Month: June 2012

Crystal Crunch “Fudge” | Besan Burfi

No  matter where you live in this great, glorious world, you know someone with a mega sweet tooth. Someone who can’t get enough of the sugary, fingerlickin’ foods. This person can’t be trusted with a cookie jar and – I’m here to tell you right now – they most certainly can’t be trusted alone with a platter of Besan Burfi. And, really, can you blame them? Besan Burfi, popular throughout Nepal and India, tastes a little like sugar cookie dough… a little like a dreamy pistachio flower … and a lot like, well, happiness. The “fudge” is made with ghee, chickpea flour and sugar. Every bite is an outrageous crunch of crystalized goodness. When topped off with a smattering of cardamom and pistachios, you’ll find these make for a rich and irresistible snack. A snack, in fact, that makes you repeat to yourself “curiouser and curiouser.” So come on down the rabbit hole. Never mind that this “fudge” is made with besan, a.k.a chickpea flour. That sounds entirely too healthy and … beany.  Trust me. This turns …

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Vegetarian Momos

Today let’s stove top travel to Nepal, sit in the afternoon sunshine, and make our own little mountain ranges, good enough to eat. Momos are carefully folded dumplings, each crease like a ridge in the most glorious of mountains, Mount Everest. (Did you know Nepal has 8/1o of the world’s tallest mountains?) This is a recipe for quiet days. Contemplative days. Days when you want to be more, learn more… and find out what you’re made of. With each fold you evolve. Listening becomes easier. Being present is the only option. Today’s recipe is entirely vegetarian, made from a a traditional combination of cabbage and carrot, seasoned with golden turmeric, fresh ginger and sweet onion. You’ll find similar recipes south, towards India and across Tibet, through China. From what I understand you can fold your momos in circles or half moons. The circles are typically used for meat while the half moons are typically reserved for vegetarian. You can also steam or deep fry them, although steaming is the most popular. NOTE: In case you …

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Menu: Nepal

There’s nothing quite so wonderful as preparing food for friends, especially when there are special requirements. For our Nepali Global Table I was tasked to prepare an entirely vegetarian meal so I could share it with my vegetarian friend, her daughter, and husband.  I loved it! This “constraint” (which I use very loosely as I eat vegetarian much of the time) meant that I got to look through Nepali recipes with a vegetarian filter. Ironically, this opened my eyes to many dishes I might not otherwise have noticed if I’d felt the pressure of cooking some sort of meat dish. The timing couldn’t have been better – many people in Nepal live a vegetarian lifestyle. This “constraint” also meant that I learned something new that i might not have come across otherwise: being vegetarian in Nepal means no meat or egg (although milk and cheese are fine). Who knew? What sounds good to you? Vegetarian Momos [Recipe] These small dumplings not only have an adorable name, but they taste fantastic. Filled with cabbage, carrot, onion, …

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Flag of Nepal. Photo by Christopher Macsurak

About the food of Nepal

As you fly into Nepal, the first thing you might see is Mount Everest, rising up through the clouds like the spirit of the earth stretching in greeting to the sky. Once in town you’ll find monkeys eating with the pigeons and ambling through the cobblestone streets, baby following mother. A bus, loaded up with people (even on the very roof top) might zip by on your left, British-style. Curiously, this is the only country in the world that has a zig-zag looking flag, as opposed to a rectangle.  As my husband remarked, it looks like half of a Christmas tree. This means that, wherever the Nepali flag floats in the breeze you’ll find two two triangles decorated with the sun and moon. From the freezing mountain tops to the subtropical southern reaches of Nepal, an astounding assortment of temples, shrines, and plain ‘ol beauty awaits. The food reflects her status, tucked between China and India. There are all manner of curries, most commonly you’ll find dahl baht  [Recipe] which I like to think of as …

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Monday Meal Review: Namibia

As Ava scuttles off to the zoo with her grandmother, I stay behind to wrangle alligator for the first time. While she walks between the lanky giraffes and prowling tigers, seeking a tail-slinging alligator of her own, I coat ours with a bright layer of lemon piri piri sauce and pop it in the refrigerator for a few hours.  As she watches the lions, padding their way around their enclosure, scanning the perimeter, looking for a way out – wondering where the rest of Africa is – I place a loaf of Veldt bread in the shimmering oven. Ava looks at the animals curiously but not exactly afraid. Not like she would be if she ran into them in the actual wilderness. She is an observer but not a participant in the scene. But things could be different. Last week I was confronted with a sordid, disturbing tale called The Veldt by Ray Bradbury from the 1950’s written about the veldt in southern Africa.  The term veldt is a lot like the term outback – it’s the way-out-there land, …

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Bread of the Wild | Veldt Bread

Today we’re traveling to the sandy, dusty plateaus of of Southern Africa where you’ll find the Veldt – large expanses of wilderness, often filled with scrubby bushes and the occasional scraggly tree. Here, too, you’ll find prowling lions, circling scavenger birds, and hearty veldt bread – which pretty much means bread of the wild. According to the World Cookbook for Students, this quickbread was created by European settlers as a way to nourish themselves with familiar ingredients in an unfamiliar land. Since it’s leavened with baking powder, there’s no long rise time – just pop in the oven (or over a campfire) and chow down. No muss, no fuss. Spices like ginger, cinnamon and cloves give this rugged, dense “wheaty” bread a lovely lift. Much like Irish soda bread, Veldt bread tastes best when steaming hot, slathered with butter. So go ahead, set up camp by a Namibian sunset and enjoy a slice. Makes 1 loaf Ingredients: 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 3 Tbsp brown sugar 1/2 …

