Month: April 2013

Delsbo, Photo by Calle Rosenqvist.

About the Food of Sweden

While I haven’t been to Sweden, I have dated a Swede. And that just might be everything, ever. At least, when it comes to Swedish food. The one thing about dating a genuine Swede, is that you might begin to think you’re in Sweden for the duration of the relationship; their national pride and is that strong. Especially if he still lives with his mother.   And why not? This is a stunning land, full of thick, verdant forests, airy, breathtaking mountains, and the crunch of snow. With a land this grand, no wonder the appetite is whetted. At the time Daniel and I were dating, back when we were impossibly young (18, if I remember correctly), he was, in fact living at home. One of my first dinners at his house involved steak tartar, with a raw egg cracked over the top. Pungent horseradish gratings were piled on the side. I’m not sure I impressed anyone with my squeamish hesitation, which resulted in my complete avoidance of the tartar. Breakfast, if I happened to …

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Monday Meal Review: Swaziland

  “The bee that is forced into the hive will not produce honey.” This Swazi proverb has me thinking about what I do and why. When I used to work a desk job, I had  a palpable limit to my energy and creativity: it was called “5pm.” The old song “It’s five o’clock somewhere” was my quitting time rhyme. I was out that door faster than anyone else and, in fact, I was unproductively waiting for the end of the day even before five o’clock. But since I began cooking the world, something strange has happened. No longer am I watching the clock. No longer do I count the minutes down by the second. Instead, I have weeks like this one… our Swazi week … where I’m surrounded by the steam of the moistest corn bread I’ve ever had, reveling as I eat nearly an entire loaf by myself. Times when I fall into a tongue in cheek discussion with Mr Picky about how delicious beets are (I believe it, he doesn’t). Where Ava tries …

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Swazi Salad | Slaai

Swaziland’s swooping slopes are dotted with crops; it is here that the Swazi grow the freshest produce, from sunshine yellow lemons, to buttery avocados. With farming of that caliber, it should come as no surprise that Swazi Salads are especially grand. This is not to say they are carefully composed salads. (Most things that are careful, aren’t nearly as delicious.) No, these are simple, heaped piles of chopped veggies. But you can get them on the side of even the most humble plate of beans, which counts for, well, everything. There’s no elaborate dressing, save, perhaps, a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Croutons? Forget it. The crunch you seek comes from a handful of crushed peanuts and the crisp bite of a sharp radish. Feeling bold? Add minced hot peppers to that lemon juice. Fresher and brighter is the name of the game. So what’s in a Swazi Salad? Every time I looked up Swazi salads, I happened across some combination of avocado, lettuce, onion, and beets. Beets were everywhere: red heaped piles …

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Mealie Bread

The next time you walk into your kitchen, walk into the warm, sweet scent of mealie bread. Let a smile curl along your lips as you taste that first, moist bite with your imagination. Then take a moment for real indulgence: spread softened butter across the still-warm bread, only to see it melt into and down the sides of the tender crumb. I’ve had lots of corn bread before, but never something as rich and flavorful as this Mealie Bread. The main difference between this and ordinary corn bread is that it doesn’t rely on cornmeal, but actual corn to flavor the bread. Mealie Bread is a treat you will find throughout southern Africa. In olden days, it was steamed over a campfire, with little more than ground corn, wrapped up in husks. They used white corn, not sweet, yellow corn. The end result was more of a wet corn pudding. Today’s southern Africans, however, love mealie bread with more of a bread consistency, so they include flour. The jury is out, however, on whether or not the …

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Menu: Swaziland

There’s an old Swazi saying that goes: “A man who prides himself on his ancestry is like the potato plant, the best part of which is underground.” Do you agree? Do we need to know our ancestors?* And are they the best part of who we are? Once upon a time, we got our recipes from our ancestors. Grandma’s cornbread. Uncle’s avocado salad.  Today we can find just about anything online, but the best recipes come from someone … from the long line of way back when. They’ve been tested and tried, adapted and improved upon. This week’s recipes are inspired by the Swazi people (and beyond that, too, these are staple ingredients and recipes popular throughout most of Southern Africa). The ingredients are nod to fresh produce and the transition between winter and spring, which, like the alarm clock, keeps resetting (It’s 42F, right now, after an 80F weekend). The cornbread, as you’ll learn when the recipe posts, has undergone many changes over the years, to reach its straightforward, delicious self. Sometimes I dream about living on a farm …

Swaziland. Photo by Jenny M. Buccos.

About the food of Swaziland

This week we’re back in Africa, in a little tropical/temperate country called Swaziland, just north of South African and Lesotho.  The Swazi people live in this beautiful land, among the mountains and undulating hills, tending their farms and rearing their cattle. From their smooth slopes, come pineapples, citrus, and sweet sugar cane. Many call Swaziland one of the world’s most beautiful countries, and I can see why. While the traditional people might eat something as simple as emasi, or porridge, which can be made with sorghum or corn, you’ll also find corn, rice, and every kind of potato, including sweet potato. Many stews, such as spinach, pumpkin, or even green beans, grace the sides of such dishes. Salads are a given, especially when topped with avocado or beets [Recipe]. And did you know the Swazi eat beer? That’s right… beer is yet another carb; the  Swazi consider their rich, thick home brew a food. (I read about it in the World Cookbook for Students.) If that’s too boozy for you, perhaps a simple slice of mealie bread  [Recipe] (think corn bread with bolder, …

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Monday Meal Review: Suriname

