Month: December 2011


Menu: Liberia

I did it. I made two desserts for Liberia. And I smiled the entire time. How could I not? I was in a good mood. Just look at this kid. Look at her. She’s an angel  for goodness sakes. Plus, I’m pretty sure angels only eat sweets. That’s what she’d have me believe, anyway. As for the Jollof – we tried a vegan version and loved it so much that I put together this meat-lovers variation. What sounds good to you?* Smoked Ham & Green Bean Jollof This is big time comfort food. A large pot of rice seasoned with tomatos, cinnamon, cayenne, garlic and ginger, then cooked with smoked ham and green beans. Traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs. Plantain Gingerbread Upside Down Cake Warm, sweet gingerbread cake – perfect for teatime, dessert, or anything in between. The plantain is arranged in concentric circles on top of ooey gooey brown sugar and butter. The cake makes a dazzling display at any holiday spread or potluck. Warm Mangoes with Cloves I prefer to cook for other people, but …

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About the food of Liberia

My feet might as well be jingle bells and my smiles made of gingerbread. I’m feeling the holiday spirit. I made cookies. There are parties to attend – dresses to wear – gløgg to drink. I even mailed out our holiday letter yesterday – one of my favorite traditions because it slows me down enough to reflect on the last year. Complete with family portrait, the entire project becomes a time stamp in an otherwise chaotic life, perfect to share with our dear family who all live so far away. In the midst of all this wintery merriment, the time also came to explore the food of Liberia, a country on the coast of West Africa known for her hot, tropical weather. A place where, as Anthony Bourdain says, “a puff of air is an event.” I wondered, hope against hope, if there is some food Liberians might like that would be remotely “holiday” themed. I was in luck. For those of you who know a bit of Liberia’s history, perhaps this won’t seem so …

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Monday Meal Review: Lesotho

THE SCENE I sink into the couch, tired from cooking all day. Malky makes tight circles on my lap, looking for a place to settle. I weigh my options. An entire espresso machine is out of the question. I only need to froth hot milk, for goodness sakes. No need to be extravagant. The clock ticks past 4:30 p.m. There isn’t time to shop around for one of those fancy, battery-operated, milk-frothing wands either. The closest store is too far away. And, if I am going to get pictures of these lattes before nightfall, I need to make the tea within the next 45 minutes. Malky finally settles into my lap, purring. Too distracted to pet him, I pick up the phone. I stare at the black screen a moment, before waking it up and dialing. Two rings and he answers. “Keith,” I say, ” I need you to stop by the coffee shop on your way home. I ran out of time and it’s almost dark” “What do you need?” he asks. “A giant cup …

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African Papa

I find that Mr. Not-as-Picky, Keith – even with all his progress on the adventure – can still be rather fussy about food that looks soft and mushy. Especially if he has to eat it with his fingers. If you ask me, some of the best food is soft and mushy – mashed potatoes being the prime example. So I’ll you what I told him. Papa, a stiff white porridge from Lesotho, is not that unusual. Especially if you eat grits for a living, which – apparently – many people do, here in the south. The best way to approximate Papa is by simply taking grits – the white ones – and make them a bit thicker than usual. When you’re done whisking, whisking, whisking, you’ll have a beautiful, scoopable papa – not unlike polenta in texture. It looks soft and mushy, but in fact, this papa is rather solid once cooled. Serves 2-4 Ingredients: 1/2 cup white grits 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups stock (your preference) salt Method: Bring stock to boil. Stream in grits, …

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Moroko Mash

Today I’m partnering with your mother. It’s cold outside. Let’s all bundle up in our favorite fuzzy-wild-animal-looking hoodies. Let’s wear face masks and giant mittens. And let’s definitely eat our vegetables. Lots and lots of veggies. Today’s recipe is inspired by moroko, a dish enjoyed in the African country, Lesotho. Typically, Moroko is made with onions and greens, sauteed in oil with a bit of broth, not unlike the Kale (Sukuma Wiki) we made recently for Kenya. Moroko  can be made with any dark greens you’d like, such as kale, spinach, chard, or mustard greens. Optionally, beans or potatoes can be added. But I have a secret – the most wonderful mash around is when you add mustard greens to potatoes. And this mash, inspired by Lesotho, is what we’re serving up today. Turns out this is the mashed potatoes your mother always dreamed you would eat. Loaded with nutrients. And really, really green. Serves 2-4 Ingredients: 1 bunch mustard greens, chopped finely 3 fairly large russet potatoes, peeled and roughly cubed stock, as needed – I used …

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Red Rooibos Latte

Friends, it’s time. Let’s have a tea party. Cabin fever is setting in. Bring out your favorite dishes and your fancy hats. Shake things up. Wear those shoes you never wear and paint your fingernails red, red, red. Or, if you’d rather, we can do it in our PJ’s, fuzzy slippers and robes.* As for what we’ll drink? I haven’t been this excited about a new tea since I had my first “London Fog” which, for the uninitiated, is Earl Grey tea made with half steamed milk. (It literally makes my toes curl). Today, however, I bring you something even more fantastic – from the Southern hemisphere – the Red Rooibos Latte. Or the Red Love Latte, as I’ve come to call it. This is the hot drink of choice in the big-city coffee shops of Lesotho and South Africa. Of course they just call it a Red Rooibos Latte or Red Latte. I even like the idea of calling it a Rooibos Fog. The friendly baristas brew Rooibos tea very, very strong – they actually have …

