Month: July 2012

Dunes de Temet. Photo by Jacques Taberlet.

About the food of Niger

If Niger were a woman, her tiptoes would be in the tropics, her body in the savanna, and her hair would flow through the Sahara Desert’s rolling dunes. The people living in this hot, dry country favor a combination of north African and west-central African foods. Should you happen upon a street vendor in Niger,  you might find fried doughs, various meats on sticks, and baguette sandwiches  [Recipe]. These often come piled on scraps of newspaper (or are wrapped up in it), so – if you’re a neat eater – you just might be able to catch snippets of the latest news as you eat. Or, instead, you can head up to the Ténéré, the vast “desert within a desert” to read the “writing on the wall,” or rock engravings … something much, much older: The Ténéré, on the southern flank of the Sahara, easily ranks among the most desolate landscapes on Earth. The Tuareg, turbaned nomads who for centuries have ruled this barren realm, refer to it as a “desert within a desert”—a California-size ocean …

Read More
Lake Nicaragua, a.k.a. The Sweet Sea and Cocibolca Lake. Photo by Aaron Escobar.

Monday Meal Review: Nicaragua

When I say “toxic,” what comes to mind? Is it a food? Is it a person in your life? Is it a lifestyle led by you or someone you know? This week we ate yucca – a tuber known to have toxic bits of cyanide if processed improperly. In the early days of this adventure, I made the mistake of grating up the tough fibers on the inside of the yucca, where these toxins are concentrated. Several hours later this novice error caused me to crash down onto the floor unconscious, only to awake with ringing ears, vertigo, and my insides turned out. Toxicity. It’s not pretty. The reality is, we all have to deal with toxins, whether they come by way of food, people, or lifestyles. Over the last few weeks I’ve had run-ins with all three varieties of toxins, the latest of which is the yucca in our Nicaraguan Global Table (thankfully I knew better this time around and prepared the tuber properly). Toxins do one thing perfectly: they drag us down and suck our …

Read More

Pineapple Horchata

This summer I’ve seen almost everything. Laughter in sad moments. Tears in happy moments. Life is a bumble-all-over-the place, as it should be when temperatures screech up into the 100’s. What I haven’t seen? Purple-feathered dancing ladies. This Pineapple Horchata is certainly the closest I’ll get to this sort of carnival fun. And every summer should have a little carnival fun, don’t you think? The recipe is a cooked horchata (homemade rice drink), different from the amazing no-cook Strawberry Almond Horchata we made for our Mexican Global Table. In this drink, the Pineapple skin and core simmers with the rice and water to extract maximum flavor. Then I added extra pieces of pineapple goodness to amp up the flavor. Puree with a sprinkling of sugar and you’re done. Welcome to summer in a glass. Makes a gallon 1 pineapple 12 cups water 1 cup rice 1 cup sugar, or to taste Method: Gather your rice and pineapple. Let the sweet pineapple fragrance help you drift away to sunny Nicaragua. Once there, trim and core the …

Read More

Lime & Cabbage Slaw with Yucca | Vigoron

Today we’re taking a bite of Nicaraguan sunshine. This is the kind of sunshiny soul food that satisfies cravings. Bored cravings. Excited cravings. Lonely cravings. I’m ready for winter cravings. I miss my man cravings.  I wish I could sing cravings. It’s like the fairy godmother of salads. This sunshine is magic. So what is it? Vigoron. A heaping mound of comfort, nestled on top of deep green banana leaves. This is Nicaraguan street food, designed to make your mouth happy. First comes cubes of boiled yucca, tender like a potato. On top of that sits the cabbage slaw – seasoned with zingy lime juice, fresh tomatoes, onion, a touch of jalapeno, and cilantro. It’s like… salsa and slaw mixed in the most refreshing way. Wait. Scratch that. Thanks to the happy helping of salt it’s a lot like … a margarita salad. The perfect margarita. Traditionally Vigoron is served with fried pig rinds, or chicharones. I tried this and it was fine, but I really enjoyed it with a vegan version I stumbled across at the Hispanic market down the …

