Month: March 2012

Sweet Potatoes & Fried Bananas

The thing about eating our way around the world is that it makes me realize how very similar we all are. I don’t mean the little things. I mean at our core. We all want to be happy. We all want love. We all get tired and we all get silly. I’ve even come to learn that we eat mostly the same foods, just in different combinations. Take today’s recipe, for example… I’ve spent most of my life eating bananas in cereal and sweet potatoes with butter and chives. But today … today we’re going to the Marshall Islands via stove top travel. And there, the Marshallese add their bit of love to these ingredients. They take bananas, sweet potatoes, and butter – and make a potluck worthy bowl of magic I like to call “Sweet n’ Fried.” Since we’re coming up on barbecue season, let me just plant a little bug in your ear – the next time you have a tender, slow-roasted barbecue – pork or fish especially – make this dish. There’s …

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Sweet Macadamia Pie

For some reason I’m having a hard time telling you about this pie. It’s so familiar and yet so exotic. So comforting, yet so classy. Something so obvious and lovely, yet nothing I’d ever heard of before. . Think pecan pie, but more toothsome. Think honey sweetened, and coconut enriched. Think clouds of whipped cream spiked with coconut milk. Think tropical elegance. . I take a bite. I shut my eyes and feel a breeze. And, just like that, I’m in the Marshall Islands. . Like most countries in the Pacific, the Marshall Islands is known for importing much of their pantry ingredients. While Macadamia nuts aren’t Marshallese per se, the rich nut goes perfectly with local coconut. Bottom line: it’s one heck of a pie. . Note: I am 110 countries into this Adventure and, yet, this is the first time I’ve made pie. That’s not to say there isn’t pie all over this great big world. And I suppose the empanadas I made (both sweet and savory) are a variation on the theme – after all, they …

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Menu: Marshall Islands

This is the time of year, as the seasons change, that I feel the “tradewinds” of life blowing me in new directions. I have more energy, but am also filled with more frenzy. Spring fever. This is what the Marshall Islands does for those familiar ingredients we all know and love – bananas, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, macadamia nuts. She shakes them up, makes new combinations (to me at least), and serves up a hearty platter of “good.” I find myself gravitating towards this type of food – simple, yet big on flavor. Decadent but uncomplicated. Now, if I could just bring the ocean to Tulsa, Oklahoma, I’d be all set. But I wonder if Ava would agree. What Ava’s thinking (above)? Any caption ideas? Sweet Potatoes & Fried Bananas [Recipe] Bolster up your next barbecue or roast with this sweet and savory concoction. This is simple as it sounds – cubed sweet potatoes tossed with crispy, fried bananas. Baked Papaya with Coconut Cream [Recipe] This is warm dessert goodness, baked until happy and served …

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The Marshall Islands, Majuro, Photo by Stefan Lins.

About the food of the Marshall Islands

When I first read about the Marshall Islands, my mind immediately went to Lost, the epic television series that most people started watching almost a decade ago. We started watching it last month on Netflix. Please excuse me for being a little out of date, but in all honesty, thinking about these hundreds of tiny, tropical islands floating in the vast Pacific Ocean, I can’t help but think how easy it would be to get Lost there – hidden away forever. Part of me desperately clings to the idea of a life filled with peace and solitude, where there is nothing to do but watch the tides come and go. I am comforted to know that, in some parts of the world – like the remote corners of the Marshall Islands, this is a reality. Upon further investigation, it turns out there’s also a healthy tourism trade – if only among those rare people who celebrate and enjoy peace, snorkeling, and a total lack of timepieces. Sure, there’s a capital city with thousands of people who have their own …

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Monday Meal Review: Malta

THE SCENE: My Misadventures I slide the skillet of Froga out of the screaming hot oven. This is Malta’s beloved mixture of angel hair pasta and eggs. Frittata. Beautiful. Puffy in the center and crisp on the edges. But my mind is elsewhere. I glance over at the counter. It is covered with small, brightly colored chocolate eggs, a giant bag of powdered sugar, fresh lemons and oranges, almond paste, and all my decorating tools. I cannot wait to make Malta’s sweet Easter cookies. I imagine Ava’s face, how she’d light up with delight when she saw the pretty shapes – a flower or perhaps a butterfly, so colorful they seem to leap off the plate. My mind continues to wander as I hoist the skillet and attempt to transfer the frittata onto a large platter. Unfortunately, my hand meets with four hundred degrees of hot, sizzling metal. I leap back from the pan, dropping it with a clatter back onto the stove top, but it is already too late. I am badly burned.  My skin …

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Vermicelli Frittata | Froga tat-Tarja

Some days are for feeling grown up. Responsible. Full of lists and the determination to check them off. Other days are for bubbles, silly string, and dancing with your shoes off. And eating Maltese Froga. Froga is the adorable lovechild of omelets and angel hair pasta. Yes, pasta in your eggs. Eggs in your pasta. It’s like the noodles are doing a squiggly dance in your breakfast. This is major happy food. Where has it been all my life? In Malta (and nearby Sicily), you can find Froga made with all variety of fillings – ham, prosciutto onion, green onion, parsley, ricotta, spinach – if you like it in a regular frittata, you’ll most likely enjoy it in Froga. The only requirement is the pasta. Be sure to use long stranded pasta – vermicelli (angel hair) or even thicker spaghetti – the most common (and the most fun). Makes 1 8″ “frittata” style omelet. Ingredients: 4 medium eggs 1/4 cup ricotta cheese 1/3  cup parmesan cheese 2 cups angel hair or spaghetti, cooked fresh chopped parsley, …

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Maltese Stuffed Artichokes | Qaqoċċ Mimli

