Month: January 2012

A lake at Sambava, Madagascar. Photo by WRI Staff.

About the food of Madagascar

Watching Andrew Zimmern‘s Bizzare Foods episode on Madagascar, I was amazed by some of the shocking foods he ate. On this island nation roughly the size of Texas, you can find everything on the dinner platter from bugs to – get ready for it – circumcision ceremony remnants. Ahem. I’m not going to clarify that one. (Remember, I’m here to bring us together over simple foods, not shocking foods, so we won’t be going down any of those roads. I will say, however, if you get a chance and are curious, Zimmern never disappoints when it comes to the Bizarre). Even though Madagascar is about as remote as it gets – 200 miles away from Africa and populated with plants and animals that have continued to evolve on their own for thousands of years – there are some things you’ll recognize. For starters there’s rice – a staple from which nothing goes to waste. Even the scrapings off the bottom of the rice pot are burned until toasty, then mixed with water to make “Burnt …

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Monday Meal Review: Macedonia

THE SCENE It took four batches of dough. Eight pizzas… I think. Honestly, I can’t be sure. I lost count. There were many casualties. First, my fingers, from impatiently grabbing hot crust. Then the tip of my tongue, from greedily tasting the pizza too soon. And, of course, my clothes, the counters, and even the cat all groaned under a thick coating of flour. Even Ava was out of sorts on our first tasting, throwing an all out temper tantrum on the floor before begrudgingly sampling half a tiny bite of pizza. Hoping to get the recipe right, I persevered. Over and over again I made the dough, diced the pork, and popped Macedonian pizzas onto the searingly hot baking stone. Sometimes the egg didn’t cook. Sometimes the dough didn’t rise (one batch, a bit too stiff, was simply too dry to puff up). Sometimes the egg slid off the pizza completely. And one time, it seemed the oven was 100 degrees hotter than expected. I’m not entirely sure how that happened, but the result …

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Rice Pudding | Sutlijash

Looking back, I’m not sure how I resisted for so long. Honestly. We’re more that halfway done eating the world and, yet, I haven’t made regular ol’, plain Jane, rice pudding (something altogether different than the exotic sticky rice coconut pudding I made for Laos). I find this fact is so surprising because, whenever I crack open my cookbooks to research the food of another country, I run into rice pudding. Rice pudding iseverywhere, on every continent, in all forms. Since globalization has made rice easily available to most peoples, this basic dish continues to spread throughout the world like wildfire. The dessert is a staple on our world “menu,” especially for the tropical countries, along with anything plantain, avocado, or banana. So, here we are. I’m giving in. I’m going for it! You can thank Macedonia, where they enjoy a version called Sutlijash. The simple recipe brings a happy stick of cinnamon and fresh lemon peel to the pot, which adds a subtle, sunshiny note to an otherwise sweet, hearty pudding. As for my delay? Perhaps I didn’t broach …

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Roasted Pepper & Eggplant Salad

While I’ve always loved a good ratatouille, there’s something so … soft about it. While that’s fine for a cloudy sort of day, on bright, cheery days, I’m in the mood for definition. Clear edges. Decisiveness. Which brings us to today’s roasted salad, from the Macedonian Global Table. She’s all of those things while still being easy-breezy. The reason she’s so defined? The eggplant and peppers are pre-cut and roasted, which gives good browning and clean edges. Once tossed with fresh tomatoes and a sprinkling of lemon juice, this salad just begs to be eaten with crusty bread and a glass of wine (Macedonia has long produced good wines and CNN even called her the new Napa Valley in 2010). This is a minimalist salad; every single ingredient gets the attention it deserves. I wish the same for you. Ingredients: 1 eggplant, cubed 3 bell peppers, diced 2 large cloves garlic, sliced salt & pepper oregano, optional 1/4 cup olive oil, more to taste 1-2 tomatoes, diced lemon juice, to taste Method: The best way to …

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Macedonian Pizza | Pastrmajlija

The air buzzes with excitement. Ava pats the dough and we’re on our way to Macedonian pizza (Pastrmajlija), an addicting combination of diced pork, olive oil, and cracked eggs.  Together, her little hands next to my big hands, we shape the pizza two ways -first in a traditional full-moon circle and then in a Valentine’s-inspired heart. While some might say the shapes taste the same, I beg to differ. Anything heart-shaped tastes infinitely better than that same thing not heart-shaped. Dressed up in a dusting of black pepper, the pork sizzles in the oven and turns slightly golden. The rich, golden yolk makes the entire pizza taste like a dreamy breakfast. Simple to make and yet so full of flavor. That’s love. NOTES: Traditional Pastrmajlija is made with pork smoked in a “pusnici” during the cool winter months (October-February).  This video shows what a pusnici looks like. Since I lacked access to the traditional method, I used fresh pork. Seek out smoked meats, however, if you can! Here’s what an authentic Pastrmajlija looks like:   Also, you may wish to …

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Menu: Macedonia

Global Table Adventure has a weird way of knitting bits and pieces of my life together. For example, today my best friend from my college years, upon seeing we were cooking Macedonia, wrote to inform me that her first marriage proposal was from a Macedonian man. This would be altogether unremarkable, except for the fact that, despite keeping in touch here and there over the years, I knew nothing of any marriage proposals, let alone a “first.” Had I never cooked Macedonia, I might never have found out. And now I am left to wonder… Who is this mysterious Macedonian? How did it happen? Was she in Macedonia, or was she at home in NYC? Were they star-crossed lovers, or was the entire affair simply a flash in the pan? I eagerly await her reply although, as with all mysteries, it’s also fun to imagine the answers on my own. Today, in honor of learning new things about old friends, here’s our Macedonian menu… full of easy comfort food and a lot of love. What …

Lake Ohrid, in the Republic of Macedonia. Photo by Markus Bernet.