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Menu: Lesotho

Weeks like this make me really happy. First of all, I’m learning about a country I knew nothing about last week. Turns out I’m a big fan of Lesotho and today’s menu. Anything with steamed milk or potatoes is a near automatic win. And who wouldn’t want to drink tea and eat papa in their pj’s? Second of all, my two year-old daughter is singing in her first ever musical performance (ahhhh). I’m not sure my heart can take it; the cuteness is going to be ridiculous. Third of all, I get to travel back to Estonia to make gingerbread cookies for the party after said performance. This is simply the most wonderful time of year. That being said, let’s eat Lesotho. What sounds good to you?* Red Rooibos Latte  [Recipe] Double-strength Red Rooibos tea, topped off with steamed milk, honey and cinnamon. It’ll make you sing. Papa  [Recipe] While this is what Ava calls Keith, we aren’t serving him up for dinner. No, in this instance, papa is more like the grits of Lesotho. The staple is eaten on it’s …

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Maletsunyane Falls in Lesotho. Photo by BagelBelt.

About the food of Lesotho

If you’d like to go Lesotho, there’s only one way. Through South Africa. If you have trouble imagining what I mean, visualize the yolk of an egg. Now squish it a little and set it way over to the right. That’s Lesotho. Inside of South Africa. Despite being entirely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho asserts her presence in a big way – by being the world’s tallest country. The entire country is 3,281 ft (or more) above sea level, which is more than any other country in the world. But what about the food? Let’s start with the city. If, as the sun grandly rises on a frosty winter morning, you decide to slip into a local coffee shop, you can warm yourself with a big, red latte, made with extra-strong rooibos tea (aptly nicknamed red espresso)  [Recipe]. Rooibos is grown in this part of the world, making a red latte (and cappuccino etc) a very local specialty. Once you’ve walked around a bit and worked up an appetite, you can slip into a restaurant and have any number …

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Monday Meal Review: Lebanon

THE SCENE: I am five minutes into mashing and squashing an entire head of garlic, when I realize I am not really sure what people mean when they say “I cook with my heart.” My kitchen is littered with garlic peels. The papery petals stick to my fingers when I try to scrape them up. This is my second head of garlic for the day. Earlier, I roasted an entire head of garlic for the baba ghanoush. Two heads of garlic is a lot for one single, solitary meal. For the 2.5 of us. I laugh. How did I get here? I scrape the blob of garlic paste into my mini-prep and buzz it together with a splash of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. It turns from pale cream to butter yellow. The scent explodes into the air. Is this what happens – is this the result of cooking from the heart? Does one really need two entire heads of garlic in a meal? No.  Had I let my love of garlic …

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Mountain Gnocchi | Maakroun

Gnocchi is always associated with Italy. Gondolas. Striped shirts. Butter and sage. But take a trip southeast, across the Mediterranean, to the old mountain villages of Lebanon and you’ll encounter something very similar. It’s called Maakroun –  a thick homemade pasta that is either fried and served sweet, or boiled and served with an intense garlicky lemon sauce called toum. While Maakroun is not made with potatoes, the shape is nearly the same – a little longer perhaps. I would have never guessed that the Lebanese have something so similar to gnocchi. Never in a million years. But that’s what this Adventure is all about – discovery and trying something new. So get off your gondola, and put on your hiking shoes. We’re headed to Lebanon. And we’re going to eat pasta. Recipe inspired by this regional tourism flyer from Douma, Lebanon. Serves 2-4 Ingredients: 3 cups flour 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil warm water, as needed (I used 3/4 cup) 1 tsp salt Method: Find yourself a happy mountainside. Or perhaps a beautiful window to cook by. …

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Garlic-lemon Sauce |Toum

Adding a handful of spices to a pot of sauce can be cause to say “Bam.” Or so I’ve heard. But how about making sauce with an entire head garlic? Raw garlic? Raw garlic with nothing but a heap of lemon juice and olive oil to thin it out? They do it in Lebanon. And it’s fabulous. Just one thing … No one will ever kiss you again. Except your mother. Bam! NOTE: Use sparingly. Especially on hot days, when your pores are likely to sweat out the scent of this intense pasta sauce. Makes 1/2 cup Ingredients: The cloves from 1 head garlic 1/3 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon, juiced) 1 tsp salt Serve over Maakroun, Mountain Gnocchi Method: First, you have to get the garlic started. You can crush it with a garlic crusher, or chop, chop, chop it, or pound it with some salt with a mortar and pestle. In fact, if you’re really good, you can make this entire sauce in a mortar and pestle. I’m …

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Spiced Tea | Ainar

I drink a lot of tea, so I would have thought I’d seen it all. Apparently not. Introducing Ainar, the tea brewed especially for baby mama’s and the guests who stop in to dote on their pretty newborns. In case you didn’t know, Mamas need lots of things after having a baby. Rest. Love. Good, warm food. And this tea. The cool thing about Ainar is the treat at the bottom of the cup. Nuts. After cooking a bunch of warming, fragrant spices like cinnamon, caraway, anise, and nutmeg in a large pot of water, the hot tea is splashed over assorted nuts as as much sugar as you can stand. Walnut, almond, and pine nuts are the most common. The super hot tea softens the nut and the total effect is something like spiced nuts… mixed with “good.” Rumor has it that the anise in ainar is supposed to help moms recover after childbirth. And ward off evil spirits. Win-win, if you ask me. P.S. I’m honored that this recipe was featured in Penzy’s Spices’ 2012 …

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