I often wonder how many people walk by their supermarket’s artichoke display squinting their eyes, unsure of what to do with this prickly porcupine of a vegetable. Being part Italian, I grew up eating artichokes and often take them for granted. I was thrilled this week to read that the Maltese also enjoy a giant, stuffed-to-the-brim artichoke – giving me a chance to indulge yet another time. A stuffed-to-the-brim artichoke is my favorite movie snack. Perfect Friday night fun. The challenge for me this week, with Malta, is getting used to the idea of putting anchovies and olives in my artichokes. Because that’s exactly what they do in Malta. Note: Maltese typically pull the artichoke’s leaves back and get the stuffing in every nook and cranny. Due to the fluffy nature of this stuffing, I had an easier time pulling the center wide open and putting it all there. The choice is yours! Serves 4 Ingredients: 4 large artichokes, stems trimmed and lower, scraggly leaves plucked off 3 cups coarsely crumbled bread (sourdough, if possible) 3 anchovy fillets, chopped finely …

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Marzipan Easter Cookies from Malta | Figolla

Each week, when I sit down to pick recipes, I am surrounded by a mountain of cookbooks, web sites, and emails (this week I’d like to thank Maltese reader, Jym B. for all his help).  I scan through dozens, if not hundreds of ideas before settling on my selections. Not today. Not with this recipe. I ran across Figolla almost immediately and knew, without a doubt, this sweet treat was a keeper. Reader, Jym, simply confirmed my selection, stating it is a “wonderful” cookie from his Maltese heritage. So what is it? Figolla is Malta’s popular Easter cookie – two lemon infused sugar cookies surrounding a soft, almond paste center. The cookie is decorated for Easter with frosting and a chocolate egg (which is sometimes left in the foil wrapper – a sparkling nugget of goodness). Pretty much amazing, if you ask me. Especially considering daydreamy stovetop travel will take you here to eat it… Makes just over 2 lbs of dough. Quantity of cookies depends on how big your cookie cutters are! This recipe …

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Menu: Malta

Look at Mr Picky. Specifically, look at his eyebrows. They’re practically touching his hair line. That, my friends, is sugar going straight to his brain.. any ideas for a caption? As for the menu, I think you’re going to do summersaults. Or, at least, squiggly noodle-saults. Every single dish is fun for the whole family. If, when you nibble these treats, you can’t taste Malta’s ocean breeze, then something’s gone terribly wrong. Vermicelli Fritatta (Froga tat-Tarja) [Recipe] Eggs + Angel Hair = a hearty brunch. Our version has ricotta, parmesan and parsley as well. Maltese Stuffed Artichokes (Qaqoċċ Mimli) [Recipe] The bold flavor of garlic, anchovies, and olives in a sourdough breadcrumb stuffing… pressed into artichokes and steamed until tender. Marzipan Easter Cookies (Figolla) [Recipe] Lemon sugar cookies filled with almond paste and frosted until giddy. Traditionally served at Easter. Huzzah! *All recipes and Meal review will be posted by Monday morning

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Malta, Mdina, St. Paul's Cathedral. Photo by Berthold Werner

About the food of Malta

Today I’d love to be in tiny Malta (she’s 122 square miles small). I’d like to bask on a rock in the Mediterranean sun, listen to the crashing waves, and daydream until I smell dinner. And what a dinner it would be… think Italian. Think French. Arabic. Pasta and red sauce. Artichokes. Olives and capers. Rabbit stewed in wine. Fish swimming in soup. The fresh salty air would whet my appetite. And boy would I eat. The flavors are bold and the feelings are bolder. My heritage has taught me that Italians are full of passion and simplicity. I get the same feeling from the Maltese. This is a culture that whips up beautiful, hearty food without muss or fuss. The company is what matters, after all. For a snack, they even enjoy spreading Maltese bread (a nice crusty slightly sour loaf is a good option) with nothing more than tomato paste – talk about simple! If you’re feeling extra fancy, add anchovies, capers, and a drizzle of olive oil. Another simple dish is the Bigilla, …

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Monday Meal Review: Mali

THE SCENE I drop the Maasa batter into the hot pan, wiping the tears from my cheeks. I want to be somewhere else, away from this terrible, no good day. It’s been one of those days I sigh to the cat, Malky. Now, as the batter puffs up into a crispy, golden disc, my focus slowly shifts from my frustrations to the smells and sights in front of me. My mouth waters. My stomach does a summersault. I flip the Maasa and realize these pancake-donut treats were going to be g-o-o-d. My phone rings. I wait. I hesitate. I shouldn’t answer.  But I do. Another silly argument about the same old drama. Predictably, the tears come back. As I lose focus, I burn the Maasa. A few minutes later I hang up the phone and sigh. If I can’t create peace in my own, tiny life, how can I expect it for the entire world? I flip the vent hood on. I scrape the pan. Time to start again. This time I won’t answer the phone. There’s nothing …

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Vanilla Ginger Bissap

Most days I drink three cups of tea. Sometimes more. Every day, at about the same time, I’m ready for my evening cup of deliciousness. Usually the sun has dipped below the horizon, lending a hazy glow to the darkening sky, and I desire little more than to sneak under a soft throw on the couch. With every sip I slip away. This is when I unwind. This is when I daydream. Even if I drink the same tea all day long, this cup tastes different. This cup is therapy. During these calm evenings, I almost always want hot tea although sometimes – in the sweaty heat of Oklahoma summers, I crave a tall glass of cold tea outside, in the warm evening breeze. Today’s recipe for bissap enjoyed in Mali (and west Africa in general), easily satisfies both those cravings. Whether hot or cold, the flavor is bright, fruity, with a punch of ginger smoothed out by a slinky splash of vanilla. We’ve made pineapple bissap before, but today’s recipe is a totally different experience – softer, more …

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