About the food of Macedonia

Mmmm… M! We’re finally here. Yesterday, when I told my husband Keith (a.k.a. Mr Picky) that we were about to launch into the M’s with this week’s Macedonian Global Table, he was surprised. I’m pretty sure he never thought we’d make it. And to be honest, I’m not sure I did either. Every letter until now has seemed like the beginning of the alphabet – the beginning of the Adventure. The thing about M is how much it sounds like progress – like we’re going places. Then Keith calculated that we’d be here for the next five months or so. Hmmm. Time to get comfortable. So, M… Macedonia. Let’s go and say hello… (Just be sure to look up while we do. Literally. Macedonia roughly translates to “tall ones” … most likely in reference to the ancient people’s height and to the mountainous terrain). In fact, everything seems to be scaled up… and way up high. To say that she’s studded with mountains is an understatement. In fact, most likely thanks to her gritty geography, Macedonia lays claim …

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Monday Meal Review: Luxembourg

THE SCENE I slowly make my way to the table, balancing the heavy, ceramic tureen as I go. For twenty dollars at the local flea market my soup plays dress up, looking quite fancy as she swims in the tureen’s old-fashioned angles. I feel like Martha Stewart for a moment, as I lift off the creamy white lid with a flourish. Still… Luxembourg’s famous Green Bean Soup, now steaming and beckoning, barely makes an impression on me. Sure – it’s good. I know that because I snuck a taste five minutes ago in the kitchen. But my mind, ever restless, rattles on, past dinner, to the upcoming Apple Cake. They are going to love it, I tell myself proudly as I ladle the soup into Ava’s bowl. I’m thinking of the powdered sugar and cinnamon when I instruct her to put a few sausage slices and crumbles of bacon in her soup. As her little hands begin the process of garnishing her bowl, I’m dreaming of the cake’s delicate, moist crumb and sweet apples. I eat my …

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Dainty Apple Cake | Äppelkuch

In the southern reaches of Luxembourg, in an area called Gutland, live a happy collection of orchards where apples, plums, cherries and berries ripen in the sun. Now… I knew, without a doubt, that I absolutely, positively wanted to make a plum cake when we got to Luxembourg, however the seasons were against me. Since it is January and not a plum in sight, I somewhat grumpily resigned myself to making a traditional apple cake, a.k.a. Plan B. One bite in and I knew this was a fantastic choice. Made with a buttery dough and a wet custard, the two layers literally combine in the oven, creating a moist, incredibly delicious cake. When topped with a heavy dusting of cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar, all feels right with the world. Right… and very apple-tastic. NOTES: Use a 8″ cake pan with standard 2″ inch sides (no shorter). Do not use a springform pan, as the milk mixture will certainly leak out. The easiest way to remove the cake from cake pan is to let cool until …

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Green Bean Soup | Bouneschlupp

As a teenager in Luxembourg, I never really thought about high class cuisine. We spent a lot of time over at Quick, the aptly named fast food place. If we weren’t there, we were eating a the local pizzeria, bar, or patisserie. It’s a shame, really, because the world’s first and only female winner of the Bocuse d’Or, a highly competitive culinary competition, is from Luxembourg and has two restaurants right around the corner from where we hung out. Talk about missed opportunities. The chef’s name is Lea Linster and her impeccable dishes show that country food can be just as classy as city food. As I watched her speak about this traditional green bean soup, I knew I had to try it. With a few simple flourishes, she turns a country-bumpkin dish into something I’d be willing to serve at any dinner party. Especially because she insists on inlcuding the same special ingredient I do: lots of love. Serves 4-6 Ingredients 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, diced (about 5 cups) 1 onion, diced 1 …

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Crispy Potato Fritters | Gromperekichelcher

My first taste of Luxembourg’s Gromperekichelcher was during the annual Christmas market. The town square buzzed with happy shoppers and carolers whose voices floated down from the bandstand. The smell of fried potatoes and onions was just about enough to send anyone straight for their wallet so, of course, I happily complied. While most Luxembergers dunked their fritters in apple sauce, I went straight for the ketchup. It was an easy thing to do and it made my new home a little more familiar – a little more like the United States, which I had left back in 1992. The irony is, of course, that now I eat the fritters with ketchup because it reminds me of Luxembourg. It’s amazing how memories travel with our taste buds, wherever we go. Even though I left Luxembourg after high school, in 1998, I simply have to smell fried potatoes to go back there. In those moments, I remember the friends and the food. The troubles and the laughter. The tears and the songs. It all comes bundled up together, …

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Menu: Luxembourg

In the gift shops of Luxembourg, right next to the key chains and novelty mugs, you will find postcards that read “Sunny Luxembourg.” A casual tourist might not think twice, but live in Luxembourg for longer than a week and you’ll realize this couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s just put it this way: the landscape is lush green for a reason. Loads of rain and gauzy cloud cover persist throughout the year. When faced with what to make this week for “sunny” Luxembourg, a country I spent more than three years in, I went back to memories. I decided to relive, via Stovetop Travel, two of the very dishes that I enjoyed while living there. These recipes include my weak spot as a teenager – fair food – and a big bowl of country cookin.’ Of course, it wouldn’t be an Adventure without trying new food, so I added a traditional apple cake to the mix that I am pretty sure I’ve never had. The good news? With Stovetop Travel, you never need an …