Month: March 2012

Mauritian Chili Poppers | Gateaux Piments

If you have a hankering for a munchin’, come with me via “stove top travel” to Mauritius. While there, we’ll cozy up, picnic-style, with a basket of Gateaux Piments. These crisp, crunchy poppers are quite a bit like falafel and I got to try them thanks to you, dear readers, since they won your vote on our Facebook Fan Page as the split pea recipe you’d most like me to try. (Thank you!) What I find most exciting about these chili poppers is their intense, fresh flavor. Each bite reveals earthy nips of cumin seed, springy green onion and cilantro sprigs, all tossed around in a golden tumeric glow. These “gateaux piments” would taste fantastic on any salad but, if you want to be totally authentic, try them sandwiched inside a buttered baguette [recipe], perhaps while overlooking the laughing horizon. Talk about epic comfort food. Makes a dozen 1 1/2 inch balls Ingredients: 1 cup yellow split peas, soaked for 4-8 hours 1/2 tsp cumin seed 3 sprigs cilantro, chopped rough 1 green onion, chopped rough …

Read More

Mauritian Banana Tart

Don’t let the startling geometry fool you. Today’s Banana Tart is for those who like mellow desserts. Big bites of health. An entire banana tree in the belly, topped off with delicate lattice goodness. I know. It’s craziness. You can thank the dreamy island of Mauritius, way out in the Indian Ocean, for teaching me this ingenious way to use up ripe bananas. The ingredient list is so simple and pure, I almost can’t believe it. Bananas, barely a smattering of brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a vanilla bean. That’s it. Let’s just say I’d be proud to serve this tart to the tiniest tot. Now, if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’ll be in the corner, daydreaming about going back in time so I can bring this tart to Ava’s first birthday party. The dense mashed banana would have made a fantastic, healthy first birthday “cake” (you could probably even leave the sugar out without harming the taste – just use very ripe bananas). P.S. If you’d rather, you can always fly to Mauritius, …

Read More

Menu: Mauritius

“When you visit a town and have not visited the market, you have not really visited the town” So goes the saying in Mauritius, according to local Renee. This old saying means that by immersing ourselves in the food culture of a place, we arrive at the heart and soul of the town. I totally agree and I would add that when we visit a country via stove top travel, we get glimpses of that soul, even from half a world away.  Although we cannot fly to Mauritius today to visit the market, we are welcoming the Mauritian spirit into our homes by making these simple dishes. Chili Poppers (Gateaux Piments) [Recipe] Mauritius’ finger lickin,’ crispy, crunchy answer to falafel. Made with split peas, chili peppers, green onion, a bit of cilantro and a dash of turmeric. Ginger n’ Spice Tomato Sauce (Rougaille) [Recipe] A sauce from three continents: tomatoes cooked with ginger, garlic, white wine, cilantro, and chili peppers. A melting pot of flavor from Africa, Asia, and Europe. Best served with shrimp, sausage, fish, or …

Read More
Photo by Moongateclimber.

About the food of Mauritius

Just when you feel isolated, remote, and alone – like no one can possibly understand the way you are feeling, geography comes to the rescue. Way out in the Indian ocean lives Mauritius – an African country even more remote than Madagascar and totally teeny, tiny. If you study this “dot” amidst the crashing waves, you’ll find crags and cliffs, turquoise water and rusty rainbow soil. For all her solitude, she is so beautiful. So intricate. How can we feel alone when this exists? It’s like the earth herself is giggling… While I thought I would have trouble finding information on Mauritius, I could not have been more wrong. I learned on Food Safari that there is a healthy group of Australians who love and enjoy Mauritian food. In fact, there are entire restaurants there devoted to the food of Mauritius. So what is so magnetic about this food that it has crossed an entire ocean and firmly implanted itself into the hearts of complete strangers? An amalgamation of flavors. A delectable melting pot.  Take …

Read More

Monday Meal Review: Mauritania

I was talking with someone the other day about what this Adventure is all about. She wanted to know if I really thought I could change the world by cooking a meal from every country. “It just doesn’t seem realistic” she said. I considered my answer, gazing at the puffy clouds dotted throughout the blue sky. I immediately thought of our latest Global Table meal – Mauritania, in northern Africa. The week was all about food cooked more than once: Stuffing simmered before roasting. Couscous steamed twice before spooning. Tea boiled four times before sipping. While each dish was easy enough, there was a lot of waiting around. Of listening to the ticking clock. Of watching the birds sing and swoop just outside our window. Of talking and dreaming and talking some more. Of taking the time to really see and hear each other. After all, what else is there to do while cooking and recooking all that food? “Maybe changing the world is as simple as slowing down enough to experience it,” I finally said, “to appreciate …

Read More

Leg of Lamb with Dried Fruit Stuffing | Mechoui

I think I’ve easily quadrupled my lamb intake (for my entire life) during this Global Table Adventure … and we’re only halfway through). Wowzers. As for Keith, a.k.a. Mr Picky, he claims to have never even had lamb until this Adventure. Today we’re tackling the lambiest of all lamb dishes – Mechoui, a dish enjoyed in Mauritania and nearby Morocco. Think “epic stuffed leg of lamb.” This Mauritanian version includes a sweet filling made with dried fruit and rice – a perfectly addicting way to perk up the intense gaminess of the roast. While I found the dish absolutely delicious, I regret to say that “stuffing the lamb” didn’t work out as I had hoped. If this happens to you, please know that the filling is just as tasty roasted and served on the side of the lamb. No biggie. Adapted from the World Cookbook for Students. Serves 6 Ingredients: 1 leg of lamb – 3.5 -4 pounds 1/4 cup raisins 2 pitted dates, chopped 4 dried figs, chopped 1 onion, diced 1 cup rice, …