Read More

Menu: Nicaragua

Nicaragua taught me three very important things about life. First, eat more sunshine. To do so, simply pile fresh vigoron on your plate. Soaked in lime juice and a happy heaping of salt, this tastes like the margarita of slaws. Done and done. Second, everything is better with an umbrella in it, especially if pineapple is involved. Third, try, try, try, and try again. This is the only way to succeed.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a year or more will know about my longstanding battle with yucca. This meal marks yet another try to tame this tricky tuber. Check back to see if I succeed. P.S.  I’m curious… what do you guys think about having a recipe site to share your recipes from your homelands with each other?  Lime & Cabbage Slaw with Yucca | Vigoron [Recipe] Welcome to happy town. Tender, boiled yucca topped with a cabbage slaw,  lime juice, sliced onion, chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, and a touch of fresh cilantro. Serve with crunchy chicharones (traditionally pork rinds, although we provide a …

Read More
Carnaval in Managua, Nicaragua. Photo by Jorge Mejía peralta.

About the food of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is best known for her namesake, which means “surrounded by water.” She boasts great, rolling waves on both shores as well as in the middle. The Pacific Ocean crashes into her western shore – a treat for surfers. Cross over beautiful lagoons, lush valleys, huge volcanoes, tropical rain forests, coffee plantations, and Spanish Colonial architecture…to her eastern shore and you’ll find dreamy Caribbean waters. Oh, and in between? Lake Nicaragua (a.k.a. the “Sweet Sea”) home to the fresh water shark. Here, waves crest tall enough to fool the visitor into thinking they are by the sea. The fresh water shark actually jumps upstream like salmon back and forth from the lake to the ocean. Crazy town. No matter what part of Nicaragua you’re in, you’ll find gallo pinto – or red beans and rice. This hearty, affordable meal is served any time of day, including during breakfast (perhaps with some cheese or eggs). We made gallo pinto for our Costa Rican Global Table [recipe] and loved how easy it was to throw together. Gallo pinto …

Read More

Monday Meal Review: New Zealand

THE SCENE Anthony Bourdain tumbles down a steep sandy embankment on the New Zealand shore, drug down by the weight of his four wheeler. His body twists and flops like a rag doll, swapping places with the four-wheeler in a death-defying dance. He finally manages to leap out of the way, narrowly escaping a bone crushing end by mere seconds.  As the scene replays in slow motion, I white knuckle the couch and hold my breath. One really bad word escapes my lips – consider it a foul-mouthed prayer for his safety – followed immediately by “thank goodness that’s not me.” Seriously. What a lucky, lucky man. I’ve toppled a motorcycle twice now – once during a track day and once on the street. I have zero interest in a GSXR 750 landing on me, let alone a four wheeler. But then I think about my reaction. That fleeting, knee-jerk thought: “Thank goodness that’s not me.” The show was filmed years earlier and half a world away, yet my desire for self-preservation kicks so hard, I find myself a little …

Read More

Grilled Sweet Potato & Bacon Salad | Kumara

When I read that New Zealander’s love “kumara,” I wondered what this dreamy word could mean. When I found out kumara are simply a variety of New Zealand “sweet potatoes,” I was thrilled. Sweet potatoes are on my “will-eat-any-time-of-day-for-any-reason-especially-for-my-last-meal” food list. Not many foods make that cut. Today’s salad takes inspiration from New Zealand’s love of barbecue. For color I combined two kinds of sweet potatoes on the grill before tossing them with bacon, green onion, and a quick, zingy honey mustard dressing. This is grilled sweet potatoes, dressed up for a party in your mouth. P.S. Since I couldn’t get my hands on actual kumara, I used an orange fleshed sweet potato and a white fleshed sweet potato. This makes for a really pretty salad. If you do the same, be sure to watch the cooking times. Some varieties tend to cook quicker than others. P.P.S. New Zealander’s love grilled lamb, especially with rosemary. I’d highly recommend serving these kumara with our Grilled Greek-stye Lamb from back in the day. The lamb is seasoned with rosemary, …

