Month: January 2013

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Chocolate Ice Cube Cake | ledene kocke

If there was a giant table strewn with every cake, brownie, custard, and pie, ever, I’d be the first in line. But I wouldn’t be there to eat them. Not initially. I’d be there to soak in their beauty, to enjoy the geometry. Circles, rectangles, towers of truffles. Cubes, even. I’d languish to revel in the colors – chocolate browns, raspberry reds, vanilla-cream whites, mint-leaf greens, passion fruit golds. I’d eat with my eyes until ever bit of my spirit was nourished. Then I’d sink my teeth into the sweetness. When I happened upon Ledene Kocke, I fell immediately for the geometry; a grid, stacked in shades of cocoa and cream. Little did I know, translating the recipe would hold it’s fair share of challenges. I so wanted to make the recipe, though. With cold, hard stubbornness  I powered through and, in the words of Tim Gunn, I made it work. Let’s start by talking about the name. Ledene Kocke. Translators generally make this “Ice Cube Cake” which is completely adorable. It was only after I thought about how the cake is …

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Menu: Serbia

This week I’m on the hunt to create a little balance in this, our freshly pressed New Year. I found exactly what I was looking for in Serbia. Our menu is equal parts comfort and nutrition, capped off with a ridiculously indulgent dessert. (Do I need to defend that choice?) In other news, I have huge, exciting, mega things going on that will affect our family (and potentially yours). I leaked a bit about it on our Facebook Page. More details as they come. For now, thank you for believing in this Adventure. From the bottom of my heart. All recipes and meal review will be posted throughout the week. Serbian-style Potato Musaka [Recipe] Home-style goodness: potatoes layered with ground pork and a creamy yogurt and egg mixture. If it were up to my husband, this would be his entire dinner. Every night. Serbian Salad [Recipe] This cucumber, tomato, pepper, and onion salad is as simple as it is refreshing. The key is to top off your veggie mountain with a snowfall of cheese, preferably feta. …

Golubac Fortress, by Denis Barthel.

About the Food of Serbia

In the Balkan nation of Serbia you’ll find sleeping giants. They lounge under thick forested coverings, along murmuring streams and shimmering lakes, with nothing but winding roads and wildflowers upon them.  In flatter areas, carefully stacked stone walls, forgotten castles, and sagging huts live happily shackled to sunflower fields and lush grasses. Places like this will find a permanent home in your dreams… In this cool, sometimes foggy land – this is where you’ll find hearty country food. Food that fuels. Prebranac, for example – baked beans with paprika and sometimes sausage (something we’ve already enjoyed once on this Adventure), keeps traditional hearths warm. Soft, polenta-like corn bread sops up the juices, perhaps of stuffed peppers or even roasts. Goodness, how her cities clamor up the hillsides. In many ways, I have a sense of deja vu this week, as though I’ve tasted Serbia before. As you can see by all the links, many of her favorite spreads we’ve made before (although, certainly, Serbia has her own variations on these regional favorites). You can add stuffed …

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Monday Meal Review: Senegal

“Little by little one catches the monkey in the jungle.” – Senegalese Proverb* A reader recently asked me what my New Year’s Resolutions were. I’m almost loathe to admit that I spent New Year’s Eve fast asleep, head pressed firmly into my dreams, but the reality of the matter is that the only place I wanted to be at midnight was fast asleep in my cozy nest of blankets. Our bedroom holds steady at 64 degrees, guaranteeing that the tip of my nose stays cold all through the night, which makes snuggling all the better. Brrr. To answer the question, though, I’ll say that, while I’ve given up resolutions in the traditional sense, I’ve taken on year-long challenges instead.  It sounds the same, but it’s not. These aren’t broad, sweeping resolutions like “lose weight” or “have more fun.” These are small, measurable, and manageable challenges.  Little by little, they add up. Plus we start them around Thanksgiving which, I suppose, makes them Gratitude Goals, not New Year’s Resolutions. Last year, for example, we vowed to only …

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Chicken Yassa

In Senegal’s villages, which dot lazily between scrubby fields, life is slower. People gather barefoot on stoops, pounding millet or boiling rice. Talk and dance reverberate in rhythm with hide-covered drums, around outdoor fires, as though there were nothing more to do with the day than to live. There’s a popular proverb: Yarude seesa haɗtaa yettaade* or Going slowly does not prevent you from arriving. The words make me wince a little. Even with this Adventure I’m often in a hurry, rushing out the door, arms too full to hold Ava’s hands, or trying to slap a meager dinner on the table conjured up halfheartedly bagged, frozen helpers, all the while mind racing with checklists. Slowing down, I’ve realized, is a privilege and luxury that I often don’t indulge in. I could take a lesson from slow, easy Senegal. Chicken Yassa, a favorite stewed chicken dish in Senegal, simmers with onion and lemon juice quite leisurely until the flavors unite to create a tender, falling-off-the-bone, mouthwatering delight. Yassa can be found all over West Africa and there are …

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Senegal’s PB & Peanut Sugar Cookies | Cinq Centimes

In French, Cinq Centimes means Five Cents. Don’t be fooled by the name. This isn’t the sort of recipe that must be studied like a terrible, paragraph-long math problem. This is not a prerequisite to calculus, or even rocket science. This is a snippet – a slice of a dream from Senegalese street vendors. A one-two-three treat worthy of any snack time. No more. No less. Every step is ridiculously easy.  The hardest part will be keeping your sweet, adoring Mr. Picky from sniffing the cookie tray out and eating the entire shebang, so that you have to go and arm yourself with more supplies and an extra secret spot to stash them in. But maybe that’s just me. Inspired by The African Cookbook by Bea Sandler. Ingredients: Sugar Cookies Peanut Butter Peanuts Method: Step 1: If you have the inclination (and a great recipe from grandma), make a batch of sugar cookies. Otherwise, your local bakery is your friend. Oh, and what a good friend they are… Step 2: Arm yourself with a handful of peanuts …