  Our little family went to Austin, Texas this week to watch the Moto GP race. Fourteen countries were represented and we had a great time! Anyway, the trip cut short our work week, so you’ll find most of our meal review in the video this week. That being said, I do have a short question for you to ponder this week… and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What do you hope they say about you when you are gone? Do you hope they point out your many accomplishments at home, work, and beyond? Do you secretly (or not so secretly) hope people cry? Or do you hope they laugh?  The very thought of someone laughing at a funeral sounds twisted and wrong, but it doesn’t have to be. An old proverb from Suriname suggests this most poignant idea: “Where there is death, there must be laughter.” What do these proactive words mean to me? Well. We need the good with the bad. We need joy with sorrow. We need to celebrate the …

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Battered Plantains with Peanut Sauce | Bakabana

Bakabana is a traditional treat in Suriname. All you do is take very ripe plantains (i.e. blackened), deep fry them, and dust the crispy, fried goodness with powdered sugar. Alternatively, you can serve them with homemade peanut sauce. The result is a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, finger-licking snack. What could go wrong? (Actually, a lot.  I made this recipe three times, before I finally figured out that I needed cornstarch to make the batter crispy. For reference see below. The piece on the left is an all flour batter, the lighter piece on the right is half flour, half cornstarch – and much crispier… …I also made a really bad peanut sauce…so bad I had to toss the recipe. Thankfully, I have an amazing peanut sauce recipe… my old standby, from when we cooked Indonesia. If you decide to make this peanut sauce, it will look like the picture below, not like the one pictured with the plantains.) Thanks to our readers on Facebook, Megan H. and Natalie F., who suggested we try Bakabana. This was a fun one. …

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Mixed Vegetable Salad with Coconut Dressing | Goedangan

Introducing Geodangan, your answer to healthy munchies. (Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as healthy munchies. But if there were, then this is it.) This Asian-style salad that is incredibly popular in Suriname. And for good reason. Don’t be shy. Geodangan is everything spring has to offer – crisp green beans, giant cabbages, golden yolked eggs… with the addition of a coconut, lime, yogurt dressing. (The dressing could also be coconut sambal, a spicy shredded coconut condiment.) Either way, you’ll feel like your in Suriname… by way of Indonesia. And that’s definitely a good thing. Today’s recipe for Goedangan is adapted from Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students; they suggest serving the salad for a traditional Surinamese lunch, which I think sounds just lovely. Serves 6 Ingredients: For the salad: 1 small head cabbage, cored, shredded and blanched 1 lb French green beans 1/2 lb mung bean sprouts 1 hard boiled egg per person 1 cucumber, sliced shredded coconut or coconut flakes, optional For the dressing: 1/2 cup coconut milk 1/2 cup yogurt …

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Lemongrass Dawet

Lemongrass. Coconut milk. Slushie. Pink. Pink. Pink. Hello. The weather’s been heating up lately, so when I happened up this Dawet recipe so beloved in Suriname, I knew we had to try it. When I discovered it was also enjoyed in slushie form? I did a little dance. Slushies are always a good idea. The refreshing, tropical drink is made with an easy, homemade lemongrass syrup, a swirl of coconut milk, and a splash of water (or ice, if making a slushie). Dawet originates from Asia, and is especially popular in Indonesia. The drink was brought to Suriname and popularized as a result of colonization and immigration. In my research, I found several photos of the dawet in Suriname, and it seems the slushie is popular among street vendors. Ava and her friend were fans. There’s so many ways to make this drink. I suggest making the syrup and then toying with how much coconut milk you’d like, versus how much ice. The quantities given are what worked for me, but there really are no …

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Menu: Suriname

Don’t be confused. Though this menu looks and feels quite Asian, these dishes represent Suriname as well as any other. We have everything from the traditional plantain fritters so beloved in South America, to Asian-inspired cabbage salad and even an addictive lemongrass slushie. Coconut milk is the common thread in the drink and the salad – the result being sweet for the drink, spicy for the salad dressing. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Mixed Vegetable Salad with Coconut Dressing | Goedangan [Recipe] Hello, spring! Enjoy this bright and fresh salad of cabbage, green beans, eggs, mung bean sprouts… all dressed up in a coconut yougurt dressing. Battered Plantains with Peanut Sauce | Bakabana [Recipe] Indulge in Surinamese comfort food: deep fried plantains. Serve ‘em up with either powdered sugar or peanut sauce. (Vegan) Lemongrass Dawet Slushie [Recipe] You’ll be pretty in pink while you sip this lemongrass, coconut milk slushie (or mix things up and serve the mix on the rocks). (Vegan) P.S.  Random Tidbit about Suriname: rumor has it, any …

Nieuw Amsterdam. Photo by  We El.

About the food of Suriname

Welcome to Suriname; welcome to South America. We haven’t cooked this part of the world in many months. And, in many ways, today might feel like we’re still somewhere else. That’s because Suriname’s food scene is all about fusion. A melting pot, of sorts. The food is at once typical of South America, but also laced with components from Indonesia, China, Africa, India, and even Europe. Surely, this is because of Suriname having once been a Dutch colony. Long ago, the Dutch connected the tropical rain forests and swampy flatlands of Suriname with these many regions of the world. Now, in the big cities, you can find everything from dhal, roti and chutney to creole stews and cassava breads… Can I just point out that many restaurants of Paramaribo, the capital city, serve curry and chow mein? So fun. Maybe you’d like a side of deep fried plantains and spicy peanut sauce to go with that [Recipe]? Sure thing. In Suriname, you’d be as likely to cool off with Goedangan (a coconut-laced cabbage salad)  [Recipe]and a summertime sipper, like lemongrass infused …