1 tsp fennel  seeds 5 black peppercorns 1 cinnamon stick 2 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger Finishing touches: 1/4 cup sugar, or to taste 1/2-1 cup whole milk Method: Open the curtains. Let in the light. Pile spices into your life. First, brew the black tea. Then remove the tea bag …

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Makes 4.5 cups The sweet, rich flavor of kulfi will transport you (and any toddlers you know) to India quicker than quick. No need for fancy equipment, either. Freeze the kulfi in any mold you have – I used plastic shot glasses from a party supply store. The two year-olds I polled had no problem with this. Ingredients: 1 12 oz can evaporated milk 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk 2 slices bread 1 cup cream, whipped 2 Tbsp pistachios 1 tsp rose water 1/4 tsp cardamom red food coloring, optional Method: Pack your bags. We’re headed to beautiful Vagator beach in India. Once there, we’ll sit down with a few kulfi pops. You’ll need whipped cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, bread, rose water, cardamom… … and pistachios. Add everything *except* the rose water and cardamom to a blender. Once smooth, divide the mixture in two. Season one bowl with rose water and the other with cardamom. If you’d like, you can make the rose water pops pink with a drop of food …

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Saag Paneer

Serves 4 It’s creamy. It’s earthy. It’s one of my favorite dishes from India. Ladle saag panner over basmati rice and it’s also a surefire way to get a picky man to eat his spinach. Ingredients: vegetable oil 1 tsp fresh grated ginger 1 tsp fresh grated turmeric 2-3 tsp homemade garam masala 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic Serrano chili, sliced thinly (to taste) 1 lb frozen spinach, thawed, juices retained homemade paneer, to taste salt pepper finishing touch 2 Tbsp butter 1/4 cup half and half (or more to taste) Method: There’s only one way to get a picky man to love spinach. Load it up with good flavor. Blend it so it’s no longer slimy. And add some delicious cheese to distract him from all the green. First step: gather the ingredients. Whole Foods had fresh turmeric this week (see bottom right), so I did my happy dance. Next, toast the ginger, turmeric, and garam masala in vegetable oil over medium heat until fragrant. Add the onion, garlic, and Serrano chili. Cook until softened, …

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