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Bushmeat Skewers | An Alligator’s Bite

In the muddy waters of Namibia you can find all manner of crocodile. They are both hunted and hunters, so it’s best to keep your wits about you if you find yourself in their snappish company. Since I live in the part of the world where alligators roam (or very near to it, as they can be found in Georgia, just a couple of states away), I made this quick substitution for this traditional Namibian bushmeat. If you’d like to know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, I’ve been told it’s in the shape of the snout. Otherwise, it is rumored, the taste (and bite) is the same. So let’s stove top travel our way to the hot Namibian sun and find ourselves some bushmeat for summer grillin.’ NOTE:  I purchased alligator at Harvard Meats, our local meat market (that’s also where we found kangaroo for our Australian Global Table). Call around and see if any near you have alligator (most likely frozen, unless you live in the deep south). Makes about 6 skewers Ingredients: …

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Mango & Ginger Chutney

Sometimes life throws us some pretty major “boulders” – huge, overwhelming problems we can’t seem to solve, let alone nudge out of the way. In Namibia, you can find a lot of these boulders, literally. Strangely out of proportion, these massive stones perch atop bald, widswept vistas. I like to think of these formiddable boulders as mangoes. Yes, mangoes. Something that, if given enough time, will soften and sweeten and delight you. Why can’t all problems be this way? Today’s recipe combines three beloved Namibian ingredients: mangoes, ginger, chili pepper flakes. The resulting chutney tastes great with meats, veggies, breads… you name it. It’s quite sweet, vinegary, and mildly spicy. You can add fresh minced chili peppers to increase the heat to sweat-inducing levels, if you’d like.   Makes 1 quart Ingredients: 4 cups cubed mango 1/2 cup white wine vinegar 1 cup sugar (less if your mangoes are very sweet) 1 small onion, chopped 1 tsp fresh ginger 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes (or more to taste) 1/2 tsp mustard seed (I had …

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Menu: Namibia

This week we’re celebrating two awesome, wonderful, happy, lovely things. 1) We’re in the “N” countries… finally! It’s been nearly 2 1/2 years of cooking food from every country in the world and here we are! Namibia is a great place to start, too. This menu combines something new (alligator), with the rustic (Veldt bread) and a dash of sass (mango chutney). If that doesn’t sum up the spirit of this adventure, I don’t know what does  2) My husband was promoted to a new fancypants position at his company. It’s long since overdue.  We’re fairly sure this means he has to stop wearing superman shirts, except for on the weekends. We shall see. What sounds good to you?* An Alligator’s Bite (Bushmeat Skewers) [Recipe] In Namibia Crocodile reigns supreme. Since we can’t get those in Tulsa, Oklahoma we’re cooking up the (incredibly similar) alligator. Just marinate with piri piri sauce and thread with peppers on skewers. Bread of the Wild (Veldt Bread) [Recipe] Dense whole wheat quickbread made with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. A rustic …

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Ancient dunes from the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia, Africa. Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

About the food of Namibia

Not that you’d really believe you were in Germany while gazing upon the vast deserts of Namibia, but quite a few things might make you wonder – especially closer to the coast. For starters, German words are everywhere, from the names of towns, to the distinctive brats and beer on the tables. Lüderitz Port, for example. Could that be any more German? If you dig in a little deeper, however, you’ll enter the Veldt or the wide open scrubby expanses. In this space, times moves more slowly. Dust hangs in the air where lions, giraffes, and zebra roam. Here, the food is much simpler. An entire meal might be made from bushmeat, such as crocodile [Recipe using a local substitute, alligator], or prized lamb meat. Vegetables would include simple stewed greens. Seasoning might consist of nothing or it might be piri piri sauce, bright with lemon juice and spicy peppers. Food can also be amped up with a sweet and spicy chutney [Recipe]. Deeper into the heart of Namibia you may experience dense quickbread called Veldt (named …

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Monday Meal Review: Myanmar

Ava runs past me as I place the last clothespin on the line. Our blue sheets undulate with the breeze. Parting them with a quick swipe of her hands, Ava runs behind them and calls out: “Mama, come on! The big bad wolf is coming. Let’s hide!” She points at Malky, our cat, who slouches on the grass, licking his leg. “Oh, is he the wolf?” I ask, chuckling despite myself. Together we hide behind the sheets and every time the breeze blows the soft cotton towards our faces we squeal and say: “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.” Malky continues his first bath of the afternoon, unconcerned. Soon the game evolves into random singing and arm waving; the rudimary performance of an almost-three-year-old. And, yet, in this glorious moment, she’s not a toddler. She’s a queen and I, a guest in her magical Kingdom. This isn’t surprising, really. Children conjure up entire worlds with nothing more than a sparkle glinting off of a ray of sunlight. But what is surprising is that Ava has second kingdom. This …

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Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup | ohn-no-khao-swe

Oh, yes. Even on the hottest day in steamy, tropical Myanmar, you’ll find gaping bowls heaped with noodles, chicken, and silky coconut curry. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick. It doesn’t matter if your skin is tacky with salty sweat.  “Ohn no khao swe” is what’s for dinner. . You can call it Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup, if you’d like. To a local, this curry topped with egg and a garden of garnishes is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s as easy to find in rambling shacks as it is in roadside stalls. I can’t get over how easy it is to make. Chop a few things, toss them in a pot and simmer. After a happy mingle serve with noodles and enough garnishes to bring out even the Grinch’s smile, not to mention little Miss Ava (have I told you lately how much kids like to help build their own meals?). . The secret to making a great ohn-no-khao-swe is in the toppings. More specifically, in assembling your own bowl, just as you like it. If you do …

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