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Senegal’s Black-eyed Pea Salad | Saladu Ñebbe

This New Year, I’m making room for sunlight to lay across the floor. No more discarded shoes to trip over. No more stacks of books or useless tchotchkes. Senegal inspired me. I saw photo after photo of her beautiful waters… vast expanses where sunlight runs free, unhampered by clutter. Less stuff in general, with more of the right stuff – friendship, laughter, love. This is how I want my home and my life to be.  I want to eat fresh and right. I want sunlight in my body. There’s nothing like starting the New Year with Black-eyed Peas in a crisp, cheerful salad, loaded up with all of her favorite friends: tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and hard-boiled eggs. Coincidentally, the mild, tender bean (it’s not really a pea) is a Senegalese staple. You can find salads like this in restaurants along the coastal cities, either dressed simply with fresh lime juice, or coated thickly with a French dressing inspired mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise. Some will serve the beans spicy with minced habenero, while others keep it mild. …

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Menu: Senegal (& Giveaway)

Those of you who have read this blog before know my refrain “We create peace when we learn about each other, when we understand one another.” To be clear, learning is not the same as understanding, but to understand we must learn. And we can do this through food. And so here we are. Well, today I found a very similar saying from Senegal: “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; we will understand only what we are taught.” The beauty of these words is in their simplicity. To conserve is to protect. Yes, our environment. But also each other. We must find our way to love through learning, friends. This week, by learning about Senegal, we’re coming closer to love. To peace. To conserving each other and our beautiful cultures. Let’s do it. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Senegalese Salad [Recipe] It’s not too late to bring in the New Year right. Try this lime squeezed black-eyed peas salad tossed with …

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About the food of Senegal

Today’s daydream takes us to Senegal… a land of alluring contrast. One, long finger of Senegal fades into the Atlantic ocean, the westernmost point of Africa. As you wander inland, past the subtropical streets paved with the catch of the day, still fresh from the ocean, you will see as many collard shirts and slacks as you do bright tunics and robes. Three quarters of the population lives in cities on the coast. Once past the bustle (where buses noisily bump past rickety carts), the roads slowly turn to dust and the Savannah takes over. Here, the people’s bright clothing stands out against the golden grasses, thatched roofs, and earthen walls. The flicker of fires in outdoor kitchens makes for a spark of natural color.   This former French colony still has traces of French culture in the food. Baguettes can be found under arm, but more popular than that is rice and millet. Rice is increasingly popular thanks to the ease of preparation although there’s old love for couscous made from millet. With lakes …

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Monday Meal Review: Saudi Arabia

“If I am a prince and you are a prince, then who will lead the donkeys?” – Saudi Proverb We sat in the middle of the tight, woolen rug, cross legged, our toes bumping the edge of the soft cotton table cloth. Without a table to drape upon, the cloth looked like a slack sail, hungry for the wind. Sunlight streamed through the windows, massaging our backs. It felt good. If I shut my eyes, the windy, freezing day that clattered against our window almost disappeared. In fact, if it weren’t for the glittering Christmas tree at our side, there’d be no sign this was winter. The scent of black cardamom and fennel in our Saudi pizza dough made the room smell sweet and woodsy, while the ground lamb and green onion topping felt like an early spring. My friend Becky and her mom joined us for lunch. I hadn’t seen Becky in more than a year and I hiccuped a tiny laugh, despite myself, when I opened the door to find the entire door frame full of …

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Saudi Lamb “Pizza” | Aysh abu Laham

In Saudi Arabia, there’s an old saying “A friend is known when needed.” In other words, when you need help, true friends show up. They might ask “Can I do anything?”, but more than likely they’ll simply roll up their sleeves and get to work. Because the answer is clear, yes, you need them. A true friend quietly brings over a covered casserole after you’ve given birth to your first child. They take your child to the park so you can sleep off a fever. They silence their phone and hold your hand until you’re done crying. Their heart breaks when your heart breaks. They laugh with you until happy tears roll down your cheeks again. That’s true friendship. As for the rest? They’re just there for the pizza.  Oh, don’t lose hope. One day this, too, could change.  After all, pizza is the gateway food for true friendship. All good friendships have a slice or two in their history. Pizza is one of those late night, snacky bites that magically draws community around it. The simple act of reaching …

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Sweet Semolina Cake with Lemon & Rose water | Basboosa

Love’s every whimsy can be found in the tender, fragile curve of a rose. Arab cooks must know this in their hearts, as they imbue many of their desserts with the essence of this great flower. Rose water is made from hundreds (thousands!) of rose petals and I’m convinced there is magic in every drop. Today’s cake, called Basboosa (also called Basbousa), is heavy with such magic. This sweet cake is conjured up with durum semolina, then soaked in a pool of syrup made with sweetened rose water and fresh lemon juice. Some versions are dense while others are fluffy – I’ve provided options for both below. No matter how you slice it, each bite is like a garden at sunrise. The dreamy perfume of roses and lemons unite, overflowing the senses like King Fahd’s Fountain in Saudi Arabia (the tallest fountain in the world… “The water it ejects can reach a speed of 233 miles per hour and its airborne mass can exceed 18 tons.” Wiki). This magic is glorious with a cup of strong tea (I’m talking …