Read More

Traditional North African Green Mint Tea

Do you have a steady hand? Can you pour tea from several feet up without shaking, spilling, or missing entirely? If so, give me a call. We’re going to need you. We’ve got some frothy tea to make. It’s going to be fun. In fact, quite possibly the most fun I’ve had on this Adventure to eat the world is when we try new teas. The effort is minimal, yet the flavor impact is huge. Today is no exception. Not only did we buckle up to try the super sweet “Morroccan-style” green mint tea served all over north Africa, but I took care to prepare it the traditional way, in small glass tea cups (available at Middle Eastern markets – 6/$6).  The trick is to cook the tea several times and pour the tea from way up high -about 2-3 feet. This creates a frothy top that looks, right after pouring, a lot like a tiny tumbler of beer. And then there’s quite possible the most important part: the chitter chatter along the way. This …

Read More

Rainy Day Steamed Couscous

I’ve been putting off making couscous. I don’t mean the boxed, nearly instant kind – I make that fairly often. What I’m tackling today is delicate, fluffy steamed couscous. The kind  you buy in the bulk bin. The kind that fluffs up like a dream. According to Clifford A. Wright, steaming the tiny pearls twice, sometimes three times, is the “only” way to make proper couscous. Color me intrigued. While we’ve cooked many countries that enjoy couscous (Libya and Algeria for example), I put off making authentic couscous because I was… well… afraid of failure. I have a tendency to do that when it comes to trying something new. I dance around challenge, especially when I’m tired. However, on quiet rainy days, when there is nothing else to do, I feel braver. Like I can accomplish anything. Be anything. That’s when I’m most likely to  buckle down and go for it in the kitchen. It’s like there’s a cloudy cushion surrounding me, making it okay. Turns out, Clifford A. Wright is on the same wavelength. He suggests, …

Read More

Menu: Mauritania

Welcome to comfort food, Mauritania-style. Apparently this is exactly what my spirit needs. Remember yesterday, when I told you it had been raining for 24 hours? Well, the rain continued to fall all day and most of the night (and even this morning). This “popcorn in the sky,” as Ava calls it, is greening up the grass, feeding our trees, and preparing seeds to shoot up in time for spring. These are all good things. But, I’m feeling a little sleepy, a little bluesy, and, if you don’t mind, I simply need a few recipes to take the chill out of the air. Ironically, this menu is enjoyed in the hot sands of Mauritania. Let’s not question my logic. Let’s just make our tummies happy. Mechoui (Leg of Lamb stuffed with Dried Fruit) [Recipe] Roast lamb stuffed with rice, sweet figs, dates, and raisins. Rainy Day Cous Cous [Recipe] This vegan side dish is my take on authentic twice-steamed couscous. For all the complicated recipes out there, it is not as scary as it sounds. I even tossed a few …

Read More
Oasis of Varesse (Adrar, Mauritania). Photo by Ji-Elle

About the food of Mauritania

It’s been raining in Tulsa for the last 24 hours. I am surrounded by a constant drip drop, dreaming of dryness. How often I find myself pulled away from the beauty of what I have to what I wish I had. It is in this state of insatiable hunger that I begin the week’s work.  It is in this mood that Mauritania enters my line of vision. Ah, Mauritania – how little I knew about you until this moment. This imposing hunk of land flanks northwest Africa and stretches from barmy ocean to windswept desert. Exactly what I need, it would seem. The best of both worlds – wet and dry. Perhaps, I think to myself, I could join her population of ever-wandering nomads, and live a life of contentment, constantly stimulated by new sights – new places. And then there’s the food. This place is serious. After all, camel is reputedly the most popular meat in the country, followed by lamb. Camel’s milk, naturally, is sipped to stay hydrated and nourished in the scorching desert. …

Read More
Michelle and Alan join us to try the papaya.

Monday Meal Review: Marshall Islands

THE SCENE Things are getting a bit hairy on this Adventure. I’ve tried not to mention it – to just carry on as if everything is ship-shape, flowing easily. Unfortunately, it’s not. Somehow, over the last month or two, I find myself buried in an avalanche of unfortunate circumstances. I already told you about when I burned my hand, which thereby postponed the making of the Maltese cookies. But there’s been more drama that I’ve shared here, if only because I thought it was all just a temporary drag in performance. Now that it’s added up I feel as though I have to share – the five times Ava was too tired to try the food. Or too cranky. Or too full. The handful of times when Keith had to work late and I found myself sitting down alone to a dinner for four. The times when I burned the food and had to make it all over again. It feels like a full moon all the time. Like the project is short circuiting. So …

Read More

Baked Papaya with Sweet Coconut Cream

When Ava says it, Keith comes running. “Pa pa pa pa yapa” Even for me, papaya is fun to say. Beautiful to behold. But here the thing. I never, ever buy this tropical fruit because I cannot figure out what on earth to do with it, aside from enjoying fresh, cool slices. Preferably poolside. Enter our week at the Marshallese Global Table, where I learned that these easy, breezy, island people bake papaya with a bit of sugar and enjoy with warm coconut milk. Hello. Okay. Let’s just say I’m intrigued. Once baked, the hot, creamy treat reminds me of peach pie, but without the crust. And without all the work. For more exotic flair, I decided to add the Pacific’s ever-popular pandan leaf, which is available frozen in Asian markets. Pandan adds a vanilla/rice floral note… (Use pandan like bay leaf – use it to infuse flavor, and then remove before eating). Ingredients 1 ripe Papaya, cut in half lengthwise and seeded coconut milk, as needed (about 1/4 cup per side) 4 Tbsp sugar, …

Read More