Read More

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

Hokey Pokey, it would seem, is not just a toddler’s dance. Down Under, it’s a beautiful, fluffy, yet crispy piece of confectionery delight enjoyed from New Zealand to England.  Even Nigella Lawson loves a good nibble of this treat – straight out of a gift box, in the car – from time to time. Traditional recipes use golden syrup, but since I don’t have any of that, I used honey which gave the hokey pokey the most incredible,  buzz-worthy flavor and just about turned me into a honey bee. Friends at my writer’s group suggested it tastes somewhat like peanut brittle without the peanut. All the tiny air holes make it crunch like a wafer, though. In my reading, I found that many people have trouble making this sweet treat, even though there are only three ingredients. As with any candy making, a good candy thermometer is a great idea, although I double checked my reading by dropping the candy into a bowl of ice water and found that to be more reliable. You’ll see. P.S. You can crumble hokey …

Read More

Pavlova with Summer Berries & Kiwifruit

Summertime means running barefoot through sprinklers, nibbling fresh fruit, and shining your smile all the time, even when you’re sleeping. It means laying your back, watching bubbles of clouds dot through the sky. And today we’re eating one such cloud. Pavlova. Named after a Russian ballet dancer, this meringue “cake” takes center stage, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, like berries, kiwifruit, mango, or even passionfruit. Both New Zealand and Australia lay claim to inventing this famous dessert. I’m happy to say that I’d eat Pavlova any which way – even if it was invented on the moon. Since we’re making Pavlova in honor of our New Zealander Global Table, we’ll be adding slices of fresh kiwifruit (be careful not to call it kiwi, as that is the state bird as well as a nickname for local New Zealanders). Kiwifruit is a major export of the island nation. P.S. Make this when you need it, to ensure a crackly exterior and soft interior. P.P.S. Make a big pot of hot tea to drink with this. Or coffee. Unsweetened. …

Read More

Menu: New Zealand

Here are three food tips I learned from New Zealand, inspired by our thoroughly delicious Global Table. 1. All desserts are 100% better whipped up and inflated, whether done with air or chemical leavening. 2. Everything tastes better grilled. While I didn’t think sweet potatoes could rock my world much more, I was wrong. Grill ’em. Just grill ’em. 3.  Don’t say you’re going to eat a kiwi. A Kiwi is an endangered bird – the national chirper of New Zealand. Kiwi is also a nickname for the people of New Zealand. Say you’re going to eat kiwifruit instead. Much, much better and 99% less likely to land you in jail. Now for our menu… what sounds good to you? Grilled Sweet Potato & Bacon Salad | Kumara [Recipe] Thick, grilled slices of sweet potatoes tossed with green onion and bacon. Serve with a quick, zingy honey mustard dipper-dressing. On second thought, maybe this isn’t a salad. Maybe it’s just nummy potatoes with a few friends. Pavlova with Summer Berries & Kiwifruit [Recipe] A cloud of sweet …

Read More
Beach at Punakaiki, New Zealand. Photo by Ville Miettinen.

About the food of New Zealand

With her long line of rugged, scraggly mountains, New Zealand looks like the backbone of the world. Perhaps this is why she was chosen as Middle Earth for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and continues to capture the imagination of people all over the world. If I were a hobbit New Zealand is definitely where I’d choose to live. Even if I were not a hobbit (which I’m not), I’d love to explore this beautiful land. Of course, I might have to wait a few months as it is winter Down Under right now and I’m rather enjoying my Oklahoman summer. Once you settle in, a long list of nummies await you, many of which are also beloved in Australia. The food is a combination of Pacific Rim (see map) and European, particularly British. For starters, there’s an incredible love of all things barbecue, whether it’s fresh seafood, lamb, burgers (don’t forget the pickled beets), or something as simple as grilled asparagus or sweet potatoes. There’s just one thing. They don’t call sweet potatoes “sweet potatoes.” Known instead …

Read More